The 'fattest person at my own wedding', star designer Masaba Gupta tells all about battling genes, a lifestyle disorder and weakness for garlic cheese dip to emerge new and improved. Get inspired
Masaba does the reverse pull up, an advanced Pilates format. It's known to be great for core strength, shoulders and upper back
Masaba Gupta is done with the distorted world of gym instructors. They cannot get her to strive and be the model they want her to be, because she doesn't have a model's build.
In fact, she has problem areas that won't go away: arms that will stay big even when toned, hips that shift but don't change shape. "And, I will always have a curved back." But she has found the role model she wants to ape — her own teenage self.
"I want to look the way I did when I was a teen playing tennis," she says. In ripped denims and a white, baggy shirt, the 28-year-old could well be on court.
Masaba and Madhu Mantena at their wedding reception on November 22, 2015. At that time, she weighed 70 kgs. Pic/Satej Shinde
It's taken her a year to get to this form. From weighing her usual 60 kg to turning 70, and "napping in the afternoons like a 68-year-old," Masaba struggled with weight gain through 2015. She calls it the worst year for her business. But on the home front, she couldn't have been happier. Her parents, actress Neena Gupta and legendary West Indian cricketer Viv Richards had turned 60; her fiancé (now husband) Madhu Mantena was celebrating his 40th. A three-month courtship culminated in an engagement, court wedding and celebration. "I don't think I have eaten like that my entire life. I thought I would put on a few kilos and burn it off." Complacence and decadence finally spelt horror. "It happened over a period of time. You don't realise it, until one day, a pair of jeans don't fit."
Masaba's parents Viv Richards and Neena Gupta have significantly shaped her approach towards fitness, that is to steer clear from the 'fancy stuff'
The couple's courtship was dominated by feisty feasting. Madhu, a film producer, wasn't a foodie until he met his wife. And, he began to put on kilos too. "It was either Chinese or Dominoes takeaway every other night. Their garlic cheese dip is killer, by the way. That with champagne!"
A round of dieticians proved worthless because Masaba was clear she would eat real food.
And then, Sonam Kapoor spoke. Known for her famed candour, the Bollywood star came over to speak to her friend at stylist Pernia Qureshi's iftaar party. "I was hogging galoti kebab when Sonam said, 'You cannot be like this!' She was seeing me after six months. I realised everyone was noticing but just not saying. I am glad she did. Sonam made my weight loss happen. I told myself, come December, I will get my act together, and I did."
Here's what Masaba did next:
Sorted out her meals
She calls high-flying gymming worthless but a good workout was never the problem. It was what she ate, and fighting the craving. "I didn't want to go to a dietician — I had already gone to three. I knew what they'd say: less oil, less sugar, and for more drastic results, no salt. It didn't work for me. I needed someone to tweak my regular daily meals. I never stopped eating rice. Spare me the horrors of brown rice, please," she says. A young Maharashtrian trainer, who would come home to guide her cooks on healthy but tasty meals, turned out to be the messiah she was looking for. "He is desi in his approach. He got me to have seasonal vegetables, like mooli in winters. I'd eat kurmura with peanuts in the evening, and overdo fruit juice, which was worse because I have a sugar intolerance. He had me cut out these little ills, and helped with basic weight training at home." While she was on the right track, it wasn't enough to have her lose fat. "I needed cardio. If you don't sweat, you won't become smaller. So, I got myself in the habit of going for walks. Every day. Nana-Nani Park," she laughs. Now, her mornings are incomplete without a brisk one hour walk in the open. "I'm in a sour mood if I don't." The new routine was supplemented by yoga before finally got back to Pilates, a strength and flexibility routine, two weeks ago. She says, "The first three kilos I lost with yoga. The trainer would have us do 30 Suryanamaskars at one go. Managing my breathing is important to me, since I also have asthma. I have always thought Pilates was close to yoga, since it also focuses on breath and body move simultaneously. That the studio is right beside my office works."
"It's crucial that your gym is close to either home or office. Else, you'll never go."
Found inspiration in mom and pop
New-age 'wisdom' is best questioned. Eating every two hours she won't do because someone must explain to her first why she should be eating when she isn't hungry. "My father says, eat when you are hungry. And eat like people would in the olden days.
No hard-to-digest milk and fruit after sunset. He's the fittest man I know. At 62, he still has abs."
Masaba gets her love for walking from mother Neena. "She hasn't missed her evening walk in 20 years. The house may be on fire, but she'll be on the beach, walking. She told me, 'Stop doing this fancy stuff. Just walk'."
"In every workout, there's a time when you start burning fat and then stop. Long workout hours aren't necessarily good news."
Making her own rules
Given her work as a celebrity designer, avoiding late nights is a struggle. But she tries to get around the occupational hazard with simple rules. If she must drink, it will be a glass of red wine. Or, she will drop in for 10 and leave without a drink or meal. "I don't want to linger [at a do] till 3 am, playing candy crush on my phone. I've done that. Staying at a party longer is not going to help me sell 15 more pieces at my store. So, if I get a mid-week dinner invite, and I can say no, I do. I want to be like Akshay Kumar; sleep at 9 and wake up at 4. I want to do so well [professionally], that I can be unapologetic about saying no to a late-night dinner," she says.
On weekends though, it's party time. "I love a good Chinese meal," she smiles.
Focussed on health too
Masaba suffers from Polycystic Ovarian Disease (PCOD), a condition of multiple cysts in the ovaries. The lifestyle disorder is known to have a connection with weight. She chose to control her diet and tweak her routine instead of relying on pills to keep the condition that's characterised by erratic hormone levels and infertility, in check.
"I couldn't change my crazy travel schedule. The only way to get the hormones back on track was to lose weight. If I want to eventually start a family, I don't want to be unhealthy when I do it," she says. Interestingly, her fitness journey has found creative expression, too, with a new fitness created for Koovs. "It brings together my love for food and fitness. I have pieces modelled around chocolate bars and watermelon seeds. It's bit of yin and yang. The thought being, you can embrace food and fitness all at once."
Sorted out her self image
Women have a raw deal when it comes to body image. How we feel about our bodies could be half the battle won. "A little extra arm fat is okay, if your weight is in check," she argues. "Your goal should be to run up a flight of stairs unhindered, to go eight hours without 30 cups of coffee. As women, we should shut the voices in our heads. There is too much scrutiny going on in front of the mirror."