What does it feel like to be a survivor, fighter mom and fitness coach? Which is your favourite role?
It’s great to feel all those things in one – being a survivor, fighter mom and fitness coach. I feel like a superwoman! My favourite role is, of course, being a mother. It is a blessed role. But being a Cancer survivor is my destiny, it’s not a role, but I’m playing it very well. Fitness is my passion, and I’m obsessed with it, I’m playing it to the best of my capabilities. I’m a fitness freak hahha!
Why and how did you embrace fitness? Was it always a part of your lifestyle or has surviving Cancer played a role in it?
Fitness was always a part of my life. Even before marriage, I was into fitness, but I was not a fitness coach. I had just started it from teenage, but at that time, it was because I wanted to become size zero and have a tiny waist, etc., the typical teenage things. But the muscle gaining thing started after surviving Cancer. It made me set goals and work on my muscles. So, fitness was a part of my life, but after Cancer survival, it grew to a different level, goals started after it.
Did fitness or workouts help you overcome your fears of treatments and the possibility of death?
I wasn’t worried about death at all, but I was more or less like a brain dead person. During my treatments, especially Chemotherapy, I was a useless person, and I couldn’t do anything during that time. At that time, I used to sit on my couch simply, and that made me think that I’ve to do this and that. I didn’t do any workout then, but post-treatment it has helped me a lot, particularly in overcoming the side effects of cancer treatment. Mentally, it has helped me quite a lot. The small gym I have at home and my weights are my safest space. That’s the place where I bust my stress and vent anger, in the past and even now. You can say that if I’m tired or I feel weird, and I go and workout, I’m fine after that.
What was the biggest parenting challenge during Cancer treatment and survivorship?
Jisha was only two and a half years old when I was diagnosed. But I’d say I was lucky to have my mother by my side throughout the treatment, so there were no parenting challenges as such at that time because my mother was taking good care of my child. I’m very thankful to her for that. The only problem was that I was not able to spend quality time with her. I lost almost one and a half years because I was mostly frustrated and irritated because of Chemotherapy. There were times when I’ve asked her to just leave me alone for some time. Sometimes I found it difficult to just smile at someone after Chemo. I think I had nothing to do with it, and it was the treatment playing with my mind.
Being a survivor, how have you changed, and how are you living life differently?
I feel stronger than I was before Cancer had me or I had Cancer, whichever way you put it. Now I’m a completely changed personality, inside out. I’m stronger, both physically and mentally, unlike the time before Cancer when I used to get affected by what people would say about me or anything like that. Now I don’t give a damn about what anybody tells about me, either to me or behind my back, because I’m living life in my terms and I’m happy. I greet everyone with a smiling face, but I don’t care what I get in return.
How do you charge up your routine, and where do you get #fitspiration from, i.e., what is your ‘Motivation Mantra?’
Getting things organised and planned motivates me. Before going to bed, I plan my workouts and meals for the next day. I wake up to my workouts, that’s how I like it its been my motivation since treatment.
What are your picks for the following perfect meals – breakfast, pre-workout, post-workout, dinner, snacks?
Disclaimer – all these foods are boring for some people, especially my family members who can’t eat or see it. But anyway, I eat them daily. For breakfast, I take walnuts and low-fat milk with one spoon of whey. Preworkout is Protein coffee, I just mix it and shake, shake, shake! My postworkout is again whey with a boiled egg. As for midmorning snack, I make a small meal with nuts, cinnamon, flaxseeds and yoghurt. Chicken with veggies makes up lunch every day. Evening snack is also a little boring, with boiled egg and kidney beans. Dinner is better, its yellow lentils with veggies. Before bedtime, I have raisins with milk and almonds.
What are your thoughts on a vegan lifestyle, do you support it or think it is overrated?
I think I’d choose the middle ground. Neither do I support it entirely, nor do I oppose it. I’m not a vegan myself, and I’m a hardcore non-vegetarian. If I become Vegan, my body will demand more protein, and if I switch to it, I know it won’t be up to its fullest.
Can you share few pointers for a healthy diet plan and work out tips for the readers?
A healthy diet could be anything which you cook yourself at home. Tip one would be to not go for junk food and packaged or canned/tinned food. They’re full of preservatives. Also try to include protein, carbohydrates and fat. Your body needs fat. I’ve seen people avoid fat totally, its completely wrong so you can have food items like butter or ghee.
