"Be the best version of yourself" : Weena Pradhan

How often have you bumped into someone so positive and humble despite their achievements? It took me a lifetime to meet this massive ball of positivity, and ever since I met her (virtually, of course), I've been motivated to work more on myself. WeBloom is happy to present to you the intriguing tale of Weena Pradhan, a singer, a sitarist, and a skincare and wellness expert.

Tell us about yourself, how was your childhood?


I was born and brought up in Dharwad. I grew up in a joint family, and we always had friends and relatives coming over. Despite having a traditional background, my father was liberal and progressive, which gave me the strength to pursue my dreams. He had more ambitions for me than I did.


I did my graduation in Literature from Karnatak College of Arts and Sciences and my post-graduation in Mass Communication and Journalism from Karnatak University, Dharwad. I met my husband in college. We fell in love, got married, and then shifted to Chennai.

What do the words wellness, skincare, and fitness mean to you?


Wellness, to me, is a holistic effort. It includes mindful eating, portion control, sleep and good exercise, staying positive, and the ability to handle stress.


I did a nutrition session with nutritionist Shehnaz Gulrez way back in the 90s and that's when I realized a fit body requires a nutritious meal plan. Nutrition plays a significant role in sculpting a healthy body. I plan out my daily meals and make sure my family gets all the macro and micronutrients available. I've never gone on crash diets. I do not believe in depriving oneself of any food group. One must be cautious of the portion of food consumed and the time at which is it eaten. I distinguish food items based on the nutrients they are rich in and try to include all nutrients in my meal. That's what helps me have a balanced meal.

The first step to skincare is visiting a dermatologist and getting a skin analysis done. With that, one shall be able to understand their type of skin and the kind of treatment their skin requires. I use both natural products as well as pharmaceutical products prescribed by my dermatologist.


Only a fit body would allow us to do anything in life. I've been into fitness since college. My uncle, who was very interested in fitness helped me. My first aerobics instructor Suraiya Zulaikha gave me a solid foundation. The zeal for fitness had always been within me, all I needed was a trigger, and my husband and son helped me to take it forward. I enjoy working out for six days a week. I love the sweet pain.

Can you give us a few fitness tips?


The most important thing about fitness is to keep a schedule. If you are a morning workout person and do not have time on some days, then do it in the evening. If you are very busy, try to break your workout into smaller portions throughout the day. Exercise is essential. At least take 15 minutes off your busy schedule, sit down, and collect your thoughts. Meditate for a while and trust me, those 15 minutes can perk you up and give you enough energy for the rest of the day.


You must work out for at least 3-4 days a week. You must combine cardio, resistance, and weight training. There is a misconception that girls get bulkier as they lift weights. That doesn't happen. We just get a more toned body. Cardio is good for the heart and is a must for weight loss. Weight training helps keep bone density in check and strengthens our muscles apart from giving the body a good shape. If you cannot do weight training, walking is a must.

Spot reduction is a myth. There can only be a holistic approach to fitness. Exercises aiming at specific parts of the body make those muscles firmer, but without cardio, those exercises alone, won't help.


One can also include Yoga and Pilates. These involve connecting the mind and body through breath and movement. Both are highly beneficial to our overall wellness. Pilates increase muscle strength to help your daily chores.


Listen to your body. When your body asks you to stop, please stop.

Technique and posture are the most essential aspects of our fitness journey.

These are a few YouTube channels I refer to:

Criticalbench POPSUGAR Fitness ATHLEAN-X


Is it healthy to either starve yourself or take supplements to reduce weight? How could this affect various organs of your body?


Crash diets are very harmful. They completely mess up your endocrine system and disturb your pituitary gland, digestive juices, and also your hormones. When you starve, your body gets a signal to go into starvation mode. Whatever you've eaten, gets converted to fat and gets stored. Instead, eat a balanced meal and love your body. Eating proper nutritive meals helps in calorie burning. All the nutrition we get must be from natural sources of food and not via supplements.


Supplements concentrate on just one nutrient, whereas food has different kinds of nutrients.

Weight loss is not associated with just strenuous exercise. It also includes mindful eating, taking care of your diet, and your lifestyle. Focusing on just movement, or just a nutritious meal, would not help. Combining both works wonders in weight management.


A few people are genetically on the heavier side of the weighing machine. Is it possible for them to reach their desired weight too?


