Dr Nandita Shah’s Blog from the 21 Day Program, June 2015.

June 9, 2015

Photos by Nandini Gulati and Shrikrishna Patil.

A synopsis of our results for the 21 Day Program, June 2015 .

I have been working at the reports of the 21 day program and the results are out now!

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In our June 2015, ‘21 Day Retreat’ we had a total of 34 participants. They were from 7 different countries, afflicted with a variety of health problems and medications – diabetes, hypertension and IHD, cholesterol high, gout, asthma, joint pains, backaches, obesity (two of them had even had surgical weight loss procedures done in the past) allergies, weakness or lethargy, cancer survivors, kidney problems, prostate problems, osteoporosis, constipation, gas, acidity, fissures, PCOD, gall stones, anxiety, fears etc.

I am proud to say as usual we had huge success and I can even say that with every program it gets better and better. In this program many people discovered the energy that they had. Walks to Gokarna (6km) and walks there and back (12km) were a regular feature and became effortless for many. Several learnt to swim – even though they had never swam before.

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Everyone achieved some weight loss, with the highest being 5.5 kg in 21 days. Many participants released several medications, and if we do not count the thyroxine and vitamins B12 and D, 18 people were off all medications by the end of the program. Another 9 had reduced 70% or more of their medications. And 5 people reduced less than 70% of their medications. The rapidity at which the body heals, depends on the disease, the duration, age of the participant and the type of medications. It can also depend on the mental make-up. Stress is known to cause diseases and it takes some time for personal growth and development. We are all on the healthy path now.

Day 21: Saturday 27th June 2015
Today is our last and final day here. We are savouring our last moments together. This has surely been one of the most enjoyable holidays of our lives. We met as strangers and now we have become such good friends, bonded forever!

We had some revision games in the morning and visualised our meeting in Kenya in 5 years and where we would be by then.

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For lunch, the SwaSwara team prepared for a ‘sadhya’ – a festive meal of Kerala. We thanked the SwaSwara staff for their excellent hospitality and courteousness.

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While final consultations continued, we had ‘swimathons’ and ‘walkathons’ in the evening. We ended the evening with our amusing ‘Swa-Oscar’ awards ceremony. Finally, there was a farewell gift for everyone.

Day 20: Friday 26th June 2015

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This morning was bright and sunny, so we took group photos. During the morning session we discussed how to work with our doctors to reduce medication. How we need to keep a check on the normal levels and the need to supplement vitamin B12 and D.

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Today is going to be the last day for 4 of the participants who have been with us, so we had a giant hug followed by an amazing Arabic lunch.

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Our reports arrived. We started the final consultations to assess the results of these 21 days individually. Meanwhile the last participants cooking session started ending in another amazing dinner.

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Post dinner we had our second talent show. It was full of light hearted mimicry and fun.

Day 19: Thursday 25th June 2015

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We are heading towards the end of our program and everyone is still just as enthusiastic as they were in the beginning. Yoga, meditation, art, walks, dancing, laughing…And we have really good results. Many of the participants are totally off medications and most have reduced their doses greatly. And all while having a wonderful and fun time. The body feels so free without medications!

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Ramesh shared how to clean up the kitchen, shop and make the transition in the morning session. Nandini shared the “Top 10 Habits of Healthy People”. We are organising ourselves to return home, maintain the amazing results and keep having fun.

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We had our last cooking class this evening and enjoyed the amazing dinner that came out of it. We ended the evening with an inspiring film called ‘Home’, that shows us how beautiful our planet Earth really is and how and why it’s important for each one of us to care for it as much as we can.

Day 18: Wednesday 24rd June 2015

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We started early this morning with the second round of lab tests. Although it has been only 16 days since the last one, we are doing these early so that we discuss the results well before the program finishes.

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Our morning sessions were about how to go back and integrate what we have learned into our normal lives. Nandini spoke about handling addictions and cravings and Ramesh spoke about going back into the society. These sessions were very interactive and several participants gained new and useful insights.

The ‘Fourth Group’ made a wonderful dinner for us, with amazing decorations, greetings and lamp lighting. We all enjoyed the dinner immensely. After this we had a role play session which very entertaining and full of hearty laughs.

