Month: September 2016

US Immigration: I don’t get it!

Part 1 of a look at US immigration vs UK’s immigration because the latter are clear about what they want. US seems to be wasting its time and resources on meaningless rules instead of putting them to good use. And in the process, it is depriving its immigrant population of their human rights. An American once told me that if I am looking for ethical treatment I should just leave the US- is that America’s message to the rest of the world? 

Below is a transcript to the video:

The NY NJ bombing- I am sure everyone has their own opinion on the event and the suspect who is in custody. Reading about his background what most affected me was a report that alleged that the suspect’s father was opposed to his son’s “Americanization”. Now, this family was admitted as refugees and granted US citizenship by the government. So what I don’t understand is that how can one want to be an American, then become an American and resent being Americanized?

Clearly, the system is not working and the plethora of rules that are in place are either not enough, or as I feel, are excessive and ineffective. But I’m not here to point fingers, I just want to understand why all of this has made my life so painfully complicated. When I say ‘my life’ I am not literally talking about myself but about many others like me who are trying to legally immigrate to the US and are not opposed to being Americanized, in case we aren’t already.

I will not repeat the platitudes about US and immigrants. Despite its history, a country has the right to be for or against immigration. It is plainly obvious to me that the US is against immigration but why don’t they make rules that clearly send that message escapes me. I think it is fair to say that the US and the UK are two countries at par with each other, and since the Brexit vote it won’t be entirely unfair to say that the British don’t want immigrants. And yet, their rules are more straightforward and, more importantly, more humane than those of US immigration. I want to compare some of these rules to highlight not just how it is making lives complicated for those us who want to do the right thing, but also how the US government is wasting its budget on redundant and bogged down procedures instead of using it for border protection.

I don’t have any stats but speaking strictly from experience, most immigrants come to the US as students. Granted, a student visa is not an immigrant intent visa- that is to say that when you come here as a student, you don’t intend to settle down. You plan to get your education and go back to your country. But that is not always true. When I came here as a student, I wasn’t entirely sure if I wanted to stay or go back. Anyway, when you come as a student you don’t get exposed to the normal life, so to speak, and it is not then that one decides whether he/she wants to stay or leave. Now in the UK, a student has only 3 months after graduation to find employment or leave the country. Additionally, if they find a job, they convert to a work visa, a Tier 2 visa. But in the US, a student can get up to 3 years for “optional practical training” after graduation and during this time they are still on a student visa. Essentially, you have 3 full years to not just start a job but to start a life without even getting a work visa. Now in those 3 years one can definitely decide that they want to settle down here.

From the government’s point of view, if you know a student visa is your biggest source of immigration, why wouldn’t you cap it? Or take away the option of letting people stay on for 3 additional years after graduation. Forget the impact it will have on the volume of people coming in, but can you imagine the time it will free up when the officers don’t have to review all this extra paperwork? This is exactly the kind of disconnect that I don’t understand- saying one thing and then going out and doing something completely different.

The next thing I don’t understand- why is a migrant worker owned by an employer? In the UK, the employer issues a certificate of sponsorship which the applicant takes to the government, along with other documents, and applies for a work visa for himself or herself. Not the case here in the US; here, the employer applies for the worker. Now I fully support the idea of job advertisement and salary verification. The government must ensure that its citizens are not at any disadvantage. So the employer must advertise the said position and prove that it interviewed domestic as well as foreign candidates but picked a foreign candidate because he or she was a better fit. They should also prove that they will pay this person the same salary and benefits that they would have paid a citizen. But the employer’s role should end there. After this the person should be free to take these documents supplied by the employer and apply for a work visa independently.

Because what happens in the US is that since the employer owns a person’s visa they can withdraw it at any time, without any notice, without any discussion. So let’s say that if my employer terminates me today, the government expects me to leave the country tomorrow. What if I have a home, well, I can abandon it for all they care. If I have kids in school, too bad, they just have to drop out and repeat the year elsewhere. In the UK, if an employer terminates the employment, they notify the government who then review the case and give the person 60 days to either find new employment or leave the country. And note that the 60 days don’t start from the time the person was let go but from the time the government reaches a decision.

