Late Night Gratitude

I’m feeling good, particularly about nothing and yet about everything.

Lying in bed at the owl hours of winter night. Spread out like I’m making snow angels. Staring at the overhead fan, trying to count the number of rotations it makes in a minute and miserably failing each time. I laugh to myself and start over; there is no mad rush for doing something better. The strays on the streets have finished their scavenger patrols and the moon is glowing bright enough. It’s a strangely fulfilling feeling, to not be worried about wasting away time on mindless tasks.

It could be the weather or just the effect of watching multiple hallmark movies over the years. After having a full Wednesday and snoozing through most of it. But for now I’m just happy to be wrapped up in my washed-up comforter, wearing yoga pants from when I was two inches too short and a t-shirt I’m not sure how I procured. The night air is a bit chilly, but I’m just too comfortable to get up and reduce the speed of the fan.

Tomorrow is a workday, but for now I can only think of all the things that have been good and great. My mind is swell and humming a song I heard in an Italian movie with subtitles. I mean, we all have our days; I know I do. I have a range from Buttercups to Lisa Simpson, from Olive Oyl to Roadrunner, from Merida to Cinderella. But today, I’m just feeling good.

I’m feeling good, particularly about nothing and yet about everything.

On last new years’ eve I had made a resolution. It was to make sure that I’d try out all activities that have brought joy to me in the past. Why did I make it? I’m not sure; maybe I was just lazy to think of something new. Or maybe becauseI knew I would still find simple pleasure in some, if not all of them. And here I am, feeling content at the end of the year, making lists for the year to come and mostly feeling grateful.

If the past year were a book, its cover would be a vibrant blend of colours light and dark, all thrown together to create something abstract yet so beautiful. If it were a music piece it would have the music of a saxophone, electric guitar and a violin, all together. If it were a garden it would have grass in shades of green and brown, with some weeds and beautiful little flowers.

The opportunity to meet new people, from different places, has always interested me. I’m not big on socialising, but every once in a while I enjoy getting to know someone completely new and preferably very different from myself. I’ve had the privilege of befriending many people this time. Took a weeklong trip with strangers who became friends and some even influencers in their own way.  Took multiple weekend trips and re-connected with old friends and got introduced to some more. Travelled with family and had the chance to re-connect.

I took up many challenges, aced a few and failed a few, but tried all! Started the blog on the word of a stranger who is now a well-wisher. Tried to shrink the waistline, but that never panned out. Learned how to cook something new.Found some of my work targets unrealistic after having have dived headfirst. Defeated my sweet tooth and gained better control over my impulsive binges. Spent another year desperately wanting for a canine companion. Joined the management class and am actually enjoying it. Enjoyed some beautiful sunrises. Missed quite a few night outs and events. Lost my phone.  Ran the 10k I dreamt of. Read very little by comparison. Exploited netflix subscription. 

I found inspiration and admiration in nature. Learned to be more accepting of others. Struggled a bit with my self image. Mended some fences, lost track of some others. Indulged in self-care, gained some sunburns. Sprained my ankle. Developed better calf muscles. Started being more sensitive towards the environment. Dabbled in make-up. Cried till I couldn’t remember why. Laughed until I was doubled up with pain. Danced by letting it all go. Stayed hydrated through party nights. The year has been a ride, not a very smooth one for sure. But today when I look back at all that has passed and everything that I’ve learnt, I know it’s been a beautiful one.

Taking stock of everything that’s putting an aimless smile on my face sure feels good. While the fan continued to reel over-head, I can’t be bothered by the ramblings of the world. For once I’m not in a hurry to fall asleep or do anything else,because right here everything seems to be comfortable.

The song that I’ve been humming  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gk8oSNMQ6xU

Folks

Just Folks

“No, everybody’s gotta learn, nobody’s born knowing. That Walter’s as smart as he can be, he just gets held back sometimes because he has to stay out and help his daddy. Nothing’s wrong with him. Naw Jem, I think there’s only one kind of folks; Folks.”

Harper Lee (To Kill A Mocking Bird; Ch 23)

The First Run

You haven’t run in a month. Do your best. Remember this isn’t your only chance but this IS your only body. So, be a bit considerate.’

