Real life

At 102kg, Dim­ple Shamin Jivothama, 32, was obese. Frus­trated that she couldn’t find a dress to wear to din­ner with her hus­band, the Dubai res­i­dent de­cided to get in shape with brisk walks, yoga and a diet

Friday - - Contents -

‘I lost 26kg in five months with­out go­ing near a gym.’

Scan­ning theh racksk of pretty dresses in a shop, I fi­nally spotted the one I knew in­stantly I had to buy. It was the right length in shim­mery black fab­ric with lace trim­ming. Ca­ress­ing the cloth, I was trans­ported to a ro­man­tic can­dlelit din­ner set­ting with my hus­band, Arun Jivothama. He had been away in In­dia on a busi­ness trip for al­most a month and I had been miss­ing him.

“12, 14, 16…” I read the size la­bels of the dresses one by one. But it was a UK size 22 that my eyes were fran­ti­cally search­ing for. At 171cm tall I weighed 102kg. Would I ever find my size, I won­dered, as I moved the hang­ers slowly this time, care­fully search­ing through the row. A surge of sad­ness overwhelmed me as I re­alised there were no large sizes avail­able. Dis­ap­pointed, I had no will to shop for an­other dress.

“Any­way, what’s the point,” I said, catch­ing sight ofmy bulging waist­line in the store mir­ror. My plans were shat­tered and I drove home in tears.

Be­ing an emo­tional eater, I headed straight to the freezer and pulled out a tub of ice cream. With the cur­tains drawn I plonked my­self on the liv­ing room couch and de­voured the whole tub. In si­lence.

Then I thought about be­ing in the dress shop and some­thing flipped in me. I re­alised I’d let my­self go for too long and now I couldn’t even find clothes that fit­ted. It was the turn­ing point, and I de­cided I had to take con­trol of my life and get it on track.

Food had al­ways been my big­gest weak­ness. Grow­ing up in Man­ga­lore, in south­ern In­dia, I was the tall, plump school kid who was al­ways gorg­ing on food. By the age of 13 I was 75kg – all thanks to the heavy, calo­rie-rich food that I used to have at home. By the time I went to col­lege I was tip­ping the scales at 90kg.

It’s not that I never tried to lose weight. In col­lege I once shed 10kg, my first-ever weight loss, by go­ing on a diet and play­ing bas­ket­ball and other sports. But the ki­los piled on soon af­ter col­lege when I stopped play­ing sport.

In 2004 I got mar­ried and moved to Dubai. I lost weight be­fore the wed­ding be­cause I wanted to fit into a gor­geous wed­ding dress. With aer­o­bics and di­et­ing I lost a few ki­los but promptly put them back on as soon as I set­tled into mat­ri­mony.

Then, dur­ing my preg­nancy I gorged on rich food un­der the guise

of feed­ing the lit­tle one grow­ing in my tummy and was soon a whop­ping 109kg in 2005.

A year af­ter I had my baby, in 2007, I de­cided to give weight loss an­other shot and en­rolled at a well-known slim­ming cen­tre in Dubai and lost 25kg in three months. But as soon as my mem­ber­ship for the slim­ming pro­gramme ended I was back to large meals, which meant the weight came back with a vengeance in a year.

I craved fatty, oily, greasy and sug­ary food. The only time I re­gret­ted eat­ing all those good­ies and putting on the ex­tra ki­los was when I went shop­ping. Like most women I loved dress­ing up, but over the years I re­alised I was opt­ing for loose, baggy tops in­stead of the trendy fig­ure­hug­ging dresses I loved to wear, only so I could hide all my fat.

It made me ter­ri­bly sad yet I did noth­ing about my diet. My day would typ­i­cally start with a heavy break­fast of chicken may­on­naise sand­wiches washed down with a cup of milky tea or a can of soda. My job as a sec­re­tary at an au­to­mo­bile show­room in Dubai meant I was spend­ing long hours at my desk with lit­tle phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity.

