Our Health Biz cover story for this month!
THE HEALTH CHATTER AND PUTTING AND END TO IT:
Too much has been written and said already about eating right and getting fit. Our intellectual banter around this subject is so exceedingly high at this point that it’s almost surprising then that we as a nation and a globe are still getting more and more unfit despite all the health chatter we love to take on. Facebook statuses are ripe with how many miles your colleague has been running and your neighbor’s picture in a poorly demonstrated yoga posture have garnered 285 likes on her Facebook profile. Your friend can’t stop talking about her latest Pilates class and your Instagram handle has umpteen pictures of people you know enjoying a raw, organically grown quinoa salad with farm-fed chicken which was grown bio-dynamically with special chants recited and breathed into it so that you absorb 800% of the nutrients from everything you eat.
Someone in the Goldman Sachs elevator was heard saying “No one would run the marathon if they had to sign a confidentiality agreement first.” I don’t think the day is far away where an App will be designed where you can take a picture of your poo and the software will tell you how much good gut bacteria you have by just analyzing it! Of course the App has an in-built segment on how many of your friends are on this too and who has the most supreme stool (literally of course). Shit.
But where does this madness stop and is it really helping us get any healthier? Where do we draw the line? Are there any sure shot ways of attaining good health and getting fit? What about working professionals? How must they or can they eat clean and incorporate exercise in their lives with sporadic work hours and team lunches and endless deadlines? How can we all smoothly and effectively make the transition from talking to doing? Lets attempt to answer some of the questions.
In 2004, the Oxford english dictionary added the word ‘orthorexia’ to their book. Orthorexia is defined as an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating; a phenomenon we started seeing a decade or so ago and which has, since then, only augmented. We as a culture have sadly become so obsessed with talking about health and fitness that we almost don’t care anymore about doing what we say. We are having so much fun just building up and portraying an image of us as vegan, gluten-free saints who have ascended to the uppermost level of healthy eating evangelists. So when we do have a disgusting craving for a fast-food takeout or an aerated beverage, we would of course never ever dare to post it on social media because that’s social media suicide after all!
First things first, to get concepts straightened out, it is important to understand that when I say eating right, I don’t mean boiled vegetables for lunch and soup for evening meal and measly scrapes of grilled chicken for dinner. Anyone who eats like this can very suddenly and easily turn into ‘the office bitch’ or ‘the office moron’ only after only 48 hours on the new ‘diet.’
When I say eating right, I mean good, nourishing foods, fruits, vegetables, hot meals, homemade dishes made with affection and thought and the ability to stop eating when you’ve had just about enough. In July 2014, the British Journal of Health Psychology came up with a fascinating paper called ‘On carrots and curiosity’ highlighting the extent to which food affects our day-to-day experience. Food is wonderful, food is medicine and the thing about food is that how you eat doesn’t merely impact how you look; it affects how you feel, how you think and who you become as a person (think back to the sudden office bitch or office moron if you don’t believe me or please read the study).
This is why I always say that sound food decisions and eating correctly don’t affect one aspect of your life, they affect every single aspect of your life! Good food makes you productive, it makes you happy, it makes you chirpy and it makes you seem nauseatingly optimistic to others. Those daily fruits and homemade sabzis come together to ensure you’re calling in for fewer sick days at work and the only time you skip a day is when you want to do something else with your time 😉
When it comes to boosting productivity at work and increasing immunity, while food is one very crucial part of the puzzle, there is another piece called exercise which shouldn’t be ignored. And if in this day and age, you say that you don’t have time to exercise; please stop. You sound lame and honestly, you’re just embarrassing yourself. The truth is you aren’t prioritizing weekly workouts and you know that too. I find it extremely intriguing how my constantly on the go, extremely busy clients who happen to be CEOs always have the time to schedule workouts while several others hide behind a thinly concealed veil of being ‘really busy.’ If that’s what you do, then yes, it’s only the veil which is going to stay thin unfortunately.
One of my favorite Harvard studies in recent times is trying to successfully bridge this gap and help employees work around the ‘I am too busy’ excuse. What this brilliant study explicitly states is that we need to rewire and retrain our brains to think differently about exercise. Currently, employees think of it as something they ought to do when they get some time away from work and even so, there is a certain amount of guilt these studies found associated with exercise. How could I spend 60+ minutes in the gym exercising when I haven’t even made it professionally? I could use this time to work extra and then exercise a few years later once I’ve reached a place where I’d like to be!
We need to move from that to this: If I manage to exercise, it makes me so much smarter and more productive and happier that I actually end up wasting less time procrastinating and more time getting work done! Without exercise, I feel lethargic and a presentation which would normally take me 2+ hours to prepare; I can now wrap up in 75 minutes or less! An important email whose language and message I spend 35 minutes pondering over now takes me 20 minutes or less!
If this sounds like far-fetched, wishful talk, then you, my friend, have clearly never consistently exercised in your life to have experienced the profound effect it has on your mind, body and soul (sorry for the cliché). More reason to chalk out an exercise plan for yourself now immediately after you’re done reading this article.
