A Change In Attitude

So you want to lose weight. Half the world does. Obesity is a worldwide epidemic so it’s only natural that every second person you meet is keenly seeking the holy grail of weight loss. Dinner conversations invariably return to feelings of guilt over indulgences. The Internet is flooded with clever advertising to lure vulnerable individuals into buying some product or the other with the promise of ‘losing ten kilos in ten days’ or similar fantastic claims.
You may not be thrilled with your body right now, in fact, you may view it with a good deal of distaste. Let’s ask ourselves a question, how did we get this way? How did we pile on the pounds? Where is that slender teenager? No doubt there are some who struggle with obesity all their lives. Over weight as children and teenagers, they are often faced with ridicule and marginalized. A large percentage of the population however, grows obese with age. A certain amount of weight gain with age is acceptable. But to become obese and as a result develop various obesity related complications like pain and discomfort, diabetes, heart disease, anxiety, depression, indigestion and so on, is not.
Take stock of your lifestyle.
– Are you physically active all day or does your job entail a lot of sitting behind a desk?
– Do you exercise regularly?
– Do you stay home and watch a lot of television and do little physical labor?
– Do you deal with an inordinate amount of stress? More importantly, are you one of those people who does not handle stress well? Do you develop acidity, anxiety or insomnia as a result of your stress? Do your work and relationships suffer? Do you become an insufferable boss or mother?
– Do you go on eating or drinking binges?
– Do you starve yourself often with the hope of losing weight only to go back to binge eating?
– Do you get enough sleep? (Six to eight hours a night of uninterrupted sleep is recommended.)
– Do you eat well-balanced meals with plenty of vegetables, fruit nuts, protein and healthy fats or are you loading up on the bread/cereal group (rice, rotis, bread, etc.), refined, processed, packaged food with additives and sugars out of packets as is common and convenient?
– Do you eat home cooked meals or depend on canteens and hotels and takeaways?
– Do you travel a lot, subjecting yourself to different time zones, food, lack of sleep and stress?
– Does your life involve a lot of socializing with indiscriminate eating and drinking?
– Are you addicted to sugar and need to eat something sweet ever so often?
The list of poor lifestyle habits is endless. These are some of the reasons you could be steadily gaining weight. Each problem has to be addressed independently with a combination of life skills, dietary advise and regular exercise. There is no way around it. Whatever the reason for the weight gain, the solution is to eat better, exercise and change your lifestyle.
Here’s the problem – most people think an hour of exercise alone will solve everything. It takes more than that, although that’s a good place to start. Your lifestyle (as shown above) is important. What you do for the rest of the twenty-three hours counts far more than one hour of working out. This means change. A change in attitude towards your lifestyle and not just one aspect of it.
A new mind set and not just a new menu is what is required.
The real secret to losing weight and more importantly, keeping it off is your attitude. The ability to look at your lifestyle with a certain amount of objectivity and a critical eye and then take the necessary steps to change what needs to change. The ability to get the necessary professional help when required. It’s not easy to change a whole lifestyle. There are other people involved – family, friends, colleagues and boss who are probably helping you preserve the current lifestyle. Change may involve others and this is not always welcome. For change to be sustainable however, it has to be holistic.
Adopt a slow and steady approach. Help your body and mind gradually learn to eat better, exercise more, live healthier, sleep earlier, relax and breathe. Most importantly, learn to appreciate yourself and your efforts. Learn to respect yourself and your body.
Dr. Sheela Nambiar MD Obgyn
Fitness & Lifestyle Consultant, NAFC
Author – Get Size Wise & Gain To Lose (Published by Rupa)

Exercise Guidelines For Indians

Almost 30-60% of Indians in urban India have been found to be overweight or obese or have abdominal obesity. It has also been found that Indians are at a higher risk of developing obesity related problems like Diabetes, Hypertension and Heart disease at lower cut off values for BMI (Body Mass Index) and Waist Circumference. Indians suffer inherently from a lower muscle mass or sarcopenia. This leads to several of the health problems like central or abdominal obesity that the Indian is more prone to. Our fat percentage and waist circumference is higher for a comparative body weight to our caucasian counterparts.This is one of the major causes for the higher incidence of diabetes and Coronary Heart Disease in the Indian subcontinent.