Even at work I was munch­ing of­ten. For in­stance, at 11am I would snack on a big packet of crisps and guz­zle down a large mug of cof­fee laced with a lot of su­gar. Lunch would be two burg­ers, a medium cheese pizza or a large por­tion of biryani. The meal would end with two bars of choco­late ev­ery day.

At 4pm it would be tea and a whole pack of cook­ies or a plate of banana or onion frit­ters. Yet by 6.30pm when I reached home af­ter work I would be des­per­ately rum­mag­ing through the kitchen cup­boards for munchies. I’d snack heav­ily on bis­cuits, chips, rolls or crêpes.

Din­ner was an elab­o­rate af­fair that in­cluded a large bowl of rice with fish curry or four or five chap­patis with chicken curry. No meal for me was com­plete with­out sweets. Late at night I would again raid the fridge for In­dian sweets such as gu­lab ja­muns and lad­doos.

My sweet tooth made me do crazy things at times. I’d be shop­ping in a mall and the smell of a waf­fle bak­ing would make me drop ev­ery­thing and head for a bite. We’d be driv­ing to an event and if I spotted my favourite ice cream store I’d in­sist on turn­ing the car around to get a scoop or two.

With time my food in­dul­gences started tak­ing a toll on my health. All

My sweet tooth made me do crazy things. The smell of a waf­fle would see me drop ev­ery­thing

the ex­tra ki­los used to leave me breath­less even if I climbed just a few steps. Back aches and knee aches be­came more fre­quent. Squat­ting and bend­ing was al­most im­pos­si­ble. I was also di­ag­nosed as a bor­der­line di­a­betic. My BMI was 38.

“Do some­thing, lose weight, get fit,” my mother, who lives close to our home in Karama, would tell me. But I was liv­ing in a bub­ble – wrongly be­liev­ing that just be­cause I was tall, the ex­tra ki­los would not show much and be­cause there was no ma­jor med­i­cal con­di­tion ev­ery­thing was just fine.

Of course, the idea of los­ing weight did ap­peal to me but the thought of not eat­ing my favourite foods would make me ban­ish those thoughts quickly. But it also meant I could not even tell my slightly chubby eight-year-old daugh­ter Cal­ista to lose weight as she would re­tort, “But Mamma, you are also fat.”

How­ever, shop­ping for a dress that time in March last year was a ma­jor turn­ing point. I was by now fed up with my bor­ing wardrobe that made me look old and hag­gard. My health also be­gan to worry me. Af­ter fin­ish­ing the tub of ice cream, I thought hard and said to my­self, “This is it. Ei­ther I can eat yummy food or look yummy.”

The next day I woke up at 5am and went for a walk to Zabeel Park, half a kilo­me­tre from my house. I man­aged one round of the park (2km) in about 30 min­utes and felt ex­hausted.

I came home and made a break­fast of two whole­grain ce­real bis­cuits with low-fat milk that I’d bought on my way back and then packed a large bowl of fruit salad with a tub of yo­gurt for lunch. In­stead of soda and tea I guz­zled wa­ter through­out the day. It was dif­fi­cult and there were times when I felt like in­dulging my­self but I would think of a dress that I could wear if I was thin­ner – so that made me stick to my rou­tine.

When I reached home in the evening I had wa­ter­melon and it made me feel full.

I con­tin­ued with this rou­tine the next day as well and soon teamed up with my neigh­bour – a fit­ness freak who used to go for walks at 4.30am ev­ery day. I joined her and slowly in­creased my du­ra­tion and dis­tance – do­ing around 7km.

I also al­tered my diet dras­ti­cally. Now I started my day with one litre of warm wa­ter at 4.30am. Af­ter the 7km walk I would have a glass of unsweet­ened lime juice. At 8am my break­fast would be corn­flakes with low-fat milk and a hand­ful of nuts. At 11am I would munch an ap­ple or two

or­anges with a cup of green tea. Lunch was grilled chicken or fish with salad or yo­gurt and fruit (ap­ple, pear or or­ange). Some days I ate only fruit and a few bowls of low-fat yo­gurt. At 4pm in­stead of tea and cook­ies I’d have fruit and green tea. When­ever I had a strong crav­ing for sweets, I’d take a small por­tion of fruits.

