Talking health with Shahana Goswami

We chat with Shahana Goswami about fitness and diet and discover that the young actress is all about following traditional methods to look and feel good.

Q. Hi Shahana, thanks for chatting with us so close to your big release. Tell us, what does good health mean to you?

A. I define good health as feeling fit. And I don’t think feeling fit necessarily means you need to be a certain weight. It is to feel a sense of well-being physically, which comes from the exercise you’re doing, the food you’re eating, the lifestyle you’re leading, the amount of energy and activity that you can pack in to a day. All that reflects on how fit you are.

I would always strive towards fitness. I could lose a lot of weight – but that could mean I feel sickly and feel tired. But if I’m fit and even if I’m not as thin as people would like me to be, I can compensate that by my energy and my confidence and work towards things that are more essential.

Q. You have been a sportsperson through school and college. Do you continue playing sports or is there a different kind of workout you follow now?

A. No and I think that’s been my biggest downfall. When I was in school I was playing something that was enjoyable and regimented. I used to dance, I used to do rock climbing, I used to play basketball – and I gave up everything as soon as I moved to Mumbai. The only alternative to that was to go to a gym and I felt lazy and let myself go. I put on weight, not necessarily because I was eating too much.

If you’re used to exercise, and I’ve learnt this the hard way, fluctuation in exercise is what harms your body. There has to be some amount of consistency. Even if it is 15 minutes of walking that a person can do everyday over an extended period of time, then that is what you should do. Working out 3 hours a day for one month and then giving it up for 3 months won’t do. That fluctuation will only make you gain weight. That imbalance in the body is never good.

What I try to do now is keep a basic amount – 30 minutes – of walk or some kind of physical activity in a day so I know that everyday I have to put in that kind of work. Along with that, it’s also important to listen to your body. Our bodies tell us when to go for that walk, but it’s our minds that tell us to push away that thought.

Q. Shahana, the pressure to look good on you is more than it is for the rest of us! How do you deal with that?

A. Yes, there is pressure and that pressure can make you feel either way. It can either make you do all the wrong things, or do things the right way. Sadly, if you do things the right way, it’ll take longer than if you do things the wrong way. But if you do it the right way, it’ll sustain longer. So you have to have that confidence to take it forward slowly and in the right way.

There are no quick fixes. I have tried diets and put on weight as quickly as I lost it. I’d say there are very few formulas you can follow to lose weight:

  • Understand your body
  • Know nutritional facts about food
  • Make sure you exercise 30 – 45 minutes every day
  • Every body’s balance is different, understand and respect that
  • Keep in mind your metabolism and also that it slows down with age

Q. When it comes to food, what’s your approach? Are there any eating tips that help you stay fit?

A. Like I said earlier, it’s important to listen to our bodies. So, our body will tell us when we are full. It will tell us when it wants water, when it wants food, what kind of food it wants.

I don’t think you need to be on a crash diet, or any kind of diet per se, because a lot of these diets come from the west, where their weather, metabolism, body structure, lifestyle, everything is different.

I believe in eating a proper, traditional meal. We have grown up eating a certain way, and even a good nutritionist will tell you to continue eating the staple cereal you’ve grown up on. If you’ve grown up eating rice, stick to that.

The important thing is to moderate, which is where most of us falter. That’s why most nutritionists say that you should eat a little less than when you’re full. The more you’re around people who understand that, who share that with you, the easier it is to follow.

One thing that’s helped me keep the weight off is to eat my last meal of the day early in the evening. If I’m going to be up very late, I might eat a very light snack. Otherwise, I find that slowing down my food intake at night helps me sleep better and wake up feeling fresher.

Q. Tell us about your skin and hair care regimen.

A. I actually have a very simple and naturalistic approach towards skin and hair care. I’m genetically blessed with good skin and I like to stick to the basics.

On most days, I wash my face with just water. I don’t wear too much makeup. Even on the days that I’m shooting, my makeup is the bare minimum and I wipe it off with wet wipes. That’s it. I don’t even use moisturiser!

When it comes to hair care, again I stick to the old traditional concepts. There are a lot of differing opinions on oil massages. Some hair specialists say that just the shampoo massage is enough, but again I think that’s a very western concept. I definitely get an oil massage once a week and I also believe that healthy food improves the quality of your hair.

Q. How do you deal with the stress of being part of the film industry?

A. By nature, I don’t get stressed very much. But yes, we do have long hours of working and sometimes the work we do is emotionally draining. So there’s that sort of stress.

One way of dealing with stress, I find, is by exercising. I either go running or to the gym and it’s no secret that when you work out, your body releases endorphins that instantly make you feel better. It’s definitely the best way to unwind.

My other stress buster is music!

And one more thing I plan to take up is yoga. I have tried it only a few times and I really liked the health and meditative aspect of it.

Q. Before we let you go, do you have final words of advice for our viewers?

A. Absolutely! One thing I have learnt for myself is the importance of balance. A good balance between exercise, right eating and healthy living helps give you a certain glow and energy from within. And the amount of confidence you can feel from being fit cannot be matched by anything else.

You need to be mentally, physically and emotionally fit as they’re all connected.

The best way to maintain a healthy lifestyle is to strive to achieve balance in a sustained manner.

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