Some useful snacks


I come back to one of my favourite topics: healthy food. How to keep ourselves satiated with good snacks without the extra sugar and bad elements which affect our health?

I hope you have read my post on “Kale”. While it is not a snack, it should form part of your primary meal – either lunch or dinner, at least 2 to 3 times a week. Today, being Sunday, I had the pleasure of having a Kale salad – mostly kale, but with cherry tomatoes, avocado, beetroot, etc., mixed with millet (which has become my favourite grain) and balsamic vinegar. On top of these ingredients, I added pomegranate seeds and sprinkled cinnamon powder. It was quite a filling lunch.

Now, back to snacks. Usually mid-morning, I have some tea without milk and put together a melange of my nuts (pistachios, walnut, almonds, cashews, hazel nuts – 8 pieces each) and also add a little bit of sunflower seeds & pumpkin seeds. This is quite a filling snack and goes down well with some flavoured tea (my choice today was peach tea).

I thought it would be appropriate to share the results of some of my additional experiments on snack foods. It is hard not to be careful while selecting snacks, as mostly the pre-packaged snacks available widely in supermarkets have undesirable ingredients. I am very discerning in rejecting most of these snacks without mercy, and consistently put most of them on my “snack black-list”, so that I do not keep wasting time again and again.

My new list of some excellent snacks as follows:

  • Goji Berries (also known as Wolfberries) – the variety I like is “Dried Tibetan Goji Berries” from Nature Super Foods in Singapore – just 1 or 2 tablespoons
  • Blueberries – we know this for a long time, but I am now consciously having this great nutritious fruit – available in most supermarkets: take just 15 to 20 pieces
  • Whole Grain Rye Bread / Pumpernickel Bread from PEMA Germany – just one thin slice, topped either with hummus or gouda / feta cheese – have this at around 6 PM; if this particular brand is not available, you should be able to find some equivalent easily: this is a very light snack but you will feel “good”
  • Pomegranates – amazing fruit with incredible properties – just one small cup or may be 4 tablespoons
  • Dark grapes – black in colour and really luscious: take just 10 or so – again grapes have amazing properties

There are many more, but then we cannot confuse our body mechanisms by putting in too many of these good things as well. The key thing is to drop the bad stuff – do not eat fried snacks for instance.

Apart from snacks, I have come to depend on key addition to my food habits – just before going to bed, I either have 4 teaspoons of Apple Cider Vinegar (about which I have written earlier), or a cup of unsweetened almond milk of the organic type. There are several brands available from Australia mostly. I alternate between the Australian variety or the U.S. made almond milk – please note that the sugar content should be zero. Almond milk provides protein which is necessary for my food mix. You may or may not need it, but then it cannot be harmful to anyone.

While I used to snack at odd times in the past (6 months ago), I have conditioned myself to expect snacks at scheduled times through the day. This conditioning helps, but it gets affected while travelling, which in  my case, is quite often. I try to adhere to the schedule most of the days, and very firmly avoid the food that I have put in black-list. And, that list includes long-standing favourites such as pasta, bread (not the ones mentioned above), rice, naan, chappathi, and other high-carbs foods – these are completely out.

With this approach, I am finally gaining some control on my body. I think it is essential, and sometimes I ruminate on the lost opportunities in my life so far to do such things which are effective from the perspective of one’s own healthcare. I recall that I hardly looked at any info’ on diets and their effects on health. I would say that it was stupid to have dropped the ball on this aspect of healthcare for a long time, as what goes in affects your health for sure.

I am encouraging you to do your own research before changing your long-established food patterns, which are also dominated by culture and habit. I could make the changes that I determined would be necessary for my own good, implement the same rigorously, and track the results on a weekly basis. I am now only on my 14th week of such tough food regimen, and I can tell you that the results are there – without any medications whatsoever. You can drop all your medicines if you control what goes inside your body, and also understand the implications. Of course, this applies only to those folks who are more or less fine with some struggle in terms of arresting some of the “curves” – I mean graphs not body curves!

Make your own decisions and choices.

Hope you enjoyed reading this post, have a wonderful week ahead.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

30th September 2018

Kale – a superfood


I have become a fan of Kale, having known it only for the past couple of months! I was ashamed that I did not come to know of it much earlier in life. It is an amazing superfood that every one should have almost every day. Why almost? That’s because it is expensive compared to the usual greens that you get at your usual supermarket. Kai-lan, a derivative of Kale is much cheaper, and is a preferred veggie for Chinese food, along with garlic. Both Kai-lan and garlic combine to give a nutritious and delicious veggie, and I like to order it whenever I visit a Chinese restaurant.