According to the Consensus statement for physical activity for Asian Indians (Misra et al JAPI vol 57 Feb 2009) – Cut off values of BMI for the Indian population :

Normal BMI = 18.0-22.9 kg/m

Overweight = 23-24.9 kg/m

Obesity = more than 25 kg/m

Consensus statement for cut off values for Waist circumference:

Women = 31.1 inches (80cm) and above should be considered obese

Men = 35.5 (90 cm) and above to be considered obese requiring intervention.

Definitions of Physical Activity Intensity Levels

1. Low-intensity physical activity elicits a slight increase in breathing rate. (e.g., slow walking less than 3 km/h on level firm ground, house work like cleaning, cooking and dusting).

2. Moderate-intensity physical activity elicits a moderate, noticeable increase in depth and rate of breathing, while still allowing for conversation (e.g., walking 3–6 km/h on level firm ground, water aerobics, moderate intensity aerobics, cycling at a speed of <16 km/h and hiking).

3. Vigorous-intensity physical activity elicits a noticeable increase in depth and rate of breathing. The individual will not be able to speak more than a few words without pausing for a breath (e.g. walking a kilometer in less than 10 minutes, jogging/running, cycling, higher intensity aerobic dancing, and jumping rope).

Exercise guidelines for healthy adults: consensus statement –

If you participate in Moderate Intensity Exercise – Aerobic activity of moderate intensity : brisk walking, stair climbing, cycling, jogging – for 30 minutes 5 days a week

Muscle strengthening exercises : resistance training, own body weight exercises, exercises, exercises using dumbells or machines – 1-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions targeting major muscle groups. This is to be done 2-3 times a week.

If you participate in High Intensity Exercise – Aerobic activity of higher intensity like running, high intensity aerobics, football etc for 20 minutes 3 days a week is sufficient

Muscle strengthening exercises – more than 3 sets targeting major muscle groups 2-3 days a week.

Exercise guidelines for Children and youth aged 5–17 years consensus statement –

Children who are sedentary and obese should start with at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity everyday. This volume of exercise should increase gradually to obtain at least 60 minutes of aerobic activity daily. – Those children who are already quite active and not obese require at least 60 minutes of vigourous exercise, which could be in the form of sports everyday. – In addition they will require muscle strengthening exercises for a minimum of 20-30 minutes 2-3 times a week. Exercises like jumping, squats, push-ups, situps, lunges etc using own body weight may be performed.

Television and computer time involving sedentary activity should be restricted to less than 2 hours a week.

Exercise guidelines for pregnant women consensus statement –

All pregnant women should get a clearance from their Obstetrician before starting or continuing to exercise during their pregnancy. – There are certain contraindications to exercise in pregnancy such conditions as threatened pre-term labour or bleeding and this needs to be discussed with the Obstetrician. – Healthy pregnant women, with no other contraindications can continue to exercise as per the recommendations for the Healthy Adult – A minimum of 30-60 minutes of Aerobic activity per day.

– The aerobic activity should be low impact. Avoid high impact activities like running or high impact aerobics or contact sports.

– Resistance training should be performed to strengthen the specific muscles about 2-3 times a week. – One exercise per body part can be chosen – 2-3 sets of 12-15 repetitions of each exercise using light weights may be done.

– Stretching to be done for a few minutes everyday.

– Pelvic floor strengthening exercises may be continued throughout the pregnancy.

As the pregnancy advances the woman may be unable to exercise at the same intensity as during the first two trimesters. She may continue to do a low intensity aerobic workout, stretches and relaxation everyday.

There are some do’s and dont’s while exercising in pregnancy –

– Avoid very high intensity exercise. Avoid exercising in the heat. Drink enough water. Avoid high impact exercise or contact sports. Stop if you feel faint or dizzy. Avoid exercise if there is a history of pre-term labour, hypertension or bleeding. Avoid any exercise that requires you to lie on your back after the first four months of pregnancy. Exercise with perfect form to avoid injury.

