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As A Teen, I Struggled With Self-Esteem Issues. Today, I Run My Own Fitness Challenge

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I grew up in a typical fauji middle-class family where strong values, discipline, fitness and education is of utmost importance.

Yet, growing up I was quite a plump child, low on self-esteem and confidence. Though my parents nudged me to get more active and play outside instead of being a couch potato, I would ignore their efforts to be a fitter me. Somewhere deep within, I felt deeply ‘unlikeable’ and believed anything I did would not make a difference.

Eventually at age 15, I became determined to lose weight for good. I drastically reduced my food intake. I would go for long walks and also do my own version of exercises.

Yes, I lost weight and became very thin. However, I also lost the glow on my face and the lustre of my curly, thick hair. I became very irritable, had constant headaches and experienced my fair share of injuries.

My first marathon – very poor endurance and posture, but running with the crowd, supporting each other was amazing. There was no looking back since then!

Within a year, I gained back all the weight I lost, and this became a turning point in my life.

I began questioning – what is the point of losing weight if it makes me sad, irritable, physically weak?

I decided to try again but pledged to do it right this time. I started studying about fitness and was also guided by my parents. My father who’s in the Indian Air Force and mother, a teacher by profession, both swear by “health is wealth”, and their support really helped.

Slowly exercising became a habit for me. I started looking at each day as an opportunity to be stronger, happier and more focused.

Today, my daily routine consists of an hour and a half of yoga, weight lifting, high-intensity interval workout and running, spread over six days a week!

A mind of my own

On the professional front, I had always dreamed of being a doctor since the age of 4. After Class 12, when it was time to enter a specialisation, I chose Ayurveda as my field of medicine.

My well-wishers advised me against it, and in fact, many thought I had lost my mind when I didn’t pick conventional streams. But I felt very strongly that the depth of traditional medicine deserves to be respected and understood.

Gradually, over a period of five and a half years, being under the guidance of some very inspiring teachers, I found out that Ayurveda was much deeper than just ‘herbal medicines’ and ‘home remedies’. During my course, what also caught my attention was the number of women and children in their teens, unhappy with their body, having low-esteem and wanting to lose weight, but all this in order to please others, never for their own happiness.

This made me realise the importance of mental health, and I did a post graduation in counselling and psychotherapy, which gave me a completely new perspective on understanding others.

Choosing good health

Post marriage, I was on a sabbatical and was looking for ways to apply my knowledge by giving lectures and seminars in different schools and meetings, trying to find my foothold. My husband’s transferable job meant that I had to do this on the move.

That’s when I stumbled upon SHEROES, an amazing all-women platform. I downloaded the app and joined the community closest to my heart – the Health Community, where I began posting little tips and remedies for the benefit of the young women who were obsessed with losing weight.

Engaging every day with so many young women in the community, made me realise the misconceptions and myths about weight loss that ruin our health. So, many of us are hell-bent on becoming thin that we are ready to ignore the physical symptoms of distress our body goes through in the process.

Day 5 of the SHEROES plank challenge. Push up, brush up, show up!

No shortcuts

In the past few years, while practising, I came to understand that there is a lack of patience regarding weight loss.

Everybody wants shortcuts, be it different treatments, medicines or herbal teas and drinks.

I wish to smash these notions and have started writing articles on the benefits of yoga and a good diet, as well as exercising in a safe, effective way.

Additionally, I  respond to posts everyday young girls who open up about their body image issues and are desperate to lose or gain weight. I encourage them to put health and fitness first.

To generate more excitement around fitness, I launched the 21-day plank challenge in the community, and soon other community members started posting their challenge experiences and pictures and asking questions around the proper techniques to do it right.

I am thrilled by these body-positive responses, and hope to continue motivating myself and others about diet, exercise and being fit and healthy.

My first Himalayan trek. The majestic mountains break you, test your willpower at every climb, make your cry. They teach you perseverance and never to quit! You know you’re in the right place the minute you see the humble prayer flags fluttering in the wind.

Feel the strength in you

As I look back at my fitness journey, I’m happy that I have learnt to look for, and appreciate the positive within me; that’s something I am really proud of.

What my body can withstand today, was not possible five years back. And I am still not where I want to be, but every day is a new opportunity to be better and stronger than yesterday.

As a teenager who struggled with self-esteem issues, I want to share a message for all the young girls out there – just feel the strength within you and straighten your crown. Because, you, beautiful woman, are capable of everything you want to be.

Just believe!

About Dr Arundhati Walwadkar:
I’m a passionate Ayurveda doctor, child counsellor, classical dancer, yoga, fitness and swimming enthusiast, a foodie, in love with Calvin and Hobbes, and a die-hard Grey’s Anatomy and F.R.I.E.N.D.S fan.

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