Seeds 101

Hi friends, happy Friday!

How was the week that went by?

As you know, “Nutrition Works” is the name of my own Nutrition Label under which I have a chocolate-cake (and another lemon-cake in pipeline) which many of you have ordered multiple times and loved. Most heartening was the fact that the kids love it too. This proves that we don’t have to feed our kids (and ourselves, of course) all the unhealthy ingredients of a commercial-cake just because they like it. They like the healthier version, just fine too.

The week was exciting for me as after cakes, I have launched the second product which is a “Seeds Bar”. These seed-bars are handmade fresh on order, with clean/premium/natural ingredients and have no added sugar or oils. It is high in protein, good fats and fibre…good carbs too!

Today’s post had to be about seeds. In our daily diet, seeds are majorly missing. How many of us eat seeds on a regular basis? Nuts, we still manage but seeds, hardly. We forget to consume these little precious nutrition-dense nuggets that the nature has provided us with so magnanimously.

Let’s get acquainted with seeds today. And then you can add some to your diet if you want. However, make sure the type or quantity doesn’t have any medical contradictions and it aligns with your goals, if you have any.

What Are Seeds?

Seeds hold all the ingredients to start a whole new life some day, provided the conditions are right. That’s how full of wholesome nutrition they are. Nutrients such as:

  • Fibre
  • Good fats
  • Antioxidants
  • Vitamins
  • Minerals

When they are included in our diet as a part of well-balanced meal, they can help us in multiple way. Depending upon what and how much we eat, it can help us in many things such as:

  • Blood sugar control
  • Cholesterol
  • Digestion
  • Blood pressure

There are many seeds available for human consumption today. We have access to local as well as imported seeds. Our traditional Indian diets always included seeds such as sesame, pumpkin etc as per our seasonal and medicinal requirements.

Since it is not possible to cover all the seeds of the world here, let us today discuss 4 seeds that are highly popular and easily accessible for us. These are:

  1. Chia seeds
  2. Flax seeds
  3. Sesame seeds
  4. Pumpkin seeds

Each of these is a compact powerhouse in itself. Though every seed might not suit everyone but most of us can benefit from these for sure, in moderation and as a part of a well-balanced diet.

  1. Chia Seeds: Coming to limelight a few years back, these small black seeds are not to be confused with Indian basil/sabja seeds. Chia is Quite high in fibre and good fat especially Omega-3 (ALA form). It is also a very rich source of B1, manganese and magnesium.

Apart from this, chia seeds are high in polyphenols which is a potent antioxidant. With all these benefits, and as a part of well-balanced diet, chia seeds can effectively:

  • Improve sugar levels
  • Improve cholesterol
  • Reduce heart concerns
  • Increase satiety meaning can keep us full for long

2. Flax Seeds: Also called sometimes linseeds, flax seeds are also high on fibre and Omega-3 (ALA) however it is best to eat them roasted and ground. Flax seeds are also powerful antioxidants and can help reduce LDL levels when used as a part of well-balance diet.

Lignans, a kind of polyphenols found in flaxseeds especially is a phytoestrogen though it can help men also in certain cases. Other than this, flaxseeds can help with:

  • Sugar levels
  • Heart risks
  • Cholesterol levels
  • Reduces risk of certain cancers

3. Sesame Seeds: My favorite seeds (mostly because of til laddoos) and quite high in another lignan called sesamin, may effectively help with a lot of things including:

  • Estrogen concerns
  • Cholesterol concerns
  • Inflammation in body
  • Arthritis
  • General health and fitness

4. Pumpkin Seeds: Pumpkin seeds are rich in good fats, phosphorus and certain other minerals. A varied nutritional profile in pumpkin seeds can help in:

  • Reducing risk of bladder stones and other urinary discomforts
  • Improving menopausal symptoms 
  • Certain cancers
  • Helping with enlarged prostates
  • Lowering of blood cholesterol

There are a lot of other seeds available in market today such a basil/sabja seeds, hemp seeds, sunflower seeds, pine seeds, poppy seeds etc. Even quinoa, wild rice and pomegranate (fruit) are seeds. These are easy to add to our diet as a part of salads, smoothies, bars etc. Just make sure you use in moderation and avoid any medical contradictions.

Hope you found today’s post useful. It skims the surface of seeds but that was the whole idea today. In case you wish to join me on Instagram, for regular stories on Health, Nutrition, Fitness and Motivation…here is the link:

https://www.instagram.com/healthcoach_smita/

Till next Friday

Love, Health and Peace

Cholesterol: Part 2

Hi friends, happy Friday!

How was the week that went by? 

First of all, a big thank you everyone, for the overwhelming response to my last post on cholesterol-Part 1. Yes, cholesterol and irregular lipid profiles have become so common these days that sometimes I wonder if what we eat is what our kids eat too, what are we doing to the next generation…and the next!

Anyways, let’s move away from that scary thought and see how we can try and start some preventive work or repair work or…at least some maintenance, if nothing else.

In my last Friday’s post, we have already seen what cholesterol is, why we actually need it and how it moves around our body with our blood and do some things for critical for our survival…and when irregular, create a lot of damage on the other hand. We also saw the normal parameters for cholesterol levels in blood and what could cause these elevated cholesterol levels.

If you missed it, you can read it here

Today, let us see what can be done for these elevated cholesterol levels. Before we begin, let me put a disclaimer here. Many a times, an irregular lipid profile is accompanied by a host of other health complications. Many a times, it could be a plain dietary issue and sometimes it is caused by other underlying factors.

