The past year has been a rollercoaster of emotion for Dubai born and raised Mansha Thawani, who put on about 30 kilos in two months when COVID-19 struck the world and restricted travel. “You are just home and feel depressed and eat junk,” she explains of the rapid weight gain. Her reflection made her sadder. “I just did not look good,” she says. I had become 95kilos,” she says.
The five-foot-seven-inch Indian expat called her mother, who is in India, to ask for advice. “Listening to the sorrow in her daughter’s voice, Premila Bakhru, took it as a personal challenge.
Bakhru, who Thawani, describes as a fantastic cook, began with putting together meal plans. These comprised of small quantities of low calorie foods spread over six meals across the day. The last meal would come at 7pm. Every morning would begin with home remedies to boost metabolism; cumin and carom seeds in hot water followed by lemon in hot water.
Thawani’s family eats vegetarian food on some days and non-vegetarian meals on others; this is a religious constraint. Keeping this in mind, Bakhru would tweak each meal to ensure it would follow protocol. Breakfast, for example, could be a small bowl of poha or boiled eggs, depending on the day.
On days that called for fasting, still other balanced plans would be created so taste and nutrition were both on the menu.
Breakfast: Two whites of eggs and 5 soaked almonds
Mid-morning snack: Carrots and cucumber
Lunch: Palak paneer and oats chapati. Or grilled fish.
Evening snack: diet bhel (puffed rice) and coconut water
Dinner: Paneer tikka and tomato soup. Or grilled chicken.
The first three days where Bakhru created a detox plan rich in coconut water and cumin-fennel in hot water and grilled meats resulted in a one-kg drop. Thawani was hooked, even if it did mean headaches for the first week. She had cut out all added sugars and her favourite drinks, coke and tea. “I used to have 4-5 cups of tea in a day, so I left that also,” she says. “I used to tell my mom and she used to divert [my attention],” she recalls, calling her mother her rock, her dietician – and her life coach.
Six months on, Thawani has shed 30kg. But she’ll be the first to admit it hasn’t been an easy ride – she still loves food as much as she did before this journey. “It happens many times; I want to give up - now also I’m telling my mom I want to eat molten cake. My mom is saying now you are 65, become 60 then you can have. [When I have these moments] just 2-3 minutes I talk to her and everything is ok.”
Her mum, she explains, tries to work the things she’s most fond of into her diet plan – albeit in limited quantities. “She tells me to have one spoon, but for me if I have one spoon then I can’t stop eating it,” she says of her favourite molten cake.
With the honesty of wording her vulnerabilities has come the strength to overcome them. Especially with her family’s support. The mother of one explains that tough times come in the form of ordinary moments such as socializing. It’s difficult when you have finished your dinner at 7pm and are up with people till 1am, when everyone around you is enjoying their food, for example. But her husband, Deepak Thawani, she says helped her by explaining her goal to their friends and garnering their support.
It is, mulls Thawani, about will power and support, and when you have both the weight-loss dream can become a reality.
She offers practical advice to those wanting to follow in her footsteps: don’t eat post 7.30pm; drink hot water, lemon in warm water. Hungry when it’s not a mealtime? Drink apple and carrot juice or coconut water instead. Headed to a restaurant with friends? Instead of aeriated drinks, try a juice or soup. It’s healthier and with fewer calories.
Today, Thawani is feeling confident in her new body and loving the fact that she can access more fashionable clothes, take better pictures where she is genuinely smiling, and have more energy all around. And to think, it all began with a call to mum.