So then does the US hate its tax paying immigrants so very much that it will turn them into an employer’s property and leave them open to harassment and abuse? Or does the government think that employers are the epitome of morality and would never abuse this power? Because seriously, it can happen to a migrant worker that he or she walks into his manager’s office and the manager says undress for me or I will fire you. Perhaps the government thinks that we should walk around with wires on our person all the time because how else can we prove what is said to us behind closed doors? And we are obviously not given any time to say our side if an employer decides to abruptly terminate us. Manager’s word is final, notice period is not mandatory and the employer does not have the burden to prove why they revoked a visa prior to its expiry date.

Trust me, if a terrorist wanted to enter the US, he or she will definitely not follow this route. But in its misplaced efforts to tighten its grip on immigrants, the government has wrongfully turned the lot of us into economic slaves. Being owned by an employer does nothing to ensure that the person will not commit any crimes. So what is the point of this rule?

To conclude this part, if the US does in fact want to put an end to immigration, it needs to start at the source. Exploiting migrant workers is not the way to go about it. We are the hard working, tax paying, honest lot. In the next part, I would like to look at other aspects of immigration and continue the discussion whether these rules are more disruptive or beneficial.

Week 1: Weight Loss Basics

img_7450-2

This is my second post in the series of fitness routine and includes an update on my progress and the basics of weight loss…

Starting with progress, I will be honest, I am too embarrassed to share my ‘BEFORE’ picture on its own! So it will have to wait until I have a progress picture to go with it :D. But in my first week, I have lost 2 lbs and now am down to 108 lbs. I haven’t bothered checking my body composition because I just want to lose weight right now.

Now the basics of weight loss. We all already know that in order to lose weight, we need to create a calorie deficit. As long as calories-in is less calories-out, there will be a calorie deficit and the body will be forced to use its reserves. Most of us also know that in order to lose 1 lb we need to create a deficit of 3500 calories. Spread it over a 7-day week, and that’s 500 calories a day if you want to lose weight at the rate of a pound per week. Anything over 2 lbs/week can be seriously dangerous and, I can assure you, that such weight loss will not be permanent. In my last post I mentioned that I had lost 10 lbs in 10 days, but bear in mind that I wasn’t drinking water or other fluids during that time either. I would say, a glass a day was probably the most water I got during those 10 days. So not only was I losing weight from stored fat and muscles, I was also getting dehydrated.

Another thing to consider is that the body does not strictly follow such linear math. Weight loss, in my experience, is more like a log curve- you tend lose a lot of weight initially but with time that rate keeps declining and ultimately hits the infamous plateau! So although a 7000-calorie deficit might help you lose 2 lbs in week 1, depending on how much weight you have to lose, it may not be the same in, say, week 6. So stay patient. More on that when we, I mean, I get there!

In terms of work out I am doing the basic stuff. I joined a 3-week boot camp class (Fit Body Boot Camp) that involves some serious high intensity cardio and strength training. I am going to stay away from weight training right now. Even for the strength training portion of the class, I go light on weights. So when my instructor tells us to do squats, I stick with body weight instead of picking up a dumbbell. The simple reason for this is that I am not giving my body enough nourishment to really reap the benefit of lifting heavy weights. Lifting heavy weights causes micro tears in the muscles, hence the soreness afterwards, and it is in the process of repairing that these muscles become bigger, stronger. But in order to repair, the body needs copious amounts of protein that I cannot supply when I am trying to create a deficit. So stay away from those weights for now. We will have plenty of serious lifting to do later!

If you are going to work out at home, like I will once the 3 weeks are over, I will do HIIT 2-3 times a week and other types of cardio for remaining 1-2 days.

