Meera Kasiraman: The weight loss story is truly interesting. It will be unfair if I do not ask you right in the beginning? How much did you lose? How long did you take? How do you feel right now?
Meera Vasudevan: I’ve to say that, in 2014 I touched 97 Kilos, when I was at the very height of pregnancy. And then I got down to 64 Kilos.
Meera Kasiraman: So, it’s more than 30 kilos?
Meera Vasudevan: Yes it is. My fitness secret has always been weight training which is using resistance, using free weights as well as fitness machines. It is something I have enjoyed. I have been into fitness training since when I was 19 or 20 years old and courtesy always goes to my mentor Miland Soman.
He is my first co-star in my Hindi film. And he taught me the importance of staying fit always. If you see how he is, how his mom is, it’s simply astounding, how he has maintained himself and how he motivates and inspires others too. So, he has done the same for me and he made these changes in my life.
Meera Kasiraman: All Credits to him (Milind Soman)?
Meera Vasudevan: (With her beautiful smile) All credits to him and my hard work as well. And, of course, my coach.
Meera Kasiraman: How long do you take in a day to work out? What is your routine? How long does it take?
Meera Vasudevan: See, the standard time you really need to work out in a day is 45 minutes. You don’t really need more than 45 minutes per session. It’s more than enough. Be it cardio training or weight training, just 45 minutes per day is enough.
If you are just trying to maintain yourself, working out three days in a week is great. If you are trying to lose weight, working out six days in a week is fantastic and take a day off. You need to give your body that kind of rest and you have to gradually build the intensity of the work-out.
Your diet is extremely important. The diet is 80 percent of the whole process. Your diet makes sure you keep looking good. It also ensures you have enough multi-vitamins; you have enough nutrients in your body so that you won’t experience any deficit, any problem. You need to be strong. You need to be looking good as well and you need to be fit.
You can only work out well when you are eating right.
When I was younger, I used to eat like a few grapes, two or three slices of apple. That was ridiculous. That was the worst thing to do.
Meera Kasiraman: Isn’t it taxing your body?
Yeah, because of that I got medical issues like Thyroid problems. I have hypothyroidism which reduces your metabolic rates which means, I put on weight very easily. But I have maintained this weight for the last one year.
Meera Kasiraman: That’s even after pregnancy. You will have enough of other responsibilities, but you still find the time, 45 minutes a day, which is not a silly matter.
Meera Vasudevan: Yes, the workout is the most important part of my personal routine.
Meera Kasiraman: After childbirth, usually ladies get a little held up with their own work. But, what made you think ‘No, I have to stay fit’? Was it because you had in mind that you wanted to get back to the industry? Or you just wanted to look good?
Meera Vasudevan: My thing was quite simple, my requirement was very easy. I wanted to keep pace with my kid. My kid is very active. And I also made sure, during my pregnancy, I had studied enough materials to make myself undergo normal birth with no medication.
So, my delivery actually lasted just four hours. That’s it! I have counted four hours with zero medication, zero epidurals, nothing; to make sure that my son is healthy. I have managed to do that. He is very active and healthy. But if I am heavy and hefty I can’t manage housework. I can’t manage taking care of myself and I can’t take care of him either. Being with a kid who needs a lot of energy, you have to run around a lot behind him. If I am slim and fit, then I am inspiring my kid also to do the same. I can also do all the activities with him. I can play, I can run behind him. And there are so many activities that I can do with him as a team. So that increases my bonding with him. That was my logic behind it.
Meera Kasiraman: In this era of social media, there goes on a lot of body shaming either because you are too thin or you are too fat. Did you face such comments? How did you get over with that?
Meera Vasudevan: I have a very simple way of dealing with negativity. I just shut my ears. I really don’t care a damn about such negative people. I keep only positive people around me.
Meera Kasiraman: But, it’s hard, you know. When you step out, naturally there will be people.
Meera Vasudevan: In fact, it is easier. It is very easy to sense negative energy. Anything that makes you uncomfortable, anything that makes you upset, any person or situation that makes you uncomfortable or upset, cut it out (in a very strong and firm voice). It’s that simple.
