Friday, 31 May 2019

Weight Loss in 2019

I am a sweet tooth. I had never really exercised restraint while consuming sweets, nor did I watch my eating habits too closely. Towards the end of 2018, I went on a trip to my hometown and that is when I observed how much I was eating- not just sweets but everything else. I realised how much processed sugars I was pumping into my body. My family does have a history of diabetes and my eating habits were scaring me. I decided that I would take control of my eating habits.

I was never a heavy person or known to be one. I went shopping one day and I really could not find one thing that fit me well. I had to buy oversized clothes because I was so out of shape when looked at myself in the mirror closely. I realised I looked very puffy and full at the same time. It was like me and a bag of potatoes together. It was a clear sign that I  needed to do something urgently. When I spoke to people, they did not feel I look heavy or anything. It could be that they saw me everyday and did not observe any changes. At work, we had a basic health check up with a consultation with a doctor, who advised a couple of months before this that I am slightly above my ideal weight and I must bring it back to my ideal weight. I just needed to lose 3kg to reach my ideal weight range. Also, around June,2018, I started developing knee and leg pain out of the blue. I consulted an orthopedic doctor, whose advice was no different.

While I wanted to control my eating habits and lifestyle in general, I did not want to do anything drastic. I wanted to do something that was sustainable and would not deprive me of any nutrients or my favourite sweets. My aim to was to get healthy and fit and not really lose weight.

I followed the below steps and today I am at well within my ideal weight:

  • Sweets Calendar:
I made a sweets calendar and decided to eat sweets on particular days of the year alone. I got this idea of sweet visa from one of the books written by Rujuta Diwekar. This is not easy to practise. Most people love to express joy through sweets and if a colleague visits his/her hometown and wanted to bring some native goodies, it is usually sweets. I always politely yet firmly refuse. I have been having Bournvita for as long as I can remember. Though it is not the best for you and contains sugar, I still have it as a part of my breakfast every morning.
  • Maintaining a Food Diary:
I started maintaining a food diary where I noted all the food I was eating every day and at what time of the day and how much of it. Initially I was also recording my physical activity but later thought it was easier for me to maintain it in an app, so I stopped maintaining this in the food diary. 
  • Early morning warm lemon water
I do not know if this contributed in anyway to my weight loss, but it did aid in clearing my stomach every morning and helped me in feeling light in general.
  • Eating as per my genetics and traditions
This was another tip I picked up from Rujuta Diwekar. She is a big advocate of eating as per our traditions and ancestry. As much as possible, I ate as per my tradition. We are Rice-daal eaters and traditionally have been eating South Indian styled breakfast. I felt satiated and did not feel the need to reaching out for junk.
  • Gave up eating packaged food
Anything that has a long shelf life, will be loaded with preservatives and cannot be good for us. I was very fond of Jim-Jam and Chocolate and Orange cream biscuits. I gave them up as I could not stop at one when I ate them and usually ended up eating the entire packet. I was never a big fan of fried packaged foods like chips and other crispy Indian foods, so it was not difficult to give them up.
  • Included more seasonal fruits and vegetables in the diet
Since I started following sweet visa, I could not eat the sweets I wanted to on a daily basis. Including more seasonal fruits in the diet, not only meant that I was not eating anything preserved and ripened with chemicals but also, meet my sugar needs and enjoy the seasons without being sick. My mom told me a few years back that I always got sick if I ate unseasonal fruits. I remember having a mango once in December and I got really really sick for days. So it really contributes to my health. I always included vegetables in my diet but it was just half a serving. I just made the effort to eat one whole serving of vegetables instead of just a half.

  • Eating Home Cooked Food
I made the effort of eating home cooked food as much as possible- at least 3 of my 4 meals are home cooked on most days. I have noticed that I do not overeat home cooked food. It is probably because it has an optimal level of oil/butter and salt content. I eat lunch at work on most days and fortunately for me, it is on most days, quite "home style".

