Monday, April 24, 2017

A Healthy Lifestyle Despite Long Working Hours

The Girl Boss Series - Healthy Lifestyle with Long Working Hours

I work as a consultant, and my work hours vary by the project I am working on. Sometimes it is 10 hours a day, and other times it is 15. That said, it is never less enough for a lazy person like me to be able to include a regular 1 hour workout routine to my lifestyle. Hence, I have to live with a mix of good food and some heart-pumping, amidst the innumerable client dinners and weekend outings to maintain a balance.

Part 4 of the Girl Boss Series on my blog is all about how I try to maintain a healthy lifestyle, while working long hours. I am NOT the most healthy or the most health-freak person out there, and I DO have to make that extra effort to stay (somewhat) fit. Especially with today’s fast lifestyle, where even if we want, we cannot keep ourselves surrounded by greenery and eat pesticide-free fruits and veggies, I feel nothing is worth NOT being able to invest in yourself.

For the purpose of this post, I will break it into 3 parts – eating well, working out, and de-stressing. All these three go hand-in-hand and my skin and weight does the talking when I am able to stick to this routine.

Eating Well

Eating Well is the First Step to Staying Fit

I am a Bengali - Rice and sweets are a part of my staple. As I grew up and realized that my metabolism is slowing and these 2 things are doing more harm to my body than any good to my taste buds, it took me a lot of disciplining myself to eating rice once or twice a week, and giving up sweets after every meal! Even today, when I cheat, I would usually cheat on desserts and Biryani, rather than pizza and fries.

1.   Ghar ka Khana – The most essential thing I try to do is take home-food to office for breakfast/lunch. The fact that I cannot eat outside food continuously for few days definitely helps my case. When I was stuck in a hotel room for 5 months on my last project, with no access to kitchen, I easily gained 4 Kgs in no time. Hence, I cannot emphasize this step enough. I know it is not easy for everyone to do it, but we can always try to cook one big batch and use it for the next 3-4 days. In India of course, help is available easily, and that is what I leverage.

      I also try to keep some healthy snacks, like a box of cut fruits, or dry-fruits to munch on between the meals. That way, I don’t have to rely on unhealthy snacks when I feel bored or hungry. Can you tell I carry my entire day in a hand-bag?
      Check out here what some of my other must-haves are.

2.    Drink lots of Water – They say, drinking sufficient amount of water helps in detoxifying the body, thereby keeping you away from dry skin, bloated stomach, breakouts, etc. What I have noticed is, when I am well-hydrated, I also feel less hungry. Some calories saved right there!

I usually carry an empty bottle with me (isn’t water too heavy? Well, my shoulders aren’t that strong), and fill it up and keep on my desk. If I don’t have it in front of me, then I would probably end up going to get myself a glass of water ONLY when I am thirsty, and hence end up drinking less. On a busy day, when I am working at a stretch, drinking some water also helps break the monotony. Too many positives to give up on this one!

3.    Avoid liquid calories – We don’t realize, but coffee and other drinks accompaniments with food result in piling up the calories pretty effortlessly. The lemonade, the cold coffee, the coke with a slice of pizza – I know we are much more aware of the health hazards of these today than we were 5 years ago, but just in case you do this, now is the time to stop.

Especially in the western countries, I feel since Water costs as much as many of these other sucrose-added drinks, people would go ahead and buy these instead. Rarely, have I seen them not ordering a coke along with a sandwich!

Well, coming from India and the spicy food we serve, I have always been used to having water with my meal. That said, evidently, having water WITH a meal dilutes the enzymes and reduces metabolism. So I try (more often than not I fail) to hydrate myself 30 minutes before or after a meal.

4.    Avoid processed food – If you have ever tried to count calories in food mindlessly you would have noticed processed food have fewer calories. For example, Oats has more calories than corn flakes, brown rice has more calories than white rice, so on and so forth. And THAT is why we should go for healthy food, than just count the calories. Processed food is stripped off of fibre, and end up giving you a bloated stomach when consumed too much. Pretty much empty calories they are.

Simple things like baking an Atta cake, or going for the Atta noodle if you HAVE to, can go a long way in making for a healthy living.

5.     Fix a schedule for eating out – Let’s face it – we love to eat out once in a while. And healthy living doesn’t have to be about giving up on that Chhole Bhature or trying out new restaurants in town altogether! What works best for me, is making a schedule of how many times a week I am allowed to eat out. I have restricted it to once a week. That just helps break the dullness of home food, and also helps keep a check. Otherwise, I would never have a count of the random calories piled on.

6.     Don’t skip breakfast – I am sure we have all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It is also the easiest to skip with today’s lifestyle – we wake up late, we don’t have time for breakfast, and coffee seems to be an easy option to keep us full till an early lunch.