Heart racing at an exorbitant rate, a parched mouth and eyes burning due to the invasion of sweat.

A kilometre short of the finish line, my mind began to make notes of everything that I had to share.

Today,when I woke up before sunrise and got dressed for the long awaited event (read as: very very long awaited), I consolingly told myself, ‘You haven’t run in a month. Your body has been out of touch for way too long. Do your best. Remember this isn’t your only chance but this IS your only body. So, be a bit considerate.’

With acceptance in mind I went ahead and followed all the procedure before the finish line. Before the start mark I took a deep breath and told myself to remember to be at a comfortable pace. Slowly but steadily kilometres passed. I over took a few co-runners and was overtaken by a few. And the longer I ran, the more I wanted to run. After every checkpoint, I wanted to see if I could continue running until the next.

Just like the climax scene of most movies, things started to go on in a slow motion in my tenth kilometre. I could see the finish arch. There was a reinstalled sense of confidence and it felt like a secret packet of energy had just been released in me because my steps were more rapid than the last few kilometres.Oddly enough, while everything was getting faster, my thoughts seemed to begetting clearer and time seemed to be passing slower.

And in the final 1000 meters I started to make a list. A list of things that I had done right, things I was going to get better at and things that I’m going to keep doing.

  1. Wearing a pair of shoes that my feet were familiar with rather than new ones seemed like a great advise I’d implemented.The comfort of wearing the right shoes was an added support
  2. My first stop was because my shoes suddenly felt too tight. I’d forgotten to factor in the swelling up of my feet once they were strained
  3. I lasted more than I expected because I made sure to slow down every time I felt out of breath or exhausted
  4. To stop running and just walk for a bit seemed enticing, but I remembered that it would also make me lose my momentum. So I reduced my pace instead
  5. To avoid an excessive raise in body temperature,I shifted to breathing with my mouth as soon as I felt hot and continued the same.
  6. On seeing my fellow runners fidget with their sponsored t-shirts, I was glad to have remembered to wear an old t-shirt under the new one
  7. Halfway through I realised I should have carried my own Gatorade. While there were multiple refreshment pit stops, your body isn’t conditioned to get dehydrated based on the proximity to a re-hydration supply
  8. ‘Short-term goals’: That was my constant mantra.I was constantly setting short distance and visible goals based on landmarks or objects (not once on the basis of time or distance). Only after crossing the current short distance goal, would I pick the next one. Yes, I was tricking my brain into regularly releasing dopamine along with the feel-good endorphin. But I didn’t want my brain to feel cheated, so I only set the next goal after I had put the current goal behind myself (literally)
  9. Short steps reduced the load on my knees and also improved the frequency of my steps
  10. A regular and longer arm swing improved my momentum at the times when I wanted to be a tortoise. Thanks to stationary, arm swing exercises that we were asked todo, by a marathoner, with 1kg of weight in each hand
  11. During the last few minutes, when I was only a few hundred meters away from the end, I knew I’d superseded my expectations. Being the fickle person I am, I wanted more than I had and knew I could have had more only if I’d been more consistent
  12. SMILE!I remembered that I could release for feel good hormone by smiling and I did that. As the run got more taxing I started smiling larger- as was suggested tome
  13. The last 200 meters was a single sprint. I’m not sure of the how I could do it butI know why I did it. Maybe because I was so excited to have completed it!

WhileI sit washed, in the comfort of a sofa while writing this, I have mixed thoughts about having have had enjoyed every second of the salty water running down and entering my mouth when I first got into a shower. It was strangely exhilarating.

(With all things said and done, I feel gratitude towards an inspiring friend who started off as being my mentor 10 months ago. He has always shown faith and supported me despite my inconsistencies. Thank you!)

Afloat in Mulki

And just like that she knew that even though she had rested, she never really had parted from the sea and it was time to be back in it!

Back flat on the grainy floor of a front porch, eyes closed, she truly enjoyed the burning of her skin under the sun. It was hotter than usual but her body continued to feel like she was bobbing on the river in a kayak. The harmless insects took their own time starting at the heel and climbing to the toe. The slow crawling felt oddly welcoming.

