It feels good to be back!
The beauty of running is kind of hard to explain. I guess the first question to be asked, is why do we even want to run? Weight loss? Image? Fitness? Is it a social thing? Is it for stress relief? You tell me. A mix of all of these things is probably the right answer, but for me it started very differently.
I have always loved playing sports and never genuinely liked running or working out. Football was pretty much the only physical activity in my life, and I didn’t really have a problem with that. With the worst possible combination of injuries, being overweight and lazy, I had become pretty obese (102kgs to be exact) and I was just feeling very tired everyday. I just felt tired no matter what I did. I felt tired even just after waking up. My body was not reacting to anything and I was feeling insecure and unhappy. I felt negative and I took it out on my closest friends and family. A change was needed. However, I knew I couldn’t change all my habits overnight. I was smart enough to understand that a real change in mentality and also my physical shape would only come with a serious amount of hard work and dedication.
So, in October 2011, I decided to start running. Now, to be totally honest I had no idea as to how I should run or what my objective was. Should I plan to train for a marathon? Should I go online and find running routines? Should I get a running partner? I was confused but determined. In the end, I decided to just start running alone at a slow pace on a treadmill.
THE TREADMILL DAYS
I never really used a treadmill regularly before. Yeah, I mean I did attempt to use it a few times in college and maybe once or twice in high school, but I wouldn’t really count those experiences to be meaningful. The thing about using a treadmill is that you have to beat your mind to keep the body going. It’s as simple as that. It is a mental issue, where you have to keep yourself entertained. It is monotonous and it can be quite a frustrating experience. 20 minutes can seem like 40 minutes, 3 km can feel like 6 km. One of the worst experiences as a treadmill runner is looking at the digital screen and seeing that the time has barely gone and you’re already tired, although you haven’t even broken a sweat yet.
Initially, I started with a goal for time and not distance. I wanted to run 15 minutes straight at a medium pace (I’m talking about 6.5 km/hr) and gradually build up to 5 minutes of fast pace (8km/hr). That was it. Just a 20-minute run and I was happy. I did sweat and I felt like it was a good work out at that time. I did this for about 3 to 4 months and I remember checking my weight every day and I was barely losing any weight. I did feel slightly fitter though. I was running 4 times a week and I felt as though I was getting used to this routine. This is when I realized I needed a change, so I moved to a goal for distance not just time.
I wasn’t training for anything. I wasn’t training with someone. It just seemed like a smarter decision and in retrospect, it was. My new goal was 3 km. I know it doesn’t sound like a lot, but for some reason I was really running well when I changed my goal from time to distance. It just felt easier on the treadmill and my mind was reacting to this new goal better. By April 2012, I was now weighing about 95 kgs. Ok, so it isn’t an amazing achievement, but it was a start. A start that was so important because it made me realize that it was working.
Along with the new goal for distance, I changed a few other habits. For a start, I changed my diet completely, moving away from carbs and eating in lesser portions. I was eating dinner by 8 o’ clock, which gave my body time to digest. I was going to sleep with a light stomach rather than eating very late and going to sleep feeling heavy. The other big change for me was having a light lunch, because I run at my best when my body is not heavy. I also changed my work out days. I was now working out 6 days a week, with one (and this is very important) ” REST DAY” and not a “CHEAT DAY”. It is very important to understand the difference. To be honest, the difference is already mentioned in the terms. I used to eat whatever I wanted on my cheat days and then spent the next week working that one single stupid cheat day out. Now, I moved to a rest day, where I would spend the day relaxing and resting my knees and other parts of the body, which needed rest. This was a huge change for me and I was slowly beginning to understand my body better.
It was around the summer of 2012, where the biggest change in my life came. It was time to say goodbye to the treadmill. It just wasn’t challenging me anymore and wasn’t working for me. I moved to running outside. I decided to start with my school field (AISD). It was a nice and quiet place and I thought it was the perfect place to start running outside. Once again, the key decision was to follow my own pace and let me understand my whole body. It is the most important thing for runners. You have to know your body and you have to know how it reacts to certain conditions. Summers in Bangladesh can be deadly hot, and I needed to know how far I could go in the heat.