Whatever we decide to do, we have to make sure it does not contradict any other conditions or medications that we have/take.

Having said that, now we know that the liver makes cholesterol and lipoproteins both. Lipoproteins hold this cholesterol and transport it to the rest of the body through blood. These lipoproteins can be divided into two broad categories:

  1. LDL – Low Density Lipoprotein – termed often as bad cholesterol because it carries the cholesterol to our arteries and gets deposited there, resulting in atherosclerosis (aka plaque formation) i.e. narrowing of arteries
  2. HDL – High Density Lipoprotein – often termed as good cholesterol as it cleans the blood of LDL cholesterol by taking it back to liver

Knowing this, the repair process needs to be a multi-pronged approach. This approach needs to have dietary changes as well as lifestyle changes. You want change, you make change.  Long-term substantial changes!

Lifestyle Changes:

  • Weight loss if one is overweight – losing even a few kgs help tremendously in keeping the cholesterol levels in control
  • Regular physical activity – the primary reason I keep talking about the importance of some form of regular exercise is because it is very important for good health. Not only it enhances the effect of a good diet (and vice versa) but goes hand-in-hand. One can choose the activity as per their preferences but doing it with consistency is crucial, not just for lowering cholesterol levels but for a host of other benefits
  • Quitting smoking – in all forms
  • Quitting or severely reducing the alcohol consumption

Dietary Changes:

  • Choose the saturated fats carefully. Not all saturated fats are created equals and saturated fats come from all kind of sources – good and bad. The non-vegetarians here need to be even more careful because the saturated fats coming from red meats could be quite high on saturated fats
  • Avoiding trans fats and this entails avoiding all junk foods especially which have partially hydrogenated vegetable oils mentioned on the packaging
  • Re-evaluate daily fibre intake. Having a diet with lot of veggies and some fruits should take care of this. Again, we can choose as per our preference and the availability
  • Re-evaluate the omega-3 consumption. Most of us do require some helpful Omega-3 in our daily diet. One can choose the options as per one’s preferences and availability
  • More dietary changes might be made carefully, keep the person’s medical requirements and contradictions

If the levels are quite elevated, the doctor might put the person on medication. However, making dietary and lifestyle changes would still be required. And should be made regardless. These might help in keeping the dosages low or even go completely off them, in some time.

Hope today’s post help you in some way. Do share with people who you think might benefit from it. To join me on Instagram (I have exited Facebook and Twitter now), here is the link:

https://www.instagram.com/healthcoach_smita/

Till next Friday

Love, Health & Peace

Cholesterol: Part 1

Hi friends, happy Friday!

Hope the past week was good for you. 

These days, lot of us have become health-conscious to some degree. This degree of consciousness and dedication to follow through, differs greatly yes, but it’s great to see more and more people eating healthy. Or at least talking about it.

What is the big deal about just talking? For me, it is. You have no idea how many people I meet in daily life who would laugh and simply refuse to eat healthy or get some basic-level exercise. 

Their reasons vary from “You Only live Once”, “No Time“, to “Whatever Happens, Happens”. And who am I to judge anyone? Slowly and slowly, I have started to understand that the need to eat healthy and be healthy, needs to come from within. If one is not ready, one is not ready.

Anyways, today’s post is about cholesterol. I have been asked many a times to write about cholesterol. A majority of us, suffer from high cholesterol issues and constantly elevated cholesterol could lead to serious problems, very soon if left unattended.

However, a majority of us are not even aware of our elevated cholesterol levels till we actually visit a doctor or get a blood test done.

So, What Exactly Is Cholesterol?

A type of waxy, fat-like substance, cholesterol is a type of lipid. It is also the most abundant steroid in our body. Contrary to the popular belief of cholesterol only coming in our body from outside through our diet, it is actually also produced inside our body, by liver.

Why Does Liver Produce Cholesterol?

Liver has to, because cholesterol is important for our survival as it:

  • Is needed for formation of cell walls
  • Plays an important part in digestive process in our body
  • Is needed for production of certain hormones
  • Is needed for our body to make Vitamin D

Now, the liver also makes lipoproteins which hold this cholesterol (and triglycerides- but we will come to these some other day) and transport it to the rest of the body through blood. Cholesterol can’t travel on its own, you see.

When we talk about cholesterol, what we really mean is these lipoproteins. These lipoproteins can be divided into two broad categories:

  1. LDL – Low Density Lipoprotein – termed often as bad cholesterol because it carries the cholesterol to our arteries and gets deposited there, resulting in atherosclerosis (aka plaque formation) i.e. narrowing of arteries
  2. HDL – High Density Lipoprotein – often termed as good cholesterol as it cleans the blood of LDL cholesterol by taking it back to liver for disposal

Too much of LDL in our blood is not a good news.

Why Worry About Elevated Cholesterol Levels?

As I said earlier, most of us not even aware of our cholesterol levels till we do a blood test or till something major happens. And that is why, annual blood check-ups are important, not just to check for cholesterol but for many other reasons.

This silent killer can lead us to:

  • All sorts of heart issues and a heart attack eventually
  • Chest pain
  • High BP
  • Stroke
  • Kidney issues
  • Obesity which yes, in itself causes so many complications

Broadly and this means total cholesterol levels, including HDL and LDL:

  • less than 200 gm/DL cholesterol in blood is good
  • 200-239 ml/DL is borderline high and you need to see your doc first and then, a nutritionist for some diet and lifestyle overhauling
  • 240 mg/DL is high and the doctor might put you on medication. However diet and lifestyle changes are still needed. Lot of us make the mistake of doing nothing corrective, thinking that medication alone would keep them safe

If you ask me, and even if the total cholesterol levels are fine but my LDL is high, I would still worry and start the overhauling process. So, if the LDL levels are more than 130 mg/DL, I would get a medical opinion to assess the situation. And start putting in some serious overhauling efforts.

