One of the few positive things about a pandemic is call timings – when you are available and when your loved ones are – line up more easily. For Chetali Sachin Patil, who has been trying for a few years to get back to her lean physique, the quick WhatsApp back and forth that began for news of illness and state of home country turned to conversations about fitness.
The 34-year-old Indian says, “In March when the pandemic started, the women in my family decided now we have some time to stay home, let’s focus all together to work out. So we made a group, separate WhatsApp group [with just us] and started helping each other out.”
The support group came as a result of not only availability but also frustration. “I was always on the slimmer side when I came to UAE,” says the five-foot-one-inch expat. But once she had her baby, she stopped working for a while.
Being confined to a flat and just sitting – it meant putting on weight.
This was in 2013. “The doctor told me it can lead to trouble so you should get fit. But I was not having any proper guidance so I ended up buying a costly gym membership and I was going to the gym, but I wasn’t guided by a proper nutritionist,” she says. And so the weight kept rising.
Fast-forward to 2020, when the procurement officer had started working and working out but could not see a change in kilos. Speaking to family members, Patil realized that each member of this group brought something to the table. Some were yoga teachers, others knew a lot about nutrition, still others knew muscle specific exercises. And so the chat group was formed. “We try to help and motivate each other. And this is the main thing - my family supported me – it’s what helped me drop the weight,” she explains.
Another thing she did was cut out food from outside, instead she began to experiment in her own kitchen. “Even if I was making junk [food], I was making it at home. And [I was making] a healthier version. Like, they are using cream, I’m using yoghurt. So I replaced those unhealthy versions with my healthy versions without compromising on the taste. So I kept exploring,” she tells Gulf News.
Besides the inspiration she drew from the women fighting beside her for a fitter lifestyle, she went looking for stories of others who had achieved the seemingly elusive goal. “I started seeing so many motivational videos from many people who lost weight, talking about how they lost weight. From them I learnt portion control and [to] include protein in your diet,” she says.
This didn’t mean changing the style of food she ate. “I found what are the main sources of protein for me and how can I include it in my family style. I don’t make special meals for me but I try to include one compulsory protein and salad in each one’s [the entire family’s] diet. That really helped me balance my macros and with my nutrition,” she explains.
And she began to track her macros on a fitness app.
When COVID-19 threw a curve ball and she was unable to go to the gym, she continued her exercises at home.
At the end of seven months, Patil was down 12 kg.
There’s a mental health angle to this shedding of weight as well, she says, calling for a shift in perspective. “Once I stopped thinking about weight loss, I started shedding weight. Earlier, I was focusing on weight loss weight loss, but when it doesn’t happen no you get very disappointed. Now I realise [being fit] is not related to weight loss. You should have a proper healthy and balanced lifestyle.”
“You should love your body - if you love your body, your body will reply with positive results. I started feeling quite light and happy after I have reduced some unnecessary fat from my body. It’s not about weight loss it’s about healthy lifestyle.”
And of course, she says, “When my old clothes fit, it feels amazing.”