Festive Fitness: Embrace a New Way to Celebrate!

The essence of a fit life lies in living in a pure environment, breathing clean air, consuming clean and pure food and water and having a clutter free mind and good health. Rita Jairath tells in this article how celebrations can't meddle with fitness.

The festive season is right here. Conventionally, it is time to celebrate.

Festivals revive and reinforce cultural practices and rituals. It is a time to strengthen personal bonds and eventually build a support system for life. Togetherness with family and friends instils a sense of camaraderie and strengthens personal bonds and breaks the monotony in our life.

But alas, the year 2020! The pandemic and the lockdown have thrown life out of gear. It may seem that the cheer and festivities have been washed out. But we still have so many things to be grateful for and so many lessons that we have learnt about life that may help us to build a better future ahead.

In a sense, we can perceive the festival season as a time to make a new beginning and bring about a paradigm change in the way happiness manifests itself in us.

The decline in activities, as we have seen has had its role in reducing pollution drastically. There is a huge lesson hidden in this. While festivities are occasions and breaks to do something special that will reinforce goodness, positivity, love and relationships, we need to understand that eliminating unnecessary clutter in our minds and life will help our lives to become more serene, productive as well as healthier.

The essence of a fit life lies in living in a pure environment, breathing clean air, consuming clean and pure food and water and having a clutter free, happy mind with a high emotional quotient.

However, we have not conquered pollution in totality. This year it is all the more relevant. Since the dreaded COVID-19 directly has its impact, directly on breathing.

The fact is that just like the brain, we use only a small percentage of the actual capacity of our lungs. It is therefore extremely beneficial to work on that.

Breathing exercises and pranayama go a long way in maximising our potential. This does not need space and any equipment. It is a great idea to perform breathing exercises in the morning. It is a beautiful way to awaken and rise gradually, in peace and simultaneously express gratitude to almighty in the morning. Beginning your day with prayers can help you in various ways to move towards a positive fitter life. Building your cardiovascular endurance can also help to build your cardiovascular efficiency.

It has been seen in many post-Covid patients there is remnant fibrosis and scarring in the lungs. This can affect the breathing ability adversely. We also need to understand that both the pulmonary capacity as well as pulmonary efficiency are extremely important.

Pulmonary efficiency tells us how effective the lungs are in bringing oxygen to the rest of the body.

 

Pulmonary capacity or total lung capacity (TLC) is the volume of air in the lungs upon the maximum effort of inspiration

This is why building cardiovascular strength and endurance is so vital and actually indispensable. Somehow when we talk about fitness, the focus and perception in today’s world is solely upon aesthetics. And most discussions on fitness focus upon being slim, lean and sometimes even being thin.

If we actually pay attention to our strength agility and efficiency our lives would be far more happier and productive; sustainable aesthetics coming to us as a bonus. Losing fat and gaining strength should therefore be aimed at, to enjoy festivities and remain disease free without any lifestyle diseases like hypertension, diabetes or heart diseases and not to become weak and inefficient.

And one of major things that we can and must do is to build a mind-set that enjoys healthy eating.

If you have already been doing that, you don’t want to jeopardise all the good work that you have done in the festive season. The festive season must leave you happier and more confident and with renewed zest and energy and not unhealthy with guilt and regrets.

What you eat makes a major difference in your fitness journey. It is not just simply related to the storage or burning of fat. It speaks a lot about your psychology and your relationship with food and also life.

I am certain that you will relate to the fact that we have an emotional relationship with food. Certain foods may remind you of certain moments in your life. You may miss your mother’s cooking at some point in your life. Or a certain food that is not available in the state or country you presently reside in or something which your classmate brought in his tiffin box. Something which everyone said was delicious and you developed the taste for it because you wanted to just belong. Or some food that you were forced to eat because at that point you simply had no choice.

Many of the foods that we eat in the festive season have such memories. And without realising we may end up eating them, just because it is customary, and not because we really were craving for them or dying to eat them. As we evolve and mature in our understanding of the psychology of taste and food, we must acknowledge that in our lifetime, we have done and dusted with that. If we are eating something that is customary to eat on a particular occasion or festival, the key is not to overeat.

We might also observe and accept that it is in-fact what we have been told about certain foods being delectable, especially in our formative years, we associate all the goodness and happiness with them. That is how we develop tastes, choices and preferences. What really happens, is that we actually acknowledge the tastes of these foods and bring it on our horizon of likeable things.

If we are constantly told that bland, simple, raw foods are uninteresting and boring that is what we will believe. If we grow up to acknowledge, like and respect the natural taste of natural simple raw foods, like fruits, vegetables, nuts, milk and dry fruits, we will tend to prefer those.

Heavy foods with too much oil and spices or sugary, refined foods may not appeal to us in that case. A very obvious example is that of how different people in different countries like their regional food and can’t always adjust to cuisine in other countries while local people relish it. They wonder how the people can even eat what they eat so enjoyably.

This can in fact teach us a lesson. That we can actually learn, unlearn and relearn to build our likes and preferences of food. We can learn to like what we should like and acknowledge the goodness and natural taste of healthy and nutritious foods. Life will be far easier and gratifying.

Portion Control

As I mentioned earlier, no matter whether you like it or not, there are times, when you have to eat certain things, either because it is customary on a certain occasion or you are in a social situation. You just can’t escape it. The key is portion control. You may not be able to refuse eating but no one is going to force down volumes of savouries into you.

