diet“80% diet, 20% exercise.” That is apparently the mantra to lose weight effectively. Basically, take in fewer calories than you burn. Full disclosure: I’ve got the recipe for Nigella Lawson’s vanilla cupcakes open in the tab next to this. But hey, I’m also having oats for breakfast. That should take care of at least 10% of the diet for the day.

If getting myself to work out is difficult, it’s even more so to keep myself from eating whatever I feel like. And mostly, I feel like eating pasta, pizza, biryani, burgers and dessert. Yes, I sound like a cavewoman with no self-control; but you can all relate to that, right? “That time of the month” is a perfect excuse to binge on carb-rich, deep-fried goodies. It’s all hormonal, I assure myself. But I have no excuse for the rest of the month, besides the fact that I simply love food.

Now, like all good Christians, I observe the 40 days of Lent before Easter, which is a time of abstinence. I usually give up non-vegetarian food and alcohol, and it roughly lasts about 20 days before I head to KFC to order a bucket of chicken for myself. Even when I try my best, something ridiculous happens: like the time I went to visit my athai in Bengaluru, and it didn’t even cross her mind that I, the most carnivorous of her nieces, would be off non-veg. So she had spent the morning making her famous mutton biryani. And, of course, I ate it.

Why I say this is, most people who abstain from meat for those 40 days tend to lose weight. It’s the opposite for me. To satisfy the cravings, I eat appalams with every meal. Then there are the buttery toast slices for breakfast, instant noodles for snack time (with a dollop of cheese as a substitute for egg) and chapathis smothered with jam as a midnight snack. Oh. That explains a lot.

This year, however, I have made it to Day 27, without much trouble. Except for last Sunday, when sambar-rice just didn’t cut it for dinner and so Domino’s came to the rescue — with a vegetarian pizza, obviously accompanied by garlic breadsticks, cheesy dip and creamy butterscotch mousse. (Talking of percentages, they even gave me a 20% discount.)

Every person’s relationship with food is different — in this instance, relationship being defined as “the way in which two or more people or things are connected”. I’ve found that planning and preparing my own meals gives me a greater sense of control and understanding of what I’m consuming. It puts the onus and responsibility squarely on my shoulders for my own well-being. It takes a lot of effort, no doubt. Besides dealing with a lot of questions about why I can’t just eat like a normal person, or the unsolicited advice that comes when I refuse a certain type of food.

And if “I don’t know how to cook” is your excuse, just picture Richard Harris’ Dumbledore whisper in your ear, “It is our choices, (insert name here), that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” Then get to the kitchen and choose to learn.

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