After a normal delivery she may start exercising once she feels comfortable which may be in a week to ten days. After a caeserean she can start exercising after six weeks.

Exercise guidelines for the elderly consensus statement –

All adults over the age of 40 need a medical clearance from their physician before commencing an exercise routine for the first time. If one has been exercising throughout their life, they may continue to do so with some decrease in intensity levels if so required. The focus of exercise in the elderly is more on building strength and muscle mass than on weight loss. Increasing muscle mass and strength is beneficial in allowing the older individual to continue to live as normal a life as possible without being dependent on others.

– Recommended doses of aerobic activity and muscle-strengthening exercises for men and women over 65 years of age are similar to those for healthy adult population. That is aerobic activity for about 30-45 minutes a day at a moderate intensity.

– Resistance training to improve strength and muscle mass needs to be incorporated on at least 2-3 days/week which should involve all the major muscle groups, one exercise per body part, 2-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions is recommended. The benefits of resistance training include preservation of muscle mass and prevention of age-related sarcopenia.

– Greater muscle strength and power enable the maintenance of function and prevention of disability, including a lower risk of falling. Balance training, along with activities to strengthen the muscles of the legs, back and core muscles is the best strategy to reduce falls and complications from falls. This also increases the chances of the elderly person staying independent throught his/her life which is essential for morale. – Daily “activities” that involve moving around, climbing stairs, lifting, carrying, pushing, gardening, cleaning etc should be maintained as long as possible because they can also benefit muscle and bone health.

– In sedentary individuals, gradual escalation of physical activity is recommended, after pre-activity medical evaluation especially in those with chronic diseases, particularly CHD. All decisions regarding the initiation of exercise programs for the elderly should be taken in consultation with a physician.

– Sudden commencement of physical activity, especially wihtout medical clearance should be avoided in the elderly.

Exercises for persons with disabilities cannot be generalised. The exercise routine needs to be designed according to the disability encountered.

Dr Sheela Nambiar MD Obgyn, Fitness & Lifestyle Consultant NAFC (USA)

This article was originally written for Sports Authority Of Tamil Nadu. http://www.sdat.tn.gov.in/index.php/fitness/daily-fitness-regime

My second book…..

A long hiatus after my last post. I had almost forgotten that I blogged!
Been so busy with my day job as an Obgyn besides numerous other things like travel, talking about my book – “Get Size Wise” at various book readings and discussions, teaching fitness classes and lately, scrambling to finish my second book. The manuscript submission date has long gone by. My publishers have been very accommodating. I have spent the last two months wringing my hands in frustration after having lost a ton of data (my first several chapters, research references and so on) from my crashed computer. And no….. I hadn’t backed it up! Thank you for asking! Fortunately, I have managed to recover it through a Data Recovery Lab in Chennai. Taught me a profound lesson – don’t take your computer for granted! But…… Life happens and you roll win it.

More importantly, the lost data gave me an opportunity to rethink what I was writing. Re-write some parts, analyse more deeply and hopefully put together something better.

The premise of my second book is that gaining and/or maintaining muscle mass is the only way to prevent and aid fat loss. This seems particularly true of Indian women who seem to have very low lean body mass (muscle). The the urban woman who rarely does anything physical during the natural course of her day. As a result, she ends up gaining fat and losing muscle with age as she becomes less and less physical (except perhaps for the hour of obligatory cardio she puts into her day). Cardio mostly helps burn calories, and improve the heart, lungs and circulatory system but rarely builds muscle. In fact too much of it can deplete muscle. The weight gain is interestingly often limited to the abdominal area widening the waistline and endangering heart health.

So, it seems that the only way to circumvent this is to actually train with weights to build muscle. Not very popular with most women I see. Those who do train, do so sporadically and usually restrict themselves to light weights. Why? Because they think they will become “masculine” if they train with weights.