The heat soothing the strained muscles, the coconut trees making the light play peek-a-boo on her face; nature’s care in the most tender form. Clothes a little damp from all the water splashed by her amateur paddles, the skin was well pickled by the minerals of the sea. With a colour block vision of lush green and muddy blues, her brain seemed to be playing games with her relaxing eyes.

The fresh water caressing the parked kayaks on the shore created a prolonging sensation, amplified by the smell of moss, mush and all things tropical. Moist hair, dressed in a bizarre runway fashion, feeling flakey against the pruning fingertips didn’t seem like a concern anymore. The soreness between the index finger and the thumb from rowing, a sweet reminder of ticking another experience off her list and enjoying it just as much as she had imagined. The circular, dance-like movement of the vultures in the sky will always remind her of them joining in her own merry making.

The land was solid and stable yet the mind believed that it was drifting under bridges, around groves. The reflection of white migrating birds and their graceful flight inches away from the surface still had her wondering. She still felt an unreasonable pang of jealousy when she saw fishes skipping with no worry in the world and the jets leaving a relatively permanent trail like a longer lasting reflection of the water lines cut through to move ahead.

The frogs croaked gleefully like in a fare, the dragonflies wheezing around occasionally and slowly the crickets were starting to claim their space. Pockets filled with sand, the lips were smile kissed.

There was a nearing sound of moving tarpaulin under approaching feet and she heard her name. And just like that she knew that even though she had rested, she never really had parted from the sea and it was time to be back in it!

*An experience this beautiful is to be credited to its curators. I first met Rakesh in Manali on a trip put together by Wandermile (Chennai based). This group’s experiential itineraries are soul-felt and enriching.

Read more about them at http://blog.wandermile.com/ or get in touch through contact@wandermile.com

Churning Wheels: Needs

All humans have the same needs made unique by the combination and proportion in which we need them.

(This is the third and last article of the Churning Wheels series)

If we were to be absolutely honest with ourself, place our hand on our heart and admit. Admit to how often have have we measured ourself up against the world or others against ourself! And in doing so, we have all used accomplishments as the most handy tool for measuring and comparing. While its easy to quantify most successes and its easy to draw conclusions and arrive at results with numbers, have you wondered why?

Why are achievements the way to measure us and grade our abilities?

As one part of my two-fold plan was satisfied, I found myself at relative ease. There was one more view to explore and a decent amount of clarity on the topic if not the content. I began with what I already knew- Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. It is one of the most often referred to theory for understanding any behaviour and growth related situation across fields.

According to a Mr. Maslow, human needs are of five kinds, arranged in a hierarchy from basic necessities to the ones concerning higher levels of the self. The hierarchy begins with:

  • Physiological Needs (food, water, sleep, sex)- at the bottom
  • Safety Needs (clothing, shelter, employment, health)
  • Love and Belonging Needs (family, friends, society, intimacy)
  • Esteem/ Ego Needs (respect, achievement)
  • Self-Actualisation (meaning, inner potential, creativity)- at the top
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On the basis of this theory, it was proposed (still holds true) that all living being, irrespective of their individual differences, have the same needs. My churning wheels liked this pyramid as it helped me answer the unasked questions. But somewhere I wanted more. Something beyond the philosophy of survival.

At this point, I’m not sure if I was curious for the over-achieving yet unhappy man. Or was I curious because even I have felt dissatisfied when I had no reason to be. By now, I had repeatedly asked myself if I was truly happy. And I instantly had known that my happiness wasn’t always honest, sometimes it was just an over joyed laughter that did not touch my eyes.

So while I read further I found that the five needs are often categorised by some, under something called the ‘Trio of Needs’; namely Power, Affiliation and Achievement.

  • Power: it is closely associated to the ego need of individuals. It is the boost in self-esteem when one exercises control over their surroundings or on the people around them
  • Affiliation: It is similar to Maslow’s social needs. It suggests that human behaviour is strongly influenced by their desire for acceptance and to conform. The need for belonging and companionship
  • Achievement: This can be related to Ego and Self-actualisation needs. It makes achievement or success feel like an end in itself.

