Brownies are brown bread - my experiments with dieting

Warning: longish post

I was quite chubby as a kid. My mom used to explain it off by saying that it was thanks to the full cream and good quality of milk and Swiss chocolate abroad. Kids would rib me on this. I even remember a teacher who used to call me ‘baby elephant’. I once won some special prize in the ‘healthy baby category’.

I did yoga when I was ten and some sort of sanity was brought into my diet – four rotis instead of ten parathas, one instead of four samosas in the evening, a dab of ketchup versus a bowl – and I soon shed most of what was politely called baby fat.

I was fairly skinny through school. College posed another problem where a number of girls, and their mothers (!), felt I was too thin and gangly and would keep exhorting me to put on weight. That’s Bengal for you. I actually used to have bananas, small packs of peanuts and the odd tiny Cadbury Dairy Milk after exercising to gain weight. No wonder we miss our college days so much.

The next life changing experience happened when I begun working in Calcutta in an office which had exotic evening snacks on the house. Dry fruit milk shakes, masala dosas, mutton rolls, fish fries were like rain in a drought hit area. A big change from college days, when six of us would share a vegetable chop in Pramod da’s canteen at Presidency.

I put on close to ten kilos.

I then shifted to Mumbai where P G (Paying Guest) living, vegetarian dinners at the P G, climbing the bridges in train stations, long walks from Dadar Station to work and later from work to Churchgate Station and then the travails of courtship kept my weight in check.

The dam burst after I married a chocoholic. Moving to our own rented house from the restrictions of a P G, the contentment of marriage and nights of sharing a half kilo truffle cake from Croissants etc, a family pack of ice cream from Snow Bite, 250 g packs of gulab juman from Damodar Sweets and the odd box of Ferrero Rocher between the two of us while watching TV began to show.

That’s when Kainaz came up with the amateur dieter’s favourite, the G M diet. I have often heard people talk about this since then. Listening to them takes me back to our G M diet days – when we went to a movie on the first night with a box of water melons to forget our hunger, when I rustled up a few recipes (slices of potato baked in the micro with a touch of butter, oregano ad chilly flakes and chicken stir fried in soya sauce,no oil, and spring onions, ditto with mushrooms), when I searched for a road side sandwich guy in Nariman Point who had brown bread for the brown bread day and when I politely refused a client invite to a party as it clashed with the last day of the diet!

I did the diet twice. Lost 4.5 kg the first time, 3 the next. Tried twice again. And failed. Kainaz lost far less both times but I believe men lose weight more quickly and I had more weight to lose.

Our next big diet programme was with Dr N. This was a fairly simple plan, no carbs at night, roti or rice on alternate weeks for lunch, sugar free sachets, no limits on meat and oil AND one ‘break’ day where you could eat anything. They had the odd powder stuff too which we had to mix in water and have. We used to really look forward to the break day – biriyani, waffles, ice cream, cake, hakka noodles… we piled it on then. Mutton chaap, pork and potato curries and beef steak from Martins for dinner on other days would help us forget carbs. Good fun.

I lost about seven or eight kilos in close to six months.

And my cholesterol count went for a toss!

I made two other paid attempts to lose weight since then. I gained weight both times as I didn’t really find them practical to follow. And my heart was into dieting anymore.

I was slowly turning into ‘The Knife’.

The first was with a filmi dietitian who sat in the basement of a hair dresser. My ex boss and I used to go there on Saturdays. We were the only two men waiting there for ages amongst a gaggle of matronly aunties.

The key mantra of the diet were no oil and eat EVERY two hours. A great idea. I ate every two hours but I think I strayed a bit from stuff like Marie biscuits which she had in mind. I gained two kilos before I decided to stop.

The last attempt was what still makes my blood boil. It was a monumental waste of a very large sum of money. It was at this cult like organisation where they promised to change your Life through diets, exercise, psychotherapy and technology.

The place was every disorganised and one would waste a whole Sunday morning there. They promised a never before international experience. What one came across was a set of instructors, running around like headless chickens at various levels of disinterest.

