In Conversation with Arjun Gadkari

ARJUN (1)

Co-Founder & President, Nilgai Foods Pvt. Ltd.

Tell us about your health and fitness journey?

Arjun: I have actively participated in team sports and individual races from an early age. During my school and university, my main competitive sports were swimming, basketball and athletics. At Oxford, I competed at the university level in Modern Pentathlon, which involves 5 disciplines – swimming, running, fencing, shooting and show jumping (on horseback). I also took part in several half-triathlons. It is only after moving to Mumbai that I started road running as a discipline in itself – this year I completed the SCMM half marathon for the 6th time.

How do you start your morning?

Arjun: My wife and I have adopted a stray dog in Mumbai and this keeps us on our toes with morning and evening walks without fail for at least 45 minutes. Owning a dog is a fantastic way to create a disciplined routine, as a dog’s routine functions like a clock. My morning starts with a 45-min brisk dog walk followed by a session at the gym. Nutrition is the buzz word in my attitude to health because while I have always been enthusiastic about fitness and physical activity, it is so easy to eat the wrong things and take in the wrong kind of calories across the day, especially if you work in an office.

My morning, therefore, is focused around eating right because I know that I will do enough activity anyway. I usually structure it like this:

  1. A fruit, nuts and 1 Cocofly prior to the brisk walk
  2. High protein as soon as I get back from the gym – normally eggs or sardines on toast
  3. I have a multi-vitamin each morning to avoid missing out on some of the key nutrients

By the time, I get through this I know that I am ready for the day ahead of me.

Where does your motivation come from?

Arjun: I am a strong believer in the “healthy body, healthy mind” philosophy. My ambition and drive in my business requires me to be disciplined and structured around my physical health. For me, it flows from the physical outwards – your body is the building block on which everything else – mental agility, emotional stability, spiritual tranquility – can stand strong. And so my motivation starts from the end goal and works backwards. I want to be a happy person and I am ambitious about my career and the future of my business. That is how I motivate myself to stay fit and respect my body.

What’s one thing everyone should do for their wellness routine?

Arjun: The last few years of research and involvement in the Cocofly brand has given me a whole new respect for hydration. Water and electrolytes are the key to so many of our problems – it is like the oil in an engine that keeps everything else running smoothly. I have found that being fully hydrated at all times doesn’t just help you physically, but mentally as well. There is a sizeable amount of research out there, but I have also seen the impact on my own concentration and state of mind. Hydration can never be underestimated.

What’s your perspective on educating society on healthy nutrition habits?

Arjun: In today’s world, health and fitness risks falling into a very superficial bucket. While trim abs and toned muscle are great to have, that is not the only purpose of being healthy. Society needs to understand the deeper benefits of healthy living and the impact on their longevity, not just in terms of life expectancy but also in terms of quality of life too. When habits need to change, individuals need to see the relevance in their own lives in order to engage emotionally with the benefits of changing their habits. Today in India, not enough people relate to the significance of healthy living in their own context. That is why the message needs to get out there from as early age as possible because you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

Why did Nilgai foods step into the beverage segment with packaged coconut water?

Arjun: At Nilgai Foods, our mission is to build F&B brands for the 21st century India. Our hypothesis is that Indian consumers are ready for engaging with the broader international community, but a lack of choice and access limits the consumer’s ability to engage with international trends.

After following the global coconut water industry closely for several years, it felt like too good an opportunity to miss out on. Coconut water was coming to India, it was only a matter of who would take the first step. Coconut water over the last 14 years has grown from a non-existent product category in the west to one of the fastest growing FMCG stories in recent history.

We are looking at a global habit change on an unprecedented level here, driven by technological improvements in preserving coconut water as well as a massive international trend towards healthy living. Coconut water ticks that box in a big way, giving consumers one of nature’s most perfectly balanced isotonic drinks that rehydrate the body better than almost anything. It was only a matter of time before packaged coconut water became a runaway success.

The ironic part of the global coconut water story so far is that India has been sitting on the 3rd largest global supply of coconuts, but so far doesn’t even contribute 1% to the global demand. There is a huge opportunity in India for both the existing domestic demand for coconut water as a refreshing drink as well as supplying into the massive global industry.

On the completion of our R&D, we are really pleased to be one of the first movers in this nascent industry.

Public Health England has asked food businesses to voluntarily cut the amount of sugar they use in their products by 5% this year and 20% over the next three years. Will this help in lowering sugar consumption? What are your thoughts?

Arjun: I think it is a fantastic initiative and I also think it is the right way to go about the problem. The mainstream public still makes purchase choices driven by their engagement level with the brand and the amount of visibility the brand has in their lives.

You will find that by and large decisions are based on the popularity of a product rather than the health benefits or nutritional details. It, therefore, comes down to the integrity and willingness of the major food brands to remove the ‘bad stuff’ from what they are giving to their customers. But the reality is that decisions will always be basis commercial first and humanitarian second. Sugar is in most food for a reason – it is cheap and addictive. It is a very difficult ingredient to reduce unless there is a broader program that these brands need to adhere to.

