Deanne Panday is one of the country’s foremost fitness experts. She has been shaping up some of the hottest, most successful, and fittest people for the past fifteen years. Some of her clients over the years include Bipasha Basu, John Abraham, Dino Morea, Lara Dutta, Jacqueline Fernandez, Sonakshi Sinha, and Bobby Deol. Deanne has been featured in Femina, Midday, DNA, Vogue, and so on. She has set up some of India’s finest gyms and even set up Play, her own boutique gym, which consisted of a high end gym, spa, and yoga studio. Deanne launched Bia Brazil in India, a top lifestyle workout gear for women. She is responsible for Bipasha’s new avatar and has helped her create a line of fitness DVDs. She lives in Mumbai with her husband and two children. This is her debut book.
I still remember the day I first met Deanne in 1991. My first film Deewana was yet to be released and I had gone to pick up Gauri after a fashion show. It was there that Gauri introduced me to Deanne, her young and shy friend. I met her husband (then boyfriend), Chikki, the same day when we went to drop her off, and although decades have zipped by we have remained fast friends.
Deanne and Chikki were my first friends in Mumbai. I used to call them the beauty and the beast, the beauty, of course, being Deanne. During those days, LCDs had just been launched so the four of us would gather in Chikki’s house and watch movies every night. On most days, after shooting and dinner, I would head there. We loved to hang around, chat, and watch films. It was so much fun. In 1992, when I bought my first house in Mumbai, the rendezvous shifted to my flat, where we would chat late into the night. Soon enough, our dear friends decided to get married and Gauri hosted Deanne’s mehndi ceremony at our house.
Deanne has always been extremely fit and exercised regularly even back then, when fitness had not hit Bollywood and India in a big way. After she had her daughter Alanna, she got back into shape quickly and returned to modeling. Friends would often tease her about it because they thought it was sheer vanity. But for Deanne it has always been a way of life. She doesn’t smoke and drinks rarely. She is the same even today. She would often sit at the bar in my house and sip tea unperturbed, much to the shock of many of our friends.
I wasn’t surprised when Deanne opened her studio ‘Play’ in 2007 as I had always known about her passion for health and fitness. But what did surprise me was her overall transformation from shy friend to confident and successful professional. It almost seemed as though she was always meant to do this.
It’s been almost twenty years but our friendship is still rock solid. I have seen Deanne grow and evolve over the years as a wife, a mother of two children, and a professional who handles the ups and downs of life gracefully and with ease. She is full of knowledge, experience, warmth and optimism, and promotes health through natural methods that endure. According to me, the best quality she possesses is that she preaches only what she practices herself, and would never recommend current fads, fat burners, or shortcuts that could harm the body. This is what has made her the most popular fitness and lifestyle trainer in the country.
I believe that the key to a good lifestyle is the combination of a healthy mind and body. In fact, a healthy mind comes before a healthy body. So when Deanne told me she was writing a book on stress, I couldn’t be happier. Stress is, after all, one of the most common and persistent health problems and has both long and short term effects.
For me, stress is the inability to deal with too many things at the same time. I feel sometimes it is self-inflicted. Maybe things are not as difficult as you think. All that is required is to get down to it. I define stress as an unclean work table where you keep feeling, ‘Oh, my God, I’ve got so much work to do!’ But if you sit down and start at one corner, you can work towards cleaning it up. A lot of people collect stress because they let it build up. If my table is cluttered, and if I start forgetting about it or say, I just refuse to do anything about it, it will only pile up. Today was cleaning day for me, as far as work was concerned. I sat down for five hours, and started from A and went up to the end. So I think all you need to do is compartmentalize and organize the cluttered set of things to do in your mind.
