At 93 kg, exhaustion and tiredness were part of Lucknow-based Prerona Mishra’s (35) everyday life.
She recalls that she was an active child, she took part in many athletic and sports-based activities, and was also a good Kathak dancer and basketball player. But the academic pressure of Class 10, followed by college, marriage, and motherhood, brought about many changes in her life.
She began gaining weight rapidly and before she realised, she had breached the 90 kg mark.
There was a point, she says, that she found it difficult to even climb a flight of stairs without gasping for breath.
But Prerona worked on herself, and in 10 months, lost a total of 23 kg.
In conversation with The Better India, Prerona says, “In 2019, my husband moved to Hamburg, Germany to pursue an additional academic qualification. I found it difficult to deal with his moving, and turned to emotional eating as my coping mechanism.”
Just as she was getting used to manage on her own in India, her four-year-old daughter Anaishaa was diagnosed with blood cancer. “My entire life came crashing down with that diagnosis. With COVID-19 looming large, my husband was unable to come back to India. That meant I had to take charge and deal with the medical situation.”
Prerona was devastated but says that she tried real hard to pick up the pieces.
My weight became a liability
With every passing day, her daughter started getting weaker, and had to be picked up and taken to the washroom, hospital, and everywhere else. “Picking up her and walking around started causing me a lot of back pain. The pain would get so much that at times, even walking by myself was proving to be difficult. I did it, I kept carrying her around, but it did me no good,” Prerona says.
She adds that like this, there were many small instances to show how her weight was interfering with everyday life. “While Anaishaa was going through her chemotherapy sessions, she would sit on my lap through it. I couldn’t get up and move for hours on end. That meant I couldn’t use the restroom as frequently as I wanted to, so I started drinking lesser amounts of water. All these small actions had an impact on my health.”
Four months into Anaishaa’s treatment, Prerona realised that she was breaking down mentally and physically. She was on the verge of giving up. The only thing that kept her going was the love for her daughter. “I knew I had to live and get fit if I wanted to give my daughter the care she deserved.”
‘Suddenly something changed’
“I couldn’t afford to collapse when my daughter’s treatment was underway. I had to make sure I was healthy if I wanted to care for her. I also knew that her medical treatment would be a long one,” she adds. “I promised myself I’d get fit and be able to take care of my daughter.”
At 93 kg, even a simple walk was a problem. She recalls having to put in double the effort to make herself move. “I was like a bull on a mission. I had to get fit, there was no other choice before me.” She started with bringing consistency into her routine. She would carve time for herself such that she was able to get in some kind of physical activity every day.
The only voice she allowed in her head was the one that motivated her. “I constantly kept telling myself that no one could stop me from transforming,” she says. “Exercising initially used to be like a punishment, owing to years of inactivity. Even a simple task of bending was a huge pain point for me.”
She started slowly.
She began with working out using resistance bands, once she was comfortable with those she moved on to using weights. “It took a lot of effort initially. The thought of giving up crossed my mind at least a million times, if not more. But, I did not listen to that voice. Workouts became a part of my lifestyle.”
Sometimes, her daughter would feel irritable and angry due to the medication she was on. She would not let Prerona out of her sight. On such days, she would wait for her daughter to fall asleep and then work out in her hospital room with a little night lamp on.
Prerona says that she and her daughter were like a phoenix, who rose from the ashes.
How she did it
She began with fixing some of the immediate issues under her control. This included increasing her water intake to up to 4 litres a day, taking the stairs wherever possible, and starting home workouts with whatever equipment was available at home. Gradually, as her stamina increased, she added weights to the workout and also started spending more time on it.
“I would set small targets for myself. Each day was a new beginning and the aim was to better the previous day. From clocking in about 2,000 steps a day, I now actively push to get close to 20,000 steps each day. Each of these small actions have helped me get fit,” she says.
While Prerona quantified her meals, she says she was never overly conscious of how much food she was consuming. “I never gave up on my tea with sugar or even the biryani I enjoy.”
“All I did was to ensure that the calories I was consuming were less than what I was burning each day,” she adds.
One very neglected aspect when it comes to weight loss is the quality of sleep. Prerona says that this was something she struggled with for a long time, but worked hard to fix. “If you do not get a good night’s rest, you will not be able to get up, feel fresh, and get a good workout in. Make sure you fall asleep on time and get the necessary seven to eight hours of sleep every night,” she adds.
Five mantras that worked for Prerona:
1. Be consistent
“Take it up as a personal challenge. Show up and workout every day. This is the only thing that you can do for your body,” she says.
2. Celebrate progress
“If you initially found climbing two flights of stairs difficult, stop and celebrate the moment you do it without feeling breathless. These are small ways of keeping yourself motivated,” she adds.
3. Enjoy the process
“The body releases endorphins while exercising. Carve out time for yourself and enjoy the process. Even if you are able to only exercise for a few minutes each day, do it. Do not find excuses to give it a break,” she says.
4. Ditch the guilt
“As a mother, I was always guilty for leaving my daughter and stepping out to exercise. However, for me to be a good mother and take care of her, exercising and carving out time for myself was imperative. Once I acknowledged that, everything fell into place,” she says.
5. Manage your time
“I am a banker. I have a home to manage, a child to care for, and everything else that comes with it. Find ways to manage time according to all these routines. If I could do it, given my circumstances, anyone can,” she says.
“Losing over 20 kg has made me feel stronger, not just physically but also emotionally. You owe it to yourself, do it for yourself,” she says.
(Edited by Divya Sethu)
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