The Importance Of Rujuta Diwekar

I remember a cartoon where a fat scowling lady standing in a bookshop is telling a college girl there is no humour section here, this is  a feminist bookstore :))

This khadoos portrait of feminism exists because women are so taken up with conquering the world and having it all, that inner peace and well-being comes last. Well fitness feminism (I just coined it ); is about taking control of your health and well-being so that you feel like a winner inside out. Rujuta Diwekar’s latest book “Women and the Weight Loss Tamasha” is first off about self-love and self-acceptance. It is Fitness Feminism in a desi idiom. Which Mrs Sood, her teenaged daughter Pinky and her MIL Pushpa jee can all identify with and understand. It delivers a solid punch in the nose to a whole lot of neurosis that makes women weak, unhealthy and enamoured with slim looks while feeling like shit inside.

The book is a winner because it addresses all the cultural, emotional, social baggage that Indian women, even the educated and career oriented ones carry. This conditions them to put their own needs last and it plays havoc with their health. The consumerist convenience culture with fake, unhealthy foods being perceived as glamorous and ghar ka dibba as an object of mirth, ensures that eating for nourishment is the last priority for most. Weight loss as an attempt to look good, get married, get pregnant whatever – adds to the self torture. Rujuta puts the tortured, abused and much judged woman’s  body at the centre and asks us to first respect and thank our body for what it has done for us and what it still do for us if given half a chance.

We must eat wisely and work out not to lose ‘X’ kilos in ‘Y’ days as a prelude to getting hitched to some A -class asshole but because we owe it to ourselves -not for a date or shaadi but for that grand event- our day-to day life.

I like how the book is organized around four rites of passage of a woman’s life : puberty, marriage, pregnancy and menopause. With a bindass freshness she first axes the social and cultural pressures of each stage; deals with the health and fitness pitfalls we create with our choices. Bad choices come from a reductionist thinking about our bodies – as if it’s an infinite resource to be exploited. Till we end up with some chronic disease and start popping pills mindlessly. But never try to find out “yeh hua kyon?”Rujuta does a lot of hand-holding at each stage and tells women how they can support themselves and their bodies and choose wisely. The linkage of eating with lifestyle diseases especially the hormonal hells of PCOS and Thyroid is a great feature of the book.
Of course I have certain issues. The sketchy treatment of Diabetes; the whole -hearted endorsement of whole grains for diabetics and above all the curious recommendation of egg-white omelettes and soy-milk (ugh!). And all this will be dealt in a future post.

But all these niggling issues should not distract from the importance of this book: eating well and sensibly are for life and its effects permeate your work, your relationships; your whole quality of life. Rujuta could have easily made a living making meal plans for celebrities. But she goes beyond that and tells every woman about the intimate network that eating habits have with all else in life. Such honesty deserves a round of applause.

Varsha Tiwary

Indian Audit and Accounts Service (1994), has done her masters from Punjab University, Chandigarh and is presently Accountant General Madhya Pradesh. She has a daughter, eight & son, six years old and thinks that one’s ability to cope with age, motherhood, work compulsions are all enhanced by an attitude of fitness. Her blog Wholesome Options carries well-researched advise, personal experiences and experiments; not from the lofty heights of professional expertise but with all the compulsions of someone for whom fitness and wellness is all the more important because she has so much else to do in life and is listed as the Top Health Blogger in Wellsphere.

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