As for HDL levels, less than 40mg/DL is risky and 40-59 is borderline low. What we want is a HDL reading of 60mg/DL and above.

High Risk Categories

Anyone who is 20 years and older, can have an elevated cholesterol level but one is at high risk if:

  • There is a family history of high cholesterol or heart ailments
  • The lifestyle is sedentary i.e. no physical activity
  • The person falls under obese category
  • The person has diabetes, liver, thyroid or kidney issues
  • PCOS
  • The person smokes or consumes tobacco products
  • The person consumes diet high in junk food and unhealthy saturated and trans fats
  • Certain drugs/medications

This post is already long enough. On how to work towards better cholesterol levels in body, please stay tuned for the sequel of today’s post, next Friday. 

Do join me on Instagram as I keep sharing info and tips on health, nutrition, fitness and…motivation in my stories, on a regular basis.

https://www.instagram.com/healthcoach_smita/

Till next Friday,

Love, Health & Peace

Intuitive Eating: The Key To Good Health

Hi friends, happy Friday! How was the week that went by?

My blog last Friday was part 3 of the Weight Loss series and the third tool that I shared with you was Diet Composition. Am happy that so many of you found the whole series useful.

When I was writing it, I was not sure what I should write. I did not want to talk about food in terms of protein, carbs and fats. Everybody’s requirement is different…and each nutrient is super-important!

Always counting these macronutrients is not necessary unless you have a specific goal or seek disease management. Food is way more than these macronutrients. If you are eating clean and mostly whole foods…with a lot of variety in your diet in terms of grains, veggies and fruits, you are sorted for life.

And am glad that no one asked me about how much protein to consume every day and how much fats. There are general guidelines for that too, yes. But am glad that some of you asked me to write more about intuitive eating instead. I mentioned intuitive eating in my last blog and if you missed the post, you can read it here.

You can also join me on Instagram here, if you wish so:

https://www.instagram.com/healthcoach_smita/

Now, coming back to today’s post and intuitive eating, let’s see what it is.

In my opinion, it is a part of staying mindful package. Mindfulness about when we feel hungry and when to stop eating is intuitive eating. It sounds super simple, isn’t it? Unfortunately, most of us struggle with this part the hardest. However once achieved, it stays lifelong because our body refuses to accept it any other way once it gets used to mindful eating, or mindful consumption in general.

In my experience as a Nutritionist and a Health Coach, intuitive eating is a very hard part to reach but it’s the key to everything that we want. It is easy for me to tell you how much protein and how much fats and how many calories to take…and you would be able to apply it immediately. The hardest part is staying mindful about eating and that needs to come from within us.

What Is Intuitive Eating?

It is basically a philosophy that asks us to listen to our body and the hunger signals it sends. The body knows the whole process very well (it is a very, very complicated process, trust me) and as a baby it is very common to see. A baby cries when she/he is hungry and is happy when her/his tummy is full. Simple, isn’t it?

As we grow up and in the whole process of growing up, we start faltering and sometimes get too busy to be mindful of our own body.

Intuitive eating is also known as “anti-diet eating” as we are not restricting ourselves from eating anything but eating ONLY WHEN our body asks us to…by sending hunger cues.

I often also get my cues in terms of cravings. Last month, for 7-8 days what I kept craving is buttermilk! I like buttermilk but I am not crazy about it. That week I went crazy for buttermilk….I had almost a litre of buttermilk everyday! I didn’t think about it much. If my body is telling me to have buttermilk then I shall have buttermilk !

Is It Easy?

For many of us, it is not. It is a whole re-learning process and we need to understand how to listen to our body and trust it.

We need to trust our body…and the body needs to trust us back that we are not going to starve it or deprive it of nutrients (even carbs and fats), when it needs.

Getting this whole equation in place is a delicate job and requires effort on our part. It isn’t easy.

How To Work Towards Intuitive Eating?

First we need to understand that when our body craves a particular food, it can be:

  1. Physical Hunger – The body has a very neat system in place for almost everything. When it needs nutrients for replenishment or energy-requirement, it tells us explicitly to eat. Our stomach growls, we become irritable when we do not eat soon and we feel weak. Internally, lot of things happen too.
  2. Emotional hunger – Many of us eat when we feel anxious or because our favorite foods bring us comfort. The whole reward system that our brain creates, to feel happy and release happy hormones…brings momentary happiness often followed by varying degrees of guilt or even more anxiety!
  3. Lack of certain nutrients – We crave sweets when we cut carbs too much. We might also are low in certain vitamins when we crave sweets or chocolates. Many a times, it is our brain reward system in action too, so we need to know it’s not that, first.