Different people place different weightage on each of these needs; the ratio changes but rarely does anyone completely omit any. I noticed that the Trio was far more fitting for my situation because if doesn’t try to explain the basic physiological needs along with safety. It just gets to the point of where we make choices.

We do not choose whether we are hungry or sleep deprives, whether we need to feel safe or wish for a healthy functioning body; they are constant and unchanging. But we all, at multiple points, revise and rearrange our priorities. So maybe the question is about how we prioritise? Maybe it is as simple and important as asking ourselves how we feel, from time to time. And based on the answer to that we could create our ratios. The trio are the three parts of a see-saw, the centre is always the one keeping the other two ends in place and balanced.

So if I feel under-confident then temporarily I could place achievement at the centre, it will boost my self-image, improve my confidence and eventually increase my power quotient. When achievement alone stops satisfying me, I will have to ask myself again what I need, and it might be time to rearrange. When I fail to feel happiness inspite of all the success, it will be time to put achievement on the other end and let affiliations sooth me back.

And while I play see-saw, I will have to remember that my constant needs are the grass bed at the bottom- unassuming and easily taken for granted but also the one that catches me when I fall.

Have I arrived at the right answer? Do I have all the answers? Is this a go-to formula? Is it fool-proof?…. Well I’m going to find out sooner or later. Until then I’m going to ask myself about how I feel and try to remedy it as and when I feel discomfort.

References:

Philosophy and Psychology of Branding |Solomon Managament Consultants. (2014, April 23). Retrieved November 12, 2018, from http://www.solomon-mc.com/philosophy-and-psychology-of-branding/

Schiffman, L. G., Kanuk, L. L., & Kumar, S. R. (2010). Consumer motivation. In Consumer behaviour(10th ed., pp. 88-116). Dorling kindersley (india) pvt.

Churning Wheels: Potion Quotient

There are four chemicals that are responsible for human happiness.

(This is the second article of the Churning Wheels series)

With a whirlwind of ideas that I couldn’t address all at once I was left restless for a day or more. So I did the best things that I could think of- ponder, wonder, ignore, convince myself that it’s not my monkey hence not my circus. Over time I tried digging deeper, finding articles or asking people if they knew what I felt; well let’s just say there wasn’t much success there either. Internet is smart but it didn’t know the answer to my unsure questions and left me clueless.

After some more time of self-tormenting I decided that the best way to understand what an individual goes through is by looking at it from a two-fold system:

  1. Their chemical proportions
  2. Their needs as individuals

With better clarity than before, there finally was a direction to look at.

A little reading and some permutation and combinations later, I realised that there are four chemicals that are responsible for most human happiness. The beauty of such chemicals is that they needn’t be injected but we can learn to produce and help product more of them within ourselves.

  • The first chemical is ENDORPHIN. It’s the one responsible for making us feel good after a session of physical exercise, despite all the muscle strain, by reducing the perception of pain and are also responsible for feeling of euphoria; also known as the body’s ‘feel good chemical’.
  • The next one is DOPAMINE. This motivates us into performing better and being achievers. It creates a sense of contentment and high through achievements. It is also called the brain’s ‘reward and pleasure centre’ ; more the dopamine more the productivity. Lowered motivation and enthusiasm is an indicator or low levels of dopamine.
  • Third in line is SEROTONIN. This motivates us to indulge in pro-social behaviours. Its released when we perform acts of kindness towards others, making the world seem like a better place. Commonly known as the ‘happiness hormone’, it can affect the body temperature, cause migraine and regulate appetite.
  • And finally OXYTOCIN. This is the social potion, often also called the ‘love hormone’. It is released through proximity. It’s the reason why sometimes hugs feel more therapeutic than words. It works on the trust, warmth, openness and empathy of individuals.chemicals.jpg

On gaining this new information, the next seemed obvious. I had to know how I could improve the production of these hormones in my body without resorting to chemical substitutes. With it began the next phase of my research and I was surprised at how simple it is to make myself happy!