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Day 17: Tuesday 23rd June 2015

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Most of us found that we felt better after the ‘Juicing Day’ and now we feel that we should do one more day like that. We just may do another, optional one, soon. Blood Sugar and Blood Pressure levels are lower and quite a few of us are enjoying the fresh surge of energy.

In the morning, we covered stress and its relation to our diet, the treatment of animals in our food chain and the effect that this treatment has on us. We discovered how animals have the same sensitivities like us. Humans are species-centric and exploit animals ruthlessly for profit. But we can choose to be more cruelty-free for the sake of both, the animals and ourselves.

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We had an Italian lunch with salads, lasagne and bruschetta after which many of us decided to go on another long, beautiful walk since it was a bright sunny day. There was a ‘Participants Cooking’ session in the evening. Most of the people in this group were Indians from Nairobi, so they made African food and dressed up as Africans locals themselves. The food was perfect. We ended the day by watching, ‘Blackfish (2013)’ – an award winning film that has educated the world about orcas (killer whales) and SeaWorld.

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Day 16: Monday 22nd June 2015
We are at the beginning of the third week and we have been seeing very good results. Some of the participants are completely off all medications already. While others are noticing their previously prescribed doses getting reduced considerably. Many are sleeping better and have no more aches and pains. They report positive improvements in their skin, hair and nails. Migraines and bloating are gone. They have more stamina, greater flexibility and have been able to climb steep slopes and go for 12-18 km walks. Stamina for swimming too has increased.

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Today is a juice feasting day and many were surprised at how much they were enjoying it. Our session today was about stress and how we can reduce it ourselves through proper awareness.

Several people shared that they have started to enjoy this food wholeheartedly and that now it will be easy for them to maintain this diet. They don’t miss tea, coffee or sugar that they were so used to before. They are eating less, feel satisfied and realise that they were over-eating before. Many have lost weight, some as much as 5 kgs, some less than that. Everyone agrees that they are much more connected to their body and its needs.

Several participants reported more calmness, trust, surrender, and enjoyed dancing, music, art and cooking sessions. Some have enjoyed cooking, perhaps for the first time.

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We ended the day with a film, Byron Katie’s “Turn Around”.

Day 15: Sunday 21st June 2015

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Today, Sunday was a bit like a holiday and a change from the routine. After the morning yoga, there was another wonderful short yoga session, in front of the pool, along with the staff members to celebrate the world’s first International Yoga Day. Then we started celebrating the rest of our free day. Some people went to Murdeshwar to visit the Shiv temple there by taxi. Others went on a long walk along the beach, over the cliffs and through the forests till Gokarna. This was very different from what we did last Sunday, although the destination was the same.

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Some rest, little exercise, a bit of relaxation after which we started the evening with our very own ‘Talent Show’! Several participants sang their favourite songs for us and we listened to some nice music numbers too. Finally, we wound up the evening with a dance which was being practised all throughout the week. The choreography had been done by Rasmita Hirani. Everyone was dancing after this and enjoyed immensely.

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Day 14: Saturday 20th June 2015
Because it is densely forested here, we are having a lot of rain, even in a bad monsoon year. Trees attract rain and there is no water logging, the soil soaks it all up. Despite the rains, many of us continue going for the amazing walks every day.

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In the morning session, we discussed about some more diseases. We talked further about skin problems and joint pains, back pains, osteoporosis, flexibility, autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, type 1 diabetes, hypothyroidism, S.L.E. etc. How putting the right fuel in our bodies is a bit like putting the right fuel in a car. It makes it run smoothly without any problems. Nandini spoke to us about millets, the forgotten food which can easily replace grains and benefit, both our personal health as well as the environment (which is ultimately all interconnected). We discussed the ecological footprint of some commonly used items and their alternatives.

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The participants got to attend a grain-free cooking class. Eating grain free is healthy and there are so many possibilities! We ended the evening with the film, “Cowspiracy”, a top-rated documentary about the environmental damage caused by animal agriculture and the true path to sustainability.