I have come to like the taste of Kale as part of my salad preparation, though I did not like the Kale juice which I made a mistake of buying in the Organic Foods section of my supermarket of choice – which is Fairprice in Singapore, where I shop almost every weekend, along with my wife. It is almost a regimen, much like most people of Singapore. Coming back to Kale juice, it was horrible – the taste was something that I could not stomach. So, I abandoned Kale juice, and chose the greens for direct contribution to my salad.

Kale is one of the most “nutrient dense” food in the entire planet, packed with vitamins and minerals. It is high in fiber, potassium, calcium, antioxidants, vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin B6, iron, beta-carotene,  manganese, copper, etc., Consuming Kale is good for almost fixing any health problem! Please do your own research before you start on your Kale regime, but I am very well into it. It handles all kinds of major health issues such as diabetes, cancer, cholesterol problems, vision-related problems, bone mass issue, liver function problems, heart disease, and so on. The health benefits of Kale are far too many to be listed out in one blog post.

In one single word to define Kale, it simply boosts your immunity and well-being. Very few veggies offer such huge range of health benefits as Kale does, and it is now an integral part of my (almost) daily food routine.

The other veggies with similar characteristics belong to the same cabbage family like Kale – some of these are broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, bok choy, cauliflower, mustard greens, watercress, arugula, etc.,

In salad preparation, I try to make it an interesting concoction to savour, using a variety of ingredients every time. Of course, you start with lettuce (not too much of it like what they do in the salad shops, filling the bowl mostly with it), or arugula, or spinach, or a combination. Then I add onions, cherry tomatoes, broccolis, beetroots, bell peppers, zucchinis, cucumbers, half cup of millet or quinoa, a variety of nuts such as almonds, pistachios, walnuts and hazel nuts, some goji berries, blueberries, and top up the whole thing with sauteed kale, black olives, with the dressing simply by adding 3 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar. You can add flax seeds and chia seeds, and sprinkle some cinnamon powder as well.

There you go – one of the healthiest salads you can prepare on your own with fresh ingredients, and never mind the cost – it is not going to be as expensive as having a half-done salad in a high-end restaurant. The labour of preparation is your own, which cannot be costed. Well, I forgot – just add some mild and crumbly Greek Feta Cheese on top of the salad.

I am having this kind of salad (or a variation of it) every day, in place of the usual dinner. I can tell you that the benefits of such a salad are amazing. I feel better and energetic from 7 PM till whatever time I want to be awake. I do not feel drowsy, and I feel “full”, not hungry at all afterwards. The salad is healthy and it is also “light” on the stomach. It provides all the necessary nutrients that the body needs every day – I cannot say the same thing of the heavy carbs-oriented food that we all consume for dinner every day.

Further, it is a “perky” kind of food – you are up and ready to go early next morning. The trick is to make it yourselves with your chosen ingredients in a manner that you like, and have it just before 7 PM, consistently every day.

The question often arises – what do I do when I travel, which is quite often. It is of course, a big challenge. However, I find that most 5-Star hotels have a good salad offering on their menu. You won’t be able to get all the ingredients that I have described above, however, you need to be satisfied with their generic menu items, but you can always ask for extra add-ons, which they will be pleased to provide (such as nuts, fruits, etc.,). Adding lemon juice instead of apple cider vinegar is clearly a good and easy option when travelling. Just squeeze the lemons on to the salad! Avoid adding heavy salad dressings which are always available in hotels – these will take away all the health benefits of the raw salad that you have ordered.

In a nutshell, Kale on top of your salad is an outstanding combination, offering superfood benefits to one and all. Try out Kale, sooner than later!

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

16th September 2018

 

 

 

Low-Carb Dieting


I thought it will be a good idea to report back on my experimentation with low-carb diet.

This is my third month of experimentation.

No rice, no pasta (my favourite for a long time!), no bread, and no other carbs except for fruits and millet.

It has been challenging for sure.

However, I am now getting used to such a food regimen.

I have added good fats like feta cheese to the millet meal with coloured vegetables (such as beetroots, yellow and red capsicum, broccoli, carrots, etc.,). That is the only full meal which needs to be taken before 7 PM everyday.

Lunch is salad with quinoa if available, otherwise the usual vegetables or chicken.

Breakfast is just two egg whites, either boiled or as omelette, sprinkled with cinnamon.

I noticed that I have been able to curb my cravings between meals significantly, which means I am not raiding the fridge for something to eat. Of course, I have tea between breakfast and lunch during the weekends with some nuts or biscuits. Need some spice to keep the taste buds going!

My objective is not to reduce my weight, though there has been a drop of some 2 KGs only – not the rapid drop of over 10 KGs that many people have reported in just 8 weeks of low-carb or keto dieting. My goal has been to control parameters that tend to go wrong or in the wrong direction, and the jury is still out at this point in time. I need to complete three months of dieting in the same consistent manner, before I will go in for a full medical checkup. Medicines of any kind are not required to be taken during this dieting procedure, though I would caution that it is my own decision, and it should not be followed by my audience without proper medical consultation.