Here are some steps that can be adopted easily in everyday:

  1. Soak in the sun as vitamin D is fat-soluble and directly effects the production of Oxytocin.
  2. Exercise regularly as it has many mind-body benefits. Staying active helps the physiology and is directly related to the production of Endorphin.
  3. Sleep well because your body needs the rest. It is said that most of these hormones are produced when the body is in a resting state that’s why when we wake up after a good night’s sleep we feel energised and refreshed. By the end of the day, the body has usually exhausted its supple of these hormones, making it tired and deserving of the rest.
  4. Eat a protein rich diet and avoid processed foods. Veggies, unsaturated fats, nuts and seeds are the best way.
  5. Quit or limit your sugar consumption*
  6. Avoid excessive consumption of alcohol and caffeine. They create dependence and interfere in the natural hormone production process.
  7. Listen to music that you enjoy as it triggers the pleasure centres.
  8. Try aromatherapy; esp. lavender and chamomile, as they are known to have relaxing properties.
  9. Practice yoga and meditation as they are known to relieve stress and relax the body and mind.
  10. Practice the art of giving, volunteering and donating in-order to feel good.
  11. Cuddle with loved ones and your pets because love spreads positivity and joy.
  12. Laugh! Laughing in real time is the best medicine for all kinds of situations.
  13. Take up hobbies, do creative things and invest time in yourself**
  14. Have celebratory rituals for all small and big accomplishments (eg. A celebratory dance, treating self with favourite food, etc).

As an adult most of us can consciously put in an effort to improve our own happiness. But as adults we should also take up the responsibility of equipping children with the ability to do so by providing them an environment to be happy and helping them inculcate little activities into their routines. What could be better than a generation of humans being brought up with happiness improvement mechanisms?

Note:

*Refer to “Sugaring it Down” https://thehazywhisperer.com/2018/10/10/sugaring-it-down/

**Refer to “Try It” https://thehazywhisperer.com/2018/07/26/try-it/

References:

10 Best Ways to Increase Dopamine Levels Naturally. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-to-increase-dopamine

33 Ways to Increase Dopamine to Boost Your Productivity. (2018, March 15). Retrieved from https://helloendless.com/10-ways-to-increase-dopamine-to-boost-your-productivity/

Email OF The Day. (1970, January 01). Retrieved from http://emailday.blogspot.com/2015/09/wwwkeralitesnet-4-happy-hormones.html

Jason Nutzman. (n.d.). What Are Endorphins And 7 Ways to Boost It Naturally. Retrieved from https://mindhealth.co/what-are-endorphins-and-7-ways-to-boost-it-naturally

Mojor, C, (2018, November 06). Te Mystery of Serotonin:Can It Really Make You Happy? Retrieved from http://www.developinghumanbrain.org/serotonin-mystery/

Churning Wheels

“Humans see what they want to see.”
― Rick Riordan, The Lightning Thief

I sat there in the evening breeze looking out the balcony, changing my view from the carved metal railing to a monochromatic sky as my feet pushed the swing back and forth. My companion, pushing along- in sync with my feet, was a straight A, trophy hoarding, an apple of everyone’s eye kind of person. In the company of heavy silence, where the grey skies seemed to be mimicking us, my sense of self was undergoing a metamorphosis of sorts. My self-concept wasn’t altered much at its crest, but it did change attire as our seldom-worded conversation progressed.

It first began with being a small bundle of rather morbid feeling nerves. I mean, the only straight ‘A’ that I’ve been consistent with is the last alphabet in my name! Slowly, after some self-cheering I realised that I couldn’t possibly be all that gloomy, I mean I do have people who love me despite all my flaws. Don’t the bees only stick around if there is some honey to have? So there had to be some amber in me.

Over the seconds that bloomed into minutes and blossomed into an hour, I found myself feeling happy about my muddy pond even if it wasn’t a golden bowl. Don’t get me wrong; I did not dim out the star to make my glow bug bum look brighter. I just started to realise that both our sparkles glow well, just in our own unique colours. In this mental monologue I had come to also realise that there was something disturbingly different about our independent sparkles- could it be that mine was in my eyes and his was in the eyes of the people that looked at him?

