ParentCircle 'Your Journal' Contest Winners (September Edition)

ParentCircle has launched a monthly writing opportunity called 'Your Journal' for readers of our magazine. Here are the winners for this month. Congratulations to everyone!

By Team ParentCircle

ParentCircle 'Your Journal' Contest Winners (September Edition)

ParentCircle has begun a monthly writing opportunity for you, our readers. Every month, a parenting topic is announced on our website under the banner ‘Your Journal’ and the best two entries we receive get published in the magazine. This month’s theme was 'Health, Nutrition and Fitness'. The idea is to showcase your lives and stories of change. We are amazed by the overwhelming response from you and the fact that you have shared your personal stories and experiences with us. 

Here are the selected entries for the month:  

Healthy Body, Healthy Mind — by Roopa M

ParentCircle 'Your Journal' Contest Winners (September Edition)

In today’s world, striving to be fit and healthy is a way of life. As a society, we are constantly aware of the dangers associated with processed foods, inorganic foods and sugar. We are all more informed than before. 

Today, we are aware of what goes into our shopping carts, what we consume, our sleep duration and activity level; but we also understand that the most important tool to master our health and diet is ‘the mind’. Being mindful about what we read, watch and listen to, impacts our health. Being selective about the people we hang around with, is also vital to our well-being. Fitness is not limited to the body; in fact, a healthy mind gives rise to a healthy body. In short, it becomes crucial to be aware of what we absorb emotionally and physically.

My fitness journey

Looking back, though I was a healthy child, I struggled with my weight. I grew up in a family that thought feeding meant showing love. As a teen, I became conscious of my appearance and to me, fitness in those days meant ‘being slim’. I tried different exercises and starved myself, but nothing worked. After experimenting with various ideas, and reading several magazines and books, I decided that I needed a concrete plan — no oily food, sugar or rice. Also, I became physically active, with one hour of yoga or exercise daily. It took a lot of discipline to stay on track with absolutely no cooperation from my family! Like every Indian family, they were trying to ‘show me a lot of love’. My love for dancing kept me on my toes. And eventually, it took about six months to reach my desired weight but I did it! 

Of course, years later, my outlook towards health changed again when I was going to be a mom. I wanted to ensure that my baby got all the required nutrition. With advice coming from all directions, it was challenging to stay away from rich food.

Dealing with my children's allergies

But I did not realise more was in store. The real challenge of managing my family’s nutrition began when my firstborn was ready for solid food. She had symptoms of allergies. And, it didn’t take long for a test to discover her allergies to eggs, dairy, nuts and seafood.

To compensate for what she was missing, I drew up a plan and even met a dietician. It took a lot of thinking to create nutritious dishes that tasted good and which she loved. My journal was full of new recipes with vegetables like broccoli, beets, kale, etc. that went well with mashed rice and lentils. By age three, my daughter finally outgrew her allergies. Like any other child, she was able to enjoy ice cream on a hot day, have eggs for breakfast or a granola bar when she felt like it. However, my second child, unlike her, is yet to outgrow some of his food allergies. But cooking for him is not a challenge anymore.

So, how do we stay healthy as a family? To sum up, we stay active through the day, drink plenty of water, eat fresh fruits and veggies, sleep well, and most importantly, laugh as much as possible.   

Roopa, a technical writer from Bengaluru, is a mother of two children aged 16 and 11.

Health is complete well-being — by Devi Venugopal 

ParentCircle 'Your Journal' Contest Winners (September Edition)

Health means ‘to make whole’, which means that to be healthy, you must look at every aspect that affects you — body, mind and soul. This includes nutrition, fitness and psychological well-being. Thus, complete health is the integration of your physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.

Keep in mind that compartmentalising health will not help you move forward in the right direction. For, diet is not only what you eat, but also what you see, hear, talk and think, on a daily basis. Here, I would like to highlight and emphasise the role of a healthy mind, as most of the time, we parents tend to neglect the unseen mind.

The three-step process

In order to be healthy, inside out, it is important to recognise your emotions, examine your thoughts and behaviours honestly, and in detail. Finally, use that knowledge and clarity to transform your emotions and yourself.

This process is as follows: 

Recognise your emotions: To begin with, recognise and acknowledge your emotions and examine your thoughts and behaviours. As social scientist Dr Brene Brown says in her book ‘Rising Strong’, it is when we fall that we can rise stronger. So, be honest with your own stories — struggles and strengths, small hurts and relationship issues — and then ready to rumble with them. This is crucial. As parents, we need to address the hidden armours inside, the shame, blame, guilt, resentment, the heartaches and most important, the forgiveness. Once you do that, then you can move on and, transform both thoughts and behaviours. 

But, why do you need to examine your thinking and emotional behaviour? Look inside, you may have unknowingly set up in-built barriers against emotions, which may affect the way you offload hurt. In fact, many of us use the rule of the jungle to deal with our feelings — we please people in higher positions and overreact to those who are powerless. For example, you may vent your frustration by yelling at your child, while being silent with the spouse. Sometimes, you may counter by stating ‘I don’t care’. At other times, you may resort to other methods to numb the hurt, such as alcohol, food, sex, care-giving, shopping, religion, television and social media. Or, you may end up stockpiling the hurt. However, this can be dangerous, at some point, the body will send out a clear message ‘Stop storing, or I will shut you down’. Or, are you one of those who always wears a smile to show that everything is alright? You do this to mask the real pain inside but know that this is as dangerous as stockpiling.