LEARNING TO RUN
It was perfect. It was exactly what I needed; a big, beautiful astro turf field and myself and…. that’s it. It was wonderful to find such peace and quiet in Dhaka. I was also running quite well at this stage. My distances were slowly going up and my time was becoming faster as well. However, my performance was the last thing I remember from running at AISD. It was my mental state during and after my run. That is all I remember. I fell in love with running, while running at AISD. I don’t even know what it was exactly; I just remember everyday being perfect. After a hard day at the office, it was so nice to just go and run. Me, my iPod and my thoughts. Sometimes, I didn’t even bother counting how many rounds I was doing, or how long I ran. I just ran till I got tired and I went home as a different person. I felt light, both physically and mentally.
I ran at AISD for a year and a half and as you can imagine, a lot of things changed in those 18 months. I was now running 7 days a week. I ran on weekends, I ran with a hangover, I ran drunk, I ran with injuries, I ran when the weather was 45 degrees and I ran when the weather was 9 degrees. If I was in Dhaka, I went to AISD. I still remember how sad I felt when the campus was closed one day during Bengali New Year. So, why the change? Why didn’t I just continue running at AISD? It’s a combination of many things, actually. I felt as though I needed a new challenge. 5km wasn’t really doing it for me anymore. I had also reached my target weight of 80kgs by now. However, I wasn’t happy. I have a problem; I set myself goals and become almost obsessed till I achieve them, and then I want to go even further.
Losing 22kgs was fantastic, but I needed to lose more weight and the time seemed perfect to switch up my running style. I decided to start going for longer distances now. It was going to be hard, but I knew my body could do it. I was dedicated and determined. I was slowly running 6 -7km and by the end of 2013, I was running it at a good pace. It took me a while to adjust to a faster pace, but the rewards were tremendous. The last day I ran at AISD was towards the end of April in 2014. I remember this because it was during the T20 World Cup that Bangladesh hosted. We were terrible during that World Cup, but my running helped me through all the trauma. I felt that I achieved everything I could achieve from running at AISD. I was the fittest I had ever been and I was now weighing close to 72kgs — a huge improvement indeed. It was finally time to say goodbye to a field that has given me some of the best memories of my life in high school and also now because I found why I loved running and I believe I found out how to excel as a runner. I now understood the beauty of running and I was ready to challenge myself in the outdoor parks and streets now. We should always keep setting ourselves newer targets and challenges. So I did.
GOING THE DISTANCE
So, there I was in bloody hot May 2014, trying to run in the park. I had no idea about the distance. One of the first things I did in AISD was run with my iPod and my Nike Fuel watch to calibrate the distance per lap. This park seemed so enormous. Anyway, first day I thought I’d try to do a 5km minimum and 8 km maximum. I think it was the worst running experience ever. It was so hard and it was so hot. Also, there were so many people. Where the hell did they come from? “I am going back to AISD from tomorrow, where it was just me and the field”, I thought to myself.
I didn’t go back, but it did take me awhile to warm up to the park and its beauty. I am not a big fan of nature. Therefore, it took me a little bit of time to just get used to the surroundings. My performance was “ok” but I was slowly getting the hang of it. I decided to make some changes to my running technique and this is where I learned the most important aspect of running. I learned all about rhythm. I realized the importance of keeping the flow, the beauty of the rhythm. I was smooth and delicate with my feet. I was running and running and I kept on going. I was hitting the 10km distance regularly. I was running everyday and sometimes twice a day. I only stopped because of my knees and a lower back injury I have been carrying for years. I was never tired; I was never out of breath.
