Dr. Manasi Naralkar
A fitness journey simplified!
"Hi! I'm Amita!" A bubbly, vivacious lady introduced herself to me at a party. "I follow your blogs- really enjoy reading them!"
Pleasantly surprised and somewhat flattered that she knew me, not just by name but also my work, this first meeting struck a chord.
A few months later, my husband Viren and I got our routine blood tests worked up. We'd crossed into our thirties and thought of checking on the engine that was keeping our machine running! We'd joined the gym recently and were super confident that all would be great. Much to our dismay, it wasn't! My sugars were borderline, and his lipid profile was deranged. With strong family histories of a lot of chronic illnesses, lifestyle modification was the key. I obviously knew that as a doctor (who had been preaching it to hundreds of patients!)
But let's rewind back to a few months before this. Having attained new highs on the weighing scale, both of us had already introduced a few changes to our lifestyle. Intermittent fasting, a gym membership, no carbs for dinner- we were following all fads that had worked previously for us, or for people we trusted and believed in; all that carried merit as I read about it through the eyes of a medical professional.
Had it worked? Well, somewhat- but we were still struggling.
Here's a little secret about doctors- we make the worst patients! Well, we obviously know our stuff, but we sometimes tend to get over- confident on topics related to the human body, even those that may be beyond our realm of specialization.
Hence, when Viren announced that he'd be seeking an appointment with Amita, I (somewhat begrudgingly) agreed to go along- mainly because I needed to understand as the lady of the house about micromanagement in the kitchen pertaining to his dietary changes, but refused to avail of her services for me. "I'm on the right track," I told him. "I don't need a dietician."
Viren's a wise guy! He didn't say a word, but nevertheless, we both ended up at Amita's office one afternoon. This time, we spent almost three hours with her. She meticulously sought all the details she needed to work up a plan to suit Viren- small details about his daily routine, likes and dislikes, work patterns, sleep patterns, activity levels and so on.
Little questions she asked- for instance, how long a litre of oil lasts for our family, left me impressed. So far, all the 'dieticians' I'd come across, would just chalk out a (terribly difficult) diet plan involving a lot of additional work, without bothering about the existing food habits and patterns of the family- which obviously entailed the plan to be abandoned halfway and fail miserably! (Obviously, nobody likes to be drinking tasteless smoothies or meal replacement powders when the rest of the family was enjoying misal pav!)
Halfway into the meeting, I announced that I'd also like her to chalk out a plan for me. (Viren's "I told you so" came later- on our drive back home!) She took down my details as well, and promised to send us our diet plans the subsequent week.
"In the meanwhile, I want you to concentrate only on one thing," she said. "Mindful eating."
'उदरं भरणं नोहे' is something we've been taught since we were kids.
In all our hurry to rush through life, meet deadlines, achieve targets, fit in 36 hours in a 24- hour day, we often forget to implement these lines!
'What is this life, if full of care?
We have no time to stand and stare!'
Amita trained us to incorporate W.H. Davies in our life- 'stand and stare', rather 'sit and eat'. Meals were no longer hurried to finish off in five minutes. We started sitting at the dinner table longer, eating slowly, mindfully, enjoying each morsel. Phones were kept away, conversations flowed. We learnt to listen to our bodies, stop eating when they told us they were full.
Amita created a whatsapp group for our diet plan. A week later, she sent us our plans. She also incorporated good workouts for us. Keeping with the trends of fitness apps, she recommended the good ones- with the exercise regimes she chose for us. Also, her recommendations were based on personal experience- she's used all these apps herself! (To the extent that when I complained a glitch in one of the apps to her down the line, she got to the bottom of it and reported it- got it sorted!)
I tend to travel for work. Those are the times when I eat wrong, binge, and basically indulge in a lot of 'unhealthy' stuff. Amita had an answer for everything! She told me what snacks I should be carrying with me if I feel the need to binge. She taught me what I should order in room service when I travel solo. She sent me workouts that I could easily perform in the hotel room. She educated me about airport food and what I could safely opt for, without compromising either on hygiene or health. They were such simple but effective tips that you ended up thinking- 'why didn't I ever think of this?!'
I've never been an exercise person! Even as a child, I was a bookworm who would finish off a fat novel a day, but cringe at the thought of 'going out to play'. Amita gradually introduced us to different exercises- encouraged us to try out what worked the best for us... And thanks to her, I discovered a newfound love for jogging! The high, the endorphin and adrenaline rush after finishing each run, the satisfaction of the beads of sweat drenching you as you egg yourself on to be a better version of your own self- all this soon became an integral part of my routine! A person like me, who'd initially huff and puff after 200 metres of running, achieved new milestones- my first 5k, first 7.5k... and the quote 'When was the last time you did something for the first time?' attained a new place in my life.
Amita has a believable, workable answer for all questions you may throw her way. She is one person who never takes 'no' for an answer!
Was switching over to the fitness plan she suggested challenging? Yes, definitely! Change of any kind is always met with resistance. But what makes her different is that her job doesn't end after giving you the diet plan- she's there with you through the journey! Whatever challenges you may face, she helps you work around them. She gives alternatives, teaches you how you can plan and prep ahead, manage leftovers- and even with a gynaecologist's busy schedule, I learnt how to manage the 'healthy eating' game. I learnt how to balance each meal, be it an elaborate spread, or a one- dish meal, with the right proportion of nutrients.
Did I know of it before? Of course I did! But was I implementing it? No- because it all seemed to be too much of an effort, for choosy eaters. It's simpler to just eat what you like, even if it means compromising on a few essential nutrients.
But what's simple isn't necessarily right!
So does 'being on a diet' mean eating roti- subzi- dal- chaawal everyday? Giving up on all that you love?
Of course not!
I'm also a food blogger on the side- and both Viren and I enjoy trying out new cuisines, eating out, exploring new restaurants. Amita encouraged me to keep up with this hobby- by educating me on how to eat at tastings, how to order intelligently while eating out, and also by sharing a variety of recipes to make everyday meals interesting!
Yes, today, Viren and I celebrated the loss of 5.5 kilos each in just over a month and a half, by having a pizza lunch- wherein we made everything, including the ricotta cheese, at home, from scratch (Again, thanks to recipes shared by Amita).
There's of course, still 'miles to go before I sleep', but boy, am I glad I met this lady!
As Confucius rightly quoted, 'Real knowledge is to know the extent of one's ignorance'.
An investment in knowledge certainly pays the best interest- and Amita is one who believes in disseminating, sharing her wisdom and touching lives in more ways than one could imagine.
I walked in through her door as a client. But just in a few months, I've found a mentor, a teacher, a guide, a friend, a confidante, and above all, someone I immensely respect for her scientifically backed knowledge.
In my own self, I've noticed a lot of changes as well. I'm fitter, leaner, with an increased endurance, a better immunity. I've started understanding my body better- stopped overeating completely. Both Viren and I are being complimented by friends and well- wishers on looking younger and healthier. We feel younger and healthier! Even with the lockdown and limited resources, we can make the best out of available ingredients and put together a healthy meal on the table. We've learnt to be more or less consistent with exercise as well.
I'm sure if we got our blood tests repeated now, we'd have come a long way along the path of improvement.
In the end, I think that's what matters... Because you need to 'live' life, and not just exist!