Being the hopeless romantic that I am, with the desire for a story, my violent curiosity uttered the first audible dialogue- “What’s wrong?”

Were those the right words, should I have bothered, will this have a desired response, was there a happy ending at the end of this- I was still unsure.

Well, the first response was an instant passé smile; as if asking me to mind my own business in the most gentlemanly manner known to mankind. But some delicate prodding by shamelessly extending an expectant look with sub-zero words uttered, changed the direction of vocal dialogue delivery.

What began with a sigh, went onto being a jumble of words trying desperately to catch up with the speedy mixed thoughts and thoughtful pauses. He said, “I’m not sure what it is. Its like- I design cars from the scratch and yet your joy of driving a hand-me-down is far more potent than what I feel… You know, I’ve achieved more that most people my age and have never done anything that I’m embarrassed of- not that I’m trying to boast. Everyone’s parents wish for their kids to be like me, my parents couldn’t be more proud of me… Sorry, I’m just rambling… Uh, I’m just not feeling it! I have all reason to be happy, but I am not. You know what I mean?.. Or not?… I’m sure I sound like a loony right now. Forget whatever I just said. I don’t seem to make sense to myself sometimes… What I’m trying to say is that your smile intimidates me.”

And just like that the tables had been turned, roles reversed.

Now I was the one with a passé smile while he just gave expectant glances and gallons of empty silence for me to fill.

There sure were thoughts in my head. There were appropriate questions that I could ask. There was just one little problem- too many wheels had started to turn at once. It felt like my brain was supplying so much data to my tongue at once that it couldn’t choose the best alternative to provide as an output. Now I was lost, not for thought, but because I had too many thoughts that prevented my clarity of thought, you know what I mean?

And just like that I knew I was going to need some time to declutter and better compartmentalise my reaction…

*continued at http://www.thehazywhisperer.com/2018/11/12/churning-wheels-potion-quotient

The Storm

That’s what the storm is all about!

And once the storm is over,

you won’t remember how you made it through,

whether the storm is really over.

But one thing is certain – when you come out of the storm,

you won’t be the same person who walked in.

That’s what the storm is all about.

– Murakami

Ba-Dastoor

‘O Soul, thou art at rest.
Return to the Lord at peace with Him,
and He at peace with you.’

There was the light blue sky, white marble domes with emerald and ruby pietradura floral art, guarded by a sandstone red prayer hall on the west and its mirror image for a guest house on its east side. The palette in front of me, as I sat on the Victorian bench in the heart of the lush green gardens, could not have been better.

In a borrowed kurta from baba’s suitcase and a pair of breezy pants, my sleepy eyes looked around with the excitement of a child when I first walked through the arch and glimpsed at the beauty in white. Said to have been constructed as a symbol of love by a man for his beloved over a period of two decades, this marble structure had me falling in love slowly but surely.

While I waited for nature to play out its theatrics, I tried to remember my first visit to the mausoleum-that has been a whooping part of the country’s identity. I wasn’t sure what we had done the first time; there were no strong associations or incidents to create a foundation upon. But there was a lingering feeling of déjà vu once our guide started unraveling the details about its history and symmetry of scales.

All I did was sit down and stay still.

I had to sit down and stay still while everyone around me kept moving in an over whelming frenzy.

I sat down and stayed still when everyone around me was high on anticipation of what was next.

I sat down and stayed still while the silhouette went through the shade card and eventually shifted form.

At first I saw the sky as a deep blue curtain floating against some sprinkled chalk dust and a fading moon; and the winds whispered to me

Then there were emerging patterns of cotton clouds and flying beings against a canvas splattered with gold; while the leaves rustled against the hardened path.

This gold ever so beautifully enveloped into a glowing sun left on a comfortable sheet of light blue; with the morning birds bursting into an acapella.

The scene unfolded from being a glittery performer to a somber lady of pastels.

In an urge to make a lasting association this time over, my mind pulled me back to something I had overlooked in my childlike haste of what lay ahead-

‘O Soul, thou art at rest.

Return to the Lord at peace with Him,

and He at peace with you.’

-the inscriptions on the entrance arch had translated.