It be­gan to pay off. In the first month I lost 6kg. That was a big mo­ti­va­tor, as was the fact that my hus­band was pleas­antly sur­prised when he came back from a busi­ness trip. “I’m so glad you are do­ing this,” he said. “You do look slim­mer al­ready.”

But the next 10 days af­ter that ini­tial weight loss I was stuck at the same weight. That’s when I in­creased the dis­tance of the walks, do­ing an ex­tra 5km in the evening as well. My speed had also in­creased and now I could do one lap in 20 min­utes.

In June I dis­cov­ered the Friends of Yoga group, a vol­un­tary or­gan­i­sa­tion that pro­vides free yoga classes out­side parks all over the UAE. Now my rou­tine in­cluded a 7km walk ev­ery morn­ing and a 5km walk in the evening, fol­lowed by an hour of yoga. In that month I lost an­other 6kg. Diet, the walks, yoga and Kal­lie Puri’s book Con­fes­sions of a Se­rial Di­eter helped me to lose more weight. From her book I learned it’s im­por­tant to avoid eat­ing af­ter 7pm.

Ini­tially it was dif­fi­cult to skip din­ner and I spent a few sleep­less nights but in just a mat­ter of a few days my body got used to the new eat­ing pat­terns. My last meal at 7pm was fruit and green tea. That’s when I started see­ing a dras­tic weight loss.

Around that time Dubai Mu­nic­i­pal­ity launched the Your Weight in Gold Cam­paign. Par­tic­i­pants had to lose a min­i­mum of 2kg to win a gram of gold for ev­ery kilo lost. I reg­is­tered for the cam­paign at Zabeel Park in July, lost 4kg and won two gold coins.

At first when the weight loss was slow, no one no­ticed the change. But af­ter los­ing 22kg my fit­ter form be­came a topic of dis­cus­sion wher­ever I went. Sev­eral col­leagues at work wanted to know my diet mantra. A month later, I lost four more ki­los and since then I’ve man­aged to main­tain my weight at 76kg. This is in spite of putting on weight when I went to In­dia on hol­i­day.

My tar­get is 75kg. Once I at­tain that, I’ll switch to a more mod­er­ate diet and main­tain it. My daugh­ter and col­leagues at work have been in­spired by the changes in me. My daugh­ter joins me on my evening walks and sev­eral of my friends have started seek­ing my ad­vice on how to lose weight.

My mom was de­lighted by my progress. “I can’t be­lieve you did it,” she said.

“You look so nice. Just keep at it and don’t al­low the ki­los to re­turn.”

The best part about my weight loss is that I didn’t spend a penny on ex­pen­sive gyms, fat-burn­ing pills or slim­ming cen­tres. All I did was in­vest in a good pair of walk­ing shoes.

Now, al­most a year later, I have man­aged to keep my weight at 76kg. I give into my crav­ings oc­ca­sion­ally but it never be­comes overindul­gence.

I was thrilled to bits when I was cho­sen to be fea­tured in Fri­day’s diet is­sue of May 30. I en­joyed the fash­ion photo shoot and traded weight-loss ad­vice with the two other women who were also part of the fea­ture.

Af­ter I ap­peared on the cover, sev­eral of my neigh­bours and friends who I had not seen in a long time, called to ask me de­tails about my diet. In fact, I still get calls from people who saw the is­sue.

Oh, and yes, al­though I didn’t man­age to get the black dress I so wanted, which set me on the path to a new life­style, now I do have a lovely se­lec­tion of size 14 dresses. And I love dress­ing up in them!

At first when weight loss was slow, no one no­ticed. But af­ter los­ing 22kg I was a topic of dis­cus­sion





My hus­band was so happy when I started to go on a diet

I go for reg­u­lar walks ev­ery day to keep the weight off

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