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I was 10 when I started gaining weight. All of a sudden my shirts weren’t fitting me well and there were spaces between the buttons. In hindsight, it was probably just because I had been eating unhealthily.
Though I’ve always had an active lifestyle—I am a dancer—my unhealthy food habits led to my weight gain, starting early childhood. It started with being just 5 kilos overweight, then 10 kilos… and it never stopped.
The things that haunt you when you’re overweight
My weight did impact my overall physical fitness and mental health. I couldn’t run for a long time. When I would dance, my jumps weren’t as high or as light as they should have been. This bothered me because I used to be proud of my body and now it was changing.
I remember this one incident during a school trip in Orissa. We were zip-lining and I got stuck in the middle and had to be rescued by a friend. Moments like these changed my perception of myself.
By now, I had gained about 30-40 kilos above what I should have been.
Coming to terms with my weight and who I am
In the past few years, I’ve been gaining two-three kilos every year and have been trying to lose it all too. In fact, I have tried everything.
I have tried diets and I have tried working out, but I realized that I was never consistent. I was always scared. It was because of my understanding of myself as a “fat, chubby panda”—that’s who Archana was for me.
I was always worried about who I would be if I were a thinner person. So I would always get intimidated by my fears and never attempted losing weight beyond a certain point.
I’ve had multiple breakdowns along the way. Weight can be a very personal and difficult thing sometimes. Sometimes a slim person would say in front of me, “Oh I’ve put on so much weight” and I would take it so personally. I would just stare at them like: “Excuse me, how can you even think that weight gain is a problem for you. Do you even know what it’s like being fat?”
The turning point in my life
The first turning point for me was at 23 when I had my arangetram—a debut on-stage performance or a kind of graduation ceremony for a Bharatnatyam dancer. That was when I was strict with myself. But after two months of rigorous exercising and dieting, I only lost half a kilo. There it was, just half a kilo. Seeing that, I just felt like giving up. I thought, “That’s it. This is just who I am.”
But the real turning point has been during this lockdown. My mother had been constantly telling me to lose weight, bringing it up in every conversation to the point that it got frustrating for me and I finally gave in. I stopped ordering in and went on a diet plan. I started dancing again by taking virtual classes, which I hadn’t done since my arangetram.
The health regime that helped
I think it was the combination of the dance classes and the opportunity that lockdown posed for me that has helped. It’s been 7-8 months since I started dieting.
The diet was a paid plan with a trimonthly goal, which excluded rice, aerated drinks, fried food and root vegetables. The diet varied every three days. Typically, it started with a warm concoction of condiments like dhaniya water, ginger water, saunf water, etc. Then I had breakfast, which usually included bread. After a mid-meal of green tea, I would have roti with sabji/ quinoa, or couscous for lunch. At 5 PM, I would take some tea with biscuits and an apple or a toast at 7 PM. Dinner was at 8 and usually included some veggie cutlet/ cornflakes/ fruits.
Thanks to this new health regime, I lost nine kilos in 3 months and then another nine in the next 3 months. If you cannot access diet regimes, I would recommend eating light at night and drinking warm water before sleeping and in the morning. I was strict with myself but not in a way that I would blame myself if I had a cheat meal—I would enjoy those once in a while. That’s important, too, as a lot of weight is gained when you stress about it, I have seen that happen.
Happiness is feeling better about my body
When I start feeling comfortable enough to wear a particular outfit and be confident while talking to people about health or weight is when I’ll be happy.
Currently, I have left the diet plan but I’m working on sustaining a healthy regime and continuing to eat clean. I can fit into all my old clothes again and can now wear the H&M clothes that never fit me before. These are just material things that don’t matter after a point but it’s an achievement for me all the same. The most important thing, though, is that I feel like I’m respecting my body enough for it to respect me back and that I feel healthier internally.
If I can do it, so can you
In understanding your body and trying to make changes to improve yourself, consistency is key. If and when you start dieting, don’t take it on as a burden—it’s better if you take it up as a lifestyle change and learn to say no to some things for your own sake. Be the master of your stomach, don’t let it master you. While I am all for comfort food, you just need to know when you need that comfort and when it is an excessive indulgence.