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My let’s-get-more-awesome journey

March 8, 2015
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It feels so great to write this post, this gorgeous gorgeous winter day in Minneapolis!

Beautiful day in Minneapolis today! – Lake Calhoun

After a crazy busy week at work, one of the few things that kept me going, was the prospect of writing another post here 🙂 So many of you wrote these amazingly encouraging comments after I published my last post about blogging again. It’s heart-warming to know that I still have a loyal and eager reader base!

Many comments and questions were around my weight loss journey. Most of my extra weight was gained during the second half of 2012, and over 2013. Without sounding too preachy, I’m going to try my best to share a few big and many small changes I had to make over the course of a year, to lose about 20 lbs from March 2014 onward. Maybe they will apply to you, maybe they won’t, but my hope is that reading about my experience will help you relate, or maybe even help you give ME some tips!

Note that I am not a nutritionist, physical trainer, or any expert on this subject at all, and I am still making changes to my lifestyle on an ongoing basis. Also, I want to share that my diet has always composed of primarily home-cooked, vegetarian meals – That said, the quantity and the composition + combination of what I consumed, coupled with low to no exercise, is what mainly led to my weight gain.

LOVE this quote from Gloria Steinem

LOVE this quote from Gloria Steinem

And yeah – the title of the post? I didn’t want to call this ‘My weight loss journey’, because it seems unauthentic to me. To be very honest, this last year has been more about accepting myself and believing in myself. The weight loss was only incidental 🙂

1. Reality check

Feb 2014 – With my family in India

For the longest time I was in denial about my weight gain. My sister and I had many conversations about it, and while she was always encouraging, supporting and caring, I didn’t always take the conversations positively. I think this is part of changing anything in our lives – we need to look ourselves in the eye and own our shit. The biggest reason I was in denial was because I didn’t believe in myself. In the pic above, I was my heaviest at around 153 lbs. I’m 5′ 3″ so I was certainly in the over-weight zone. Learning this fact was a jolt I truly needed. I resolved to change my life, by beginning to see myself differently.

What I can say is, taking one day at a time helps. Easier said than done. Yet, it is easy to get overwhelmed with what you need to do, and in the rigmarole of work, hectic schedules and everyday stresses, we can often be more hard than we need to be on ourselves.

With my sister and nephew August 2014 - I was at around 134lbs here.

With my sister and nephew August 2014 – I was at around 134 lbs here.

2. Lowering sodium and cutting out the wrong snacks

In addition to portion control, the big kick-start to my inevitable diet change was lowering my sodium intake. When I looked closely, I realized how much extra sodium I was consuming – processed snacks (even if they were veggie chips, organic, whole grains etc.), simple soups that I got from the office cafeteria (seemingly healthy!), and even adding more than what my taste buds needed in my cooking.

By removing any and every snack with high sodium levels, replacing it with snacks with 0 sodium (prunes, Turkish apricots, almonds, kind bars!), and also adding less salt in food I prepared myself, I saw a big change in my weight loss. The water I seemed to be retaining quickly reduced, and my taste buds became more sensitive to salt, helping me consume even less over the course of time.

At the Women Rock run i September 2014

At the Women Rock run in September 2014

At the St. Paul Monster Dash in October 2014

At the St. Paul Monster Dash in October 2014

3. Running and strengthening

This was also a significant change. I knew from my early 20s that my body responds very well to exercises that involve working with my own body weight, resistance exercises, and weight lifting. In addition to starting to run again, I had a weight training routine. Classes at the YMCA helped tremendously, and so did pacing myself to minimize injuries. In the beginning, my lower back and core were weak and I couldn’t run more than 1 minute at a time continuously; I am very very hard on myself and add unnecessary stress in many aspects of my life. This was one area where I had to try to be much more easy and gentle with myself. Contrary to what may seem logical, being kinder, and more self-accepting, led me to a stronger workout routine even after perceived ‘failures’ like not having high stamina when I ran.

Overall, I have learned that strengthening my core, and doing exercises that teach me to balance my body, have led to the fastest and most dramatic results in terms of toning and strengthening.

Juicing in my little kitchen

Juicing in my little kitchen

4. JUICING!!

Juicing! YES! I cannot even begin to tell you how tremendously important this one habit change has been for me. Like many great things in my life, my sister Sameera suggested this to me. I replaced some of my evening sacks with a glass of juice. That’s it. No drastic ‘cleanses’ that seem to be the fad, no crazy juices involving multiple different vegetables and fruits. Adding even one glass a week helped cleanse and detoxify my system, and helped me gain much more energy. There are a lot of resources online on this topic, but this article explains juicing pretty well.

In the coming weeks, I will share a couple of my favorite juice recipes and my process of juicing with you!