Day 13: Friday 19th June 2015
Today is a very special day because its Amrat’s 60th birthday. Amrat came for our last program in September 2015, but because of an unfortunate fall and fracture on the second day of the program, she could neither enjoy fully nor participate properly. However she did put all the learnings into practice even on return home and besides gaining health, she lost 11 kgs and looks a lot younger now. Her husband is here too and has grown a much thinner and looks way younger that his age and a lot more agile also. This year she has come again just for fun and to experience the parts she had missed.

One of our participants shared what many others have now experienced – that he was off all his diabetic and hypertensive medicines, what he considered an absolute miracle! At the same time, there are others who are still on medication. Not all people heal in the same time. It depends on a variety of factors.

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Today we had a special guest speaker, Clea Chandmal who has a farm in Goa and teaches permaculture. She taught us ‘Lessons from the Forest for Growing Food in a Small Spaces’, in other words, how to convert your garden or balcony into a food-forest. We thoroughly enjoyed her presentation and the films too that she showed in the evening and some of us are now enthusiastic about farming properly. Those of us who may not do farming, appreciate the huge difference in nutrients, between food grown conventionally and food grown by ourselves. In fact the mangoes that we enjoy every day here, and some other fruits too, have come from Clea’s farm.

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We had a birthday party for Amrat at tea time. Participants Team 2 cooked an amazing, delicious, innovative meal of salads, millet dhokla, Hyderabadi biriyani, tomato salan, chocolate ice cream and more for all of us! Some of the participants cooked for the very first time in their lives. We ended the evening with films on permaculture in small spaces and how Cuba was forced to switch to organic farming when they were cut off from the rest of the world. A difficult moment always comes with an opportunity for growth!

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Day 12: Thursday 18th June 2015
This morning, we had a session on affirmations and self-love. This is an absolute essential in the healing process. In our lives, we tend to collect the negative messages more than the positive ones. But seeing things a different way can help in changing our health and outlook towards life. Whatever we perceive, becomes our reality. This is good to know because now we can be in control of our destiny and our lives.

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In the afternoon, we had a cooking class by Chefs Girish and Joy. Chef Girish showed us 13 ways to cut a carrot and they all tasted different! They also showed how to make various chutneys, ‘podis’ and salad dressings and their most famous and very delicious, muesli.

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Yoga, meditation, art therapy, yoga nidra, pranayam, daily walks, swimming etc. are going on as per the schedule. But now, we are also preparing for our talent show this Sunday. So we have different groups preparing for the talent show and some groups preparing for their cooking nights.

For dinner, Chef Girish made the yummiest Arabic meal. All of us are glad to realise that we are eating less than before. Some of us even skip meals and just have fruit instead. That’s an accomplishment in itself because the food is so delicious, but we are learning to listen to our bodies and eat according to the hunger.

We ended the evening with a beautiful and inspiring movie, “You Can Heal Your Life” by Louise Hay.

Day 11: Wednesday 17th June 2015
We have had a very rainy day, which dampened many spirits for swimming and walking. But rain or shine, we still go for the yoga classes!

In the morning session we covered the causes and important points for prevention and reversal of some diseases that one or more of us suffer/suffered from. We discussed obesity, high cholesterol and lipids, migraine headaches, asthma, allergies, urticaria, cancers, hormonal disorders like hypothyroidism, polycystic ovaries and prostatic enlargement, acidity, piles and fissures, gallstones, coeliac disease, hernias, skin diseases and acne. We talked about how to develop healthy habits. Many of us noticed that some of the problems that we came, with have disappeared now, completely.

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Today was the first, participants’ cooking day in which groups of six participants each took part. Everyone enjoyed cooking their favourite dishes from ‘biryani’ to ‘muthia’ and invited us all to relish them. They also made cookies for dessert.

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We ended the evening with a thought provoking film, ‘Hungry for Change’.

