#Inspirational ! Top Obesity, Lifestyle & Disease Consultant Naini Setalvad’s Story!

pictureI was thirty-two, could not sit in a chair, and could not travel in a bus. Sitting on the floor was a dream because I would not know how to push myself up. My knees and the back just hurt all the time, breathing was a difficulty, and my head was constantly congested and would break into a cough which would drain me of my energy. I lived on tablets and pain killers minimum six a day. All this was just because I was grossly weighing anything from 150-160 kgs I did not have a scale to get my exact weight. Was I born fat?  Was there a thyroid or hormonal problem? Absolutely not, I was born skinny weighing six pounds. Like a normal child I played morning and evening, swimming was my greatest passion. I spent at least half of the day playing and running around. Sitting in one place was impossible. I took ages to eat. Any meal would take a minimum of one hour to complete. I liked simple food; three meals were more than enough which worried everybody. I was petite and tiny. I came back from school threw my bags and rushed for a swim. Food was the last thing on my mind. Once I finished my evening play time I was famished and exhausted, either I would have to eat food at that moment or I would fall a sleep. Quick and easy were French fries, wafers, milkshakes and heavily buttered cheese sandwiches or fried cheese toast. My addiction to junk, packaged food full of preservatives and chemicals had begun.

I would eat this evening snack, go home and be forced to eat the dinner too even if i was not hungry. My parents strongly believed in the importance of eating and did not want me skip that eating a complete Gujrati meal consisting of salads, vegetables, rotis, dal, rice and curd. This started my habit of over eating. When I was younger I would just eat one roti and fall asleep on the table. Leading the family is concerned and worried about how less I was eating. They had no idea of nutrition. They did not realize that the evening snack was so heavy, difficult to digest and making me sluggish. These habits engrained in childhood became a part of my lifestyle. How a drug addict craves for his daily fix junk food eater craves junk. This food was difficult to digest and it made me so lethargic that I could not get up in the mornings. I needed a fix of sugar and white flour loaded with  fat, in went the milkshakes, sandwiches and fried Gujrati snacks like puris, chakris, sev, and ganthias.  The school snack box was cheese lings and cream biscuits. Lunch was normal added with papad, I preferred the fried variety. School timings became longer, lunch breaks became shorter, and food had to be eaten faster. My lunch box consisted of dal and chawal so I could gobble it fast and run out and play. Obviously I was not satisfied and started digging on the canteen food to satisfy my taste buds. Everyday was like a treat because I was an addict I would savor on wafers, batata vadas, samosas, sandwiches, aerated drinks, ice-creams and chocolates. My weight slowly and steadily crept up with longer schools exercise became less. This food made me from skinny to plump to fat to obese. I was fifty kilos in my 5th grade, when my concerned mother took me too a naturopath Dr. JASAWALLA. He really tried hard but I could not as a child remain on fruits and vegetables and bear those steam boxes and massages. I needed to be slowly weaned off slowly from this junk food. I was too hassles with it all and went to him on the sly and asked him to tell my mom, that this is not for me. In 7th grade I was 70 kgs, another round of a dietician. He used to make me exercise in his rooms I hated it. I gave up. In the 9th grade I was a whooping 85 kilos. I was hospitalized in Breach Candy Hospital to loose weight.  Ten days of sheer torture lying to my friends that I was on a holiday as I did not want them to know I was in hospital. It was a diet of popping pill, starvation, and enemas. The returns 10 kilos weight loss in ten days, with more than double coming back. I gift of constipation for life.

By the time I was in the 12th grade I was 96 kilos, I went to JINDAL HEALTH FARM, being a city girl I completely went crazy, I ran away in 12 days with a 14 kilos off . I was off to a holiday in Europe, but landed on the surgery table with a cyst in the rectum. I refused to do anymore diet for a few years. I went back to my old ways of eating and touched 145 kilos; I went to Sherry Louis, Protein powders and a high protein diet. Ridiculously expensive, it left me with no energy I gave up. Then came my trips to the gyms and another of dieticians. The gym instructors expected me to work out for an hour not even realizing that I could barely walk obviously I gave up. Finally at 32 I crossed 150 kilos where I went on a sensible weight loss and exercise programme. In 18 months I was down to 60 kilos. I had a lot of loose skin, I had slipped into anorexia. I would open books to know which the lowest caloric food was. A Cucumber had only 18 calories, I would cut it into paper thin slices and spread it on my plate and chew on it slowly, a bowl of cabbage had only 25 calories, that was my vegetable. Clear soups with barely a few pieces of vegetables floating around. My cereal would be white bread or roti barely four in the entire day, Dairy was totally out . I lied to friends and family about eating , I would tell them I had just eaten and come. I would take food in my plate and throw it out. I was exercising like a maniac and landed in amenorrhea (not having periods for months) dry nails,  brittle hair, sunken eyes, pale skin, looking as if I was from Ethiopia or a concentration camp. Laxatives by the galore as I was severely constipated due to the refined flour which was prescribed to me. In this state I went through surgeries for loose skin. Twelve kilos of skin was removed, What was my actual weight? The second surgery I lost a lot of blood as I was recovering I was back in the operation theatre again this time for a cyst in the rectum. I was mentally finished.

I was thin, then why this? My dietician had no answer. I knocked the door of naturopaths, studied nutrition at GOPI KRISHNA PIRAMAL HOSPITAL, INDIAN INSTITUTE OF HEALTH SCIENCE, I slowly got over the fear of eating small quantities, but I only ate right food. Suddenly I landed with excruciating pain in the abdomen. I was diagnosed with gall stones- answers surgery. I was in so much pain that I begged to be wheeled in naturopathy saved me from one more surgery. I cured myself with food, rest and sunlight.

This experience made me a complete different person I am obsessed with the cause and effects of food in our life. I think of food, dream of food and write about food. I have only one mission, I do not want anybody to go through what I have gone through. I know today what junk food can do to your system. The chemicals, the preservatives, the addictives, the growth hormones are the ones that are causing complete imbalance in our bodies. Psychological disorders, mood swings, constipation, humongous sizes, eating disorders, elevated blood pressure, lipids and even cancer.

I run a health centre today which guides people on how to loose weight sensibly and healthily. I conduct workshops on corporate and schools on healthy living and nutrition. I plan menus on health foods for hotels and institutes. I advise shops for healthy product planning. I write articles for leading news papers and magazines on health related topics.

In today’s high stressed lifestyle and fast changing world, the one person with whom you spend the longest time is with yourself! Don’t you think then that you owe it to yourself to be careful about your health! Do you not owe it to your children? A better life, a healthy body away from fads and eating disorders! Arise; wake up before we land up the American way of gigantic sizes, psychological disorders and life threatening diseases. We are not the dustbins of the West! Let’s remove packaged foods and get back to real food.

I have been there… I have walked the path… I know the pains and the pitfalls…. I know there are days when temptation rules and then I have experienced the joy and the triumph! I have only this to say to you…

I understand… and it is possible!!!






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