What essentially this means is that I am in my own world of diet experimentation which I have arrived at after a long research. I mentioned it to my family doctor, and he encouraged me to follow the low-carb diet without any changes. I was surprised, given that he was a typical Singapore doctor (the doctors in Singapore tend to be over-conservative and cautious in any drug administration), but then he said that no harm can possibly come to me if I followed this diet. So there I went into a serious adoption of what I had crafted all by myself.

Of course, my wife was fully supporting me in this experimental diet adventure, and continues to support, though she had misgivings in the beginning. Now she has started seeing the positive effects of such dieting, though no one else in my family (including her) is following such a program. That’s fine, it is my own program and I have to prove it only to myself that I made the right decision and chose the right kind of diet for my own benefit.

As I am progressing through my third month, I am also seeing that certain ingredients such as cinnamon (on top of egg white omelette and millet meal), ACV (Apple Cider Vinegar) preferably before each meal, and plant nuts play a significant role in curbing hunger and avoiding any kind of health issues such as inflammation. There has been no pain in my legs after long walks or after working out in the gym. There is no incessant hunger to always eat something when not doing anything (which used to happen often in the past). Looking at food does not cause hunger. I have stopped wine consumption in a huge way which means alcohol’s effects are going away. All these practices contribute to eliminating health problems in the long run, as advocated by reputed medical research studies which have been published in reputed journals. So all this is not hogwash, these things are practical and useful for anyone, and except for the low-carb aspect, also useful for youngsters.

I am trying to market the idea to my own family and some friends, but there are no takers so far. I intend to research more into this fascinating area of diet control, which also illuminates the long-standing practice of fasting in various cultures, though I am not fasting under any circumstances!

It is critical for us to understand our own body and its needs and problems. One does not have to be a doctor to do so. I firmly believe that there are more than enough resources available to anyone who cares to look, and it does not have to be a tedious process.

So, kudos to low-carb diets, though I will report in due course what are the real benefits of following one such program.

Cheers, and have a good weekend folks,

Vijay Srinivasan

01 September 2018

The magic of Low Carb Diet


I have been following a Low Carb Diet for the past few weeks and the results have started coming in. Of course, the impact is positive.

I tend to experiment often with various things, otherwise life gets too boring and staid with no extra results or impact over and above the normal. As we say in corporate life (and also at the gym), “no additional pain, no gain at all”. My gym instructor keeps saying that he wants me to go a little bit beyond what I could possibly take. I have been struggling with that concept at the gym – how could I lift more than my maximum limit? I then slowly realized over the past couple of months that my “maximum” has been set by me in my own mind, not by anyone else. I might struggle to cross more than 15 repetitions with a specific maximum weight, but it is an artificial limit about which my brain intervenes to inform me that I have either reached the maximum weight possible, or I have reached the maximum number of repetitions.

I am following a similar concept when it comes to dieting which in my case, is not for reducing weight, but for gaining control over my body parameters. I went through extensive health tests both in India and Singapore, and analyzed the comparative results, and identified parameters that I need to focus on (I did get some consultation with qualified doctors both in India and Singapore of course). In order to tackle these identified parameters, I chose special diet advice over the possibility of medication.

There are various online resources available today to craft your own diet plan. I did extensive research, studied testimonials, consulted university hospital articles and advice, talked to doctors, and then hit upon a specific online tool which has helped me devise a plan for my own special situation. I did not follow all the inputs from the tool, and other resources, but devised a plan which seems to be working. Of course, I will continue to make changes as I go along in this journey.

The one key thing in this plan is to reduce calorie consumption from an average daily of 1,600 calories to less than 1,000 calories (specific numbers are unimportant as long as you realize that you do not need 1,600 or more calories to live, and can comfortably reduce the same). This, in turn means that I have to reduce my carbohydrate (carb) consumption dramatically – so I pushed out rice, pasta, french fries, potato wedges, chapathis/naans, and the like almost completely out of my menu. I did keep some “parboiled” basmati rice in the menu as it is far better than the regular rice, but the quantity of consumption is far lower than what I was accustomed to in the past. May be just two cups of cooked rice should be enough.

The other key factor is protein. In my regular food in the past, protein consumption was low. I increased it to some 40% (from 10%) while watching certain health parameters at the same time. Egg Whites (two or three, throw the yolk away) with Cinnamon powder sprinkled on them have become a staple for me for almost every breakfast, along with almonds and an apple. I also focus on Milk, Greek Yoghurt (a lot), other plant nuts like Hazel Nuts, Walnuts, and Pistachios, Broccoli, and White Chicken. I also like Salmon and White Fish, which are excellent sources of good protein (as well as good fat).