There are a few principles of intuitive eating as the concept is very old. Various books have been written and researches have been done in past, since early 1970s. The key principles of this approach to food are simple but require a good effort on our part:

  1. Not being scared of food
  2. Eating as per our health requirements without being scared of eating. One day eating healthy and next day eating pizza, won’t change anything. It needs consistency but to know that one meal won’t make a difference any which ways
  3. No cutting of entire food groups from diet
  4. Choosing cleaner and healthier versions of food
  5. Do not go on fad-diets or starve yourself
  6. Eat when the body tells to without much delay
  7. Stop as soon as you are full. A very important part is to understand the comfortable fullness when eating
  8. Enjoy the food. Sit down to eat, eat without distractions and chew slowly enjoying every bite
  9. Learning to separate our feelings from food. The hardest part in my opinion! This can be achieved by channelling our brain to other activities that bring the same pleasure that we otherwise tend to derive from food
  10. Staying physically active. This helps in so many ways and it is sad to see it so underrated
  11. Loving oneself. If something worries us, we can take corrective action. However, we need to be proud of this great gift, this great miracle called a healthy body, given to us. It is so precise, so well-made that it inspires awe and definitely not shame. It is not the body’s fault if we ignore its health, for any reason.

It is important to eat intuitively for our physical health and mental/psychological health, both. It is a sustainable lifestyle habit and it improves our self-esteem. Not that it is easy but then which good thing in life, comes easy?

Hope you found today’s post interesting and useful.

Till next Friday

Love, Health & Peace

Weight Loss-3: Diet Composition

Hi friends, how are you all? All good, I am sure. And even if there was something that is bothering you, I am sure you will soon find a way out ?

It has been quite a hectic week for me too as I finally presented Nutrition Works (my own nutrition label) to you and the world. Not in a big way still, until I am able to add more products to it. Do try the super-yummy chocolate cake, made clean and fresh, without added sugars/additives and with mixed flours…that can be customized as per your preferences/diet/medical concerns (while retaining the core-deliciousness).

My belief that one can eat healthier and cleaner with a little effort holds true with this chocolate cake (and with other products that I would introduce soon, hopefully).

To add to the chaos, my help hasn’t been around and the younger one had a birthday party planned. So, between the clients, chores, cakes, birthday planning/buying, online schooling/reviews and some time for myself and my studies…it was crazy! Good crazy though ?

Coming back to the post today, we now come to the third and the last post of ‘’Weight Loss’’ series. With this series, I have tried to give you a very important tool so that you can decide what works best for you. And that tool is – knowledge which brings the power to make right decisions, for oneself.

Because there are no thumb rules. Neither in nutrition nor in fitness. What is right for me might not be right for you. What works for you might not work for me.

And that brings us to diet composition.

What is Diet Composition?

In simple terms, diet composition is the combination or percentage of various major nutrients of our diet. The carbs, the fats, the protein, the fibre and of course, other micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, polyphenols etc).

A balanced diet would provide us with enough energy to go through the day as well as enough nutrients to maintain good body composition and…health. Sometimes, diet might be able to provide adequate energy but isn’t well-balanced! Sometimes, it can create energy-imbalance.

How much of each (as well the quality of each nutrient), is a good question and it all depends on our goals. For good health in general, it is easy to achieve though. How? We will come to it, shortly.

Just calorie-counting is incomplete in itself if the calories comes from unhealthy sources or result in nutritional deficiencies/malnutrition.

The Downside

There is a downside to diet composition too, yes. And we bring it in ourselves when we become obsessed with counting every single carb or eliminating an entire food group, from our diet…or add too much of good thing beyond our actual requirements.

So, What To Do?

There are a few things that we all could do when it comes to eating a well-balanced diet and though these would differ slightly from one person to another, due to a lot of factors including individual goals…these still hold true at a foundation level:

  • We can practice intuitive eating for one. This means that we eat when we are really hungry and not to find comfort in food. It is also an anti- crash dieting approach to food
  • Keeping ourselves occupied with things that we like can keep us stress-free. This in turn, helps us with keeping our diet (and life) on track
  • Stay active physically
  • We must eat a variety of food on a daily basis. This means that we experiment with healthier options and include all sorts of grains, vegetables and fruits to our diet. Of course, one would take care of medical concerns here and avoid foods that create contradictions with certain medical conditions/medications etc
  • Do not exclude specific food groups from diet. One can increase or decrease certain components e.g. you could add protein a little more if you are physically more active however, including everything on a daily basis helps tremendously. One can always look for alternatives if one is allergic or uncomfortable with a certain food-item
  • Keeping food clean is very important. This simple means that we reduce our consumption of highly processed food and food that we already know is doing us no good. Do notice that I said, reduce…not completely stop. It can be gradual process and a sustainable approach to food works best, in my experience
  • Practice mindful eating. Please take 10 minutes to sit quietly and enjoy the food. Observe how it tasted and how it made you feel. Chew slowly. Follow your hunger and satiety cues. And this would only happen if we make a conscious effort towards listening to our body
  • Moderation is the key to a sustainable health plan. However, some things such as smoking, are best completely quit

In the end, if general good health is our goal, the above-mentioned points would serve us well. If we have specific goals in mind or we seek disease management, best to get professional help.

Hope you found this post (and this series) helpful. Do share with people who you think might benefit from these post. In case you wish to join me on Instagram, here is the link to it:

https://www.instagram.com/healthcoach_smita/

Till next Friday

Love, Heath & Peace

Weight Loss 2: Body Composition

Hi friends, how are you all?

In my last post, we discussed metabolism, the very foundation of weight loss. You can read it here if you missed it. We also discussed why we gain weight at all, in the first place.

In this series, I am not going to give you tips on how to lose/gain weight or how to maintain weight. What I am trying to do here is to explain, in simple terms a few things such as:

  1. Why do we gain weight?
  2. How can we lose weight sustainably?
  3. How not to worry if you are doing everything right but still not losing weight?
  4. How to lose fat and not muscles/water?
  5. How to keep that hard-earned weight-loss forever?