So here’s the thing – ‘masculinity’ (the deep voice, facial hair, sterotypical male body type) is not determined by the weight one lifts but by the presence of the hormone Testosterone which males have infinitely more of circulating in their system. Just lifting weights does not increase testosterone. Women who train for body building as a sport and profession and gain a fair amount of muscle, keeping body fat percentage to the minimum, look the way they do because they train the way they do (several hours of intense training). I don’t see that happening with recreational training. One can of course progress to more serious training if inspired to, or, one can maintain moderate training to gain modest amounts of muscle and look toned.

Physically of course one becomes stronger, firmer, more balanced in muscle mass/strength and distribution. Due to our modern lifestyle which encourages sitting for hours, typing, bending over, staring at the computer screen or TV, alcohol, rich food and sedentary life we develop certain muscle imbalances and bad posture which eventually results in pain. To correct some of these problems, weight training to strengthen the weaker muscles and stretching to improve flexibility of tighter muscles will create a more balanced, functional body. Gaining muscle also increases our Basal Metabolic Rate causing us to burn (however marginally) more calories even at rest which goes a lon way in preventing fat gain with age.

Increasing muscle mass is also beneficial in various other situations. For instance, it has been found that type 2 diabetics have better control of blood sugar and may even be able to reduce medication by increasing muscle mass with weight training. Cardio and diet are not the only lifestyle changes the diabetic needs to make. Recovery from prolonged illness or surgery is hampered with poor muscle mass. Osteoporosis and osteopenia can be prevented and treated using strength training protocols. Physical aging is more profound when one has low lean body mass.

Building muscle therefore is enormously important. Weight training is an art and science. It has so many benefits besides just the aesthetic that it truly should be a part of ones fitness routine. There is something so very zen about lifting that barbell and putting it down. Such a simple action with such a profound impact on ones body, mind and health.

Ref –

– Len Kravitz – Yes Resistance Training Can Reverse The Aging Process.
– Jan Sundell. Resistance Trainign Is An effective Tool Against Metabolic and Fraility Syndromes. Adv in Prev Med. 2011
– Len Kravitz – Resistance Training: Adaptations and Health Implications.
– Hurley et al – Does Strength Training Imporve Health Status. Jour Strength & Conditioning. 1994
– P J O’Connor- Mental Benefits of Strength Training In Adults. Am jour Of Lifestyle Med. Sept 3010.
– S B Going – Osteoporosis and Strength Training. Am Jour of Lifestyle Med. Aug 2009.

TFL Fitness Retreat Oct 2013

A Fitness Retreat is something I have wanted to organize for the longest time….. and it finally happened in October 2013 in Ooty through – TFL ~ Training For Life.

The purpose of the retreat? To enlighten people about Fitness, the various aspects of it, the fun factor, to motivate, inspire and have them take away from the retreat –

~ A Weight Training Routine (that they can even use at home).
~ A ‘Total Body Stretch’ to improve flexibility.
~ An understanding of Cardio intensities and quantities. (most people don’t quite understand this even though they have been “walking” for years :))
~ An understanding of the principles of diet, food ….needless to say…a pandoras box opens here!!!

The purpose of the Retreat ~ is also to help people understand their bodies better. To EMPOWER them to take control over their health, bodies, fitness, weight and………. so much more.

Those who registered had a great time… am happy to say. The following pictures tell only part of the story…..

After a morning walk, demonstrating and experimenting with “intensity” of cardio.

After a morning walk, demonstrating and experimenting with “intensity” of cardio.

Still smiling.....

Still smiling…..

Food is so exciting. Even when you are supposedly “dieting”. The purpose of this demo was to show how food can be interesting, tasty AND healthy. Using GOOD QUALITY PRODUCTS is the key.

Food is so exciting. Even when you are supposedly “dieting”. The purpose of this demo was to show how food can be interesting, tasty AND healthy. Using GOOD QUALITY PRODUCTS is the key.

Early morning walk to the Grasslands. A beautiful, misty morning...

