Friday, September 09, 2005

Just say no - to food!

'Thin epidemic strikes SNDT' reports today's Mumbai Mirror. A shocking 60% of students are underweight, a 2004-5 report of the University's dept of Student Welfare says.

I am not surprised. The wanna-be-thin-at-any-cost mania is quite visible all around us. Try shopping at any of the 'happening' boutiques in Bandra or a store like Mango and the message is clear - If you're a size 'S', the whole shop is your oyster. An 'M' has some hope. Beyond that - forget it absolutely.

Thing is, the boutiques import clothes from Thailand and Hong Kong where women are generally petite. And Mango is a European brand. Whereas Indian women - even at their absolutely correct body weight in medical terms - are more curvy. Which is why to carry off clingy Western clothing, underweight is the way to go!

Now some girls may be born skinny, but others achieve skinniness and yet others will do anything to get that way. 'Anything' includes not just saying no to pakodas but skipping meals, or consuming the bare minimum.

And some of these 'girls' really should know better.

Ms Shobhaa De, columnist, commentator on every which issue, marriage and family expert and mother to 4 young ladies in their teens and twenties weighs 52 kilos. At 5 ft 5 1/2 inches that's not exactly 'ideal weight range'. 58 kilos is more like what the doctor ordered.

Shobha De's 'diet'
(as told to Saturday Times):
Breakfast: 5 almonds 1 glass of warm water with tulsi leaves and honey.
1 whole-wheat toast.
1 cup of black tea.

Lunch: 1 glass of fruit lassi OR 1 boiled egg.
WOW - that must be filling!

Evening: 2 Marie biscuits with 1 cup of black tea.

Dinner: 1 portion of fish or mutton curry in Bengali preparation, a small portion of green leafy vegetables, 2 chapattis made from whole wheat Punjabi atta.

Calories consumed: Approximately 915 calories
Normal intake for adult female: 1800-2000 calories

Dietician Naini comments: “Shobhaa’s calorie intake is very low for a person who has such an active lifestyle. She needs to add more fruits to her diet and have a bowl of salad and some curd besides the lassi for lunch. Or maybe, she could do with an egg, a whole wheat toast and a bowl of salad.”

If a 50 + (almost 60 year old!) woman can be so paranoid about her weight as to skip lunch and practically starve herself, can you blame 16 year olds?

Talk about role models.

Men have stomachs, women eat air
The director of a Delhi-based management institute which I happened to visit recently remarked there is a big problem when it comes to deciding what food should be cooked in the hostel mess. "The boys want parathas, cutlets, pakodas - the girls just won't eat that stuff... In fact they eat little, if anything at all!"

Actually, if you check out the canteen menus of most colleges, you'll find it hardly reflects the current obsession with thinness. The menus are stuck in the 1950s!

Counselling and educating girls, as SNDT plans to do, is fine. But, you can't fight a global trend. So making healthy eats more easily available is also important.

College managements need to take a fresh look at the food they're dishing out. Keep the samosas but also include some fruits, salads, fresh juices and even healthy alternatives to junk food like sprout bhel, chapati rolls and butter-free sandwiches.

The menu could even specify how many calories each item has to make it easier for the weight-conscious to stick to their diets.

Enough food for thought... my lunch is waiting!


  1. Hey rashmi....its the same story at my college.These females hardly ever eat anything....i dont know how they get through the tiring day.I eat like a monster...and the tought of eating...actually drinking only a "fruit lassi" for "LUNCH(!?) is like by worst nightmare.:0!!
    Anyways, a delightfully yummmy post.

  2. The root of all evil are those stupid ads on the television which drive people towards thinking that anorexia helps them look beautiful. What they do not realise is that Good on the outside, bad on the inside is going to get them nowhere. It might be palatable to earn a svelte figure, but watch your calories before you have nothing left to burn. Anorexic tendencies should definitely be curbed by self and see that restraint is more sensible. Eat and exercise but don't quit totally !

  3. Weird peepz. I love eating. Although, no matter how much I eat, I remain thin:( I'm just 55kilos and I am 5foot 10in.

    Actually a better way to be thin is to exercise and actually do something. Eating less just makes you tired. Eating too much, on the other hand, makes you tired too. And eating too less could make you sick.

  4. Hmm...Here in USA, its practically impossible to find fitting clothes for my desi brethern because to fit minimum size here, you must be above average "size" in India....And this is with low-calorie, low-carb mania which has been here for quite a while!

  5. THAT'S her normal diet? I wonder what Shobha De eats when's she trying to cut down!

  6. I know of girls who ate one whole apple for lunch.

    For three months.

    Surprisingly, we were doing a course in Life Sciences.

  7. Another instance of accepting the western definition of "in" thing with blinding stupidity. Incidentally, these are the people who devour pepperoni pizza with double cheese, but insist on diet pepsi/coke with less than 1 calorie! With enough advertising budget, you can convince people that they are outright dumb.

  8. looks like too many ppl got inspired by "the machinist" ;)

  9. arrey forget girls.. Me.. as a guy too is obssesed with maintaining that fat ab-look.. ((looking around i dont find many of 24 who can actually so honestly confess this..)) and skipping a meal a day is very normal through my day..!!

    shameless.. to agree with this.. u may call Me..!!

    im up n livin at

  10. Well, yes, I kind-o get scared of this need-to-look-thin mania. I am overweight, but not really depressed or sad becuase of that. As usual, great words!!

  11. There are a couple of things here: one is that these girls want to become/stay in 'shape' the easy way. Exercising or having an active life style after all is too hard (I can vouch for that). Secondly, of course, the issue of role models you talked about. The lack of availibility of healthy foods at college canteens etc is relevant, but no excuse for starving - even if such food was available, there is no guarantee it will improve the situation. As for Shobha De, well, I don't think I can engage in a civil discussion about her, so I'll stop.
    - Nanda Kishore

  12. ah all this food talk has made me hungry now :)

  13. Hi Reshmi

    I am quite petite myself. And like someone else had mentioned in the comment section, I never gain weight even if I over-eat. I guess, I one of those lucky ones. Anyway, I think Shobha De will look much better if she gained a little weight. She looks too skinny, and her diet is responsible for it.

    Looking good is necessary, but you should not be too obsessed with the thought that it leads you to starvation. It is good to exercise, and keeping yourself fit if you are overweight - for your own good. But being anorexic is not healthy either.

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