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BOOK REVIEW: Women and the Weight Loss Tamasha

Thanks to Liberty Books for the review copy

Published in Daily Times / Saturday, February 26, 2011
Under the Title: A Play-book for Losers
Reviewed By: Afrah Jamal
Author: Rujuta Diwekar

Master: “You are free to eat.”

Po: “Am I?”

Master: “Are you?” —
Dialogue from Kung Fu Panda (2008)

Po, the Kung Fu Panda, doubted his mentor/master much like readers will doubt a nutritionist guru when she hands over an exclusive pass to eat and, yet, maintain a strategic advantage in the fight against fat.

They need not.

A thriving industry feeds off of ignorance about weight-related issues. And when health and happiness become collateral damage in the mad dash for the finish line, it is time to alter the game plan.

‘Nutritionist to the stars’ Rujuta makes this lonely trek to the promised land a joyful experience where food is not the enemy, and learning the art of making better judgment calls is on the menu. Since she labels the struggle with weight loss a tamasha (spectacle) at the very outset, readers know this session will be unlike any other.

Most of her advice is subcontinent-specific and, as the title suggests, women-centric. The rest is good old-fashioned common sense combined with conventional wisdom offered on an unconventional platter. In it are strategies customised to fit desperate women of all shapes and sizes from their teens to adulthood and beyond, only this time without reckless disregard for the stealthy changes that occur throughout a person’s life-cycle or social pressures that dictate the course of their journey.

She will propose a plan where deprivation and starvation are unwelcome, that has room for minor violations and shows ways to avoid major ones. “It is perfectly normal to eat more on some days and less on others,” she announces, adding that, “a meal plan is a guideline not a law that cannot be broken.” In this (curious) scenario, weighing machines do not exist — “they are never accurate and are bad indicators of health, fitness and beauty” — working out for more than an hour is not recommended and carbs can sit on the same table without triggering alarm bells.

She is persuasive, entertaining, creative and compassionate; what is more, she understands the mysterious forces that govern the lives of modern day women and factors in the million little things that threaten to knock them out of orbit. Her book takes both physical and cultural limitations into account when it walks them through the complex maze of family, career and commitments, elevating this from a simple lesson in weight loss to a crash course in life.

It puts a stop to bad habits like maniacally counting calories, seeking dangerous short cuts to fitness-ville or attempting to score nutritional value out of fat free/low fat substitutes. Suddenly, health takes precedence and weight loss is simply an interesting side effect. A vital shift of perspective that removes the focus from losing weight and puts it on re-gaining mastery over one’s life makes all the difference.

The way the obstacle course has been set up, there are different sets of hurdles positioned at unexpected junctures. Her research is designed to convince those confounded by weight-related issues, enamoured by new fangled diet/fitness trends or haunted by health problems to take a moment for self-evaluation. She writes up citations for bad behaviour brought on by social conditioning, misinformation or poor judgment to prevent the next person becoming a cautionary tale.

Here the target is improving physical/mental/emotional health. This much-needed intervention takes real life examples, actual diet recalls/evaluations allowing readers to take the initiative and devise personal recalls “based on current lifestyle and challenges.” Once inside, they find four strategies of well-being dealing with food, workout, sleep and relationships that leave them enlightened, empowered and inspired.

There is happy news that “the body alters the moment eating and exercise habits change,” indisputable facts like “sleep cannot be compensated for on weekends,” sad truths< that “walking does not qualify as an exercise unless it is progressive” and helpful tips such as “anything more than a 60 minute workout leads to a loss in muscle tissue, lower metabolic rate and less fat burning capability.

She has an interesting theory about how the past can come back to haunt us, in a good way. She asserts that “those with a history of keeping fit find getting back to original fitness levels that much easier,” adding that “detraining occurs within three weeks so going without exercise for longer is not recommended.

Even when one is sceptical about certain recommendations (adding ghee to the diet), one cannot argue with the logic that drives her arguments. Readers will find themselves not only relating to the people featured in these pages but also eager to embark on a new journey and embrace a better lifestyle. Rujuta’s book may have been endorsed by a celebrity figure but the roadmap will guide anyone who chooses to listen to their destination of choice.

And leave them free to eat!

Westland; Pp 420; Rs 395

Images Courtesy of:


  1. Sweet..:).

    'twas my first self help book review( of the wt loss kind) & Ive been gushing abt it ever since...

    P.S: Rujuta was kind enough to post this on her FB page.

  2. Yes, it seems to be a good read... going by your review :)

    "Rujuta was kind enough to post this on her FB page."

    That's wonderful! Good going! Hope to read many more reviews going forward... but not limited to the weight loss kind that is :D

  3. :)...stay tuned for Tony Blair's Journey in the coming months. Also hoping 2 do the wikileak one...Lets see...

    last year i felt like a character from the Julie/ Julia movie (she vowed to try out 524? recipes in 365 days) while i chased a target of 52 reviews in one year..fell short by 9 or so..ah well...!

  4. Tony Blair's Journey? What genre does it fall into: fiction/ fantasy/ half-truths?

    52 reviews in one year... and you fell short by 9 or so! Oh My! May you complete your century :)

  5. ha! @ blair's fiction...:)..i loved Ghostwriter- the movie BTW..which was (not so) loosely based on Blair

    thanks & once the century is over..,,.then maybe a ill write a book abt the joys of reviewing books..( there were some truly dramatic backstories attached to the books/authors...also some memorable responses from other critics...just a thought!..:)

  6. Mr. Cauliflower Ears is the Middle East peace envoy. Not sure about the 'peace' bit though. 'Piece' certainly!

    Good luck on you book! Should make an entertaining and insightful read :)

    Just as kingmakers are more powerful than kings... so are back-stories attached to books/authors more interesting than the content of the books :)

  7. there was at least one lovely soap opera going on in the background..:)...lets see where this venture leads...

    having made several false starts , i've developed a new found respect for authors ...the discipline required to get ones thoughts organized & the courage needed to hand it over to that nasty critic just waiting to tear it 2 bits...not every1 is up 4 it.

    hats off to the writers!

  8. False starts? Well, you could look up the Robert the Bruce story again :)

    And this is what the master storyteller goes through:

    As for critics... their job is to criticize :)

    Ruskin Bond's collection of ghost stories was roundly criticized by critics (who else!) but went into its 2nd edition the very next day. I guess critics should not take themselves and their jobs too seriously. What?

  9. Looking up the link now...many thanks 4 the encouragement...


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