“Mama you are just too big for me to hold.”
These words would torment Mishhka even as she grappled with feeling low because of COVID-19 restrictions. The pandemic’s new normal had already pushed the Indian expat in Dubai, who was already obese, into a stupor broken only by bouts of emotional eating. She had gained 10kgs between March and July of 2020 and was now touching 100kg.
Mishhka, who is five-foot-six-inches tall, knew she had to make drastic changes, but had no idea where to begin. Her weight gain had begun years ago at the time of pregnancy. She suffered gestational diabetes and post labour, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). The weight never came off, it just accumulated. “I consulted a lot of nutritionists here but I wasn’t able to lose the weight. So one day I saw [nutritionist] PT Rajesh's profile on Instagram and I contacted him and said, ‘listen, I have PCOS, my lifestyle is really bad because I work from 8 to 5. Plus with my daughter’s duties – homework and uploading stuff – my lifestyle is bad.’ Help me,” she explains in an interview with Gulf News.
That first week she lost 3kg.
“It is always 85 per cent of your diet and 15 per cent of your food that contributes to your health,” says Mishhka. Her nutritionist included supplements in her plan. “He included supplements [such as] Omega, B complex, [the benefits of] which I was never aware of. Since I was a vegetarian, he pushed me to become an eggitarian. He included a lot of protein in my meals. He told me about intermittent fasting (IF). He’s always changed my diet every 15 days, so I do not follow one diet. He’s made me do Keto, IF, carb-based plans and so on.”
“The first week was difficult – I was never a structured eater. I would always say I’m going to give up but he motivated me and when you start seeing the weight dropping and the inch loss you want to just keep going”
Breakfast: 3 whites of eggs
Lunch: Protein like dal [lentils] with rotis [flatbread] and salad.
Dinner: Protein such as paneer or tofu with salad.
No food post 7pm.
At the same time, she says, “I work out 2 hours every day. And now I’ve started with dance classes with my daughter so we both enjoy at the same time. But yes, workout has become very vital for me. Two hours a day is a must. If I’m not able to do workout at least a 45-minute walk is important.”
In the initial days, the workout consisted of cardio; 30 minutes of walking on the treadmill and 15 minutes on the elliptical machine. “Once I lost a good amount [of weight] I started doing weight training,” she says.
“I have a personal trainer at this point, because when you lose weight you have saggy skin and that’s when you start toning up.”
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While most of Mishhka’s journey was positive, she remembers when she thought she wouldn’t be able to pull it off. “After 4 months, I started stressing myself too much. I had a back injury, with my leg injury as well – I have 19 fractures in one of my legs. So my body started giving up and that’s when the trainer said you need to stop and take a break for at least 5 days and then you are going to come back. And I was really scared that even if I don’t work out for 5 days I’m going to gain a lot of weight. But thankfully I didn’t.”
Then came the coronavirus. “I was infected with COVID-19 in February, and that set me back . It was symptomatic – till date my sense of taste and smell is gone. I had 6 days of fever. I lost 3kg during COVID. It was difficult to come back on track; one of the worst things COVID did to me was I had excessive weakness. To get back to that routine took me some time but now I’m back [on the path] again.”
Nine months since her journey began, Mishhka has reversed her PCOS, is 35kg down and loving her new-found energy. She explains that when a woman doesn't lose weight post pregnancy, she has to contend with many jibes and condescending looks - it can take a toll on self confidence. But she's won back her control. "I love myself at this point. And I want to pass on the same positivity to other mothers. I just want to say you need to focus on your child and yourself. Once your child is big [enough], concentrate on yourself."
And her relationship with her daughter is much improved too. "I’ve got amazing energy at this point. We - my daughter and I - have a lot of fun together. We play, we dance...we do random things," she laughs.
Life, even amid the pandemic, is good.