The other almost funny factor is “good fat” – I have been avoiding fats for a long time. In the process of going to gym, I learnt that one should not avoid good fats, and not all fats are bad. I started researching on good fats, and now have arrived at a somewhat interesting list of avocados (hardly tried it before), feta cheese, more extra virgin olive oil, full fat / whole cream milk, plant nuts, etc., I have stopped having coffee with low fat milk, and have switched to full cream milk in less quantity.

For me, I think I have stuck upon something which is working out finally. One critical observation is that I do not feel hungry all the time anymore – I feel good and satiated after a minimal meal, and my runs to the refrigerator have reduced or almost gone. Which only means my cravings for something with high carbs in it have dropped off significantly.

While I cannot recommend any such meal to my audience, I can only say with confidence that the positive impact of a low carb diet is amazing to say the least, both in terms of healthcare parameters as well as in the mental make-up of how we perceive food as such. The downside is the caution that one has to exhibit to others about the food choices that one is constrained to follow at every meal. But that is one’s own choice. Let us not forget the fact that what goes in makes you at the end of the day.

I would suggest you look at resources such as the Diet Doctor online [Diet Doctor) and many other such high quality resources before making any changes to your diet plan. Of course, consultation with your doctor is necessary. Or else, you are happy with yourself and your food as you are, and do not need to make any changes at all!

Have a wonderful week ahead,

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

1st July 2018

 

Salt Mango Tree


I felt only shame after viewing this Malayalam movie “Salt Mango Tree” on NetFlix along with my wife.

While there are many positive things I can say about my birth country India, there are equally many bad things that exist even today in modern India. I feel very proud when I see global corporate CEOs from India (far outnumbering many other countries), over 100 satellites being placed successfully in orbit by one single rocket launch by the Indian Space Research Organization, the very optimistic young generation in the entire world which India has in abundance, and so on and so forth – it is a rather long list of achievements by India and Indians in a short span of just six decades.

However, the things which went wrong over these same six decades, and which continue to hamper the potential and growth of India still bother me a lot. These should bother all well-wishers of India. What I am referring to here are things like corruption, lack of guaranteed, affordable and accessible education for all, lack of universal healthcare for all citizens, lack of safety and security for women and even for very young girl children, and lack of world-class infrastructure and facilities all across the country including uninterrupted access to electrical power, potable water, proper roads, high speed internet, etc., etc., Though there have been some improvements in the past few years, what India needs cannot be met with incremental enhancements of existing infrastructure. India needs to do what a China has done in the past 30 years of relentless public investment in a non-bureaucratic manner with the sole intention of enhancing the livelihood of its people. Communist China has done a far better job than a democratic India, and I am not going to listen to the democratic nonsense that many armchair philosophers expound on the superiority of democracy. Everything in the corporate world is measured on budgeted outcomes, why not in government and governance?

The movie “Salt Mango Tree” describes one facet of India’s systemic failure in providing quality education for all children. Parents have to run around for getting admissions to prestigeous schools, and are totally stressed out in the process. They have to perform better than their children in school admission interviews. What about children of hawker stalls and poor people? How will they get admission in such schools if the criteria is based on how well the parents perform in interviews? How will they speak in English, let alone come well dressed and well groomed for such nonsensical interviews?

I was seriously embarrassed to see how the movie portrays the anguish of both the parents, who struggle to make a living and save money for their only boy. The movie strongly hints about the so-called “donation” which is nothing but a bribe which parents have to offer to schools. When parents give up on the due process in getting school admissions, they turn towards short cuts such as bribe, and this practice continues throughout the life cycle of their children, embedding and validating the need for systemic corruption. Why would anybody outside the Indian system believe that our quality of education is good and impeccable, on par with the developed countries? Making an incorrect comparison with the IITs and IIMs is wrong, as the folks who get into such schools do so entirely on merit, and they go on to change the greater world in many ways. They are focused on making wealth and very few dedicate their lives to fixing the systemic issues of governance in India (I personally know of only one such classmate).

I am not going to describe the movie here, but the message from the movie cannot be more impactful – to get quality education in India even at the primary level (starting at Kindergarten) today, parents have to prepare well, get trained, perform very well in school admission interviews, and be ready to offer donations. This is not the case in any one of the developed nations of the world. If India wishes to achieve the status of the top 5 countries of the world (not just based on GDP), it has to pay serious attention to education, healthcare, quality of living, public infrastructure, etc., and follow the model of either the Nordic countries or countries like Singapore, where public systems by government trump even the best quality of private systems (which are also available but at a tremendous cost). If India cannot invest at least 5% of its national budget on improving public Education and another 5% on public Healthcare, then the future generations will continue to suffer.