Day 10: Tuesday 16th June 2015
This morning, Nandini Gulati discussed the effects of each individual’s dietary preferences on the rest of the planet. She also taught us about how to read properly and understand fully the ingredients written on the labels of various food products available in the market. In the afternoon, we had a ‘Date-Nut Shake’ followed by a cooking class with Millie Mitra on Quick Packed Meals. Although we have reduced our walks and swims a little bit because of the rains, but that hasn’t dampened our enthusiasm at all. We love to go for early morning and evening walks and jolly-good swims in the beautiful and natural surroundings. We get delighted to see the monkeys around our resort and Dr John Selvan takes us for wonderful bird watching tours.

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We started the evening session with a game of ‘antakshari’ organised by Bharat Doshi. We were divided into 4 groups and the rules were made as we went along. He had us in splits and we had so much fun! We wound up with a dance session. Even those who had joint pains, forgot them this evening and joined us all in the celebration!

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Day 9: Monday 15th June 2015
Our 34 participants have a variety of different ailments – diabetes, hypertension, hypothyroid, P.C.O.D., metabolic syndrome, skin issues, migraines, joint pains, obesity, kidney disease etc. We started our morning session by writing, what we felt, were our achievements in our first week. Following is a synopsis of what and how many of the participants wrote.

Health

  • Got over tea, coffee, sugar and other addictive substances – 10
  • Higher Energy Levels – 12
  • Lost weight, lost weight despite eating – 9 (3.5 kg, 2.2 kg, 2 kg, 1.7 kg, 1.3 kg)
  • Decreased Medications – 7
  • Insulin Reduced – 5 (from 62 units to nil, 80u to 14u, 65u to 10u)
  • Off all Insulin – 2
  • Bloating, Gas Reduced – 2
  • Stopped all Diabetic Medications – 1
  • Blood Sugar Dropped 100 Points – 1
  • Stopped All Medications – 1
  • Wake Up Early and Easily – 1
  • Sleeping Better – 1
  • Lost Inches – 1
  • No Headaches – 1
  • Less Breathless Walking Up The Hill – 1
  • Less Knee Pains – 1
  • Feel Lighter – 1

Stress, Mood and Emotions

  • Less Stressed, More Relaxed, Uplifted, More Positive Thoughts – 13
  • Made Many New Friends, Camaraderie – 6
  • Gained Self-confidence and Feel Better About Myself – 4
  • Positive Energy All Around – 1
  • Gained a Lot More Gratitude – 1
  • Most Magical Time in my Whole Life – 1
  • More Conscious – 1

Exercise

  • Swimming Better – 7
  • Exercising more than before – 5
  • Walking to Gokarna was tiring but my legs are not paining at all/never thought I could do it – 2
  • Enjoying walking – 1

Learnings

  • Learnt New Ways to Cook – 7
  • Eating Mindfully – 6
  • Vegan Diet Can Sustain in a Healthy Way – 2
  • Increased Awareness about Pesticides – 2
  • Learnt to Swim – 2
  • Learnt the Importance of Raw – 1
  • Learnt to Speak to Myself – 1
  • Difference between Appetite and Hunger – 1

Holistic

  • I Am Nature – 8
  • Appreciate The Body – 3
  • Realised How Important it is to Take Care of Myself in a Holistic Way – 1

Food

  • Eating More Raw and Enjoying it – 4
  • Eating Foods that We Couldn’t For So Long – 3
  • Did Not Imagine Such Delicious Food – 2
  • Learnt To Appreciate Good Food – 1
  • Not Feeling So Hungry – 1

Highlights

  • Meditation and Yoga – 7
  • Documentaries – 2
  • Square Foot Gardening – 1
  • Awareness of Nature – 1
  • Connected With My Purpose – 1

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Our morning session was about diabetes and hypertension reversal. After the film “Super Juice Me” we had an optional juice feasting day. This means many of us are on vegetable juices only today. Nevertheless many of the swimmers were in the pool for their class today. In fact, 2 people who did not even know how to swim, when they arrived, could swim 6 breadths today! What an achievement! Hats off to our swimming coach, Ramesh Hirani, who was a participant last year but has now reversed his diabetes.

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We had a Thai food cooking class in the evening and ended the day with the amazing film “Forks over Knives”.

