Growing With Your Fitness Routine.

When I was younger, I loved cardio. You might say I was the archetypal ‘cardio queen’. Anything to get the heart racing. I walked, ran, cycled, did floor aerobics, stepper, kick-boxing etc. Weight training didn’t feature and I did yoga because I had learnt it as a child and wanted to keep up the rhythm. Not because I enjoyed it.

With age (and hopefully wisdom!), the body yearns for something else. Yes, the cardio is still definitely a part of my routine. But, I don’t spend as much time on it now. Instead, weight training and yoga have become essential.

You feel stronger, more in tune with your physical self , more limber. You also feel calmer More in control. More accepting. Your changing body requires it. Weight training for strength and muscle mass and Yoga for flexibility, increased body awareness and calmness seem somehow right to focus on. This is not as if to say one should not train with weights or do Yoga while younger, its great if one does. It’s just that, t becomes more urgent with age.

Yes, weight gain is a dreaded side-effect of ageing! I was never slim as a teenager, (in fact, I was told I was ‘pleasantly plump’), but I was athletic, loved sport and running. Staying physically active later and then growing to imbibe fitness as part of my medical profession has made it easier for me to stay fit. Making time, or having the motivation for fitness is not an issue for me. Not everyone is so fortunate. They struggle with time and motivation. To them I say, there’s nothing as important as ‘feeling good’ about yourself. Exercise, with it’s discipline, sacrifices, the growth, empowerment and energy is the best thing you can invest it. One hour in twenty-four is not asking for much. It is one of the most satisfying hours one will experience. I find those who have grown up being physically active, and/or come from a physically active family, usually find it easier to incorporate it into their lives even after a hiatus. However, even if you don’t have these advantages, it’s never too late to start exercising at any age. Celebrate our body! It’s the only place you have to live in!

My second book

GAIN TO LOSE

An Essential Guide to Losing Fat by Gaining Muscle

that’s the title..and …. It’s dedicated to …

All the women I have treated, taught, trained and counselled  who have allowed me an insight into their lives. 

So…I am done with my second book. I mean, I was ‘done’ in January this year. I excitedly sent in the manuscript to my publisher, very pleased with myself. Four weeks ago I got the edited version. My anxiety levels skyrocketed as I saw the zillion coloured ‘correction’ text boxes that I was supposed to go through. It was arduous and quite frankly, killing. I could not believe there wet so many “mistakes”. Anyway, I slowly went cross eyed as I scanned  every word labourously and made several more corrections of my own. 

Last week I received the PDF of the typeset version of my text. There are more errors!! How is that even possible? I feel frantic with worry. It seems like there is no end to this.

Apparently the brain auto corrects as we read. So I am reading – ‘Muscle is very important tissue that is critical for ones functionality’. When actually I have written – ‘Music is very important tissue that is critical for functionality’. Interesting! And mind you, I have read that sentence several hundred times!!

I am so very grateful to my editor. She is a gorgeous girl, very patient with my never ending queries and suggestions. My copy editor was very thorough with the first edit too. He has even gone through every single reference I have quoted and quizzed me on the article, author, journal and so on. This made me review everything again. But apparently, he was not thorough enough with the text as there were several other, different kind of  errors that I am discovering as I go through the PDF.

So we go back and forth. More corrections.  More editing.

Wish me luck. It’s going to be many more long sleepless nights of reading, re-reading & re-writing. If there are errors in the final text, well, what can I say ? We did our best and will keep improving in the next editions.  I have to remember that the ‘Afterword‘ in my book is called

Wabi Sabi

Nothing is perfect, Nothing is permanent and Nothing is finished………… 

Listening to your body

“Eat well now because you won’t get anything till lunch time” I overheard a mother tell her 10-year-old who was insisting she was ‘full’ after eating just a little something for breakfast. The little one had been lazing around, not too much of physical activity so clearly, she wasn’t too hungry. I don’t think they had to fear a shortage of food in the near future and the little girl could easily choose to have a snack/ fruit a little later if she was truly hungry. The mother however was concerned that she hadn’t eaten ‘enough’.

These are some of the confusing messages we are inundated with as children. We are told we have to eat, we are told when to eat and often how much to eat. Children are force-fed at an early age. They are often given ‘treats’ to keep them quiet or entertained. As a result – we stop ‘listening’ to our own bodies, disregarding signals of fullness & hunger because we believe we ‘have to eat’ way beyond what we really require. We are taught to disregard such valuable indicators from our body as feelings of fullness, discomfort, thirst as opposed to hunger, fatigue, sleepiness, anxiety and so on. Over time the body stops recognizing these signs for what they are and we struggle with an endless loop of overeating, lack of physical exercise, pills to sort out anything from indigestion to anxiety and a constant struggle with our weight.

 ‘Listening to our bodies’ is a skill that seems to be lost to us as adults. Our physical and emotional selves are inherently very clever, telling us when we need to stop eating (we feel uncomfortably full), move more (we feel lethargic, full, bloated) or low on energy (we may be eating unhealthy, eating too little, or too much, exercising too much, sleeping too little and so on). This skill needs to be nurtured from an early age.