The focus outside India today has turned positive about India after a long dry spell of negative media coverage about the bad things happening in India. I have seen that over the past quarter century (most of which I have spent outside India), and it sometimes used to pain me. I am out of it now and immune to the negative coverage on India. I look for some positive news on India every day. The political news is not encouraging. As I wrote in a recent blog post, my experience in Bangalore traffic in the midst of visiting foreigners was not positive. The “East Asians” detest infrastructure problems as they have long been used to good infrastructure and environment. I make it a point not to bad-mouth India in any manner to them, and I try to keep my views to myself. I tend to talk about the positives and push the envelope for their next visit.

However, as I write here this evening, it pains me again to see that India has not changed in fundamental public services.

Looks like this will be the situation in our life time.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

29th April 2018

The Big Decision


I decided to stop drinking alcohol in any form from today.

This is one of the biggest decisions any wine lover can make for sure. And, I am one. I do not enjoy any other alcoholic drink as much as I enjoy a glass of wine from a good winery of a good vintage. Occasionally I do have some single malt whiskey as most others are fond of that kind of drink, or a Corona Beer. But wine has been my drink of choice for a long, long time.

How about giving up wine?

It means a lot to me. I have written about a number of wines in my Blog – you just have to select “Wines” under the Category drop-down menu and you will see many wines that I have enjoyed drinking.

I am sure to get withdrawal symptoms.

I am told most people who have been alcohol lovers (like cigar smokers) would face significant challenges to desist the lure of a good drink. There is of course the challenge of what one would drink after one becomes non-alcoholic. In my case, I am not going to drink any of the sugary soft drinks, so I guess I would have settle for the well-established H2O, or water.

It is going to be challenging, and it is going to be funny to explain why I took such a radical decision. Such a decision is of course not taken or made lightly. It does take serious thought and introspection. It takes guts. It takes a lot of will power.

So, why did I make such a decision? What prompted me? How can I become a total abstainer after such a long time?

Why? Why?

One major reason is healthcare. One has to take care of one’s health. To keep ignoring what your physician says or advises does not become an option after a while. Then there is the spousal persuasion. My wife used to tell me that I spend close to 40% of her grocery bill on wines, and often pointed out that it is disproportionate. I agree (what else can I do).

Is that all? Are these the reasons that drove me to make a decision today? And, why today?

As most of my readers know, I keep reading a lot about whatever comes across my attention span. Of late, I have become interested in healthcare and life sciences, though it is not something natural for me (I am an Electronics and Communication Engineer). I will most surely read anything on medical innovation – new diagnostic tools, techniques, discoveries, et al. There is no shortage of biotech companies which are trying to change the medical world upside down.

While I am trying to adjust my own thoughts around some of these exotic and innovative stuff going on in research labs around the world, I found that I am not personally benefitting from the knowledge. So, I started to explore more on lifestyle and behavioural changes that could impact positively on my own health. Some changes I made to my lifestyle over the past couple of years were walking a minimum of 10,000 footsteps a day (I am averaging 18,000), taking up membership in a gym under the supervision and training of a professional trainer, consuming a variety of plant nuts (I have written about this in one of my earlier posts) and green leafy vegetables, and so on and so forth. Since I was (and still am) fond of wine, I resisted the investigation of the effects alcohol could have on the body.

Recently, I did so while happily drinking wine! I found that alcohol is not really a good thing for one’s liver, and could cause a litany of negative effects on the body and its organs which are far outweighed by the small benefits to the heart by drinking red wine. The medical opinion is divided. I consulted my doctor, and as expected he was not in favour of regular consumption of any type of alcohol. I persisted however, not giving up so fast.

It went on for some time until I saw my own fatty liver on ultrasound sonography test. The effectiveness of the liver functioning is affected when fat builds up in the liver cells due to alcohol drinking. It is not necessary that only alcohol drinking causes fatty liver. In fact, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is quite prevalent.

However, considering a combination of my health parameters and age, I decided it may not be wise to proceed drinking in an uninterrupted fashion as though nothing is going to be impacted; since my wine drinking and wine selection is based on some research which have led to a kind of passion for good wines, I know it is going to be rather difficult. In fact, I am feeling the withdrawal symptoms already, it being a Sunday evening now.

What should I do with the wine bottles that I had so carefully chosen and bought? My wife says just throw them – of course, I cannot in my good conscience do so. I will keep looking at them for a while till I get the courage to pluck one and gift it when visiting another family for dinner. It is going to be hard.

Well, my decision is most certainly a courageous one; it is unfortunately based on indiscriminate knowledge acquisition in the medical field, but fortunately supported by my doctor. My wife firmly and unequivocally supports my conclusions and decision.

Adieu my dear wine(s). Hope you folks (the wines I mean) do well.

I have to be determined, courageous, strong, and rely on my will power. I am sure I can do it.

