issue #191 - on weight

(and the weight we give it)

“How do I handle bad body image days?”

This was a question asked in this week’s AMA session, and it stopped me in my tracks because I was in the midst of a self-loathing, “I hate my body” phase.

I’m still kind of in it, if I’m being honest. I didn’t get here overnight, but the 6 weeks of little-to-no exercise after my surgery, a month in Vancouver where I ate and drank with abandon (daily gelato, glasses of wine with dinner), and no intentional workouts aside from walks throughout the city.

When I got home and stepped on the scale for the first time in months, the number was one that I hadn’t seen since I was pregnant, which sent me spiraling.

I was tempted to order the ProLon 5 day fast or jump into intense bootcamp workouts - and I did do the latter right after we arrived. But I came across a Reel from @thecollegenutritionist that reframed my entire approach to diet and health:

My goal isn’t to hit a specific number on the scale, but to feel good in my body and to keep it strong and healthy for better longevity (something I’m learning a lot about in Peter Attia’s excellent book Outlive). I lost sight of this goal when I stepped onto the scale and let a number dictate my near term decisions for vanity’s sake.

I know I’m not alone in feeling misaligned by what I actually want and what I’m told I need to look like by the narratives we’re bombarded by social media, television, films, and our culture in general. It’s exhausting to remind ourselves of the former and ignore the latter, especially how pervasive and insidious these narratives can be.

In answering this question, I reminded myself of the miracles my body has produced and the challenges its overcome. It has performed Bharathanatyam for decades, including two separate arangatram (graduation) solo performances. It has gestated three souls and birthed two of them (and endured two surgeries for the one that didn’t survive). It’s survived a surgery to remove an entire organ system for my long-term health. It runs after two energetic children, cares for aging parents, and gets things done in a number of jobs.

My body is amazing. It’s been through a lot, and it needs my love and gratitude and to be invested in, not punished in pursuit of a physical ideal that someone else has defined for an entire population.

I’m done shoulding all over myself when it comes to my weight and how I look. I’m writing this for my future self to revisit when I inevitably need to be reminded of this.

I’m also making some short-term changes to support my health and to feel good in my skin, which I’d like to share with you:

  • Nutrition - I’ve resumed tracking my meals in MyFitnessPal, mostly to ensure I’m consuming 100 grams of protein a day. When I prioritized this protein goal earlier this year, I noticed that I had more energy, was even-tempered, and had little to no hangry moments. When I prioritize protein, I’m also more inclined to ensure my meals have a good portion of vegetables as well (something I don’t prioritize when I fall in emotional eating spells). I try to hit 80 grams of protein by dinner, and these meals and snacks usually gets me there:

    • Breakfast - 3 hard boiled eggs with Yellowbird habañero sauce and Red Clay spicy everything salt (18 grams of protein) and 1 cup of Chobani Greek yogurt with Beeya seeds and this granola (20 grams of protein)

    • Post-workout - “Monster smoothie” with 1 Blender Bomb (I love the chocolate peanut butter), a scoop of AG1, 1 serving of Orgain chocolate protein powder, 1 ½ cups of frozen spinach, ½ cup of frozen blueberries, oat milk and ice and water. It usually fills up one of these smoothie cups and keeps me satisfied until mid-afternoon (26 grams of protein)

    • Lunch - the crispy rice sweetgreen bowl (double the chicken, kale instead of arugula, and I add spicy broccoli and jalapenos and get a second portion of dressing) (30 grams of protein) or 2 turkey sandwiches (harissa paste spread on the bottom half of a sandwich thin, two slices of turkey and 1 slice of sharp cheddar melted in the toaster oven. Once melted, I top the cheese with a few potato chips, sprouts, and the top of the sandwich thin spread with spicy mustard) with sliced veggies wrapped inside a turkey slice spread with mustard (this meal usually has about 26 grams of protein).

    • Afternoon snack - Aloha protein bar (14 grams of protein)

  • Fasting - Circadian fasting is something I learned from Dr. Amy Shah - I wouldn’t call it fasting per se, but conscious timing of when to eat. She recommends no eating from 7 pm to 7 am, though my window is more like 8-8, and to stop eating 2-3 hours before bed. I also try to give myself an hour between waking up and having coffee (and having my eggs and some water before my coffee), which is annoyingly effective for a more balanced mood and starting the day on the right foot.

  • Alcohol - I enjoyed those glasses of wine over long dinners with my family in Vancouver, and I’m happy to swap them for a sparkling water these days (De Soi or a Ghia spritz when I’m feeling fancy or need that ritual of pouring something with a complex taste that I enjoy from wine). I’m limiting my consumption to 2-4 drinks a week (recommended by both Drs. Shah and Attia), and only in 1:1 friend settings or with my parents at home. I’m back to my club soda with lime and bitters when I’m out at events.

