“They told me if I didn’t lose weight, they’d have to remove my uterus,” recalls 25-year-old Ritu Kalia, of her doctor’s visit last year.
The appointment had come about because of a 9-month menses that had left Kalia exhausted and perplexed. At one point, she was so weak from the discharge that she had to make routine trips to a clinic for saline drips; her blood pressure would keep plummeting.
It was also at this time that the five-foot-five-inch Indian expat learned that she had PCOS – polycystic ovary syndrome - a condition that is not only made worse by being overweight but also is one that stymies efforts of weight loss.
The self-confessed pizza lover weighed 125kg at the time. “When I was in India I didn’t give that much importance to my weight but over here, in UAE, everyone was very health conscious, [this helped me find support],” she says. But while that was a comfort, more than anything else, her journey was about feeling better. “I tried various diets such as ‘only fruit’ diet,” she says. However, a week or two after she’d begin a plan, the kilos would come rushing back.
Frustrated but determined, she continued researching and experimenting. Slowly – “it’s very difficult to lose weight when you have PCOS” – she began to see changes.
Here’s the plan that Kalia says works for her.
“I consulted a few doctors and then I started. I totally cut out my sugar, gluten,” she says. Then, she cut out meals.
“Now, I’m on this 2-meal diet and try to avoid eating [at other times] as much as possible and this is effective,” she says.
“In the morning when I wake up, I drink chia seeds water, then mostly I skip breakfast but if I’m hungry I’ll have a banana with a black coffee, or I don’t eat anything then I’ll have cumin seeds [steeped] in hot water. For lunch, I don’t eat the same thing every day.” But while variety is a must-have, so is being healthy. So, says Kalia, she looks for alternatives. “I like pizza a lot but now I cannot eat it, so I have prepared this multi-grain roti and on it I put hummus, various grilled vegetables and goat cheese, and that’s kind of pizza for me,” she explains.
Kalia is also restricted in diet by intolerances; “I have this issue of inflammation so I avoid eating non-vegetarian foods. Mostly, my proteins come from pulses,” she says.
Kalia says she doesn’t monitor her macros as “I’ll be in tension” but she does monitor her movement. “I record my steps - my aim is to complete at least 10,000 steps a day. [I also do]
yoga, [and from various YouTube channels] Zumba or various workouts that can be done at home,” she adds.
Six months on, Kalia is 23kg lighter. And she sees a world of change. “I used to get dark patches around my neck, maybe because of intake of sugar, but it has reduced. My skin is hydrated. I drink about 6 litres of water a day. I feel good. I can walk faster. Before I would [procrastinate, now I don’t]. There’s so much difference,” she says. Plus, her period has regulated itself. But she’s not ready to say it’s over. Kalia stresses that she’s only mid-journey and is working hard to drop another 30kg.
One thing that helps her stay on form and not eat junk food or be deviated from things is meal prepping, which she does over her weekends. Another is music. K-pop to be exact. “When I was on this journey - there’s one Korean band, BTS, so whenever I feel like I can’t do it, I would just listen to their music – [the lyrics] and that really motivates me. [My favourite numbers are] ‘Love Myself’ and ‘Magic Shop’,” she says.
It’s been a long journey. “For [people with] PCOS, it is not easy to lose weight,” she says. “So don’t stick to one diet, because when you stick to one diet your body gets immune to [the effect of] that diet and you can’t lose weight. Try changing it up. For example, if you are doing intermittent fasting one week, then next week change it to 3 meals, then a week later go back to it. If you change your diet on a weekly basis, your body [expends energy to adjust, giving you more weight loss.]”
With patience, focus and care, Kalia is working towards her goal: A healthier her.