Yes, absolutely. Do not shy away from professional help. What works for your friend might not work for you. We have the power to change our genes with adequate exercise and a nutritious meal. It's essential to have a balanced diet. To know more about how food can influence genes, I would suggest reading “Dr. Gundry’s Diet Evolution”. Food can be your medicine too.


Most importantly, one must learn portion control. You lose weight only when there is a calorie deficit. Eat fewer calories and work out appropriately. Have more local foods. I prefer local food over fancy exotic food items. Eat all fruits and vegetables. I like to eat home-cooked meals.


I prefer buying fruits and vegetables from the local vendors than from a supermarket. I like to buy from local vendors as they are fresher.

What is your take on body image issues?


The first aspect of happiness is accepting your body the way it is. Look out for flaws, try to correct them. Lead a healthy lifestyle. Let's say someone is obese around the midriff. It' can be detrimental for their health as it can lead to cardiovascular issues…..fat around the waist is called visceral fat and that can be harmful. Be happy with your body, at the same time be healthy. Do not compare your life to that of a model. They spend a lot on their bodies for professional reasons. Let us aim to be the best versions of ourselves. As long as you are healthy, you are good to go.

You had mentioned that you did a course on skincare. Can you elaborate on what the course offered?


I did a personal skincare course. It broadly focused on how to take care of your skin. We can divide skincare into daily, weekly, and monthly. Daily skincare involves cleansing, moisturizing, and sun protection for the daytime. The night routine should be cleansing, moisturizing, and correction. After a good night's sleep, our skin sheds some cells. We must wash them in the morning. After cleansing, the skin becomes tight and dry. After this is when moisturizing comes into the picture; if not moisturized, your skin can age faster. Sun protection is very important during the daytime. Sun rays will enter even through glass. For Indian skin, an SPF of 30-50 is more than enough. Weekly skincare comprises of exfoliation and face masks, which is essential to remove the dead cells. Monthly skincare is for those who take professional treatment.


Oily skin people can use toners. Dry skin people can avoid it.

Over the years, a lot of factors have depleted the quality of our skin. A holistic approach to skincare can rectify the damage done to our skin over the years. A perfect blend of topical applications, adequate sleep, a balanced diet, and some workout will do wonders for your skin. Consult a dermatologist, get your skin analyzed, and then plan on what to use on your skin.


I'm also associated with a natural skincare brand called Astrea, which is a Chennai based company. I train the staff and also take care of their social media accounts. Hence, the course not only helped me but was also beneficial to Astrea.


How essential is it to choose organic products? Are your skincare products organic too?


I would prefer to use the word natural, compared to organic. If not all, the majority of my products are natural. I also believe in using pharmaceutical products for some skin issues An important note is that when we use Vitamin C products, we must necessarily use a sunscreen afterward as it can lead to pigmentation when exposed to the sun. I use retinol at night to take care of fine lines and wrinkles.


I use some moisturizers, lip care products, and deep cleansing combo with natural ingredients from Astrea.


Use Vitamins A and E in the night, and use Vitamin C in the day time. Hyaluronic acid can be used at any time.

You believe in having a healthy diet. What made you take this decision?


I have never gone on any fat diets. Neither have I deprived myself of any food item. Mindful eating is essential. Try to include all kinds of tastes in your meal, like sweet, sour, salty, bitter, astringent, and pungent As I've mentioned, our body requires a lot of nutrients, and a balanced diet is the only way to achieve that. I too get cravings. But I've learned to manage them. The habit of eating sweets after a meal was never a part of our culture. Sweets were served as a part of the meal. We were asked to start the meal with a sweet for a reason.


Starting the meal with a sweet naturally satiates you. The jaggery in sweets tends to give you a certain amount of satiation. Hence you tend to eat moderately. Whereas when you have a dessert at the end of the meal, you are overloading yourself with more calories. I picked this from Rujuta Diwekar. So, when I crave sweets, I have it as a snack.


What are the nutrients that are essential for our skin? And, can you name a few sources?


There are a bunch of essential nutrients. Collagen and elastin are present in the second layer of our skin, the dermis. When collagen and elastin are damaged, our skin starts to sag, get wrinkled up, etc. To build collagen and elastin, we need to take foods rich in protein, Vitamin A (retinol), Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Hyaluronic acid, and all the other vitamins and minerals to Our skincare routine must include these essential elements. They are available in capsule form as well but do consult a professional before taking any supplement. Both internal and external hydration is vital for the skin. Do not give up on healthy fats. If you eat ghee and oil in the right proportions, it'll boost your overall health and will also help your skin.



