A Pillion Ride

Walking through the crossroads amidst workday lunch traffic, actively blocking all the commotion around me. I made my way home after completing a long list of chores, on foot to avoid wasting time in vehicular humdrum, thinking of what is with all the rush, what is it with all the chaos, what is everyone chasing, if everyone is out on the streets then what about their homes??
Why is it that each day the crossroad near my house see’s the same rush; on weekdays its in blue and blacks while on weekends the same rush turns vibrant in colour, but its a chaos all the same.

Bickering to myself, trying to come up with reasons and then justifying them, and then looking for a better answer as that wasn’t satisfactory enough- I was stopped mid step. From the corner of my eyes I saw something, something that was out of place. My peripheral vision had been coloured neon and my hardwired and set-pattern expecting brain couldn’t understand why. While I was lost in a new confusion, me sense were flooded by a sound. The sound of a hearty laughter- the kind that just forms in your stomach, rolls up your throat and launches itself into the world like a contagious vibration. It made the hair on my neck stand, in a good way.

On turning back, I saw a child of 5 or 6. It was this child that was responsible for the disruption of a regular weekday afternoon. This child wore a neon coloured overall with the whitest of white shoes and held a pinwheels of fluorescent colours. The person responsible for this child rode a scooter, absolutely unaffected by this roar of a laughter. If he was struggling with navigating through the traffic, his face didn’t show it.

And just like that I realised that I had raised my free hand and was waving at the kid with a smile on my face. The child wasn’t just laughing but also waving at all the strangers that were passing by and had a chance to do so face-to-face as he sat with his back against his riders back. It was when the child and his rider were out of sight and out of my audible distance, I realised that his sound had gained out al the sounds that my surroundings were creating- the honking or motor vehicles, the sound of their engines, the telephone conversations, the barking of stray dogs.

Once again, bickering to myself, I entered my house wondering what the child was so happy about, how musical was his laughter and does looking at things in retrospect really make them easier to laugh about?

FESTIVAL OF SUN BATHING

Here’s me, wishing each one of you a Happy & Vit.D rich kite flying season. May you be rich in it!
Go out more often and absorb as much of it as possible.

Watching with bulging eyes and a child’s fascination, I held onto Baba’s finger as we walked down the beach. The turquoise waves were glittering against my eyes and the joy of the beach goers was almost infectious.
“Maybe it isn’t just me. I should find out if turquoise is on the happy colour spectrum according to colour psychology”, I made a mental note.
Almost immediately scrapping away the note; like an inquisitive child that’s incapable of containing her curiosity, I shared my thoughts with Baba hoping to catch an insight. He smiled. Continuing to walk as if he had a preset target in mind. But what was the hurry? We were just taking a morning stroll.
Weren’t we?!
Further ahead on the beach, we reached a stretch onto which the city seemed to have shifted its bedrooms. There were people by the hundreds who were laying there, lazy-ing around against the sub-urban busy backdrop. Spread out on their beach towels, generously rubbing sunscreens onto each other, floating on the turquoise creating an illusion of the black spots created when the eye hasn’t adjusted itself to the sudden brightness.
A few more meters and I could taste the salt in every bead that slipped off mu forehead and onto my lips to a degree that I could go on, no more. Not knowing that it was going to be a long walk, I had neither packed a bottle of water nor a hat; just flopping away in a pair of flip-flops which were beginning to feel uncomfortable in all that sand huh was quickly heating up now.
Holding Baba’s finger a bit tighter I silently signalled for him to stop. But to my amazement he did not just continue to walk he also did not look at me for a second. It was as if he too was silently sending me a message that he couldn’t be stopped. Red in the face with borderline dehydration, a growling stomach and now a slightly peaking temper; I held my ground throwing dead weight on Baba’s fingers.
I’m not sure what happened in that minute. What I saw next is not something I had expected. He looked at me with a child’s irritation in his eyes and then pointed at the sky with the awe of a child at an amusement park. I mean, this was beach and not DisneyLand!
I only understood the situation better after his next set of words, “walk a little more for my childhood’s sake?” Only then did my eyes honestly scan the skies to find the sun changing filters every now and then. There were kites all over. It wasn’t January but May, and yet the sky filled with colour.
And so we walked…

In Northern India, the month of January sees a steep drop in temperatures. The days are shorter and the sight of sun is even more rare. And if you have a chance to talk to the members of Gen X and Baby Boomers, you’ll find out that these freezing months and chilled breezes were invites to colourful kites painting the sky bright.


