By Shivani Mohan
I lamented in my column last week about how I was stuck with a six month long membership to my gym with little inclination to exercise anymore. Well, some more drama has been added to my dilemma. You see, I had been going through the motions. Doing my daily gym routine with probably as much motivation as a circus lion has to dance. I would head home tired and famished.
I felt I had earned my daily bread after all and gorge on a regular healthy Punjabi diet. As a result the weight was refusing to budge. Initially of course, all trainers give you that whole theory about how exercise makes your fat turn into muscle and muscle happens to be heavier than fat. Therefore you weigh the same even though you’re getting slimmer. But seriously, how long can you thrive on that bit of information? I needed to see a dwindling needle. The missing link in my fitness pursuit was definitely the diet.
Once a week we have the privilege of engaging with a dietitian and discussing our food related queries, a ritual I had been quietly bypassing as there is no damn diet theory in the world I don’t know about.
I devour health and fitness articles with a voracious appetite. I watch every possible fitness show on TV, preferably lying prostate on a couch, with a pack of chips at arm’s length. I know my HDLs and LDLs and essential amino acids. In fact, I could give a tip or two to the dietician. Atkins, General Motors, High Protein, Vegan, Low Carbs — I know them all.
It is only when it comes to implementing these diets that I say ‘pass.’ The dietician gave me the usual humbug, advising me to maintain a food diary. I did not understand the point initially. “If I eat gobhi parathas with butter for breakfast followed by chicken curry and rice for lunch and an extensive Thai dinner with liberal doses of chocolates, sweets and snacks in between-and write all of that down, how is it going to make me lose weight?”
“It will at least make you aware of how much you eat and when and why.”
The prescribed format she chalked out for me had columns such as time, food, quantity eaten and mood when eaten. So now not only was I going to be mapping my erratic eating habits but even tightening the noose around my moods. I did not know what I was more scared of, the former or the latter. Would a chocolate chip cookie eaten in a ‘dour’ mood be more lethal than a chocolate chip cookie eaten in a ‘perky’ mood?
I tried one last ditch effort to wiggle out of this. “It seems too cumbersome a process. I mean, I struggle through the month chasing that utopia where all my cupboards are neat, my child performing well at school, my family well fed, my bills paid on time, my feet pedicured, my dog walked, my garden watered, my in-laws appeased, and my Facebook status updated. And here there is another addition to the endless ‘to-do’ list, when I virtually hate to-do lists!”
“Don’t worry. This format is a breeze. Otherwise there are more complex formats such as emotional eating food diary; sugar, salt and fat food diary; fiber, calcium and omega-3 food diary; potassium and magnesium diary.” I wondered at the kind of person who maintains a ‘Potassium and Magnesium’ diary. Wow! He must be a study in self-absorption! It would look so silly to people around me, I told her. But she was all professional and in control, a picture of gentle persuasion.
“You don’t have to tell anybody about it. Let it be private, a conversation between you and your eating habits. You have to self-correct yourself. You should also give positive affirmations like a compliment to yourself at the end of a good disciplined day.” She gave me a basic guideline about an ideal menu plan. I went and stacked my kitchen with granola bars, oats, porridge, sprouts, roasted snacks and what have you. I changed my screen saver to the famous quote by Kate Moss: ‘Nothing tastes better than feeling skinny does.’
“Okay folks, I am on a diet”, I announced valiantly at home that day. I’ll have meals separately so that I don’t get tempted. Life turned into a well-planned, organized and tabulated routine. It was all going fine. And then at the end of one such day, the wholesome vegetable soup over at 7.30 pm, I settled down to write the things I write—I am a late night person-and at 12.30 in the dead of the night, the sad gruel-like meal turns into a growl. In fact, the growl slowly turns into a chorus, singing for supper, orchestrating hungry hosannas. Papaya, I wanna say byea; lauki, you’re too low-key; More oats could make me slit throats; Salad, doesn’t tease my palate…wicked thoughts…rice is nice; meat is neat. Rumblings in the tummy overpower any will to look slim. And I remember that most supermodels end up in rehabs anyway.
There are those two, luscious, brown gulab jamuns lying in the refrigerator that hover over my head. I tip toe to the kitchen and heat them in the microwave for just those 20 seconds that unleash the glorious, latent flavors trapped within. What better positive affirmation could there be in this world!
As for the diary? Well, it has all those entries — God knows I am honest — Chocolate cake, 2.30 am; Lays tomato salsa chips, 11.30 pm; Bikaneri bhujia 1.30 am. As of now, no one knows about it.
I jealously guard the diary, almost as if there were some long forgotten love letters in there, or some erotic poetry maybe. I keep it under lock and key. This diary shall go to the grave with me. I am sure my husband thinks I am up to no good while I continue my midnight dates with desserts and sinful dark chocolates. Just the other night, I sat updating it when my husband walked into the study. I immediately shut the diary with a start and snuck it under the pile of books on my table. And he asked, “Everything alright?” giving me a knowing smile. “You’ve been acting strange lately,” he said, and went on to buy me diamonds next week!