What is your advice to the young corporate professionals today about maintaining a healthy lifestyle?

Arjun: The 3 fundamentals of physical health are exercise, nutrition and sleep. These are difficult to control as a young working professional. For me, the one that you can control the most is decisions around what you are eating. Be disciplined about what you eat at breakfast because across the rest of the day you tend to have less control over your food choices. A healthy breakfast can at least set you up correctly for the day ahead.

 

Mirror Mirror On The Wall…

Every year, on the 8th of March, the world makes time to acknowledge and celebrate what women aspire to, struggle toward and amazingly achieve every single day of their lives. The 2017 theme for International Women’s Day is #BEBOLDFORCHANGE. This theme resonates with women from all walks of life. It is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.

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Women face countless challenges every single day but the one I would like to focus on today is a universal challenge that cuts across ethnicities, communities and age groups: Body image – the immense pressure on women to only look a certain, so called, “acceptable way.” Body image is how we see ourselves in a mirror or picture ourselves in our mind.

Body image is a major factor in self-esteem and towards feeling confident and bold! It is not just the way you look but is also the way you think and feel about yourself as a person. The effects of body image on self-esteem can be especially powerful during the teenage years, setting unrealistic and impractical standards.

There are certainly some very direct messages associated with body weight in the media. Celebrities, fashion models and show hosts are often seen as role models, especially by teenagers. These concerns about appearance have existed since time immemorial as have measures to titivate ourselves. However, what has changed today is how media and social media produce unattainable, filtered imagery especially focused at women that drives home the message of inadequacy and the need for improvement.

Eating disorders are often, though not always and not directly, related to negative body image. We feel the pressure to change ourselves, to diet away our natural curves, exercise compulsively and use cosmetic enhancements to feel acceptable.

In the 21st century, beauty surpasses the demand to be intelligent, witty, charming, accomplished or athletic. And it is a rigidly conforming beautiful – Barbie doll perfect, straight hair, perfect skin, hourglass figure, chiclet teeth, there is no room for diversity here.

While young women are striving to attain perfection, older women are desperate to reverse the clock at any cost! This has led to unprecedented increase in appearance misperception disorders including eating disorders, depression, loss of self-esteem and social avoidance behaviours etc.

According to the Dove Global Beauty and Confidence Report, a staggering 89 per cent of Australian women are opting to cancel plans, job interviews or other important engagements simply because of how they look.

Despite the alarming statistics, there is a push by women to break the concept of beauty norms. More than 70 percent of women want the media to portray a more diverse range of physical appearance, age, race, shape and size in advertising and marketing.

Therefore, ‘need of the hour’ is to empower each other – increasing body-confidence education, driving meaningful conversations around the pressures women and girls face, and advocate for change in media depictions.

Let us stop judging ourselves and others on the merits of conforming beauty ideals and to start building a sisterhood of positive body image and self-esteem. Let us remind ourselves, every woman is uniquely beautiful (genetically) and let’s celebrate that uniqueness together on this special day.

Indeed, the time has come to be bold and be the change we want to see in the world!

Tips for cultivating a positive body image

1.      The next time we meet a friend, let’s not start with a compliment on how thin or pretty they look.

2.      We should watch what we say in front of our young children. Saying things like “Am I looking fat in this? Do my hips look huge?” etc. reinforce stereotypes and poor body image.

3.      Let us not treat food like it’s our enemy and go on fad diets or excessive indulgence.

4.      Food is a necessity and a pleasure & must be treated with respect and moderation.

5.      Let us not view models or actresses as icons or instruments of objectification, but instead respect and discuss their talent as women making a mark in their field.

6.      Let us discuss and perpetuate role models in fields not related to glamour or media. It is a slow process but a rewarding one!

7.      Think of your body as the vehicle to your dreams. Honour it. Respect it. Fuel it!


About the Author

Dr. Aparna Santhanam (MD, DNB) is a well-known dermatologist, cosmetologist, and hair and wellness expert working in the field of beauty, health and wellness for more than fifteen years. She is a practicing dermatologist, strategic consultant, wellness expert, a writer, and noted speaker apart from being actively involved in social development and women’s issues. She can be reached at dr.aparnasanthanam@gmail.com

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Staying Fit Just Got 10 Steps Easier

Tips to stay fitLong work hours, too tired, feeling stressed, busy at work? Yes, these are our daily excuses for not being active and not following a healthy diet during our busy work schedules. However, being active does not require finding time to get to the gym or following a stringent diet. Here are 10 ways to get fit whilst having fun:

 1. Be an active TV watcher. When you watch television, try to incorporate some physical activity. Put a treadmill in front of the TV and walk whilst watching. You could also add in some stretching, abdominal exercises or push-ups during commercials. Doing a little activity during the commercial breaks can add up to almost 20 minutes of activity for every hour of TV you watch.

2. Try an active commute. One of the best ways to fit activity into your life is by incorporating it into your school or work transportation routine. If you live close enough, consider cycling to work. If you take the bus or taxi, walk to a bus stop that’s an extra block or two away, or get off the bus a stop sooner than usual and get a few more steps in. Alternatively, if you drive to work, park as far away as you can from the building—even a few blocks away, if possible.