I firmly believe that even if weight loss/gain/management is not easy, it should be a healthy and steady process. One should be able to make healthier and informed choices.

As for question no. 1, weight gain can happen due to lot of factors such as:

  • Energy disbalance e.g. you eat more than your body burn
  • Diet composition – means that even if you eat less or okay in terms of calories but the composition is not optimum for you
  • Physical activity
  • Sleep quality
  • Stress
  • Hormonal profile
  • Lifestyle choices
  • Genetic factors – which is the reason for us to work harder rather than simply resigning to it. Afterall, it is just a higher-than-normal risk, not something that would necessarily come true!

Now that we know what are the most common reasons for gaining weight, we can see what is our weak area and work accordingly. I have written about it in past and on my Instagram stories, I keep sharing small tips and info for it too. You can join me on Instagram here, if you want:

https://www.instagram.com/healthcoach_smita/

Now, coming to the 3rd and 4th questions (will come to 2nd later), let us know what is body composition. It would tell us what kind of weight to lose and what kind to get on, even if it means no weight loss on your weighing scale!

Body Composition

Body composition is one reason why I wanted to be a Nutritionist as well as a Fitness Trainer, combined. I believe in a combined, holistic approach to health and fitness. Why? Because they go hand in hand, for optimal benefits.

In simple terms, body composition is the percentage of muscles, fat, water and minerals (e.g. bones) in our bodies. Two people with same weight can have very different body composition and thus, vary greatly in terms of overall health and fitness levels. For me (and most health experts), body composition is more important than just weight.

Body weight falling in average BMI category is very important yes, but after looking at BMI, it is also very important to have the right kind of fat/muscle percentage in the body. Too much of fat, especially around the belly area…even if your weight and BMI are normal, is still not healthy. It can lead to various diseases such as heart concerns, stroke, diabetes, obesity etc

Similarly unhealthy fad-diets, crash diets and prolonged fasting deplete our body of precious muscles. We might lose weight but most likely it would be muscles (and water and important minerals from our body). Not healthy again.

We any which ways lose muscles aka sarcopenia (and bone mass too) as we age and fastening the process with unhealthy diets and habits, just makes the matter worse.

How To Know Body Composition

There are several methods for it however, we might need one tool/machine or the other. Your nutritionist or fitness expert can help you with that. From basic tools like fat calipers to sophisticated BMI machines, pick whichever is accessible to you.

How To Achieve The Right Body Composition?

It isn’t hard. One needs to have a good balance of muscles, fats and minerals in body. Water too, of course but that’s for another day.

Right nutrition combined with a regular exercise routine can do that for anybody. It is that simple! Equally important is a right mindset which can learn to focus on a healthy weight, with a slow, steady and sustainable for life kind of approach. Throw in some muscles and you have got a winner!

Focus on:

  • Right nutrition within your calorie requirements
  • Having foods which are cleaner and satisfying
  • Ensure adequate protein and fibre intake
  • Physical activity and regular exercise
  • Good sleep quality
  • Avoid/low alcohol consumption
  • Quit smoking

In The End

Just your weight is not an indication of good health and I am sure one can feel/notice that herself/himself. Good nutrition and regular exercise are critical for a good body composition and this comes with a host of other advantages such as strength and good health, in general.

Hoping that this second post today, in the series, helped you in understanding the basic concepts of weight loss.

Till next Friday,

Love, Health & Peace

pic credit: trifecta

Staying Healthy During Festivals

Hi friends, happy Friday!

I am sure everything is going alright and you are smashing the goals you set for yourself, for 2021…it’s almost the year-end! I know there still are two more months to go but the way the time flies by, is crazy and we will be there before we even know it.

But right now, the festive season is upon us and we get to be merry and give this year a grand farewell.

Today’s post was supposed to be the part 2 of the antioxidants post that I did last Friday. However, when many people asked for help with festive eating on DMs and Instagram, I had to put antioxidants aside for next week…and press the emergency button on festive eating. They needed help and I guess, many others do too. I am available on Instagram here, by the way:

https://www.instagram.com/healthcoach_smita/

It is funny how we stick to a routine for the whole year and give in to the festive-grind a little too much…and start back where we were at New Year’s. Only with added guilt and stress. Not healthy. Neither is giving up completely nor the guilt.

Truth be told, I don’t understand it. What is the issue here? Why do we need to even worry about this festival season? Ideally, it’s just another part of the year where we still need to practice mindful eating and staying active. That’s a life-long habit…it is supposed to be! Just because I ate sweets a few times won’t make my abs disappear suddenly…or increase my sugar levels permanently. The keyword here is few times.

And mindful eating sails us through any sort of days- festival, travelling or illness, it doesn’t matter.

Mindful eating lets us enjoy whatever we want to enjoy and being mindful also lets us be flexible. Just like a good diet/health plan should be – flexible and sustainable.

I have two questions for anyone with the same fear/dilemma:

  • Isn’t your health plan sustainable? Any good diet-plan should be sustainable and enjoyable
  • Second, would you be partying, eating sweets/delicacies starting from breakfast and late into night? For many days?

If the answer to first question is yes and the answer to second is no, I don’t see a problem. A couple of sweets, some heavy meals and some late-night partying, would not ruin it for us (and for anyone) provided we stayed on track, the rest of the year.

Good health is not a 21 days challenge or transformation. It is all about eating clean and balanced, day after day…it is about staying active and also about having no nutritional deficiencies as well as normal health parameters, including normal digestion.