It’s not easy! Children can be fussy eaters, throw tantrums and so on. It’s a fine line between allowing a child to gauge her own hunger levels and stop eating when she needs to and allowing her to run wild, disregarding food on a whim. I don’t suppose parenting was meant to be easy!

How often have we told our kids, ‘Behave well and you will get a chocolate/ pizza/ burger?’ Food has always been used as a form of emotional blackmail and persuading tactic. The result? As adults we tend to seek comfort in food. We see food as our safety blanket and turn to it in times of stress, boredom, low mood and anxiety. We use it for more than just mitigating hunger.

 Take a buffet for instance. How many of us can actually walk away from a buffet table feeling comfortable? How many of us wish later we had stopped just before than last piece of quiche or pudding? Our bodies do indicate to us when we have had enough, but we blithely eat ‘just a little more’, ‘just to taste’ something different or new. Children are encouraged to ‘try everything’ as we pile our plates astonishingly high and totter to and from the buffet table.

Problem occurs when this kind of behavior becomes a habit. When we continue to eat ‘just a little more’ on a regular basis as our senses get blunted to our real needs. When we tell our children that they ‘have to eat now’, almost indicating that food will run out shortly.

Survival strategies –

  • Eat mind fully. Be fully aware of what you are putting on your plate and in your mouth.
  • One of the ways of preventing weight gain is to stop eating when you are just 80% full and leave the table. You can always snack later if absolutely necessary. You don’t have to undo your jeans button in order to feel you have eaten well.
  • Serve yourself on a smaller plate. You will feel like you have a lot more food on it!
  • Don’t eat in front of the TV or when distracted. You don’t register what you are eating.
  • Make mealtimes pleasant and social with the family/friends when possible and keep it about having interesting conversation just as much as eating.
  • If you are done with your meal, get up from the table and walk away. Sitting around will tempt you to serve yourself more.
  • Stop telling yourself you are eating to please someone else. Whether it is your host, mother or in-laws, they cannot tell if you are full. Only you can ascertain that.
  • You will also need to be educated and teach children about food groups, proteins, carbs fats and micronutrients so you and they can make informed choices about food. That is more important than encouraging children to just ‘eat well’.
  • Be careful what you tell your kids. It’s the programming at an early age that leads to difficulties with weight, food & body image later on.

Dr Sheela Nambiar MD, Obgyn

Fitness & Lifestyle Consultant NAFC

Author – “Get Size Wise”

Choices Women Make.

(This article appeared in the Rotary News Dec 2014 as “Women There Is No magic Pill”)

After my first book, ‘Get Size Wise’, I have been doing a kind of book tour – readings and book discussions in various cities. I have spoken to hundreds of women about fitness and exercise. I am often surprised at the some of the questions I get. Mostly, pleasantly surprised. I see a thirst for honest answers and solutions to real life problems that some women seek. I see a real need for a deeper understanding of the term ‘lifestyle change’.

Many of them have been through diverse experiences with drastic weight loss, trainers, gyms, health drinks and expensive supplements to lose weight, extreme diets and so on. Most are still searching for that magic pill.

I also find that the women most open to influence and guidance are the over-forty-year-olds. By this time they have experimented with all that there is to in weight loss and finally found it notwithstanding. They have discovered that being in a raging hurry to lose weight or gain fitness is what has them in their current situation in the first place, often still overweight and unhealthy, so instead of losing more time on trial and error, they want to get serious about training.

There are many however, who are still trying to play the blame game. I have had several occasions where short of tearing my hair out in frustration, I fenced accusing questions and counter arguments about why a certain woman has not lost weight, or why she finds it so utterly difficult to do so.

Some conversations went like this –

She – I just find it impossible to lose weight doctor. I have done everything including diet, yoga and walking. I even went to an ashram and stayed for fifteen days. I lost weight but gained it all back.

Me – This is exactly what I have been trying to explain – rapid weight loss, especially with drastic diets are not sustainable. You will regain the weight.

She – So I think I am doomed to be fat.

Me – No you have not done the right thing. The right combination of exercise and diet will work, even if only slowly.

She – But I have tried everything doctor!

Me – Have you started weight training to build muscle in addition to Yoga and walking, and eating the right quantities of food to nourish your body?

She – I think all that is not possible. I don’t have time.

Me – You don’t have to spend more time on exercise, just divide the time sensibly and change your eating.

She – I don’t think that is possible doctor. I know I can’t lose weight. I have tried everything.

So, she has made her choice. A choice not to make the time. A choice not to understand the bigger picture. A choice not to lose weight sensibly.

I think the fitness industry, innumerable food options and the media are largely to blame for the current crisis in women’s inability to lose fat and keep it off successfully. Their consistent search for the unattainable.

