Being overweight comes with a lot of baggage – both physical and emotional -- and Winnie Chittilappilly can vouch for that from her experience. But the steadfast food safety officer-cum-veterinary surgeon chased her dream to be thinner and her weight loss journey was only arduous and strenuous as she never had a magic pill to shed extra kilos.
Hers is a story of immense dedication, hard work and zeal as she fought odds to reverse the weighing scale from an uncomfortable 106kg to an ambitious 65kg. Importantly, the weight loss has given her immense happiness and confidence. Now she doesn’t have to worry about a society that used to indulge in body-shaming with insensitive remarks.
In a free-wheeling chat with Onmanorama, Winnie shares her strategic ways of dealing with obesity and eventually managed to shed 41 kilos from her body.
The fattest in the class
I had always been an overweight child and was the fattest in my class. No wonder I was the butt of a joke right from school days. But I have only enjoyed them. While on the bus I had been an easy target for my friends who would tease me by asking whether I were comfortable in just one seat.
My marriage was fixed soon after I completed my graduation in veterinary science and at that time I weighed 92kg. Just before the wedding I was able to shed 20kg but after marriage, it was back to square one as binge eating triggered a weight gain. Interestingly, my husband had no qualms about me gaining weight, and in fact bought for me all my favourite snacks. Occasionally my mother would give that scornful comment: "How boring physique you have/" But I remained cool, straightened my hair and coloured the locks and enjoyed life to its fullest.
Strikes a century
I loved junk food a lot and found them irresistible. My social circles so greatly influenced my unhealthy eating habits that I did not realise when I crossed the 3-digit mark and my weight stood at 106 kg. Even then I did not experience health problems. So I did not find any solid reason to think about dieting.
A remark that proved to be the game changer
Three years ago when I was the nodal Food Safety Officer in Ernakulam (currently working as Food Safety Officer in Paravoor circle) a nutraceutical company approached me for a licence. At that time I was 36 and weighed 103kg. They had a couple of weight loss products which they asked me to try out. My mom also asked to give it a try. When I went to the centre I realised they were protein mix shakes and were highly expensive. The company assured me that their product would help cut my extra flab without losing micronutrients. I only need to follow the dietary plan, the officials said.
Back in my office, I discussed my plans to start using the protein product with my commissioner. My sir immediately asked, "Winnie, it's only a matter of changing your food habits and you can very well cut down your calories. Why do you need to consume such powders?" Honestly, I was overwhelmed by the remark. It kindled my motivation to set out on a journey towards a weight-loss goal. Though protein supplements appear to be safe, I felt protein intake in excess might harbour the risk of causing kidney overload. I gave serious thought to changing my food habits by including green gram and nuts for the daily requirement of protein.
On a challenge
I made up my mind to do a self-experiment on weight-loss strategy. The first thing I did was to go to the nutraceutical company to inform them that I was not interested in pursuing their weight loss product. Soon came a comment from an official: "Madam you can never get back to shape without our product." That was more like a challenge for me. I was determined to go ahead keeping in mind the previous experience of shedding 20 kilos during my marriage. So I was pretty confident that with dedicated effort and strong willpower I could touch the victory mark.
From three-digit to two-digit mark
I embarked on the weight-loss journey in 2017. In the mornings I will have a mug of sugar-free turmeric milk. Then I move on to munching almonds and walnuts, two each, and a few raisins, but no cashew nuts. There are many who advise to blindly gobble up salads for weight loss. But that will never help bring down your belly fat. So I have a fairly less amount of salad. By 11.30 am I will start feeling hungry. So I take a small box of nuts and raisins to office to have one or two of them when fatigue or hunger becomes unbearable. I completely avoided rice on my lunch menu. Instead, I have a cup of green moong sprouts with grated coconut sprinkled with pepper and a pinch of salt. In the evening I have another glass of milk but without turmeric along with one date. Initially, it was hard to stick to the diet regime, but gradually it started showing results. The calories dropped and the weighing scale which was at 106kg came down to 104kg and then to 100kg and finally to 99kg. Nothing could beat the joy of attaining the two-digit mark after two weeks. It was more than an accomplishment that doubled my confidence. By then I had strictly avoided carbohydrates from the menu.
Workout begins with latching the door
I am a very lazy person in doing workouts. So, I started off with routine jobs such as bending down to bolt the door of my bedroom at night. There are two bolts - one at the top and the other at the bottom. In the morning I stoop down again to unfasten the lower bolt. That was my first exercise. I kneel down to pick unwanted paper bits, if any, lying on the floor. Apart from such small tricks, I practised moderate stretching exercises and 'soorya namaskaram' (sun salutation). Dancing has been my passion. I have been learning dance since childhood. So I started practising dance when I attained 85 kilograms, not to burn the fat for that matter but out of pleasure and to gain positive energy. At 85kg, I gradually shifted to the normal diet regime by including small portions of rice. Now I have reached a stage that it is not possible to overeat even if I feel so. But I keep going on with regular exercise sessions and finally, I reached the magical milestone of 65kg!
Now my stomach size has reduced considerably, which means having small portions of food is more than filling. Occasionally I indulge in my cravings. But the sad part is I am not able to gulp them in the same quantity I used to.
The happiest part of being slim is that now it is possible to pick trendy readymade clothing and that too of my taste. Earlier, I could only wear stitched outfits.
People are now surprised at my makeover. They react with strange questions like if I had been going through some treatment sessions such as chemotherapy, for that matter.
People who had once advised me to control my diet are now resenting over the fact that I have become too slim. "Earlier you had the face of an apple, and see how you have changed," they would taunt. My weight loss also surprised my best friend's mother who always rebuked me when I gorged myself. Recently when I met her she was shocked at "my pathetic look". "Sad that a girl who looked like an actress had to end up like this," she said. But my friends are supportive and are all praise for my makeover. They say it is nothing less than an achievement even if it has eaten into the glamour quotient. Above all, I am contented that the transformation has been a source of motivation for many.
Great achievement, says husband; mom wants my old face on new structure
"Oh dear, I never expected to see you in a bony figure," was my husband's reaction after the weight loss. In the initial days of our marriage, he would say his dream was to lift up his wife in his arms. "Sadly, that is never going to happen in our case, eIse I would end up with a broken backbone," he used to say lightly. But now he says I have grown so slim and skinny that my bones are poking into his body. Yet, he is all praise for "the big achievement" and advises me to let go all the negative comments about my facial changes. After the massive weight loss, my mom, however, wants my old face back on the new figure. I would laugh and tell her it is not possible to cut down excess weight in a specific region of the body alone.
I was transferred to Paravoor from the Ernakulam office. Recently I had to go back to my head office in Ernakulam. There I saw an official with the nutraceutical company enquiring the clerk about 'the fat madam" who worked there. His eyes almost popped out when the staff told him that it was the very same madam whom he had met only a few minutes ago. "Oh my God.Unbelievable!" he reacted. "Sir, it was not because of your product but madam's sheer hard work and dedication that brought about the makeover," the clerk was quick to add. But I could see the official reiterating the benefits and quality of his product to the clerk.