“There were people who did not speak to me because I looked a certain way,” recalls 39-year-old Indian expat mum Komal Puri who has dropped 40kg over the past few years. Her son, Ayaan Sharma, Puri explains, was facing similar body-bullying tactics in 2020 when she helped him shed 20kg.
This is the story of the power mum-son duo who proved to themselves that with changes in lifestyle would come health, strength and happiness.
But let’s rewind to Puri’s first bout with her kilos. Three years ago, the 154cm-tall expat found herself weighing 88kg. She says: “I put on weight because [I had] undiagnosed thyroid [issues]. But then I will not take it as an excuse because even my eating habits weren’t very right. I was eating whatever was coming my way including junk. For me, realisation came when I saw a picture of myself and I was 88kg - it just didn’t look good. And stairclimbing was getting tougher and tougher. My knees were really giving up.
“So one morning I said, this has to stop.”
“I cut out all the junk, I worked out [for] one hour every day.” She also shook up her eating habits, consuming more fruits, vegetables and chicken. “I did not let go of carbs but I [limited that to] like, once a day. I had cheat meals once a week,” she says.
By doing so, over a period of a year, she lost 30kg, bringing her weight to the late 50s.
Then she made the mistake many dieters do, she went back to her old lifestyle, which meant more and more frequent nights out and a slow creeping back of those lost kilos.
In 2020, during a weigh-in where both she and Ayaan were checking the scales, they found they were stuck on the same number – 63. It was a wake-up call for both of them. “He was 63kg at 10 years old and I was also 63 [at 38]. And [when] we were seeing a paediatrician for a normal check-up, she also said that he really needs to lose weight for a 10 year old.
“[He was] eating wrong, [then there was] online schooling [and he was] restricted [from] going out for outdoor play. But yeah, eating wrong primarily [caused him to gain weight]. He used to have cereals every day before school,” she says.
All-in-all, she admits, “We lost track of the food that he was eating.”
It was now time to revise menus and plan diets.
“We discussed it – and we worked on a diet chart,” she says, adding, “We first eradicated all the junk – no cheat meals also, nothing processed. Everything he was having was homemade; even if he was having a pizza I would make it for him. We would choose his carbs. His dinner was done by 7pm. His steps had to be 15,000 every day and we focused more on [this]. Obviously he needs his energy, so we started with having a lot of veggies, a lot of fruits and carbs, but in a healthy way.”
He’d eat multigrain or whole grain toasts with veggies, for instance, rather than eating white bread or sugar-heavy cereal.
Breakfast: A multi-grain paratha stuffed with paneer or any vegetable
A slice of multi-grain toast with egg or chicken sausages and toast.
Mid-morning snack: A fruit: An apple or banana
Lunch: Vegetables and a small bowl of rice/chapatti (flat bread)
Afternoon: Milk, no sugar, for Ayaan/ Tea with sugar replacement for Puri.
Dinner: soup/bowl of lentils/chicken
“The weight started coming down,” says Komal.
“And we started [drinking] coconut oil in the morning; one teaspoon [each]; and his activity levels started improving. It was difficult for him to get even 7,000 steps in when he started but then he went up to 20,000 when there was outdoor playing.”
Puri herself works out for an hour a day. "I’ll walk for an hour and the days I go to the gym I’ll work out for 45 minutes; I do cardio and weights and then 30 mins of walking. So, walking is something I’ve been very consistent about and I think that’s helped a great deal."
And the voice of the body-shamers dulled. “Obviously, when there’s a group of friends and they are playing soccer and he’s not able to run around…people had been calling him fat,” recalls Puri of the state of things before his transformation.
“He’s been pretty flexible, he’s been pretty open to things. It’s not that I have harassed him in any way, he has his cakes now and he’s learnt portion control. He learned that cereals first thing in the morning is not good. He might just pick up a whole grain toast instead of cereal, you know?”
“[Ayaan] realises that it’s not a diet he’s doing, he’s doing a lifestyle thing. He switched over to dark chocolate; he has milk without sugar – it’s all good habits he’s picked up along the way. He eats cake or a burger or pizza – whatever he wants – now he can afford it. He understands [that] to come to this point he had to go through that,” says Puri.
For both mum and son though the win didn’t come easy; for one thing, the naysayers were close to home. “[It’s tough] when you start [on your weight-loss journey and] you have your support system telling you it’s not the right way [to diet]. Or not the right way to feed a kid,” she says.
“And there are times when you are tired and you really don’t want to cook food but you really don’t want to order food from outside so that was a challenge sometimes. But then if you are disciplined then it’s ok [ you can manage]. But that’s the biggest challenge because we live in an environment here where we are so social – you have get-togethers, you go out, but maintaining that ‘this is what I’m going to eat’ and even telling a ten year old this is what [he is allowed to eat].”
Puri says Ayaan’s challenge was saying no to treats in the face of insistent adults. “He learned portion control [and decided] that he won’t say no outright, but he might take a bite or two and get over with it. And we planned the whole day accordingly.”
So before an evening out, Ayaan and Puri would pay attention to their calories, do “clean eating” for the day.
The discipline, which Puri calls all-important, has paid off. Ayaan lost 20kgs. “He’s joined CrossFit, he’s able to pick up 6kg of weight and do lunges, and it’s a beautiful thing to see [the change] from where he was, because I have seen him…he wasn’t able to run even 100 metres but now the way he does CrossFit….people don’t recognise him the way people couldn’t recognise me - and that is a wonderful compliment, I think,” she says, her pride in him coming through.
Puri lost 10kg.
Eating habits are a learned behaviour; we observe and emulate our parents and our peers. That’s not bad. In this case, Puri and her son learned to stick to their plan, trudged through the obstacles and got to the goal: A fitter, better version of themselves.
Do you have a story to share about how you helped your child get fit or deal with bullying? Tell us at firstname.lastname@example.org