HIIT, High Intensity Interval Training, is all the rage these days but honestly, if you can get 40-minute worth of work done in 20, why wouldn’t you go for it! But if you are new, ease your way into it. I have an elliptical at home so here is what I do:

2 minutes of warm up at a medium pace – able to talk

1.5 minutes of medium-high pace – able to talk but feeling slightly out of breath

30 seconds of as-high-as-I-can-go pace – don’t ask me to do anything, I just want these 30 seconds to be over! This is the high intensity interval.

Repeat this 2-minute set of medium-high and intense pace intervals up to but no more than 10 times. Cool down for 5 minutes.

You can really turn any cardio workout into a HIIT session, just follow the basic idea of medium-high pace for 1-2 minutes and high intensity pace for 20-30 seconds, and repeat for a total workout lasting 15-20 minutes, maybe 30.

That is that about work out during week 1 up until we hit our desired weight. Now on to food. The important thing to remember is that although we have to eat less it does not mean we have to compromise on nutrition. Simply make each calorie count. What I have in the picture above are some of my staples these days. I LOVE LOVE LOVE bread! But I also like to avoid grains and processed foods as much as possible. So protein bread is a blessing for me. Each slice has 10 gms of protein which is pretty good for a bread. Coconut water is a natural electrolyte and a great go-to drink post workout. Another great drink is kombucha- I love that stuff. I even make my own. I will cover that is another post but if you haven’t tried it yet, I’d say do it! And finally there are the all-organic RX bars- yummy with the sweet and salt but they come in other flavors as well. I’ve heard blueberry is really good too. Besides these items, other products that I am consuming these days include a protein smoothie, oatmeal, 1 or 2 fruit a day, lots of veggies, and nuts for snacking if I feel uncontrollably hungry. I am eating some chicken but I find it easier to control calories when I eat things that are already packaged and portion-controlled, like an RX bar.

Using any calorie counter, I use Livestrong’s MyPlate app, determine your daily calorie requirement based on your lifestyle. Remember to do this for maintenance level. If you select your target as “lose a pound per week” or such, the calculator will automatically factor in the deficit needed. I prefer to do that myself. Mine was little over 1250. Again, using MyPlate, I estimated that I was consuming about 850 calories a day. For the life of me, I cannot find where my HRM is so I estimated that I must be burning about 500 calories per session of boot camp. Now let’s do some math!

Calories needed       : 1250

Calories consumed :(850)

Deficit                         : 400

Calories burned       : 500

Total deficit               : 900

So that is about a 1000 calorie daily deficit. But there are rest days and days when I end up going out for dinner. We all have those days. All I can say is that do your best to compensate and stagger these days. So don’t eat out on your rest day. If you eat out, work out extra the following day. If you know in advance that you are going to be dining out, adjust calories in advance, and try to watch what you order. But hey, life is too short to give up on good food, so just do your best!

That is all about week 1. I will be back with more updates on my progress and maybe some healthy recipes.

Stay fit!

P

 

 

 

 

Jumpstarting a Fitness Routine

tracking

And I am back! I have to say that for a fleeting moment I did wonder if I had, in fact, become more popular through my absence. Or perhaps I was being watched (still am!). There is no way to tell, all I have are dozens of “new view” notifications for my blog page, but regardless, it is gratifying to know that I haven’t been entirely forgotten. I have never felt the need to watch someone, or worry about what is being said about me when I am not listening. I have faith in myself and a clear conscience, and other people’s opinion of me, as hurtful as may be at times, does not alter the way I see myself. I expect the same in return so I am going to assume that I have suddenly been ‘discovered’! So thank you, my new readers, and I hope you will stick around 🙂

But leaving all that aside and sticking with the theme of how I see myself, and as the title and featured image have already given away, this post is about fitness. Yes, fitness, one of the three things I wanted to write about when I decided to reinvent this blog. But back then I did not know where to start. I felt like I was already on a path and it did not make sense to start at some arbitrary point midway. But things are different now. Now I have regressed and am back at the beginning. So as I restart my journey, and hopefully, make it to the end this time, I want to document it, and perhaps help anyone else who would like to travel alongside.

