As women, single or married, we spent a lot of our day thinking about and preparing food. We are raised that way; we are conditioned to be the food providers for our family. Even if we have full time jobs, we are still the head cook and server in our homes. From the time we wake up to the time we sleep, many of us have food on our minds – what to make for breakfast, packed lunch, snacks, tiffin, and dinner. That’s a tall order and we do it, consciously or unconsciously, happily or unhappily and sometimes just on remote control mode… for most of our lives.
But there’s more to life than food. We need to get out of our kitchens. We need to look after ourselves too. Women are still the primary caregivers and so our health and wellbeing is important not only for us, but for the entire family. And if we are not healthy and happy, the rest of the family will eventually pay the price.
We often short change ourselves – on all levels. Family is first and we are last.
For the longest time, I would make my husband a healthy salad for lunch, while I ate whatever needed to be finished in our fridge aka leftovers (healthy or not). I made sure the children ate the best cuts of meat/chicken first and only then would eat what was left over.
While I am passionate about healthy cooking and eating, with time, experience and knowledge, I’ve learned there are quite a few factors, besides a nutritious diet, that contribute to well being and the chance for a good healthy, long life. Here are the ones that I believe are important, and that especially women need to make time for.
1) Exercise plus Yoga and Meditation
Let’s try to get some real exercise everyday, or at least 3-4 times a week. This could be anything from taking a walk in your building or down your street, to going to an exercise or yoga class. Yoga, which its combination of stretches and emphasis on breathing is something we can start doing at any age, provided we do it to the level our body allows us to. I started yoga when I was pregnant with my first child and it has been a constant companion. My mother started gentle yoga when she was 73 and she is 87 now. So it’s never too late and it can only be good for you. Learning to meditate is even better for you they say, and countless studies are showing the benefits of meditation on health and wellbeing. I haven’t even started learning to meditate but that’s why we have New Year Resolutions J.
2) A Good Night’s Sleep
Many days of the week I sleep late and get up early, to get the kids off to school. Science is telling us that the age-old adage “early to bed, early to rise, makes one healthy, wealthy and wise” is truer than ever. As adult women we need at least 7 hours of quality sleep per night. If you don’t get enough at night, try to take a nap during the day. There is enough evidence now to prove that ‘power naps’ at work or home provide a tremendous boost to productivity and one’s day.
3) Get your dose of Vitamin N/Commune with Nature
Besides a daily dose of Vitamin D (sunshine) and other vitamins and minerals available in fruits and vegetables, try to get away to nature every day or as often as you can. A walk in a park, sitting under a tree or on the grass, walking on the beach – it’s all good for your body and your soul.
4) Make time for yourself
This is one piece of advice few people will give you, except your best friends, usually women. But it is so important. As women, we are caregivers, nurturers, listeners, daughters and daughters-in law, wives and mothers and grandmothers, and as a result we often lose sense of ourselves. So make time for self care, for watching the TV serial ‘you’ want to watch, or for going out to lunch with your friends. Do it for your self. This is not being selfish; this is being sensible, being wise.
5) Make time to nurture your close personal relationships
There’s a TED talk that has become very popular these days and it’s core message is that the secret to living longer maybe your ‘social life’. In fact, several studies point to “social life” as the one overwhelming factor that has the biggest influence on happiness, health and longevity. In similar vein, a study done by Harvard University(it tracked the same group of men over a 75 year period) concluded that it is close personal relationships and daily face-to-face interactions with people that keep us living longer.
So invest time in rekindling contact with old school friends and college mates, and with neighbours you grew up. This is a good use of your time on social media, but then follow up by planning to meet face to face J.
And for those who are married, make time for your relationship with your spouse. This is another thing I have learned over the years. Once the kids come along, our entire attention and time is given to nurturing them and childcare and our spouses get relegated to the back seat. Make time for your spouse, to keep the communication going. Plan that once-a month dinner or movie date, or that well deserved weekend away from the kids (if you have someone to take care of them, i.e.) or even a few minutes of personal time together everyday. Keep that spark going. It’s like saving for a rainy day, an investment for your old age.
6) Make time for hobbies
And then when the kids get older and our parents are no more, we are suddenly stuck with that empty nest syndrome, that middle age crisis or whatever you may call it. That’s why nurturing and cultivating hobbies and interests over the years is important. Knitting or needlework, painting, gardening, stained glass, music, dance, teaching and social service. Giving back to society and helping others is another aspect of personal growth and lasting happiness that has been borne out by scientific research.
So this New Year, I am not making any resolutions to lose weight or get on that latest diet or even to exercise daily. My resolutions are going to be more mindful in every way. To make some quality time for myself, my family and my friends.
And since this is a kitchen column, and with traditional wisdom making a come back in all it’s glory, I’m going to try and consume a reasonable quantity of some age-old superfoods on a daily basis. I’m going to bring some amount of nuts (almonds and walnuts), seeds (flax, basil, sesame, sunflower and others), cinnamon, turmeric and yoghurt in to my diet everyday.
There are so many ways to do this, so I will leave you to figure out your own plan and make your own resolutions (if you choose to make that list). Wishing you all the very best for a peaceful, joyful and healthy 2019.
EVERYDAY LOVE COOKBOOK is available from www.sharmilacooksforkids.com or from Amazon India