  • Eating Breakfast
My family always practised having elaborate breakfast. I gave up on this in my high school until I completed my Bachelor's degree but I got back into the habit of eating a wholesome breakfast during my Master's degree and I continue to do so. I never leave home without eating a good breakfast. In today's fast paced world, you might be tempted to choose packaged breakfast cereal, I highly recommend that you avoid putting this into your body. I would recommend to have a banana instead. You can probably look for quick recipes online. I follow this Fit Tuber channel on YouTube. I remember he made a video on quick and easy breakfast recipes. So do visit his channel for some tips.

  • Physical Activity
I have been walking regularly as a part of my health and fitness goal. I go for a morning walk every morning (except in the month of May, where I went thrice a week). I target walking 10000 steps everyday. My strategy is to walk at least 5000 steps during the morning walks and complete the remaining 5000 during rest of the day. Some tips to make up the remaining 5000 are, I do not keep bottled water next to me, I always walk to the water cooler every time I want to drink water. I take stairs whenever I can. I take every opportunity to walk from my desk at work. In April, I was really inspired by Jenna Fischer's 30 hikes in 60 days. I could not really take time off work to be able to pull-off that kind of a challenge. So, I took up 30 day 10k walking challenge. It really worked like magic for me- though I did not lose weight, I managed to look leaner. I would really ask everyone who can wants to improve their health to try walking 10k everyday. With other things I mentioned above, it really will help you a great deal. I am trained in Yoga and will soon include this as a part of my fitness regimen.

  • Drinking Water Regularly
I am not actively measuring my water intake but I assume I drink at least 2-3 litres a day. I may not be able to drink bottles of water at one go but I like to take water in a coffee mug and keep sipping some every now and then. I find myself less dehydrated and more awake throughout the day.

Well, these are things which worked for me. Within a week of not having sugar, I lost a good amount of weight and the key is to maintain it. These are new changes for your body and mind, and most of the time the initial reaction is to reject it. The key is to stay disciplined, consistent and persistent. The most important thing to remember is to focus on better health and adoption of a healthy lifestyle. Weight loss will come by as a by-product.

I still have 2 things I need to work on:

- Work on my sleep. I sleep well but I do not sleep enough. It is not that I am an insomniac, it is just that I find so many interesting things to do just before bed time that I put off sleeping at a later hour.
- Give up eating noodles. I love noodles a lot and I can eat absolutely any variety. I specifically love the instant noodles.  It is my go to comfort food. I plan on making 30 day- No Instant Noodles month.

Sunday, 26 May 2019

The Perception of Pain

This post is another reflection of mine on Pain and another rambling. It might not hold any value to anyone, just some thoughts that come to mind.

Pain is sometimes physical and sometimes mental, sometimes visible and sometimes invisible. Sometimes some others experience our pain along with us and sometimes it is mysterious and intangible. A talk I had with my aunt, inspired this post.

A close relative of ours had passed away. His sons were very close to him and the family was close knit. When the last rites were to be performed, the pain which the family experienced was so perceptible by everyone around. It is not at all easy to carry on all the death related rites when the new grief is running high. I told my aunt that it would have been impossible for me to carry out these rites. She told me that it is one of the reasons why that most ancient texts prescribe sons to perform last rites. Women have to endure a comparable pain through labour, while men do the same through performing last rites in a time of grief. She went on to say that at least the pain endured by women was short lived and fructified in joy, it was not the same for men who had to be present in the public eye, keep a straight face through tough times. It was interesting for me to see how she perceived pain. One kind was more measurable, short lived and resulted in joy while the other was not really measurable, the life of which could not be anticipated and leaves hearts empty. My feminist friends, please do not jump in and try to prove a point. It is not about men or women, it is about pain in this case.