  • Movement - I’m still reading Outlive, but the fitness chapter had me changing up my workout routines. I do 3 full body strength workouts a week (I like Callie’s strength workouts on the Peloton app), 3 Zone 2 cardio workouts (a Power Zone endurance or low impact ride on the Peloton bike or a treadmill strut from Allie Bennett), and 1 HIIT ride or run with yoga. I do 30 minutes a day, which is all I can prioritize right now - and I’m proud of myself for doing what I can consistently.

  • Sleep - this is the biggest change I’ve made, and it’s to ensure I get at least 7 hours of sleep a night. I try to be in bed by 10 and lights out by 11, and my alarm is set for 5:45 to give me those 2 snooze hits (which I need).

  • Mental health - I’m on a mood-stabilizing drug after a recent diagnosis from my psychiatrist, which has been a gamechanger. I see my therapist weekly and my psychiatrist monthly. I also find the Mirror Meditations in Superhuman to help me express gratitude and love for my body and stop the negativity spiral I often find myself trapped in.

  • Emotional health - I keep my phone in another room when I’m with my kids and husband in the mornings and evenings, and plan 1-2 friend dates a week (preferably a walk in the Park with a coffee or tea).

  • Appearance - I rearranged my closet to keep the clothes that flatter my current figure and make me feel good right next to my dresser, for ease and convenience. The second summer that New York is experiencing means it’s still Nesara kaftan season (you can use code hitha for $10 off your order!). I also rented some new pieces from Armoire that fit and flatter my body as it is right now (saved in this collection - use code hithapalepu for 50% off your first month and 2 bonus items). I’ve also been applying a little bit of makeup every day and running a curling iron through the front pieces of my hair, and it’s made me feel prettier and better about myself.

I still basically look the same as I did when I got home from Vancouver, but I feel better less than 2 weeks later. I’m grateful that these changes were relatively minor changes and easy to adapt to, but I want to encourage small steps (change up 1-2 things instead of a massive overhaul of your life, which isn’t sustainable).

Thank you, body, for everything you’ve done and what you’ll do. I love you. And I hope you love yours too.

What We Read This Week:

Hitha 

  • Magnolia Parks: The Long Way Home by Jessa Hastings - Still obsessed with the Magnolia Parks Universe, and this book was a turning point from “I’m enjoying this” to “this series is my whole personality now". I won’t lie - I had some icks about the toxicity of Magnolia and BJ’s relationship and their behavior in the first book, but this book delved deeper in their characters and provided the necessary backstory to explain why these two characters are the way they are. In true Jessa Hastings fashion, it ended with the most insane twist that had me starting Daisy Haites: The Great Undoing immediately after at 11 pm one night (which I’m still working my way through). Jessa - I love you and loathe you in equal measure for how your books have taken over the scraps of free time that I have.

Larell

  • Alex the Parrot: No Ordinary Bird: A True Story by Stephanie Spinner - After a day of business and life, I often turn to children's picture books because they have a low emotional charge and are an absolute joy to get lost in. Alex The Parrot is about the 70s cultural phenomenal of animal intelligence. Namely, bird intelligence. And Irene Pepperberg, dedicated female researcher who kind of rocked the world.

Madison

  • What We Carry: Poems by Dorianne Laux - The Sealey Challenge is in full swing. It’s a community challenge that asks each of us to read one book of poetry a day for the month of August. My (very dusty) poetry bookshelves have been thankful for the attention, and I’ve enjoyed revisiting texts that were assigned in class during undergrad. This collection, the first from now-widely celebrated poet Dorianne Laux, somehow pulls an immense amount of intense emotion out of countless physical details. Whether you’re participating in the challenge or not, I encourage you to hunt down a copy and spend an afternoon with it -- preferably while sitting outdoors with a nice cold drink.

Top #5SmartReads Of The Past Two Weeks:

The Rest Of The Week’s Reads Are Below:

Your Questions, Answered

What to pack for India (Mumbai) in November?
I’d scroll through @shivani_bafna’s feed - she spends a lot of time in Mumbai and lived there for a while, and I love her style (both fun and approachable).

When I pack for India, it’s a lot of easy dresses and kurtas (like Nesara) that I can add leggings and a dupatta to if needed. I also bring a crossbody bag with a zipper and plenty of sunscreen and body wipes to refresh and protect my skin.

You’ll want to wear comfortable slip-on sandals (like my trusty Birks), and if you want to pack heels, a block heel is the way to go. For evenings, a bright dress (solid or patterned works) with a bright lip.

