Posted in Anittha, New Experiences

Sensory Deprivation Tank – Float No.1

I first heard about sensory deprivation tanks on Joe Rogan’s podcast. He was talking about this tank – I believe he referred to it as an isolation chamber – that helped him to disconnect from the world. Essentially, it unplugged him from all his senses.

The prospect of being unlinked from my senses is both frightening and fascinating. If you’re human and you own a smartphone, you know you’re overstimulated. Do you use it on the toilet? Do you reach for your phone first thing in the morning? Is it the source of all your entertainment? Are your best friends YouTube, Instagram and/or Twitter? Do you keep your phone next to you screen-up all the time because screen-down is simply unthinkable? Do you die a little inside when that battery dies? Do I need to go on?

A sensory deprivation tank is essentially a chamber of sorts that removes all that external stimuli. You float in approximately 600kg of Epsom salts – think Dead Sea in a tub. While floating, your body is weightless. You are not in contact with anything. Not even the tugging of clothes against your skin because ideally, you would be naked. The temperature of the water is identical to your body temperature. To quote Goldilocks: “It’s not too hot. It’s not too cold. It’s just right.” It’s also pitch black. You won’t be able to see your hand in front of your face.

What does all this mean? It means you have voluntarily given up sight, hearing, touch and smell for at least an hour. Giving up taste is a given. I don’t think anyone would want to stick their tongues in the world’s saltiest soup.

To my knowledge – most of which has been gathered from JRE, a Buzzfeed video and a multi-episode VICE documentary – there are several names for these tanks and they’re not always tanks to begin with. They can be rooms or pods. There are also several names for the experience. Apart from isolation chambers and sensory deprivation tanks, there is also the less intimidating sounding float tanks/pods. Unfortunately, I could’t find anything that showed the room types clearly.

Sensory Deprivation Tank
Sensory Deprivation Pod

The Float Space

I had my first float experience at Palm Avenue Float Club in Singapore. As of the time this post was written, it’s the only one in the country.

They have float times from morning to night and you can choose either a sixty or ninety-minute session. There are six pods so getting a slot shouldn’t be too difficult if you plan ahead.

I didn’t take pictures except for the actual pod but the space they have is kinda great. It was a little creepy at first because I booked an 8.30 pm slot and the building’s exterior (combined with my perpetually overacting imagination) was pretty dark and doing its best Halloween impression. But once you get into the lift and smack the right floor, the doors open into a really pretty space with views to boot.

I was shown to my room and given a perfunctory explanation of how things worked – which is basically everything I’ve said here so far. The room was pretty bare. Apart from the pod and a little shower, there was a shelf with ear plugs, a towel and a mirror.

I took a shower, unwrapped a set of ear plugs and climbed in. There’s a face towel and a bottle of clean water hanging from a hinge inside the pod. There’s a little light at the end and there’s a switch for it inside. That bottle of water saved me twice in the short time I was in there.

Don’t Do Any of This

It took we a while to settle in. I didn’t turn off the light because it was just too dark (remember that overactive imagination?) and I thought I’d ease myself into it as time passed.

A few minutes into the float, the ear plug in my left ear dislodged and my inner ear started to BURN. There must have been a tiny cut in my ear from scratching or something and the heavily concentrated salt water got in. It felt like there was an ear bud-shaped hot poker topped with sulfuric acid being shoved into my ear canal. It felt crazy. I had to get up pronto to wash it out in the shower. The thing is, when you get up hastily in a float pod, you’re sloshing about a lot and trying to figure a way to stand without breaking your ass. Salt water trickled down from my head and ran into my eyes. So now, my ear and my eyes were burning. Miraculously, I remembered that spray bottle of water and spritzed myself in the face till I felt my eyeballs slowly escape the hellfire grasp of Lucifer. I don’t think this is the usual experience for most first-time floaters. But if you’re as ungraceful as I am, floater be warned. Salt water is a jilted lover. It’ll find the smallest of weak spots and seek its revenge.

