Tag: health (page 1 of 2)

Video: Food, Health, Cooking

I learned to cook from my husband, my mother, and the Internet. It is hard to classify the food I cook as Keralite, Gujarati, Mumbai-style, or anything else. It is vegan cooking, Indian-influenced. It is what works for me and the husband, and I have tweaked it endlessly to make it our own.

Three big changes: Switching to the steaming method to cook vegetables, shifting to a low-carb diet, going vegan.

A Friend with Style and Class

I cannot recall when/how I chanced upon To Universe with Love, a personal/lifestyle/fashion/travel blog, penned by Archana Paladugu. I read one post, then another, and kept going. It has now become the blog I check every morning. Archana writes with candor and honesty, sharing her views on sustainability, style, ethical consumption, travel and more. She has a loyal base of readers whose comments generate useful conversations and information. I am real happy that Archana blogs regularly, and in the event that I go to her site AND she has no new post up… I simply go read an old post, then another. There is enough stuff on her site to keep me reading and re-reading.

I asked Archana if she could write a guest post for me, and she agreed.

Popular blogger Joanna Goddard has a series titled Beauty Uniform where she quizzes women on their style philosophy, beauty tips, favorite products, etc. I created a set of questions for Archana that was loosely based on the ones Joanna asks on Beauty Uniform. So here goes…

What is your daily skincare routine? 

I really enjoy the ritual aspect of skincare. Buying products is one thing. But consistency is what makes the most difference for my skin.

AM : I cleanse my face with graham flour. And apply sunscreen.

PM :

Cleanse : graham flour

Serum : SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic or SK-II

Moisturize : May Lindstroms face oil

I was given Retin-A by my dermatologist this December. I usually forget to use it but been meaning to include it somehow. Being aware of all the toxic ingredients in it somehow makes it harder to pen it into my routine.

Do you have a game-changing beauty product?  

SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic acid. You should have seen my skin when I lived in Arizona. I was outdoors a lot. My skin was in a terrible condition with sunburns. Once I got religious about using the antioxidant and layering sunscreen on top, it improved tremendously. I have hyper pigmentation from those days which always resurfaces when I don’t use it.

Do you have any non-beauty rituals that help you feel great?  

Inversions. Go for a run. At the end, stretch by touching your toes. The rush of blood to the face and the warmth can be felt. It gives me a glow throughout the day. Wheel pose. Hand stand. Shoulder stand. Head stand. I feel great when I exercise regularly and smartly.

Yoga. I have tried meditation and never could get into the zone. Then tried the moving meditation — Yoga. It’s made a lot of difference in how I feel during the day. I am addicted to it. I try to sneak it in, come what may during the day.

I sip on tea all day long. My tea contains dried herbs, white tea leaves, ginger, lemon and turmeric. I have a desk job and having something to sip on is comforting.

The blueberry green smoothies I drink everyday helps too. I don’t like yogurt or milk products. But I add a spoonful of it to my smoothie. It’s camouflaged by the fruit and I would have gotten my probiotic needs for the day. I try to include some raw food in my diet everyday and it’s convenient to blend it up. My skin gets a visible glow when I am consistent with my smoothies.

Do you have any unexpected physical traits that you love?  

When I exercise regularly, I grow visible muscle. I really like the look of them on me. It’s hard for me to put on muscle and easy to lose it. I have to work hard at it. And love it when I see the results. Does this count as unexpected?

Do you have any stories of regrettable beauty moments or experiments-gone-wrong? 

Not using sunscreen is the biggest. One day, I read some article on how most urban dwellers don’t get enough Vitamin D. I then decided I wouldn’t apply it on my body to “catch some sun.” I used to bike to work and my hands were getting too much sun. I had a dozen sunburns in no time. I tried to cure it in my kitchen by applying yogurt and aloe. I was keen on treating it “holistically.” But it kept getting worse from the regular sun exposure. One day, a coworker saw the scars and asked me about potential domestic violence at home. After that incident, I went to a dermatologist who helped me heal it.

When I first moved to America, I didn’t know how to cook. Neither did I know how to eat when there is no one spoon-feeding me. I was buying zero-fat ingredients and making sandwiches for every meal. I soon “dried” up literally and became very lanky. Good fats are very important for hormonal balance and for proper functioning of organs. I am pro-healthy fats. It wasn’t an intentional experiment but more ignorance on my part about what to eat. I learnt how to cook and feed myself over the years.