Any recommendations/tips for diaper bags with toddler (3.5 years old) and a newborn?
I love the Dagne Dover Indi backpack, which I guarantee you’ll continue to use long after you’re out of the diaper bag stage. It’s $215, which is an investment, but Dagne Dover bags LAST and look brand new even years after heavy use. I’ve put my Dagne backpacks and weekenders through the ringer and they still look perfect (plus can be thrown in the washing machine). Dagne offers a 10% code for first-time customers, and a discount for teachers and healthcare workers.

What’s your best piece of career advice?
My best piece of career advice is something I wrote about in We’re Speaking - specifically in chapter 5 (Eat No For Breakfast and Take Care of Yourself). The main message is to flip the narrative that we need to prioritize work first, our relationships second, and yourselves last. Instead, you should put yourself first, your relationships second, and work third. When you’re filling your own cup in a meaningful way (taking care of your body with nutrition/fitness/sleep, your mental health however works for you, and emotional health by prioritizing your relationships and quality time with your loved ones), you can show up to work as your most ready, confident self and you’re going to be able to handle all the hard things - challenges, rejections, setbacks, working with difficult people. (The Kindle edition of We’re Speaking is only $5, if you haven’t picked up a copy yet!)

I need new NYC-based accounts to follow! Any emerging ones you like? Style, food, things to do & fun
Style - @thenewyorkstylist
Food/things to do - @taarasajnani and @ashnii (who also have great style)
Things to do - given that all I want to do is go to shows, play pickleball, and read, I recommend @lydia.pickleball and @nycbookgirl

Anything you’re really excited to wear this fall/winter?
I linked my fall/winter wishlist in this LTK post! I’m craving patterned or silk skirts paired with matching cashmere sweaters, witchy season dresses, wide legged denim and cropped pants, suede leggings, delicious knits, and tweed (on my body and on my feet!)

When in a relationship would you start using Fair Play or check-in conversations?
Fair Play is really intended for couples that are living and managing a home together. Weekly emotional check-ins would be ideal in the early days of being committed to each other to practice and prioritize open communication. Rythm’s In Tune game is a great tool for emotional check-ins when you don’t know where to start!

What’s your current favorite healthy snack and hype song?
Snack - sharp cheddar cheese, turkey roll ups with mustard, an apple, and some crackers
Song - my Fall Out Boy playlist - it’s so energizing and puts me in the best mood.

How to deal with toxic bosses?
Establish regular check-ins with said boss in whichever format works best for you (a quick call, email) and document what was discussed (action items, timelines) over email. Provide end of week updates on your deliverables over email - this kind of paper trail can help counter any complaints or feedback toxic bosses may bring up as the basis of a PIP or termination.

If things are really bad - like harassment or violating code of conduct bag - capture everything and document it in case you need to escalate it.

I would also begin exploring other options, both within and outside of your company. Keep your network warm - I personally reach out to someone every day to let them know I’m thinking about them, share what’s new with me, and to list how I could be of help to them. I end with inviting them to share an update in whichever format works for them (email, voice memo, scheduling a call). Keeping your network warm will help you in any job search - for internal referrals for a specific company, recommendations, or simply being top of others’ minds when new opportunities arise.

Julia Lynch is a stellar resource for resume and cover letter editing and career coaching for transitions.

Vacation ideas for the family in India (beyond visiting family)?

  • I plan to copy Usha’s Chennai itinerary when we take the boys to India next!

  • If your youngest is at least 7, I think the Golden Triangle (Delhi, Agra, Jaipur) is the perfect age for that.

  • I personally think Hyderabad is the best city (because it’s my hometown), but it is wonderful for families. When we took Rho when he was 3, we visited Golconda, Salar Jung Museum, Birla Science Museum, Sudha Car Museum, the zoo, and Chowmalla Palace and it was great. Minerva Coffee Shop is the best for classic South Indian dishes - idly, vada, dosa and their coffee is chef’s kiss.

Are you an investor in Naghedi? Love their bags!
Nope - I’m just a big fan! Here’s how I use and wear their bags:

  • St. Barth’s petit - an evening bag (I own the metallic and it’s my go-to bag for Diwali season and holiday parties)

  • St. Barth’s mini - my daily crossbody at home and on the go (it fits an insane amount)

  • St. Barth’s medium tote - my go-to work bag or personal item when I’m traveling for business. It matches virtually every outfit and is quite roomy. The handles look small, but do stretch to fit over your shoulder quite comfortably when it has stuff in the bag.

  • St. Barth’s large tote - this will be my next purchase, and it’s for my personal item when we’re on family trips (the kids’ stuff lives in my Dagne Dover carry-all, and I need more room than my medium tote offers)

  • Tangier mini - when I want to look a bit more polished (I wore it to the White House AANHPI Forum, where I met the Vice President)

Closing

xo,
HPN

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