Sometimes we can point to the exact region where we are hurting and sometimes it is so difficult to do it. Could it be that a pain experienced by the mind is manifesting itself in the form of physical pain? It is hard to say. If you remember my post about the book Complications by Atul Gawande, I had briefly touched up on a point that sometimes all the blood tests, scans and physical exams indicate that nothing is wrong but the person continues to suffer. Pain is one condition that is mysterious. Only the person suffering from it can validate its existence. Sometimes, you may see some inflammation in some part of the body and expect that the individual is in deep pain but in reality, the person is not experiencing any.

Studies show that women report pain more frequently than men. It could partly because men want to appear more macho and not report it, or the perceive it as negligible enough to ignore. However, how well pain is tolerated between genders is not clear. 

How I perceive pain- well, for me everyday or every other day we experience pain of one kind or the other and most of the time we ignore it as it is tolerable or a part of body's day to day wear and tear. My body has a specific way of reacting to pain- even if I think pain is tolerable, I know that my body is unable to tolerate it when I throw up, vomit. It can be any kind of pain, that is how my body copes. Once I throw-up, I can feel my body able to manage the pain much better and the pain disappears completely. If I do not throw-up, I know my body is comfortably managing the pain. 

I think I have rambled enough. These are just thoughts coming in to my mind while writing and I have just transcribed them on to this blog, it probably does not make any sense :-).

The Thing About Faith

I have been reflecting a lot about faith in the last few days. I do not mean religion. I have been thinking about it in terms of trust/belief/conviction or confidence. It is something in the mind but can do wonders outside of the mind. Warning: This post is a rambling so read it only if you do not have much to do.

In my observation, if you have a strong faith in accomplishing something or that some event would definitely happen, it indeed happens. The universe does conspire to help you accomplish your vision.

We have often heard Faith can move mountains which is to say that if one has faith in something, he or she can achieve it. In high school, one of my teachers told us a story which has stuck with me till today. It is about this man who wanted to challenge the saying- Faith can move mountains. There was a mountain range which could be viewed from his bedroom window. He declared, "I have all the faith  in the world, let us see if those mountains will move today." Every hour, he would peep outside his window to see if the mountains moved. At the end of the day, he mentioned to all those around him, "I had the faith, but the mountains did not move. I checked myself every hour if they moved but nothing happened. Looks like faith does not move mountains after all." One old wise man in his audience said, "If you had the faith that the mountains would move, you would never check if they moved. You checked because you did not have faith." This story was so wise and had a lot of truth. Sometimes, in our personal lives as well, we think or hope some events to take place or accomplish something difficult, but if we do not believe strongly in ourselves or the event, it is not very likely that it would materialise.

The story, The Last Leaf by O. Henry also revolves around a similar theme. SPOILER AHEAD.
For those who do not know this story, it is a story about a sick girl who looks at a plant outside her window and relates her health condition to that of the plant. Everyday, there would be some leaves that the plant would shed; and with every shedding of the leaves, she thought her health deteriorated further. One day, she notices that there is only one last leaf remaining. She is very concerned that when the last leaf sheds, she will be no more. Her friend sees her concern and contacts an artist and requests him to paint a leaf on the plant, so that her friend's belief in life remains. He agrees to it. The night is very dark coupled with heavy rains and thunderstorms. She is extremely worried that it could be the last day of her life and spends the night hoping that the leaf does not shed. Meanwhile, the artist is hard at work under very testing circumstances. He battles on and completes painting the leaf on the plant. The following morning, when the girl opens her eyes, she is cheerful and her joy new no bounds to see the leaf intact. She conveys her joy to her friend that her faith in live is restored. Her friend gently breaks to her the reality of the leaf and that the artist died in the bad weather after painting the leaf.

As a child, I read a true story in Tinkle comics, sent in by one of their young readers. On a dark stormy night, a young boy of around 9 years was frightened of the thunder and lightning. There was a power breakdown too. He was unable to sleep due to fear. He did not want to appear timid to his parents. He believed that if he held on to the Bible, he will survive the night and will remain safe. He gropes for the Bible in the dark and finally finds the book. He holds it close to his chest and finds this energy and courage that he can make it through the night and gradually fell in to a deep slumber. When he wakes up the next morning, he notices that the book he held so close to him all night was not the Bible, but a  dictionary. It was just his faith that holding the Bible close to him will protect him that actually saw him through the night.

