Diet and the family feast

Bharat Savur | Updated on March 12, 2018 Published on February 17, 2011

Filled with love: Food is just one part of the joyous sharing at family gatherings.   -  V. Sreenivasa Murthy

I'm 27. I've tried several diets but am unable to stick to one for more than a week. This is because my family is very hospitable. There's always a lunch or dinner on at someone's place. I exercise thrice a week for an hour and half. I'm not losing any weight and, fortunately, am not gaining any either. But I do need to shed fat to be healthier. Please tell me how I can overcome temptation.

S. Shah

First, play counsellor: Read your question as if it has been posed to you by another person. How would you counsel this person? The sensible tips that you provide would be those that resonate with you. And you'll be able to practise them easily.

Second, exercise more — about 6 days a week. Continue your current three-day regime. On the other three days, walk/cycle for an hour to enhance your body's fat-burning ability.

Third, eat mindfully. At a family gathering, before eating, think, “I choose the offerings of lifelong bouncing health over the temporary pleasures of taste.” Sip water all day. Help yourself to food mindfully. Start with only 1-2 items on your plate — salad/ raita and roti. Chew every morsel mindfully. Tell your hovering hospitable host that you're having everything course by course to enjoy more. The more times you chew, the easier you digest and the less fat you store.

Fourth, monitor your mind. Be very sure and firm with yourself that either you'll have one more helping of a dal/sabzi or a bit of dessert — not both. Remember: it's okay not to be full or heavy, as long as you're happy. Think of your dietician or any idol patting you for getting through the meal with such frugal grace. It makes abstinence worthwhile.

Fifth, focus on other feel-good factors in being with your family. Make a list which does not include food! If you keep reiterating that this chaachi makes the best biryani and cousin Sonali's pasta is mindblowing, well… you only reinforce food as the focal point. Focus on the comfortable vibes, members' talents in other areas, sweet, endearing traits, wit… Remember: You're gifted with intelligence, reason, conscience, will-power. Use ‘em!

Sixth, use healthful cooking methods at home. Have oil-free meals — steam, roast, grill, poach, use water-spray instead of oil-spray to cook vegetables, grind oil-free masalas in the mixer, have fat-free chutneys instead of butter/ghee. This ensures that 60-70 per cent of your eating is low in fat. Tip: Include more fibre — sprouts, raw vegetables, fresh fruits — in your chews. Fibre keeps you feeling satisfied longer and cleanses your system.

Above all, decide to be master of yourself. As a monk advised in his lecture, “Don't be ever-fed, never-satisfied; instead, be never-fed, ever-satisfied!” That's a good axiom to adopt!

Is it true that chocolates trigger headaches?

Roshni D.

Yes. Chocolate, cheese, some nuts and liquors contain tyramine which, according to research, is the main culprit behind allergy-headaches. People prone to headaches should also swear off chewing gum as the continuous chewing tenses and tightens muscles and brings on a headache.

My wife, a psychologist, says I get angry too often and must learn to relax more. Could you give me some suggestions, please? I'm really keen on developing a more amicable disposition. Thank you.

Narendra K.

Wisdom is your best armour. Become benignly wise about life — it has worked for me. The more you understand and absorb the truth that you are an amicable soul, the more you'll shed the ‘angry' image you've built for yourself. Also, be deeply aware that you needlessly short-circuit your brain's frontal region every time you get angry. Three suggestions:

Start afresh. Affirm, “I've always been even-tempered. I was only dreaming that I was hot-tempered.” Sages say the moment you make up your mind to be a good person, you are a good person who has woken up from an inner nightmare.

Relax. Practise conscious relaxing during ‘peace-time' to train the brain to respond slowly instead of leaping in anger in a conflicting situation. I suggest Sitting Meditation: To sit idly is a beautiful luxury. A Buddhist joke goes: ‘Don't just sit there doing something! Do nothing!' Focus on your breathing deeply, freely without having to struggle against any emotion. Please do it for yourself and for all the angry people who are making themselves sick. Feel your mind settle into stillness and silence. In this space, see with clarity that you are doing the best thing, this meditation, to create a healing, nourishing environment for yourself and your beloveds. Let them too enjoy living with a blissful buddha instead of a simmering volcano.

Have no expectations. By expecting things to be perfect, you only deceive yourself, you literally set yourself up to be angry. No, no. Rather, be grateful when things go right, see a higher grace constantly labouring to synchronise every detail just so. Be amazed, be awed, and you'll never be angry again.

The writer is co-author of the book ‘Fitness for Life'

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Published on February 17, 2011
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