I went to grad school for Interaction Design at Indiana University, Bloomington. First-time I was living away from my home, and having to figure a bunch of things out that one does not pay attention to as a kid growing up in a middle-class Indian household. Dishes. Laundry. Vacuuming. Paying bills. Oh my! And of course, cooking.

Chores in the morning
Photo by Scott Umstattd / Unsplash

I lived with a couple, Angie and Christian. Both of them are from the mid-west and were extremely nice to a rough-around-the-edges me. Am still in touch with them, and one of the few people I can count on as friends, and saw them last year when I visited the USA.

After a couple of months of settling in to my living situation (which was cozy and a home away from home), I decided I'd make breakfast for the two of them. Woke up early on Sunday morning, as I knew I'd need a lot of time. With my mom on the phone, I started to make masala dosai, with sambhar on the side. There's Indian stores in every corner of the world, and so I did not have to make the dosai maavu. My cooking skills are non-existent, so for me to make the potato curry and sambhar was a huge endeavour. Harder than writing most of my papers in grad school, and I am not exaggerating by much.

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Long story short, after 3 hours (!!!) of cooking and making the kitchen smell, I had a version of my breakfast. The two were patiently waiting coz even after sleeping in on Sunday, I was delaying the promised breakfast by a bit.

Tada. The grand reveal. And Angie says words that I literally have never heard before in my life.

Hey Arv. So.... we are eating carbs (pointing at the dosai), with carbs (pointing at the potato masala). And this sambhar is lentils you say, so more carbs.

Umm what?! Its dosai. It is what we eat for breakfast. What's a carb? And in that instant, a few things made sense. How a meal or a plate was constructed - veggies, some grain, and some meat. Angie and Christian, while my age or thereabouts, always felt like adults. Their eating was generally sensible and looking back at it later, Angie made perfect sense. But at that instant, she made no sense at all. Because she was using words that I was unaware of (am not joking. In 2006, I did not know what carbs were). I did not know what a balanced meal needed. Yes, seriously.

We ate breakfast. They made polite noises about it. We decided later that day the Indian buffet will be our Sunday breakfast from then on.

That day was an important moment for me. Armed with Christian's cookbook, we'd pick recipes out of there and cook regularly. Slowly, I realised what a balanced meal was and the difference between eating junk and not. Very slowly. It took me until early 2009 to really understand a lot of this.

While am not that dim-witted, it was a lack of a lens to look at this. Some of us do not know words like carbs and protein. Or squat and hinge. Or why lifting weights is good and not going to result in bad things that those people say. Call it systemic education or basic knowledge. I lacked it. That made things hard because I did not know the A-B-Cs of something so fundamental to healthy living.

Some of us do not know words like carbs and protein. Or squat and hinge. It's okay.

Today, there's just way too much information out there. It can get confusing and overwhelming to start. Don't consume too much information - find someone that resonates with you and start there. And slowly build on.

There's always always a way forward. I started with not knowing what carbs meant until I was 24 years old. I did not know strength training until I was 27.

The best time to have started most of this was when I was 13. The second best time was when I was 24 and 27. The best time for you is now!

Start. Take your time. You'll get there. And then you'll realise where else you can go.