How a love affair with food and excess work broke my health
How I got to where I did
I was an obese child and continued to become an obese adult; I hated any kind of exercise.
My mother was the epitome of how not to be ill at any time. She used to juggle a government job and a house full of grown kids with no maids. As the only earning member of the family (my father had lost his job and failed in his business venture as well), she used to work every minute. The only time she rested was to have her morning cup of tea with freshly made roti. I used to get up just to have that sweet strong tea with rotis.
We couldn’t afford biscuits regularly. The big packet of Glucose biscuits was bought only when someone was coming to our house. I used to relish the sweetness of Glucose biscuits and evening tea. We usually had hot breakfast items only on Sundays. Otherwise, it was either a fresh roti or sattu (a mixture of roasted ground pulses and cereals) with milk. Our staple diet was green leafy veggies with bajra – jowar roti. Between meals, hunger was satisfied with seasonal fruits or chana murmura (roasted chickpeas and puffed rice).
Then Voila! I got married into a foodie family from Madhya Pradesh. All Indians (and those who know India very well) know that the food capital of India is Indore in MP, with its mouth-watering delicacies – Such as bhutte ka kees (sweetcorn upma), dahi vada (curd with fried urad dal balls), shikanji (spiced Indian lemonade), jalebi with rabri (combining two extremely sweet dishes), etc.
My first visit to Indore and the Sarafa Bazaar with my husband left me with nothing but awe for all the available food items. It was like Aladdin and his treasure cove. We ate and ate and ate.
Well, my love of food did not stop there. It percolated into my daily life.
I started working at a bank, going in early and coming home late, with no proper time for lunch, only enough to munch and gobble whatever came to my desk. I worked more than twelve hours a day, keeping hunger at bay with many cups of tea and clubbing it with untimely vada pav, samosa, dabeli (boiled potatoes with masala, in a burger bun, served with chutneys), bhel puri and pani puri.
I still started my day with that sweet cup of tea, but I now combined it with a breakfast of cream biscuits, khari (light fluffy biscuit made of butter and flour), toast, cheese, and bread and butter. Upma or poha was reserved for Sundays. Veggies were limited to dry veggies such as cabbage, cauliflower, bottle gourd, brinjal (eggplant), potatoes, and onions. Onion fritters replaced chana murmura.
Apart from spinach, no leafy vegetable dared to enter my kitchen, as my husband had never tasted any other at his home. According to the standards he expected, I was not a chef, so I gave in easily to whatever he was accustomed to. My food became monotonous without the variety of fruits and veggies. Soon the weight started settling around my hips, and I had a belly coming up. Still, the salty snacks did not go away as they were so easy to find and eat – Lazy me!
My first health issue to arrive was polycystic ovarian disease (PCOD). My skin then became dull, patchy and blackish, and my hair started to fall out. I used to be tired all the time and had temper tantrums.
I started having to take medicines for irregular periods, to help me become pregnant, and for various other ailments including vaginal dryness and urinary tract infection. My head and around my ears began to itch, and scratching led to white particles like dandruff settling on my dress. Patches of pink, underdeveloped skin on my face drew stares from my co-workers, customers and family.
I didn’t know what to make of it – Was it vitiligo? – but was scared to go to the doctor; what if it was?
One day, with a little push from my better half, I made up my mind to visit an allopath.
The doctor said, “You have psoriasis.”
I replied, “Now what’s that?”
I’d never heard of it, and he explained it was a skin disease.
I started taking allopathic medicine to treat my psoriasis, then discontinued it. Then I tried homeopathy, and discontinued that too. Finally, I settled on Ayurveda.
However, with my inherent dislike for exercise and failure to take medicines regularly, my psoriasis stayed with me.
My breaking point
One day at work, after my 4.30pm lunch (the standard lunchtime for a banker those days), I had a facial stroke.
I couldn’t move my mouth; it was stuck in one position. My left eye, ear and cheek had lost all sensation.
I was admitted to the hospital, where they discovered my new friend Diabetes, riding along with Bell's Palsy.
I started taking medicines to reduce my conditions, one tablet at a time.
And I went back to work, only to discover that I was being given a promotion (along with the increased responsibility, working hours, stress and tension that came with it). This welcomed back the familiar cycle of vada pav, samosa, dabeli, bhel puri and pani puri, along with lots of chai. Sometimes (with guilt) I ordered a cup of green tea or sugarless tea, but I couldn’t drink it; neither my palate nor my taste buds would allow it.
My medicines went from one tablet a day up to six, step by step.
My eyesight worsened, and I started using reading glasses all the time. I also developed pre-menopausal conditions. Now hot flushes, mood swings, and irregular periods (along with everything else) started to take their toll on me. I lost interest in myself, my work, hobbies and interests. And continued urinary tract infections and vaginal dryness meant no physical intimacy.
I lost my job just before COVID, and suddenly our financial position got tight. COVID also brought additional stress with it – Staying indoors, cleaning the house entirely by myself, and cooking innovatively within limited resources made life hell.
I lost sleep, and my screen time increased. Netflix and Disney Hotstar became my night partners in crime. Facebook, Insta, and Whatsapp (all flooded with pictures of great dishes, beautiful paintings, and families together and happy) increased my tension – Comparing myself, I was never a good cook (rather a bad one), never did anything artistic (drama can’t be you alone), and was never an avid carrom, UNO or Zynga player.
My skill set was suddenly reduced. Interpersonal dialogues led to quarrels, and my diabetes worsened. My HBA1C range was constantly 8-13 (it should be less than 6).
How I started coping with it
I was brought to my senses when I realised I couldn’t run or play with my 8-year-old daughter.
I couldn’t allow that to happen, and it gave me the push I needed to start my recovery:
- I discovered inner strength with the help of meditation and religious chants, and I started morning and evening prayers with my family.
- I learnt UNO, Zynga, and carrom, and played word games on my mobile – These helped me to bond with my young one.
- I now take morning walks every day and go to the lush gardens nearby. I eat as many fruits and veggies as I can, and make sure my meals include salad.
- I’m enjoying exploring myself as a cook and rangoli artist.
- I watch meaningful movies and series on OTT but limit my time on them.
- I go out to meet friends and relatives often.
- I call my ageing aunts and cousins at least once a week.
- I’ve started to work as a freelancer and am trying to recover some financial strength.
It’s still early days, and I don’t know yet the effect of my efforts on my diabetes, but my psoriasis has reduced to just a few patches.
I’m learning to live with diabetes and psoriasis, and it’s going to be perfect.
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