Delectable aromas of deep-fried onion fritters, ghee-laden curries and creamy caramel custard fill the sea-facing Juhu residence of Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty Kundra on Sunday evenings. There is a feast going on and what is on offer is every dieter’s worst nightmare. On the dinner table are the choicest Indian dishes like biryanis, fried fish and some five varieties of desserts, all packed with calories.
Before you roll your eyes and begin to wonder if you’re in the right house – considering that Shilpa has become an icon as far as fitness and healthy eating is concerned over the years – the celebrity with an hourglass figure admits that Sunday is her cheat day. ‘It’s that day when the Kundra family eats pretty much anything our heart desires. We love food and allow ourselves to binge on Sundays.’
On other days, the leggy beauty, who celebrated her 41st birthday nearly two months ago, follows a well-balanced diet that consists of wholegrain rotis, fruits, home-made vegetarian dishes, soups, oats and red rice. ‘I am very conscious about what I eat and frequently cook healthy meals for myself and my family,’ the actress tells Friday.
And her effort shows. Her skin is flawless, her hair lustrous and she does not have any extra ounce of flab on her body. It’s clear that her demanding career, both on- and off-screen, marriage and motherhood have not had any effect on the way she looks.
But it is not just what she eats that is responsible for her stunning looks but her exercise regime as well as her emotional well-being that have ensured that wrinkles and frown lines stay at bay.
‘When you are happy inside it shows outside,’ she says. ‘But you have to eat healthy to look radiant.’
Having made her debut in one of Bollywood’s biggest blockbusters, Baazigar, more than two decades ago, Shilpa has become a permanent fixture in the glamour world. All credit goes to her for having reinvented herself time and again. From actress to fitness icon, businesswoman and reality dance show judge, she wears many hats effortlessly, and after a successful innings in Bollywood, Shilpa found international fame when she won the British reality television show, Celebrity Big Brother 5 in 2007.
Since the win, she has established herself as a successful entrepreneur. As a fitness icon, she released her yoga DVDs to great success and opened a chain of spas and salons called Iosis (she co-owns the brand with wellness specialist Kiran Bawa). Last year, she also launched the multichannel shopping network Best Deal TV, with Bollywood superstars Akshay Kumar and Sonakshi Sinha, and her husband Raj Kundra, who she married in 2009.
That’s not all. Shilpa’s dancing chops came in handy when she made an entry as a celebrity judge on Indian dance reality shows Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa and Nach Baliye. And in late 2015, she channelised her fitness spirit into the book The Great Indian Diet, which she co-authored with international fitness expert Luke Coutinho.
But it is yoga that has remained an integral part of her life. Shilpa’s tryst with the wellness discipline began 15 years ago when she was diagnosed with cervical spondylitis. ‘At that time, yoga helped me strengthen my neck and over time, as I went deeper into understanding and practising yoga, it helped me change the way I looked at life,’ she says.
‘Yoga creates great balance between mind, body and soul.’
Shilpa adds that the yogic way of breathing alone can cure several ailments and is the perfect stressbuster. ‘Practising yoga has made me more disciplined and calmer, and helped to deal with life’s stresses.’
Shilpa’s yoga routine involves 40 minutes of asanas and 15 minutes of breathing exercises five times a week. Her favourite asanas include naukasana, virabhadrasana, padottanasana, bhujangasana and marichyasana. ‘They actually depend on how I am feeling on a day and what parts of my body I want to focus on,’ she says.
Her DVD, Shilpa’s Yoga, released in 2008 is as much a blockbuster as some of her films. But although the world has always seen Shilpa’s fit avatar, there was a time in her life when she was out of shape – when she was pregnant with Viaan in 2012. She gained 32kg, thanks to the fatty sweets and high-calorie food her family lovingly prepared for her.
Shilpa says that those days, she felt like a half extra. ‘It was frustrating, dealing with all that extra weight, an alteration in body image and all the changes that pregnancy brings along with it. I did let go during that time. I thought I would do everything the old-fashioned way, and so I ate and put on more weight than I should have,’ she writes The Great Indian Diet.
One day, seven months after the birth of Viaan, while bending down to pick him up she realised that even this simple task was difficult for her with her weight. That was when she vowed to get back in shape.
Starting with simple workouts such as walking and cycling, she slowly began weight training under a trainer, and in four months, lost 28kg. ‘I did lots of cardio, free weights and yoga four times a week and ate a well-balanced diet,’ she says. ‘I also alternated my eating habits – low carbohydrates to no carbohydrates every other day.’ This journey of weight loss occurred while she was shooting for Nach Baliye, so her kilos dropped in public view on a weekly basis.
The actress’ post-pregnancy diet included aloe vera juice, and a cup of oats or two eggs with wholewheat toast for breakfast, fresh fruits at mid day, brown rice with vegetables or grilled fish at lunch, and soups and lentil pancakes for dinner.
Shilpa believes that a weight loss programme has to be 70 per cent diet and 30 per cent exercise, along with a positive frame of mind. Her inspiration to pen a book on healthy eating habits was a result of the growing obsession among people with losing weight rather than being healthy.
In this regard, The Great Indian Diet emphasises the goodness of locally sourced food, and the nutritional benefits of Indian herbs and spices. ‘I wanted people to realise that they can lose weight without resorting to fad diets,’ says Shilpa. ‘Through the book, I also wanted to talk about the goodness of Indian spices.’
The book has chapters on foods to avoid, components of Indian food, benefits of healthy fats, tips on losing weight with an Indian diet as well as lots of healthy Indian recipes. The book launch last November was a star-studded event attended by Bollywood bigwigs like Amitabh Bachchan, Anil Kapoor and Varun Dhawan. ‘Through the book we’ve tried to break the misconception that Indian food is fattening,’ says Shilpa. In fact, an Indian diet is totally balanced and has all the essential nutrients to help people lead a healthy life.
‘Our spices have deep-rooted benefits too. Turmeric, for instance, is anti-fungal and anti-bacterial and can even fight dangerous diseases such as cancer. Cinnamon is good for diabetics and we all know the digestive properties of asafoetida.’
As a doting mother and wife, Shilpa takes a keen interest in the food habits of her husband Raj and four-year-old Viaan. She has inculcated healthy eating habits in her son, which means no junk food and aerated drinks. According to Shilpa Viaan has never eaten a pack of chips! Instead she feeds him home-made fries sprinkled with salt, chilli and turmeric.
‘Raj loves food, and there is nothing wrong with that,’ Shilpa writes in the book. ‘I love good food too, but we have learnt to find a balance… I would rather have a ras malai (cottage cheese dumplings poached in sweetened milk) rather than a gulab jamun, which is deep-fried in ghee and soaked in sugar syrup.
‘I completely understand that it is difficult to not indulge, considering we are constantly surrounded by delicious food, but it is important to manage your diet well.’
A regular at Bollywood events, Shilpa makes heads turn not only with her svelte figure but also her flawless skin and thick long hair. Often seen sporting chic designer wear, she believes in using minimal make-up. ‘I never use soap on my face,’ she says. ‘To remove make-up I use baby oil and cleanser and later make sure to apply vitamin-E oil and moisturiser.’
Shilpa’s favourite beauty brands are NARS, Make Up For Ever, Shu Uemura, Bobbi Brown, Estée Lauder and Chanel.
To her millions of fans, Shilpa says is that it is never too late to make a lifestyle modification. ‘Start today and stay positive always.’