Monika Sastry

Monika Sastry is a finance professional working in Oracle India. She braves the city traffic everyday,

works a full day in a high stress environment, but won’t miss her morning walks and will never settle for anything but her home cooked meals. Here is a lady who is doing it all with a smile on her face and a spring in her step. This is her journey…

“I weighed 70 kilos at the age of 14. Obviously my classmates were much slimmer and that made me very conscious of my body. I moved into a boarding school where there wasn’t a lot of emphasis on sports. When I was 16, I cut out sugar completely from my diet. I eventually stopped eating carbs at night, sometimes even skipped dinner and controlled my portions. In college, I helped serve meals in the busy hostel kitchen as I had to run around a lot. That was my cardio!

When I started working I wanted to lose more weight. I was keen on wearing jeans and keeping up with the latest fashion trends. I cut out soft drinks completely and as much junk as I could. By the time I was 25, I had lost about 22 kilos and I maintained that weight for a long time. When I was 29 I suddenly started to develop really bad ulcers in my mouth that just wouldn’t go. I visited many doctors and took one too many medicines. One day I met a doctor who asked me to stop visiting so many doctors and start exercising everyday! I started with just 2 Km a day and soon found that I really enjoyed it. It was my time to think and compartmentalize my thoughts. Then I started walking with a friend who was much faster and he motivated me to push myself. I reached a point where I could walk 8 Km in 1 hour. Now its down to 5-6 Km because I have a knee problem that’s age related.

In my head I’m a very fat person. It’s very difficult to explain to people who haven’t been so fat. I know that I’m quite slim now, but the fat girl is still within me. That’s what has made me so conscious of what I eat. I’m very careful but at the same time I love food. I haven’t given up anything. On most days, I eat chapatti with vegetable or methi paratha for breakfast. For lunch I eat 2 tablespoons of rice with a lot of vegetables. It’s actually vegetables with a few specs of rice. I used to skip or skimp on dinner. But as I’ve gotten older, I have realized that I need a full meal. So I eat a large bowl of dal with vegetables and a bit of rice or chapatti. I eat some raw salad and finish dinner sometimes as early as 5:30-6:00. I eat plenty of curds everyday. I do munch on nuts occasionally and I have a lot of fruit. I don’t eat processed food, in fact I never buy packets of soups and noodles. I’m not very fond of pasta and I actually detest traditional sweets. I don’t mind a small quantity of chocolate or cake, but the craving passes somehow. I feel like I inadvertently have a good diet and I listen to my body.

I’ve worked full time in the corporate sector for over 2 decades. I drive 18 km each way to work and my schedule is quite busy. But I make the time for fitness. I do get tired but I will go for my walk the next day. I don’t have the time to take up other activities, but something is better than nothing. Exercising pumps up your heart, gives you a blood rush and makes you feel more energetic and positive. I feel better equipped for the day when I walk than when I don’t. Even if I miss a couple of days, I make it a point to walk on the third day. Even thrice a week is enough, it makes a difference. You just need to get out of bed.

My work requires me to sit in front of the computer all day, but these are a few things that I practice to stay active at work and it might be useful to others. Get up and make your own tea. Do your own photocopying and walk up to people’s desks to speak to them. Walk around the floor every couple of hours and always take the stairs. Drink a lot of water, so you have to keep walking to the restroom. Once it becomes a habit, you will find that you’re doing it even on a stressful day. If you have to eat out order soup and skip the appetizers. They are usually deep fried or dunked in way too much sauce. Avoid dessert and anything made out of refined flour.

My colleagues at work comment that my food isn’t fresh. I don’t have the time to cook every morning, but I store it well in the fridge and take it to work the next day. My home cooked food is clean, has less oil and less masala. People tell me that old food isn’t good food. But I don’t trust the cafeteria to serve me fresh, hygienic food. There’s no guarantee that they have cut the vegetables the same day and in all probability they take short cuts on cleanliness. So I feel like I’m better off.

My metabolic rate isn’t like it used to be. Back then I just controlled my portion sizes and lost my extra weight. I realized that I need to eat carefully and exercise as well. And I’m incapable of skipping meals like I used to when I was younger. I really need the energy.

I have been a fat girl and I don’t want to be that girl again. A lot of my confidence comes from the way I speak and the way I dress. And I want to be able to put my best foot forward. It’s not about being skinny or having a great figure, but it’s about presenting yourself well. And of course you have to love clothes like I do. It just gives me more confidence that I can dress the way I want to. Being healthy is nice. When I get out there for my walks, I feel like a different person. I talk to myself about how I’m going to tackle my day, my breathing is easier, my steps are lighter. I feel like things are going to be okay.”

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