However, ever since I have been having a little something in the mornings, I have realized that it helps keep me full throughout the rest of the day. I don’t mean I can skip lunch or dinner altogether, but I feel full with much lesser amount of food during my other meals. I am guessing that saves me some calories in the long run?

Some easy breakfast options I swear by:

a.    Chilled Oats – I recently discovered this, and here is a detailed recipe of this super easy and delicious option. You can also make this once, and store for the next 3-4 days. Sounds perfect, doesn’t it!

b.     Spinach Banana Oats Smoothie – Just blend them all in a blender with some ice, and the perfectly healthy and filling smoothie is ready. The green color of this smoothie makes me feel good (and pretentious?) as well. Are you weird like me?

c.    Boiled Egg/Potato Sandwich – For days when I crave for a savory breakfast instead of sweet, I just put in some boiled potato or boiled egg slices in a whole wheat wrap or 2 slices of whole wheat bread, with some chopped onions and tomatoes. Yogurt or Guacamole can serve as excellent dressing/spread, and salt and pepper for added flavor. Sometimes I would use Avocado, but more often than not, it is not easily available in India. At least not around me.


Working Out is as much about the Clean Air as About the Heart-Pumping

Getting the heart rate soaring is very tricky business for me. As much as I can, I try to avoid it. But I am not getting any younger, and putting on weight has never been easier.  Although, even THAT is not adequate to get me to the gym every day. I mean, is it just me who detests the sight of driven young people running on the tread mill?

Let us just say, listening to music and running on a machine is just not inspiring enough for me. So I am on a constant lookout for innovative and fun ways to keep myself fit. Hence, things I do in this section, might not be for every one of you out there, but if you are lazy and easily bored like me, keep on reading – some of this might come handy.

1.    Cardio isn’t a synonym for treadmill – There are so many other ways to get some cardio in life. I feel it is important that we all choose something that we enjoy doing. Personally I find it more fun to take a walk in a park than running in an enclosed room we love to call Gym.

Swimming, Cycling, Zumba, Dance classes – these are some of my favorite things to do. Many of them aren’t probably as efficient as hitting the treadmill but these are some activities I can continue to do without it getting monotonous and then me quitting. THAT to me is more important than being super-effective one day and snoozing the rest of the week.

I would usually go for a 30 minute swim 5 days a week and since I am in Mumbai, I can keep doing that across all seasons! Many days, especially when I am on taxing projects, I feel like giving up, but I enjoy swimming so much, that it is like a welcome break for me. More like some me-time away from the world.

2.   The elevator is for the lazy – Even if you aren’t able to get to working out 4-5 times a week, there are always other ways. And the easiest of them is to take the stairs at work whenever you can, take a short walk when you are taking a break, etc. This is no rocket science, but a reminder once in a while helps!

3.   Monitor footsteps – Setting targets and tracking them is probably one of the easiest ways to keep yourself motivated. I learnt this when there was a walking challenge introduced in my workplace last year. When I had a set target and was meticulously tracking my footsteps to reach there, I was inadvertently pushing myself to walk around and take the stairs at times when I would otherwise be sitting.

For instance I was walking around when on an office call. I was forcing myself to take the stairs so increase the count on my tracker by 50 rather than taking the elevator or escalator. The challenge is now over, but I am still tracking my steps. The feeling of accomplishment when you have exceeded your target, is inexplicable!


De-stressing is As Important As a Heavy Work Out to Complete the Healthy Lifestyle
De-stressing is probably as vital as working out for a healthy lifestyle. This is something we easily tend to forget these days, in our rush to achieve the world in a much lesser time!

1.     Sleep – Easier said than done but 7 hours of continuous sleep is what I aim for in a day. Gone are the days when I would spend a night out and survive the next full day on a Red Bull!

2.  Pamper yourself – After a busy week, unwinding is again a key step I don’t like to miss on. Weekends for me are meant to be for hair spas, and facials, and a visit to a massage parlor whenever my time and wallet allows.

3.   Lemongrass – Lately, I have started believing on Aromatherapy. Ever since I got a Lemongrass essential oil from Muji, I have been using it non-step in my diffuser. The room smells like a spa and falling asleep at night with a relaxed mind has never been easier!

Hope this lazy girl’s guide to a somewhat healthier life comes in handy for you. For all the super-active healthy people who have accidentally found my blog, sorry to disappoint :P This was not by any means a health lecture, just some things I do to make my sedentary lifestyle a little more hale and hearty.

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Check out the previous posts on this series:

Keep a lookout for my next post on Apr 29!


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