The Three Little Bowls of Fitness

You may not realise it, but you are privileged because you have the choice. And it is up to you whether you want to be in control of your health and life by making the right choice. Even if your immediate goal is to lose weight, you should also have a long term one – to be forever fit and healthy. This way, you can always maintain your weight loss.

Otherwise, you could go the way of a plump young friend of ours – in her early twenties – who suddenly decided she needed to lose weight.

Armed with a Jane Fonda video, she launched into aerobics. Simultaneously, she stopped eating – well, almost. At the end of a few months, the puppy fat disappeared and a sleeker, streamlined figure silhouetted itself through her loose salwar-kameez. Some weeks flew by and, suddenly, she was once again filling up her clothes.

What had happened to her is the story of most people’s fitness lives. Everybody starts off with the best of intentions – to attain physical fitness by whittling away the fat. But the time and effort demanded by an average exercise programme – be it sweating through a series of callisthenics or the lonely and oppressive prospect of running miles only to sit down to a heap of tasteless boiled vegetables, cuts not into the fat, but into the intentions one started with. Many people give up with the proverbial grumble of “I was happier when I was fat” So, what went wrong?

Basically, most of us unwittingly wear time-bound blinkers when we decide to lose weight. We swing to the extreme side of the fitness pendulum by exercising with fierce concentration and starving ourselves into oblivion. Obviously, since this state of existence is unnatural and tiring, the natural element within us rebels. We realise we can’t stick to this torturous path we have set for ourselves and jump off at the first opportunity. We may have achieved the desired weight loss, we may be appearing more attractive, but now, the terrible prospect of maintaining ourselves at that level-looms ahead. The picture is so bleak that we throw our hands up in desperation and return to our original plump selves resignedly. How does one overcome this I’m-running-to-a-standstill feeling? The hors d’oeuvres of fitness come in three little bowls. Before you embark on this new voyage, dip into each bowl for a few wise nibbles:

Such extreme steps, both in exercising and dieting, are unnecessary.

Gradual weight-loss is healthier because your body and mind learn to adjust to your new lifestyle.

What you need is a combination of moderate but extremely efficient physical activity and comfortable, sensible eating.

Once you digest these three simple facts, you will realise that fitness is just round the corner. If you think back, you will see that nature gave you a good start. You were a wriggly, vociferous, individualistic infant who, lying on your back, did your own little callisthenics. You rushed through your active or inactive school-life with unthinking, high-spirited, chocolate­coated adolescence. It’s possible that you graduated with a degree in your chosen subject as also in snacking at the canteen. By the time you are seriously installed behind your desk in responsible adulthood, all you are aware of is your next promotion and raise that need to be toasted and banquetted.

You are lucky because your tolerant, forgiving body has been keeping pace with you with its obliging metabolism. But as you whizz up your career ladder, there could be faint signs of wheezing in your breath. Yessir, your long-suffering body is giving out definite signals. ‘Do something,’ it’s warning you, ‘Or else…’ So, you act like a blend of a steroid-injected, galvanized acrobat and an Ethiopian refugee and finally find yourself back to where you began.

But, look at the flab situation calmly. Your body has taken years to accumulate all that weight. Now, it’s your turn to be patient with it. Tune it with the right kind of exercise – at a moderate pace. Feed it lovingly with the right kind of food so that it’s comfortable with itself. It may take a year or two to actually lose that weight, but you would have been doing it at your own pace and gradually inducting yourself into a fitness lifestyle that not only makes for a slimmer, but also, healthier you. And since it has become part of your living, you will be able to maintain that level without batting an eyelid. You will be surprised how eating a piece of chocolate ­which in any case you haven’t deprived yourself of completely in that year – doesn’t, any more, hold that special appeal.

This approach is sounder, more effective and lasting than the most seductive quick-weight-loss programmes which operate on the crash ­principle. All you have to give your body is the opportunity and time.