What should a Goal look like?

We have goals for every area of our life like financial goals, academic goals, fitness and even travel goals. We know what we want. So what is the point of spending our already limited time in framing a goal? Why is framing it so important?

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Psychology. What we know is in our sub-conscious mind. It is fuzzy and we feel we kind of know it. We can understand how vague it is when we start defining it. To bring our intent or desire to the physical realm and for us to work on concrete steps to move towards that point, we need to define the specifics of it. For example, I know I feel uncomfortable in my current fitness levels. I know it would definitely do me good to lose a few pounds and to get into shape. But this lacks clarity in terms of what exactly I would be doing to move from point A to point B. Goals give shape to this desire. A goal needs to be SMART. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound.

So, my fitness goal now would be “I want to lose 10 lbs (Specific, measurable) by exercising for 30 minutes a day, 3 days a week (realistic in my current schedule). I could expect results in say 20 weeks instead of a 10 week with more rigorous schedule (achievable and time bound)”. Done, but is this enough? I know what I need to do but I just don’t have the motivation to do it or to continue through the initial few weeks of pain. I feel like I’m dragging myself through this process and not really enjoying what I am doing.

This is what I found. A goal should be challenging, motivating in itself. It should make me feel so excited that I need to jump up at the first available opportunity to get it done. I had lost enough lbs before my second pregnancy and got to a good level of fitness to help me through my pregnancy and to bounce back post delivery. I thought all I had to do was to follow the same fitness routine, diet routine to get back on track once I recover from my delivery. But I was wrong. It did not work because my current life situation and schedule are totally different. My sleep is “less than perfect” to say the least and my calorie needs, stress levels and social life are so different.  What is one to do?

I’m a low impact person especially after my sciatica and discectomy and dread high impact activities. But there was this constant feel of wanting to run. I came across someone who recovered from his accident and had the same fears like me and ended up running not just marathons but Ultra-man. I was fascinated. May be I too can run. It was new to me. It was challenging. It was testing and expanding my limits. I felt wonderful to even think of working on this. I prepared a plan to start from couch to walking to running for 30 seconds at a time between walks. Now I do 8 minutes run – 90 second walk for 30 minutes alternate days. This is amazing for me. I have new pains and give my body plenty of stretches and time to heal before I hit the treadmill again. Now my thought is no more about reaching a number on the scale. It is about expanding my capabilities.

Now that is what a goal should look like, right? We are so used to shrinking our thoughts to mediocre needs and levels because that is what everyone else around us are doing. Typical successful life is considered to be: Birth, good student in school, then graduation, then job, then marriage, children, profession, retirement, old age and end of story. And then we fight within ourselves and search for motivation outside. No! We need to learn and experience limitless thinking and gradually expand our capacity. Instead of aiming for a tree top, lets aim for the stars. So even if we fail, we will land on a mountain top.

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Food fights and what to do about it

Why do we consume food? Is it just for energy to get through the day? If so, why then does food feature in every festival, every celebration of ours? Is it to just get nutrition and for us to grow strong and wise? If so, then why do we struggle with cravings and weight management? I too thought that food is a basic need and need to be treated like that. Life would be simple if we approach food as nothing more than a necessity. Eat when hungry, eat necessary amounts and avoid foods that cause inflammation and sickness. That approach just does not work, does it?

We all know right from wrong when it comes to food. So why does so many of us struggle with waistline and weight issues? Food is much more than a need. Lets face it. It is a pleasure to consume food. No, not a guilty pleasure but just plain, simple, basic pleasure. Each meal we take connects us with memories, scents and scenes from the past, creates complex emotions that makes us crave certain tastes and textures. Food is sheer power of how we operate, that is, it has control over how we think, feel and act. Anyone who manages the food department will know that the kitchen is the power center of a household. Taking control over the kitchen is considered nothing less than a declaration of war! Traditionally most mother-in-law daughter-in-law problems stemmed from this power equation.

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Not just eating food but making it too gives a sense of fulfillment. Cleaning, chopping and cooking food, looking at the colors, feeling the textures, smelling the scents and vapors, checking for taste, hearing the crackling and sizzling sounds, it is nothing less than a sensory treat that calms down our everyday stress. The other day I was peeling garlic and my 16 month old wanted to feel the texture of garlic peels. He had a terrific time throwing the peels all around, up in the air, crushing in his palms for almost as long as I was doing my task. I have seen my grandma prepare food for herself until the end of her life, even through her partial blindness. Not that she did not have support, she just did not want to give that power away.

