on bad food, bad marriages and diets

When you come out of a bad marriage, and start spilling the beans, albeit only to those close to you, it always amazes your family and friends, why you took so long to realize that things were going wrong.

But the thing is that when you are in a marriage, it is not all bad, not always bad. There are good moments, happy moments, moments when you see the man in the same room as you are, and are quite sure about why you married him.

Then there is a moment in that very same room, when it strikes you that it is not working, it is never going to work.

It has been like that at this hotel here in Bangalore. It struck me after 2 months that the food here is horrible because it is made with cheap oil, overused oil. Despite all the efforts to lay out the buffet table, and the friendly, courteous waiters, there is a carelessness with which the food is prepared that reveals itself after a long stay and daily eating.

There have been good moments. Some dishes tasted good the first couple of times one ate them; sometimes in a buffet, a dish turns out reasonably well. But mostly it is indifferent gravies, potatoes cooked in the same oil as the fish, cheap vegetables and meat disguised with a surfeit of masalas and oil.

It is after the first two weeks here, that I consulted a dietician. On a shoot away from home, it is quite unbelievable how much you end up eating. Someone is having a fresh lime soda in the evening, well, why not, you could do with one. Someone is having a pastry, and you grab a spoon, and take a few bites. Someone is having a sandwich with chips, and you feel hungry. It occurred to me that at the end of 4 months, I would pile on more kilos to the excess ones I already had.

The talk with the dietician was quite revealing despite all my reading up on Rijuta Diwekar’s books. I had always believed that I ate healthily. But I realized that in the last 20 years, I have given up almost all the food I ate as a child, adapted to other people’s eating habits, got used to other foods. With that, I also learnt to eat when stressed. And though I ate small meals, who was counting those pieces of chocolate, the ice-creams, the vada pavs now and then, those little bits of this and that and so on, so on, so on?

A cosmetic surgeon at the hospital here said to me, “It’s mainly women who worry about their weight. I see many obese men out there, but hardly any come for consultations. But with the women, their weight is a problem, how they look, what they wear, there are so many issues.” He continued, “Most women come and say, but Doctor, I hardly eat anything. Well, that’s not true. The calories come from eating, they don’t come from the air or water.”

A bariatric surgeon at the hospital says, “It is surprising how little food our bodies really need.”

I sat in at the obesity clinic one day. 3 patients came in that morning.

The first is 45 kilos overweight and has many emotional issues. But she is also surprisingly candid about her problems. She does not have a supportive husband, and lives only for her children. Despite her cathartic outpouring to the doctor, she went back home and is reluctant to take the medical tests the doctor has asked her to take. She has been on many diets, followed many fads, taken a lot of pills and never lost weight. She was hoping the doctor would just operate on her and make her thinner. He wanted her to exercise, diet and come to terms with her eating habits before he considered surgery.

The second patient is 15 kilos overweight and content with life. She has a supportive husband who knows more about her than she does herself, when she had last had medical tests done, what her height is. She had never bothered with her weight until now. As she grows older, she can’t keep up with her children. She also thinks she may develop other health problems because of her weight and would like to resolve the problem before it is too late.

The third is a Brazilian woman, she has put on weight after the birth of her 2 children. She wants to get her breasts operated on next year. I am not sure, but I think she wants a breast reduction. And she wants to lose weight overall before then. She is 10 kilos overweight, and had not realized that she had put on weight slowly over the years.

It fascinated me that all these 3 women were so different in their backgrounds and temperaments and yet were struggling with the same problem of weight. I look at myself and I see that I too have slowly added a few kilos to myself every year without realizing it.

I am not sure I can lose those kilos, but at least I can make sure I don’t add any more. Instead I add more nutrients to my food than I’ve been getting.

I don’t find it hard to diet here, it’s quite easy to make up most of the meal with cucumbers, tomatoes and carrots, dry fruits and chicken, milk and cereal, fruit.

But when the oil gets too rancid, I think it is all right if I have a spoon of gaajar ka halwa, and then take 2. And when I get some reality-inducing calls from home, I find myself reaching out for a piece of chocolate.

Well, at least I know now where the calories are coming from. But it is one thing to know what healthy eating is, and another to eat healthily. It is one thing to know your marriage is not working, and another to walk out.

Life is never easy, sigh. And we haven’t started talking yet of exercise.

Edited to add: Most of the time though, I sit at the table and watch what people fill up their plates with and how much they pile up. I shake my head, silently, critically. But I don’t say, “Walk away, walk away”, even though I want to.