Can you explain the benefits of these household items?


Ghee

Ghee is a healthy fat. It helps in digestion, lubrication of joints and helps the skin glow. I eat a teaspoon of ghee right before breakfast every day. I use ghee in the majority of my cooking. You can apply a little bit of ghee on your skin too, providing it suits you. Applying ghee on the lips keeps it soft and smooth.

Coconut (in any form)

Coconut is also a healthy fat. It is anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and is packed with anti-oxidants. Its highly beneficial to the skin, the hair, and your digestion. The majority of my cooking is done in coconut oil. One must not apply coconut oil directly on the skin as the molecules of the oil are bigger compared to those of our skin. Hence, it only acts as a protective layer. It protects the skin from Transepidermal water loss (TEWL).

Olive oil

A lot of people think olive oil is perfect for health. Yes, it is good, when used in salads. The boiling point of olive oil is significantly less. When we use it for Indian cooking, the molecules will break within no time and get converted to free radicals. We can use it as a dressing for salads. It is perfect for skin and hair but should be avoided in Indian cooking.

Turmeric

The benefits of turmeric can be a separate blog altogether. Turmeric has been a part of all Indian traditions and is included in the majority of the Indian dishes. It's something we've all grown up with. But suddenly the western media finds it fascinating. They make latte's out of it. We've been drinking turmeric milk since we were kids. Turmeric soothes our muscles too. It is perfect for sore muscles. Make sure you buy good quality turmeric that is not adulterated.

Turmeric has this one element called curcumin which when mixed with pepper (piperine), works wonders.

How does sleep affect the health of our skin?


Sleep is essential for overall health. We have a body clock that allows us to sleep at night and work during the day. I know youngsters these days prefer working at night. But that's a lifestyle decision they've taken. The repercussion will hit them, if not now, a few years down the lane. It is believed that the sleep you get from 10 PM- 2 AM is the most effective on our body. Sleep is essential for your cells to get rejuvenated and your tissues to repair. If you wish your body to restore correctly, make it a habit to sleep early—this feeling of being a couch potato kicks in because your sleep is still working on your mind. You will always notice a difference in the quality of the skin of a person who has regular sleep timing. Adequate sleep also affects your mood.

Energy levels will drop if you do not sleep in the night.

Can you explain how stress works on the body?


Stress releases the hormone cortisol, whose levels increase when there is less sleep. There is no good stress. There can be performance anxiety, which pushes you to do better. A little bit of performance anxiety is fair, but we must make sure that it does not consume us. Stress, on the whole, is bad for the body and mind. It affects your performance, overall health, and your skin. Your brain gets muddled, and you cannot think clearly. When something stresses you out, find a solution for it rather than allowing the stress to consume you. Take a few deep breaths and calm yourself down. One of the main reasons for acne-prone skin is stress.

Acceptance and the courage to face the consequences helps one deal with stress.

What is the hormonal imbalance?


Hormonal imbalance happens during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause. There are chances of your skin going haywire just a day or two before your monthly cycle. Hormonal imbalance can be controlled by good sleep, a nutritious diet, and exercise. Make sure you get proper rest, eat well, and do not give up on working out.

What goes into your morning green shot?


The green juice is vital for two reasons. One is it an excellent anti-oxidant and two, and it is perfect for our skin. My son and I are very cautious about our skin. The green shot comprises a mix of spinach, cilantro, parsley, coriander, betelnut leaves, ajwain leaves, curry leaves, holy basil, Thai basil, green capsicum, cucumber, lemon, and Pink Himalayan Salt. It's OK if you have at least 4 of the leaves, if not all.

The key to a healthy diet is going local. I believe in buying fruits and vegetables available locally, rather than those that come from elsewhere. I think that the nutrients could've been lost on their way.


Do you have any cheat days?


Weekends are mostly our cheat days. I have promised my family that I'd make a sweet every Sunday. I mostly make Indian sweets. But then again, we make sure to take everything in the right proportion at the right time.

I'm not very fond of baking as it majorly contains Maida and I avoid Maida at home.

We've seen people going back to natural products in this lockdown, like smoothies, teas, and ayurvedic drinks. Do you think this pandemic has taught us to value what we had around us?