Yes, if you have a particular goal in mind then you need to still be following your goal-plan but do know that 1-2 days of late nights and a few of festive meals won’t change it much. It is all about what you do the rest of the year!

However, having said all this, here are a few tips which would help you stay in control and on track with your goals:

  • Keep the days as normal as possible. Do not skip meals just because you are going to have a lavish dinner in night. You would end up over-eating, for sure
  • Keep the normal meals of your day heavy on veggies and include probiotics in it, to avoid unnecessary bloating and acidity. curd, curd-rice, whole grains, whole foods are great for the purpose
  • Do not leave the house hungry, have something light before you leave
  • Keep drinking water when you are out. I am sure washroom would be accessible wherever you are. In fact, the extra trips to washroom might earn your extra NEAT (Non-exercise activity thermogenesis)
  • Skip mocktails and sugary beverages. This itself would help tremendously. Take a buttermilk if eating out at a restaurant. Water is always available everywhere any which ways
  • Moderate your food consumption, stick to small quantities and split your dessert with someone
  • Enjoy the food and chew slowly…feel the flavors
  • In fact, it would be a great idea to stick to only the festival-specific food and sweets. What is the point of gobbling up all the food in one go if it is available through the year easily e.g. bhakerwadi, chakli, cookies, chocolates etc
  • Pick up some salad by default. Make sure you fill 25-30% of your plate with fresh veggies. However, be careful with the dressings such as mayo etc
  • Most people serve dry fruits today, along with sweets. Swap some for sweets and cookies. Ditto with fresh fruits, if available

Let us remember that in festive times, what matters most is the festive vibe. Celebrating the festival with family and friends is such a fresh breath of air! Let it recharge us, take a much-needed pause, look around, enjoy the beauty and decorations everywhere… and stay surrounded with our loved ones and enjoy. Vibe high!

Also, let us not feel bad when someone tries to pressurize us into eating when we don’t want to and we say a firm NO…and when people try to make us feel guilty about picking up only half of that sweet. Let us not mock someone who is clearly trying to stay on-track. Let us not equate love to force-feeding and let us focus on the true traditions of the festival, the true sentiments behind it all.

Happy Deepawali in advance, my friends. Till next Friday,

Love, Health & Peace

Part 2: Reset Your Sleep Cycle

Hi friends, happy Friday!

How is it going for you? Eating well? Sleeping well? Keeping relaxed? Happy?

I know these are unusual questions to ask someone but in all honestly, the most important ones, in my opinion. Definitely more important than “how old are you“, “where do you work“, “how much do you earn” and “when are you planning to marry” kinds.

Anyways, here we are, with the part 2 of our Sleep Series. Last Friday, we saw how good sleep impacts us mentally and physiologically. Everyone knows it already. “I don’t want to sleep well”, said no one ever!

However, there are so many factors that can affect a good, restful sleep. Most of us struggle with sleep and many of us, despite sleeping for 7 hours, still wake up tired and groggy.

Today, with this post we shall try to see what we can do to encourage ourselves to achieve good sleep patterns which would result in better health overall.

Before we start, let me explain Circadian Cycle.

Circadian Cycle

Derived from a Latin phrase circa diem meaning ‘about a day’, a circadian cycle or circadian rhythm is our body/s natural, internal process that is responsible for our ‘sleep-wake’ cycle and is approximately 24 -hours long. Most living beings have a circadian cycle.

A lot of factors can affect this cycle – including our external environment e.g. light, darkness and our body itself.

Humans have a regular (* conditions apply) circadian cycle and adults in general, need 7-8 hours of sleep time. This cycle also changes as we age, right from when we are babies of 3 months to teenage to our old age!

Now we know why teenagers want to sleep late and wake up late too. And why our older family-members get up early in wee hours and expect rest of the household to follow the pattern. The fact is, no-one can help it and we can blame sleep hormone melatonin for it. The better we understand our age differences and the associated circadian cycles, the lesser the conflicts would be!

Some factors governing circadian cycle are:

  • signals to our brain from external environment such as light, darkness, uncomfortable sleeping place etc
  • hormones such as melatonin and cortisol
  • body metabolism and eating patterns
  • working hours and screen time
  • physical activity
  • stress levels
  • age
  • certain medications and health issues including mental health concerns

How To Encourage Better Circadian Cycle

Undoubtedly, the major work needs to be done by the person who wants to sleep well aka YOU however there are a few things which can encourage a good sleep-cycle resulting in a good sleep, night after night.

  1. Having a regular sleep schedule is important. Sleep at the same time and wake up the same time too…use an alarm clock to wake up, if needed. Soon, the body would accept the rhythm. Even on the weekends, don’t stretch it too far
  2. Having a comfortable external environment is essential e.g. I can’t sleep if the lights are on. I need it to be dark to fall asleep (though with kids, I have somewhat adjusted to sleeping in mild-light) – mother instincts, I guess ?
  3. People working on night-shifts have it harder as the hormone responsible for sleep i.e. melatonin is secreted at night time in our body
  4. Ditto with people facing jet-lags
  5. Exposure to bright light during daytime has been proven to help a lot– either natural sunlight or artificial bright light, for 2 hours should do the trick. Get out of the house and go for a walk, maybe?
  6. Reducing exposure to blue light nearing the bed time. Blue light is emitted by screens of laptops and mobile phones etc. Keeping these devices completely aside is great but if you just can’t, try an app or a filter to reduce the blue light around, as you near your sleep time
  7. Most of us don’t do well with having tea, caffeine, sugary foods, alcohol, nicotine etc. too close to bedtime. Try restricting them post 4 pm
  8. If you feel alcohol helps you sleep, you are misguided. Hardly anyone sleeps a restful sleep after alcohol and wakes up fresh, raring to go the next day! Keyword here is restful
  9. Meditation, basic stretching, deep breathing and reading helps with sleep. Though, the biggest thing keeping me from a quick sleep is the reading habit only! I am trying to restrict it to only those days when I can afford to get an extra hour in the next morning!
  10. Afternoon naps won’t help with circadian cycle but if you must, keep the nap restricted to 15-30 minutes at max
  11. Make physical exercise a part of your daily habit
  12. Making a list at night and sorting things for tomorrow helps with anxiety and stress and thus, aids a restful sleep
  13. Wearing comfortable sleep-clothing helps a lot
  14. Don’t eat too close to bed-time but don’t go to bed hungry either
  15. Don’t run or exercise too close to your sleep-time