When I’m stressed, I don’t take any outside help. Stress affects me in a different way. I don’t start sweating, I go silent. I know that if you are stressed, it’s best to face it head on or to accept that some types of stress can’t be sorted till the work is .done. The kind of work I do sometimes takes years to finish. In fact, my work is always stressful because I’m making a highly expensive product and will never know if it’s going to work or not. I have been working in stressful situations for twenty years so I know that getting agitated will not solve things. Doing something about a situation will. However, being paranoid is equal to doing nothing, so I try to avoid that. But I do worry, I do think about it. That’s why I write it down. Once I’ve put it down on paper or on my computer, I know it’s been compartmentalized. Then, I open that piece of paper and try to solve it.
Sometimes, for me, the best stress buster is to play it down, whether through a video game, a workout, football or hockey. I don’t swim; I wish I knew how to. I take it out physically. Instead of doing the work I’m supposed to do, I go and play with the kids or have a game of football. Or sometimes, I feel like canceling everything and just lying in bed. Right now, my phone has 2,000 messages, of which 1,200 need to be replied to. But my logic is simple:
If I have to play Barbie dolls with my daughter when there’s a huge amount of work to be done or an important person to meet. .I’ll choose the Barbie dolls. I know I’ll pay for it. Maybe I’ll lose out on a good opportunity, but I know playing with my son and daughter is going to hold me in good stead twenty years from now when I actually have no work. At that point, when I’m 65 or 70 years old, I will not miss work because I’ll have my kids to keep me happy without thinking, ‘Damn, I wish I was working!’ But when I do work, I am very diligent. I’m full of energy because I really want to do that work. I’ve never said ‘Yes’ to something I didn’t want to do. If I’m doing it, it means I took time to decide to do it and that I really liked it over and above playing with Barbie dolls. That’s why when I come to work, I’m really happy and give my best. I guess all of us need to prioritize and make our choices to avoid stress later. This is what I believe in.
Deanne, with her positive outlook, rich experience, and expert advice is the ideal spokesperson to help people deal with stress. Today, she is stress-free despite going through all sorts of ups and downs, both personally and professionally. Each time she has been in a difficult situation, she has come out stronger and maintained her natural warmth and positive attitude towards life. So ‘m glad that in her first book, my DD Bachcha, as I call her fectioflately, has chosen to write about stress, and share he tips and secrets she has collected over decades. I hope you will find the book as fun and useful as I did.
I would like to thank all the people who gave me their valuable insights and shared their experiences with me. This book would not have been the same without your help. So thank you Shahrukh Khan, Dino Morea, John Abraham, Jacqueline Fernandez, Bipasha Basu, Lara Dutta, Karan Johar, Ekta Kapoor, Dr Nitin Raut, Leander Paes, Rhea Pillai, Atul Ruia, Cyrus Broacha, Anaita Shroff Adjania, Danesh, and Surily Goel. You’ve made this book special.
Our wonderful panel of experts who took out time from their busy schedules and provided invaluable insight and information—Dr Buoy Sharad Apte, Varkha Chulani, Shiamak Davar, Dr Niti Desai, Dr Ranjana Dhanu, Dr Shashank Joshi, Dr Prakash Kothari, Dr Ashok Mehta, Dr Sunita More, Dr Snehalata Panday, Dr Brian Pinto, Dr Jamuna Pai, Dr Sanjay Ramani, Rozina Amin Rajwani, Dr Vishwas Raut, Shonali Sabherwal, Dr Niti Sapru, Dr Rustum Soonawalla, Radhika Thakkar, and Tamara Zweck.
Diana Kotwal, thank you so much for helping me with your suggestions and inputs. A big thank you to all the people who shared their stories—those we could include in the book as well as those we couldn’t—for being patient and generous with your time.
Thank IOU, Tina Dehal, for 5hootiflg the cover photograph, and Vishall Mull for the exercise photographs in the book at such short notice. I want to especially thank my beautiful family—my loving husband Chikki, my darling children Alanfla and Ahaan_Wh0 have been my anchor and joy for all these years mum-I’ Sneha, brother aw Chunky, sister- in-law Bhavna, my mom Queerly, and siblings Alison, Linda, Leon, Suzie, Alistair; I could not have come this far without you guys.