The kite flying, as my grand parents and parents have explained to me, is an excuse to get out in the sun after all that time of being bundled up under layers of clothing and holed up indoors. It is an excuse to get some exercise and release those chemicals while also absorbing some Vitamin D!

Our body produces vit.D by absorbing sunlight. This ‘D’ helps in absorption of calcium, resulting in healthy bones. Along with osteoporosis, it also reduces the risk of multiple sclerosis, cancer, heart diseases, depression, diabetes and obesity.
One of the easiest source of vitD that is freely available to all of us is the Sun! But with a growing indoor life style, majority of the world population has a deficiency of it (mostly in the developing and developed nations).

So here are some eatables thatch help you gain more vit.D for a better mood, easier weight loss, stronger bones and better lung functioning.
1. Sesame: It is almost second nature to start craving for sesame (til in hindi) as a part of my regular diet just a soon as the winter comes. They could be just roasted, made into energy balls using jaggery to bind them or in the form of dips! They are one of the most under rated sources of vit.D and easily accessible. (I’m going to share a few links with recipes for the same, at the bottom).
2. Milk & Milk Products: Be it cow milk or alternate sources of milk (soy, almond, etc.), they are both great sources of vit.D! Cottage cheese, yoghurt and cheese also contains certain level of vitamin D. Nowadays, there is also fortified milk and milk products available at stores.
3. Mushrooms: They are a delicious source of vit.D as well as potassium. The level of the vitamin varies among the various kinds of mushrooms. Personally, I can add them to everything, right from soups to appetizers and salads to curries and noodles and pastas and rice (just not the desserts).
5. Egg Yolk: Often discarded for its high levels of cholesterol and disliked for its taste, this yellow softness is a sweetheart. The whites contain proteins but the vitamins and minerals are stores away in the yolk, making the consumption of the whole eggs are wiser decision.
6. Orange Juice: While most fruits lack vit.D except for oranges; they are a good source of calcium as well as vit.D. A glass of OJ can provide us with our daily requirement of D!

So here’s me, wishing each one of you a Happy & Vit.D rich kite flying season. May you be rich in it!
Go out more often and absorb as much of it as possible.


Sesame Seed Recipes:
Sesame Ladoo (power balls)
Sesame Dip
Sesame Sticks
Sesame Milk
Misc.

RESULTS

How you define success has a lot more to do with your feeling of achievement than the result itself.

With a huge number of teenagers and early adults receiving their scores in the present month in the month of May, each summer carrier the potential of transporting me back to a time when I faced the same fate.
I stood on the edge for hours a together, waiting for the fruits of my labour to be announced. Pondering if I had made silly mistakes. Fretting if I had not given my cent percent. Pulling at my inability to vividly remember what had been asked and how well had I tackled each shot.
And just as the time grew closer I started listing down all the reasons why this was important for me. Everything that had been told to me with the intent of motivating me suddenly started feeling like an extra pound on weight on my shoulders. Slowly it stopped mattering whether I had done a good job, what made me more nervous was whether I had done a job better than my counterparts. Oh! What a badly timed downward spiral it was.

Today, after a decade of receiving my higher secondary results and looking back at how far I’ve come from that day I have understood one thing.
Its not the percentage or the grades that have made me who I am today. It is what I chose to do with myself inspite of the grades that make me the person I am.
By no means am I saying that it is okay to not do your best, but it is essential to push yourself to the limit and then a little more, then the results you achieve should be accepted with open arms. Because somewhere, only when you know you have given it all that you got is it possible to not feel let down by yourself.