The pandemic has taught us a lot and as you've rightly mentioned, going back to our roots is one such lesson. The onslaught of processed food has made us forget what our ancestors used to do. Our busy lives took the focus away from general health. Staying at home, we were forced to eating healthy home-cooked food; it gave us the time to plan our meals and made us realize the importance of health. Eating a balanced home-cooked meal and combining it with some workout has given people incredible results.

Take a little bit of the grandma knowledge and see how you can adapt to it in your life.

We've seen you promote eco-friendly products. Why do you think it's important for people to switch to sustainable products?


It is essential. I stopped wearing synthetic fabric and switched to more natural fabrics like cotton, silk, etc. I have always believed that by using eco-friendly products, we're saving our environment. With every non-eco-friendly product we purchase; we're depleting the ozone layer in the atmosphere. This action of ours not only leads to global warming but also harms our skin. Out of the three rays, UV-A, UV-B, and UV-C, the ozone layer acts as a barrier for UV-C. These rays are the most harmful and radioactive too. Therefore, a person needs to switch to sustainable products at the earliest.

In your blog, you had mentioned that your father too was into writing. Is that how you got the interest?

Yes, I agree. My father always wanted me to write. Unfortunately, when he was alive, I was involved in other things, and I feel sorry for not giving him that pleasure. He has written a few books on my hometown Dharwad. Dharwad is a beautiful place but hasn't got its due recognition, and my father precisely wanted this. He has written books about famous personalities who were born and brought up in Dharwad but moved to other places for work. Therefore, they are credited to the city they are living in now and not the town that nurtured them. He has written the books in Kannada. I have a plan of translating his texts into English.


What kind of books do you read?

We, as a family, love to read. My son reads books on world literature and world cinema. He has been a motivating factor for me to get into reading as well. If I want to read and just let myself go, I will choose a mythological book. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen, is my favorite. Over the years, my interest has shifted from fictional stories to texts on spirituality, skincare, self-improvement, etc. But if it is for pleasure reading, I'd choose romance.


What are the three lessons you learned from reading?


One of the lessons I have learned from the books I read is to forgive. I have started forgiving easily now. Gratitude is one other lesson. Gratitude and forgiveness are the two qualities that made me a more peaceful person over the past year or so. I treasure books on skincare, wealth, and fitness as they widen my horizon.


Most importantly, my language has improved drastically through reading. I can articulate better. Sometimes I read aloud so my ears could get accustomed to the words.

You've seemed to master the art of balancing your various interests. Are there days when you feel demotivated to do anything at all?


I'm somebody who needs to be continually working. That kind of feeling comes to me very rarely. As far as my different interests are concerned, I divide my days. I focus on one aspect on one day and move on to another subject on the very next day. I have six days a week planned such that I would've covered all my interests with adequate concentration and efficiency. An individual must find his/her balance; otherwise, you would become scatter-brained. Assign different days and times for your interests and stick to the schedule. Balancing is all about setting your priorities straight and working towards them.

Does keeping yourself busy with what you love help deal with mental health issues? If yes, how?


Yes, absolutely. Keeping yourself busy does help you cope up with disturbances in your mind. But do not depend on external sources for the health of your mind. You cannot progress much without becoming your teacher. Understand your body. Get more connected with yourself. That way you will know what works for you because what works for your friend might not help you. Your friend has an entirely different genetic build-up. Seek help from a professional and keep those details with you. Do your research and find out what helps you. Go back to the information you received from the professional and balance.

Do you have any plans of sharing your knowledge in the future?


I do have plans, let's see how that works out. Right now, I'm equipped with skincare, so that becomes my priority. Several people ask me for skincare tips. It's difficult to provide general information. I need to understand their lifestyle, their diet, the kind of products they've been using to deduce their skin type. I want to start something where I can provide you with a few skincare tips and connect you to professionals. I wish to be the bridge between the people seeking for help and a professional. Let's see how that turns out.


What is next for you?


As a family, my son, husband, and I have acted in a short film that will soon release on one of the platforms. So, I'm looking forward to that.


We, at WeBloom, are very much honored to have covered Weena Pradhan's story. We wish you all the best for your future endeavors. Signing off, this is Hiranmayi G, and we will meet you next Sunday with another exciting story.

Do check out her blog: mythoughtlane

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