Losing weight can be tricky, especially for those living with hypothyroidism, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and sleep apnea.
Gujarat-based Prachi Zalani’s story was no different. She suffered from PCOS resulting in an irregular period, mood swings, a feeling of perpetual hunger, anxiety and insomnia, she says.
While the condition was not life-threatening, it affected the 26-year-old marketing specialist’s physical and mental state when she hit 90 kg – 30 kg more than her recommended body weight.
In 2020, a health check-up diagnosed her with borderline diabetes, leaving her shocked. And so began a six-year-long struggle to get back on track, which has helped her lose 32 kg in 11 months.
‘Mending a poor lifestyle’
Prachi says an unhealthy lifestyle of eating excess junk food, improper sleep, and excessive screen time on gadgets had resulted in her health condition.
In a conversation with The Better India, she says, “Initially, I approached a gynaecologist as I started experiencing weight gain, which made it difficult to perform daily activities like house chores and other physically demanding jobs.”
The gynaecologist prescribed her pills to balance the hormones. Unfortunately, none of them helped as expected, Prachi says. “I changed my ways and switched to exercising, practising zumba, aerobics and other weight loss treatments. I did not gain more weight, but the activities did not help me reduce much either,” she adds.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic made her more vulnerable as all calorie-burning activities stopped and increased her binge eating. A couple of months later, she realised that none of her clothes fit.
“It was a blow to someone like me who loves dressing up, as I could no longer wear the clothes I wished to. My confidence level dropped,” she says.
She consulted her gynaecologist again but admitted to not wanting to go on medications. She then consulted a nutritionist. As per their suggestion, she decided to go on a diet in June 2020. “I made up my mind that I have to focus on my health, both mental and physical. Since then, I have never looked back,” she adds.
The nutritionist chalked out a diet plan based on calorie intake and a balanced proportion of nutrients.
Her diet included eggs and carbohydrates such as ghee, butter and cheese for breakfast accompanied by coconut water or watermelon. “My mid-morning meal consisted of a handful of soaked almonds, pistachios, blueberries, cranberries, walnuts or sunflower or watermelon seeds. It helped me in keeping my stomach full till lunch while avoiding binge junk eating,” Prachi explains.
Prachi’s lunch consisted of salads, roti made from bajra, jowar or multigrain. “I ensured I included green vegetables and probiotics like curd, yoghurt or buttermilk to help me strengthen my gut,” she adds.
The dinner consisted of plenty of pulses and grains that helped achieve the required protein intake. “I never observed control on my diet by eating less. My mantra was to eat right and adequate food,” Prachi says.
Prachi did not observe cheat days, but did find innovative ways to satisfy her cravings. “There were days where I missed eating junk food items like that cheesy pizza made of refined flour. On such days, I made a homemade ragi pizza. I started researching and churning homemade low calories ice cream to satisfy my ice cream cravings. At times, I made homemade sugar free chocolate balls made from oats, dates and other healthy items. I looked for healthier options on Zomato and Swiggy,” she adds.
Slowly, she started shedding weight. “I was 90 kg in June and reduced to 88 kg in July. The weight loss sped up in August and June as I lost 5 kg each month. By April, I weighed 58 kg,” she says.
A play of discipline and motivation
Though it looks simpler in terms of figures, Prachi says she struggled a lot to keep herself motivated and disciplined.
“There was a time where I was bored of eating eggs. I felt like having limited options of scrambled, over easy or omelette. But I knew that eggs are an important source of protein, so I began experimenting with different recipes to bring that zeal into my normal routine of eating the same old way. I started experimenting with herbs and multiple ingredients to give my meals that added zing,” Prachi says.
Beyond creating food habits, her weight loss was also about preparing her mental mindset.
“I had self-doubts when I first learned that I needed to shed 30 kg to reach my ideal weight. I was facing something unfamiliar, and it was a sudden awareness of personal ‘feelings’. I think this was the first time I was paying attention to them because, after years of ignoring them, they were suddenly waving their hands in front of my face. I failed to identify a particular one. Was it depression, anxiety or something new altogether? I like to call it the most teary-eyed phase of my life,” Prachi adds.
She says, “I have been a disciplined and dedicated person since childhood. These traits helped me stay on the weight loss course. Some days were tougher than others. My friends and family were a strong support system to pull me out during my bad days.”
She adds that the visible physical changes also helped her stay motivated. “There were many changes that I could drastically feel in my body, both physically and mentally. I was feeling more energetic, focused and productive than ever. My stamina was at an all-time high, and I could easily do all the chores without feeling tired or lazy. I remember I couldn’t run or skip properly, but after getting in shape, I was able to do all this without feeling tired,” she says.
Looking at her transformation, Prachi also inspired a friend to lose weight. “One of my friends from Bengaluru started taking my advice and tips over the phone and following the diet regime diligently. She was successful in losing 15 kg. I was super happy to help her and a few others,” she says.
Summing up her transformational experience, Prachi says, “The journey was no doubt difficult and needed focus, determination, and passion. It was an empowering journey for me, and yes, I have felt great. Today, I am free from PCOS, diabetes and am living a healthier lifestyle. I am continuing with my ups and downs. But what matters is I keep going and never give up. Remember, if you didn’t need a pill to get fat, why would you need one to get fit? It is not about eating less; but about eating right!”
As we close our conversation, Prachi shares her version of a spinach chilla, that is equal parts healthy and delicious.
Recipe: Spinach chilla
*Finely chop spinach and wash it. Add one teaspoon bajra flour and one teaspoon chickpea flour. Add three teaspoon rolled oats powder (simply grind the oats into a mixture to make this powder)
*Form a thick paste by mixing all of them nicely.
*Add half a teaspoon of fennel, carom seeds and asafoetida into the mixture. Add one green chilli, red chilli powder, coriander powder and ginger garlic paste to enhance the taste of the mixture.
* Pro tip: Remove all the excess water from spinach for making a crispy chilla
*Once done, add a little ghee to the pan and make a round thin chilla.
*Place the pan on low to medium heat and wait for the chilla to turn crispy and cook on both sides.
*Serve with green chutney or curd.
Edited by Divya Sethu