A lot of new runners make the fatal mistake of starting too fast and then just dropping out and walking. The park is where I learned to pace myself. I learned to increase and decrease my speed with my heart rate and with how my body was feeling. We have to remember that our bodies will react differently everyday. Just because I am completing 9 km in 50 minutes today doesn’t mean it will be the same tomorrow. There are many different aspects to a good run and running in the park taught me that. I was going the distance too. I am talking about 15 – 18 km almost everyday for a month. I felt that, if I ran alone and not with a partner, I could run further and that is because I could run at my own pace. I have been fortunate enough to run with many different partners. Some faster than me, some slower than me. However, I can safely say that when it comes to distance, I am quite good at setting the pace and completing the distance.
The park has taught me to be patient. Even though your legs are ready to burst and speed up, I learned to let the other runners in front of me go, and not show off by running fast as well. The park has taught me that, when it comes to running, the mind is the most important body part. There is no greater feeling than completing a long run at the park. I have been lucky enough to run at 6:30 am and also 8:30 pm at the park; same location but vastly different experiences. However, I try to keep the flow and rhythm to myself and that is why I succeed.
There is no END!!
There really isn’t. Look, I mean yes I guess, I have now achieved my target goal for my weight (65kgs). However, I run and work out more than ever now. I have added High Intensity Interval Training and weight training to my everyday routine. I wake up early and finish a minimum of 8km before I go to work and I work out with either my trainer or friends in the evening. Hey, I even train my friends (who are just as dedicated as me) now. Who would’ve thought that was possible 3 years ago?
The hard truth is you won’t change overnight, but your attitude can. The results will only come if you really, really, want it. You have to fight yourself to prove to yourself that you can do it. This is your body and it is almost a sin if you don’t take proper care of it. I do diet, I do eat well but at the same time, I also enjoy myself and sometimes I eat what I want. I can work it out now. Running has been everything to me. It is my refuge and I have thought about everything when I run. I think about my life, my future, my friends, work, football and even when I will go for my next run. Set yourself a target and achieve it. There is no greater feeling than the feeling of accomplishing a target. We are all capable of greatness and we are already great. However, don’t just settle for great. I certainly don’t. I want to be the greatest. There are no limits, and as my hero Michael Jordan said, ” limits, like fears, are often just an illusion.”
The past two weeks were incredibly difficult for me. It’s safe to say you know what I mean when I say I was so close to falling off the wagon yet again.
My trainer, Gary measures our weight loss in terms of fat loss rather than overall weight loss on a scale. This is especially important because most of us are obsessed with the scale which takes into account muscle mass, fat mass, water mass etc! Who wants to lose muscle or water? Now I know I don’t!
Anyway, coming from DC I had lost 2kg of fat while I was on my ‘holiday!’ Every second of being cautious and calculated during that holiday had paid off!
That week we started training outdoors and I couldn’t wait to see how much I had lost at the end of that week! By we, I mean my husband and I, a male and a female. I lost 0.5kg and he lost 1.7kg!!!!!!!! I felt like my whole plan was crumbling down and I played every action, every meal in my head over and over again. What did I do wrong? I was stricter than he was, I pushed harder…what did I do wrong?
At that moment, I didn’t know but today I know that the answer is nothing. I didn’t do anything wrong. I’m a woman and he’s a man, we are built to function differently.
Women naturally store more fat whereas men are inclined to forming more lean muscle. Men have a faster metabolism than women. Read more!
It has been the best experience doing this with my husband, changing our lives together but that day I was shellshocked! I was this close to saying bye bye to all the hard work. I broke down and felt there was nothing more I could physically do. I know many of you are nodding along to this oh too familiar feeling but this time my mind was stronger. After that scan, I did my session! I killed it! No scale in this world can take away how you feel! I had never felt better in my life and I wasn’t going to throw it away because some electronic equipment generated some shocking result!