  1. Uff-oh! What’s eating you is also eating me – I was speaking to a nutritionist yesterday with supportive husband, armed with bloodwork and got a little impatient because she didn’t ask me about our desi food and what exactly our meals are like, typically. She has conveniently provided me with a tel. no and email but I doubt if I’m likely to use these links frequently. I look at the recipes and groan over no mention of soaking time for brown rice, lentils, beans (not even looking at how badly written they are). Generous use of tamatar, cucumber – wait, don’t their seeds irritate an already compromised digestive system? No salt and teekha, no chai or coffee – bound to be my undoing – but who doesn’t like a challenge, all the more challenging because we’re paying for it. I thought to myself, I’ve known most of these things but because I lack in the self-discipline department, I must pay and be monitored.
    And yes, thanks for mentioning how awful restaurant meals taste when one has eaten them once too often. And yet, even as I write this, I’m salivating over memories of Club Sandwich with Tomato Omelette at Fort Central, dal-rice-papad-pickle and hot sambar-rice-papad-pickle at Dwarka Restaurant, misal-pao at Shree Samarth and that Rajdhani thali – all you can eat used to be Rs 25 per plate in the ’90s, now all the way up to a royal Rs 250 or more by now. Hum nahin sudhrenge.

    • Desi-at-large, in fact, I have a very good nutritionist. She works with what my routine is, what I like eating, what I can digest and the fact that I am living away from home, in a hotel right now. And I’m still having salt and teekha and tea and coffee. The key, my friend, is moderation.πŸ™‚

      Well, this horrendous food at the hotel costs us around 350 rupees, every meal, which also adds to our woes. We have now negotiated and brought the price down to 250 rupees, but that doesn’t make the food any tastier.

      • Oh, I forgot to mention, I’m allowed salt in the form of another fermented product and white pepper for spice – only for the next three weeks. Then cayenne can be used (but since my extra hot chilli powder is lower on the Scoliville Scale, I’m thinking I’ll ask her about that)
        As for the doctor pointing out indisputably that calories indeed come from eating, not thin air, I hope he is also addressing the fact that as we grow older, acid production in our stomachs is reduced and that leads to a host of digestive, hence absorption issues, resulting in nutritient deficiencies. How many women have I seen, friends and family, with darker skin below their eyes – anaemia or just lack of B-12? But the doctor does make the wisest observation – how little food our bodies need – just think, how much food there would be, to go around in the world if we all consumed only what our bodies needed, no more. Even now, with bakasurs abounding, there is enough food so that no human being goes hungry to bed, but what weapon can contend with selfishness?
        I’m glad you haggled about the food price, it still sounds atrocious for the food quality you detect, though.

        • Desi-at-large, I think you should try and find another nutritionist. Someone who doesn’t work with your food habits and schedules can’t be good for you. But I am sure you will manage to find someone more supportive.

          Ah yes, age, of course. Who can stop that?πŸ™‚

          The food is ridiculously over-priced even now. We go to better restaurants and eat better food for almost the same price on our days off. Unfortunately, we don’t have many of those.😦

  2. How did I miss this post????
    Willowy??? I’d need to be tall for that, so not possible in this birth. I’ve a set list of requirements for my next birth, but I hope I still have all the other good things I have in this one. I hope it isn’t too much to ask for. I would like to be tall and slender, and have a good singing voice.

    I could blame the spouse for my being overweight (easiest thing to do, blame him for everything), since he rarely returns home before nine p.m or so. Since dinner is the only meal we have together and I’m ravenous by 8 p.m, I tend to nibble a khakhra or two, or some namkeen, or some biscuits. It all adds up😦
    When he’s travelling I could eat sensibly and on time, so I make veggie-full soups and stews and fill up on them at the right time, but then I crave some ice-cream, and some other nonsense😦

    I have all the right theories, need lots of will power, though.
    Before we moved to this house, we were in the company guest house for two whole months. The cook was excellent and the food was very good, but much richer than what we eat on a daily basis.
    The two kilos I gained then mostly hang around, disappear for a week or so and then come back and stay for months. I wish they would go and take another ten of their ilk along with them, permanently.
    Maybe, just maybe I reform.

    • Ah Dipali,

      If I’d wish for anything, that would be a good singing voice.πŸ™‚

      It does need a lot of, lots and lots of will power. Sticking to healthy eating, AND exercising.

  3. I can’t say I was ever ‘willowy’ but I was extremely slim. Now I feel I’m almost stout… how did that happen?πŸ™‚ Anyway, I’ve realised and am working on it but it takes so much more time to lose a kilo or three now I’m that much older…

    I think buffets are the worst – they do something to people’s mentality (it’s all included in the price so I’ll take lots) – plates are literally piled to overflowing – *shudder* – and then there’s the waste…

    • Early Bird, me too. That is, never willowy, but very, very thin. And yes, as I grow older, the kilos seem to have taken root.πŸ™‚

      It’s horrid, the buffet system. Even if you taste a spoonful of everything, you land up with a lot on your plate. Shudder, indeed.

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