Of course the women are to blame as well because they often believe what they like to hear. Such promises as ‘lose five kilos in a week’ (or less) are much appreciated and sought out. The industry propagates these myths for monetary gains. The media taps into our insecurities. The constant message of, ‘you are not good enough, we can make you better, buy our lipstick, silicone breasts, body shaper or what-have-you’ is sufficient to convince any young (or old) woman trying to ‘fit in’ or ‘look better’.

It is a choice we make and all choices have consequences.

 It may appear that you don’t have a choice. That you don’t have the time to actually fit in an exercise routine (one hour a day) because you are too busy working, keeping home, travelling etc. It you take an honest look at the way you spend the hours in your day however, you may find to your surprise that there are many hours in the day that are really ‘time wasters’. Hours you spend watching mindless TV or surfing the net. These hours can be put to better use such as be invested in regular exercise.

You DO have a choice

– You could continue to convince yourself that you don’t have time, or you could make the time.

– You could wait for diabetes, hypertension and heart disease to afflict you, or you could start preventing their onset now.

– You could wait for obesity to set in, knees to hurt, depression to envelop you, or you could start changing your lifestyle now.

Every choice has a consequence. If you begin making the right choices, you will eventually face the incredible consequences of a better quality life.

Dr Sheela Nambiar MD, Obgyn

Fitness & Lifestyle Consultant NAFC

Author – Get Size Wise.

Email – Sheela.nambiar@gmail.com

Am I happy??

This makes me happy!!!

This makes me happy!!!

Is happiness overrated? Of course it is. Reading the most popular writing or browsing the internet one always finds clichéd articles about “How to be happy”, “What makes you happy”, “How to stay happy”, “10 ways to happiness” and so on. We are programmed with fairy tales with ‘happily ever after’ endings from a very early age creating this dellusion that, that’s how things are supposed to pan out!

One starts to feel terribly inadequate if one is anything but deliriously happy all the time. But honestly, what is happiness? The feeling of excitement when you make holiday plans?The outpouring of love when your pet or kid throws himself at you? The satisfaction of meeting a deadline? Going for a solo walk? All the above – check.

They are all isolated incidences. Call me a cynic if you like but I think the word happiness is highly over rated, abused and forced upon people. Making us believe that we must be happy at every turn of life. Of course that’s not possible. Happiness and joy are emotions that are felt simply becasue of certain chemical reactions in the brain. The brain is the only organ that can ‘feel’ any emotion. Certain hormones and neurotransmitters are released and circulate within the brain stimulating certain parts of the brain that are responsible for the feeling that we call happiness. These hormones and neurotransmitters are released for various reasons. Did you know some of these chemicals are released while exercising? So basically just moving your body, working up a sweat can release these hormones and neurotransmitters. Imagine that!! Similar results obtained from receiving a diamond ring, getting a raise, buying a house and a run around the lake!! Well, maybe not quite but you get my drift! And yet, there will be profuse writings from agony aunts in the most popular magazines to advice from famous TV personalities on how to procure that diamond ring, how to nail the man of your dreams, how to land the job, how to make your next million like those are the only achievements worth aspiring for.

What I am trying to say is, happiness as is seen in the most common light is a fleeting feeling which cannot be sustained indefinitely simple because the neurotransmitters/hormones creating that feeling cannot be released indefinitely.  Produced continuously they can cause more harm that good. They run out, the situation leading to the release comes to an end.

So is the objective we seek a continuous supply of these neurotransmitters bathing our brain cells causing us to feel joy? Seems a bit childish and simplistic.

Interspersed with the reality of life, will be life-events like marriage, falling in love (in whichever order you like), having children, adopting pets, getting a raise, buying a house, nailing the job, driving down a beautiful coastline, becoming the chief of the department, having an affair, climbing the Himalayas, buying that beautiful pair of shoes you coveted and so on…. All of which produce a spurt of chemicals like endorphins, oxytocin, serotonin or dopamine which create joy, thrill, excitement and happiness.

I think we can feel satisfied doing other things which don’t necessarily produce a severe rush of such chemicals, but which create that hum that resonates with just……….. Life. Simple things, like reading a book or getting to work, completing a task. Even the act of giving and helping for no particular reason produces similar feeling of contentment.

What we need is purpose. A feeling of necessity. We don’t really need to feel thrilled or happy in such situations but we can feel functional, engaged and relevant. That I think is what keeps us going. The relevance of our existence.

What one needs is not permanent bliss but relevance. The happy moments come and go. Many life events create such moments, but that’s what they are – moments or extended moments. The fillers are ‘real life’ situations, which change and evolve but don’t necessarily create feverish happiness. Live through them we must knowing that they too are precious, that life is precious irrespective of whether it is producing happiness relayed hormones or not.

Life cannot be controlled. These moments cannot be orchestrated.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons I exercise. That is somehow within my control. I am actually able to release some ‘feel good’ hormones at will. It takes me through daily life in a positive frame of mind, (not deliriously ‘happy’, but definitely positive) to be able to enjoy those special moments when they do arrive!!