And finally, thank you, Tanya Christiania, for introducing me to the wonderful Random House family, and my editor, Milee Ashwarya, for her constant support and flouriest in writing my first book.
If there are two words that could easily represent our life today, they might be ‘stress’ and ‘getaway’, the latter being an effort to put the former to rest, even if for a little while. But how about getting away from stress without having to actually get away from what is in fact our life? Yes, for everyone who ever wondered how they were going to cope, whether that nagging headache would ever subside and if, at any point, there would be relief from the unrelenting pressure of daily life, this book is my answer to them.
Juggling relationships, parenthood, high pressure jobs, commutes, loans, education, and all the ‘necessary’ ingredients to get ahead isn’t easy, and it is increasingly taking its toll on us. I realized I had to take a few steps back some years ago. I was cementing my place in the world of fitness, training clients, juggling classes between my kids’ school, PTAs, and instructing help who ran away the minute they were ready to rock and roll. It also became increasingly difficult for me to counsel my clients to take it easy when I was evidently as much on edge as them. So, I decided to take serious steps towards figuring out HOW to handle the stress in my life. And it isn’t always easy----for a lot of people the process of distressing can actually be stressful itself. What do I eat? When do I do my breathing exercises? Who will watch the kids if I do? If I get caught in traffic then I’ll miss my gym class.
So what if you could carry the solution around with you, wherever you go. What if you didn’t have to go somewhere to distress. It’s possible. If you just figure out how to do it. It took me a while. I met trainers, physiotherapists, psychiatrists, endocrinologists and, most of all, I met a lot of people like me. Sure, their lives were different, they dealt with different pressures—but like me, we had all hit breaking point at some stage of our lives.
I’m a genetic cocktail. My father was half Scottish, half Nepalese. My mother is half East Indian, half Portuguese. This means I got to enjoy the best of four worlds. I was naturally fit from a very young age. Since this was the pre-cable TV and Internet era, we were outdoors a lot. We climbed trees, scraped our knees, and set out to find more branches to conquer. Between my five siblings and me, we were always running around, fighting, wrestling, and just being typical hyperactive kids.
When we were young, everything in our lives ran like clockwork: Wake up, breakfast, school, lunch, nap, homework, play, dinner. Everyone knew the schedule and what they were supposed to be doing at any particular time. My mother stuffed us with healthy food. Breakfast consisted of rave, porridge and half-boiled eggs, while chicken or Vega stew, and fish made up lunch. It didn’t matter if we made a face or pleading puppy dog eyes, we had to eat what was given to us. Birthdays were the only occasions when we were showered with gifts and Sunday was the only day the television was turned on and everyone would gather around to watch the 6 pm movie. If we fell ill or got hurt, simple home remedies like brandy and iodine were used.
But those were simpler times with no video games or the Internet to keep me from heading outdoors. Sometimes, it feels like I fell asleep, woke up, and overnight, the sweet, frugal pace of life had switched to crazy mode with too much consumption and too little appreciation. So yes, as I look at my own kids and the world they inhabit now—I do realize that there is no going back to that. In short, things can only be simpler now if we choose to make them so. But more on that later.
When I turned sixteen, life changed drastically for me. I started getting modeling offers. That came as a huge surprise because I was a shy kid with braces and glasses and little confidence. Around this time, I also met my husband Chikki. Our innocent meetings turned from quiet love to open declarations, and soon culminated in marriage. We both came from very different backgrounds and as a young bride in a joint family, I had to make many adjustments. It was tough going but I chose to look at the positive side of it. Most of us are not very open to change, especially after we have developed our own style of living. But sometimes, accepting change and learning new things in life helps you stay positive and grow as an individual. My kids Alanna and Ahaan were born soon after.