Day 8: Sunday 14th June 2015
Today is a Sunday and so a break from the regular routine. We had planned a walk and trip to Gokarna but it was pouring in the morning, so we did a session on healthy cooking techniques and then broke up into groups to plan our own cooking classes and dinners. We divided ourselves into 5 separate groups and each group planned a menu which they then cooked for the others. It was an opportunity for everyone to test their creativity, cooking capabilities and to convert their favourite ‘unhealthy’ meals into healthy ones.

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In the afternoon, we went walking to Gokarna. That one hour walk yielded many interesting sights – peacocks, a family of hornbills, a Shiva temple cave as well as the stupendous nature and pristine beaches. We had coconut water in Gokarna, did some shopping and returned in vans and rickshaws.

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For dinner, we had delicious whole plant based pizza and then settled in the library for ‘Super Juice Me’, a film about Jason Vale’s juicing experiment on 8 severely ill patients. Tomorrow is an optional juice feasting day and 19 participants have opted in for it!

Day 7: Saturday 13th June 2015
This morning, one of our participants who had been a diabetic for 35 years, went completely off all insulin. He had been taking heavy doses of insulin before. Many of our other participants also have seen their blood pressure and blood sugar medications reduce substantially. Their sugar levels and BP are being checked daily to keep them steady and healthy.

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The first session of the day was related to the real causes of disease and we started discussing excess fat, excess protein, lack of fibre and the diseases that they cause. This is just the starting of the several many discussions that we will be having in this programme related to these issues. Our second session was on improving motivation for exercising and in the end we had a mirroring session.

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We had jackfruit ice cream during snack time, which everyone loved and then after that an Italian food cooking class. Nobody could resist the food, but as we come close to the end our first week, we realise that we are eating much less than we were eating on the first few days. We have become more mindful of how we are eating and how hungry we actually are. We realise that we do not need to eat so much because the food is of the highest quality and we are satisfied. We heartily thank all the wonderful, organic farmers who are working hard, day and night to bring this wonderful food to our plates. And of course, we thank our very able and talented chefs too.

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In the evening session, we watched “The Last Heart Attack“, a documentary film by CNN.

Day 6: Friday 12th June 2015
Today was another eventful day. Now we have so many of the participants going for their early morning walks, sometimes in the rain too! Everyone of us, finds the nature so beautiful and inspiring.

Our morning session was about nutrients – proteins, calcium, iron, vitamins B12 and D. All the time, we are so worried about the nutrients, so its best to understand them properly. This was followed by a session on hunger awareness. Often, we eat, not because we are hungry, but because of so many other factors. Its better to be aware of what we do.

The afternoon was once again a blissful swim-in-the-pool session along with all the other classes. It was Firoze’s birthday today and although he had not been well for the past 2 days, he’s perfectly fine now. So, we decided to celebrate the day, as usual! We had delicious smoothies and a lovely raw cake.

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This was followed by a cooking class on Quick-Packed-Meals by Nandini.

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We ended the day with Aamir Khan’s TV show, Satyameva Jayate’s popular episode which talked about chemicals, pesticides, organic farming , etc. and went to bed with lots to think about.

Day 5: Thursday 11th June 2015

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Many of our participants have been able to cut down on their medications. We check up on them all the time to make sure that they are doing fine. Some of them have been experiencing colds, fevers, headaches, withdrawals because of stopping tea, coffee, alcohol, smoking. This is normal in the first week. After this, if they keep on the regimen, they will experience a whole lot of improvement in their over all health.

One of our participants is a qualified, medical doctor from Kuwait. He is also a naturalist and a birdwatcher. He took a group out for another birdwatching experience this morning.

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Our morning session was on food combining and the different stages of healthy eating which was followed by an interactive session on mindful eating. We all ate a silent, mindful lunch and many of us found that we do not have to eat as much as we normally do, when we eat mindfully.

In the afternoon, the swimming pool was full! The non-swimmers are enthusiastic about learning how to swim and the swimmers want to improve upon their strokes. We enjoyed a snack of baked pani puris and then had a cooking class about dairy and meat alternatives.

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We watched an inspiring film-lecture by Victoria Boutenko, “Is Raw Food for Me?” at the end of the day.

