Monday, February 15, 2010

I am a Label Reader!

Grocery shopping takes me a full hour longer than it should. I more often than not return snacks to their shelves before they can find their way to my cart. I deeply ponder over the different variations of a product before picking one. Take bread for instance- there's white, wheat, Italian, potato, rye, whole grain, cinnamon raisin, pumpernickel and the list is endless. It's not all the choice that has me lingering in those aisles minute after confused minute. It's the labels people!

The big friendly "Fat Free" or "Low Fat" that jumps out to greet me is not sufficient for me. Even the simple calorie count will not do. I have to labor over the protein and the potassium, the vitamins and the sodium, carbs, saturated fat, MSG, high fructose corn syrup... I draw mental spreadsheets to compare the options before I "Oh so callously" toss one into my shopping cart, gleeful at having pandered to my OCD. The thirty three different options available for every product only make my mind sharper!

In high school, I used to be your average Indian kid who sat through the last hour of class dreaming about the samosa or the ice cream waiting for me. In fact, the store down the road from school might have stayed afloat just because of my friends and me. Once I went to college however, I stopped playing as much, but didn't stop eating as much. Thanks to my genes, all the junk somehow didn't make its way to my midsection. Then I moved out of home for work and restaurants became my home away from home. One fine day, probably on my way out to lunch, I tried to zip up a pair of jeans from my college days. The pizzas, the dosas and the loads of chaat I had packed in over the months would not fit in. My jeans creaked! That was it. I freaked out! And started cooking for myself. That is when my obsession with nutrition and fitness started and has stuck with me through the years.

Don't mistake me for one of those crazy dieting chicks. I'm eating almost all the time. I even eat junk when I crave it. Like today, I was extremely tempted to grab a bag of cheese curls that tantalized me from the shelf. But one glance at the label, I threw it back in alarm. 170 calories, 120 from fat. I could hear my waistline threatening to become unrecognizable. I ran.

Later in the car, the benefits of my dorky love for nutrition data and all the food literature I've read over the years slowly dawned on me. It gives me the resistance to not give in to the delicious pictures of crinkle cut potato chips floating lightly in the air, or the heavenly cheese oozing out of a slab of lasagne. I've lived borderline sugar free (no substitutes, just no sugar) for the good part of a decade, save the occasional ice cream or dessert. I become ecstatic over tofu and lentils, less for the taste and more for the protein . It has made me a purist of sorts when it comes to fresh food. I grind my own ginger and garlic, although I battle later with soap and scrubber to get the smell off my fingernails. Store-bought pasta sauce is a big no-no for me. Whole grain over processed food any day. I grew up vegetarian and I still am. I give up all those wonderful scrumptious choices at restaurants despite being able to stomach meat and fish. I can eat just a salad or a soup for dinner and not ask "When's the food coming?". At the end of the day, it is this OCD with nutrition that keeps me from undoing all my physical exercise, say, with a stack of Pringles or a warm brownie...

You could call me too technical and geeky, like many of my friends and family do. But you know you've reaped the rewards when you don't hyperventilate and rush to enroll in a gym when your high school reunion looks you in the eye and smiles its smug smile!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

And the plot thickens...

I had not met a worse commitment-phobe than myself. Well, not until I met A. Now we are both vying for the grand blue ribbon. There was a time when we encountered many situations where people inevitably assumed we were a couple. We usually laughed it off, both in public and between us.

We painstakingly resisted even the possibility. We gave a lot of platonic names to “us”. We inched slowly from friends to best friends to a little more than friends. “Do we have to name everything?” We decided we didn’t, or rather couldn’t.

Our reasoning was laughably predictable…

A: We’re having too much fun.
K: We don’t want to break up, do we?
A: Yeah, what we have is too precious to mess up. I want you in my life.
K: I’m an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ person you know.
A: Me too. We both suck at long distance.
K: We are both too whimsical.
A: And selfish.
K: And whimsical. Oops! Did I already say that?

Meanwhile we went out on trips, carefully skirting around romance inducing circumstances, if any. We avoided silences and knowing glances. We kept our conversations meticulously focused on movies, travel, books, food, the economy, photography and other non-ominous topics. We also told ourselves we fought because we were spending too much time together. We declared with true conviction that we’ll be “alright” once we put 4000 miles between us. We were both bound to get busy soon. We thought we will “get a life”.