I have been fitness conscious since my early teens but I have never stuck to an exercise routine consistently. Consequently, my body type was always changing as well although I never went to any extremes. I was never really pudgy and I was never skinny either. But then couple of years ago I got pill-induced dysphagia. In simple words, a pill got stuck in my esophagus because I didn’t take it with enough water and caused a lesion leading to difficulty in swallowing. I remember waking up one night with severe pain in my chest. I wondered if I was having a heart attack, didn’t know what else to make of it and frankly, unless you’ve had one, how are you supposed to know what exactly a heart attack pain feels like. I tried drinking some water but the pain spiked as I tried to swallow it. So that was the start. Fast forward to the end of no eating and minimal drinking, and one trip to the ER in between to get an IV of fluids, I had lost 10 lbs in 10 days and at a mere 93 lbs, I was, for the first time ever, skinny.

Eventually, I started working out and eating carefully and gained back the 10 lbs while maintaining the same body fat percentage. It took me close to 18 months to get there, although it wasn’t a continuous process. I had several periods of break in between where I was either not working out consistently, or not eating right, or both. Since August of this year, I haven’t followed a workout routine and was a total pig while I was in India. As a result now I am 110 lbs and 19% body fat. It is not bad, but it is a far cry from the 15% BF athletic body type that I was striving toward. Hence, in a way this is a fresh start and a perfect beginning for this series.

I wish I had better pictures but back then I didn’t know I was going to write this post. Still, if you look closely, my arm looks rather skinny in the first picture, and I am pretty pleased with the way my abdomen looks in the second. If I had continued with my diet and workout plan, I could have dropped another tedious percentage of body fat and revealed some abs definition! Oh well, this time I know how to get there so at least it won’t be as difficult. But before I set a target, I want to do some math, love me some math!

For below calculations: weight in lbs * BF% = fat in lbs

                                            weight in lbs – fat in lbs = muscle in lbs

BEFORE

Weight in lbs                  Fat in lbs                 Muscle in lbs

93                                         15                                 78                    @ 16% BF

103                                       16.5                              86.5                @ 16% BF

Gain                                   +1.5                              +8.5

 

NOW

110                                        21                                  89                  @ 19% BF

 

TARGET

105                                        16                                  89                  @ 15% BF

 

Before I go further, a disclaimer, this is not a scientific method, this is my own personal way of breaking down weight loss into some sort of a science, not the same as science. I like numbers, that’s just how I make sense of things, you are free to come up with your own method.

Moving on, what the first set of numbers tells me: attain the desired body fat percent first, even if it means losing some muscle in the process, and then add back muscle and proportionate amount of fat to maintain the percent.

Looking at my current stats and my target, I might be doing fine in the muscle department but it is all hidden under a layer of fat. So my goal, ultimately, is to lose 5 lbs of fat only, however, that is not possible. In order to lose the fat, I am going to have to create a calorie deficit, which also means compromising on my protein consumption, read: losing muscle. It also means focusing on cardio instead of weight training. Lastly, 105 lbs is just an arbitrary value I picked up based on how I looked at 103 lbs. At 103 lbs, I wanted to lose another %age point in body fat content. I could have either selectively lost fat (-1), less likely, or have reduced some fat (-0.5) and increased some muscle (+2.5), more likely, hence a net gain of 2 lbs. I might reset this target as I begin approaching it based on how I look and feel.

Like I said before, it is not possible to selectively lose or gain fat only, so if I want to end up at 105 lbs with the desired body composition, I will try to go below it first and build my way up to it. My aim in the coming weeks: cardio, lots of it, and reduced calorie intake until my total weight drops below 105 lbs. At that point, I will recheck my body composition and take it from there.

This is my introductory post to this series. In the next post, I will get into the specifics of this first deficit phase, like what I eat, what workouts I do and some meaningful BEFORE pictures 😉

PS: I am a shortie (5’2″) so these weights are within a healthy range for me. Make sure to check your BMI to find the appropriate weight range for yourself. Note that body composition ratios vary for men and women.

Happy Staying Fit!!

P