She's the quintessential Prevention woman who took charge of her weight, health and came out looking fabulous! The actress speaks about her health routine.
Peshawarls love rich food, how do you deal with your genes?
We are from Peshawar-a city where rich food and eating with abandon are
a way of life. I am very proud of my roots. But I realised it is neither healthy nor practical to live that way. Being an actor, I cannot afford to be sloppy. I need to be healthy all year round. Of course, having a health-conscious mother has been a blessing. She's always made sure we ate , wholesome meals, and as a family, we avoid overeating.
So how did you end up putting on weight?
I was in a boarding school in Singapore for two year and somehow put on a lot of weight while I was there. Since I never planned on a film career, I neglected my diet and put on so much weight.
You when did you decide to lose weight?
I would have continued being obese and unhealthy but for director Sanjay Leela Bhansali. I started assisting him on Black, and one day out of the blue he asked me to take up acting. Acting in films means having a fit body. So I started working on my weight. Eventually he offered me Saawariya. But to set the record straight, I had actually started los¬ing weight before I was offered any film.
Tell us about your battle plan?
In all fairness, it was my mother who helped me get rid of my excess weight.
The first thing she did was to keep me off the stuff I was so fond of as a teenager-chocolates, ice creams, fried foods and sweets. My goal , was to lose 35 kilos.
I started weight training with trainers Shervir and Monisha; artistic yoga and Power Yoga with Bharat Thakur; Pilates with Yasmin Karachi¬wala and general fitness with trainer Zarine Watson. My training in Kathak helped me too. It's a vigorous form of classical dance and helps you get a toned body.
In addition, Zarine put me on six small meals a day-low on carbs and high on protein. My breakfast consisted of oatmeal and fruits. Post-work-out, I had brown bread with egg whites. Afterwards, it was a protein shake with juice. Lunch comprised dal, sabzi, one ragi roti, salad and a piece of chicken or fish. The evening snack, was high-fibre crackers with chicken cold cuts or egg whites. At dinner, it was soup, salad and a piece of chicken or fish. I followed this routine for a year and lost 35 kilos in all!
How do you keep healthy?
I never binge and eat everything in moderation. Also, I never ignore my cravings. I eat whenever a craving strikes, but in small portions. When I felt like chocolates three weeks ago, I didn't hold back, I took a small piece. When I'm traveling I carry an apple or sandwich or health bars to satisfy myself without piling on excess calories.
My grandmother taught me to sip on warm water first thing in the morning. It flushes out toxins from the system. I follow it up with honey and lime water. Another must for me is a 'no smoking' atmosphere, at home, work or in public places.
A lot of people still think starving can help you stay slim.
Yeah, looking at my figure people often assume that I don't eat much. On the contrary, I eat every two hours. Since my day is packed with strenuous physi¬cal activity-shooting, swimming or dancing-I never allow myself to go hungry for too long. If I feel peckish I snack on nuts and dry fruits.
Drinking plenty of fluids through the day is also a must for me. I drink coconut water every hour or two; it not only quenches my thirst but also helps me feel fun. Other natural drinks such as cucumber juice and buttermilk also help me stay hydrated and keep my energy levels up.
I am quite particular about avoiding fried foods and sweets. Salt and sugar are silent killers so I consume both in moderation by switching to natural sugars and seasoning in my food.
What's your Fitness Routine?
I was very sporty in school and played rugby, basketball and other games regu¬larly. This has helped me develop flexibil¬ity to step in and out of different exercise routines with ease. I feel cardiovascular exercises work best for me in combination with weight training. Each day of the week I focus on a particular body part, such as the abdomen, arms, shoulders or waist.
I do 30 minutes of cardio every day. Two days a week I follow it up with dance exercises learnt from Ashley Lobo. On other days I practice Bharat Thakur's Power Yoga. It is very strenuous but has immense health benefits. In summer, I like to swim as much as I can. Whenever I get the time, I play squash too, which requires a lot of strength. I try to do different workouts and balance them out in order to keep my motivation high; plus mixing exercises helps burn more calories.
What are your learnings from your weight-loss journey?
Erratic work schedules often make maintaining your weight difficult. But its possible as long as you eat healthy every day and work out a bit daily. Also its important to undergo a medical check-up to ensure that you havn't put on weight due to a medical condition.
What's next on your Agenda?
I thought I had slimmed down enough but my father got me a fat-free, sugar-free cake on my birthday this year, just to remind me that I am in an industry full of female actors who are slimmer than me! I know I need to be on top of my weight. Not because I am vain, because I have reached a stage when I cannot be anything but healthy!
Sonam's food diary
An egg white omlette, a toast, a seasonal fruit, a glass of warm water. When bored with this, I try an idli, or poha.
Chicken, rotis, a seasonal vegetable, curd and fruits. I try to avoid red meat. Once in a blue moon, I do have white rice too. My rotis are made of bajra, bran or jowar or any low grade protein-rich wheat. I also have a few cups of tea without sugar through the day.
What time I eat dinner is more important than what I eat. I usually have it by 6:30 pm. On most days it is a veg/chicken sandwich, salad and may be some crispy French fries (but not too many!). I also enjoy fish- grilled or cooked in a Spartan gravy. If I still feel hungry then I end my day with a glass of soya milk or a protein shake before going to bed. In addition, I take multi-vitamins.