The last anecdote is from my personal life. Someone I knew was battling a life threatening disease. He was treated at a hospital and believed that he was responding well to the treatment. He was very spirited and spoke to his visitors about returning home soon. He could walk about and would enjoy watching TV and have interesting conversations with his family. All this until the day when the doctors told him that he was not really responding to any treatment and would not survive for long. This news really shattered his faith and destroyed his spirit. In a day, the person found himself to be bed-ridden, not able to eat or walk or talk to people. He passed away, in a week's time. When discussing the doctors, they said that he was fighting the disease with all his might but they did not think, the news would deteriorate his health so quickly. They thought he had a few months.

I do not know why I am narrating these stories and anecdotes or if I am conveying them well enough. When I sat down and reflected on Faith, all these came rushing to my mind and I just thought of penning them down on this blog.

Monday, 13 May 2019

30 Day 10K Steps Challenge

This April, I decided to participate into a 30 days global challenge of walking 10000 steps a day. As a part of my health goal, I wanted to be more active and was very inspired by Jenna Fisher's 30 hikes in 60 days. challenge for herself. I wanted to do hikes as well but it is almost impossible for me to get out of the city for a hike at least 30 times due to work and other priorities. The 10K steps was one of the things that I knew I could manage if I put my heart in to it and also did not really require me to go out of the city.

I have had this app on my phone called Pacer for about 3 years now but I never really explored it. On a boring day towards end of March, I decided to explore the features of the app and noticed they have several challenges like 10K steps in 30 days, 5K run, a distance challenge and so on. It is one of their motivational tools, I guess. One can participate in any of the challenges. I realised that I barely challenged my self with anything. So, decided to give this a shot.

I had been walking regularly even before I took up this challenge but I never paid close attention to the number of steps I was taking or the distance I was walking. Also, note that I do not eat sugar like I used to. I have almost given up sugar and eat a bit of it on specified days of the year and so far have been good.

Example of a Badge- They had one for every week we complete successfully

Pacer would give us their dose of pep like victory badges at their predefined milestones etc. It was to help us stay motivated and coast through the challenge.

I started very upbeat and walked as much as I could consistently. There were a few hindrances which I encountered during the whole journey:
1. First, somewhere in the middle of the month, I was taken quite ill and slept for a big part of the day. It definitely helped in my recovery as I walked in the evening, albeit it was slow walking indoors. I must have walked about 11K steps for 3-4 days until I felt all better and could step out for the real thing.
2. The next hurdle I would say, is when I had to change my shoes. I was walking with an old pair of really comfortable shoes. It helped me with the pace and was really comfortable on the feet. However, I guess I had been walking a lot for a long time and it lead to wearing off of the soles of the shoes. I continued wearing it until there were giant holes in the soles and pebbles and cement and dust particles started entering into my shoes and made the walk uncomfortable. When I would take the shoes off, my feet would be coated with something really black and it would cling on to it. It was quite a chore to restore my feet's original colour. Though the news shoes are not bad, they are quite different from my older ones and my feet are not yet used to them.
3. One of the days, towards the end of the challenge, I walked excessively at a stretch, so much, that the entire stretch of my not so long legs began hurting and in the next few days, closer to the close of the challenge made it only worse. I have decided that until the first weekend of May,2019, I will relax and not walk a lot in order to recover.
I am really proud of myself that despite all these hurdles, I was determined and did not give up on a single day and on most days crossed 10K steps, even on the days when I was sick.

