The festive season is upon us, and in these happy times even the healthiest and fittest of us give in to temptation. With all the special treats and delicious foods that this season brings, it is common to have a favourite indulgence. Nutritionists and fitness trainers say there is nothing wrong in indulging in treats from time to time as that leads to happiness and positive emotions. However, that shouldn’t be a license to eat just about anything in each and every meal.
“There is no point feeling guilty about eating something you like just because your diet or nutrition chart forbids it. Food is closely linked to emotions and positive emotions are just as important for your health as exercise,” says Sandeep Sachdev, nutritionist and co-founder of Easy Human fitness studio and cafe in Mumbai. “Instead of beating yourself up about having a good time, just a little planning and not skipping your regular workout routine will ensure that you stay on track as far as your health and fitness goals are concerned.”
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Fitness writers at Lounge have a healthy relationship with food and do not beat themselves up over their indulgences nor do they turn to compensatory exercise. They just plan well and get their regular workouts in. In this story, Lounge fitness writers talk about their favourite indulgences, and how they strike a balance.
Zachariah doesn’t have one specific indulgence. “It’s actually a wide spectrum. I love modaks and karanjis if my mother makes them. If they are around, I will definitely eat them. I love my mum’s homemade things. She also makes snacks like chakli (murukku), namkeen and sheera poori, which I enjoy. I also love this special Mysore Pak-like sweet, which only Sri Krishna Sweets makes,” says Zachariah.
Earlier Zachariah used to feel guilty about eating these treats but now she doesn’t. “I find that feeling guilty sets me off into eating mode which is way worse. Whenever I indulge, I just move on and go back to the usual eating habits the next day. Also, I try to move almost everyday, festival or not," she says.
Runner and Crossfit enthusiast Sen wonders what’s the point of festivals if one can’t even enjoy the food during these special occasions? She loves the festive specialty of whatever festival is coming up but also confesses that her whole life is full of cheat meals, including eating chunks of a Theobroma dense loaf for breakfast at times. “I used to love modaks for Ganesh Chaturthi when I lived in Mumbai. During Durga Pujas, I love feasting on luchi and manghso. And no Christmas is complete without rum-soaked fruit cakes,” says Sen.
She doesn’t ever regret eating these festive treats and there is definitely no guilt. “Whenever I eat, I make a mental note to not overdo it. And, I usually do a workout in the mornings on the days I indulge if the cheat meal or indulgence is pre-planned. I tend to overeat if I keep myself hungry so even if I know that I am going to eat junk in the evening, I would still have a lunch that might be lighter than normal but I wouldn’t completely skip it,” she says.
Football commentator and fitness writer Dhar doesn’t wait for festivals to indulge. He starts his day with a slice of cake. “My constant indulgence throughout the year is a carrot cake or a dense chocolate cake with my morning coffee. I eat some kind of cream-free cake almost every day in the morning. I don’t eat sweets or mithai at all and as such have no love for specific festive sweets,” says Dhar, who doesn’t feel any guilt about the sweet start to his day because he earns his sugar. “I not only earn my sugar but I also know that my body needs anything between 15-20 grams of sugar a day.” Dhar doesn’t turn to any additional guilt alleviating exercises to chalk off the morning cake. However, he sticks to his fitness routine and works out at least four days a week. “That works for me.”
As for me, I love street food like pani puri, sev puri and aloo chat. But I travel a lot, so I have no access to those for the better part of the year. While traveling, I dig fries, chips and local dive bars. These things bring me happiness and in current times that is a great thing. Sometimes, I do get upset about the hangovers but never feel guilty about eating and drinking what I like. Another thing that makes me happy and I really enjoy is doing some kind of sport or exercise, which I do at least four to five times a week. I run and cycle no matter what part of the world I am in. While on the road, I also do Crossfit style body weight workouts and try to go to a local gym whenever it’s affordable. Lastly, I usually don’t eat more than three meals a day and don’t snack or munch on anything in between.
Shrenik Avlani is a writer and editor and the co-author of The Shivfit Way, a book on functional fitness.