The Cherry-Popping

I washed my ear out as best I could and shoved a new set of ear plugs in after reading the instructions because I didn’t want to waste yet another pair unnecessarily. Climbed back into the pod – and tried my best to relax.

My mind was LOUD in that carefully curated cocoon of calm. There were images and words and thoughts and a whole lot of randomness, as if everything in my head was suddenly jostling over each other for center stage. It was all very overwhelming. Until I just remembered to breathe.

I used basic meditation tools – just your good ‘ol inhale and long exhale and slowly, the TV in mind started to blur out and I sank into just breathing. It was the first time I truly felt my whole body breathe. Not just my lungs. Not just my chest or my nose. I felt everything inhale and exhale. I could feel my legs involved in it. My toes. My fingers. Everything. Every part of me was only focused on one thing. Breathing.

I don’t think this state of mind lasted very long because I started noticing channels on the mind-TV again. Perhaps the whole experience lasted two minutes but it was incredible. It was this silence of truly just being with myself and nothing else. I had been properly disconnected for two minutes and was just being.

There was no stimuli – no texts, no work, no distracting thirst trap on IG. None of it. I felt like a regular human – not this multi-tasking millennial machine that the 21st century has turned us all into in some form or other.

The rest of the float was me trying to get back into that space but towards the end I tried to let go again and simply be.

The music played to signal the end of the hour and I sat up slowly, keeping my head tilted back to ensure no salt water ran into my eyes. Then I promptly ran my hands over face to scratch at an itchy spot and had to use the spray bottle again to save my abused eyes.

To Sum Up

One thing I definitely realized is that floating takes practice. It may be easier for some but for me, it’s something I’ll have to do a few more times to really get the hang of it. And I do intend to keep trying. Maybe once or twice a month.

Full disclosure, I had the lights on and I could see it filtering through the crack between the pod’s two halves. But that’s because I am truly afraid of the dark and it was just too much for me to handle. I do intend on going full dark next time to get the full experience but I think you can choose how you want to progress with this.

The next time you hear from me about this, I will have fully immersed myself in it and I won’t be making any more silly mistakes that cause fiery pain. Sensory deprivation tanks appeal to me because of the way it can potentially help you tap into different levels of consciousness provided you’re willing to keep trying and figure out how to still your mind.

Also, those two minutes of pure being is worth the effort. I’m excited to see what it will be like if I can duplicate and magnify the amount of time I spend just being.

Hopefully, my next few entries for this would be less about the mechanics and more about the journey into the beyond or the within – however you choose too look at it.

I invite you to give it a try. And if you do, let me know what you think! (:

Image 1: writer’s own picture
Image 2: giphy.com
Image 3: pinterest.com

Posted in Food and self-image, Renuka

Mindful eating, the answer to a diet-free healthy lifestyle?

Why dieting doesn’t usually work – Sandra Aamodt

What if we told all those dieting girls that it’s okay to eat when they’re hungry? What if we taught them to work with their appetite instead of fearing it? I think most of them would be happier and healthier, and as adults, many of them would probably be thinner. I wish someone had told me that back when I was 13.

Sandra Aamodt

All my life i’ve been fat. All of it guys, I’m not joking. My family always jokes about how as a toddler, my grandma would keep feeding me and I would keep opening my mouth for more – so she would keep feeding me until there was no more food left. While the story of my toddler self never being able to control myself around food, sounds amusing to my family – It’s painful for me to hear.

Because, it sounds remarkably a lot like how I am now. Except now as an adult, I am my own grandma, and I keep feeding myself. Even when i’m full. Even when I know I don’t want anymore. Even when I know I’m hurting myself.

So while everybody thought this was cute when I was a child – things quickly got out of hand as I grew up. I still didn’t understand food and its role in my life. See – in my family we go by the rule “better to cook more than not enough”. So in case we have guests, or people are feeling extra hungry on the day – there’s always extra food in the kitchen.