Cheers, and enjoy the rest of your weekend folks,

Vijay Srinivasan

22nd April 2018

 

 

 

Flirting with Gymming


What kind of title is that? I had to call it something while trying to figure out what I am going to write about this Saturday evening. I decided that it should be about my new experience at the gym, which is kind of changing me in several ways. I also thought it is appropriate to write about the experience, as I have just completed 50% of the 44 classes that I signed up for, as of today.

I have had several flings with gymming over the years, but nothing has been consistent. Most of the time it was just visiting the gym at the condo and checking out the various equipment without any expert guidance from a friend or a trainer. Sometimes I get an urge to go to the hotel gym when I am travelling, again to check out how a gym at a nice hotel is equipped. I just used to run, sorry walk, on the treadmill and lift some weights and that justified the need to carry my gym shoes and dress while travelling. The condo gym never worked out as usually there was no support of any trainer.

And so it went………with no physical gain from gym related activities over all these years. The only benefit I got was from my usual walking which I have maintained consistently every day of the week – currently my average is 18,000 steps a day.

So one day my wife asked me what I am doing at the gym. I smiled sheepishly and she anyway knew. She forced me to take up a 44-class trainer led program at a leading gym not far from where I live, and to start with I was quite reluctant giving various reasons why it will not work out for me. But she rejected my rationale, and made me start up from the last week of December. Now I am going into my 14th week with 2 classes per week, but then when I travel I miss my classes.

I should say that my trainer is pretty good – let us call him R. He has been tasking me from the very first class in serious gymming, and for the past couple of classes I have been inducted into “free weights” – using my own body instead of the benefit of the machines (which I have been doing almost in every class anyway). Free weights like dumb bells and weights task you like anything and are significantly tougher and more beneficial than the usual gym machines. R told me that repetitions are what matter the most, not increasing weights. It can even be 4 or 6 KG dumb bells, but the work these do on one’s muscles is just incredible. The other technique is “isolation” – instead of using both hands, just train one hand at a time. It is very tough but it is good in building the weak arm. I am learning a wide variety of techniques and approaches towards muscle building from R, and he has been doing this for the past over 2 decades.

As R says, if there is no pain, there is no gain. The machines look good, are easy to understand and operate, and one feels good using the various machines at the gym. However, a collection of machines only delivers overall exercise, not specific muscle-building activities. R told me that I am weak in my arms, shoulders, and legs – and over the past 14 weeks or so, he has been addressing my weaknesses progressively. It is like going through a university course, with all the work being done by the student and the professor just providing appropriate guidance only.

Sometimes, I feel totally drained even after 30 minutes of the 60 minutes class. It is occasionally “back-breaking” so to say. But I get encouraged seeing other trainees under other trainers who are going through similar experiences (only that they are all much younger!). R, however, told me that age is not an issue or hurdle, as long as instructions are followed and muscles are addressed appropriately by the various exercises.

I should say that my perspective on life is beginning to change. I know that I am not into gymming for the “body building” passion; I am into gymming to ensure my muscles do not waste away, and I am able to carry my frame as I age. It may or may not work, but I believe that going to gym under a professional trainer is the right approach. If you throw in your “weight” behind the program, you might start to see some improvement. I wonder at these trainers at the gym, who are into training for 12 hours every day for six days in a week – incredible commitment to a single pursuit. I do strike up conversation with R almost during every class while resting between two exercises, and I was surprised to learn that he trained as a mechanical engineer, but chose this profession to follow his heart. Amazing guy!

So, here I am, almost at the middle of my training program. It is getting increasingly tougher every class as I navigate the program, but there is no escape from this serious commitment designed to help myself. I would strongly encourage my audience to consider the possibility of gymming under a professional trainer, it is something which will be highly productive given the right quality of training.

It took me more than an hour to recoup my energy with some good coffee and snacks after the gym activity, but at the end of the day I feel good about this commitment and investment. It may not turn into a passion, but it is likely to persist during the rest of my life.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

07 April 2017

 

The Gas Chamber


I was in Delhi for just 30 hours this week Thursday to Friday.

My wife had warned me to cancel the trip and return home from Mumbai, but I had to go to Delhi for official work. She instructed me to stay at the hotel and apply eye drops every couple of hours (as I had recently gone through an eye surgery).

While I was in Mumbai earlier this week, I saw frightening news on pollution levels in Delhi. The pollution index crossed 700 which is considered absolutely unsafe for everyone, and I saw a doctor stating that Delhi might have to consider a public evacuation of its inhabitants. Delhi overtook Beijing to become the most highly polluted city in the world.

So, I was surprised to see many foreigners (mostly Westerners and Japanese) happily going out of the airport premises without a protective mask. Only one in ten people were wearing a mask, some were closing their mouths and noses with their handkerchiefs. I had my office colleagues with me, and it was embarrassing to witness the situation in the capital city of the country in front of them. We could not see the buildings on the other side of the highway, it was that bad. A thick smog has shrouded all of Delhi, and the government had closed all schools for the week, and was even trying to close all offices.

