Sunday, 11 September 2011

Some explorations on health, fitness & well being

I have been doing a lot of explorations on what is the true source to remain fit & healthy.

My mentor taught me many years ago that our body is a fort which is guarded by a shield (aura) around us. If you have seen Star Wars, all the space ships had a shield deflector. This saved them from all meteors etc and yet they could travel very fast. In the human body this shield, our immunity, is a function of how much we love ourselves, our existence, our body system, our lives, our current station in life. I lived a large part of my life resisting, sometime despising what was made available to me. Everything looked greener on the other side. So I actually would demean my accomplishments, what I had etc. This led to a total dissatisfaction. Another side effect came with this. Regularly falling ill. Regular coughing. I used to pop combiflam pills randomly.

When I learnt that I had been practically creating holes in my shield, I corrected my ways. I was also told that I should stop inviting illness!! All self-invalidating comments or even thoughts are equal to inviting illness as they punch holes in the fort walls. Instead I started being positive about my own life’s journey so far. It has had quite a magical effect, leading to perfect health since the last 15 years.

I experimented with many people. E.g. on a trek, if someone had a headache and he came to me for a pill, I would suggest to him to just say “I revoke & cancel any invitations ever given to this headache. I choose to be well. I love myself”. Some people said it with self-belief. To their amazement, the headache disappeared without taking the pill.

Last few months the focus of research has shifted to a fit, healthy body with high stamina and strength. I read lot of books, consulted physical trainers & dieticians. Some remarkable books have been
·         “Don’t loose your mind, lose your weight” by Rujuta Divekar (famous for her size zero advice to Kareena Kapoor)
·         “Women & weight loss tamasha” by Rujuta Divekar
·         “Accidentally overweight” by Dr. Libby Weaver

I always knew regular exercise and eating healthy is essential. Then I learnt that the game is of consistency. I kept searching for some logic that will inspire me to follow a regular exercise regime and also a diet with awareness.

I am listing some concepts that I found useful, they may be elementary for you, but these helped me in bringing consistency in my exercising & eating. I have managed to wake up around 5 am in the last 1 year & cycle to the gym (at least 250 days) despite frequent travel. My target of flat abs is looking closer day by day!

1.   Key elements: Fitness is a function of 1) attitude towards life, 2) eating with awareness & 3) regular exercising 4) proper sleep.

2.   Life threatening & famine signals to the body!  Our body has an amazing involuntary mechanism. It is designed to ensure survival of human species. E.g. a cut clots immediately. The two key events that must be defended by the body are: a life threatening, dangerous situation & famine. What is considered as dangerous or famine is directly decided by the body. Just like in the blood clotting situation, brain is not consulted – body seals off the cut.

Whenever we are stressed, upset, angry or have similar emotion, it results into adrenalin secretion and body immediately thinks life is in danger. All energy, blood is prioritized to reach brain, hands and legs so that we can react, run, fight, think fast etc. So the energy required to assimilate the food is taken away. The food instead of being assimilated, get stored as fat.

When there is longer gap between meals, e.g. lunch at 2 pm, straight going to a late dinner at 9 pm, with 2 cups of coffee/tea, a quick chocolate to kill the hunger pangs, the body thinks “it is famine time”. It will conserve as much emergency energy as possible – in what form?? Fat!!

3.   Love handles: Another interesting point I learnt that most of the critical organs except brain, lungs, heart, are located in the abdomen region: liver, pancreas, stomach, kidney, intestines etc. These organs work day and night to assimilate food and transfer energy wherever required. When the body regularly experiences famine & danger situations, it has to store energy packets near these organs!! Voila: love handles and extended tummy.