What is your bedtime routine?  

This is not exactly a recommendation. But lately, I have been falling asleep listening to a book on Audible. I need to read before bed but I am too tired to these days to read. So I listen.

Have there been any important women in your life who taught you about beauty?  

Not really. Most people I know treat taking care of oneself as vanity and unnecessary waste of money. Every thing I do, I taught myself by trial and error.

How does food play a role in your beauty philosophy? Are there any foods or drinks that help you look and feel your best?  

I grew up in the household of a dermatologist. He has taught me about the skin being a result of four factors: genetics, the general state of health, the surface, and environmental factors.

We eat a lot of home-cooked fresh food. I make it a point to get my dose of probiotics and raw food in my diet everyday. I exercise. I do these for my well-being more than for beauty. I treat it as one of the contributing factors. I would not rely solely on the food to be my skincare. I need the external and internal nourishment.

What do you like most about your look?   

Nothing and everything. I don’t single out facial/body features anymore. Being critical like that only brought me self-confidence issues and I have stopped thinking that way.

Do you have any style inspirations?  

Yes I do. Georgia O Keeffe. Not in the way that I want to buy items of clothing that she wore. But in the way she approached dressing. Our views on aesthetic, art, life, love, modern women, style, clothing, … match.

Last but certainly not least, what’s your overall beauty philosophy?

Find sustainable happiness. Work on something that you love and are proud of. Everything else will fall in place automatically. I don’t want to be remembered for my clothes or appearance. I want a legacy that changes the world in some way. I am most confident and feel beautiful when I am happy.

Eat in Quiet Silence

I eat lunch alone at work.

I eat around noon, perched on a stool along a long table, facing a full length window looking out at the Downtown Atlanta skyline. It is a lovely view. I take my time, chewing as slowly as I am able to (I am not the most patient eater), occasionally peeping into my phone, but mostly eating and looking out, quiet.

It is the way I like it, really. I have come to realize that it is important, especially for me, to eat slow. When I am able to do that, I come away from lunch feeling satisfied and nourished, sans any kind of stuffed-discomfort-bloat. However, I have had the opposite experience too, and that makes me think  … I need to eat in slow silence.

I enjoy meeting friends, sharing food and laughter and talk and fun. However, it isn’t always the best for me, food-wise. I tend to eat in an unmindful manner, chewing be damned. I am not 100% aware of what I consume. It isn’t generally a problem of eating too much (I am rather conservative in that aspect), but more about swallowing without chewing well, ingesting a lot of air with food, and ending up feeling that I might just need to skip the next meal. And then I am left sipping warm herbal tea through the day, waiting for the bloated feeling to go away.

This never happens during my workday lunches.

The trick now lies in being able to combine my calm-n-silent weekday lunch mode with company.


One morning, I stepped out of the shower. While dressing, I happened to catch a sight of myself in the wall-to-wall bathroom mirror. It was my body in profile, and instantly, I was reminded of some of the awful pictures one sees while standing in the grocery checkout line. You know, the magazines like National Enquirer and such, “She is secretly starving! You can see her ribs! Taken to emergency, near collapse…”

Yes, I am thin, you can call me skinny. No, my ribs are not visible but it does appear, at times, like I lack the depth dimension to my torso… Almost flat.

I have always been a thin person. As a child, I was scrawny, bony, big-eyed, curious, shy. But I had a big mouth with big teeth, lots of opinions, and zero qualms about sharing them… What a strange combination. Anyway, puberty didn’t come soon enough. I was impatient. Finally, it showed up and I was nearly ecstatic. But no, I didn’t morph into a beautiful flower. I became taller, developed a (little) chest, and life continued as usual. That elusive prettiness didn’t dawn (or maybe I was blind to it?). I did have a nice head of hair, though. Guys complimented me on my silky-straight hair all the time. They kept trying to touch it, play with it. All very flattering, yes. Until I met a guy who I fell in love with but then, he didn’t do any of those things! 🙂

Ahh, I digress. As life progressed, my body stayed on track. Slim-slender, not gaining weight but not exactly athletic or lean either. Then I went to Egypt. Spent a year there — working long hours, gorging on delicious kebabs and koftas and koshery, gawking at beautiful Egyptian women and the mighty Nile, marveling at a new culture, dreaming away the hot nights and cool days, wondering about my life and its purpose.

