Sunday, May 06, 2007

Article - Fitness - Too much of a good thing!

Too much of a good thing!

Food-haters are few. Varied tastes and preferences aside, food as a rule, is welcome any time. Herein lies the crux of the matter. A food-lover is ready for food even when not hungry and is a ‘sitting duck’ for a vice like over-eating.

Let me expand (pun intended) on that …

“Foodies”, generally, like eating out and sampling cuisines from around the world. A self-proclaimed connoisseur of food, I have discovered the dark side to this expertise the hard way – giving in to excesses. It is “all in the mind”. Fellow-“foodies” beware of this at restaurants: Perusing the menu card when you have hunger pangs! You then order too much, eat too much and end up coming away with a heavy heart and stomach! Moreover, when that hungry, every action seems justifiable.

Beginning the meal with a soup is the right way to start. Delicious, deep-fried starters are not for weight-watchers but are tough for the ‘average’ food-lover to bypass! Still, the healthier choices of the likes of steamed dumplings are always there. The main course is not as challenging -- Avoid butter, cream, ghee or gravy-based dishes and you are OK! Then, avoiding sinful desserts is doable as long as you slowly and enjoyably expend with the main meal. The brain can then signal the red flag effectively enough! However, if you have a formidable sweet tooth, it is best to remember that moderation is the only option left. You may as well ‘have the cake and eat it too’ by sharing your dessert with your co-diner(s) to simplify matters and avoid a guilt trip!

“Eat to live” as the foregoing suggests, is not my motto. Glum realization: I used to “live to eat”. However, since my Herculean efforts to ‘be active’ and lose weight began last year, I am glad to proclaim that my “excesses”– both physical (weight), as well as mental (craving) have gradually decreased. These days, whenever the urge to over-eat threatens to overcome me, I remind myself of other benefits of exercise…A major boost in confidence level, a lot less moodiness (and consequently) more amiability, better-fitting wardrobe, more discipline, greater scope for positive thinking, etc. I consider these interesting benefits albeit a bit frivolous compared to “good health” and “fitness”!

A stray instance of over-eating does still occur but such instances are far fewer now and less intense than before, thanks to a basic awareness brought on by physical activity. There we have it. It always comes back to this. Exercise. For a food-lover, eating without working out is lethal. Regular exercise gives greater inclination to eat right. Without physical activity, a food-lover’s life can become heavily (!) gloomy…and there is always a jumpy feeling that one day all will be lost. By “all”, I mean any semblance even, of self-control.

All said and done, occasional devil-may-care moments lead to setbacks. Perhaps a Chinese celebration, a Tandoori temptation or sheer Pizza pleasure, even. Damage done…but life is all about give and take. Keep the sanity by giving the body a lot of exercise and taking some treats (more for the mind!) from time to time. An obsession for food is as important an issue as smoking, drinking or drug-abuse. I have refrained from using a strong phrase like “food-abuse” although it best defines over-eating! Exercise is the safety net. If I slip up and eat wrong today, I know I can and must make things right by sweating it out tomorrow.

Abuse or no, energy-giving food is a need. Like most other needs, there is a constant danger of it becoming a want and/or an obsession. Exercising self-control is also more difficult when a “foodie” has a lot of time on hand…it is a necessity to keep oneself busy and mentally stimulated with other things like taking up a challenging job or pursuing pet interests.

When it comes to food, a universal phrase is applicable and should become a mantra: “everything in moderation”. That is what the Gurus prescribe!

Sujata Tarakesan.

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