There are young adults who brand themselves based on the scores and parents who differently treat their children through comparison with others and then there are educators who segregate kids based on their memorising power.
This remains beyond me.
I have been a top scorer who through sudden turn of events struggled through high school to just float through the rest of my school life. I cannot and will not lie- it was difficult and sometimes even traumatising.

How did I survive?
My parents were my story of inspiration and my heroes. Even though they kept pushing me to work harder, sometimes through more harsher ways than the others; they made sure that I knew that they meant well. They were sensitive enough in their pursuit to know when I was reaching my limit.
But the inspiration was the fact that, two individuals with limited means and even more limited education, have been successful in creating a happy family, wealthy relationships and a respectable living. Through my childhood to early adulthood I had witnessed a wavering graph but most of it was growth. I had grown up seeing their humility and acceptance of their shortcomings while working hard each day with honesty and happiness.
Somewhere, I had started to believe that in is my character certificate that holds more weightage in life than my school marks certificate. But I also knew that if I could not improve one then I would have to work double hard with the other as I would be pushing a cart on a single wheel rather than having the support of both.

Today when I talk to my younger cousins and other students, I tell them only one thing:
Everything is equally important, make sure to create a neat balance. But don’t worry if you are falling short in one area because there are other areas which are your points of strength and can be used to your help with a little bit of faith and some confidence in yourself and the world.
Just make sure that you know where you place your happiness and that you use the right parameters to measure it. Sometimes even the most expensive car cannot buy you the contentment that a cup of tea being shared with well wisher.

My Intermittent Journey

My journey from five meals a day to only eight hour eating window per day.

For a person who runs away from the thought of skipping a meal and considering fasting my biggest nightmare, I was lucky to be introducedto Intermittent Fasting as Intermittent Eating… think po-tay-to po-tah-to!

Let me begin with a brief about Intermittent Fasting (IF)

There are over 3 commonly known variations to this eating schedule

  • 5:2- here you eat normally for five days of the week and the fast for two days with a maximum calorie intake of 500-600 cal.
  • Eat-Stop-Eat- here you fast for 24 hours (zero calorie intake), once or twice a week.
  • 16/8- here your eating window is within 6 to 8 hours and you fast (zero calorie intake) for 16 to 18 hours.

For obvious reasons my choice was the 16/8 method of eating(as I like to call it instead of IF).

Coming to what is IF?

I wouldn’t call it a diet because it doesn’t tell you what to eat. I would rather refer to it as an eating pattern since it only tells you when to eat!
So, did I have to skip a meal? Not necessarily. I just had to time them better, or if it suits me, I could choose to skip a meal.

How did I move from 5 Meals per Day to an 8hr Eating Window?

  • I took some time to notice my existing eating patterns, the average time difference between my dinners to the next morning’s breakfast. It seemed like I was spacing them by 14 hours already, but the issue was that of snacking after. I took it one week at a time.
    The first week I made sure that I wasn’t snacking post dinner
  • The next week I added an extra hour to my fasting period and came to 15/9
  • The third week I glided into the 16/8 schedule

(Since I tend to have migraine attacks due to acidity from skipping or spacing meals too far apart, this gradual glide-in helped enormously)

The Mechanism of IF
The entire schedule of IF is based on Fed State and Fasted State
The Fed State begins when we start to eat and lasts upto 3-5 hours after, because that’s how long our body takes to breakdown and absorb the food. During the Fed State our insulin levels are high, making it difficult to burn fats
The Fasted State begins at the end of Fed State; it is the time when our body is resting and not processing our meals. The fat burning state begins only 8 to 12 hours after our last meal (post-absorption of all the meals).
Since we don’t easily enter the Fasted State with the habit of unconscious and/or mindless snacking, we store fats. But with IF the fats that pack Glycogen get the chance to be converted into Glucose; AKA Fat Burning State, leading to loss of fat without changing what one eats!
(Interesting fact: the human body can survive on zero calorie diet for eight days)

Working out while on IF?