Some friends laughed at us. Some had advice to give. Some were surprised. Some others gave up. Even our parents shook their head wisely. “Kids, these days!” they dismissed us.

While we were lauding ourselves for our self awareness and rational decision making, the imperceptible breeze of change lulled our senses. Movies became about holding hands despite rendering it impossible to eat pop corn comfortably. The chilly waterfront called for a warm hug instead of a snug jacket. Meeting became an opportunity to spend time together rather than going someplace new. “45 minutes of bumper to bumper torture. I’m too lazy” became “Oh come on! It’s just a 20 minute drive. I’ll be there.” When we lived on different coasts, we discovered that our heretofore unnamed relationship transcended distances and time zones. Silences became easy. Trust became implicit. Dreams of togetherness bloomed. Desire flourished. I guess somewhere between all the fun we were having and the separation we once dreaded and later endured, we went from enjoying each other’s company to intimate to inseparable.

Marriage, to me, always signified an implicit loss of freedom, unpredictable, sometimes even unwilling, compromises and a complex entanglement of two families. Marriage, I believed, enjoyed an unreasonable importance bestowed by an irrational society. I cannot honestly claim that my views have changed. But I am rather glad, even moved, when I say that, with A, I have found the courage to commit, I have the heart to compromise. Against all odds, I have serendipitously stumbled upon the perfect person to share my life with.

I write this, not as a tale of melting romance that makes you weak in the knees. This is not about mawkish sentimentality or adolescent infatuation. This is simply a celebration of our wondrous journey from an innocent blog post that threw us together to this joyous moment where we look ahead at our life together.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

This and that

Wow! It's been a month since my last post. Time does fly. And I hate to see this blog die. Now that rhymed, in a really lame way though. I don't have much in the way of life updates. It suffices to say 2010 has not disappointed me so far! Neither am I capable of writing anything remotely funny. So I suspect this will end up being another one of those reflective rants that reign this blog.

Of late, I've come to realize how indispensable progress is to me. My non-academic life before Wharton was spent entirely in the pursuit of a b-school admission, doing well at work and reading. I had such little time for anything else, that the visit to the gym and time with friends felt well-earned. And I actually enjoyed my sleep-deprived, megalomaniacal zeal. The two years at school made me shift gears to an even more maddening pace. I loved that too! What I really savored all those years was the constant presence of goals and the unmistakable progress from each day to the next. I know I'm beginning to sound like a grand old lady here, so moving on...

Quite naturally, in the days following my graduation I found myself struggling without short term goals to focus on. My internships and job search were not enough to keep me a 100% mentally engaged. I spent a lot of time reading, but I could not attach goals to a hobby. It felt like I was cheating somehow. One fine day, I discovered running. Initially I used it mainly as a reason to get out of the house. Soon I felt what I recognized as the runner's high. Voila! I'd found a new obsession to plan, practice and analyze on spreadsheets. I was hooked!

Six months later, I own a great pair of running shoes, technical apparel for the cold, hydration gear, iPhone apps to track my pace and mileage, subscription to Runner's World (one of the most interesting magazines I've ever read). I run 25 miles or so every week. I spend hours analyzing the run, figuring out the route to run on the next day and checking the weather to make sure I can run outside. I thoroughly enjoy wheezing my way back home after my 8 mile "long runs" and my hour long speed workouts. I get blown away by veteran runners' workouts on and wake up every day wanting to run faster and longer. Most of all I love being able to better my own best. Although I'm still very slow, I think I will soon begin to participate in races for the fun of it. I even have a couple of friends who've recently taken to the sport, thanks to my regular Facebook updates. Alright, that's it about running, before you close this blog in disgust.

I hate to say this. But the truth is, save the occasional weekend travel which I urge you to read about here, life has been humming along as uneventfully as ever. Maybe this is a case of the famed winter blues. Maybe I'm just a pathetic wallowing mess if you take away the endorphins. Maybe it is sleep finally creeping in at 3:15am! It is only wise to give in...