It was around 2015 that Diksha Chhabra, a 28-year-old mother weighing around 100 kgs, heard a wake-up alarm from within to take her health in her hands. The alarm felt louder because of constant and hurtful remarks by peer pressure and family members. But today, she is glad that she woke up to the need for a drastic weight loss transformation and turned her life around. As a fitness expert now, Diksha trains other men and women, helping them tread the path of healthy weight loss.
Health Shots caught up with Diksha ahead of International Women’s Day to know about her inspiring journey of breaking the bias at multiple levels.
Diksha recounts that life in school and college for her was all about being active in sports and extra-curricular activities, apart from being good at her studies. But once she took on a career, got married and became a mother, juggling between her roles made her put physical fitness on the backburner. Poor eating habits as well as poorly managed stress eventually took a toll on her.
“It was late in the night. Everyone was sleeping. I just got up and started crying while looking at my old pictures. And that’s when I decided,’I have to change this’. That was the turning point,” Diksha tells Health Shots.
This turning point was also triggered by a culmination of being body shamed by friends and family, a dwindling sense of self-confidence, and a random doctor’s visit when she was diagnosed with PCOD and Thyroid.
“The doctor’s review opened my eyes. I was like, ‘I don’t want to pop pills like an old woman! I was just 28 or 29,” says Diksha, who had until then made peace with the “let people say what they have to” mindset regarding her body.
Once she made up her mind about taking the reigns of her health and fitness, there was no looking back. She lost 35 kg in a year.
“It started with baby steps. A proper and structured diet and exercise plan came much later. My weight loss journey started first with building confidence. I used to talk to myself looking in the mirror and buck myself up by saying ‘You have to do this’,” shares Diksha, and remembers how she wrote self affirmations and stuck them around all over the house to stop feeling negative about my body.
She admits it was a forceful way of collecting herself, but it helped. She started slow by going out for walks. That helped her to feel more conscious about what she ate.
“Eventually, I became very obsessed with it. I bought a treadmill, and on an average, I was walking 3-4 hours a day, with breaks. I lost 18 kg in 6 months! But my health deteriorated,” she says, stressing upon the moment she realized that healthy weight loss is what she must aim for.
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All she was doing until then was “not eating anything much” and “exercising extensively”. This led to a nutrient deficiency. And while she lost weight, health-wise, she was on a downhill.
Diksha, who has an 11-year-old son, started reading a lot of material on health and fitness, and thus began a journey of self-learning.
“It began with one video I saw on social media where women were lifting weights. I realized that weight training is a very good way of keeping yourself fit and healthy. So, with a lot of hesitation, I went to the gym. But while I was excited to learn and was fully motivated, the trainer never showed any enthusiasm. That was demotivating. But eventually, I started learning about it myself by becoming a part of communities on fitness and nutrition, and applying it in my daily life,” she adds.
Slowly and steadily, she lost weight and started looking and feeling healthier. That was when she found her calling.
“I didn’t want any other women to go through what I went through. I didn’t want anyone to feel that lost because there was lack of information or stimulus. I wanted to become that stimulus for others,” she says.
She eventually enrolled for a Mrs India Earth pageant in 2017, and she emerged the second runner-up.
“For me, it was a platform where I had a story to tell about my own weight loss transformation and how I wanted to help more women. That served as the start of my entrepreneurial journey, where social media helped me in building my own community,” says Diksha, who often gets asked about why she doesn’t train celebrities.
“I want to train women like me and help them. That gives me satisfaction,” adds the trainer, whose programmes are based on nutrition-based recommendation and strength training. She has recently also acquired expertise in Pilates.
Otherwise, Diksha is an MBA. She was in a corporate job earlier, but because of the nature of her husband’s transferable job as an Army officer, she gave up her work. She ended up teaching after motherhood happened, and later became a principal at a pre-primary school.
This was the same time when she was battling weight woes. Eventually she decided to leave the job and focus on her health.
Now 35 years ‘young’, Diksha says, “Till I was 30, I was so lost and confused. I was a mother, and I was still confused about what to do, what is my interest, what do I want to even do! There is a term called ‘misguided missile’ in the Army, and it can shoot in every direction. I was like that! I would see someone doing something and I used to get interested in that,” she shares with a bout of laughter.
Diksha says while her fitness journey started with wanting to look good and feel good, it ended up giving her a mission – to help others lead a healthy and fit life.
Now she keeps urging women to keep health first, instead of avoiding a doctor’s visit.
“I actually went to the clinic for my son’s checkup. That’s when I stood on the weighing scale, and I said, ‘Oh My God, what is this’! So, yes, we women don’t take health seriously. We must go for regular body scans. Quarterly checkups and scans must become a part of your routine.
Diksha says she gets requests like “15 days mein 10 kg kam karaa do”. But she always tells her clients the importance of sustainable weight loss. Here are her top 5 tips!
“Don’t jump from step 1 to step 10 at once. Be progressive when it comes to weight loss, both diet and exercise-wise. Make small changes,” says Diksha. Start by fixing one particular meal for a week, and then another, depending upon when you feel more hungry.That will bring discipline and sustainability.
According to Diksha, people need to look at the bigger picture of life, and weight loss is a small part of it. “It is up to you how you want to live. These changes should become permanent to your lifestye. Why can’t they become a habit as regular as brushing your teeth? Life is uncertain, but jitni hai, achhe se jiyo,” she says.
Diksha is all for eating local food! “In the Internet and social media age, we are so exposed to foods like avocado and green coffee. But we must consume the local produce of where we come from. Otherwise, these habits will be heavy on your pocket and are not sustainable. Go for basic food, and know your nutrition. That will help you eat more mindfully.
One thing that everyone vying for weight loss needs to know that it must not always be judged by a number. “Weight loss and leading a healthy lifestyle are more than numbers and go beyond the size of clothes you fit into! You should see how you’re feeling in and out,” explains Diksha.
Losing weight for a specific occasion and then forgetting about it, will only make you unhealthy. So, don’t do it for a family wedding, or because your best friend did it or because your fiance asked you to lose weight.
“Do it when you feel it is affecting your lifestyle, decisions and confidence. Once your objective is different, your dedication will be different and permanent,” says Diksha.
Whatever you do, you must enjoy the journey, instead of keeping your eyes completely on the outcome. So, be it weight training, Zumba, Pilates or yoga – do what makes you happy and keeps you motivated.