If you have been denying yourself everything for a prolonged period of time, you may tend to overeat once you overcome the initial “inertia of guilt”.

In fact if you have been practicing slow eating and prolonged chewing, this habit will bail you out smoothly from such a situation. Here we need to have an understanding of two concepts. The first is about the Ghrelin- Leptin cycle. The second is that digestion begins in the mouth.

The hunger hormone Ghrelin or lenomorelin is secreted in the gut and makes us aware of our hunger. When we begin eating, the brain is notified. It takes about twenty minutes for the satiety hormone or fullness hormone leptin to be secreted which tells us that we are full.

If we eat slowly, there will be sufficient time for leptin to be produced, before we end up overeating. This will help to achieve the feeling of fullness without consuming a higher volume of food.

Let us consider an example. Say you wish to eat peanuts. If you ingest six peanuts and without chewing them well, you quickly swallow them and then pop-in a few more, you will still get the satisfaction of just a single peanut, but you would consume calories equivalent to six peanuts.

Secondly, chewing for a longer period will facilitate partial digestion in the mouth that takes place due to the enzymes in the saliva. This facilitates the whole process of digestion and assimilation and helps in optimum utilization of calories for energy and metabolic activities instead of being stored as fat.

Now let us see the other way around. You pick a single peanut, chew it well, for a prolonged duration, acknowledge the taste, if not meditate and appreciate the flavour, allow the partial digestion by the enzymes in the saliva and allow the passage of time for the secretion of the fullness hormone leptin, so that you are not tempted to eat more and more. This will drastically cut your calorie consumption but allow you sufficient time to register and enjoy the taste, flavour and essence of any food.

This however is a habit that we need to work upon and practice on a daily basis. It should happen by reflex action. That can happen only if it has been made a part of our lifestyle even when we eat the healthiest food.

The fact still remains that partial digestion does happen in the mouth, we need to acknowledge and meditate on flavours and respect them, learn to love the most beneficial things and give time for leptin hormone to be secreted.

One of the ways this can be done is to eat in silence. Nutrition is a prayer. We nourish the body to maximise its performance. Talking too much, watching television or arguing during meal times can be very counter-productive. Meal times should be times to recuperate and energise ourselves mentally too to make them joyous. The habits and mind set we develop during the rest of the year, helps us to evolve and cruise through smoothly through the festive commotions.

It may sound very simplistic to say that portion control and moderation is the key. To put it in practice is a process in which we evolve. Another thing that we need to do is to select wisely. When you are at a wedding or any celebration, where there is an entire range of festive treats, you need to select wisely. You may choose the healthier food items. Dry fruits, salads, fruits and foods that is not too oily or spicy.

If at all there are some things that you wish to indulge in, take a little bite and let it last for long to maximise the enjoyment you get from it. You need to prioritize what you really want.

Foods like salads have greater volume and lower calories. Dry fruits and proteins have great satiety index. If you stay hungry just because you know that you are going to indulge later, your body will stay in starvation mode. In such a situation, the cortisol levels rise. The brain gets a signal that there is a situation of distress and the body will tend to store fat.

When you finally eat, the food will be stored as fat. So it is good to eat a light healthy meal before you go for a party. This will help you to control yourself and you may then just like to have a little bite just for the taste rather than overeating super-indulgent foods.

Also drink a lot of water and keep yourself well hydrated. Prefer healthy non-alcoholic drinks. If at all you just can’t stop yourself, be an occasional drinker and restrict your alcohol intake as much as possible. Find joy in things other than getting intoxicated.

 

Physical Activity

Since this is the time for families, friends and relatives to come together, you may find it challenging to go to a gym all by yourself on a regular basis and train in a conventional way.

And yet, this is the time when you really need to stay active. So when in the midst of a crowd, you can organise an event that has physical activity. It could be a sport or a dance that you might all like to practice or rehearse together. Right from the rehearsals to the actual performance day or the final match, you will all have an opportunity to strengthen your bond and relationships and also reinvent yourself.

You may all like to exercise together learn new dance steps together or practice yoga together and take back these new learning experiences and memories for life.

If the group of people are not too fond of exercise and physical activity, you can simply decide to be more active in your daily life, just by yourself. The mantra is never sit when you stand, never stand when you can walk and never walk when you can run. Climb the stairs instead of using the lift. Park your vehicle at a distance, so that you can walk and squeeze out time to work out on your own.

This will keep you confident, energetic and agile besides burning calories. One of the very important things that you need to be careful about is sleep. If you do not get enough sleep, your cortisol levels will rise. This will ruin all your efforts to stay fit. So no matter how enjoyable your parties and celebrations are, detach yourself if it is too late and ensure adequate sleep. Your sleep cycle must not be disrupted in this period.

And in the midst of it all never forget that we are in the midst of a pandemic that has taken away so many lives, shattered many families, crashed the economy and taken away livelihood and precious years of students and done irreparable damage to the health of lakhs of people across the globe.

Remember to celebrate with responsibility. We still have not conquered the virus. We still do not have a vaccine. Festivals are meant to strengthen us and enhance us. They are an opportunity to take a break, introspect, rebuild, reconstruct and spread joy.

Remember to continue to maintain social distance, wash your hands regularly wear a mask and not travel unnecessarily. Celebrate with responsibility. Be kind, spread love. Happy festivities!

About The Author

Dr Rita Jairath

Rita Jairath is an entrepreneur and one of the pioneering athletes in women's bodybuilding in India, she won the pro-card from the International Federation of Bodybuilding. she .... Read More..

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