Renuka Pamnani was a textbook case of yo-yo dieters for much of her life. At 12, she recalls, her journey into weight control began. Over the next couple of decades it would be a rollercoaster ride. There were periods of slimming that led to celebration, which in turn would lead to a greater need for control. The cycle kept repeating itself, and with each rotation, the numbers rose.
Pamnani, Indian-born and UAE-based, had also developed polycystic ovary syndrome at age 15, a condition that leads to high levels of the hormone androgen and a tendency to gain weight.
"I remember in school I used to be bullied a lot, which really used to embarass me. I never took part in any PT sessions or any stage performance because it made me look like a giant wheel in front of [the] other kids," she says.
Years later, the weighing scale still frightened her. Tired, drained and unable to fit into the type of clothes she wanted to, she longed for change. But she was also terrified, of it not working, of the cycle that seemed to go on forever, of standing on that scale. In the late 2000s, when she hit 127kg, Pamnani hit rock bottom.
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“I knew it would take immense dedication, discipline, I would need to cut down on many things. From feeling exhausted all the time to being an inspiration to everyone around me became my motto,” she recalls. She began slowly by cutting out calories. “In 2017 my weight came down from 127kg to 115 which was done over a period of years with no motivation or dedication or self-belief,” she says. It was just grit and a hope that things would improve.
That year, seeing the changes, however, her mind began to clear. “In 2017 I decided that this is it I need to get fit if others can do it, why can’t I ?”
The 5-foot-seven-inch Pamnani worked with a nutritionist, who made portion-based plans. And Pamnani gave up on the idea of a cheat day. “The word diet itself is a negative word as it just makes you feel that you are depriving yourself of certain things. Hence, I have removed the word ‘diet’ from my life as I solely focus on lifestyle changes,” she says.
The result? “I lost 28.5kg, and went from 115 to 86 in 2 years.”
While the results of the diet had begun to show, in 2019 Pamnani faced a problem most who lose dramatic amounts of weight do. “Since I didn’t workout much my skin [had] started sagging and [I] realised I need to tone my body,” she explains.
“My fitness coach helped me understand each and every movement performed how it would help that particular muscle and where I need to work more.
“I joined him not in a bid to lose some drastic amount of body fat but to build supreme amount of muscle mass [and] to challenge myself further to improve my stamina and be stronger even mentally. With rigorous workout and meal plans and constant support I believe it has left a great impact [on] me physically and mentally apart from losing weight, the amount of strength that I have gained is worth every drop of sweat today; it has taught me discipline in everyday life. It's definitely transformed me into a new person.”
Still, facing a global pandemic did bring its own trials and tribulations. She could no longer head to the gym for the workout that had become a part of her life. She could picture the toll this absence would take. “Initially I was really demotivated because of the lockdown where the gym, parks, etc. were not accessible. But now I have got used to it and have been enjoying the whole concept of home workout. My diet has even gotten better than before because there are so many bloggers posting healthy receipes and I have been trying to make them myself. So enjoying every moment,” she says. It’s working – she’s down to 81.5kg.
“Water is the main key for weight loss, I try and keep myself hydrated by having 3 to 4 litres of water daily and apart from home workouts I walk 10k steps daily without fail, no excuse there. I’m more dedicated now.”
The cycle is finally broken, a life of being fit, believes Pamnani, is here to stay.