Friday, January 03, 2020

2020 word of the year – Aware!

I have been choosing guiding word for the year since 2007 and whether I consciously analyze it or not, in the hind sight it always seems to bring forth experiences in line with the intention I set for the year. 

This year I’d want to be more aware about my existence on this earth. 
Aware of how I spend my time, my money, my attention… 

More aware of who grows my food and how. More aware of the choices I make when I choose to eat out and the hidden ingredients that seem to sneak in. More aware of how my meats are raised and how much of it am I consuming.

Aware of the clothes that I use and my actual need for them. The clothes that I do buy, who makes them, are the makers fairly compensated for it. What happens to the clothes that I decide to discard from my closet. 
Aware of my thoughts and my actions. What is my motivation and what impact are my actions or reaction creating. 
Last year's word for the year was connect. And although my hope was to connect more within the community, it was focused inwards and I realized all the things that I didn’t know before. Just sitting with yourself and your thoughts can create so much awareness and I hope to continue to do the same. 

I don’t want to set out goals since I don’t yet know what I’m not aware of, but I guess the years forward will guided by this word. But I do have a rough process that I intend to follow. 

I’d like to join a CSA (community supported Agriculture) for my and family’s need for fresh produce, so we can eat in season and support the sustainable farming methods. 
I’d like to limit the number of clothes that I buy/acquire in the year to 12, and that includes everything from socks and undergarments to saris. 
I’d like to limit my media consumption and enforce screen time usage on my phone and find more time to finish the books that I have started reading and never finished. 
I’d like to maintain a food and health journal, so I can keep track of my migraines and health issues as well as my eating habits. 
I’d like to continue my breathing and meditation practice and get in at least 300 – 10-minute sessions in the entire year. 
I’d like to categorize and organize my crafting supplies and be more aware of the stuff I already have and map out a plan to complete projects that are still relevant. 

With all that hopes and promises, Happy New Year! 
Would love to hear about your intentions for the year! 

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Intermittent Fasting and Whole30, continued discussion

My experiment with Intermittent Fasting (IF) and Whole30 ended last week (actually, it was a few weeks ago but I missed pushing the publish button on this post) and since then I have slowly reintroduced some food and I know some which are troublesome. If you haven’t read my reasons for this experiment, please refer to the previous post on this topic (here).

Here are some of the salient points from the last 30 days and then at the end is the day to day progression of thoughts as I adapted to the Whole30 approach of eating.
  • If I were to do this combination of IF and whole 30 again, I’ll like eliminate dinner and push the eating window towards the early part of the day to better match my circadian rhythm.
  •  I’ll eliminate nuts and seeds from the meal as well since they caused bloating and I relied too much on them for snack likely upping my caloric intake
  •  Whole30 is a western approach to elimination diet and doesn’t truly match the understanding of eastern eating philosophies and were often in conflict. For e.g. in Indian eating patterns/culture, moong khichadi is Ayurveda approved and is considered a safe food that even folks recovering from a disease can eat but according to Whole30, all legumes and grains are restricted irrespective of their innate nature.
  • The diet didn’t tell me anything new about my diet that I didn’t already knew, e.g., sensitivity to gluten, processed food or extracted sugar. I Need more digestive power/ enzymes (herbs and spices) to process high to digest foods.
  • After these 30 days, I might just have given up artificial sweetener for life, I drink coffee black without sugar but now I drink tea without sugar or stevia and I’m okay with that.
  • I’ll never go back to buying large quantities of processed food for my pantry, there is rare times when I have to lean of these shelf stable foods and if I don’t have them on hand I can definitely do without them.
  • I’ll repeat this kind of elimination diet and instead of Whole30 recommended elimination, might remove red meat, all meat but include pulses and such. I think my gut biome favors the eastern style of eating more than the western foods. I think seasonal eating is a better approach for my body type.
  • I’m sensitive to gluten but I’ll permit myself to eat gluten once a week and continue to work on my digestion to be stronger rather than give up homemade food that I grew up with.
  • Whole30 is a diet approach for awareness but it doesn’t fix any health issues. I’m still dealing with my health issues with digestion, parasite infection and liver toxicity and need to continue practicing alternative medicine to find optimum health.
  • I was hoping to lose 5 lbs. (weight that I gained over summer travels) but I only lost about 2 pounds. But in my friend’s case, she lost 12 pounds. I think it speaks more about my digestive health and less about the merits of the diet.
  • I didn’t lose any inches that I can notice, still wearing same clothes with about same fit. The flat belly doesn’t last either, even on day when I just eat fruits and no grains or legumes.