Two things pushed me through:
1. I wasn’t gaining weight or plateauing, I had lost 0.5kg which is better than nothing! I was becoming too greedy!
2. Only I am the judge of how I used to feel and how I feel today. I choose today’s feeling!
So ditch that scale and listen to your body. Follow your progress by measuring your body or trying on clothes that didn’t fit you, if you really need to visualize it. You know yourself better than anyone else and you should be the judge of your progress!
At my last scan, I had lost a total of 7kg of fat in 3 months. I felt great but not as great as I did when I crossed that finish line completing my first 5k at under 39 minutes! That was the real measure of how far I had come! From a couch potato to running a 5k!
As I head to Bangladesh today for my brother’s wedding, I know another test is ahead of me. This time I actually get to test out my new lifestyle in the place where I will eventually live! Of course it will be challenging but it is so unbelievably worth it!
Set yourself realistic goals, listen to your body and remember this is your journey, when you give up you end up back to square one, instead push yourself on the hardest days because those small steps are the ones that really matter. Everyday you come out stronger, empowered and happier with who you really are! You owe that to yourself!
I made this for my husband’s birthday! I have to admit that it doesn’t taste like buttermilk IHOP pancakes but they are light, delicious and good for you! No guilt!
What do you need?
1/2 cup wholewheat flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 ripe bananas
1/2 cup skim milk or almond milk
Unsweetened fat free greek yoghurt
Mix the eggs, milk, banana, flour, baking soda and salt in a blender
Under medium to low heat, spray pan and place 3 tablespoons of the mix in pan. Let the bottom set and then turn the pancake and cook the other side.
Spray the pan in between each pancake.
Do not try to do this on hight heat! Trust me! I had to throw about 4 away! 😦
Place fruits and yoghurt in between layers and drizzle with honey! I served this with a fruit platter with pretty much everything I had at home! Mix together honey and yoghurt for a delicious dip!
This dish is one of my favorites! Seriously, all you have to do is marinade it and stuff it in the oven! It also really makes the table beautiful with the whole chickens and colorful vegetables!
What do you need?
4 poussin/ baby chicken with skin
5 garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup of cilantro
Juice of 1 orange and rinds
Juice of 1 lime and rinds
2 tablespoons of olive oil
salt to taste
This is what you do either the night before or 2/3 hours before putting the dish in the oven.
Wash and dry the chicken and coat completely with olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, orange juice and salt. Stuff the rinds of orange and lemon.
Cover the chicken and leave overnight.
Take the chicken out of the fridge about 20 minutes before putting it in the oven
Preheat the oven to 250 C ( I use a fan oven) and place the chicken in.
For the glaze:
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp course mustard
1 tbsp water
Let the chicken cook for 30 minutes then brush half the glaze on it.
Let it cook for a further 25 minutes and when you poke it, the juices should run clear. 5 minutes before taking it out brush the remaining glaze. Take the chicken out and let it rest under foil paper till you make the jus.
Take the drippings from the pan and throw out the oil floating on top. Reduce it under low heat, add cornstarch + water to thicken it or reglaze with some white or red wine.
I added some corn, tomatoes and more fruits for garnish.
It’s definitely a crowd pleaser!
This week was extra special! It was my birthday followed by my husbands. The person that I am I had to celebrate it to the fullest!
It’s really easy to dread any upcoming celebration when you are trying to lead a new lifestyle. I was brainstorming for weeks trying to figure out what to do for our birthdays, the healthier way!
I had a lunch party for my cousins and really also a way for me to show them that healthy foods can be just as delicious!
Seafood salad with chili, lime and coriander dressing
(I simply cooked the seafood with the sweet chili sauce and added in lime and coriander. Tossed that with salad greens!)
Cilantro brown rice
( Warm brown rice + 1 tbsp olive oil + salt + coriander + lime)
Fresh salsa and guacamole ( one of my friends made this!)
Cheese platter and flavored waters
Brownies ( I will add this recipe at a later date as it did not turn out exactly as I wanted, some liked it some didn’t so…..)
