Naini Setalvad, a renowned dietitian and obesity consultant, was once a victim of obesity like most of her clients. She lost an amazing 100 kg going from 160 kg to a svelte 60 kg. This is the story of her ordeal and eventual victory against it.
I was 32, couldn’t sit on a chair, travelling by public transport was impossible. Sitting on the floor was a dream — I did not know how to push myself up. My body ached all the time. Breathing was a difficulty and I would break into an energy-draining cough. I lived on tablets and pain killers all day. All this was because I weighed anything from 150-160 kg — I did not have a scale to get my exact weight.
I had a ‘junk’start!
I was not born fat. At birth I was skinny, weighing six pounds. I played in the mornings and evenings, and swimming was my passion. I came back from school and rushed for a swim. Sitting in one place was impossible. Food was the last thing on my mind. Once I finished my evening play time, I was famished and exhausted. Quick and easy foods were French fries, milkshakes and buttered sandwiches and my addiction to junk food slowly begun.
After evening snacks, I would be forced to eat dinner. My parents strongly believed in the importance of eating and did not want me skip eating a complete Gujarati meal consisting of salads, vegetables, rotis, dal, rice and curd. Thus began my habit of over eating. When I was younger, I would be done with one roti, much to my family’s concern. They did not realise that the heavy evening snack was making me sluggish. These habits engrained in childhood became a part of my lifestyle. Just like a drug addict craves for his daily fix, a junk food eater craves junk. This food was difficult to digest and it made me so lethargic that I could not get up in the mornings. I needed a fix of sugar and white flour loaded with fat. In went the milkshakes, sandwiches, puris and sev.
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A host of surgeries
These food habits made me go from skinny to plump to fat to obese in no time, and my concerned mother took me to a naturopath. He really tried hard but I could not remain on fruits and vegetables and bear those steam boxes and massages. I needed to be slowly weaned off from junk food. Hassled, I went to him on the sly and asked him to tell my mom that this was not for me. Two years later, there was another round with a dietician but I could not stick to it either and gave up. In the ninth grade, I was a whopping 85 kg. I was hospitalised to lose weight. I still remember the 10 days of sheer torture – it was a diet of pills, starvation, and enemas. The result was 10 kg weight loss in ten days, with more than double coming back. I was gifted with eternal constipation.
By the 12th grade I was 96 kg. I went to a health farm for 12 days and came back 14 kg lighter. Soon after, I was off to holiday in Europe, but landed on the surgery table with a cyst in my rectum. I refused to do anymore dieting after that and went back to my old ways of eating. I touched 145 kg.
There were endless gym programmes. Gym instructors expected me to exercise for an hour, not realising that I could barely walk. Obviously, I gave up. Finally at the age of 32, I crossed 150 kg and went on a sensible weight loss and exercise programme.
In 18 months I was down to 60 kg. At this point, I slipped into anorexia. I would open books to know which food had the lowest calories. A cucumber had only 18 calories, I would cut it into paper thin slices and spread it on my plate and chew on it slowly. A bowl of cabbage had only 25 calories and that was my vegetable, clear soups with barely a few pieces of vegetables floating around. I was exercising like a maniac and landed up with amenorrhea (not having periods for months), dry nails, brittle hair, sunken eyes, pale skin and looking as if I was in a concentration camp.
In this state, I went through surgeries for loose skin. 12 kg of skin was removed. In my second surgery I lost a lot of blood. As I was recovering, I went back to the operation theatre, again for a cyst in the rectum. I was mentally finished.
I was thin, then why this? My dietician had no answer. I knocked the door of naturopaths, one famous and established yoga master and even studied nutrition. I slowly got over the fear of eating small quantities, but I only ate right food. Suddenly, I landed with excruciating pain in the abdomen. I was diagnosed with gall stones. The only answer seemed to be surgery. Even though the pain was unbearable and surgery seemed the easy way out, I reluctantly agreed to go the naturopathy way. This treatment saved me from one more surgery. I cured myself with food, rest and sunlight.
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A healthy me!
This experience made me a completely different person. I was intrigued by the cause and effects of food in our life. I have only one mission now, I do not want anybody to go through what I have. I know what junk food can do to your system. The chemicals, preservatives, additives and growth hormones in food are causing imbalance leading to psychological disorders, mood swings, constipation, humongous sizes, eating disorders, elevated blood pressure, lipids and even cancer.
In today’s highly stressful lifestyles, the one person with whom you spend the longest time is yourself! Don’t you think that you owe it to yourself to be careful about your health? A better life, a healthy body away from fads and eating disorders? Wake up before you land up with psychological disorders and life-threatening diseases. Let’s get back to real food.
I have been there.
I have walked the path.
I know the pains and the pitfalls.
And I have experienced the joy and the triumph!
I understand and it is possible!
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