Day-to-day break down

Day 1 - Just another day, feeling peachy
Day 2 - No sugar craving, just habitual reaching out to sweets and retracting my hands
Day 3 - A packets of spicy Cheetos with its guts laid bare tempted me but I reminded myself that I will not feel as light and happy if I ate that stuff.
Day 4 - Krishna Janamashtami fasting, many other food restrictions to even worry about Whole 30 approved food.
Day 5 - Good energy, clarity of thoughts. But at one time I had a strong craving for white rice, sesame seeds, avocado and salt. I tried to diagnose what deficiency in my body is making me crave it and if there is a whole 30 approved substitute for the nutrients my body is craving. I drooled thinking about it and then the moment passed.
Day 6 - I was eating a banana and I really wanted some cold milk with it, but instead I chose almond butter and I was over the hump. I'm realizing I need more sleep because I'm still feeling the late afternoon slump.
Day 7 - No particular food cravings, good energy in the morning but afternoon slump is a reality even today.
Day 8 - It’s hard to maintain Whole 30 when you are at your friends. A little bit of goat cheese sneaked in my otherwise kosher salad dressing and I found out after I had already eaten it. No, I'm not planning to restart the 30-day countdown.
Guess what, that afternoon slump was may be caused by too much fruit and not enough protein for lunch/ afternoon snack. Forgot my fruits at home today and no afternoon slump.
Day 9 - It’s hard to maintain whole 30 when going to a restaurant. Today a little bit of mayo sneaked in my coconut and wasabi dressing with my poke salad. Also, if there was a parasite that was responsible for my sugar cravings, it is dormant or perhaps its muscle memory to forego sugar at this time.
Day 10 - I feel some body re-composition happening, not necessarily better fitting clothes but just different. I'm tempted to jump on the scale but trying to resist, afraid that the transformation might not be reflected on a weighing machine number.
Day 11 – Saturday is hard with all the sports activities and not being able to eat with the rest of the family on the go.
Day 12 – Ate a protein style no cheese burger, that didn’t satiate my hunger.
Day 13 - Long weekend on Whole 30 when the rest of the family is not is very tough
Day 14 – We are vegetarians on Tuesday and rely on legumes and beans for dinner protein, needless to reiterate, it’s hard to adhere to a lot of limitations. Ate a couple boiled eggs.
Day 15 - I weighed myself, I know it’s against the rule, but I was looking for a quick reinforcement that I’m on the right path. It was not a good idea, I have gained a pound after 15 days on this elimination diet.
Day 16 - I wanna give up this restricted way of life so bad. I'm fatigued, I just wanna have some spicy miso soup with udon noodles and pork katsu.
Day 17 – Went to my friend’s son’s birthday party and had no issues saying no to chocolate cake. Just drank water and it didn’t even once occur to me that I was depriving myself. Small victory!
Day 18 – Just another day, so used to saying no to the snacks that the rest of the family is eating and going for a fruit instead
Day 19 – My fruit consumption has sky rocketed, I always eat a ton of veggies but so much fruit is new for my body. My body has lost its insulin sensitivity, so this amount of fruit might not be good in the long run.
Day 20 – Today is a turning point, I have energy and I burst into a jog when I was only out for a walk
Day 21 – Afternoon slump after lunch is still an ongoing issue, carbs/sugar from the fruit could be adding to the sugar crash
Day 22 – Eating too much of Almond butter, especially in the afternoon. Don’t need any chocolate with it or any extracted/artificial sugar for that matter.
Day 23 – My friend told me that she lost 12 pounds in 30 days on Whole30. It is giving me cautious hope but there’s an end in sight to this restricted eating.
Day 24 – I’m feeling very light and not bloated at all but not sure if this feeling would last if I deviate from the plan even for a single day.
Day 25 – Very indifferent to the food choices now. My body and ‘mind’ have adapted to this new way of eating and I can go on like this forever
Day 26 – The rest of the family is very excited that I’ll be off this plan soon. They are planning for me which food should they introduce back in my diet first
Day 27 – My half marathon training is suffering since I don’t have the endurance to go past 5-6 miles on my long runs
Day 28 – If I don’t have to push myself too hard physically, days go on like a breeze and I don’t even notice the passage of time
Day 29 – Didn’t realize that its already day 29th, I didn’t consider the 31st day of August and assumed I still have a little longer to go.
Day 30 – Tomorrow I eat yogurt whether I have lost a pound or not

