Friday, October 26, 2007

Food for Thought

If there was any doubt in my mind that parents’ eating habits have a direct impact on those of their kids, Ayaan removed it this week. Here’s what happened:

As a part of my new diet, I am supposed to have a bowl of salad as soon as I get home from work. So the other day, I was having a bowl full of radish and beetroot, drenched with lime juice – overall, hardly the most appetising of thing to eat and I was bravely plodding my way through it. Ayaan, on the other hand, was significantly more excited by this ‘yummy’ stuff that Mama was eating so he went and got a bowl of his own and demanded that I waste no time in putting some ‘sallet’ into it…

I was pretty sure that this was just a case of ‘I want to have what you are having’ and that the sour and pungent salad would be unceremoniously ejected from his mouth once it made contact with his tongue. But that’s not what happened – he made a bit of a face but he chewed, swallowed and asked for more and ended up having almost a fourth of my serving. So now I am going to make sure that I eat the salad before his dinner everyday and let him pick from my plate… another incentive to stick to my diet change.

That being said, I have to say that I have no complaints about Ayaan’s eating habits. I am knocking on wood while writing this but he isn’t too fussy about his food, eats almost everything that we do and eats without too much resistance (most of the time). Now I know some of you would think that I should just thank my stars for the sheer dumb luck of it all but while I am willing to give him credit for being a good eater, I also believe that I had something to do with it. Because there are some thing that I hold sacrosanct in the process of raising a healthy eater and I do think these things has atleast something to do with the way things turned out. Here’s some of the stuff that I did that I think contributed:

  • In his two-and-a-half year old life, Ayaan has eaten not more than five meals in front of the television. Two of these occasions happened when he was really sick and this was the only way I could get some sustenance into his little body. And the other two happened when I had to feed him at someone’s else’s house and the TV was the only way of getting him to stay in one place for long enough to eat a reasonable amount of food. I believe this is important – not because research shows that TV dinners cause obesity but because I think no age is too young to learn how to eat food for the sake of it and recognise and accept (and hopefully savour) every morsel that goes into your mouth rather than open your mouth and swallow like a zombie, rapt in the moving images on the idiot box.
  • The same thought also applies to the concept of entertaining him while he eats. Because to my mind, this is again akin to fooling a child into eating. And here I don’t mean talking, singing or otherwise interacting with a child to make mealtimes fun but things one does to distract him while another bit of food is quietly shoved into his mouth with tactics such as ‘Look there, birdie!’ I have even seen moms carry stuff like cut fruits to the park which they keep periodically popping into the kid’s mouth while they play.
  • When he is at home, the only place Ayaan eats in (since six months of age) is his high chair. To start with, I think chasing a child around the room while feeding him is way too exhausting a concept. Also, I am not the most patient of mothers and the few times that I have had to attempt such a feeding style have not been very pleasant – both for me and Ayaan. Moreover, when you chase a kid for his food, you are subliminally sending him a message that eating is something that he does because you want him to do it rather than because he wants to do it.
  • I can set my watch (or more likely my mobile phone, since who really wears watches anymore?) by Ayaan’s mealtimes. I have to admit that part of this arises out of that fact that Ayaan has a control freak for a mother and my car pool members, amongst others, will vouch for my obsession with punctuality. But also because I believe that this helps his hunger patterns to settle down into a rhythm that we are aware of and can therefore cater to. Irregular meal times are more likely to confuse kids in terms of when to expect and therefore readily accept food.
  • I have never really allowed junk food to be an option, even when we went through a couple of low-eating phases. Because like TV, I think junk food is the easy way out to nourishing your child and I’d rather suffer through the worry of these temporary phases of nourishment rather than encourage a lifelong addiction to junk food. Also, I know there will soon come a time when he will develop a desire for stuff like chips and chocolate thanks to his school friends but I see no reason why I should seed the process and further enable it by stocking the stuff in my own home.
  • I have tried not to let my own tastes and biases get in the way of what I feed him. In fact, we have started eating some veggies that we earlier turned our noses up at – beetroot and eggplant being prime examples – because I decided to introduce them to Ayaan’s diet. As a result, he eats stuff like palak paneer (spinach with cottage cheese) with great relish.
  • And lastly, I’m just plain stubborn. I struggled through 11 months of breastfeeding with Ayaan resisting me all the way and these struggles continued into the cow milk era as well. There were months on an end when all I could get him to drink were couple of ounces at best but I just kept at it and gave him milk everyday, twice a day and gradually (over one and a half years) that quantity started to inch up and now finally he has a full glass of milk twice a day.... even deigning to drink half of it by himself.

