Nothing but spicy lemonade for 10 consecutive days. A two-week juice cleanse therapy. Seven days of eating 16 jars of baby food a day. Chewing a litre of ice daily.
What is it about quick-fix diets that turn even the most rational adults into pill-popping ninnies? What makes us even consider bizarre, outlandish regimens that would quite easily rank infinity on the crazy scale (we refer here to the tapeworm diet which, honestly, is best left unexplained)?
Celebrities are often the poster boys and girls of weight-loss fads. Bollywood actress Kajol, for example, apparently ate only almonds in the lead-up to My Name is Khan. And while shooting for Tees Maar Khan, Katrina Kaif reportedly survived on a broccoli-only diet.
Hoping to have washboard abs, Bipasha Basu ate nothing but oranges for three days before shooting her bikini scene in Dhoom 2. Then, actor Imran Khan didn’t drink water for two whole days before shooting a shirtless scene in I Hate Luv Stories to avoid the bloated look.
Some may label it madness. But the ugly, unforgiving pressure to look good on-screen can make most celebs do all this. And more.
Still, not all of Bollywood’s leading men and women are fans (read: victims) of fad diets. A few years ago, in 2009, actress Kareena Kapoor Khan famously went from weighing 68kg to 49kg. She must be surely starving herself, guessed celeb watchers. But Kareena’s weight loss secret was quite simple: according to her nutritionist, Rujuta Diwekar, also author of three bestselling books on weight loss, she had been ‘eating herself thin’.
‘Discipline, dedication and a completely holistic diet plan lay behind Kareena’s transformation,’ says Rujuta. ‘She came to me in 2007 and the first thing she told me was that she loved to eat and didn’t want to give up her pizzas and pastas. I told her she wouldn’t have to, and that I won’t be putting her on a lettuce-a-day sort of diet either.’
Instead, the nutritionist introduced the star to four principles of eating right: never wake up to tea or coffee, but eat fruits or nuts within 15 minutes of rising; eat small meals every two hours; meal sizes should depend on activity levels; and eat your last meal at least two hours before bedtime.
If Kareena ever ran into trouble, she could call, message or e-mail Rujuta, who would guide her back to culinary safety. In fact, Kareena recently quipped that her husband – actor Saif Ali Khan – has only one other woman on speed dial: Rujuta.
‘The short-term side effects of starvation diets include a plateaued-off weight loss, muscle loss and irritability,’ says Rujuta. ‘The long-term side effects include accelerated ageing and increased risk to critical organs. Eating locally sourced, nourishing foods and small, frequent meals is the only diet secret you need to know.’
This is not a revolutionary theory in the world of nutrition, but to carb-starved people who have struggled through a spate of fad diets to lose weight, it makes Rujuta a saviour of sorts.
Fellow celebrity nutritionist Pooja Makhija, who boasts her own bevy of hotshot clients, including Deepika Padukone, Ranbir Kapoor, Sonam Kapoor and Sushmita Sen, also agrees that fad diets are little more than smoke and mirrors that won’t do much to permanently haul you out of weight gain. ‘Starvation diets are a sure-shot way to fail at losing weight,’ she says. ‘They’re just not sustainable. And if a programme is not sustainable, the results will not be sustainable either. Regular eating is the only path to a fit, healthy body.’
To illustrate this point, she quotes the example of Sonam Kapoor, who lost a whopping 35kg before making her debut in Saawariya. While the actress managed to lose the initial bulk on her own, she eventually hit a snag.
‘When Sonam came to me, she had two problems,’ says Pooja. ‘One, she was having trouble shedding those last stubborn five to seven kilos, and two, she had deposits of fat she was unhappy with. At the time, some of her eating habits were completely wrong and we had to work on breaking those.’
The dietician introduced Sonam to the same plan that not only helped her sustainably shed those last few kilos, but also went on to help actress Vidya Balan lose almost 12kg before she started shooting for The Dirty Picture.
‘Excess sugar and excess fat are the two culprits you need to stay away from,’ says Pooja. ‘Most people will eat a small cupcake or a muffin and compensate by skipping carbs at lunch – they’ll opt for a soup or a salad instead.