I'll talk about some of the holistic approach that I'm pursuing for my health and wellness in upcoming posts. Post a comment to share your interest or experience.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Sankat Mochan Hanuman Mandir, Bay Area

Hindu calendar is lunar based calendar and all of our festivals are celebrated according to the waxing and waning phases of moon.
But Hindu culture is also very permissive and inclusive as well. We adopt things and put a label on it like nobody's business.

One such example is that each day of the week is devoted to a deity. The Weeks and Months are part of Gregorian Calendar and has nothing to do with Hindu Calendar but as we were accepting a foreign calendar in our country we were molding our rituals and traditions to continue to incorporate our religion and culture into our everyday life.

Today is Tuesday - Day of Hanuman ji, he is the monkey faced God and Son of Wind and also referred to as 'Pavan Putra (Son of wind). He represents ultimate strength and energy as well as unyielding devotion to  Ram and selfless devotion to serving what is right and inherently good. He can get rid of all demons in your life. When he's on your side, nothing and nobody can harm you....

I think because of all the funny and inspiring stories built around the life of Hanuman ji, he is easily the first God that most kids connect with. I know I first connected with him because he was so silly and yet he was God. My grandma would tell me stories from Hanuman ji's childhood and life and later during one of her travels she brought me a story book with all stories of him.

Recently, we visited the Sankat Mochan Hanuman Mandir in the San Francisco Bay Area (picture above) and I decided there couldn't be a better day to share the pictures from the temple than a Tuesday. The temple is located at a hill top in the middle of a forest, it is a meditation and Ayurvedic center along with a Hanuman Temple. It's often known shows up as Mount Madonna in internet searches.
Take a peak:

Beautiful chandelier with Raag- Ragini

Ornate column, looks like Tibetan inspired to my untrained eye
A hanging diya adorned with roses, interesting touch for day time decorations
Loved this panel so much, I need this reminder often...
A Ganesh ji (elephant head God) panel
Ganesh ji is the remover of all obstacles so he's prayed to first...
Standing outside the main temple pavilion
Another interesting Ganesh panel, he's rarely shown as blue so I found the color combination unusual 

Friday, September 13, 2019

Connect - Word of the year 2019

Three quarters of the year 2019 are almost behind us and it seems like a little late to be introducing ‘Connect’ my word of the year. But as they say, better late than never.

Besides, there are things happening in my life and provoking thoughts as a direct consequence of choosing this word that it seems like a good time to talk about it. And perhaps, I have a perspective to share now that might have been very different at the beginning of the year.

A bit of a general thought, I’ve been choosing Word of the year since 2007 and even if I decide that I won’t choose a “word of the year”, I invariably do. At the very least, it sets an intention for the year, makes you aware of your thoughts, brings perspective to the abundance or lack of the word (intention) in your own world (quite a mouthful there).
And for a believer like me, I think more than just bringing my awareness to situations, the universe creates and attracts circumstances and draws me closer to what I truly need with the intentions I set for the year.

My intention for setting this intention was to build a community, feel like I belong and feel more connected to fellow humans that I share this journey with. Mostly the horizontal connections… I took a few initiatives to feel more connected; I reached out to people with similar interests, I went on more walks and more coffee dates. There were a couple initiatives that I shared/ started on social media, both of them related to my fondness for the six-yard unstitched fabric – the saree. I organized local meet ups for women who love to wear sarees.

And I started an Instagram group for building sisterhood around a traveling saree very much based on the movie ‘The sisterhood of the traveling pants saree’.