So anyway, that’s my two cents worth on the subject. To those who think this is all a load of crap, just remember that most of the above are MY views based on MY experiences. They are not based on any research and are therefore not facts. So please just read this as my opinion on how raise a healthy eater (that seems to be working for ME) and feel free to disregard or disagree (politely please).

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Fit for a Mom

I wrote about my struggle with my post-pregnancy weight ages ago. What sparked that post off was a comment from an aunt who saw my monthly photos of Ayaan and asked if I was expecting again. Well, the same aunt visited us this week and her much more palatable and immensely quotable quote from this encounter was:

“Ayaan, your mom is looking like a sex bomb”

Quite obviously, a lot has changed since that last post – and it’s not my aunt’s levels of diplomacy since she did comment on the fact that my walls were looking grubby, that Ayaan was so thin and that my wardrobe for the upcoming wedding was too simple…

Overall, I have to say that I am blessed with pretty good genes in the weight area. Other than the pregnancy and breastfeeding era, I have always fallen within the recommended weight range for a person of my height. And it’s never been hard – I’ve always had a healthy appetite and outside of compulsory school sports, haven’t been anywhere near what you would term as a fitness freak.

But pregnancy changed all that, albeit temporarily. I put on a whopping 15 kilos (against a recommended 12) when I was pregnant and was still holding on to 10 of those a year into motherhood. And while I pretended that I was okay with the excess weight, I now realise that it did affect my life in somewhat insidious ways.

None of my old clothes fit me any more and I didn’t replenish my wardrobe beyond what was absolutely necessary. Buying clothes in a larger size was too depressing and somewhere lurked a foolish hope that that weight would magically disappear one morning. And from there, it was just one short, easy step to being downright frumpy – I would tie my hair back rather than bother with styling it, didn’t wear earring till my ear holes almost closed up and manicures and pedicures were things of the past. It was like I had just given up and sacrificed my femininity at the altar of motherhood (a tad overdramatic I agree but I like the sound of it, don’t you?)

Well, most of the weight did finally go and most of the pre-maternity clothes do fit (with the exception of the skinny jeans and such like). But in the end, it was none of the ambitious things I planned in that old post that contributed to the weight loss – the walk in the park never saw the light of day, the GM diet had zero impact and the gym membership lapsed without me so much as even thinking of going there.

In nutshell, I made no focussed effort to lose the weight but it went anyway. What helped I think was:

  • My hectic life as a working mom – for some sense of it, read this post from last year. Life is a bit more relaxed now since Ayaan gets up later, we don’t do the morning walk thing and I don’t have to carry him around as much – but otherwise, it’s still much the same. But overall, I think the level of activity on an average day in my life did a lot to help me shed some of that excess baggage.
  • The weight loss actually started just after I stopped breastfeeding. I know the dominant logic is that breastfeeding makes you lose weight but in my case it worked the other way. My appetite went from healthy to voracious in those days and the fact that I was at home all day with easy access to a fridge didn’t help either. Even when I went back to work, the scales didn’t budge till Ayaan was weaned. But in less than a year after that, I was fitting into my old clothes again.
  • I didn’t diet but I made one tiny change to my eating habits. I cut down the size of my dinner. I read somewhere that dinner should be the lightest meal of the day and I thought that that was the least I could do.

Having got back a semblance of my old shape, I have to admit that I got a bit complacent and kept postponing the moment when I would get off my behind and start actively doing something to get back to previous levels of fitness. Finally, it was a really interesting fitness class and the persistence of a friend who wanted me to join up that finally pushed into taking action. A couple of weeks ago, we joined up at a class where we do a high intensity workout involving weights, squats, crunches and kickboxing thrice a week.

