TUPELO • In September, Deepika Dey decided to participate in the city’s Tupelo Fit program, aimed at getting citizens more physically active.
Dey, a yoga instructor, offered free classes in October, November and December at the Tupelo Aquatic Center. Because she’s also a registered dietitian, she opted to spend the first 45 minutes of her class on yoga instruction, and then end with 15 minutes of a nutrition-related talk.
“Life is stressful anytime, but with a pandemic and the holidays coming, people are feeling extra stress,” said Dey, 48. “It’s so easy to give up and get frustrated. I wanted to get the message out that mindful eating, physical activity and sufficient rest can lower stress levels.”
Dey took her first yoga class at age 40, and this past February, she became a certified instructor. She teaches a one-hour yoga class at TAC on Mondays and Thursdays at 8:45 a.m.
“I’ve always been into fitness,” she said. “When I was younger I used to run a lot. I still run, but far less. In my late 30s, I noticed I had muscular-skeletal issues. That’s when I thought I needed to do something to take care of my body, something that would allow me to improve flexibility.”
What she found was that yoga was also a way to clear her head.
“Yoga allows you to be present in your body,” she said. “You only do what your body can do that day. Yoga is something anyone can do. Even people who are highly active find it’s a good way to stretch. And it’s so good for de-stressing.”
But physical activity is just part of the puzzle, Dey said. Healthy, mindful eating is just as important.
“Sometimes eating can be overwhelming,” she said. “When you’re stressed, you reach for things close at hand and for most of us, that’s a high-salt or high-sugar snack.”
She suggests smart snacking instead.
“Note the time of day when cravings hit so you can be prepared with nutrient-dense snacks,” she said. “That’s something that’s high in protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals, and low in salt and sugar. You want to shoot for something that’s between 200 and 250 calories.”
Suggestions include apple slices with peanut butter, celery sticks with cream cheese, cucumber slices with hummus, and Greek yogurt with mixed berries.
“Now someone who is used to eating chips is not going to start eating Greek yogurt with berries,” Dey said. “I know that. But maybe they could start small, with pretzels or baked chips.”
With Christmas holidays fast approaching, people will be tempted to overeat and indulge at parties and family get-togethers. And that’s fine, Dey said.
“When we choose to eat a balanced meal more often than not, we can indulge in our decadent favorite festive/celebration foods sometimes without guilt of causing harm to our health or weight maintenance,” she said. “It might not be possible for every meal to be balanced, but we are doing OK as long as one day’s food intake reflects, fruits, vegetables, lean protein and dairy. We don’t have to be perfect at every meal.”
It’s also important, she said, to eat mindfully.
“Don’t multi-task when you’re eating or it will just make you hungrier later,” Dey said. “Give your body pause, savor and focus on what you’re eating. Having a companion for relaxing conversation during a meal also helps reduce stress.”
And finally, proper rest is crucial to good health.
“Most health experts agree that adults need seven to nine hours of sleep every night to feel well-rested and receive the immune-boosting benefits of sleep,” Dey said.
Small steps are key to achieving and maintaining this healthy lifestyle, she said.
“Just do one small thing on a regular basis,” Dey said. “Pick one small change. It will make you feel good about yourself and motivate you to make other healthy choices. You just have to take that small first step.”