Here’s what I wrote on my Instagram post:   

Have you seen the movie- the sisterhood of the traveling pants... it’s about teen girls finding comfort and support in their friendships. I was watching the movie and realized that the craving for sisterhood and support and the longing to belong that the teens in the movie were seeking exists even when we get older.
With that intention, I decided to share my saree and sisterhood strength with Ramya and all others who’d like to join the sisterhood. #sisterhoodofthetravelingsaree
The intention of the sisterhood is that the collective feminine power will bring us what we desire and most need at this juncture in life.
Please let me know if you’d like to join and follow the tag to see who is contributing to the sisterhood before you. If my saree is taking it too long to reach you please reach out to others who might want to become your support system and start another #sisterhoodofthetravelingsaree in your community, in your family, among your friends (real or virtual). If you don’t wear saree, share a t-shirt, a dupatta, a bracelet whatever binds you into sisterhood.
And talking about sisterhood, why leave the men out they probably need the support of the feminine energy the most and an avenue to express their solidarity.
Whatever it takes, sisterhood, brotherhood, a saree or a bracelet or just a prayer, please reach out, support and be supported in turn, now is the time... Please tag #sisterhoodofthetravelingsaree so we can follow you and see how you are bonding and how your common intentions are bringing us all together.

Like I've said before, I set intentions, but I don’t get to determine the path, often universe sends me what I need at the moment and although my word ‘Connect’ was for my horizontal connections, strengthening vertical connection was part of the divine plan.
I was thinking about doing a 100-day project, but I wasn’t sure if the time was right to commit to something too time-consuming since my plate was full and was going to get worse in May and June. The 100 Day project kicks off in early April.
So, I kept it simple and my target was, one month of self-care through at least 5 minutes of daily meditation. I was easily able to manage that, and I continued it for May and most of June as well. Most days my meditation sessions were more than 10 minutes but there were days when I needed to squeeze in my meditation in the car at a parking lot while waiting for kids at their activities. I managed a 90+ day track record but then travel schedules upset it and I didn’t quite make it to the 100th day, not a very good track record there.

I came back from vacation and slowly settled into a routine and I was missing meditation, and this time I knew that I wanted something deeper, something more guided to continue on this journey. I joined a local group for just that purpose, my vertical connection and my inward journey and guess what, found a bunch of people on that exact same journey and a community formed around our practice. I’ll talk more about the program once I’m a little more experienced with it but needless to say, the word ‘Connect’ is leading me on journeys that I didn’t plan for. And as soon as I think I have figured it out, it changes again, just like life itself.

So, the journey continues- inward, outward, vertical, horizontal and sometimes it sits still within me and those are the most precious of moments.

And as I mentioned in the beginning about sharing about my word in the 9th month of the year gives me a unique perspective that I didn’t have at the beginning of the year, well, looking back at my list I realized that I had chosen this word – ‘connect’ for 2014 as well and had I written about it at the beginning of the year, I would have been very tempted to change it but I’m glad I didn’t and even though the word is a repeat the journey is as different as day and night.

Friday, September 06, 2019

Is there a Whole30 friendly Latte?

I have been searching high and low for a milk style beverage- coconut milk or almond milk for making lattes at home or even add some to my afternoon coffees.

All the non-diary beverages have soy lecithin, guar gum, carrageenan or some other unpronounceable ingredient to make the consistency of the beverage closest to that of milk.
I didn’t buy any of those to keep in my fridge but instead told myself to make almond milk at home, in my own kitchen if I’m so inclined. So far, my craving for a milk-like product hasn’t inspired me enough to put in the extra work.

Are you wondering the purpose of this post yet? I'm not sure there is one.

I was having a rough day yesterday and needed a pick me up in the afternoon. I decided that I’ll walk to the nearby Starbucks and get myself a non-dairy latte made with all those unpronounceable ingredients even if they are not Whole 30 approved. I asked my barista to make a tall (8oz) non-dairy latte with unsweetened coconut milk. The beverage I got was a little too sweet to be unsweetened.

I asked to check the box and found that both coconut milk and almond milk had cane sugar in them along with all the other ingredients that I possibly shouldn’t be eating. The box in big letters said “unflavored” and the barista(s) (yes multiple baristas) took it as no sugar added and were annoyed that I want to look at the ingredients and didn’t take their word on face value. I stood at the counter for a solid 1 minute and it felt everything like the 1-minute counter on the microwave when you are in a rush to get to the next thing.

Yep! It was a very slow 1 minute.

And then (insert climatic music of your choice), I decided to take that coconut milk latte, walk to the park, sit on a bench and enjoy it.  

Am I going to do over the last 15 days, no I don’t think so.
Am I going to give up on Whole 30, nope, nada! 
Am I still looking for the perfect non-dairy beverage, you betcha.  
Do I know the first food I’d like to introduce back in my diet at the end of 30 day, yes it would be dairy.

