Don’t always blame the pesticides, the pollution, the multitasking robotics, the traffic jams and the genes. Or the pressure of taking those huge, strategic steps to get closer to the next big promotion.
What are the hazards of life in our cities? The statistics are alarming: The World Diabetes Foundation’s 2010 data shows India’s diabetic population at 50.8 million, the world’s largest. The Cardiology Society of India estimates the coronary artery disease (CAD) prevalence at 1.8% of India’s population, i.e., around 20 million patients. Around 60 million people in India suffer from cardiovascular diseases, including CAD and hypertension, according to 2007 data from the American College of Cardiology. The concrete and immediate concern then is: How do you live lighter, happier and better despite the Sisyphean wheel you are pushing? We looked for practical, easy-to-do things that can make a big difference.
Mumbai-based fitness expert Rujuta Diwekar has a holistic way of looking at eating and living—she calls herself an “intelligent food” expert. Trained in sports nutrition, she combines this with grandmother’s knowledge of healing and rejuvenating food to develop a brand of wellness that is effective and easy to follow.
Diwekar became famous owing to her celebrity client Kareena Kapoor. Kapoor supposedly followed her prescription of “eating more to lose weight”, which contributed to her size zero figure. But as we found, “size zero” does not exist in Diwekar’s own dictionary. Her two books, including the last, Women and the Weight Loss Tamasha, have shattered many myths surrounding crash diets.
Diwekar prescribes 25 small things that can change your life, starting today.
SET THE MEAL CLOCK
Eat small meals every 2 hours rather than three heavy meals.
Eating through the day supplies constant blood sugar to the brain, which increases productivity, helps you think better and allows your body to burn fat. You will be calmer, slimmer and more alert. A relaxed body can burn fat better. Eating, not starving, is the way to good health and a fit body. A person who loses weight due to crash diets, surgery or death in a family looks old and tired.
THE 4-6PM POWER SNACK
The working population of the world goes hungry between 4pm and 6pm. Your work is not over, but your productivity is dipping after spending more than 5 hours at office, giving your best. It is the most important meal of the day—it will help you physically and emotionally. If you are hungry at this time, you will overeat at dinner and no matter what you eat then, you will not be satisfied. Have a small meal between 4pm and 6pm that includes carbohydrates, protein and fat.
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THE COLOUR OF WATER
Look at the colour of your urine. If it is not the colour of transparent water, you need to double your intake of water. There’s no fixed amount that every person should drink. It varies from season to season and your work environment. During summer the body requires much more water. But anyone who works in an air-conditioned office, which is virtually all of us, doesn’t get clear thirst signals. All of us are dehydrated, and the hydration status of our body directly affects the ways our kidneys and heart function.
SLURP THE MANGO
Fruits have no exotic value. A kiwi from New Zealand has very few nutrients compared with the local mangoes of the season. The more food travels, the less nutrients it has. Seasonal fruits have the unique nutritional value required for problems related to the season. Eat the black jamun when it is in season and ditch the kiwi.
LIFT THE DUMB-BELLS
The benefits of weight-training are misunderstood. It is not just for Hrithik Roshan and bodybuilders. Weight-training done under the guidance of a qualified trainer will help people of all ages and with all kinds of ailments, especially diabetes and heart disease. Being the diabetic capital of the world, we need to start lifting weights. It protects and builds muscles in our organs, including the heart, which build the body’s stamina and strength. Do weight-training at least four times a month.
A WORKOUT IS LIKE A BATH
Exercise is not meant for losing or gaining weight. Whatever your weight, exercise should be like eating and having a bath. Don’t wait till you are in a job that allows you time to exercise or till your life has some regularity. Hit the gym now. If you can’t exercise at least seven days in a month, you need to quit the job you are in or make drastic changes to your life.
WHAT KIND OF ‘FAT’ ARE YOU?
At least once a year, get a fitness assessment study done by a qualified fitness expert. Many gyms in your city can do it. This study breaks up your fitness levels into three categories: cardiorespiratory fitness, flexibility and body composition. You will know your strong and weak areas and can take better decisions about diet and exercise.
THE HUNGRY POST-WORKOUT HOURS
Many people who exercise regularly look tired and unhealthy. That’s because they don’t attend to the body’s needs after an intense workout. The first hour after a workout should be for rehydration, the second hour requires replenishing glycogen storage (sugar and carbohydrates in muscles), the third hour is for repairs and the fourth, for providing the body vital vitamin supplements. Soon after your workout, have enough water, a banana, a protein shake and some vitamin supplements.
ANY TIME IS A GOOD WORKOUT TIME
Whether you’re walking, working out in a gym or doing yoga, choose the right time for you. You should not be distracted or rushed by anything. It can be 11am or 9pm, the effect of a good workout is the same.
THE IDIOT BOX CALORIES
While eating, don’t watch TV or a movie; you are bound to overeat. Eat with all your senses. Move the TV out of your bedroom, otherwise your sleep will be disturbed. It will affect your digestion, absorption of food, increase stress levels and disturb the hormonal balance. It also causes puffy eyes and dark circles under them. Watching TV just before sleep leads to similar problems. People who have a TV in their bedroom are usually fat or will get fat.