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Weight Training session

“Poinsettia" ~ The guest house where the guests were accomodated

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Book launch in Chennai

“Get Size Wise” was published about two months ago. It has already gone into reprint, the publishers are thrilled and of course so am I. We had the official launch at Chennai on the 19th of July 2013. Mrs Nirmala Lakshman, Director, The Hindu, released the book as Chief Guest and Dr Gita Arjun was the guest of honour.

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The audience was very interactive….

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My favourite clients from my Studio – An older couple who are so sincere with their workout, they put me to shame!

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Meeting with dear friends at the launch

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Get Size Wise….. my book is finally published!

 

GET SIZE WISEAfter a three-year wait my book “Get Size Wise” is finally out It published by Rupa Publishers, India. It took me about a year to write it and two years to get it published. Finally it is done and am hoping it is widely read.

So, this book is basically for the Indian woman (because I work primarily with Indian women), but the basic principles would apply to women anywhere. It gives her an idea of how exactly to go about her fitness routine. What she needs to include, what to be wary of, setbacks to anticipate and so on. No, it does not supply any magic tricks to “lose weight”, “get slim” and more such crap.

This book is more about Fitness than Weight alone.

However, eventually, as the book explains, when done right – Fitness and Diet, the weight will fall in place. That is my premise in the book.

I have seen too many women fall prey to clever marketing, advertising promising perfect bodies ……. if only they subscribe to a dubious product, procedure and so on. Of course, the women concerned are to blame too. They WANT the easy way out. They DO NOT WANT to be questioning these claims that promise miracles. They are constantly making excuses for themselves. They play the VICTIM ROLE very well, leaving their health and bodies to sheer chance and circumstances and under other peoples control.

As is very clear I am totally against women relegating control of their bodies to others or to society. I think they need to sit up and take notice of themselves. Prepare to be shocked or pleasantly surprised with what they see in themselves and then, make the necessary changes to progress not regress!! This seems to be extremely hard to do for many. It is much easier to go to, lets say a dietician or trainer and have her draw up meal plans or exercise routines for drastic results. Have her take responsibility for the success or failure of the person concerned in ‘losing weight’. If there is no weight loss, then the dietician/ trainer is to blame. They are uninterested in the ‘why’, unacceptable of their own responsibility and unwilling to question what is being recommended. They are not concerned with the long-term effects as long as there are short-term results. They choose to believe what suits them rather than try to sieve the wheat from the chaff. So for instance, if someone recommends ‘drink lemon and honey first thing in the morning’ to ‘burn’ fat, they would much rather believe that than – ‘exercise first thing in the morning’!

I believe women need to be more proactive with their choices about their bodies. They need to be more discerning about their long-term health and not just short-term cosmetic results. They should not fall prey to societal pressure to look a certain way. It is not always possible to get to a ‘certain size’. A lot depends on genetics and environment especially lifestyle, stress, work and so on. Comparing one with other women who one perceives to be ‘beautiful’ or ‘slim’ is a futile exercise.

Every woman is beautiful in her own way. She can also be the best possible version of herself physically by applying some basic principles of diet, exercise and healthy living. By challenging herself intellectually and creatively, she then can proceed to live a fuller more fruitful life.

Women are more likely than men to allow emotional challenges to affect their eating, weight and health. Crisis in relationships or work can set one to start abusing food and ultimately their bodies. Binge eating, anorexia, bulimia are all psychological disorders with a basis in ones lack of self-esteem and a troubled consciousness. Women are also more concerned about how society views their physical appearance. This would translate as them trying all means possible to ‘look’ a certain way. This self-defeating attitude can be highly corrosive to ones self-esteem.

You should ultimately want to look a certain way for yourself and not for society. No doubt, that societal influence is great even while making that choice. For instance, in the early 16th century a more voluptuous figure was considered beautiful. Today in the 21st century, such a body would be considered ‘fat’. The point is, should you try to attain a certain ‘look’ because it is expected of you? More importantly, what happens when you cannot achieve that look? Does it make you a worse person? Not at all.

