My name is Malavika Menon and growing up in a society where one is labeled as “chubby”, “healthy” or “fat” isn’t the easiest for an impressionable child. A large part of my self-confidence was affected by these labels. The worst was possibly not getting to wear clothes of my choice since back in the latter part of the 90s, no brands were catering to what I firmly believe are “normal-sized people”. However my decision to lose weight was purely motivated by health concerns – I was unable to take a flight of stairs without gasping for breath and could never walk for long distances. My best friend Sneha coaxed me into joining a gym – one of the best decisions at the time. I discovered the fun in workouts and started focusing on including nutritious foods in my diet. The results were unbelievable to me – not only did it show on the weighing scale but I was much more energetic, happier, and fitter.
I managed to sustain this way of life for twelve years. However, complacency is a human tendency and sets in at some point or the other – be it work, health, or pursuing a goal. Getting married to my husband Dhrupad after a long, Bollywood style dramatic saga, I very easily fell back on old habits. No exercise and insensible eating habits. The kilos piled on and I started feeling bloated, sluggish, extremely lethargic, and demotivated. There would be spurts when I would try to go on a “cleanse” – which I believe is complete hogwash. Good health can be gained by consistency and consistency alone. However, this all came to naught. To my utter horror, I had developed high blood sugar levels and hypothyroidism, conditions with which I had never been diagnosed before. That’s when the alarm bells started ringing frantically and I knew that it was a now or never situation and it was imperative I took some concrete action to address this.
I consulted Kripa Jalan, who is a non-diet nutritionist regarding the same. To say that her guidance changed my life would be an understatement. The meal plan that she designed for me is something I still follow in most parts (with a few exceptions now and then :)). She advised me to go gluten-free and restrict dairy intake to curd, ghee and paneer. My diet included only natural sugars and no processed foods, not even the “diet foods” which most stores sell under the guise of being healthy when they are loaded with preservatives and hidden sugars. My diet comprised lots of vegetables, nuts, proteins, and rice. I rediscovered the joys of eating rice without guilt. Ghee became a vital component of my diet. And I could feel the difference that these dietary changes made. It was as if I had turned the clock back – I felt the same amount of energy and vigor that I had when I was in my 20s. One very important aspect which Kripa made me aware of was that your weight does not determine your health. And that is something that has stayed with me. I no longer feel the need to weigh myself frequently. It’s all about how I feel, the amount of energy I have throughout the day, and my overall state of mind.
The changes in my diet had to be supported with regular exercise. Owing to the lockdown and the pandemic, I had to rely on home workouts. I discovered Deepti Gaur’s channel – Dance with Deepti. Her fun, energetic dance workouts designed around Bollywood songs were the exact motivation that I needed to start exercising regularly without even realizing that I was working out!
My takeaway from this journey to finding my health again would be that it’s ok to indulge now and then. It’s ok to get complacent or even lazy and there is no need to beat oneself up about that. However, like all things in life, moderation is always better than excess. And realization and making up one’s mind is half the battle won because more often than not, this is what pushes one to make a change. And always, always know that nothing is impossible to achieve if you work hard and persevere!