There was a dietitian who was good. But the dietitians kept changing and the others didn’t match up to her. And who can have dinner by 8 P M in any case? They also had this thing about counting measures of everything one ate at the end of the day. Now as a market researcher all I can say is that data is useless and unless you get some insights out of it and use it. That didn't happen here and all one got was some exercise from writing it down everyday.

The exercising would aggravate my back and they would give fancy gadgets to count steps while walking which never worked. There was the odd electrode session where one would lay strapped under things that tickled you for half an hour.

And, if one hadn’t suffered enough, there was the life mentor. Clearly the most un-enthused person in the set up. She made me fill a long questionnaire in the first session. She never told me what to do with the results. She would take me to the weighing scales on other days, sigh at my weight gain and shunt me to the next person. So much for the life changing psychological counselling!

She did try a bit of shrinking after I pestered her about it. She asked me to imagine my favourite pastry (Birdy’s New York pastry) and then imagine that it had turned red. She then asked me whether I’d still eat it? I said I would as it was probably a cherry cheese cake.

I think she was meant to say that it was covered with blood.

We were mutually happy to see each other’s back when the programme ended.

The experience was life changing as promised.

I moved away from organised diets for ever.

The Knife was born.


Sharmila said…
Honestly I do not believe in dieting ... do not like the idea of depriving oneself of something one loves to eat. I believe in moderation ... have everything ... in decent amounts ... and make sure you burn them. That's all. :-)
Kalyan Karmakar said…
I guess it is a question of setting your objectives. When i used to gym I had made it very clear that I want to be fit but not Salman exercises would be according to that.

Similarly, unless one wants to be Kareena K or, now Saif, moderation is the best way, sepcially as one grows old

The irony of life is that one can eat anything without it showing when one's in college...but one can't afford it then
Scarlett said…
Whoa! This post strikes a chord & how! When I read the first couple of paragraphs, I wanted to ask you just how "healthy" a baby you were? Ten parathas & four samosas a day would make a "more than healthy" baby! :D

Then I read the rest of your post & I was bursting with things to say!

So you've tried the GM Diet too! I did it for the first time last week & lost 2 kgs. I cheated a little b/c it was so difficult to stick to. I stuck to about 80% of the diet. Had I followed it religiously, my guess is I would've lost clost to 3 kgs. But you're right, guys lose more weight through the GM Diet than women. Atleast that's what I've observed in my office where the GM Diet is currently the rage.

Dr N's diet sounds more sane & sustainable. I'm planning to try something close to it - staying away from carbs at night & increasing my intake of protein. No eating out on weekdays & ordering sensibly even when I eat out on weekends.

I too have tried the cult organization thing. I spent 8k & they promised me a loss of 8kgs but needless to say, it was a colossal waste of money. For one, the place shut at 7pm so I couldn't make it half the time. They would strap me to heating pads or machines that make you vibrate. I'd lose 100-150 gms in every session - which was probably loss of water but they recorded it as "weight loss". And if my weight was even 100gms when I went there next, they would make me go back home & not come back till I managed to lose that extra 100gms! And once they called me & threatened to cancel my membership b/c I couldn't go there for about 3 weeks due to various reasons! These places are such scamsters!!
Pallavi Sharma said…
Hey Kalyan- It was a fantastic coincidence that I bumped into your blog. The postings are fab and so honest.. something about them makes the reader connect to you immediately or atleast I felt that ways. Me and my husband have just moved to Bandra, Mumbai from New York and being totally new to Mumbai.. i was looking for more info about places to eat etc in Bandra..unfortunately not much organized info is given on the net and unlike my intial belief the neighbors are not as friendly as I had imagined Indian neighbors to be :(.. so well I bumped into your blog and this was full of so much info on places, food etc :) Infact I totally enjoyed your latest post on Diet and other fads to lose weight.. ( Almost thought you were referring to me in those posts as I ve had similar experiences ) So in short- love your blog and you have found a new reader :) Keep writing . Thanks- Pallavi
Anand said…
Much the same story here - got used to eating well in Calcutta and then realised that different rules apply when you're out of college.