3. Mix socialising with exercising. Do you normally spend time with your family or friends by going to dinner, watching sports on TV or going to the movies? Make your social time more active by planning events that are fun and get all of you moving. Go for a family hike on a Saturday morning, play a game of football with your buddies, or just go to a park and run around with your children. There are so many options for squeezing more activity into your social calendar.

4. Turn chores into workouts. When you go grocery shopping, take an entire lap around the store before you begin purchasing grocery items.  When you go to a shopping mall, ensure you see every floor.  You could even climb up the steps to each and every floor at the mall. Also, increase the intensity with which you do your regular household chores, such as cleaning, mowing and shopping. Mow your neighbour’s yard in addition to yours, or park at the end of the lot when you go shopping.

5. Make a work meeting a form of exercise. If you have a lot of meetings at work, tryhaving standing meetings which will give you a break from sitting at your desk for too long. You could even go one step further and initiate walking meetings, by taking a walk with your colleagues within the office or around the office building or compound. When on your mobile phone, walk around, rather than sit at your desk.

6. Have breakfast every day. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, when you wake up it gives your body that well needed energy and sets your metabolism up for the rest of the day. People who skip breakfast are also more likely to gain weight.

7. Schedule regular snacks. Try to have one mid-morning and one mid-afternoon. Have healthy things available for grab-and-go snacks, like fruit, granola bars, dried fruit, or trail mix.

8. Utilize your lunch hour. Look for a gym nearby where you can get a quick workout in.  Alternatively, you can go on a long walk around the building compound with a colleague or even a quick run during your lunch hour. You will go back to the office feeling more energetic in the afternoon.

9. Take 5 minute breaks. When work stress starts knocking, take a five-minute break and go for a stroll. This will not only help to clear your head, but it is also a good way to both increase your metabolism and stay active.

10. Offer your services. Volunteering for a community-service project, such working with an NGO  or a  or cleaning up a park or other green space, on weekends is a great way to add some activity to your day while improving your community at the same time.

 This article is contributed by Shane Bilsborough, COO & Co-Founder, Stepathlon Lifestyle Pvt ltd. 

Move the nation. Lead the World: One Step at a Time

“Health is a right and not a privilege they say!”

Being fit and healthy has both physical and mental benefits, but it is not always possible for us to squeeze it into to a busy schedule. Even the media is filled with images of what is considered “to be fit”, yet these seem unattainable for many of us.

So how does the average person find a way to be active in both easy and achievable way?


post 1- stepathlon blog Shane Bilsborough, Co-Founder and COO of Stepathlon Lifestyle Pvt Ltd
was asked a similar question quite frequently, particularly by people working in office buildings, who found it hard to be active when their work required them to sit at a desk for long hours. From this thought, Shane was determined to find a solution and successfully co-founded an internationally proven model –that encourages people to take at least 10,000 steps a day to stay fit and healthy!

Based on this concept he co-founded a unique initiative called Stepathlon. Stepathlon seeks to create an ecosystem that promotes corporate health, fitness and productivity by encouraging participants to take at least 10,000 steps a day, and increase their daily activity.

 What is Stepathlon?

A majority of corporate employees take as little as 2,000 – 3,000 steps per day due to intense work schedules and long hours, which takes a toll on both body and mind.  Global health authorities recommend a minimum of 10,000 steps per day to be active.

Stepathlon is a race around a ‘virtual world’ for companies of all sizes, across all industries and countries.

It is a pedometer-based, mass participation event which takes place over 100 consecutive days and motivates individuals to take at least 10,000 steps a day.

It encourages activity in a simple, inclusive, fun and relevant manner to complement hectic lifestyles.

 How does it work?

  • Companies can participate with as many employees as they choose. Employees form teams of 5 and are provided with a Stepack that includes a backpack, cap and pedometer. Employees then become part of a community of like-minded people from across the globe, through an innovative, interactive and insightful interface.
  • Over 100 days, participants then put their step count for each day into the Stepathlon Course Website, these steps are then converted into kilometres and mapped on a “virtual world”, where they race others around the “virtual world” and visit some great locations along the way
  • The race is conducted over 100 consecutive days to promote positive habitual change, for “anyone, anywhere, anytime”

With more people experiencing a decline in physical activity, resulting in increasingly sedentary lifestyles, health concerns are increasing worldwide.  Risk of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer can be reduced by walking more. Simple, isn’t it?

The company was co-founded by Shane Bilsborough and Ravi Krishnan.  Shane chose to come to India, because he believes that, as a country with one of the highest rates of diabetes and heart disease, India needs to be more physically fit!

Stepathlon can help make that positive change and contribute to a healthier country. Ravi’s experience in sports, media and entertainment and relationships with corporate India, coupled with Shane’s domain expertise has worked well to ensure Stepathlon’s success in achieving their mission to ‘Move the Nation. Lead the World’.

 In our next post, read Ravi Krishnan’s views on how employee wellness initiatives undertaken by corporates influence their productivity levels at work.