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Fighting fit

R Pallavi | Print Edition: Feb 5, 2012

Confessions of a serial dieter
By Kalli Purie, Harper Collins
Price: Rs 250, Pages: 225

Since the age of four, Kalli Purie's life has been determined by a turn of scales. Swinging from 59 kilograms to 103 and back, her caloric intake has fluctuated with her experiences. Her thoughts on weight loss and the impact it has had on her are conveyed in an animated, tongue-in-cheek voice.

The quirky chapters titled 'Around the World in Eighty Kilos' and 'Starving in Style' lend a degree of lightness to the bulky burden of excess kilos she has grappled with through her life.

Purie adroitly captures the hypocrisies of the weighted world, where, everyone wants to be thin, or at least thinner than those around them. Those floating on the skinny side keep the scales tilted so others can't get where they are. The ones who tip the scales more heavily create justifications and vindications for their weight. She points out how the unpleasantly plump get caught in a vicious cycle. Being overweight is stressful and over eating offers a sort of solace.

The lethargy this brings about can be paralysing, and fat folks, she postulates, miss all the fun whether it's toughening up for an adventure, dressing down for a party or attending a re-union. For the fit, the cycle's a virtuous one. The flattering attention, compliments and respect they command reinforce their will to stay fit. So, getting in shape means moving from one cycle to the other.

With 43 diets and workout routines inspired by her physical and social milieu, this is exactly what Kalli Purie did. Her exhaustive list was driven by her emotions and has taken some unlikely formats, including taking up rowing to impress a college crush, or repressing bridal jitters with litres of coconut water.

AUTHOR SPEAK

Women are from Venus and men are from Mars but the desire to look good and be healthy is universal. The book is designed to appeal to anyone who has resorted to dieting, secretly or otherwise.

Just like a soul mate, there is a perfect diet out there for all of us. It may be a prescribed one or just self-tried mixing and matching, but finding it is crucial to our emotional well being.

My book has zero science and is based on experiences and emotions. Every fatty has a heartbreaking incident that gets them on to the right track, because a diet is only as good as the motivation to follow it. It has to come from within.

While working people often disregard diet books, citing their heavy schedules as inflexible for such fluffy considerations, Confessions expands to embrace those muddled in work-life imbalances. At the outset, Kalli dismisses the idea that long working hours justify mindless munching through the day. Her reasoning is simple; first impressions have impact and weight management is a visible and easy barometer for general management skills.

Purie's willingness to be both the guinea pig and the amateur scientist in her extended experiments with dieting gives readers a specific and honest insight into the complex psychology of weight loss.

She shows how people shun thinness as a marketing and fashion ploy and often use broader social arguments as an excuse for being fat. These opinions obscure the fact of the body's ideal weight, which is never more than '20 kg over the average of your height'. Though succumbing to unrealistically slim stereotypes is inappropriate, the health risks of being fat cannot be overlooked. Her smart deconstructions of stereotypes make the book easy to relate to.

She also maintains a healthy balance, encouraging strict steps when necessary without advocating unpleasant extremes. Her ideas tread the middle path, to help dieters achieve a 'happy weight', and lead a weight-conscious lifestyle. There's wiggle room to 'let go' with an occasional indulgence, but an equal emphasis to be able to 'pull back' in time.

EXCERPT

I don't have the time, but I have the weight
There is no such thing as 'I don't have the time to exercise'. Time is what we make of it. As my wise mother says, 'We always make time for what we really want to do.' I buy that 100 per cent. Those who exercise also have only twenty-four hours in the day. You have to choose your priorities and follow them, come what may. And exercise has to be on top of the list.

I work full time
Just because you work full time does not give you the licence to eat full time. Unhealthy eating and hard work are not connected. Late nights at the office ordering in pizza and working lunches with mayo-loaded sandwiches is detrimental to any healthy plan. There is no easy way around this. You simply have to be committed to it. Carry your own tiffin, choose the unpopular healthy meal. It might be a little awkward at first but you'll get used to it.

Losing weight is not just about looking good

Fit people are pre-judged positively. Knowing that others like what they see when they look at you is a great confidence booster. You are not watching every word you say to ensure a positive impression because you have already made it.

Look the part
If you don't look the part, they won't let you do the part. You can spend your life fighting this and say that it's 'boxy'. But just like a model needs to be tall and thin because his or her job is to showcase clothes, as a member of any team, you need to be in control. A fat person, by definition, does not have control over his desires. This does not mean that fat people can't lead companies or get promotions, it just means they have to work that much harder to prove that they can.


Unlike scores of other books on diets churned out by fit dieticians, trainers and their ilk, this one cannot be dismissed with an 'easier said than done' sneer. Purie really has done them all. As a four year old she'd already worked out a system of endorsing positive behaviour, by cycling around to earn her jam and toast. Supermodels in Paris may have concocted the champagne diet, but Purie gave it her own twist before her sisters' wedding in France.

Her methods range from the wildly inventive to the prosaic and practical but they all have just the right pinch of good ol' jugaad. While it's probably not very practical to take on all of Purie's dietary schemes, the reader can take away the many detailed, handy and honest epiphanies that accompany each phase of her life. With 43 programmes to pick from, there's sure to be one that fits!

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