4.   Core: I learnt the importance of Core muscles in the abdominal region: all these vital organs are held in place by the abdominal muscles (abs). That is why it is very important to exercise the core muscles and keep them strong, so that these organs function to their best. Weak core muscles result in a jiggly tummy. I found that core is very important for balancing as well. At the gym when my trainer asked me stand on one leg and maximize the extended time, I initially could not. Then he told me to focus on a spot in front. It improved my balance. Next step was to simply focus on my core and pull it in. I could stand and balance much easily and for longer time.

5.   Analogy of the bridge: I have noticed that with old age many problems show up. I understood the logic behind and decided to say bye-bye in advance to all those issues.  Body has the following key components: fat, water, muscles, bones. Let us take two samples:

Average male
Overweight male
Fat %
50% more fat
Water %

Muscles %

Bone %

Load factor
Fat / (Muscle + Bones)
100% more load on bones !!

Imagine a bridge, (say Mumbai’s Worli Sea-link type) and correlate with the body: We have pillars (bones), steel ropes (muscles) and vehicles (fat). If muscles (steel ropes) are weak (due to lack of exercise) & more fat (vehicles) are to be supported, the load will come on bones (pillars). And where exactly will the load hit? All joints!! So as people grow old, with little exercise, muscles are weak, fat gets accumulated, all the load comes to bones, especially to knee joints and the back bone (particularly lower back). Once I understood this I decided to feed the muscles by exercising regularly.

6.   Sugar: A friend who is very fit & lean told me that in last 5 years, they bought no sugar in their household. I found it unbelievable. I read that it is advisable to limit added sugar intake to 2 teaspoons a day. Also, if we eat lots of salads & green veggies, we will start moving away from craving lots of sweets!! For some of us, sweets have an emotional connection. When we are less than fully satisfied with the taste of the meal we have eaten, we look for something sweet to fill that emotional gap. Later it simply becomes a habit. I have found that bringing sweetness in my life has reduced my urge for mithai (sweets)!!

7.   Eat food with Low HI: HI is Human Intervention: Anything that needs too much processing, needs marketing and causes the body to put lot of effort in digesting. (have you seen ads for “Eat more apples” or “Eat more carrots”??)

Compare 1 orange v/s 1 glass orange juice: the juice has zero fibres and 5 times the sugar (5 oranges make that glass of juice). I used to gulp fresh juices thinking I am consuming very healthy stuff. It is certainly healthier than aerated drinks, but not over a fresh fruit itself. I also learned that food that has travelled further to be made available to me would have gone through cold storage, reducing its nutrition value. I learned to eat fruits & vegetables which were local and in season. In a session I attended, Rujuta Divekar suggested: “upgrade your fridge to smaller size”!! While freezing may keep food edible for long, it diminishes the nutrition value. Clear the fridge every week.

8.   Chew, eat peacefully: When we focus on what we are eating, the body assimilates nutrients from it and tells you in time, how much is enough. If we eat while watching TV, the entire attention is consumed in TV and we won’t know what & how much we ate. So it is useful to give honor and attention to food. Also when we eat peacefully, looking at food, its presentation, texture, even waiting in anticipation for the food, the body gets time to secrete digestive juices. If you shock it with immediate food – take it, heat it, gulp it!! – the body is simply taken by surprise. Also instead of gulping (inhaling) the food, it is good to chew it fully – 15 to 20 times. Only then pick up the next spoonful. This helps the digestive system processes the food much better.

9.   PC Posture video (click here to see): In today’s times of I-Pads and Tabs and PDAs, this still applies to people who work on the laptops for more than 1 hour. Please do see this video on some best practices while using a computer/laptop. One main thing I learnt that the top of your screen must be in line with your eye level. Once I realized this, I searched for a good laptop stand. The best one I found and bought on It can elevate the laptop upto 16 cms, has 4 USB ports and a silent cooling fan: here is a link for Cooler Master NotePal Ustand Cooling Pad @ Rs. 2712/- Adding a set of cordless keyboard & mouse completed my setup!!


Here is wishing you amazing health, fitness & well being.

Warm regards,

Rohan Singal

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