What do you do now to lose weight? I've found running/ cycling on weekdays with a break (food and exercise-wise) on weekends works best.
Anonymous said…
Story of my life!!! I hate dieting but i continue to do so....i have reached that point as yet where i will snap....and say no off dieting!!!

k said…
in the words of the wise garfield "Diet is Die with a T" :)
RJ said…
Hey Kalyan,

Diets could work if you are serious about it.. I started one in Jan this year, and have so far lost about 25 pounds.. I don't starve myself.. Just eat healthy and exercise regularly.. And I eat a ton of protein.. grilled, not fried usually, and watch the amount of rice I eat.. If you are serious about shedding the pounds, I would suggest reading a book called Body for Life by Bill Phillips.. short read.. could take about four hours to read the book.. but I does work if you put your mind to it..

Pinku said…
brilliant..needless to say been there, done that as far as fancy diets go....with the frantic lifestyle agencylife ensures....being able to eat at hours considered that of lunch and dinner is an achievement...forget what you are putting into ur mouth.
Rhea said…
Okay, the picture you have of rolls on your blog is making me collect pails of drool from the carpet. It looks awesome! N is pure torture.. :(
Kalyan Karmakar said…
thanks everyone for writing in. I want to respond at length which i cant do from the phone. Was busy with a presentation last night and down with fever now so off the comp. Rhea, these are from a roll shop in M, Ranjeet you are absolutely right, pallavi welcome to bandra and pepper ur qns to me at more later
Sonia said…
All the mouth watering food details and all.
I am hooked to your blog.
I can relate to most of your posts esp this one. I tried the GM diet too and had plans to join one of the weight loss centres to shed those extra pounds. I am thinkiong otherwise now though after reading all your experiences here
Kalyan Karmakar said…
Scarlett... what makes Dr N's very attractive and practical is the break day. just go easy on red meats. Helps if you like fish which I don't. They also suggested having fruits at night and I used to stuff myself with paps and w m's after dinner, later heard those are carbs
Anand _ i don't :) Well I walk by the sea when my back holds up and try to have moderate portions. My wife's gone off sweets. That helpd.
Kaus...I am already there
Kalyan Karmakar said…
Pinku...true you have to be really motivated and even then might not be possible. Simple portion control might be the best idea

Sonia...well, none of them seem to be long terms so smaller quantities and some exercise might work

Anyway difficult to motivate oneself when one's a foodie and just about 5-6 kilos above
Kalyan Karmakar said…
Julius Ceaser wanted to leave a comment but didn't know how to use the net. He says "Let me have men about me that are fat, Sleek-headed men, and such as sleep o’ nights: Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look; He thinks too much: such men are dangerous."
Scarlett said…
@The Knife - Most dieticians advice staying away from fruits after 7pm as they're high in sugar. Fruits can be quite deceiving - my grandmom was asked to lose weight so she cut down on a lot of fatty stuff & was consuming a lot of fruits, mainly papaya & watermelons, for months. Turned out to be a major blunder - the fruits gave her diabetes!!
Kalyan Karmakar said…
diets can be quite destructive...the same Dr N's no restrictions on red meat and oil (borrowed from Atkins) shot up my cholesterol
I am... said… the Last experience related to Kaya Life...sounds familiar!!
Manasi said…
I just explain it away by saying now there is more of me to love. Honestly though, I don't think diets work. I think a healthy understanding of what our bodies need, an active lifestyle with some excercise factored in and guiltfree indulgence of the ocassional treat will get your further than any diet. And, what awesome kati rolls...
Kalyan Karmakar said…
Hey 'I am', welcome aboard. The blog has made about 4 USD on Google Sense so far. So won't risk a suit. But let me say that you are very profound.

Manasi - bang on target. Kainaz's mama often tells us this. Anyway most diets can't be sustained beyond a point. Makes more sense to eat naturally. Unless of course you are really obese and it is health issue.

I believe that there is a Kathi Roll place run by a Bengali couple in NYC