In terms of the results, though I could not see the weighing scale tip in a negative direction, some of my colleagues at work mentioned that I seem to have lost weight and looked leaner, and that it was quite visible. I am not sure if it is anything to do with the walk or the fact that I have not eaten sugar in a long time. On a personal note, some of the clothes which felt tight a year back, seem to fit me again well- mind you, I had not worn them a whole year and tried them on around mid-April, so cannot say definitively that it had anything to do with the challenge. My mom noticed that I have become leaner and look taller as well. Another thing that I practise is restrict eating outside. As much as possible, I try eating home cooked meals. I notice that I eat just enough and not too much when I eat food at home compared to when I eat outside.

I would post my progress as Instagram stories and really thank everyone who supported and encouraged me through this journey. It gave my confidence a boost and in a way tested my will-power and I think I came out in flying colours.

My Best Performance in the challenge

Thursday, 18 April 2019

Q1 2019 Goals Update

It has not been too long since I set my goals for this year. I thought it will still be very helpful to me to evaluate and see where I stand. I am aware I might have not started working towards all of them, however, this review will definitely encourage me to start on things I have not worked on yet.

  • I am going to continue exercising at least 5 times a week. 
  • Additionally, I am eating sugar on specific days of the year and paying close attention to what I am putting into my body and will continue with this effort.
  • Getting adequate sleep
  • If possible, participate in a team sport but this is not a priority

Q1 Update: I am exercising every day of the week and so far, I have stuck to my sugar calendar closely. I still need to work on getting enough sleep though. I have not actively pursued participation in any team sport.

Personal Development:

  • Read/Listen/Follow to news every day
  • Take up 2 certifications/courses- one which will help me in my professional career and the other which may or may not help me professionally but it is something to help me further with a hobby or help me develop a new skill.

Q1 Update: I must admit I have recently started following the news on a daily basis, although it is mainly the headlines. Only if I find some topic really captivating do I go read the details further.
I have started the preparation for the exam for my 1st certification course from 01APR2019. It is tough and there is a lots to do. Once I am done with the 1st certification, I will look in to the 2nd one.


  • Reading: This year I would like to read just 1 book by the end of the year. With work and studying that I will be doing this year and with the other goals, I do not think I will be able to read more.
Q1 Update: I am still reading the books I started before I set my goals and will reveal my "book of the year" once I finish with my current reads.
  • Writing: Last year I started out writing every day and then ran out of content to write everyday. This year, however, I will be writing weekly. It can be about anything but should definitely include 1 thing I did proactively, 1 thing that demonstrates synergy and 1 thing with a win-win attitude, and the progress made with other goals.
Q1 Update: I target to start this from the 1st week of May,2019 onwards.
  • Blogging: I would like to write 1 blog post per week from now on. I know it was my goal last year as well and I did not completely meet it. As I said, I have thought long and hard and now have a very good idea of how I can achieve it this year. 
Q1 Update: I did take a bit of break from this but now I have found my rhythm and would like to continue with it. The objective is to have 52 posts by the end of this year. I have already prepared the list of topics I would be writing on and when I would be writing those. Hope to continue with the same momentum.
  • Art: I would create 1 art work per month. I am happy to inform that I am already underway.
Q1 Update: This is underway. I am preparing for my next work this month and do a little bit of finishing for the previous month. I intend to post all of them on my blog if I judge them good enough to deserve a place on the blog.
  • Cooking/Baking: I love cooking and baking. This year, I am going to try making at least 5 healthy gourmet recipes. In addition, if time permits, I will like to successfully bake 2 types of bread (inspired by Jenna Fischer's Instagram!!).
Q1 Update: I have to start working on this goal. I have made a vegan banana bread and chocolate cake in March but that was not what I had in mind. So, to me I have to work on this. I would probably choose Q3 and Q4 to work on this.

That's all for now from my side. Hope to make a better progress in the next quarter. 