What you need to do is face these different emotions and see what techniques you can use to handle these feelings in a healthy way. You need to allow yourself to feel emotions such as anger, grief, guilt, sadness and happiness. Remember, you are your best judge, so be mindful if you tend to fall into the trap of hiding these emotions. For instance, breathing is a beautiful mindful practice, and doing simple yoga every day can help you visualise things clearly.

Be honest about your emotions: Fight with your emotions honestly. Try to see clearly through the stories you make up in your mind due to the fear of uncertainty. Sometimes, you make up stories with lies said with honesty to support your emotions. So, when your mind is rumbling with a situation, the prime step is to honestly write the stories that you make up in your mind, and then read them aloud. The common topics that you tend to fight are — boundaries, identity, shame, perfectionism, stereotypes, fear, regret, forgiveness, failure, vulnerability and integrity. The tools to rumble involve drawing clear boundaries, honesty, and generosity. Often, you may struggle to communicate what is OK and not OK, both at work and at home. Integrity here, means choosing courage over comfort. Also, it is important to believe and accept that you are going to be generous with your assumptions and intentions.

Be responsible for your choices: Last but not the least, take responsibility for your choices. Self-love is to be kind to yourself as you are to your loved ones. Permit or allow yourself to ask for help when required. Assume that others are doing their best to help too. Tell yourself, ‘I will value my time and work and do the same for others’.

Remember, boundaries are the key towards self-respect and self-love. 

Devi, a psychologist from Indonesia, is a mother of two children aged 12 and 8.

Health is wealth — by Manasvini Kumar

ParentCircle 'Your Journal' Contest Winners (September Edition)

As a full-time mother of a two-year-old girl, life is a roller-coaster ride for me. Time flies with the little one and the hugs and kisses all compensate for the work life that I miss (I had a fairly demanding job before I delivered my baby).

However, it struck me that amidst the diaper changes, feeds, school time and playtime, the one thing that I have been ignoring is my health. I had lost significant weight before conceiving to be able to make room for the baby. After delivery, I stuck to strict traditional diet restrictions for two months and lost oodles of pregnancy weight. However, just being at home alone with the baby has its problems; the biggest one being lack of discipline for exercise as well as for eating. So after months of being lazy and trying to finish all of the baby’s leftovers, I was back to my pregnancy weight. Believe me, it’s not about the way I was looking. It’s more about not feeling healthy and being a bit grumpy.

Since the last two weeks, I have made a conscious effort to ensure that I exercise  — I make it a point to walk for at least thirty minutes daily either in the morning or at night. I have also made an effort to improve my eating habits  — both in terms of what I eat (more greens, less processed food) as well as when I eat (eating smaller portions at shorter intervals around the same time every day, helps a lot). In just two weeks, I have lost three kilos without any strict diet. But, what’s more important is that I feel much more energetic and happy.

The reason why I am sharing this is that, as mothers we want to dedicate time to our kids and family and work in general, but, it’s very important to take care of ourselves too. As they say, 'You cannot serve from an empty vessel'. 

Manasvini is a former HR professional from Ghaziabad and mother of a two-year-old. 

You are what you eat — by Muneera Saleem

ParentCircle 'Your Journal' Contest Winners (September Edition)

As the Tamil proverb rightly says (நோயற்ற வாழ்வே குறைவற்ற செல்வம்) 'Health is Wealth', there is no wealth earned by man that is more resourceful, bountiful and blissful other than health. To achieve glorious health and fitness, one needs proper and balanced nutrition.

Balanced nutrition does not mean picturising a food pyramid, measuring your food in calories or compulsorily following a diet chart. It varies according to a person's lifestyle, work style and personal needs. For example, a person who works on a farm, may need a high-calorie diet and more liquid foods when compared to one who works in a confined setup such as an office.

So, its very clear that just as each person is unique, so is their dietary needs and nutrition, which may differ from person to person. 

'You are what you eat' — true to this phrase, its the food you eat that defines your physiology.  So, be mindful of what you eat. Ask the following questions: 

A. Is the food locally grown?

B. Is it free of chemicals and pesticides?

C. Do I really savour this food?

D. Do I pick, choose and make variations in the food? (i.e., include different vegetables and greens each day).

Once you resolve these questions, find out when to eat and how to eat. Yes, not just the quality but also, the quantity and the timing of your intake is important for better fitness. The formula is simple: 

  • Eat only when you are hungry and eat slowly, properly relishing your food 
  • Give enough movements to the bones and joints or be active — this could be anything from doing household chores to running, cycling or exercising. 

This is how our forefathers maintained their health and fitness. They cherished the healthy produce, worked hard, got enough sunlight and led stress-free lives — which resulted in good health and fitness. 

Muneera is a Chennai-based acupuncturist and mother of two children aged 2 and 8.  

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