For many, losing weight once you cross a certain age seems like a herculean task. Add to this an injury that forces you to be bedridden, and it seems impossible altogether. But 55-year-old Sunita Bhatija, a resident of Bengaluru, has achieved the “impossible”.
Sunita is a fashion designer and runs a clothing store named Blossoms Boutique in Bengaluru’s Vasanth Nagar. She had been an active person all her life, but was also a foodie. Every day, she would indulge in her favourite dishes, which were not always too healthy.
“All my plans with family and friends revolved around grabbing a bite to eat. I would never set a limit to my meals,” Sunita tells The Better India.
Since both her parents and other family members are diabetic or have high blood pressure, Sunita knew she needed to stay healthy. In 2018, she joined a gym to exercise regularly.
Facing life’s curveballs
“I was lifting weights without the supervision of a trainer, and injured myself. I was unable to move and the doctors said that I have a slipped disk. I was advised to avoid strenuous movement and rest for a few months. However, a few months became one year, and my weight shot up to 105 kilos. Being in bed all the time gave me vertigo. My sedentary lifestyle pushed me into depression,” says Sunita.
When one of her close friends came to visit, she suggested that this could probably serve as Sunita’s wake up call. She explained how life may push a person down, but that Sunita should not remain there.
“These words pushed me to take action and I decided to take the help of a nutritionist. I did not want to start exercising because I was worried that I might strain myself,” says Sunita, adding that she approached Anupama Menon, a Bengaluru-based nutritionist.
Getting back on track
In 2019, with Anupama’s help, Sunita focussed on controlling the food she was eating and introducing healthier alternatives to her daily diet. First, a series of health tests were conducted to understand Sunita’s bodily functions.
“Based on my body, I was given a diet plan. There were no restrictions on regular food, but the quantity had to be controlled. The diet changes every few weeks so that I don’t get bored of what I’m eating,” says Sunita.
For the first month, she was asked to cut down on sugar, reduce the amount of oil used for cooking, and eat meals at the right time. Her daily meals included dosas, a cup of rice, poha, dal chillas, healthy snacks like nuts and seeds, and more. In between meals, if she felt hungry, she would drink a cup of black coffee, have vegetable juice, or buttermilk.
“I was not asked to eliminate rice, and instead control the quantity I ate. If it was dosas, I would eat a maximum of two and rice would be limited to one cup only. By the end of that month, I lost three kilos without doing any exercise. This motivated me to keep going,” says Sunita, adding that she started including meditation in the mornings to improve her mental health.
Within three months, Sunita started feeling better and began exercising every day. She took the help of a physiotherapist so that she did not strain herself. Her workouts included lifting weights and strengthening her core muscles, among others. Her diet kept changing at this time as well.
“I was given three cheat meals every week. I was allowed to eat any food of my choice within an hourly window. I would either have desserts or some fast food that I had a craving for. After this, I would follow the strict diet again,” she says.
One and a half years later, in 2020, when Sunita checked her weight, she had lost 41 kilos, now weighing about 64. The dramatic change in her body reduced the pressure on her spinal cord. Though she still has a slipped disk, she does not suffer from excruciating pain.
“This was a great achievement for me. My weight loss made me realise the power of nutrition. It not only changed my physical appearance but also my mental health,” says Sunita.
Through her journey, Sunita has learnt that weight loss is not only about doing strenuous exercise or following strict dietary restrictions. It is about understanding your body, providing it nutrition, and nurturing it.