Standing today at 5 feet 7’ and weighing 60 kg, Diksha Chabbra weighed close to a 100 kg two years ago.
Yes, you heard that right.
This wife of an army man, mother of a nine-year-old son, second-runner up of Mrs Earth 2017, Mrs Body Fit 2017, social media influencer and fitness guru who has trained over 300 men and women across the globe, is an inspiration to many.
From struggling with breathlessness after walking short distances to now deadlifting 100 kg, the woman’s fitness journey is one of true grit, determination, and passion.
In an exclusive interview with The Better India (TBI), Chabbra takes us through the story of how she decided to take charge of her health and life and become a role model for women and young girls who struggle with weight issues.
Being part of a traditional joint Punjabi family, Chabbra juggled household chores with her job as an administrator at a school. Work and home, coupled with taking care of a then four-year-old became a lot of pressure for Chabbra. With no time to exercise, she had started putting on weight.
“Initially I thought, it was genetic, because most of my family members were on the heavier side. And often my husband would also joke: it’s okay; you are a mother; you look like a mother.”
While she initially blamed her lifestyle and her stress-eating for the weight gain, over a period of time she realised that even when she wasn’t eating as much, the weight scale continued to fluctuate in the 90s range.
One of the significant instances that pushed Chhabra to think about her health was a college reunion party she attended. “Two of my friends looked at me aghast and pounced on me saying, “Fulti hi jaa rahi hai tu! (You are getting fatter by the day) Look at you! What are you doing? You used to be so active in college as an athlete and an NCC cadet. What happened?”
When she consulted a doctor, she was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and PCOD (Polycystic Ovarian disease). It was also around the same time that her mother-in-law, who was an integral cog in the family, was diagnosed with last stage breast cancer.
“So I really couldn’t put my issues before hers. She was in the hospital on and off for two years, and I was the only woman in the household for her support. Her condition and even her passing in 2014, had taken a huge emotional toll on our entire family,” shares Chabbra.
She quit her job to take care of her family. Often frustrated, stress-eating became a refuge. She would resort to eating unhealthy food all the time. The doctor continued to alert her about the deteriorating health graph.
“When you meet your long distant relatives, they often say, ‘Why are you putting on weight? Are you overeating? It is because you laze around?’” says Chabbra.
Chabbra decided she had had enough. And so she kickstarted her fitness journey on 16 January 2016.
It began with walking.
“Even when I walked a small distance of two km I would start feeling breathless. But I did not stop. I also started looking up exercises over the internet that I could do at home to stay fit.”
She also convinced her husband to buy her a treadmill. What followed was a weight loss of 18 kg within seven months!
‘She must have been so happy!’ You may think. Well, she wasn’t. She had resorted to extreme cardio where she would go on walks that lasted two hours and starved herself.
“Of course I lost a lot of weight. But I was also losing muscle and all my energy. I was exhausted all the time, had severe blackouts and couldn’t focus at all.”
Soon her husband received his new posting, and the family shifted from Delhi to Gangtok.
“It was around the same time that my friend sent me a link of a group for weight trainers. I was amazed at how strong and chiselled the women weightlifters looked. I realised fitness was not just about losing weight but also keeping your body toned. And often when you lose weight, your skin starts hanging, which strength-training can help tackle.”
Apart from staying in contact with an online trainer who mentored her workout plans and diets, she also joined a gym to train. Seven months into it, she lost another 12 kg and was feeling a lot more confident and healthy. She also used this time to get herself certified in nutrition and as a personal trainer.
She also switched from a vegetarian to a non-vegetarian diet for her protein requirement. She turned from junk food to homemade meals and never looked back at any fad diets.
Her journey to fitness was a long and back-breaking struggle, but ultimately rewarding. She then decided to share it with the world. All she required was a platform.
And so, when Mrs India Earth registrations opened, she decided to take a leap of faith. She was not disappointed, as, in 2017, she was crowned the second-runner up of the pageant and Mrs Body Fit too!
A year and a half ago, she founded Diksha Chhabra Fitness Consultations and has been a virtual trainer where she has trained more than 300 people around the globe with her three-month fitness programmes. The transformations of many of these individuals are often featured on her Instagram profile that has more than 107K followers.
“As a woman who struggled with body image and weight issues myself, it is very empowering for me to help young girls and women find their confidence back through my work.
“As I said, fitness is not about weight-loss, but being healthy and feeling beautiful and confident from within. And often I say to many women, don’t compare yourself with others. Some people and their bodies are designed in a way where they can lose weight without too much effort. But some of us have to go that extra mile. If you decide to stick to the fight, be true to yourself and commit yourself to a goal; you can be unstoppable.”
You May Also Like: Lost Husband in War, Escaped Death Twice: Capt Shalini’s Incredible Journey
She adds how her son is her strongest pillar.
“My biggest source of support is my nine-year-old son. He motivates me, participates in my exercise routine and often brags to his friends about how fit I am, my abs, my weight-lifting abilities. He is absolutely precious.”
She was honoured for her role as a ‘Woman of Colour” at National Leadership Summit on Women and Education 2019, an initiative supported and organised by the Government of India and Wharton India Economic Forum (WIEF). She has also been a TedX speaker. Apart from running her fitness consultancy, she is also a Health and Nutrition Ambassador of Helping Children With Autism (HCWA) which is Mrs India Earth’s philanthropy partner and has been actively working with brands like Decathlon to create awareness on a healthy lifestyle.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)