Weighty battle at sixty

I exercised like mad, ran in the morning, swam in the evening and lived on salads.

World War I lasted for five years and so did World War II, give or take a few months. But my personal weighty war is celebrating its 60th anniversary.

It was in 1955 that I appeared for the National Defence Academy at the age of 16. I sailed through the written, psychological and physical performance tests before being sent to Delhi for my medical tests. All was going well and I went smiling into the office of the CMO (Chief Medical officer) to receive a positive verdict. My jaw dropped when he declared me unfit for being overweight and gave me this parting advice.

“Young man, when you go back home, don’t steal the puddings from your siblings’ plates; stick to your own. If you lose weight in six months, I will take you in”. What was a joke for him was heartburn for me. I went back after six months and was cleared to join the Academy. My flabbiness cost me six months of seniority.

There was no question of putting on weight during the cadets training unless you were ready to front roll on hard pebbly grounds. Later, I got commissioned as an officer and gradually began to relax a bit, not worrying much about the calorie count of an occasional Patiala peg.

In 1974, when I was posted to Bangalore, I found that my stomach entered a room before I did. I came across this wonderful straightforward tip: “Weight gain or loss is like your bank balance. The more you deposit and the lesser you draw, you have a fatter bank balance.”

I became my own ‘Calories Counter’; I exercised like mad, ran in the morning, swam in the evening and lived on salads and brought my weight down from 83 kgs to 70 kgs. Then, I fell down flat one not-so-fine a morning while getting up from the bed.

Doctors told me I was acutely malnourished and advised me to eat more and cut down exercise to regain weight. I reversed the cycle, transited from the uniform world to the civvy streets, and slowly but surely gained inches around my waist to remain in the 80-kg range.

Again, I restated my war with calories and joined a gym. The trainer worked out my training schedule and the dietician my diet, with one precondition imposed by me that a Patiala peg in the evening was non-negotiable. I kept the schedule to the last word.

Gradually, I lost weight and had chest-waist ratios that everyone admired. My BMI was perfect and my weight went back to square one. Recently I attended a meditation course where the guruji, in one of his lectures, gave us a tip to eat only when hungry and stop when three-quarters full. I came back and shared these pearls of wisdom with my wife.

Her response: “This is what I have been telling you all my life but you always replied in some Churchillian way. Any free advice is fatal. What have all these paid advices done for you?” Sixty years on, the war continues. But, as a warrior, I am determined to win this war.
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