On the way, most buildings were coloured dust and red with benches under trees that stood witness to the tales of love and romance over the ages. The air was stained with the crisp stench of hand rolled tobacco and the mildly brewing tealeaves. With cobbled streets and modest houses, the streets around the Taj felt like an architectural conspiracy.

Like most of my early morning squanders on vacations, even this involved baba obliging to my relentless pleas to go to the marvel and breath it in its glory along with the chirping songs at ungodly hours. There was suddenly an unknown comfort in this strange city, like I had become a part of its story as the story had become a part of me

*Ba-Dastoor is an urdu word, meaning unaltered

Sugaring It Down

I was known for being the person with a stash of candies and a backup stash and a backup-to-the-backup stash.

On being a sugar fanatic for over two decades, my usual intake of something sweet a.k.a. desserts; ranged anywhere between four to six helpings a day. So, imagine my horror when I find out one afternoon of an unwelcoming hot weather and a gloomy mood that we had run out of treats!!

To understand the intensity of my reaction to this situation, I think its only fair to explain my love for food first. I hold the principle of never wasting food on the highest pedestal in life, next being never-say-no to trying something new or something familiar out of a different kitchen. I also believe that I’m a growing child who needs her three full meals and two mini-meals each day. I was known for being the person with a stash of candies and a backup stash and a backup-to-the-backup stash.

So, given my horror of not finding anything sweet, I left my lunch on the table like an unappreciated ex and waltzed out to first procure my fix. While the gooey cake appeased my mind and I got back to my meal eventually, it was at night when the conscience was innocent and my demons crept out. It was in the darkness that I became privy to my situation. Not only had I disrespected the hot meal waiting for me, I’d also acted like a little brat!

Coming to terms with my actions, I took a decision. I promised that I’d not touch sugar and sugared items for a whole of 30 days starting that very night. Was this a punishment? I’d like to think that I was just trying to prove to myself that I’m not a brat and definitely not a sugar-dependent (we all knew I was fooling no one but myself!). But what is the fun in a challenge if everyone thinks you can do it, right?

Beginning the next day, I started declaring to just about anyone and everyone that ‘I Quit Sugar’. It didn’t matter if they asked or not, whether they cared or not, whether they thought me capable or not. All I needed was to make myself believe that I was doing it. I mean if enough people knew about it, some were bound to ask me about the progress after a few days, weeks or a month and someone was bound to see me when I almost slip and ask me what happened to quitting, right? I thought it the best way to keep me in check without anyone really crowding me about it.

While it was all things gay and jolly for the first couple of days, it took a whole lot of detours to avoid dessert stores, cafes and ice cream stalls and birthday parties to stay away from the temptation. But the issues arose when my body figured how I was fooling it every time it craved something sweet and my mind refused to co-operate. By the end of the first week, I realised how vulnerable I had become.

So starting week two, I made some rules.

  • I told myself that not all things sweet have sugar and non-sugar can still be sweet
  • I decided to spend time physically buying fruits and picking the season specialties along with the round the year offering
  • Don’t be too harsh on yourself for craving, but do not cheat

Now that I look back I’m surprised how six months have gone so fast. I’ll admit that I’ve had occasions when I didn’t just think but did go all out with a large ice-cream, a cupcake or just some brownie. But for most of it, I know I’ve made tremendous progress. Now I can go multiple meals with no dessert craving. I’ve come up with innovative ways to satisfy my sweet tooth. And most of all, I feel like a winner!

Here are some things that had me sailing through it all:

  1. DON’T GO HUNGRY

I realised that staying hungry for long made me an irrational thinker. The moment I started paying attention to my stomach, I wasn’t munching on cookies or candies thoughtlessly.

2. SOMETIMES YOU JUST NEED WATER

While listening to my stomach better I also realised that a lot of pangs were just false alarms. I just needed to hydrate myself better, so I started carrying a water bottle everywhere I went.  (BONUS: I was unknowingly being an environmentally more responsible person by not buying single use plastic bottles as often)

3. TRY THE FRUITS

Like I mentioned I started to physically go and select fruits for my consumption. On looking back, I think I felt more involved and in control when I spent time picking each fruit. It also made me look forward to consuming my purchase. I used these when the need for dessert after a bad day or a fancy meal got uncontrollable.