Jan 2015 - At around 130 lbs - Fitting into a dress I couldn't even zip up in early 2014 :D

Jan 2015 – At around 130 lbs – Fitting into a dress I couldn’t even zip up in early 2014 😀

5. Things I am still working on

My lifestyle change is ongoing and I still want to make many more changes that I can sustain over time:

– Adding more protein to my diet

– Minimizing the intake of processed sugar

– Adding a broader variety of vegetables to my food

– Adding detoxifying teas on a daily basis

– Truly pushing my running mileage – I’ve been stuck at a max of 3 miles per workout for a while now 🙂

So this was my journey, folks! I hope this has been insightful for you. Overall, my weight loss has resulted in many changes – lesser facial acne, less bloating, much lower water retention, significantly lower menstrual discomfort, higher energy levels (I need just 1 cup of coffee a day), and a much stronger self image! If reading this made you think of your own health journey, leave a comment! I’d love to hear from you!!

I’m back!

February 28, 2015
by

Sabera Dunkin Donuts

Yes! I am! After many many months (ok, almost a year) of not being here, I’m back. I must apologize to you for being absent and so incredibly negligent of this site. Many of you have posted on the Facebook page, emailed me, and left comments asking when I’ll be back. Thank you for that! The truth is, SO MUCH has happened the last year. SO MUCH you guys! As I start blogging here again, I plan to share much more of what’s going on with me, in addition to lots of fun conversation around food, recipes and experimenting in the kitchen. A small list of what’s going on – Running, even more running, travel, dancing and yes lots of it, ACTING – yes, acting (!!), job hunting, and job transformation (yes yes!), and last but not the least … self acceptance. Yes, more to come on that.

For starters, I hope my pic above in front of  Dunkin Donuts made you giggle. ‘Coz that’s my first goal by writing here again. Making you giggle and laugh. And I want to share that with you because I have discovered being goofy and laughing at myself all over again this past year. It is so incredibly empowering! Btw this pic was taken at a recent solo trip to Florida, where I gobbled my favorite croissant breakfast sandwich and coffee every single morning at Dunkins. I certainly couldn’t contain my joy when I arrived at the DD next to my Airbnb cottage.

Sabera Florida

Soaking it up in Florida

The past year I have changed my relationship with food, which is one of the biggest reasons why I haven’t been around. I’ve lost over 20 lbs since April 2014 until December 2014. This year, I have been focusing on maintaining my weight, and adding more strength. This is my second goal by writing again – sharing how I eat, and the food habits I changed. So stay tuned for more recipes on that front!

South indian food

Yummy food at Navratri last year.

Going back to where this blog has been the last 4 years, I see how much my life has changed. I have moved countries, been married, divorced, a student, a struggling job-seeker, and now, in my dream job, single, and exploring this new way of being me. Through it all, I’ve been through a tremendous amount of personal and lifestyle changes.With that, my food habits have also evolved, and many of the elaborate methods of cooking I followed before are not relevant. So my third and final goal is going to be to keep it real. As I talk about food and life, I hope to share my knowledge through truly easy recipes that you can make your own.

I am excited to start this journey again with you! If you have any thoughts, ideas or suggestions on what you’d like me to write about, I’m all ears! Cheers!

Exploring Mumbai’s neighborhoods through food – Girgaum food walk

April 1, 2014
Flora Fountain, Mumbai, India

Flora Fountain, Mumbai, India

Hi folks! On a recent trip to Mumbai, India, I had the good fortune of joining a fellow foodie on a food walk. I had never really done a food walk before so I must thank Ebrahim for graciously walking me through some of Mumbai’s oldest lanes, and introducing me to a few family restaurants, where I tasted some of the most delicious traditional Maharashtrain food. Read on as Ebrahim shares his knowledge on one of Mumbai’s best kept secrets, and the places we visited. Note that Mumbai and Bombay are used interchangeably throughout this post 🙂 (Google Maps links included!)

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The Mumbai skyline - seen from Marine Drive

The Mumbai skyline – seen from Marine Drive

In a city with rapidly expanding culinary horizons, there lies many a neighborhood which is symbolic of bygone times, where social, religious and culinary norms are defined by the population that lives and works there. We still cling, with nostalgia, to some of these culinary treasures, such as Irani cafes in parts of South Bombay, or the ravenous meat feasts in the traditional Muslim bazaars around Mohammed Ali Road. Girgaum (or Girgaon) is one of these forgotten neighborhoods, that doesn’t seem to be on any heritage trail or foodie wall, and yet its most poignant legacy is that it is one the most culturally and ethnically diverse areas in Bombay. So when Sabera Kapasi asked me for a food walk, I couldn’t help but think of Girgaum as one of the first neighborhoods to explore.

Girgaum food walk

Girgaum food walk

Girgaum Food walk map (click for a map of the foodwalk with place-marks)

In what was formerly outside the walled city (Fort), in the late 19th century, Girgaum was settled by the Portuguese converts sharing doors with the local koli fishermen who already lived there. Many businessmen, including Gujaratis, Jains, Parsis and Marwaris, as well as various Maharashtrian and Konkani communities settled here over time, and have left their indelible mark over the area. Girgaum is quite closely associated with India’s independence movement; the festival most dear to Mumbaikars  – Ganesh Chaturthi –  was started at a chawl in this area, by one of India’s leading founders Lokmanya Tilak, as a way to unite citizens against the British rule and instill nationalistic fervor. Post independence, the area was settled by Gujaratis, making the southeast corner of Girgaum (Thakurdwar-Kalbadevi) the premier “gujju” hub in the city. This hodge-podge of cultures made this the perfect place for our culinary exploration.