Just be happy. It’s a promise you have to make to yourself that I am going to be happy, no matter what. Once you decide that way, then you see making those changes in your thoughts, it just keeps going that way for you.
Meera Kasiraman: It is the beginning that’s hard, isn’t it? Do you have anything to tell them, those body-shamers?
Meera Vasudevan: Yeah, I do. It’s very simple, Get A Life!! (Smiling and in a motivating tone) Why focus on other people’s life? Do something on your own.
Meera Kasiraman: Mostly, when a woman reaches 30, people say that it is an expiry date for an actress. At least in India. Even though the scenario is changing, do you think so? And, who do you think is the fittest and fabulous actress even in the 30s?
Meera Vasudevan: In the 30s, your life just begins. The 30s is like the best phase of my life. This time, I am more relaxed and focused on myself. I am really, really enjoying the life.
It is like I have reached that point in my life, I have realized that I have gone through so many experiences in my life and there is so much more that I have to offer personally, to my relationships.
Meera Kasiraman: You grow wiser, isn’t it?
Meera Vasudevan: Yes, you do. You grow wiser and a little more relaxed. It is like you know, I am here and now, what can I offer to people? That is what you feel like. You wanted to do so much more with your life and be happy.
Meera Kasiraman: So, it’s a myth? The 30s and all..
Meera Vasudevan: Ha..30 is where life starts. You should be waiting to get your 30s.
Meera Kasiraman: Second part of the question; who do you think fit in the 30s?
Meera Vasudevan: Bipasha Basu.
Meera Kasiraman: That’s a wonderful choice!
Meera Vasudevan: There is no other option. Bipasha Basu is downright the best when it comes to fitness.
Meera Kasiraman: She had released fitness videos and all, right?
Meera Vasudevan: She has been one of my inspirations. Her slogan, ‘Love Yourself’ says a lot about the way how women should take care of themselves and how women should handle themselves.
Look at this woman; she is like a perfect package. She is lean and fit. She is mean, in the terms of the way, she maintains herself. It’s enviable and inspiring, all the same. She is so feminine, graceful. She is so amazing; I just don’t know any other words to describe her.
Meera Kasiraman: I am sure you are going to face similar issues as I am going to show you pictures of a few of your co-stars. Here goes the first one.
Meera Vasudevan: Jackie Sherof, we worked together for a movie called, Thodi Life Thoda Magic.
Meera Kasiraman: Is he a fitness freak or fitness enthusiast?
Meera Vasudevan: He believes fitness has been one of the crucial parts of life, rather making than taking it as the center of life. He is very relaxed, very chilled out. His whole approach to life is a sort of meditation. Nothing can get him on nerves, nothing can disturb him. Very, very, chilled out.
Meera Kasiraman: He looks rough and tough you know?
Meera Vasudevan: I know, his looks are very deceptive. But he is very easy to communicate with, very easy to get along with and it was a lot of fun. He made shooting a lot of fun.
Meera Kasiraman: Now, I have someone else for you.
Meera Vasudevan: Mohanlal sir, the pride of Kerala.
Meera Kasiraman: Do you know anything about his fitness regime?
Meera Vasudevan: Yes, you know for the film Thanmathra, we had a quite tough time. The demand for the role was to keep putting on and off weight.
I was 23 when I started shooting for Thanmathra. And, the requirement was to put on 35 kilos. I had to look like 38 plus or 40 plus, as a mother of two children. Back then, I had blonde hair, I was only into tops and jeans, which I still do, only in different colors. But, the thing is that, this particular film was very demanding.
Something I got to see about him (Mohanlal), this is a man who can brilliantly, take in all aspects and put it into that role. That’s how people relate to him.
Meera Kasiraman: His body listens to him. Puts on weight. Puts off weight…
Meera Vasudevan: Yeah, he is very flexible, in terms of the way he molds himself. If a role needs him to put on so much weight, he will happily do it. Take the weight off, he is willing to do it. That’s the kind of commitment. It is an amazing sense of commitment.
That makes him the brilliant actor, somebody the people can relate to very easily.
