How do you overcome eating disorders? Model-actor Yaana Gupta talks to Priyadarshini Paitandy about turning author with a diet book that tackles common questions relating to food and fitness
Stuffing my face with a chocolate truffle is perhaps not appropriate while reading Yaana Gupta's debut book “How To Love Your Body And Get The Body You Love”. At any turn of the page, I expect to run into the usual chastisement on consuming rich food. But I'm surprised that the book, despite the hourglass frame of its writer, insists on eating what you desire when you're hungry and spurns restrictive diets.
Model, actor and now author, Yaana struggled with eating disorder for 17 years before balancing out her life and diet. My conversation with the Czech-born beauty touches on her years of binge eating, overcoming it, how the writing process provided her emotional release and the importance of nourishing and loving one's body. Excerpts from the interview.
Why did you decide to write a book? How long did it take?
I wanted to be a writer from the time I was 20. I was writing poems and essays. I realised that every time I shared fitness tips with someone, I would sound excited. This is an exciting topic for me because I have been into nutrition and fitness for a long time. It took me over four years to complete this book. I rewrote it three to four times because while writing I realised there is so much more I understood now that I had to incorporate in the book.
Why are people suddenly obsessed with being thin?
It's not just the models, but almost everyone wants to be thin. Maybe because they are fascinated by the glamorous stars and celebrities they see on television. But they have flaws too, and have make-up artistes making them look flawless. It's important to love your own body and be happy. It's not like all the people you see on TV are happy. How we eat, what we eat, and the way we look all happens in our head. That's why this book speaks about not just reshaping your body, but also your thinking.
The book mentions that your eating disorder started when you were 16
I have been dieting since I was 16. There were extreme diets that I had to stick to, and I used to feel tired. When you don't eat normally, your body starts craving normal food. That's when you begin to eat in excess. My disorder wasn't bulimia or anorexia, where the dwindling body rate is visible, but binge eating. This went on for 17 years. And just four years ago when I met up with my sister, I realised we both had the problem of binge eating. This is a very common but not many people realise it. So I just had to write about it.
The book follows an autobiographical pattern. Was it at any point hard to reveal difficult and personal experiences to the public?
I'm an open person, and I wanted to share what I went through. When I come out, others can connect with me. Narrating such experiences wasn't difficult, but it did make me laugh. I believe that if you talk about an issue it will make you feel free.
What is your advice to people with eating disorders?
The first step is making your peace with the fact that you have this disorder. There is help. Also read books, go see a therapist. And drop diets. Restrictive diets cause nutrition imbalance. And such diets, over a period of time, will affect your body and immune system. Exercising is important... even if you can do lunges, push-ups, squats or other body weight exercises for just 15 minutes a day, it helps.
You mention it is better to eat smaller portions of food frequently
It's a high-stress world, and sometimes we don't even realise that we are eating. We just gulp it down and then we need more food. Eat when you are hungry. I recommend eating small portions of food throughout the day with a gap of about two-and-a-half hours. That way, you won't be spending too much energy digesting your meal.
Isn't it a myth that fat is bad for health?
A lot of people make the mistake of cutting out fat entirely from their diet. But, there are some good fat that the body requires. Flaxseed oil, extra virgin olive oil, cold-pressed coconut oil, nuts, natural butter are all sources of good fat. And believe it or not, eating healthy fat will help burn the not-so-good fat.
Modelling, movies, now a book; what next?
A music album. I love writing. I have written poems and made them into songs. In fact, I've just finished recording a few songs. It's ready. I'm in London now to decide the release date and the name of the album.
(The book published by Penguin Books India is priced at Rs. 199)