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That sunshine vitamin and ‘la dolce vita’

The 30-day Fitness Challenge was a great opportunity that had brought the couch potatoes, the health freaks, families and friends to bond and sweat over varied workouts and physical activities under the canopy of the bright sunny skies

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People at Jumeirah Beach enjoy the holiday on the first day of the new year in Dubai, 1st January 2017. Photo: Ahmed Ramzan/ Gulf News
Gulf News

If there is anything worse than seeing your doctor when you are quite sure that something is not right, then it is the endless wait in stark waiting rooms with your mind galloping like an untrained horse into infinite conclusions about the undiagnosed state of your health.

I sat in the spotlessly clean waiting room twiddling my thumbs, crossing my fingers every time the mind paused at an irrational conclusion or possibility. I absently picked up a glossy magazine hoping to distract the direction of my thoughts. The picture of a perfectly happy lady with shining locks and skin glowing with health stared back at me only to add fuel to my racing thoughts. I went back to staring at the growing crowd of sick people in the waiting room reconciling to the fact that at least I was not the only one nursing my health woes.

It had all begun with a chance encounter with an old friend on social media. We were colleagues and later on became neighbours and good friends. After she moved out, we gradually lost touch with one another until she found me on social media through a mutual friend. A few phone calls later, we decided to meet up.

Our meeting was as warm as the sunny afternoon only marred by the revelation that the dreams and ambitions of this young woman had been hindered by multiple sclerosis. An acute deficiency of vitamin D had put her at a high risk and hastened the progress of the disease. We had a good time together reminiscing about old times, but the elephant in the room could not be ignored. Her parting advice to me was to listen to my body, trust my intuitions and take advantage of the sunny skies and cool mornings.

I took her advice and ensured that we spent our weekend mornings at beaches and in parks until we looked like a family who had just returned from a sun-kissed vacation in a hot tropical island. The exercise helped burn a month’s worth of every variety of food that had transformed into stubborn adipose tissue. The days that I could not make it, I sulked, until the husband suggested that I spend 15 minutes in the sunny balcony chewing on food. Research has it that chewing food thoroughly until it becomes absolutely free of lumps before it is swallowed can burn up to 2,000 extra calories every month if you keep at it.

It was about then that I had begun to notice that strands of hair fell loose and formed an untidy mess whenever I let it loose. As if to add to tangled woes, I caught myself nodding off between telling ‘Little Princess’ a fairy tale that usually resulted in a muddled up and confused happily-ever-after ending of another fairy tale.

At first, I brushed it aside and tried to be in denial. When I found my thoughts going back to my friend’s words, I tried to convince myself of the varied possibilities that could be a convincing reason for the sudden and unexplained hair loss and lethargy. Finally, I found myself at the doctor’s doorstep.

A battery of tests ensued and the results showed a deficiency in iron and Vitamin B12 that was due to a lack of animal protein in my diet. Heeding my friend’s advice, the mornings spent on the sunny beach was worthwhile after all as a deficiency of the sunshine vitamin did not show up. It is ironic that we live in a country that is blessed with abundant sunshine and the primary source of vitamin D is just outside our door, up in the sky and yet in this life full of care, we find innumerable excuses not to get outdoors and exercise our way to health.

The 30-day Fitness Challenge was a great opportunity that had brought the couch potatoes, the health freaks, families and friends to bond and sweat over varied workouts and physical activities under the canopy of the bright sunny skies in parks and beaches all through the four weeks. With studies indicating that 30 days of physical activity stands a good chance of creating a permanent lifestyle change, the challenge has laid the foundation for every individual to beat the odds and aim on prioritising one’s health through the year.

While I hope that my dear friend challenges the odds and bounces back to an active life, I have myself made a few dietary and lifestyle changes that have shaken off the lethargy, although I am still working on looking like the glowing, perfect lady with her shiny locks and radiant skin in the glossy magazine.

For all the rest of you, just in case you have forgotten, here is a reminder — take care!

Pranitha Menon is a freelance writer based in Dubai.

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