There are some foods that can help too, if eaten closer to bed-time:

  • almonds and pistachio
  • eggs and fish like sardines, salmon
  • tart cherries – eaten whole
  • warm milk
  • a pinch of nutmeg powder or some cocoa powder with warm milk 30-minutes before you retire to bed, might help too. Warm milk with some unsweetened organic cocoa works quite nicely for me

These are some ways that can help us in resetting the circadian cycle. Try and test these. Let me know what helped you, after a month of consistent application. I would love to know.

And relax, our body knows what to do. It’s internally tuned to follow the circadian cycle. Bring some regularity to it and try the points I mentioned above. If you try these for a month, still can’t sleep well and that affects your quality of life, it is time to seek a doctor or a sleep expert.

If you want to reach out to me for any assistance, you can always DM me on Instagram at:

https://www.instagram.com/healthcoach_smita/

Till next Friday

Love, Health & Peace

Do You Sleep Well?

Hi friends, happy Friday!

It has been a very exciting week that went by (so quickly too, if I may add). Olympics events are going on and so many nail-biting events, so many inspiring stories and a general witnessing of excellence in sports…it has been great, isn’t it?

Also, a few days back, I posted a small review of Raw Pressery’s cacao-flavored almond milk and so many of you have asked me to do a detailed review of almond milk in general. I will do so, soon.

https://www.instagram.com/healthcoach_smita/

Many of us are concerned about food these days. I can understand, I am in the same boat. We all want to eat healthier but stay confused about what to choose. There are so many options in every food-category plus, label-reading is not easy to figure out many a times. Adulteration is a huge issue too. When we pay for something with high expectations, we might as well get our money’s worth!

However, today is not about food. It is not about nutrition per se but it is definitely needed for nutrition (or even a regular workout) to get converted into good health. Yes, I am talking about good sleep today.

What Exactly is Sleep?

We can safely say that sleep is a physiological behavior common across all animals. Even plants sleep! It is a state where our awareness of our surroundings is greatly reduced and most functions in our bodies are reduced to a great extent. Why and how exactly that happens involves lots of theories but we do know that sleep gives our body rest. It repairs the damage on a cellular level and prepares the body to get ready for the next day.

Even today, many parts of ‘sleep’ are enigma for us but we do know that while we sleep:

  • Our body repairs, relaxes, cleanses all the systems inside and works on sorting out our hormones etc
  • The brain sorts information and cleans the central nervous system. This is required for memory, creativity and concentration
  • Our nerve cells reorganize and result in better brain health or mental health
  • Protein synthesis on a cellular level happens while we sleep and this is crucial for our health

Why is Sleep Important?

For good health and even weight management, sleep is important. In fact, sleep tends to be overlooked the most when it comes to weight management. Or even building muscles. Or disease management.

Various benefits of a good sleep are well known, such as:

  1. Sleep is crucial to weight management. The reasons are manifold and range from  – lacking in motivation levels to exercise if you didn’t sleep well last night…to hormones in our body…to increased cravings!
  2. Heart health is strongly related to sleep
  3. Stronger immunity is directly linked to good sleep. A good sleep also reduces inflammation in our body
  4. Improved focus and concentration is a no brainer. If we don’t sleep well, we find ourselves performing poorly in most areas. We feel slow and foggy, exhausted easily if we haven’t had a good night’s sleep, even one night. Imagine what would happen if becomes a chronic problem!
  5. Better performance. For professional athletes, sleeping is as important a part of their schedule as is their training. For normal people also, poor sleep is linked to poor posture and poor grips etc.
  6. Mental well-being. Poor mental health including depression and anxiety have been found strongly linked to disturbed sleep patterns. All the psychiatric experts take sleep patterns as important clinical indicators or biofeedback
  7. It has also been clearly noticed that people with poor sleep patterns are at higher risk for various chronic diseases such as diabetes, blood pressure issues, heart concerns and strokes
  8. Good sleep keeps our metabolism in good health. A poor metabolism can result in all types of chronic illnesses such as reduced insulin sensitivity, prediabetes, diabetes (type 2) etc.
  9. Our emotional health depends on our sleep to a lot of extent

How Much Sleep?

The general advise is to sleep 7-9 hours a day. However, the optimum duration can differ from one person to another. For some, 6 hours could be sufficient and some might wake up feeling exhausted even after a sleep of 8-9 hours.

Kids require more sleep than adults. A baby can sleep up to 17 hours a day and a child/teenager definitely needs more ‘total sleep’ than adults.

As I said earlier, sleep is one of the pillars of health, along with nutrition and a regular exercise regime. All three together need to work in sync for optimal health.