But more often than not – there are always leftovers. And what happens to these leftovers? Well, my aunt (the main chef) will complain about how she slogged the whole day in the kitchen and everyone is not eating enough etc etc, essentially guilt-tripping us into eating more. And by us, I mean mostly me.

See – the thing about me is – I hate making my family disappointed. I hate making my loved ones upset. So, as a child I sought out the easiest ways to make the people around me happy.

Be well behaved.

Don’t make your parents angry.

Follow instructions.

Listen to the adults.

Boy, if I had known that all the adults around me had no idea what they were doing – I’d have been better off not doing any of that.

So I ate. I ate, and I ate more. And somewhere along the way, I developed a terrible relationship with food. I didn’t know when I needed it. I still don’t. The problem is – it’s cute to be a chubby child. But sometime between being a toddler and midway-through primary school, chubby goes out of fashion for all children. Then it becomes unhealthy. Then you are fat. Then you are essentially a monster for not being able to control yourself around food.

It doesn’t matter that the adults around you are the ones who couldn’t show you a good example. They are all considered to be a healthy weight – so the problem must be you. A child.

I have been put on diets since I was in primary school. I have been forced to work out, skip meals. I did anything and everything so I could lose weight as I grew older. Even tried weight loss pills – at my family’s recommendation, and on my own. Nothing has worked. Every kilo I lost, I put it right back on after a year at most.

Somewhere between being a cute chubby child and becoming the “giant” that many refer to me as now, I think I just gave up on my health. A part of me didn’t ever believe I will be healthy because I will never be thin. Somewhere along the way – I grew to believe that only thin is healthy, and therefore I am not. I could be working out everyday and eating below 1200 calories of home made food, and yet I was twice the size of my peers – so I was unhealthy. It made me angry. And before I knew it, I’d be back on the binge cycle again.

It just doesn’t make sense. Sandra Aamodt gets this. And in her video she explains why this doesn’t make sense.

From “Why dieting doesn’t usually work – Sandra Aamodt”

The graph above shows how the relative risk of death increases and decreases depending on the number of the four recommended healthy habits an individual adopts. The study from which this graph was obtained observed that, if an obese individual:

  1. eats enough fruits and vegetables,
  2. exercises three times a week,
  3. doesn’t smoke, and
  4. drinks in moderation

they had the same relative risk of death as one at a normal weight. And this is what really struck a chord. It made me realise – it doesn’t matter how big I am. What I really want now that I’m older – is to be healthy. And to prove that I can be healthy at any weight. And if that means I will never be thin, or if it means I lose some weight along the way – it doesn’t matter.

What I really want – is to take care of myself. And to stop beating myself up through harsh diets and crazy exercise regimes. That isn’t healthy, and I don’t want that anymore.

As part of my quest into getting healthy at thirty (LOL), I will be adopting mindful eating, as well as the four habits listed above. I shall be doing some more research, but along the way I will also be getting my annual physical assessments done. So I’m excited to see where I am now. And where i will be in a year’s time. I’ll put them up here once they are ready so we can all see how this goes!

I also highly recommend that you watch the video if any of what I’ve written resonated with you. Aamodt goes more in depth about how your brain makes it much more difficult to return to a normal weight when you have been heavy all your life, but I’ll leave you to watch and find out more on that.

I started this post on a sombre note, but I’m really more excited than anything to get on with it. Till the next fortnight folks!

Image: Bonnie Kittle on Unsplash.com

Posted in Renuka, Self-Love

Love Myself? Ok.

Girl, you know you very fat ah; why you don’t diet?

The Lady in McDonald’s, Jan 2019

It’s not the first time, and I’m sure it won’t be the last that I hear some mangled version of this line. I don’t know when these comments began or how long I’ve been putting up with them that I barely react in public anymore (it’s a whole other story in private of course). A snide comeback waits ready to be fired from years of practice. How many years? I couldn’t tell you. Frankly, I don’t even want to think about it.