Women have to understand that they are truly more than their weight on the scale. They cannot evaluate their life by a mere number. Yes there are a several reasons (not just cosmetic) why being overweight is not recommended, and why losing fat is advised. The reason to lose weight therefore should be more focused on health than mere looks.

Certainly, if you believe that just losing weight will make you feel better about yourself, you may be in for a surprise! You may feel ecstatic initially after losing the weight. This is because of the sense of achievement, the admiration and applause from others and what you see in the mirror. After a while however when this palls and when the complements fade, you still need to find a reason to continue to exercise and eat healthy for yourself. You still need the self-motivation to keep going with your fitness routine. You need to find those resources from within yourself and if you are lucky, from encouraging friends. This is what makes for a success story and for the difference between short-term weight loss and long-term achievements.

One has to understand that Fitness is a Journey, not a Destination. Being Fit is not just about being a certain Size, but an improved level of Performance of the Body and a Superior Quality Life.

This is the only way to persist with a fitness routine and healthy eating, day after day, week after week. Sometimes, even when you don’t want to. Sometimes, when you are lazy. Sometimes, when you just don’t see any reason to! It is the understanding of this journey that keeps you experimenting, progressing and enjoying the process enough to persist with it for as long as you possibly can.

It becomes a way of life. It becomes so much a part of your day that it is no more an ordeal to exercise. It is your way of saluting your body. Of respecting it. Rewarding it for being there for you!

These are the ideas that I hope will permeate the lives of those who read my book, “Get Size Wise”. I hope to make them love their bodies more. Be thrilled, amazed and appreciative of it. I also hope to make them stop abusing it with food or lack of exercise. I hope to help them understand that they ARE already beautiful but can become even better versions of themselves if they only try.

Warmly

Sheela

 

 

Is weight gain the corollary of your job?

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Many of us lead a certain kind of lifestyle as a result of our jobs. Some are lucky to have jobs that call for physical activity. While some of us have sedentary jobs that eventually create problems in our weight, posture, the tendency to develop muscle imbalances and so on.

What sort of job do you have? Does it call for a lot of sitting down? Eyes peeled to a computer screen? Perhaps long hours standing stationary as in the operating theatre? Long boring meetings and just walking between boardrooms? How about lunches and dinners as a part of your job? Are you expected to socialise, eat out often and entertain?

Any of these can cause problems. The problems usually start with the weight and the waistline. We forget just how sedentary we are and that is certainly not good for the body. We spend many hours completely stationary and then wonder how we got that back pain!
So what do we do?

– Never spend more than 15 minutes stationary. Really. Not more than 15 minutes. If you are sitting, get up and walk around. At least get up and stretch. I have a “3 Minute Stretch”, which I shall post soon which works miracles!

– Device ways to move while on the job. Walk around while you dictate letters or while you are on the phone, take the stairs and walk the corridors. Here’s what I do. When I see patients in my out patient clinic, I don’t sit in my room and wait for them to come to me. I have two rooms that I alternate between. So while a patient is being prepared to be seen in one room, I am in the other, seeing another patient. I walk back and forth between these rooms all day. This not only saves me time, but also keeps me moving.
Only you know your job. If you really think about it, you CAN device your own ways to move more whie on the job even if it is just to get up and walk around the office every 15 minutes.

– Try and get in a quick per-lunch walk/run outdoors if weather permits, or in a gym. It really livens up the rest of the day.

– learn a few exercises you can do even in your office and do them.

– Ensure that you spend at least an hour of your day outside of work – working out. Cardio to get that heart pumping and strength and stretch to specifically address muscles that may be misused as a result of your job.

For instance, as a doctor, operating in the theatre all day means taking on this awkward posture of a stationary position with a bent neck, using the hands and shoulders sometimes even the neck muscles. Ensuring upper and lower back and core strengthening exercises, stretches for the chest muscles, strengthening the shoulders and arms all mitigate these postural problems that are a part of some jobs.
A person slouched in front of the computer all day is certain to develop back and neck pain if proper precautions and strengthening exercises are not followed.

