Like all stories of personal transformation, this too begins from a point of pain.
I took my body for granted. Only when I experienced a breakdown of health did I have a wake-up call. Since I started working to heal myself, I’ve experienced a complete physical, emotional and spiritual overhaul. Fitness is not skin deep. It’s a difficult but rewarding quest that will transform your life on every level. Here’s how I got started on that journey.
I’m a small-town girl, born and brought up in Jamshedpur. It was a dizzying thrill to move to a big city for college. When I started studying at my dream college, St. Xavier’s in Mumbai, I experienced such a deep culture shock and sense of alienation that I started eating my feelings without realising the toxic coping mechanisms I was plunging into.
Along side were the good things. Midnight snack parties with hostel mates, grabbing snacks on the go between having fun with friends, juggling internships and new and exciting classes. I put on enormous amounts of weight. Lethargy and fatigue were my constant companions. I couldn’t walk briskly or climb stairs without panting. My periods stopped. All this before I’d turned 21.
I took stock of my lifestyle before embarking on improving it. Then I started slow. Just walking because I couldn’t run more than a few metres. Eating home made food. Fiercely fighting the sugar cravings as chocolates, chips and sodas beckoned to me from store windows. It was exhausting but liberating.
Within 4 months of being disciplined and maintaining a healthy exercise and nutrition balance, I saw my weight fall back in the healthy range. My periods resumed and I basked in the happy glow of a goal achieved. But I didn’t know one crucial thing.
In the years to come, my fitness regime would always reflect my mental equilibrium. Whether it was an overwhelmed teenager who ate to soothe her feelings, an overstressed corporate drone whose health took a backseat to work or a newly married bride lonely in a new country – whenever my mind took a beating, my body would too.
After college and a career in HR, I got married in 2008. Post marriage, I had to move to Hong Kong as that’s where my husband was based. Soon the all to familiar feelings of alienation and isolation set in. I had been focused on clean eating since 2003. But exercise had taken a back seat to my 9-5 desk bound corporate lifestyle. Now with the hours to kill I prioritised exercise again.
At the gym I was assigned a personal trainer. For the first time I discovered how fun fitness could be. I embraced exercise not as a punitive or preventative measure but as something I actually enjoyed doing. And the results spoke for themselves. I shed all the excess weight soon. Earlier my body fat was percentage was 30 percent. Now it was 15 to 20 percent.
But the best evidence was the change in my mental health. Going from having a thriving career and a support system of friends and family in Mumbai to not being able to land a job and create friendships because of the language barrier, my self-esteem had taken a severe hit. Exercise made me feel so good about myself and my body that I found ways to reconnect with my life again.
It was here that I discovered yoga, a practice that has equipped me with the tools to handle adversity, to face challenges headlong instead of self-sabotaging. By realising and embracing that the mind-body connection is the only path to being fit, I’ve discovered my true purpose in life. With two young children and moving countries as and when my husband’s job required, I went back to school. I completed a 200 hour yoga teacher training course and a course in Nutrition from Integrative Institute of Nutrition, New York. Now, for the better part of a decade, I’ve been working with clients from various backgrounds, ages and fitness levels unlock their potential and become the best versions of themselves.
The backbone of my practise is nutrition. I now know that without focusing on that, no amount of exercise and yoga are going to be of any value. I combine yogic practice and exercise training with nutrition services when working with clients to help them achieve wholesome and holistic wellness. I am based in Singapore and see clients locally and virtually from all over the world.
I hope you found value in my story. I would love to know yours. Where are you in your fitness journey, what are you struggling with, what accomplishments are you proud of and what’s holding you back? Connect with me on social media @wellnesswithswati and tell me about yourself.