Jalebi

Jalebi

We start our tour with a plate of jalebi, fafra and papaya chutney (or papaya nu athanu) at Pancharatna jalebi house (in the bylane behind what was once Roxy theater). This shop is right at the entrance of Mumbai’s diamond market, dominated by Gujarati businessmen, many from the city of Surat, Gujarat (part of Kutch region). This explains how this quintessential Surti snack combination of sweet, spicy, savory and sour flavors, made it big in a city that still loves its vada-pav and kheema-pao for breakfast. Growing up, I’ve been on multiple tours of Kutch and the first thing we’d long for at the end of an overnight train journey from Bombay was this umami-inducing combination with hot chai. The reason Pancharatna excels, is the turnout is big enough for them to be doling out fresh batches of Jalebis during breakfast time (8AM-10.30AM). When we had them, they were crisp yet dripping with syrup and with a saffron hue about them. It is pure bliss when it hits your mouth!

Surti Khamani

Surti Khamani

Next stop is the savory Surti (as being from Surat) – sev khamani – around the corner. The guy who runs the little shop, operates out of a small table stand with a plastic cover. Non-gujaratis are usually surprised at how simple the dish is. It is made with fresh khaman – a snack made using chickpea flour – pulverized by hand into a breadcrumb like consistency and then tossed up with fresh garlic, coriander and topped with sev – fried chickpea flour strands. The result is velvety soft khaman with crunchy bits of sev and a freshness imparted from a dash of nimbu(lime) and coriander leaves. For Rs. 5 (as of Feb 2014) , it’s a working man’s breakfast and yet another “perfect-with-chai” dish. Having had the real deal in Surat, I’d say this comes pretty close.

St. Theresa’s church

We leave the surti khamani guy and walk past Central cinema entering the crossroad that is dominated by the St. Teresa’s Portuguese church. The fascinating red colored church which is supposed to have an awesome interior (never been inside despite having lived close to it for most of my life), was once the focal point of Girgaum chowpatty, since that is where the beach originally was.

Heading right into the main road through Thakurdwar, we enter Panshikar Upwas gruh. For those unfamiliar with the Upwas (fasting) concept, its a day of self-control to honor the god you wish to please/pray to as a means of offering to them. Upwas dishes form a cuisine in and of  itself. Followed by most  Hindus, each day marks devotion to the god associated to it. The day we went on was Monday, which is the day of the fast for Lord Shiva.

Farali patties

Farali patties

Panshikar specialises in Maharashtrian upvas cuisine. Over the years, I’ve had some amazing farali patties in the area and these, it turns out aren’t the best but the second best. When done correctly, they should have a crunchy-sweet-spicy inner filing from the cashews, peanuts and raisins. This stuffing is covered in a nice crusty potato envelope and is most likely served with a spicy green chutney. Panshikar has a lot of other upvas favorites that should definitely not be missed, including the piyush (a cross breed between lassi and Amul spiced milk ), the farali misal and sabudana khichdi (a dish made with tapioca pearls).

Thali peeth

Thali peeth

Next stop is Bi-Tambe, or atleast that’s what is used to be called until it got bought over by its current owners (now Sujata Uphar Gruh). This place has the reputation of being the oldest continuously operated restaurant in south Bombay – and by most accounts, has been operational for 200 years. It certainly doesn’t beat Casa Botin in Madrid, but for a culture that did not dine out until very recently, they have managed to stay in business and done a good job at it. Growing up, this used to be the go-to destination for Thaalipeeth with fresh loni (fresh white hand-churned butter). Thaalipeeth is paratha-like, but made from a unique, multi-grain flour blend that gives it that yummy crunchy texture. Bi-Tambe’s version is heavy on cumin-coriander-onion and comes with heaps of butter that is mandatory with this treat. Being a uphar-gruh (lunch house), their main focus is lunch thaalis (plates), with mains that change daily.

Sitaphal (custard apple) basundi

Sitaphal (custard apple) basundi

To end this awesome food walk, I had to convince Sabera to share a Sitafal basundi. Since both of us are expats living in the States, the one fruit we miss more than anything else is Sitafal-or custard apple. In the 90s, the number one dessert on people’s minds was the Sitafal Cream sold at Noorani cafe in Haji Ali. These guys have taken that dish and morphed it into a fusion basundi topped with pistachios … Heaven!

The resulting food coma lasted for days 🙂

Some of the things we couldn’t do:

1. Anant-Ashram – the famous Malvani joint that has run into family issues and only serves takeout now

2. Kolhapuri Chivda – another upvas joint famous for their fusion sabudana-poha vada

3. Amrakhand – next to Majestic Cinema – is a wholesaler for loni and amrakhand

4. Ghoogras and Farsan at Go Go snacks

5. Crystal for cheap college eats

6. Walk the heritage trail through khotachiwadi and gaiwadi (shown in green on the map)

Eager to learn more about Mumbai’s forgotten neighborhoods? Click here for a very well-written article on Girgaum by CNN.

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Guest Post by Ebrahim Bandookwala

Learn more about him here.

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