Here’s the other problem. The diet!! Very often one is either eating from office canteens or not eating at all for long periods of time. Or, after the body being subjected to a long day of sedentary work, a huge meal followed by lots of TV is most often the way the evening plays out.

I think companies need to be responsible for the health of their employees and provide them with healthier choices of food even if they have to eat on the job. Canteens selling fruits, lots of veggies and salads and not just huge quantities of various kinds rice in our country. Banning deep fried food in reused oil. Herbal teas, or even the option of having tea or coffee without added sugar. Simple measures make a huge difference. Unfortunately this does not happen. Even companies that claim to be focussed on health and prevention do not offer adequate choices for their employees or more importantly provide the necessary guidance for employees to engage in a proper fitness routine.

If one has the option of taking food from home then one had better savvy up to understand food and the healthy options available. A mixed fruit and veggie salad with some protein like tofu, chicken thrown in is better than a big plate of rice and curry. All this however calls for an understanding of food and food groups so that one can make an informed decision about ones meal. You really can’t expect the cook in your canteen or any other random person to keep your health in mind!! It is your health at stake after all.

A thickening waistline is the danger of a sedentary lifestyle. Sometimes our jobs may call for very little physical activity. You then have to introduce the activity any chance you get. In addition, a sound fitness regime will prevent unnecessary weight gain. It may not be easy to include exercise into an already busy lifestyle…… But it is still a choice and the ability to prioritise.

Have you ever bought a Ferrari?

Have you ever bought a Ferrari?

Well, maybe not a Ferrari, but a great car, or the latest phone, or an expensive watch. Or, for that matter, anything that costs a bit of money? What do we do once we invest in expensive gadget/gizmos? We ensure good maintenance. In fact, we go to great lengths to ensure GREAT maintenance. We buy the best possible insurance policy, upgrade, service, fuel up, buy protective gear, shine, polish and basically spend a whole lot more money, time and energy on protecting our worldly investment. We are talking about a piece of metal here. A car that can be repaired, even replaced if need be.

Lets take the human body. The phenomenal human body. How much do you think it should cost? Remember we have only one body. It serves us all our lives. We need it to work for us 24/7 through all our impossible times, highs and lows. We have no spare parts and no, it cannot be replaced. How much do you think we should price it at? Priceless don’t you think?

And yet………..we place it under an inordinate amount of pressure and then fail to nourish it properly. We starve it. Alternately we stuff it with appalling food choices and expect it to behave itself. We get upset when it doesn’t. We are annoyed that it has “gained weight” or “fallen sick”. We stress it further to lose weight rapidly and unhealthily. The abuse is relentless.

Sure, we buy Life insurance and Health Insurance. That however is not the same as a “maintenance strategy” now is it? Buying life Insurance does not ensure a better QUALITY of life.

What is it that drives us to be quite so careless about our own bodies and yet pay so much attention to inanimate, material things? Is it the sense of infallibility? The conviction that somehow, we will be the ones to slip through the cracks and escape the implications of a reckless lifestyle?

We believe the rules of life do not apply to us. Perhaps justifiably. We do see some heedless humans cheerfully leading long or disease-free lives. On the other hand, we also see apparently healthy individuals sometimes dying or falling ill unexpectedly and shockingly. This is what is pointed out to me only too often when I advise people to follow a healthier lifestyle. “But what’s the point?” they ask, “look at how Mr. so-and-so dropped dead. He was fit, exercised regularly, eat healthy and yet he dropped dead”

I never said fitness was a guarantee against death! Only that it is a guarantee for a better QUALITY OF LIFE while you live. I for one, would much rather lead a full and productive life however short, than a long arduous one that is spent mostly in bed or a wheel chair in pain or depressed, suffering ailments that could have been prevented.

Have you ever bought an AMC (Annual Maintenance Contract) for anything from a water heater to a washing machine? Most of us do, for almost every piece of equipment we own. I even know someone who has an AMC for his treadmill, which by the way, he never uses!

I believe we need a DMC (Daily maintenance Contract) for the human body. If our bodies came with an instruction manual, it would probably say the following:

– Eat clean (most of the time. Occasional indulgences are allowed).