Meera Kasiraman: I have just one more of your co-stars.
Meera Vasudevan: Yeah, the brand ambassador of Pinkathon, Milind Soman. My mentor.
Meera Kasiraman: Your mentor, someone who inspired you to do what you are doing right now.
Meera Vasudevan: Yes, he literally forced me into it.
Meera Kasiraman: So, what is your take on ‘Pinkathon? And tell me about his fitness regime.
Meera Vasudevan: My take on Pinkathon would be, it is a brilliant initiative and there can’t be anybody better than Milind to endorse this. Because the charming exhumes and how good he is with people. Especially women! Women just love him, they adore him.
When people talk to him (Milind Soman), they are just flawed by the way he is. He is such a nice guy, to talk to, to relate to. He listens so well. He relates to people in such a level to get them involved in what he is doing. When he is doing a cause like this for women, he just takes things up to a different level. So, that’s a great thing about him.
And Milind was very crucial for my getting into fitness, because, in the time that we were shooting, I was not working out at all then. When I was 21.
Meera Kasiraman: Early 20s!!
Meera Vasudevan: Yeah, when I debuted in Hindi. So, I was never into working out. And he asked one day if I do, I said No.
One day, we finished the shoot and he grabbed me out of the house and took me straight to his gym. And he got on the treadmill and make me sit there, watching him.
When he started, he just warmed for ten minutes on 11km per hour speed. And then he ran for 16 km per hour continuously for an hour on the treadmill. He did not even take a break to breathe. He did not even stop to take a sip of water.
And I just kept watching there. I was so shocked. I was there with my tongue literally hanging out of the mouth and ‘Oh what is this!! I haven’t seen this before. This man is like the terminator. Never-ending. Never stops for anything. He runs from his house to any meeting he has to go. And he carries dumbbells in his car. He can literally have a workout anywhere.
He can stop anywhere and start a work-out. Completely functional stuff. If he sees something, he will start his work-out there. He is that cool, that amazing. It is like fitness is just imbibed in his blood. It is in his blood!
Meera Kasiraman: So, seeing him, put in that spark in you that you have to conscious about your fitness.
Now, Meera Ji will be taking us through her fitness routine. At least a few would be inspired through watching this. Before that I have one more question, What is your fitness goal?
Meera Vasudevan: My fitness goal is I want to work on my Lean Muscle Mass Percentage. I need to cut down on my body fat percentage some more. I also want to get into martial arts in a way.
I mean I love MMA (Mixed Martial Arts). Some of my role models are Gina Carano and Ronda Rousey. These are the kind of tough women that I am really inspired by. So, I want to work at making myself flexible and a little more aggressive. (In a determined way)
‘Fitter and Better.’ Like, I want to be the best version of myself.
Meera Kasiraman: I could picture you doing some martial arts on screen.
Meera Vasudevan: Some action. Yeah, so am I.
Meera Kasiraman: Alright, I am gonna cut the talking which I have been doing for quite some time right now. Let’s have some actions.
Meera Vasudevan: Let’s do that. Let’s stop talking and start doing.
Meera Kasiraman: So, here we are. Meera Ji is suggesting, it’s okay to be enthusiastic, but do not get over-enthusiastic and just jump into something without even realizing if that’s the one suitable for your body.
She was also talking about the warm-up session. So how does that work?
Meera Vasudevan: It is essential to start your workout with a warmup because your body is not prepared. And if you strain yourself, by taking up any kind of resistance, it is going to come on your back, or come on your knees, or your ankles or your elbows, or shoulder joints. So, it is very important for you to warm up all these places, which help you move.
You start it with 5 minutes walk on the cardio. Very simple walk, just to get you slightly warmed up. Then you move on to doing free stretches and then you start your work out.
Meera Kasiraman: So, the treadmill doesn’t count as work out?
Meera Vasudevan: Treadmill counts as work-out on alternate days when you do cardio. Although I am completely against running. To be very honest, because I have issues on my left knees.
Meera Kasiraman: See, these are the excuses people come up with. I have problems with knees, I can’t exercise.
Meera Vasudevan: No, no. I have a problem in my left knee, I have a problem in my shoulder.