‘But you need a diet balanced in essential carbs, proteins and fat to lose weight. So keep the bread or rice in your lunch and skip the cupcake or muffin instead. Eat balanced, reasonable portions and you’ll start seeing results in a few weeks.
‘Acne, pimples, body odour, dandruff and hair fall are all tell-tale signs of eating wrong. Eating right may be hard work, but is worth it.’
Alia Bhatt is another example of a Bollywood starlet who has had experience with weight loss. After her audition for the lead role in Student of the Year, director Karan Johar made it very clear – he would consider her for the part only if she dropped 20kg.
Trainers and nutritionists like (clockwise from above) Prashant Sawant, Payal Gidwani Tiwari, Pooja Makhija and Rujuta Diwekar are the stars who make looking good possible in Tinseltown.
Of course, Alia succeeded and Karan got his flawlessly toned female lead. But how did she get there? Intensive weight training, supplemented by cardio, says her trainer Prashant Sawant, who offers a 12-week high-intensity interval training programme specifically designed to stimulate weight loss. He also trains Shah Rukh Khan and Ajay Devgn, and is responsible for making both actors look fitter – at 50 and 47 respectively – than they did in their 20s.
‘I train my clients for a minimum of four times a week through 45-minute sessions,’ Prashant says. ‘During these periods, we train non-stop and there are no distractions. Shah Rukh and Ajay’s workouts are gruelling mixed workouts including circuit training. They are also designed to boost their cardiovascular systems, since they’re both over 40.’
As per stereotypes, actors tend to lose their shine once they’re past their prime, but stars like Saif Ali Khan, Shah Rukh Khan and Ajay Devgn are fitter now.
Prashant also carefully maps out their diet plans to ensure they get the maximum nutrition from what they eat. Balanced meals prevent the body from breaking down muscle to produce the energy required for rigorous workouts. He also often travels with Shah Rukh and Ajay during out-of-town shoots to ensure their hectic schedules don’t stand in the way of their fitness. ‘I’m lucky because neither is a foodie,’ says Prashant. But another client, Priyanka Chopra, is.
‘I worked with Priyanka to prepare her for Mary Kom. She is a foodie, so I had to make sure everything she was eating during those months was very nutritious.
‘In addition, she followed a high-protein high-carb diet to supplement our daily one-hour training sessions. I put her through intensive weight training, boosted by cardio, and included boxing as well to give her the right tone.’
But intensive weight training and cardio is not every celebrity’s cup of tea. Some prefer to swap hours at the gym for time on the yoga mat. Celebrity yoga guru and author of From XL to XS Payal Gidwani Tiwari, together with her husband Manish Tiwari, has thinned down a fair share of celebs such as Kareena, Saif, Sridevi, Boney Kapoor, Rani Mukerji, Farhan Akhtar, Jacqueline Fernandez and Malaika Arora Khan.
‘Yoga is the only form of working out that can make you look younger,’ says Payal. ‘It initially builds flexibility and stamina, and in time, weight loss follows.
‘Asanas help in correcting posture, body toning, relieving stress and increasing energy levels, while pranayams help improve breathing rate and get rid of excessive fat. They are also the best cure for digestive problems. Kriyas help in cleansing the body of unwanted toxins.’
In addition to Rujuta’s eating right techniques, Kareena has said that yoga is another reason for her weight loss.
‘Kareena typically begins with warm-ups, followed by surya namaskars – sun salutation regime – followed by a series of postures,’ Payal explains. ‘She generally does 50 surya namaskars per session, and sometimes 100 with variations.’
But, Payal warns, while 50 or 100 surya namaskars may be great, you have to work your way up to them. According to her, it’s better to do five surya namaskars perfectly than to do 50 completely wrong.
In fact, all of Bollywood’s favourite dieticians and trainers say that while weight loss can be exasperating, you don’t have to shun an entire food group or brave absurd diet frontiers to succeed. If you’re still wondering, remember where the advice is coming from, and who it has unarguably benefited.
The secret is eating frequent reasonably sized meals and working out a few times a week. It may take a while to work, but the results could be long-lasting.
In the meantime, if you chance upon the cotton ball diet, just walk away.