In the same way, include complex carbohydrates and protein as well. Protein is excellent. I’ve heard a lot of people ask me about my high protein intake affecting hair fall or kidney and liver damages. Proteins such as Biotin and Omega are healthy for our body and help in hair growth etc. As for the workout, do anything that keeps you physically active. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a proper workout, and it could be anything like swimming, jogging, walking or even doing yoga. It’ll keep you fit, and you’ll find peace, both mentally and physically.
What are three essential exercises you would recommend to anyone? Why are they your top three choices?
First and foremost, and the most important one would be squats. Squatting is essential for any average person, it’s really good for your lower body and joints. If you don’t squat, you might lose out on certain things because the muscles in your lower body are the longest and squats are suitable for it. The second exercise would be push-ups. It’ll build both strength and stamina. A beginner could start with knee pushups and wall pushups and slowly switch to standard pushups. The third one is the plank. Planks build your core strength without which you won’t be able to perform other exercises like heavy lifting or anything.
After fitness and Little Miss Jisha, what is that one thing which eats up the majority of your time and attention?
Social media. I’m a fitness and lifestyle influencer and a parenting blogger on Instagram. So I have to take good care in handling my Instagram. Brand collaborations and things like that take a lot of time too. The funny part is that my Instagram handle says ‘little miss Jisha’ so I get messages saying “Hi Jisha!” and I tell them “No, I’m not Jisha. I’m a fighter mom!”
How do you update knowledge of fitness and health to the world?
Instagram and Facebook, primarily. I’m a Youtuber too, and I have a channel in which I post videos on workouts, but I’m not as regular there as I am in Instagram and Facebook where I post videos regularly. I post these videos to let the world know that there is a healthy life after Cancer, its not the end of life, you can still have a life after that.
What are the latest trends in fitness that you find interesting?
I’m not sure what the latest fitness trends are. The workouts are the same, but you can always add variations to that. But if you ask me particularly, there’s this ‘Snatch and Pull’ thing that has been going on for quite some time now, and I want to try that. I’m a little weak in that, and I’ve been running behind it of late. My left shoulder and arm are weak compared to my right. I can lift with it, but I get tired fast, so I’m working on making it stronger.
What is one fitness luxury that you can’t live without?
Currently, I’m not missing anything because I have got everything at home in my gym. I have got a gym wall, dumbells, resistance bands, pull up bars – you name it, and I’ve got it in my mini-gym. But if a scenario comes where I can’t do without one or any of these, it’d be a ‘kettlebell.’
One major challenge you faced, or still face in the area of health and fitness, and your coping mechanism.
My left arm and shoulder being weaker than the right. So the major challenge for me is to push myself to lift more and more every day because my hand starts paining and I get tired. It’s been a challenge since the time of treatments, but I guess it’ll remain like this forever. My goal is to make this arm stronger, and I’m working towards that.
To someone taking baby steps towards a healthier lifestyle and fitness, what would your advice be?
My first advice would be not to go and stand on the weighing scale every day, don’t take your weight on a family basis. Instead of weighing yourself daily, it’s better to take an inch tape and calculate your inches because you tend to lose inches every week if you maintain a healthy lifestyle and losing an inch motivates you for the next week. This is something I make my trainees follow as well. The second advice would be to stick to a healthy diet because many people can’t just eat the diet-based or home-cooked food daily; they need variations and sometimes even desserts. So, a healthy meal’s the tip. The third advice would be to exercise correctly, like start with a brisk walk and turn it into jogging eventually.
What are the myths around fitness and healthy eating that needs to be debunked?
The myth that I’d like to debunk is that lifting weights would make a woman look masculine. That’s what most people think, but it is wrong. Lifting weight can reduce fat, but it doesn’t make you look manly. Yet another myth is that if people stop going to the gym regularly, they tend to gain weight. This is not the case because even if you go or do not fo to the gym or workout, you will gain weight if you don’t eat healthily or eat correctly.
What’s something that would probably surprise most people about you, being a fitness coach?
I think something that surprises people when they see me as a fitness coach is the fact that I’m a Cancer survivor. It intrigues many people as to how I became a fitness trainer from a survivor. That’s a positive thing for me because it gives me more motivation and keeps me going.