Come September, and the festival season arrives: from fall (pun intended) to spring, India celebrates festivals in a zesty manner. Coincidentally, this is also the season of the Big Fat Indian wedding. No Indian festival is complete without a feast. Coupled with the wedding season, this period is literally stretched with culinary spreads. From traditional food to salads and fast food, the dining counters are packed. Temptation enough to turn a gourmet into a glutton. The gourmet enjoys the taste of food, the glutton devours it and then some. This distinction is ignored by the self-confessed ‘foodie’. And the sensuous spread is often also the middle-aged spread around the foodie’s middle. This piece is meant to be a not-so subtle siren call. A bugle before the impending battle of the bulge. Hence this preface to put this in a healthy perspective. Remember: hunger is a need. Appetite is not. The latter is artificial, superficial and, most often, causes superfluous superflows to the body’s beleaguered equator. Eat moderately like a connoisseur. Eat to enjoy not to fill. Eat like there is a tomorrow.
The Covid cocktail
The world has just about recovered from Covid. The year 2019 was a landmark. We call it the new BC — before Covid. Lockdowns, work or study from home, etc turned many couch potatoes into sitting ducks. Natural intervention or lab-induced bug? No one knows for sure. However, what is obvious is an almost complete 180 degrees turnaround attitude in our country. Masks, social distancing may no longer be required. But here is a tip worth considering: Please continue to mask-up whenever you anticipate dust pollution to keep asthma, bronchitis, laryngitis, cough, cold and sore throat at bay. Even more so if you reside in a city like Mumbai that once boasted it never slept and has now re-awakened to its long-pending infrastructural defects. Be that as it may, keep your masks handy. We still read random reports of Covid cases. Health experts anticipate newer avatars. No one can tell for sure. Hence, don’t drop your safeguard.
Make age a number
There’s a sweet little cartoon where Dennis (yes, the Menace!) is sitting on his granddad’s shoulders and telling his mom, ‘Grampa says I keep him young, tired and worn out!’ And that’s what is happening! to many of us… and at 40, when we’re just beginning to find ourselves. Unfortunately, illnesses are finding us too. Statistics make for dismal reading: 31 million Indians turned diabetic in their fourth decade between 2019 and 2021; 50 per cent of Indian males encounter heart attacks by age 50 and 25 per cent of them do so before age 40. The Indian Heart Association also records that ‘systemic hypertension accounts for 24 per cent of heart attacks in the country.’ Add obesity, unhealthy eating habits, a car-bound, desk-bound lifestyle to such non-communicable diseases (which means they are neither genetic nor hereditary) and the potential list of would-be patients gets longer. And younger. A new generation has been taken over.
Eat moderately like a connoisseur. Eat to enjoy not to fill. Eat like there is a tomorrow.
Let’s make age a mere number because that’s what it really is. Let’s celebrate every decade from 20 on as beautiful seasons of heart and health. Neglect neither body nor mind. Prioritise health. Start taking small steps today towards a better life right away. Some simple suggestions: Start by taking one little walk around the block; drinking one glass of water; deleting one toxic habit; refusing one fried dish; paying up one debt/bill; and consuming one fibre-rich food. Start by taking up that one thing you love doing, and spending one hour in sweet solitude.
A balancing act
What are we doing with these small but significant start-ups? We are heading towards a wonderful life, a balanced life even as we navigate the streams of festivals, weddings, foodie binges, the BC-effect and more. In fact, talking of balance, I’d like to share two easy exercises you can do wherever you are: a) Stand with legs apart. Raise your left leg 6 inches above the ground and stay in that position to 20 counts. Next, do the same by raising your right leg. b) Stand with feet together. Now, place your left foot just in front of your right foot, left heel touching right toes, so that both feet are in a straight line. Remain in that position to 20 counts. Next, repeat with your right food in front of your left foot.
Such balancing exercises ground us and make us feel more confident in ourselves. It’s true of our daily diet too. In many ways, you are what you eat. It literally defines your mind and body. Light, low-fat foods keep you light and limber. It’s important to understand that what you eat, do or not do, should not destroy you. Hence, as far as possible, follow these little pointers: Eat slowly, at regular times and intervals. De-stress with anything that calms your body and mind — music, silence or walking your dog. Walk at least 10,000 steps daily and sleep soundly for eight hours. It repairs, replaces, refreshes you — all at the same time.
The hand on the shoulder
Consult medical experts if there is a family history. Don’t live by denial. Like justice, illness denied is wellness delayed. For the same reason, don’t allow a constant undercurrent of unease or stress to continue unheeded. Talk to a counsellor, friend or family doctor. Shedding stress is very important. Stress is not only in the head, it is all over your body. The fight-or-flight response courses through every organ, every cell. If there is persistent long-term stress in the system, one can get high blood pressure, heart disease, thinning bones, cancer… If you’re upset, stressed and your heart is palpitating, your pulse is racing… And somebody intuits your state, puts her hand on your shoulder and says, ‘Want to talk about it?’ immediately, you breathe slower, the brain gets more oxygen, the heart returns to its original rhythm, and the body functions normally. That’s how vital timely help is. We all need that hand on our shoulder at the right time.
…Happily ever after
Ever since we switched from farm food to fast food, health has been trundling downhill for many of us. Modern medicine has kept pace, but we haven’t. We still can. It’s never too late. To junk colas and burgers, as well as bhajjis and bhaturas, would be an excellent start along with all the tips and suggestions strewn through this piece. The more volatile the world gets, the more stable we need to remain emotionally, mentally and physically. The secret is to keep experimenting with healing practices — do fun things, enjoy whatever you do, and laugh a lot. It is still the best medicine. Good health is your first fundamental right in life. It is built into your very constitution. Revel in maintaining it.
The writers are authors of Fitness for Life and Simply Spiritual – You Are Naturally Divine and teachers of the Fitness for Life programme