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.