4. EAT THOUGHTFULLY

IMG_20180916_153151366

I started spending time on reading the ingredients on the boxes that claimed to be sugar free. From healthy cookies to breakfast cereal and energy bars, they were all loaded with sugar in one form or another. There are so many synonyms to sugar, you’d be surprised (https://www.powerthesaurus.org/artificial_sweetener). As an Indian, I found myself drifting towards Poha (flattened rice), Suji (semolina), Puffed Rice and Daliya (Indian Quinoa) as my go to options, with a huge volume of vegetables.

5. CARRY YOUR S.O.S. PACK ON THE GO

I designated a zip lock pouch to a mix of raisins, almonds, unsweetened dates, dried apricots and figs, with some cashews and pistachio. (Eating more than a date a day is usually not advisable due to its high natural sugar level and fibre content)

This was my SOS pack that was with me at all times, just like water. It was for times when I needed that instant energy rush or had an unexpected craving. (BONUS: by not buying packaged snacks on the go, I saved money that I didn’t know I could in the first place.

6. THE RIGHT ENERGY DRINKS

From Gatorade to RedBull, I was left with rummaging through alternatives. I found fresh coconut water, salted lemonade (with water not soda) and buttermilk as my new frequenters. Since I wasn’t really big on packaged juices and colas ever, this was a relatively easy shift. (BONUS: this made me environment friendly with reduced consumption of packaged drinks and also improved savings.

7. BLEND IT ALL

On some days, when I wished for a thick shake, I started blending my own smoothies. With unprocessed oats as a common ingredient to make it thick and filling, I tried-

  • Banana and strawberryIMG_20180729_111957256.jpg
  • Apple, muskmelon and cinnamon
  • Kiwi, strawberry and mint
  • Guava and ginger
  • Pear, apple and raisins
  • Mango and mint
  • Carrot, apple and ginger
  • Kiwi, watermelon and mint

I found Drunken Monkey (a smoothie bar), for lazy days and also for inspiration.

(BONUS: I’m more open to experiments and creative with my food. And a reusable glass bottle that I try to carry every time I’m going to the juice bar)

8. GO BLACK

On days when I couldn’t open my eyes, I moved my cappuccino to an espresso or Americano. I was introduced to an ‘Americano Mojito’, which worked well too, it was an Americano with a dash of lime and some freshly crushed mint leaves. (BONUS: unintended savings by skipping sides and fancy brews).

And on days when I wanted chocolate, I’d eat a small piece of dark chocolate (85% to 95%). I had to eat it slow and never managed to eat more than a piece or two at a time, but the taste grew on me. (BONUS: bribing me isn’t as easy anymore, and I developed the taste for something fine and classy)

9. SALTY PEANUT BUTTER

On days when I wanted a breakfast bowl, it was getting difficult to like them without the side of peanut butter. So I tried making my own batch. Followed the easiest YouTube DIY recipe and just skipped the adding sugar step, instead added some rock salt, to taste. This works well as a dip for fruits and vegetables, with toast and in wraps as well.

10. FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT

And the most important thing- fake till you make it. I spent a good portion of time pretending to be okay and unaffected. And before I knew it my mind started believing that I was alright without sugar and that I wasn’t really missing out on much. And today, it isn’t a challenge but just how I’d like to eat.

Now that it has become second nature to do most of the above things it doesn’t feel like a challenge anymore. Some days I do slip but I don’t want to be too harsh on myself provided I don’t make slipping a habit. I do allow myself cheat days (birthdays, anniversaries and other such celebrations) where I don’t fix a set number of servings, but just am all ears to my body.

You wonder what I gained from putting myself through all this?

  • Me enjoying my meal is not dependent on the dessert at the end of it anymore
  • I’m now naturally active without the artificial glucose intake
  • My body has re-learned to breakdown the glycogen to glucose by burning my body fat
  • My skin is acne-free and hair is relatively healthier
  • I have a sense of achievement and better self control