If you are someone who wakes up tired even after 7-8 hours of sleep, it is time to re-evaluate your nutrition and lifestyle. Find the cause of exhaustion. Reducing or eliminating the cause would undoubtedly lead you to better health and strength.

How to Ensure Better Sleep?

Now, that’s a million dollar question and the answer would differ from one person to other. This is precisely why evaluating a client’s whole lifestyle, habits, dietary patterns and blood-work is required.

The reason could be stress or a poor diet lacking in proper nutrition. It could also be lack of regular exercise while it could be hormones for some. Mental health and stress related issues are very common today too.

How about I write in more detail on some sleep-fundamentals in my next post? I will share with you some foods and some lifestyle modifications that would greatly help. These small changes help most people to a lot of extent however if that still doesn’t work and your sleep-quality affects your daily life negatively, it is time to see a doctor or a sleep expert.

Till next Friday

Love, Health & Peace

Part 1: Can You Recognize Eating Disorders?

Hi friends, how are you doing? Hope all is going good.

Today’s post is about eating disorders. It is also about our relationship with food. It needs to be a positive one where we are not scared of eating per se. Where we are not just counting our calories and macros all the time but definitely, being more mindful.

We need to know what we want out of food and how our eating habits affect that ‘want’. We need to know what good food can do to us and what are the consequences of unhealthy choices. If we do not know, we can research. The simplest thing is to ask for help, from someone who does understand and who can teach us.

There is neither harm nor any shame in asking for help. It just means that we are wise enough to ask for help when we need it.

Lot of people feel that weight management and disease management are all about quitting some foods, especially the fun ones. It’s not true!

Yes, right nutrition would by default ask you to eat cleaner and in the right amounts. One might need to be more disciplined initially but once you come to a point where you have things under control and have space to play around your food, you are sorted for life! As soon as we undo the damage caused over the years (and be patient for it to happen), we can start fresh!

As a Health Coach and Nutritionist, I feel that it’s my job to teach my clients how to eat healthy for the rest of their lives, having fun and indulgences included in the process too. And that is how it stays sustainable, isn’t it?

Anyways, what I really wanted to talk today is about eating disorders. Eating disorders are not just about food, they are basically about our mind. Do read about these today and if one or the other applies to you or a family-member, medical intervention is required. And as I said before, there is no harm in seeking help when we need it, it’s just wisdom!

There are many kinds of eating disorders and let’s go through them one by one. It would take more than one post for me to cover them all and today is the part-1 of the series. If you have any experience with either of these, please share your experience with me.

What Are Eating Disorders?

It’s more of a psychological condition than anything else. It results in unhealthy eating patterns and unhealthy food relationships. It causes serious health issues and if left untreated, can be fatal.

It can affect anyone at any age however teenagers and young women (in 20s and 30s) are the most affected of these eating disorders. The causes could range from peer-pressure, social stereotypes, body-image issues to depression.

Most of these cases go unnoticed and can have serious malnutrition or health complications, later.

With right help and treatment, eating disorders and their serious complications can be reversed eventually.

Types of Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses. The most common 4 types of eating disorders are:

  1. Anorexia
  2. Bulimia
  3. Binge eating
  4. Pica

Other types include rumination disorder and avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder etc.

Causes

There could be many causes to an eating disorder. It could be a personality trait or influenced by genetics. Many cultures have practices which promote certain stereotypes. Social pressure/media projection to be of a certain body-image, is another major reason. Serotonin and dopamine – chemicals secreted by our brains, play an important part in it too.

Having said that, there is a thin line between ‘’accepting and loving yourself’’ and being ‘’plain lazy’’. If you truly love yourself, you don’t need to be thin but you definitely need to be healthy…and strong. If you truly care for yourself and prioritize yourself…you need to eat healthy and exercise regularly too. If you truly want a chance with peace and acceptance, you need to deep-breathe and go inwards even if you find it boring.

Accepting yourself does not translate into giving up!

Symptoms & Signs Of Eating Disorders

So, how do we identify these eating disorders? Most of them have a few signs in common and they include unhealthy eating patterns or obsession with body-weight, body-image or certain food(s) such as:

  1. Skipping meals
  2. Adopting a very restrictive diet
  3. Shunning certain food groups completely (such as no fat or no carbs intake)
  4. Skipping social events/activities
  5. Excessive focus on healthy eating or excessive exercise
  6. Very low body-weight
  7. Insisting on eating alone or cooking alone even if the family is around
  8. Checking self in mirror frequently and finding faults
  9. Frequent washroom visits during or after eating
  10. Callused knuckles from frequent induced vomiting
  11. Dental enamel problems due to frequent induced vomiting
  12. Consistently worrying about body-weight or body-shape
  13. Eating large amounts of sweets or fatty foods
  14. Feeling guilty post eating
  15. Anxious about eating and body weight constantly
  16. Obsessing over model/clothes sizes etc

If you or someone in your family shows such signs, you know that something is wrong and medical intervention is needed before it brings serious health complications. With patience and proper treatment, these disorders can be reversed and one can adopt better and healthier eating patterns.

In the end, relationship with food and knowing our body types is important. The focus should be on optimal health rather than just body weight. Mental health or Emotional health is as important as physical health and they all, go hand in hand. One is not possible without the other.

Hope this post helped you today with some new insights. Stay tuned for the part 2 of this, next Friday where we discuss each in more detail. In case you wish to join me on Instagram for a regular dose on topics related to Health, Nutrition, Fitness & Motivation, the link is:

https://www.instagram.com/healthcoach_smita/

Till next Friday,

Love, Health & Peace