Meera Kasiraman: See, that’s not a problem at all. See the other ways.
Meera Vasudevan: Exactly. Yeah. When I was overweight, that these issues actually started. The left knee pain, the pain in my right shoulder, low BP, Vertigo, and Hypothyroidism. With all these things I have managed to lose about 30 kilos. I am sure that anybody can do.
Treadmill- 5 minutes warm-up
Whenever you get on the treadmill, always keep your feet on sides. You never stand on the belt and start. Okay?
And it’s very easy. There are lots of buttons here. Don’t get scared of anything. It’s just very simple. Just get the start button. Get on the belt and start with your lowest speed, so that you can get comfortable on your treadmill. You can take your hands off. You can walk or run freely on it.
You don’t have to worry about the speed at which the other people around you are running or walking. It is your speed that is most important. You should do it in very, very relaxed manner. When you get to used to the speed, slowly increase it.
The important thing when you do any kind of training is you have to keep challenging yourself continuously. You have to constantly keep rising and raising your own level also. You walk at a continuous pace, about 5 minutes. It helps you to get warmed up.
Once you have done with that, press the stop button. And it stops!
Meera Vasudevan: On a normal day of workout, it is the day of weight training and a day of cardio. Again a day of weight training and cardio. Weight training and cardio. Usually, I used to accommodate a little bit of Yoga a couple of days in between for muscle conditioning. It helps to de-stress and also to relax a bit.
So we are gonna run through two variations of each muscle part. This is for the chest. Also called as the Pectorals.
So, Arun is here, he is my trainer. He is going to help us today.
1. Muscle strengthening exercises
Bench Press (Chest)
Pec Fly (Chest)
Lat pull-down (back)
Meera Vasudevan: Whenever you pick up weights, you always do it in a way that does not come on your back. It is important for women to know, because, we women have a tendency of just lifting everything just like that. And that comes straight on your back.
Instead, the best way to do it:
Lighten your load. Bend. Bend your knee, bend your back. Pick up like a squat. That’s the best way to lift your weight.
Bend over rows (back)
Bicep curl (biceps)
Seated hammer curl (biceps)
Triceps extension (triceps)
Triceps press down (triceps)
Squats on Smith Machine (quadriceps muscles)
Leg extensions (quadriceps muscles)
Calf raises (calves)
Meera Vasudevan: Now, when it works with all of these, we do 3 sets of each of these workouts and you do 15 repetitions. So, that’s one set of 15, the second set of 15 and third set of 15.
So, this way you complete all of these workouts. You can take the help of a good coach, who will help you combine the right kind of muscle groups. So that you can work out on specific muscles on specific days and give yourself a rest of cardio on the alternate days. I think that makes a good, complete work-out. Combine it with a diet and it makes a lot more sense.
You start every workout with a warmup and always end every workout with a cool down.
Sretetches for calves, quadriceps, shoulders, biceps, triceps.
Every muscle that you work has to have a counter stretch. It’s very important so that you don’t get lactic acid build up in your body. That’s what is going to prevent the stiffness, very bad kind of stiffness that comes into your body. It shouldn’t happen. You should be able to do your work. You should be able to run around. Because as women, we have so much that we have to do. We can’t think about being stuck in the bed with all that body pain.
Body pain is also important because it helps tear your muscle and then your muscles become stronger and better. The more your muscle builds, the more it eats away your fat and the more better it makes you look.
Now, if you would say that I don’t have time. I have to take care of my kid. I have to take care of my family. I have to take care of my husband. I have to make the dubba for the day. I have to cook. I have to clean. I also have to do those things! But it is very important I feel that as women, we also make the effort to take care of ourselves. In the long run, the only one who takes care of us are ourselves. And we all know that.
See, I have vertigo, shoulder pain, hypothyroidism etc.
Meera Kasiraman: Enough of medical conditions to say excuses.
Meera Vasudevan: Exactly. The excuses are just a matter of how you think. If you decide to do something for yourself, nobody can stop you from doing it. Get a good expert and just start going at it like that as I did.
(Written by Gopika Varrier)