Back to the quote at the start of this post. There are so many things wrong with that line that I don’t even know where to begin. First of all, the last time this person saw me was years ago, and we don’t even have any proper relationship to speak of, so why is she talking to me about my body? She has no idea about what’s going on in my life, no idea what I’m doing, who I am as a person, what I love or hate. She literally doesn’t know me except as the girl who is part of that Indian family that’s always in McDonald’s – where she works.

So, here I am, surrounded by my entire family – who are all wonderful and what some would call “socially acceptable” size-wise (although no one knows the insecurities that each of these individuals have about their owns bodies). And with a smile she decides to greet me with this beautiful opener just as I am about to dig into my Filet-o-Fish (and Iced latte with no syrup – cos too much of that sugar will do you diiiiirty, girl). Complete with her arms spread out in a mocking pantomime of how big I am. Really?

Honestly – I’m hungry, so my reaction is just a dismissive – “Yah”, as I continue to bite into my burger with a little less enthusiasm then when I first opened the box. Then out of the blue, I am struck sideways by a voice coming from my left side. My dear aunt, who loves me and wants nothing but the best for me, decides that she has to defend me in her own misguided, sweet and caring way.

“Yah la, she got diet la. But still like that”.

With a simple shrug and a wave of her hands as if to say “what to do?”. As if, this is necessary information. As if I need to be defended. As if my very existence itself is a giant question mark.

I’m struck dumb. A rare occurrence, if I say so myself. Where did this come from? Why would you do that?? I want to turn to my aunt and yell at her for her nonchalant answer. I want to get up and leave. I want to melt into the floor and become one with the ugly grey tiles, or teleport away from this embarrassment of a conversation. Instead I remember that it’s 2019, and get annoyed that I still can’t teleport. And I – I keep quiet.

Do not confuse my quiet with resignation though. This is a different type of quiet. This is the type of contemplative quiet that comes once in a blue moon for me – someone who often lashes out before she thinks. This is the type of quiet that is often followed by determination and a call to action.

This is a long-drawn, victorious quiet for I decide then and there – I’m done. I’m done having to be the only one having my food choices questioned while everyone else around me is eating equally as unhealthily.

I’m done having to defend myself and my body. I’m done having others feel the need to defend my body. No more.

I’m done.

And I’m ready.

I’m ready to love myself, and I’m ready to love my body.

My body – you hold all of me that’s both beautiful and unsightly. You hide the shy child that’s inside me that few get to see. You are hardened from multiple battles – surgeries, self-harm, slips and falls, snide remarks and hate – so much hate. A short lifetime spent building walls – a jovial and outgoing exterior cemented with all the hate, to distract them from the constant and on-going chaos inside.

Today I choose to tell my body this: You did well. 

You are amazing and I thank you for staying strong despite everything I put you through. I thank you for continuing to love me when all I showed you was hate.

Thank you. And I’m here for you now. I love you and I will love myself – even if no one else understands. Even when the whole world is confused with the idea of me daring to love this fat, imperfect body. No one else will have that power over my body again because I choose me and –

I love you, Renuka.

Image: Daan Stevens on Unsplash

Posted in Renuka, Thoughts&Revelations

The first grey hair down there

I remember it like it was just yesterday (when in fact, it was about 4 days ago). It was a day just like any other on our sunny island – hot and humid as hell. It was also the second day of Chinese New Year – and I’m willing to bet a whole kilo of Fragrance Ba Kwa that none of my Chinese sisters were subjected to the same shocking discovery as myself on this day.

My first grey hair down there. (That sounds like a really crappy reality tv show, or the title of a rather unfortunate porno, now that I think about it.) It turned out to be just another day of self discovery – so I did what any sane person would do. I texted the full details to one of my best friends – Anittha. It was also the day I became the second honorary member of the “Grey P**** Hair Club”, whether I liked it or not.

Thus began the second month of the year I turn Thirty. I was prepared for adventure! Finally graduating! Breaking free from the corporate world! I definitely was not prepared to question my impending mortality after being forced to grapple with a sign of ageing that I had never even stopped to consider. Oh well. Life goes on.