I did not venture out except for dinner time, and also kept applying the eye drops though I could feel some irritation in the eyes. It surprised me that there were so many folks walking on the roads as though nothing has changed. It amazes me how Indians continue to treat even an emergency situation with utter nonchalance. I saw that the security guards and other staff in the hotel were not wearing any protective masks, and there I saw the failure of the hotel management in protecting its own employees. The idea seems to be “so what” – if we lose a few staff, Delhi can always provide more people to fill the jobs at the lowest levels – utter disregard for the health and safety of staff members.

It continues to be a public health emergency situation in Delhi. And, as usual, the politicians on all sides were hitting at others and laying the blame elsewhere, and I could not see any actions being taken to address the situation on a war footing. While the root causes will take time to fix, it is imperative that the government spends its time, efforts and resources on removing the smog, for example, by spraying water all over the city from helicopters. India has the resources, but lacks the sense of emergency and purpose, and also political will to take drastic measures. Till the time that India starts to really care about population healthcare and human development, situations like these will go with the government of the day taking half-baked and half-hearted measures. India has one of the highest economic growth rates in the world, but that hardly matters when people are seriously affected like in this situation.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the Particulate Matter (PM) is the most critical pollutant affecting most people. Please carefully read the fact sheet that the WHO has provided at its website – I am linking it here Ambient (outdoor) air quality and health. The mean figures for PM10 (for particulate matter with diameter of 10 Microns or less) are: 20 for annual and 50 for 24-hour mean. With Delhi’s figure crossing 700, you can imagine the health problems that are going to be caused due to this smog hanging over Delhi. This means that there are billions and billions of these 10 Micron (or less) diameter particles which are floating around in Delhi at this moment, and these are being inhaled by Delhi’s citizens every second – with the underprivileged people in the streets affected the most. There are labourers and children who sleep on the roads in Delhi. The richer folks can afford expensive air purifiers, but the poor cannot. These instances continue in India with no redressal.

Who can we blame?

Is it the current government or the past government(s)? Is it the bureaucracy?

Well, it does not matter. One day people are going to die on the streets of Delhi. And, tourists and businesses will start to shun the city. Unless the government takes expeditious action now, and also stops this phenomenon repeating itself at the start of the winter season every year.

Delhi can now be called a gas chamber, one which needs to be cleansed and allowed to breathe.

Let us pray for the inhabitants of Delhi and not for its politicians.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

11th November 2017

Eye & Eye


I have continuously worn eye glasses for 45 years. The spectacle is part of my life as much as any part of my body – sometimes (forgetfully though), I have even taken a shower with my glasses on. Clearly, I had come to consider that my eye glasses are an integral part of my being, and respect it as much, all these years.

So, imagine my plight without eyeglasses for the past few days! Really miserable!! Especially when the eye doctor instructed me not to read anything – whether newspaper or smartphone – for the next few days, after my cataract surgery. Yes, I had my first ever surgery of any kind last week on one of my eyes at the Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC). I will have surgery on the other eye next week. The difficult phase of life between the first and second eye surgeries is characterized by one eye being able to see long distance, and the other one unable to do so. It is a kind of funny situation as I walk around with one eye blurred, and not being able to wear my favourite spectacle frame. So, now I have no eye glasses, and that appears to be a situation when a man has no clothes!

The good part of the experience, is of course, the ability of the rectified eye to see long distance, and suddenly everything appears to be crystal sharp. I was sitting on the living room sofa, after a few hours of surgery, and was a bit startled to be able to read everything at a distance of more than 10 feet, even small letters on an equipment or a box. It was never the case before, and even with glasses it has always been tough to discern characters from a distance of more than ten feet, unless these are somewhat big. The other eye of course refuses to cooperate, as it is yet to be rectified.

I read about laser-assisted cataract surgery, and can only wonder how far things have progressed in medical technology. In fact, my doctor also commented on this point – that technology has taken us far ahead, but we still use files to write comments on. I remarked it is just a question of time when almost everything in life will be automated (coming from a technology company!).

In a nutshell, I have not been reading my emails and WhatsApp messages for the past couple of days, and this is a blessing in disguise, I should say. I have been able to think about substantive matters of existential importance (which always happens to all of us when we get out of a hospital), and that line of thinking throws up new areas to discuss and of course, blog!

Lots of eye drops go into the operated eye every few hours, and this is part of the recovery process. I am going through that now, and it will continue all through October (4 weeks for each operated eye). The guidance and service at the SNEC has been excellent, though it is a government facility. I got a friend’s strong referral for a senior consultant at SNEC, and that is how I landed there. The professionalism and strict adherence to procedures and processes are what distinguish such institutions.