Thursday, September 05, 2019

I'm Fine and Neither Are You by Camille Pagán - Book Review

Writing a book review after a long time. 
This book -' I'm Fine and Neither Are You' was part of our book club read last month.
I think if the title was any clue to what lies ahead in the chapters, you can practically predict that its written for most of us, who carry on day to day saying ‘I’m fine’ without ever meaning to say it but in most cases just the opposite. I could relate to the book on so many levels and not just to one character but there were situations where I could see myself playing several roles.

To summarize the book. It’s a story about a woman readying herself to face the realities of her life and coming up with the realization that she can’t do it all, let alone do it all on her own and make it look effortless.

Sounds familiar? Yeah, me too.
She was jolted into looking deeper into her life after the sudden demise of her best friend who seemed to have had everything together in her life specially as she laid it out on her picture-perfect blog. The dead best friend as you might have guessed had created a curated version of her life on social media that others assumed was the whole reality including the main character of the book.

The main character, a wife, a mother, a full-time employee had a husband that didn’t work outside the house and didn’t do much to help in the house either. And she never questioned his behavior or asked him to step up to the needs of the family. Similarly, she had a high demanding job but never stood up for her rights at work or to bring to attention of her superiors the amount of effort she’s putting into her work. And guess what, the job wasn’t her first choice she was just sticking to it since she was the sole bread winner.

You might question her behavior and think that’s unusual but of course there’s back story and she was carrying her own baggage and fighting her own insecurities.

You might think, oh! I now know the summary of the book and don’t need to read it, but I think it’s not the story-line, it’s the way situations make you think about your own action or reaction to the circumstances. The book can make you cry and laugh at the same time. You can imagine being on the toilet seat, in front of the dirty sink, behind the desk on a boring task, frustrated by the lack of opportunities right alongside the characters of the book, you’d mourn the loss of dreams that never took flight and you’d hope for a happy ending on a porch swing watching a sunset, all within the confines of these words.
Apart from the main character’s struggles, the facade that her best friend lived with was also poignant. Not only did she portray a perfect life on the blog for her readers but even her close friends believed that the life she’s sharing publicly is the only life she’s got. It makes me ponder over the facades that we live with in our own lives. Not just the curated posts for the social media but also story that we share with others in real life. No one can know everything about your life, they’d know only what you share and in turn your partial story becomes who you are and many folks in your life might believe that it’s the whole of you.

So, after all these details it probably won’t come as a surprise, but I’d really recommend this book. The story-line might seem a little cliched, but the writing style is inspiring and the characters relate-able. I think we can all drop a few facades and hope that we’ll be accepted for who we are rather than what others expect us to be.
As for me I just hope to find it in me to say, “I’m Not Fine” the next time I find myself struggling rather than putting up a brave face, saying “I’m fine”, and continue with a disgruntled attitude.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Intermittent Fasting and Whole30 – Part II

This brief post is to share the combination of the IF and whole30 protocol that I’ll be follow during the 30-day experiment. If you don’t know the reason why I’m following on this path, please read the first post of the topic (here).
I have Melissa Urban’s book on my best side table and I looked at the recommended food list and shopping list to decide how I want to follow this plan. Since I’m eating in an 8-hour window on most days, I cannot follow the time guidelines of eating within an hour of waking up and eat every 4-5-hour pattern. I clean fast with just black coffee and water, no MCT oil or amino in my coffee.

Combined Intermittent Fasting and Whole 30 protocol        Fast at least 16 hours in every 24 hours, eat within 8 hours window

  •          Break fast with three stalks of celery blended with a cup of water (in lieu of making celery juice and loosing the fiber)
  •          Drink black coffee as needed
  •         Eat a Whole30 approved light lunch/ afternoon snack (that celery blend is going to fill you up)
  •         No dairy makes it hard to drink chai in the evening with family so if schedule permits, drink a cup of green tea and avoid the tea time snacks
  •          Dinner is salad or grilled vegetables with lean meat or fish, mostly grilled

I have been following this for a week and so far, its been working alright. I’ll share daily cravings, energy levels and overall changes at the end of 30 days. Whole 30 requires that we put away the scale and tape measure and don’t track it till the end of the program since it’s a health regimen and not a weight loss plan.
I forgot to take weight or measurement at the beginning of this but have a general idea about where I stand and how my clothes feel so at the end of the month it would probably be a qualitative assessment and not a quantitative one.