By Asjad Nazir
TODAY Aria Arora works as an employee in a government media company based in Germany and feels on top of the world, but that was not always the case. There was a time when her weight had reached 106 kilos, and in her own words she felt like a ‘monster’.
Aria felt ashamed, embarrassed, ugly and extremely sad. Then one day she plucked up the courage to make a drastic change in her life and lost 42 kilos. The remarkable journey transformed her physically, mentally and emotionally.
While she is in a much happier place, her quest continues. In a candid interview, Eastern Eye got Aria to share her story…
What was life like for you when you were overweight?
When you are overweight, life becomes very different. You can’t go to a gym and don’t want anyone to see you in a swimming suit. If you love dancing, it isn’t possible because of the bone pain it causes in your feet and legs. So everything I used to love I had to stop. Even a long walk or shopping was too much for my body. I just went out to places where I had only to sit and eat. I shopped online and became too lazy to move. I avoided functions where I had to sit on the floor, like in a temple, as it became so painful. I was very conscious of people looking at me and felt extremely embarrassed.
Do you remember the lowest you felt?
I remember it well. I was on holiday in Cancun and was due to go parasailing. I knew it wouldn’t be easy being overweight and was truly scared. We were picked up on a long tail boat and were due to be dropped on a bigger boat at sea. I fell down twice on the boat and the guys on board started laughing at me. It got worse when I climbed onto the bigger boat with difficulty. By now everyone was looking and laughing. I can’t explain how extremely embarrassed I felt. I tried not to cry, but my eyes were full of tears. It was the lowest I felt. I still feel so very sad remembering the situation today.
What inspired your weight loss journey?
A very close friend who is very health-conscious inspired me. I got great advice and started my journey. I am thankful for this.
What was the biggest challenge you faced?
The biggest challenge was to say no to food! To say no to family and friends for dinners or lunches. To say no to chocolates because I love them so much. It was a challenge to change my diet and stay away from temptation.
Did you feel like giving up?
Once I was clear in my mind I have to lose weight, my wish and will were very strong. I never thought about giving up. I was more scared to regain the weight I lost. You don’t ever feel like giving up once your mindset is changed. As I became more active and able to do things I couldn’t before, this motivated me further. Support from those close to me also helped.
Tell us about what you did to lose the weight…
Honestly, the first six months when I started losing weight were very unhealthy. To fill my tummy I had 2-3 cappuccinos daily, nothing else, and then would have a sandwich or something. But I soon realised the detrimental effect starving myself was having on my health. I couldn’t afford to get ill because of my job, so I started having salads and boiled vegetables slowly, and started on the right path. Learning about nutrition and healthy diets really helped. I ate fruits, salads, vegetables, chicken breasts and so on. I started having breakfast and lighter meals. This helped me lose weight and gave me more energy to be active, which burned further calories. After a while, it became routine.
How long did the process take?
I started losing weight in 2014. In one year I lost almost 30 kilos. A year later I had lost 12 more kilos, but my journey wasn’t complete. I maintained a healthy lifestyle so I wouldn’t regain the weight and still want to lose five more kilos.
Are there any moments from the journey that stand out?
In 2015 after losing 30 kilos I visited my family in India, who had last seen me when I was over 100 kilos. I was afraid of gaining weight because the food there is so yummy and relatives forced me to eat throughout the day, but I had it in small portions. I was extremely surprised when I came back to Germany that I had lost two more kilos during the time in India without any exercise. I was wondering how this was possible and realised if you eat healthy food three to five times a day in smaller portions, you lose more weight than having a heavy meal just once a day. And with small portions over the day, you don’t get hungry or eating attacks. This moment made me have more meals in smaller portions, which helped lose weight and kept my energy up.
How much was it a mental battle?
It was and still is an extreme mental battle. See, if you don’t eat, you don’t have energy for anything. Your body gets tired and you get angry or depressed. I have always been very patient, but when I stopped eating bigger portions in the beginning I lost my patience. I became very touchy, short-tempered and cried very often. I avoided meeting friends and family because I didn’t want to eat anything, so started feeling alone. Then the mind-set changed when I started eating, but it was and is a huge mental battle. Today it is still because I have become very sensitive since I lost the weight. My doctor said I have lost my protection ring (fat) around my body and now issues get closer to my heart.
How did you feel when you lost the weight?
I felt healthy, light and very active, but at the same time feel not really thin. It’s a mind issue. Although I told myself I have to lose weight, I have become confident as I know I won’t get into an embarrassing situation with my new weight like before, and I am able to do things I enjoy, like dance.
How have family and friends reacted?
In the beginning, nearly everyone was very worried because I lost the first 15 kilos within three months. This was too quick and my face started looking pale. They thought I was hiding a sickness because of the sudden weight loss. When people got used to the slimmer Aria, they started giving compliments. Everyone got used to my new look. But it took time to prove that I am not sick and I have lost weight in a healthy way.
What is life like today compared to before?
I have not lost only weight, I have also lost the old naive character. I have grown up and life today is so much better. There is nothing I have to avoid and won’t hide myself away. I achieved something and that makes me feel very proud. I feel more confident and have started loving myself, which I didn’t do when I was overweight. I used to hate myself and this made life sad. But if you love yourself, you get optimistic and start loving life. So obviously life is much more beautiful than before.
How do you now look back on your bigger self today?
If I see my old photos I pity myself because I know what I went through and how much embarrassment I endured. Looking at my old photos makes me feel that I am looking at another person. That’s not me, my character, my face or my body. It’s a completely different person whom I pity today.
What did you do with your old bigger clothes?
Some I gave to those who needed a bigger size, but a few expensive dresses were given to a tailor to alter. (Laughs) That wasn’t easy dropping the size down so much. This journey of size-changing cost me a lot of money. I had to buy so many new clothes. Then finally I gave all the bigger clothes away. My aim is to get one dress size smaller. But today I love shopping for new clothes.
What advice would you give any girls wanting to go on the same journey you did?
Losing weight and getting healthier starts in your mind! The correct mind-set will make everything else fall into place. You will get focused, know about what to do and feel motivated. Have patience and understand it will take time. It’s very important to have a good and healthy diet, and to keep active even after you lose weight.
What is the biggest thing you have learned about yourself in the whole journey?
I learned I can say no to anyone or anything, and this was very important during my journey.
What is your idea of happiness?
To be able to live the life I had to avoid when I was overweight. Embracing normality. This is my biggest happiness.
Do you have a final message?
Yes! I don’t feel lucky, but blessed. God has blessed me with a new life. But a friend told me: ‘God helps only those who help themselves’. And this is so true. If you want to achieve a healthy life you have to start to help yourself, god will bless and support you.