7 health tips from celebrity wellness books that could change your body and mind
From Deanne Panday, Rujuta Diwekar and more…
I’m a textbook learner. Watching a recipe video while also trying to cook is like a comedy-horror-action reality show in motion. But give me a cookbook of regional delights and I’ll spend the next two days charting out every step until the dish is conquered.
So even though, like a true fitness un-enthusiast, I’ve bookmarked multiple home workout videos and recipes for healthy snacks to replace my 4pm Bourbon binge, I’ve never gone beyond that. The only calories I end up burning are when I’m anxiously picking at my cuticles as a deadline approaches.
A whole new world was unveiled to me when I chanced upon the health and wellness books. I read Balance by fitness expert and wellness coach Deanne Panday and my inner kitabi keedi was ready to start moving.
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Reading about Panday’s wheel-of-life programme, rather than watching it play out, helped me understand it better, like having a guiding hand on your shoulder, gently nudging you towards living your best life.
Some of the other wellness books I came across are new to the arena but backed with years of professional training. Others have changed the way people think about health and fitness. I scoured through them and picked the most effective tips we can easily add to our wellness routines. By we, I mean, us couch potatoes of course.
7 tips from wellness books that will change your life
Tip #1 Instead of counting calories, count the number of nutrients
We do really start breaking our heads over what to eat when you’re trying to stick to a diet. But celebrity nutritionist Rujuta Diwekar has been trying to cut through the noise of trending diets, and focus instead on the nutritional value of what we’re eating.
You could be on a very strict 1,000 calorie-a-day diet and lose 15 kilos in three months, but overall lack the nutrition to keep your organs, hair, skin and eyesight healthy.
She maps out these beliefs and professional advice in her best-selling book Don’t Lose Your Mind, Lose Your Weight. Don’t segregate food groups into good or bad, instead be mindful of what you’re eating. Our body can handle it all, even fried foods, as long as we eat them at the right times.
Instead of 2-3 meals a day, Diwekar suggests we reduce our servings in one sitting and have small meals every two hours, covering all food groups through the day. Stay satiated, not starved or miserable until you break and binge at 2am.
Tip #2 Get the most out of your day-to-day movements by making them purposeful
As much as I’d like to believe that I was meant to lie in bed and doom-scroll through Facebook, our bodies were made for movement. Any kind of movement and not necessarily at a designated time at the gym, according to fitness trainer Shwetambari Shetty.
If you’re mindful about it, Shetty explains in Get Moving!, you can turn any basic movement into a functional activity for your body. Especially for beginners like myself, these shorter moments of focused activity seem a lot less scary than walking into a gym every evening while powerlifters are benching my body weight.
Leaving the office to take a cigarette break or make a phone call? Take a walk around the building while you do. Take the longer route to the bathroom and squat instead of bending over to pick up the pen you dropped.
They all seem like minor exercises in comparison to a full-body workout, but according to Shetty, 15 minutes of mindful movements like these on a daily basis can help increase your longevity.
Tip #3 Figure out which foods cause inflammation in your body by elimination
What did cheese ever do to anyone but bring a smile to their face? It is the saviour of dishes, purveyor of truth and blessing from our overlord alien beings. Leave dairy alone, I say. But my best friend swears that removing it from her daily diet completely sorted out her acne and digestion issues.
Functional medical practitioner Dr Will Cole says that it isn’t necessary that two bodies react the same way to different ingredients. In his book The Inflammation Spectrum, he explains the concept of an elimination diet. A period of trial and error where you remove certain foods from your meal plan to figure our what food triggers are irritating your body and causing inflammation that can lead to ailments like heart disease asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, bowel diseases and more.
“Every food is either feeding inflammation or fighting it — and which foods do what varies from person to person,” says Cole. The four larger food groups that the elimination diet works with are dairy, sugar, gluten and processed seed oils.
The methods in his book help you organise your elimination plan over the course of 2-8 weeks, track and monitor your body changes to help you better understand what your body loves and hates.
Tip #4 Add foods that boost serotonin and promote mental health
You are what you eat, and chances are, you will be a ‘hangry Grinch’ if you skip a meal or two. But it’s not just physical hunger that we feed but our emotions and mental health. The gut-mood link is a lot stronger than we expect. I’d be happy eating samosa-pav and wafers for the rest of my life but the truth is, a few weeks down the line, I’ll be cranky and more lethargic.
Did you know there’s scientific evidence that haldi can soothe depression and help anxiety and that sugar is bad for your libido? Certain food pairings, according to nutritional psychiatrist Dr Uma Naidoo, have more power than just giving our dishes their robust flavours.
We can tailor our diets to boost our serotonin and dopamine levels as much as our energy reserves. In The Food Mood Connection, Naidoo charts out her study of the connection between mental wellbeing and our food, sharing recipes we can follow, anecdotes and dollops of wisdom.
It doesn’t have to be complicated either. We’re already familiar with most of these ingredients, probably hidden away at the back of the refrigerator behind the large pizza box.
Tip #5 Remember that everything you need to be fit, is in your kitchen
Turns out my grandmother’s daily habit of consuming a garlic pod whole wasn’t completely absurd. There’s a lot we can learn from their habits and family traditions, in fact, Kavita Devgan condenses years of knowledge, tips and advice to create a homely manual of hacks for healthy living aptly titled Ultimate Grandmother Hacks.
We don’t need to look for the next trending superfood or find out where to get a kale smoothie in our neighbourhood to feel like we’re making a healthy change in our diet. Most nutrients can be found in the ingredients and eating habits passed down for generations that we brushed off as hokum.
This one is a handy addition to your collection of wellness books with a mix of daily habits, quick recipes and stories, which Devgan backs with her nutritional expertise and research. Mindful eating, picking local seasonal produce and dadi ke nuske for various ailments, reading this book feels like having a conversation with your family’s elders. They’re probably scolding you for ordering in pasta when there’s already dal and lauki ki sabzi made at home.
Tip #6 Embrace that exercise is for every body
Something that’s often kept me away from signing up for a yoga class is the feeling that I am somehow so much bigger, clumsier and slower than all the lean, muscular pros doing headstands around me.
The truth is that no matter how many hours of exercise I put in, it’s highly unlikely that my body is going to look like that any time soon. That’s where Jessamyn Stanley came in and shook things up. A curvy woman of colour, Stanley took the world by storm (mine included) with her message that yoga is meant for all shapes and sizes.
The yoga teacher breaks stereotypes and her book Every Body Yoga stands out in the section of wellness books because it encourages people to let go of their fears, shame and finally get moving on the mat that’s been lying in a corner of your bedroom.
With clear directions and photographs to match 50 basic yoga poses, this book is a godsent for beginners and those looking to tune up their practice. Fitness has no set body image, and it is less about how you look and more about how you feel, and see yourself.
Tip #7 Stretch it out, and make sure you’re doing it right
There’s nothing like that first morning stretch after you just sit up in bed. But then I hear my bones clinking and feel my knee tingling and I remember that I may unknowingly be an 85-year-old in a younger skin suit. Turns out, there are ways that you can be stretching wrong and causing some serious strain to your muscles.
Athletes can tell you the benefits of guided stretching after injuries to aid in recovery. It turns out that stretching can benefit us common folk too as long as we do it the correct way. Especially if you’re dealing with chronic pain.
In Pain Free, Pete Egoscue describes special exercises, which he calls e-cises, that can help alleviate symptoms of pain from past injuries, awkward sleeping positions, migraines and more. At first, they can seem a bit tedious and repetitive, but stick with it and you can help retrain your body parts to perform at their full capacity without intensive medical intervention.