It's early days yet but I’ve been quite regular and I have a good feeling about lasting this time round. The big difference between this and the gym is that the class is like a group exercise and therefore a lot more fun than the monotonous gym workout. And more importantly, I am doing it with a friend and we push each other to wake up and make it for class in the mornings.

Another investment I have made in my health is taking on the nutritional consultation that they offer at the same place for a period of three months. It’s been quite an eye-opener. While I am only 2 kilos over the ideal weight for my height, my body fat percentage is not so well under control. Really fit and athletic women have about 18% body fat but anything under 25% is considered healthy. Mine is 32.2%!!! To get this under control, just exercise is not going to be enough – I need to alter my eating habits in a manner that can be sustainable. Here are some of the things I have been told I need to do:

  • Avoid long gaps between meals. This means that I have to eat something every 2-3 hours.
  • Increase the amount of raw food in my diet. This means starting the day with three servings of fruits and having a bowl of salad a couple of hours before dinner.
  • Avoid processed food (and that includes bread and branded breakfast cereals)
  • Avoid fried food, sweets, aerated drinks and fruit juices
  • Cut down oil to a maximum of 2 tsps per day.
  • Eat non-vegetarian food only three times a week and even then, no red meat
  • No eggs or milk for breakfast

While I am quite confident about sticking to the exercise class, I am less confident about the making these dietary changes in the long term. The big challenges are going to be keeping shorter gaps between meals/ snacks on weekdays, sticking to some semblance of this eating plan while I am travelling and getting my oil-happy maid to cook within the oil limit. The rest of the diet restrictions are quite doable (minus the odd binges) except the bread one – I love bread!

Anyway, wish me luck! Here’s hoping this is more successful than my previous attempt. I just re-read that last post and realised how confident and enthusiastic I sounded about my plans and look how that turned out... :-(

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Tags Galore

I have never wished for anonymity as much as I do right now. Something, or rather someone, has left me feeling all wounded and angry and nothing would make me feel better than a chance to vent. But it’s not to be… So, what better way to lift my spirits than to take on two cheery tags that have come my way in the last week…

Y, a rocking girl blogger in her own right – especially for the frequency and laugh-a-minute quality of her posts, given that she happens to be a first-time new mom – has passed this supercool award my way:

The awesome thing about this award is that it classifies me as rocking and more importantly, as a girl… and the fact that I get to pass it on to some of my favourite bloggers - so I hereby knight the following bloggers as fellow Rockin' Girl Bloggers:

  • Megha – Of all the bloggers I read, I like her writing the best – the razor sharp wit, the clarity of thought and mostly the fearlessness with which she writes, no mean task given some of the trolls that regularly pop by at her blog to insult and intimidate. Rock on, Megha!
  • Ceekay – I admire her for having the guts and the hope to see her dream through and now she has a little bundle of joy as her reward. And for being such a sorted working mom of two – it gives me something to aspire to… both the ‘sorted’ part and the 'two' part… :-)
  • Talena – Anyone who thinks SAHMs have it easier than working moms needs to hop on over to her blog. A never-say-die mother of three young boys (!) who still manages to find the time and energy to cook super-healthy meals, make awesome scrapbook layouts, blog, remodel her house, give piano lessons, baby-sit…. and I suspect this is just the tip of the iceberg…

The second tag from The Mad Momma is about that special ‘our song’ that most couples share but here’s the thing, we don’t have one. Jai and I don’t even remotely share each other’s tastes in music so any song that we both can stand to listen to while driving together classifies as our song, and believe me they are rare…

Given that I have already declined one of MM’s tags and that I need her on my side what with the recent troll appearances, I dare not tempt fate by doing so again so I am doing it with a twist – I am going to put down the song that I share with the other man in my life (Ayaan, in case you are doubting my fidelity…)

The song is question is a lullaby that I have sung to him almost every single night for the last two years. I have only ever heard it on a lullaby CD someone gave me when he was a baby and I can’t find it on the net, so I leave you with the words…

Rest your head upon my shoulder, baby, oh baby
Sleepyhead, your day is over, baby, my baby
So close your eyes
While I sing a lullaby
Oh baby of mine

Let me rock you in my arms, baby, oh baby
I will keep you safe and warm, baby, my baby
Have the sweetest dreams
You mean everything to me
Oh baby of mine