OK, I will have to stop writing further as my wife is frowning, and asking me why I am violating the code of conduct. Will report later on how life is going to be transformed without my favourite eye glasses.

In the meanwhile, have a good weekend, and a good week ahead,

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

01 October 2017

 

 

 

The “Walking” Consistency


I have been walking almost every day even before Fitbit arrived a couple of years ago. I probably walked some 8,000 steps or so every morning without counting the steps, always wanting to measure and walk for atleast 2.5 KMs every early morning.

This had been going on for a long time.

But then, Fitbit arrived. And, many other copy cats also arrived. The Apple Health app arrived recently (may be some six months ago, cannot recall). More advanced measuring devices in the form of watches arrived in the market, but Fitbit retained its first mover hold on the market. That is what I think even today, though I am tempted by few other devices which I will talk about soon.

I started using Fitbit only very recently – from October 2016 onwards. I became a very loyal follower of the Fitbit revolution. I set a target of 8,500 steps for a typical day but then I was doing somewhere around 14,000 steps per day, the intent being to reach close to 100,000 steps for a typical week. Then, I marginally increased the weekly target to 105,000 steps which translated to an average of 15,000 steps per day. I thought this will be a good goal to achieve every day and every week, and it was going on for several weeks in this fashion. When I fall behind during a particular day, I always made up the very next day, and in the worst case, during the ensuing weekend, so that the total could always reach the weekly target. I found it difficult to reach the daily target especially when I travelled, as I do not like going to hotel gyms and running on the treadmill due to potential knee problems, so I was forced to walk within my hotel room and the hotel corridors, and sometimes on the road in front of the hotel, all the time looking at my smartphone to ensure that there was a reasonable “performance”. Ha Ha Ha !!!

I formed a group of like-minded folks on the Fitbit community (some 12 guys in the group, which I am trying to expand now), and loved when the app allowed me to “cheer”, “taunt” or message any specific guy. While things were progressing well, one of my colleagues talked to me about “setting” a new weekly target. I thought, may be 125,000 steps will be good, but then he suggested 150,000 steps which translated to more than 21,000 steps per day which was a 40% increase over what I was then doing every day!

I accepted the new goal, and then achieved the figure every day and for every week I achieved the total of 150,000 steps. Please note that the weekly figure is a cumulative figure for the past 7 days, which means you have to perform well every day – no excuse. This has been going on for the past few weeks, but then my colleague said he wanted to increase the target to 190,000 steps.

I said “no” to that new target, I told him it would be unreasonable and taxing on the body. He went ahead anyway, I have not seen him achieve that new figure on any day yet (for the previous 7 days as a cumulative total), but then he did achieve cumulative figures like 175,000 steps for a couple of days. He always maintained his total well above 160,000 steps – almost 23,000 steps a day!

But then, I reasoned that consistency and body comfort are more important in this exercise. Consistency means the ability to achieve the figure of around 21,000 steps a day every day, and then a cumulative total of 150,000 steps every day for the past 7 days, in an orderly fashion without negative deviation. I achieved the figures every day for the past 3 weeks or so in a consistent fashion.

“Body Comfort” means an assessment of whether one’s body, especially the legs, calves, ankles, thigh muscles, etc., are able to perform without any discernible pain. Though I did not have any pain for 9 out of 10 days, I did have occasional muscle pain just above the knees and I was able to address the same by resorting to “pain relieving patch” from Hisamitsu Pharma of Japan (the brand is “SALONPAS 30 HOT”, which was very effective). I do not need it anymore, as I have no pain for the past 10 days or so, but I keep this stuff at home, just in case……..

So, on both counts – “performance consistency” and “body comfort” aspects – I decided that my own best performance would not exceed the above figures, irrespective of other Fitbit group users’ performance. I also devised a mechanism of achieving the daily figures in an easy manner – before 8 AM every day, I would reach 10,000 steps; before 2 PM, I would do another 5,000 steps by doing several things – like doing most of my phone calls by walking around a conference room, walking a fairly decent distance to reach the lunch place and walking back, etc., The balance of 6,000 steps I would do anytime between 6 and 10 PM, probably around home area. In the back of my mind, the Fitbit challenge always exists every day, that I need to drive myself to achieve my targets for the day – a daily stepping figure of 21,000 steps and a daily cumulative total of 150,000 steps for the previous 7 days.

I also noticed that I was averaging between 14 and 15 KMs of walking everyday, that translated to a weekly total of close to 100 KMs and a monthly total of 400 KMs. Imagine, I could achieve somewhere in the region of 4,500 KMs in a typical year just by walking around!!!

Amazing, isn’t it? But more work is required in terms of developing strong muscles, and I will write about the same in a subsequent post.

In the meanwhile, “keep walking” with a performance target that you could consistently achieve while enjoying body comfort.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

8th January 2017