TRANSITIONING FROM TALKING TO DOING:
Your focus needs to be on what you can do and not what you would like to be. The doing will eventually lead to you becoming whom you would like to be.
See the illustration below to understand my statements:
DOING ✔ BEING ✖
1. I will do 3 workouts each week ✔ 1. I will lose inches ✖
2. I will eat 2 fruits a day ✔ 2. I will become thin ✖
3. I will eat homemade food 4 days this week ✔ 3. I will fit into my jeans from 4 years ago ✖
Resolve to be a doer, an executer and as mentioned, what you do will eventually impact who you are anyway.
HAVE ORGANIZATIONS DONE THIS SUCCESSFULLY IN THE PAST?:
Now if you’re one of those people who thinks that eating right and finding time to exercise is increasingly difficult and next to impossible if you’re a working employee, then I am about to burst your bubble (*pop*). Fortunately enough, most organizations have started seeing the benefits of employee wellness and making serious strides towards creating a conducive and practical eating and exercise environment at work itself.
This helps the employees get thin and the bottom line get fat (by lowering absentees and boosting productivity) thereby making it a total win win! I have personally helped companies redo their pantries so that the processed food is eliminated and at the very least, there is ample stock of chana, peanuts, assorted nuts and a variety of daily fruits coming in. To take it up one notch, you could also think of investing in a simple toaster and a mini fridge. The former can be used to quickly toast whole-wheat bread whereas the latter can store peanut butter, coriander chutney, hummus, pesto, crudités, yogurt etc. thereby giving us ample snack options when fruits and nuts just don’t fill us up-especially at 5:00 pm when our stomachs seem to rumble as though we were part of a famine!
If your organization isn’t evolved enough yet to accommodate a gym in the building or make yoga sessions available pre and post work hours, here is a list of 3 easy steps to get you started:
1. Carry an apple/pear/banana to work and eat it 2-3 hours post lunch
Rationale: It will get rid of your post-lunch sleepy, groggy, fatigued feeling and energy slump naturally without the requirement of caffeine. It will also ensure that you don’t overeat at dinner. So simple and yet, so profound!
2. Sip water continually
Rationale: Many a times, we tend to confuse our thirst signals with our hunger signals. What this means is that the solution to curbing a false hunger signal is as simple as hydration. Keep a bottle of water with you and sip on it at regular intervals so that your body knows exactly when its hungry
3. All the water you drink will make you want to take pee breaks ever so often which will also offer a sneaky opportunity to get up from your desk and stretch yourself out a little before plopping back on your desk for the next few hours
THE 5 MAGIC BULLETS:
And incase you’re wondering what the magic bullets are to good health, they are simple enough and have been summarized below for your benefit with some practical aids:
I) Eat real food
The table below may help shed further light on this statement:
1. Fresh, local fruits
2. Fresh, local vegetables
3. Fresh lime water
4. Coconut water
5. Sugarcane juice
6. Chana 6. Biscuits
7. Lotus seeds
8. Homemade burgers and
9. Plain roasted peanuts
10. Rice, roti, potatoes,
- Exotic fruits sourced from a different country
- Exotic vegetables sourced from a different country
- Fresh lime soda
- Canned coconut water
- Aerated beverages
- Fast-food burgers and sandwiches
- Salted and/or honey glazed peanuts or nuts
- Cakes, pastries, donuts, muffins
II) Have an exercise routine in place
Some questions you could ask yourself as you work towards planning an exercise routine:
1. What can I commit to?
2. What do I enjoy?
3. How many days of the week can I commit to?
4. How much time can I commit to each day?
5. Am I a morning person or an evening person?
6. What are some excuses I am likely to come up with after the first few sessions?
7. How will I push past these excuses?
III) Don’t let small things stress you out
I am not asking that you quit your job, retire into the Himalayas and forever cut stress surrounding rent, mortgages, bills, maids not showing up, savings for a future home and children’s education etc. from your life. It’s unrealistic to think that fate won’t hand us stressful times and situations. We don’t control this. However, what we can control is how to manage and cope with this stress. When in the midst of a stressful situation, whether you choose to exercise for 40 minutes or binge eat for 40 minutes as a means to make yourself feel better is completely on you.
IV) Allow yourself to sleep in once in a while
If we don’t get a good night’s sleep, it’s in fact harder for us to lose weight. I promise I didn’t make this statement up as a pathetic attempt to grab your attention. There is ample hard science and evidence to back this up!
V) Be extremely kind to herself
If you don’t know where to start, 2 simple tricks below:
A. Stop calling yourself fat, rotund, flabby, pig like and all the other creative names you’ve managed to come up with and for the love of kale, stop pinching your stomach and staring at it in disdain and wishing for it to magically go away
B. Give it time! All the abuse you have put your body through over a year or a decade, you can’t expect it to melt away in a day or a week. Give yourself 7-12 weeks of clean eating and consistent exercise to see a difference in the sculpt and shape of your body.
Load these 5 magic bullets in your gun and rest assured, instead of killing you, they will give you a brand new life!
What’s your choice going to be then? Thin veil of excuses or thin you? Pick wisely!