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Aim to be fit, not thin

She’s not giving away any secret diet plans in her first book. Instead, fitness expert Deanne Panday warns people to stay off them! By Priyamvada Kowshik

india Updated: Sep 03, 2011 15:52 IST

One of the most frequent requests fitness expert Deanne Panday gets from clients is to change the way their bodies look. After 15 years in the industry with clients who’re the poster boys and girls of celeb fitness, Deanne has a solution for that. “Get your brain rewired; it’ll change the way your body looks and feels,” says the 42-year-old mother of two, fitness instructor-turned-author.

Juggling roles of instructor to ‘stressed out’ clients, mom to her two kids, wife, daughter and daughter-inlaw, Deanne could have been another successful woman on the edge. In fact, she was, until she learned to listen to her body. Her book I’m Not Stressed (Random House, ` 199) is less about fitness and more about how to approach it, nudging her readers of the push-button generation to take baby steps towards fitness. Deanne talks of stress, that byproduct of urban life we all love to blame for everything,with unusual calm. Her client list includes celebrities like Bipasha Basu, Lara Datta and Dino Morea, who all share stories of their personal struggle with stress in the book. In his candid foreword, Shah Rukh Khan talks of watching Deanne, a friend of his wife Gauri, grow from a shy young woman into a confident and respected entrepreneur. She tells Marie Claire why I’m Not Stressed draws from how she tackled life situations and why fitness begins with learning to let go.

For a book by a fitness expert, yours has plenty of advice about relationships, money and why it causes stress...

When I decided to write a book, I thought the most predictable thing would be to write on exercise and fitness. Which is not difficult, but then, unless we approach fitness with the right attitude, we’ll never achieve the results we seek. Fitness begins in the mind – if a day at the spa relaxes your body, then yoga, meditation, and a stress-free environment is like a spa treatment for your brain!

My friends joke about how I’m a pillar of strength, the agony aunt for all fitness and lifestyle issues. So I decided to go right to the bottom of what makes us unfit. We lead complicated lives, we have little time and tolerance for situations and relationships that stress us out. All this affects our well-being. But I’m not a dietician and I don’t do physiotherapy. It’s why I decided to involve experts in the book and bring in different views and opinions.

Why do you feel so strongly about stress issues?

I think stress is the new lifestyle disease that has besieged urban Indians and is interfering with everything we do or don’t. Some of us deal with it, some don’t, some take refuge in alcohol, substance abuse or smoke to calm their nerves. Of course, you cannot create a stress-free world, and some amount of stress is necessary to excel and perform better. What we can do is learn how to prevent stress from giving us aches and pains and chronic diseases. I meet a lot of people who don’t know how to relax. What I’m saying is take baby steps towards fitness. Begin with breathing exercises; breathing pumps more oxygen into the brain and helps you focus. Find your own ways, what your body responds to best – go for a walk, swim, cut down on smoking.

How has your personal struggle with stress been?

I’ve seen a lot of ups and downs in life, and one of the reasons I started writing this book was that I began wondering how I handled it all. We all lead complicated lives today and as women, we have a lot to deal with. Apart from home and careers, there are the seemingly trivial things that assume gigantic proportions – maid issues, unprofessional staff, PMS, even the traffic on your way to work!

Until about seven years ago, I remember losing my cool over these things. Then I took a step back to think, began doing yoga and breathing exercises. I think it was my dedication to fitness, my love for myself and my body that helped me deal with stress.

I’m very particular about my six small meals daily, ‘me-time’ is sacrosanct, even the children know that mamma cannot go on. I have learned to say ‘no’ when it is necessary, I’ve learned to take on only as much as I can handle.

You’ve identified trends in fitness yoga and fitness wear...

Fifteen years ago, when I introduced yoga into my fitness plans, people laughed at me, saying that was for old people. Today, everyone talks about the benefits of yoga. When I started lifting weights, people said it was not meant for women. Eighty per cent of the people are ill-informed, obsessed with exercising, and work out too much. It is important to realise what your body needs – your requirements will not necessarily match the new hot celeb’s, so copying their regimen is not going to help. Quick-fix solutions don’t work, yo-yo diets don’t work, one should have realistic expectations of oneself. Don’t mix up being fit with being thin. And the latter cannot be your fitness goal.

How come your celeb clients are both fit and thin?

All these people have highly stressful jobs and work hard to be where they are, but they’ve also found ways to beat the stress. Shah Rukh finds his calm by spending time with his kids and working out, Bipasha Basu beats stress by exercising, Ekta Kapoor has found her way through her walks and spirituality... so everyone figures out what works best for them.

What’s next?

Definitely a book that only talks about exercise and fitness.


Marie Claire