Now that you’ve been introduced to me with a fact that even my family does not know of (I also just realised I managed to accidentally out the president of the GPH Club in that process – sorry fam), what more can I say that will even be of any interest? Let’s get down to business shall we?

When we began exploring the idea of a shared blog, Anittha and I honestly just wanted a common platform to share our voices. We have no idea where this will take us and how far we will go. The one thing I can guarantee though, is that this will be a space where we can unapologetically be ourselves and it will remain that way for anyone else who stumbles upon our safe little corner of the internet.

One other thing I wanted this blog to be was a space to document our thirties as well as a project that we each decide to take on every year. A project for self-improvement if you will. For myself, this year I will focus on self-love. It’s cheesy af, yes I know. But it’s something I have neglected for 29 years, and I refuse to let that number get to 30. This year I choose to love me, and to be grateful for who I am and how far I’ve come – for not too long ago I did not see myself reaching this age. I won’t go into details right now, but I just want to begin by thanking myself for staying strong and moving forward. This year, I want to take it further. I know I am strong – now let me use that strength to push my limits. This year, above all else – I will live by this motto:

In a society full of hate, I choose to love me.

And by choosing to love me, I’m ready to commit to doing whatever I’ve wanted to do without brushing it off with the flimsy excuse of “I’ll do it when I lose weight”. Screw that. This is the year I graduate, the year I experiment and pursue my dreams, the year I complete three 10ks, and the year I explore my spirituality. There’s so much to get done and I’m excited to get going. So stay tuned! (No, seriously stay tuned – my first 10k is in a week and I am terrified.)

Till next time, this has been your favourite tall brown girl ❤

Image: Timothy Meinberg on Unsplash.com

Posted in Joint Post, Self-Love

The Virgin Post

Hello there.

WELCOME TO BROWNGIRLSBYTE!

No, this isn’t a food blog, despite the dropdown menus and various food references. We just like food, alliteration and bad puns.

Regardless of how you got here (willfully, got forced into looking up our site by one of us or because you misspelled your favourite porn site) we are very glad to have you.

Our names are Renuka and Anittha. We’ve known each other a long time and hated each other for a tiny insignificant portion of that time. (Anittha is cackling at this; we may be banned from this coffee bean soon).

We are turning 30 in a tiny insignificant portion of time, and THE FEAR IS REAL – not because we don’t want to get older but because by many standards, our lives are not where they are supposed to be for 30-year-old brown girls – i.e. married, dealing with beautiful children and exasperating in-laws.

So, we’re going to set our own standards. This decade feels like it should be about what we truly resonate with. We expect there to be some changes, growth and a lot of discomfort as comfort zones are forced open. Luckily (we think so, anyway) you get to read all about it!

SCHEDULE

There will be one new post every Sunday from one of us. Renuka will start the ball rolling. Every few posts, the two of us will join forces and discuss something that we both want to talk about or care enough about. This could pertain to politics, travel or something we see that annoys, confuses or sparks joy in us.  Joint posts could also be about things we try together (i.e. sharing our hobbies). So, keep an eye out for Anittha setting her kitchen on fire and Renuka passing out from Insanity – the workout, that is.

EXPECTATIONS (OURS AND MAYBE YOURS AS WELL)

Essentially, the two of us have plenty of ideas, thoughts and feelings, just like you. And we want a space where we could talk them through, reason with them, explore them and share them with you.

We’ve made a pact this year. We’re determined to love ourselves completely. To love ourselves especially when the world demands otherwise. We’re thinking, doing and believing only in those things that honor the best in us. We invite you to do the same.

So, yeap. Instead of entering the next decade of our existence feeling powerless, we want to be fearless and shameless in pursuit of our dreams!

Side note, we only anticipate one reader, at best. So, this is going to be a 3-way conversation. Welcome. Have a seat at the table.

*pulls out chair and looks at you the way Gollum looked at the One Ring*

Image: Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash.com