– Sleep at least 6-8 hours a day

– Exercise regularly.

– Drink enough water

– Manage stress appropriately.

– Stay busy and productive!

However, we do not come with an instruction manual now do we, so we do not bother with a DMC. Occasionally we realize the jeans do not fit or the triglycerides are sky-high and panic. Then come the desperate measures to right the wrong. Usually resulting in running for the nearest “quick-fix” remedy available. Drugs, massages, wraps, fasting, starving, drinking nasty concoctions that would probably make a skunk throw up, anything for instant results.

The panic however is short-lived. We get used to the weight gain or the high blood sugars/triglycerides. We tell ourselves it is part of the aging process. That we need to go with the flow, relax and take life as it comes. After all, most people around us suffer the same maladies don’t they? Therefore, it is absolutely natural. This is how we justify ill-health or a poor quality of life.

What if we pay as much attention to our own bodies as we do to our various material assets?

What if we begin to follow a DMC and consider our own wellbeing, both physical and emotional, as important and relevant to how we experience life?

What if we accept that WE are responsible for our own choices and subsequently the quality of our lives?

What if we treat our bodies as we would our Ferrari?

Droog

Droog is situated about thirteen Km from the town of Conoor. The hill is also called Bakasura Malai (after a fabled, cruel demon from the Mahabaratha). It is a hill about 2000 meters above sea level. One gets to it through the NonSuch Tea estate on the most dreadful roads. Estate roads, meant for a four-wheel drive and a strong stomach.

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Parking on the road, we began our ascent to the top of the hill. It was a fairly steep incline. Initially, through the most beautiful tea estate and then through the shola forest. There was a charming little paved path to follow through the forest. The path was steep and winding in places. Innocently effortless in others.image

The lush foliage looked alive, breathing in the morning air. There were so many unusual flowers, trees and plants. Lemon grass grew in plenty deceiving us with its sharp edged leaves camouflaging the fragrance and flavor of the plant. Beautiful wild flowers in the most vivid colors. Growing in abandon, unaided, content to be blowing in the breeze.

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We passed the remains of the fort of Tippu Sultan. Build in the 16th century it is said to have been a vantage point and the out post to oversee the surrounding areas. What remained was only the wall of the fort. Just piles of stones stacked to build a semblance of a wall.

imageOn the top of the hill was situated a Lookout tower of sorts. Now vandalized of course, with scribblings all over the walls of names of lovers and new-gen heroes. A reminder of those who have managed to get to this point, not to absorb and appreciate the incredible view but to record their pathetic presence on the walls of this monument. Reprehensible, to say the least. The last time we were here, we were startled by a group of police officers in their camouflage uniforms said to be combing the forest for terrorists. Very reassuring that was! Thankfully, no such incident this time.

Beyond the tower, a little further through the forest leads one to an even more stunning landscape. The sun had already risen but was still partially concealed behind gloriously patterned sheets of clouds. Ornate and almost surreal, it was the work of a brilliant artist, the sky, the mountains, the rivers below the trees and sheer rocks. The cliffs were sheer drops of thousands of meters to more forestland.

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After spending some time taking in the splendor or the surroundings, we headed back to Conoor town. A delicious breakfast at the famous canteen in the quaint Conoor railway station. A welcome indulgence after that long walk.

Walks like these test the endurance of your leg muscles. The uphill climb definitely also tests your cardio vascular endurance. It was about ten Km and the pace was certainly not leisurely.  Improvement in fitness levels is one of the additional spin offs of these walks. The encounter with nature only adds to the experience. Including activities such as treks, walks even dancing which are more for pleasure and not specifically focused on either weight loss or improving fitness create the environment to include physical activity as a form of a “lifestyle”. It becomes something you do as an extension of ones day. You tend to then make better choices more often. You choose to walk up the stairs instead of taking the lift. You choose to go for a run on a Sunday morning instead of lying around, wide awake wondering what to eat. You choose to throw a dance party with light finger food instead of a sit down meal. It becomes more ‘natural’ to stay healthy and fit