Monday, 15 April 2019

Blossom Book House Haul

A couple of months back, my husband and I visited  Blossom Book House on Church Street. I was keen on buying Bread Baking for Beginners by Bonnie O'Hara. I looked for this book at the old store and the new one but I was unable to find it. I did not really want to get any other book but then as I looked around, I found a few interesting books. I ended up buying 3 and my husband 1. So, here are the 3 books that I got.

Daughter of Silence by Morris West

This book seems to be kind of a thriller and I had not bought thrillers in a long time so I decided to get some. I loved the old school book cover- it reminded me of really old movie posters.  I have never read a Morris West book before but I have heard of some of his great works like The Devil's Advocate and The Shoes of the Fisherman. I look forward to reading it next year.

MASH by Richard Hooker

I love the TV show M.A.S.H.  I can watch it any number of times and never get bored of it. I hope the book will be just as good. The expectations are quite high with this one. I have never read any of Richard Hooker's books before. I could not find any book by this author but I will look up if this book turns out good.

The Chalk Man by C J Tudor

I have started reading this book already. So far, it has been okay. It is supposed to be a hybrid ok Stephen King and Lee Child. I got this book again for the thriller genre. What got me interested in the book is the name and the cover. It reminded me of Hangman that we used to play in school. I really look forward to finishing reading this. By the way, this was not the 1 book I said I would read. I started reading before I set my goals (told you....too busy this year doing a lot of stuff)

PS: Sorry for the poor quality on some of the pictures

I would definitely share my poorly written reviews once I am done reading them. I also hope to find a second hand/used version Bread Baking for Beginners by Bonnie O'Hara soon.

Sunday, 14 April 2019

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

I read Alice in Wonderland as a child and I loved it then. Of course, I read an abridged version of the book. I was thrilled to see the book in Blossoms'- remember this haul.  I wanted to read the original one for a long time and finally got to it.

Though the cover of the book that I have says Alice in Wonderland, it actually has the sequel to Alice in Wonderland- Through the Looking Glass, and also some of Carroll's other works, mainly poetry. I have only read Alice in Wonderland in the book and not the sequel or his other works. So, this blog post would be one about Alice in Wonderland.

I will be honest, I did not find the original book to be an easy read, at least initially. I found it quite laborious at first and it took me some time to actually start enjoying the book. Though written in 1800s, the language is quite comprehensible but the current day children of age 3-7 may not find it easy to read and understand and may also find it boring in parts. One has to have great story telling skills to make the read appealing to the children today.

Most of you who would have read the book as a child, would remember the simple story where a little girl finds follows a talking rabbit to find herself in a land where everything is remarkably different from her current world- where animals and inanimate objects seem to have sprung to life and have conversations like regular people and by eating and drinking potions, one can influence their size and there is a bizarre story knit into all of this with the King and Queen of Hearts from a pack of cards ruling this entire new world or kingdom. It is all very confusing for her, only to find out that SPOILER- it was all a dream.

While the story line remained more or less the same, I think the below differences stood out in the original:

- Alice was never someone who sulked and rolled her eyes and shrugged her shoulders in the version I read as a child but she did all of this in the original.
- There is some outstanding word play in the original. See an example below.

- The book never came across as funny to me as a child but I could see it sprinkled with humour throughout. Also, if you have a good imagination, it makes the read funnier than it actually is.
- The original book has a lot of poetry and songs, which I think was completely missing in the abridged version that I read as a child.
- I really did not expect any illustrations in the original book but there were plenty. I would not say they were particularly good but it did provide some relief while reading the book. Of course, the abridged version I read as a child was meant for children and was packed with colourful pictures quite different from what was in the original if my memory serves me right.

There are a lot of books which I read as a child that had the same effect on me when I read them as an adult. However, this book did not really have the same effect on me. To be fair, it was not exactly the same book, considering the one I read as adult was not an abridged one. I felt quite differently about the book now. I loved it as a child and enjoyed it a lot and re-read it but I do not think I would like to do the same as an adult. I really wish I could enjoy it more but it was a real struggle.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I would rate it a 2.5- midway between enjoyable and boring.