Sunday, 24 June 2012

Baby steps toward healthy eating

A few months back Mo and I were attending gym regularly, I started to eat more healthily and actually saw the results. I lost a kilo or two and felt amazing - so energetic and chirpy. Then the kids' blasted formal assessments started and gym ceased. Since then we've been really lazy - unable to get back into the swing of things. This led to a downward spiral - both of us have gained back that kilo or two ( a conservative estimate based on wishful thinking) and I became really lethargic, grumpy, lumpy and gross.

Since Ramadaan will be starting soon (in July) we realised that it was time to stop our gluttony and focus on our health. We wanted to ensure that we would fast more easily - I've noticed that fasting becomes difficult when I've been eating unhealthily - instead of feeling normal hunger pangs, I feel this horrible burning sensation in my stomach when I get hungry. Also, being at optimal health will (hopefully) ensure that we have sufficient energy to get through the days ahead.

So, a few days ago I dragged my wobbly butt back to gym. I hadn't anticipated how difficult it would be to restart my workout programme. It was so much easier when I'd started for the first time a few months ago. Anyway, after grunting and sweating my way through 25 minutes of anguish, a voice (which at that moment seemed like the sweetest voice in the world) released me from my torment by announcing that the gym was now closed.

I have also been reading up on improving one's health. While standing in the Pick 'n Pay checkout queue, I even put down the copy of Cosmopolitan and chose the Natural Medicine magazine instead (that, in itself, felt like an achievement). But I'm glad I chose it - while many people still view homeopaths and natural medicine practitioners as kooks, I can't help but feel like they might have a point - maybe Western medicine doesn't have all the answers. Maybe we should focus on ways to prevent disease through healthy living rather than simply popping pills when disease strikes.

An article by Dr Elson M Haas on ''The Purification Process'' explains how one can improve health and prevent disease by balancing the need to

(i) treat deficiency (where the body lacks sufficient nutrients to meet its needs) on the one hand, and

(ii) treat congestion (where the body is unable to get rid of all the toxins with which we fill our bodies).

I tend to focus on the first part - deficiency, always convinced that every niggling ache or pain can be healed by taking some or other nutritional supplement. This article makes it clear that this is only part of the equation, the other being ridding the body of the toxins congesting it.

For me the first part of the process described is easy - eat healthy balanced meals and take a nutritional supplement (since food nutrient levels are lower because of lack of soil minerals). The second step - purifying the body - is a bit tricky for me. It involves 'clearing the body of habits or abuses and even addictions' by staying a way from caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, food chemicals, etc. The two toxins I will struggle to eliminate would be the sugar in food and the toxins in beauty products/cosmetics.

I honestly don't know how to cut out sugar, even for a short time. I have tried on numerous occasions, but always end up succumbing to the craving. (Thank goodness, I'm not allowed (by my religion) to consume alcohol / drugs - with my total lack of willpower, I would most likely end up the talentless middle-aged version of Amy Winehouse).

As for the toxins in beauty products, I'm not too despondent yet, since I haven't tried natural products yet. For all I know there is an amazing product out there that can keep my dry ageing leathery skin from fossilizing completely, the way my tried and tested Clinique Superdefense cream seems to do .

But for now I'm trying sl-o-w-l-y to focus on the healthy eating. I have not managed to cut out sugar or other additives completely yet, but I'm focusing rather on including more fresh fruit, vegetables, water and herbal teas (which I love).

Here's proof of my dedication. I started to change my all my lunches to include salad or pan-roasted veggies (whatever I can find in the fridge).

Here I happened to find green beans and carrots which I pan-roasted in olive oil and flavoured with salt (just a pinch), pepper, a sprig of rosemary and my new ( well, new to me), favourite culinary discovery - Garlic Addict by Cape Herb & Spice. This fragrant seasoning consists of roasted garlic, onion, red pepper, sea salt, black peppercorns, green pepper and parsley - and none of the unpronouncable ingredients which make other seasonings so unhealthy. I had this with boiled eggs. Oh, and a slice of brown toast (because I'd starve without my carbs).

Here I pan-roasted green beans, green peppers and tomatoes in olive oil, again seasoned with salt, pepper and Garlic Addict seasoning. I also added a few avo slices - my absolute favourite part of any salad. I had this with a few sardines (now don't be snobbish - I know there are people who believe that sardines are only for cats and poor people, but they are really really nutritious. Yes, okay - and cheap).

Now this is going to sound like a tall tale, but I had a KFC salad for lunch today, while everyone else ordered rounders and Streetwise meals. I even took a picture of it to add to my healthy list of lunches to show you. Then I accidentally deleted it. I know it sounds unbelievable, but I swear it's true. This was definitely my least favourite healthy lunch for the week - not because there was anything wrong with the meal itself, but because I really do not enjoy raw lettuce. For me, the flavour (or lack of it) just does not justify me having to chew and chew and chew with my remaining four molars. Again, I must add, there was nothing wrong with this salad - let's just blame it on my lack of chewing teeth.

I have to admit that my suppers are a bit more difficult to amend, because I am cooking for four kids and a husband, who - although he should be eating more healthily- just does not seem to want to do so. A plate of veggies on the dinner table evokes varying reactions from my kids. Aisha (2) and Nuha (7) respond with excitement - even exhiliration, Shakeel (13) consumes it resignedly, while Tharaa (10) bursts into tears of panicked horror. Whether creamed, steamed or stir-fried, her reaction to veggies is always the same.

So, as you can see, I really am just taking baby steps. Nothing too dramatic. But I am starting to feel better. Less bloated. More positive - at least I'm doing something to address my expanding waistline instead of just glaring at myself in the mirror.

I'll keep you updated if I manage to keep this up and improve on it. If I relapse, I'll just delete this post and pretend I'd never written it.

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