Every dish was wiped clean! YAY! I also gave the sweet chili sauces as birthday party favors 😀
Since our birthdays were on a weekday, well mine was, I had the lunch party on a Sunday before. I felt so pleased being able to feed my family what I was eating on a daily basis and what was making us feel so good! It wasn’t a no carb thing nor was it a huge table full of death warrants, it was something I could feed my guests, guilt-free!
Moving onto the mandatory midnight cake cutting ritual, I was really hell bent on not eating a cake at midnight!! I mean I know it was my birthday but c’mon it just didn’t make sense! I have recently discovered my love for unsweetened fat free greek yoghurt and I thought why not a parfait? My husband and I put it together and it looked as great as it tasted!! We scrapped it off! It was full of goodness rather than refined sugars and butter. I didn’t think it would do the job but it clearly did as I repeated the same parfait for Zayed’s birthday, candles and all!
You can layer is however YOU want! Add any fruits YOU want! So no sieving through prepackaged yoghurt bowls of the things you don’t like! It is also a great mid day snack!
What do you need?
Unsweetened fat free greek yoghurt, you can also use natural yoghurt
Sugar free granola or any sugar free muesli or cereal
Fruits of choice
Acacia honey or any good quality honey
Easy to make, full of nutrients and great for your body!
I know this is getting quite long but here’s the last part of the ‘homemade’ birthday celebration! I made my husband brunch in bed!
It was the perfect weekend brunch and it allowed us to ‘cheat’ without feeling devastated about it! I mean if you call 1/2 cup of flour cheating! 😉 He was ecstatic saying that he wanted to eat really slowly as he was afraid to finish it! Success!
There’s no reason to be scared about falling of the wagon during a celebration nor is there a reason to make yourself believe that it is okay to fall of the wagon because it’s your birthday! I worked out twice on my birthday and went to my favorite japanese restaurant for the the miso black cod! I couldn’t be happier with the way I felt, this isn’t a fad diet or a crash diet, this is my life!
Happy birthday to us!
Planning dinner really gets me frustrated! There is no room for cheating or mistakes and when you are as exhausted as I am at the end of the day a one dish oven chicken dish sounds just about perfect!
Chicken breasts are a great source of lean proteins and with the availability of cleaned and cut chicken breasts this is easy peezy! I did add in boneless chicken thighs in my dish, feel free to use whichever pieces you like but remember this recipe is measured for boneless pieces!
What do you need?
You can adjust the measurements if you are cooking for 3 or more people. I made enough for 3 persons.
4 boneless chicken breasts and thighs
1.5 tablespoon of olive oil
A mix of chili sauce, honey and whole grain mustard, a tbsp of each. However if you have made the amazing sweet chili sauce you can use 2 tbsp of that and add a tbsp of mustard of choice. Also in that case decrease garlic to just one clove as the sweet chili sauce contains garlic. (I hadn’t tried out the sweet chili sauce when I cooked this!)
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2 – 3 red or green chilies, chopped
Juice of half a lime
Roughly a cup of chopped cilantro
2 tbsp water
Salt and pepper to taste
Wash the chicken pieces and pat dry
Make sure to place a cling wrap over your cutting board when cutting raw pieces of meat. The juices get soaked into the boards, especially if they are wooden and basically the bacteria harvests in there and you do the math! Ech! Always remember to cling wrap your boards, may it be plastic, granite or wood when handling raw meats or fishes!
Cut the pieces into equal sizes, this completely depends on you! But make sure they are roughly equal so that they cook evenly.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper
Mix sauces together with the juice from the lime and add 2 tbsp of water. Mix and set aside.
Under medium heat, put half of the oil and sear the pieces to give some color and lock in the juices
Preheat the oven to 250 C ( I use a fan oven)
Place the remaining oil, cut chilies, cut garlic and half of the cilantro into an oven proof dish
Transfer the pieces into the prepared dish, try not to crowd them too much and then cover each piece completely with the sauce. Leave some to add on after the cooking process.