When I first began this eating plan I was regularly running in the mornings. So, I went ahead with my morning routine of returning from a run by 7 am and made it to breakfast by 10am, which when clocked in for eight hours allows me have my last meal by 6:00 pm.
I wondered if I’d have enough energy for longer runs, but I was surprised that I could comfortably do it provided I had a meal after. Eat Dates (1-2 a day), Otherwise I was bound to feel dizzy and drained.

A friend who has been on IF for more than 18 months now, shared that he practices MMA; so high intensity workouts shouldn’t be an issue either.

What can we consume during the 16 hour zero calorie period?

There are three options. Water. Green Tea. Black Coffee (all of this is without any form of sweetner).

No, fresh fruit juices aren’t allowed either. They carry a certain amount of calories, putting the stomach back to work.

What about the dinner parties and events?

Stay liberal, don’t get obsessed- it’s never healthy. I spent time and created a list of priorities and enjoyed a late meal once in a while. But the very next day I was back on the schedule; no slacking there.

Benefits of IF

  • A better and timely eating system, allowing my digestive system some rest
  • Reduced hassle and time spent on meal preparation
  • Burn body fat and build muscle, and improve body composition
  • Lose weight (mostly around my abdomen region)
  • Feeling light and energetic
  • Reduced workout time without putting on weight or feeing lethargic
  • Learned to say No!

Research based facts: IF can help reduce the risk of cancer and cardiovascular diseases. It also helps keep neuro degenerative diseases such as Dementia and Alzheimer’s at bay and improve brain health.

Who shouldn’t try IF?

  • Anyone who has a history of any form of eating disorder
  • Those who are pregnant and breast feeding
  • Anyone with a compromised immune system
  • Those with thyroid, adrenal and hormonal issues

Hope my experience helps you start your own story if you’re looking at starting with IF. I personally love it because of its simple rules and the convenience it provides (no extra gadgets or supplies needed).

More love and power to all you guys. Hope all of you had a great V-Day and week!

I’m Just Choosing

I wish to fly 
I’m unloading 
I’m not insensitive 
I’m just choosing 


It’s just another week.
It’s been a regular month.
It’s an ordinary weather.
It’s an average list of chores.
It’s the daily hum-drum.
It’s the same faces around.
But,
But I’m making the most of it.
I’m trying to make my state-of-mind extraordinary.
I’m day dreaming travel and researching hostels.
I’m considering my options and being hopeful for the long weekends.
I’m sprinkling plans and I know some are about to stick.
I’m making me.
I’m making myself happy.
I’m being more than just my immediate surroundings.
I wish to try
I’m learning
I’m not incoherent
I’m just choosing
Am I delusional, you may wonder.
I’m childish and dreamy you might say.
I’m unreliable you might believe.
But I’m happy Is all that I care.
I’m trying is all I know.
I’ll get my tickets stamped, is all that I need to believe.
Sure you wish I saw the reality that you see
I understand that you are uncomfortable with my antiques
You do genuinely try to make me normal
Everyone’s wishful for me to adhere and conform
But I’ve seen people cry under the happy masks
I’ve heard the gloomy silence behind your crackling laughter
I’ve felt the burden of the unshed tears
And I know they weigh me down
I wish to fly
I’m unloading
I’m not insensitive
I’m just choosing

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/

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

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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

The Grand Plan

‘most businessmen make the mistake of not spending enough thought and time on creating the pragmatic framework for their future dream… instead they become content in being the everyday problem solvers’

Have you felt grateful recently?

Well, I’ve been feeling grateful and fortunate for some time now.

I feel fortunate for having have had the chance to grow up with my grandparents around and still living with them as a constant in our life.

Off late, I’ve been spending far more time with them than I have in the past decade; what with the hierarchy of education year after year. Our conversations have transformed from fairytales, mythological lessons and stories of good morals to the comfortably shared silence while reading the morning newspaper while sipping on tea, a certain amount of spiritual banter, the stories of their youth and dreams for my future.

We all struggle with finding common grounds due to generation gap and yet skipping a generation can be surprisingly very companionable. Maybe because I’m the interest on their principle. Maybe because that’s the magic of a grandparent-grandchild relationship. Maybe because they find traces of their youth in my today, and I see a way into my future through their experiences.