So why then did many of our households today delegated this basic gratifying experience to an outsider – a cook who just does it for money, something they would like to get over with? The lesser time they take, the more houses they can cover, the more the revenue. The treatment meted out to food in this situation is less than loving. Higher heat, over-cooking, under-cooking, too much oil, same repeated taste. Same story with restaurant foods. When we outsource our food preparation to a business, either a fast-food restaurant or easy/ ready to eat foods from a multinational company, they work on maximizing their profit, not on maximizing our health. There is a saying in tamil that when food is not pleasurable, they say “Naaku sethupochu” – My tongue is dead. It is literally killing the life inside our body slowly.  It is not just about us. When we delegate this important life skill, we are showing our next generation that cooking is something so complex that we don’t have the time, energy and skills to do it ourselves.

It is OK to get external help when in need, like during a sickness or emergency. But otherwise, food is a power that we have and it feels so powerless to give away this control to someone else. Especially when I am sick, I would rather want to make some simple dish, at least a chutney that I can have with gruel or curd rice. Because I am the only one who knows what I want to eat. Sometimes it is more of pepper, sometimes I crave the ginger taste, sometimes the tangy taste of tomato or tamarind, sometimes sweetness of coconut, sometimes the pungent or nutty texture of groundnuts. I know what to make and in what proportions. That, I feel, gets me on my feet much faster every single time. Taste is not a feeling. It is a language that our body uses to communicate it’s needs to our brain so we act accordingly to satisfy those needs.

In today’s busy lifestyle, we reach for ready to eat foods. Biryani points at every corner, cakes and bakes everywhere, sweet shops from every part of India, restaurants specializing in different cuisines, fast foods and fried meat, “healthy” grab and go bars on the shelf. All this with door delivery to keep us from even getting off the couch. When the cook in our home takes a break it makes us even more happy because we get to have a change from the “same old” routine. It is this availability and affordability that is adding to our issues. Food is not our enemy, we just outsourced it so much that we no longer recognize it. It’s OK to eat on occasion. But for everyday life, we should hold the control. There are some things we can do to bring the art of cooking back into our lives.

  • Time factor: Prepare in advance. There are infinite possibilities for this. Roasting rava, semiya, peanuts; Grinding ready-to-use powders; Peeling garlic, small onions; washing and storing vegetables for using right out of fridge; Peeling, chopping some vegetables that need to be used within few days; Cook lentils and beans and store for quick meals. Shop once for a week or 2 weeks and store appropriately in fridge to avoid wastage of food, money and time.
  • Energy factor: Schedule time for cooking. Make it once a day. Have some raw foods – salads, fruits. Have a standard menu so you do not need to decide on the dish at that moment. I cook first thing in the morning for precisely this reason. My energy hits rock bottom by evening.
  • Skills: Cooking comes with practice. Start with small and easy dishes. It is ok to mess up first couple of times. Learn the techniques to correct the mistakes. All answers are a just google away. Build a strong foundation with consistency. Start young! Open your kitchen to every age group. Learn the medicinal value of the spices and herbs. Discuss with kids how something is going to help them when they eat. It stays with them for a lifetime.
  • Inequality: This is big. One reason why I never wanted to learn cooking when in my teens. For me, and many others I suppose, cooking is looked down upon chore by the society. My thought process was when I am equal to a boy in my academics and achievements why should I take up added responsibilities in the home that a boy would not take. That time I did not realize what a wonderful and powerful act this cooking is! Now as a leader of my family I realize that if I don’t have a skill, I am at a loss of power. For a working woman, they have double full-time job. Even as a stay-at-home mom, it is hard on one person to serve everyone else all the time. Plus when we get sick, we need to train our family to step in as a backup. Delegate chores to everyone depending on their skill and capacity. Make it a team work for the whole family. It is an important skill for every kid, whether a girl or a boy. Our job is to make this learning fun. Apart from the cooking, they will learn vocabulary, math, time management and team work. It is as important and valuable as sending them to a summer camp!

Lets celebrate the food and cooking it. Here’s to making our lives simple and satisfying!