Place it in the oven and watch the cooking and caramelization happen!
It should take 30 – 35 minutes before its done. Turn the pieces half way through. The chicken is cooked when you insert a toothpick and the juices run clear! You can even take a piece and cut it to make sure! No one’s judging here!
Transfer the chicken into your serving dish and cover with foil.
Take the drippings from the dish and reduce it down. You can add in a tsp of cornstarch mixed with water to get a thicker sauce but honestly it’s not necessary!
Serve the chicken in slices or whole, smear it with the remaining sauce and garnish with cilantro.
Serve with a side of steamed crunchy vegetables!
This is easily a dish you can make for many people, its hassle free and you can really skip the searing part if you are feeling extra lazy!
It’s been 4 months that I’ve been following this new cleaner lifestyle and I realized that I was constantly looking for the sweet and spicy flavor in my dishes. You might have noticed in my recipes that I was constantly making the honey + chili combination!
Before that I was using store bought sweet chili sauce which has a shelf life of more than 1 year and obviously full of the ‘bad’ stuff. One of the major hurdles of leading a healthy life is the addition of condiments, most of them are full of sugars and preservatives! It’s such a necessary but unnecessary addition!
So, while trying to come up with a new chicken recipe, I thought out the way I could bottle this sweet chili sauce! And it worked!!
I ordered these jars even before trying it out! 😀
What do you need?
1 cup honey
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 tbsp vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar it’s healthier)
1 tbsp lemon juice
Red and green chilies ( the amount depends on how spicy you want it)
3/4 cloves of chopped garlic
1 tbsp of cornstarch with 1.5 tbsp of water
You will make 6 110ml jars!
Sterilize the jars by placing them in a hot oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Be careful when taking them out!
On low heat, bring the honey and water to a simmer and add in the chilies and garlic
Continue to simmer for 5 minutes then add in the vinegar and lemon
Simmer for a further 5 minutes and add in the cornstarch and water mixture. Keep whisking slowly until sauce has thickened.
Fill the jars with the sauce and keep open to cool completely.
Once cool, you can refrigerate and enjoy for up to a month! I doubt it will last that long!
I gave these jars as favors for my husband’s birthday lunch! I was happy to share this healthy change with my loved ones!
In my last post, I mentioned the benefits of these tiny, relatively inexpensive seeds!
In Bangladesh, a substitute for these seeds is basil seeds or ‘tokma.’ They are usually taking during the month of Ramadan to keep feeling fuller for longer. They have the same properties as chia seeds whereby they swell up upon contact with liquids.
You can make these cups for a week at a time and they are really delicious for that afternoon pick me up snack or dessert cravings. They are slow releasing so they also work really well as a snack pre work out giving you the fuel to push through, thats when I usually take it.
Everyone needs that bit of chocolate in their lives, I know I do! This is a great dessert packed with nutrients and satisfies that sweet tooth.
What do you need for chocolate chia pudding cups?
2 tbsp chia seeds (black or white)
1/2 cup of fresh almond milk or skim milk or unsweetened coconut milk
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder or baking cocoa powder
1.5 tsp honey, you can increase it to your liking
Shaved chocolate for garnish
Mix all the ingredients together, fill cups and chill overnight. Serve with fruits and shaved chocolate.
You will make 6/7 shooter cups
What do you need for vanilla chia puddings?
2 tbsp chia seeds (black or white)
1/2 cup of fresh almond milk or skim milk or unsweetened coconut milk
1 tsp good quality vanilla extract
1 tsp honey
You will make 6/7 shooter cups
Whisk all the ingredients together in a bowl and fill shooter cups. Refrigerate overnight and enjoy! You can add more honey or nuts or fresh fruits on top when enjoying this cup of deliciousness.
I also add them directly to my morning smoothie. You can sprinkle them over your salad or soup. There is no one way to enjoy this superfood!