While the time I spend with them remains valuable for me and hopefully cherished by them; the more time that I spend with them, the more I think about a particular saying by a management guru. The quote translates to-

‘most businessmen make the mistake of not spending enough thought and time on creating the pragmatic framework for their future dream… instead they become content in being the everyday problem solvers’

Lets assume that each human being is an entrepreneur and their life is their enterprise, the legacy to which are their years post retirement. Then their life partner/ spouse becomes their business partner through a merger of sorts and together they create subsidiaries in the form of off-springs.

While many may argue that most entrepreneurs save for their now metaphorical legacies through monetary investments, by building a home with children, friends and relatives- but my question still lingers. Is that enough though- to be fed, with a shed and bed? To have people around and enough emergency funds that you cut corners for? Is that really all the investment needed for realizing the mirage of future that you’ve wanted to turn into reality as a legacy where your longest companion is the partnership; and this time without the proprietary duties. In the even longer run, one of the two usually comes back to being an independent owner, too.

Have you ever asked a preschooler or a middle school student about their plans for themselves when they grow old? I did. I tried. Their imagination seems to extend, or rather is limited, only upto higher education and occupation. When nudged a little further maybe until realizing the wandering fantasies and having a family of their own of which they are the omnipresent member. This reminds me of most feel good movies, where the curtains fall just at the happy moment, the coming together of two lovers or the achievement of a difficult target, but very rarely- if ever, do they show what happens after the protagonist has achieved their longest term goal. What happens when two people, who have built their entire life one benchmark after another, are left with all the time in the day with no tangible benchmarks to rise to?

How do you live day after day when the daily work that defined your being has been declared outdated; instead is now just a measuring tool of you past? So when I asked a bunch of people a second question about what is their plan from their now to the moment when they materialize their mirage into reality- it suddenly became a serious conversation. It lost the dreamy element. Some had a vague idea, some thought they’d figure it on the way, some said they didn’t think there was much to think about.

When I say I want to be a physically active person through my 60s to my 70s and 80s, I mean that I wish to be comfortably mobile and not bed ridden; and it should also imply that I need to start being a physically active and disciplined person today. Similarly, when I say that I plan on travelling my life’s worth post retirement and enjoy all the hobbies that I’m skipping now, shouldn’t I take the time to occasionally participate in both these areas to understand what travel means to me and know which activities I can call hobbies. With the age and the cognitive ability for being experiment being at odds, I’m not sure if I should be leaving so many untapped areas for the wrinkle days. I mean I don’t wish for the activities intended to entertain myself to feel like time killing ways.

Some say that once they retire, they will resume their honeymoon period that they had to cut short in their prime years. Doesn’t that mean that they need to start learning today about how they like each others’ company and how to make the most of it even without a to-do list and agendas to achieve for the day, week, month and year?

And if all this hustle is for a golden tomorrow, then why are we so quick to shy away from the years we’ve invested our entire life for? Why use getting old as a mocking metaphor rather than a cherished hope? Why fret the greys that’ve begun to crawl out? Why treat them as years lost while they are the years that you’ve invested in order to earn experience and growth?

Maybe there is a conditioned need to feel relevant and at the helm of everything.

Maybe there is a habit of calculating self-worth through the quanta of work done rather than enjoying the quality created through the labour of past.

Maybe because we are so used to believing that we are the controller of our life and fixer of glitches, that the uncontrollable, inevitable makes us uncomfortable.

Maybe along the way we forgot to associate being old with anything that would hold appeal to us at that point of time in our lives.

Maybe because we were so busy being young and pumped that we lost sight of the fact that time will shrink us too.

Maybe because we often keep defining ourselves through associations to our firm skin and pores and seldom spend time developing an accepting foresight of the shriveled bones and ridged skin.

Maybe because we have played an active role in propagating and strengthening the belief that not running the company is the end of the company through unintended or unconscious acts, thoughts and words.

*comment with a song that explains how this made you feel