Day 4: Wednesday 10th June 2015
Nowadays, a large group of participants are going for an early morning walk in the countryside. This is not a part of the program, but its so beautiful here, thanks to the green forests, clean beaches, fresh air and the perfect temperature, that to some this walk is absolutely irresistible. Later, they went for a guided bird-watching walk and saw 20 different varieties of birds. Others went for yoga and meditation.

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The morning session was on the logic of a whole plant based diet, followed by a very moving session on showing gratitude towards the body. It was a nice sunny day and in the afternoon, many were seen enjoying themselves in the pool. Some participants who could not swim before, learnt to swim and did a few laps on their own. Our youngest participant swam 100 lengths!

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We had a North Indian cooking class with delicious salads, dahi wada and rajma. And we ended the evening with a name game and sharing. It was a wonderful day!

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Day 3: Tuesday 9th June 2015
Today several participants shared that they found their levels of blood sugar and blood pressure dropping and some medications were reduced. Many of the participants who are on insulin are finding that they need to cut down their insulin levels quite a bit. Some have already experienced hypoglycaemia despite reducing insulin doses and will soon be off all insulin. I find that sometimes in countries where medical care is free, people are given more medications than they need. There is a pill for every ill.

In the morning session, we learned how our body works to heal itself and that we can help it heal by staying out of the way. We also spoke about some common myths about health that we have all heard of. Most importantly participants are appreciating the effects of not taking pain killers for headaches (we have stopped tea and coffee) or small injuries or pains from the new exercise routines. (None of this is mandatory but the group is motivating each other to participate in as much as they can!). They are handling the tea and coffee withdrawals, some with more ease than the others. We understand that the first 3–4 days can be difficult.

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In the afternoon, Nandini demonstrated how to set up square foot gardening so that we can actually taste what we have grown, before we leave. Post that, we had an amazing mango mousse for snack followed by a dairy alternatives cooking class by Millie. After this many went for a barefoot walk on the beach.

We ended the day with an inspiring film on 10 Steps to Cancer Reversal by Dr Lorraine Day, an orthopaedic surgeon who reversed her own breast cancer.

Here are some photos of the gardening that we did today.

Day 2: Monday 8th June 2015

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Today we started with early morning blood tests. We have a wonderful, positive group of participants who try to take part in everything they can. Yoga in the morning, yoga nidra, mediation, walks, swimming and of course our sessions. Some are suffering from withdrawal of tea and coffee and even alcohol and nicotine, but they are taking it in a sporting manner. Some did suffer from minor headaches. In the morning we gave them an introduction to ourselves and our methods and each one of the facilitators.

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Hirji Hirani, was celebrating his 65th birthday, so with our afternoon green smoothies, we had a lovely carrot cake. Millie Mitra is helping, the very able, Chef Joy and his team with the food and offered the recipe.

The cooking class was on oil-free cooking and they saw how to ‘fry’ onions without oil, do tempering and even make delicious salads and pakoras without any oil. We also prepared daal makhani. Our dishes were served for dinner.

We saw a very inspiring film, “May I Be Frank” in the evening session about Frank who reversed his Hepatitis C and got back his life.

Day 1: Sunday 7th June 2015

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Today is the first day of the 21 day program at SwaSwara, Gokarna and its quite exciting. We are sold out, have 33 participants, and many of them have been with us for events in the past and 3 of them have even been to our 21 day program before. Now this makes the work doubly hard! Its easy to get people who are on conventional, unhealthy diets and make them well and reduce their medications but what about the people who are already doing most of it as they should? Well, we will see!

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Of the 33 people, 18 have diabetes, 14 have knee and back pains, 13 are on cholesterol lowering drugs, 9 are known hypertensives, 7 with hypothyroidism, 4 have past history of cancers and 2 have pre-cancerous conditions,  3 with asthma,  2 with bypass history, high uric acid, acidity, IBS and of course a certain number who are interested in losing some weight too! I feel very proud to say that we have a number of people who have already lost weight using our prescribed lifestyle changes, some have reported, as much as, 11 kgs weight loss!

Today was arrivals, greetings, consultations, a group dinner and an introductory meeting.

Tomorrow will be our first set of lab tests.