EYES AND MIND WIDE OPEN
If you change your alarm to snooze mode every morning, chances are you have not had a good night’s sleep. The number of hours varies from person to person, but the quality of good, restorative sleep is universal. Eat your dinner at least 2 hours before you go to bed. Avoid anything sweet or with sugar and caffeine after dinner. They are irritants to your nervous system and stress the body while you’re asleep. When the body is not rested, it cannot burn calories, and appetite also suffers.
BROWN IS NOT COOL
If you eat a lot of bread every day, brown or white, you’re going to add unnecessary kilos. Brown bread is as bad as white bread and neither should be a breakfast staple. Don’t buy packaged rice—brown or white. Buy loose rice from a store which can tell you where it has been sourced from. Some polish in your rice can help the body access nutrients, but squeaky white rice is harmful.
DON’T VEGETATE ON SUNDAYS
Sundays should not be compensation days for sleeping and eating. It destroys the body’s pattern and pressurizes its metabolic capacity. Be active on weekends and don’t eat food that is drastically different from what you eat during the week.
‘GHEE’, THE MAGIC POTION
Oil is crucial to a healthy life. It should be the right kind of oil such as groundnut oil or olive oil, and in small amounts. Besides oil, have 2 teaspoons of ghee in your daily diet. You will start losing weight. Ghee has essential fatty acids and vitamins which are crucial for the sharp functioning of the brain, lubrication of your joints and a healthy skin. It also helps you go into restorative sleep. Try ghee instead of sleeping pills.
THE BIOMECHANICS OF FEET
Many don’t know what their feet are like—flat, medium-arched or high-arched. Shoe stores should have salespersons trained in the biomechanics of the foot. Do a simple test before you buy your next pair of shoes. Dip your foot in water and see its signature on the floor. A flat foot will leave a mark of the entire foot, a high-arched one will have only the front and back marks. Buy shoes that snugly fit into the arch of your feet, even if you wear high heels. That will distribute your body weight evenly on your spine, preventing backaches, headaches and weakness of the knee joints. The right pair can up your performance levels at work and make you a relaxed, happy person. Buy shoes in the evening because that’s when your feet are most swollen.
MIX CARB, PROTEIN AND FIBRE
Many fancy diets prescribe against mixing protein and carbohydrates in your diet. It is a myth that you lose weight because of this. You are losing weight because you are eating less when you’re on a diet, not because you are not eating protein and carbohydrates together. If you let go of protein for days, your body will seek it. It’s the same with carbohydrates. The body is most satisfied with a wholesome meal of small portions.
YOUR OWN LITTLE GREEN PATCH
One of your goals should be to own a farm, even a very small one, close to the city you live in. Being involved with the food-growing process will make you want to eat fresh. In your flat, grow coriander in a small pot. You will see the difference between that and what you buy from your vegetable vendor. It will make you want to go far to seek fresh vegetables.
A HOBBY IS CATHARTIC
Pursue something that you love doing besides your job, socializing and spending time with family. It makes your weekend more active and will help you mentally as well as physically. There’s a sense of peace to people who do something only for themselves, just because they enjoy doing it.
WHISKY OR WINE, AFTER OR ALONG WITH YOUR MEAL
Indians drink before dinner and too much, too soon. Social drinking is a recent phenomenon in India and I believe genetically we are not people who can handle a lot of alcohol. It also has to do with our climatic conditions. Drink after you have had your meal or nurse it along with your food. In this, we should completely ape the West. No alcohol is better than the other—if you like whisky but are sipping wine because it’s healthy, ditch the wine. All of them are harming your body. And the success of your party doesn’t lie in how late you serve dinner.
THE MIRROR HAS TWO FACES
Don’t judge your body by the size of your cheeks. Stop obsessing about hiding your body parts with flattering clothes and looking at yourself in the mirror. You’ll look old, tired and diffident.
YOGA IS NOT FOR FRIVOLOUS GAINS LIKE WEIGHT LOSS
If you’re doing yoga, know who your teacher is and which discipline he or she follows and why. Don’t give in to fancy brands that promise weight loss. You should be suspicious of a set of 100 Surya Namaskars because each step in Surya Namaskar requires stamina and the right alignment of limbs. Yoga is not for quick fixes, it is a discipline and requires commitment. It can change your life once you have pursued it for years.
THE EARLY MORNING CAFFEINE KICK
Don’t brew your coffee or tea first thing in the morning. There’s nothing cool about having an exotic brand of coffee served to you in bed. It jerks your system into working at a pace that changes as the day progresses. The metabolic rate is disturbed and fat burning is reduced.
ALOE VERA JUICE IS A WASTE OF MONEY
Don’t buy the aloe vera juice or amla juice available in the market. Real and effective changes for the good can only take place if there’s an overall change in the way you eat, exercise, sleep and think. There are no quick fixes. If you are not happy and healthy, a shot of aloe vera can’t do wonders. Eat a fresh amla sometimes instead.
WISDOM OF THE HIMALAYAS
Because of the ecosystem and terrain, the Himalayas are naturally restorative. Many gyms have introduced latitude training, which is naturally possible if you walk in the Himalayan region. Its herbs, fruits and fragrances are good for the body and mind. After a long trip, you come back with the wisdom to live better.
THROW AWAY THE WEIGHING SCALES
Your body weight, as shown by a simple weighing scale, is not an indicator of your health. Weighing scales can’t tell you whether your weight gain is because of fat build-up or muscle growth and can often mislead you to crash diets and wrong exercises. Constant weight checks can cause unnecessary stress.
As told to Sanjukta Sharma.
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