I came back to India, looking a little curvy, as my sister described it. I remember seeing a picture taken at a sunny beach vacation in Hurghada. The first thought that arose was, “Pillow!” Yes, I thought I looked like a tight, plump pillow, a case pulled tightly over. I was getting married soon, and I wanted none of those descriptors.

(I was/am a tad uncomfortable with the ‘woman” descriptor. It feels alien, like it is meant to describe another person, not me. Of course, I am a woman in terms of gender, age and physicality but I don’t feel like one. To me, the term feels very… mature, for lack of a better word. I have a problem identifying with it. Okay, I will be the first to admit that this might come across as rather silly and ignorant, clearly influenced by patriarchal norms. Perhaps it will change. Maybe I will wear the “woman” label with ease and naturalness some day.)

(On a similar note, I hate being addressed with a “Hello ladies.” I do not like the “Girls” appellation either. My husband enquires – Do you like being addressed with a “Hello folks?” Yes, that will do.)

(As I remember telling my Ayurvedic physician many years later, I probably have a “less developed” body consciousness. All the experiences I have had thus far with my body (as being a female form) seem to fall within the realm of mundane, commonplace, boring? Perhaps that is why I don’t have much of a relation with it. Not in the sense of my being female, I mean. I remain in utter awe of my body’s superior intelligence… But I don’t feel particularly connected to the sense of living in a female physical form. Perhaps this has to do with the fact that I have not faced any problems linked with the female physical body/form? Oh, that begs the question, does the sense of being female have to be negative? Clearly not. Maybe I am simply neutral about it.)

Anyway, off I went to the gym. Lifted weights, ran on the treadmill, did all the right moves… and 3 months later, the trainer proudly announced that I had lost 3 inches all over. I suppose this is a common experience with people who start working out. She was disappointed when I informed her that I wasn’t returning. I was getting married! Moving to the United States… YAY!

One dreary Christmas Day,  I landed in Atlanta. Spent the next few months making sense of my new husband, new country of residence, new found sense of dependence… Miserable. Perhaps, it all made sense… because I didn’t gain a single ounce of weight. Au contraire, I lost some, most likely. As time passed, I became happier, and life brightened up.  But my weight stayed put. One of my friends shared that she moved up several dress sizes after she moved to the United States. Perhaps it is a combination of reduced physical activity (you drive EVERYWHERE in this city) and changed food habits (hello, endless cereal/chips/cookie/candy aisle) and homesickness, maybe?

Anyways, it is more than thirteen years since I moved here, and my weight has dropped to pre-marriage levels, if I imagine right. For a while, I wondered if I should be concerned. But I think I am okay. I have no health issues.

It isn’t always easy to find clothes but of late, I seem to have lost the urge to buy clothes. Plus I have a good tailor who alters clothes until they fit me just right.

I realize that I am in an enviable position because I seem to fit into a popular stereotype of thinness and beauty. People often remark – Oh, you can afford to eat that cupcake! I am sure she is losing weight simply by breathing! People comment on my weight (or the lack of it), all the time. Sometimes I am apologetic. “You know, I am actually underweight.” “Yes, I have lost weight.”

(My sister who lives in India gets it too. People aren’t exactly shy about expressing their shock/disbelief at her size. Seriously, G, are you okay? How can you be so thin??)

I would be lying if I said that I don’t enjoy being a thin person. To me, it fits perfectly into the “girl” narrative; I am in no hurry to become a woman. (To be frank, a lot of the time, I feel like a “girl” in a world of women. Equal parts naive and questioning, curious and detached, utterly lacking in the mature knowingness that women my age appear to have in spades. Like I am yet to learn the secrets of my tribe but then I may never learn them.)

At this juncture, what I have a sense of real appreciation and gratitude for is the fact that I have a healthy and friendly body. It supports my desire to practise yoga, hike mountains, learn Aikido, swim, dance. It lets me experience the joy, exhilaration, lightness and freedom of physical movement. If I can spend the years ahead supporting this lovely body of mine, I’ll go on to becoming a happy, old woman. Yes, woman. 🙂