Soon enough, a publication asked me to write a fitness column for them. My first thought was, ‘Are they crazy?’ I was an amateur and was surprised by the offer, but I agreed to do it. That set the ball rolling and pretty soon I became the agony aunt of the fitness world. My hunger for knowledge never ceased. I was always curious to learn more about the latest in fitness. When Alanna was four years old and Ahaan was two, I left for Australia to do a two-week fitness course and ended up staying for four months. It was a wonderful, exciting time. I was surrounded by people who not only lived and breathed fitness, but to whom it was almost a religion. I learnt many new things; put a lot of preconceptions to rest.
I used to go to gyms and would often see people running on treadmills without stretching. If I did weight training, I was told I’d beef up like a man. There was so much false information floating around that I took it upon myself to set the record straight. I would observe people in gyms and write about it. When a new fitness trend hit India, I would be the first to try it. Boxing, spinning, Pilates... check, check, and check. Then around fifteen years ago, I got into yoga. During my very first class, I felt different and knew I had stumbled on something huge, though back then no one else seemed to agree with me.
By 1999, fitness had finally picked up in a big way. The Miss India pageant approached me to train contestants. It was a bit unnerving to take on such a high profile job, but I accepted. By now, the floodgates had burst open, and I found myself answering fitness queries on a minute-to- minute basis. Once my kids entered school, I took on my first client. Like me, she was a mother of two children, but unlike me, she had found it impossible to lose weight. I took her on, on the strict understanding that this arrangement would be our little secret. In a single month, she lost so much weight that her friends and family started calling her Mrs. India! Word soon spread about my one-on-one fitness training sessions and I got more offers.
People would demand that I make their bodies look like mine. I turned down a lot of offers as I wanted to do things my way. I wanted to educate people and make them aware of what their bodies can and cannot do.
As my children grew up, I started to focus more on my work. My fitness brand began to expand. I took on more trainers and helped set up many gyms and clubs. I had been toying with the concept for years and soon, the time came to set up my own fitness studio. I had always wanted a space for personalized training and my gym ‘Play’ was finally born. The first fitness studio of its kind in the country, it looked nothing like a gym. Soon, clients began pouring in, and stayed on.
Every project has its golden moment and sometimes that moment is brief. The studio shut down six years late; but I didn’t collapse with it. I had learnt to deal with stress in my life and no sooner had the doors closed, I was ready to move on to my next challenge. I had always wanted to invest in workout gear on a small scale. I was appalled at the kind of clothes most people chose to exercise in. I wanted to introduce trendy lifestyle gear that would make a person look so good that it would act as an incentive to push them to workout more. All this while the body got all the support it needed from the fabric. Four-and-a-half years ago, I went to Brazil and fell in love with a brand called BiaBrazil. Their range of sexy, yet supportive exercise gear was just the motivation most women need to devote themselves to a life of exercise. I was right. After I launched the brand in India, regular customers kept coming back for more.
So, opening my own gym and launching my own exercise gear company have been two of my long-cherished dreams. I also had a secret third—to write a book.
But why a book on stress? There was a saying I learnt during my fitness training: ‘What the mind can conceive, the body can achieve.’ Your mind needs to first calm down.. .and your body will follow. I strongly believe that the journey to good health begins in the mind. We need to be calm, happy, and stress-free to stay healthy and make the most of what life offers us. Not only that. If you want a perfect body, you first need to get your brain rewired. In fact, you need to be stress- free for exercises and diets to produce the best results.
Here, I have to reveal that I have always been surrounded by stressed out people including clients who work fifty- hour days and carry a dozen cell phones and friends with frazzled nerves. Through observation, I’ve realized that no amount of abdominal crunches or leg lunges will work if your mind is tense. If you’re going to attack that treadmill with all your pent-up frustration, pretty soon you’ll find yourself checked into the nearest medical emergency clinic with an injured knee.
Stress management has been an integral part of my life and my job. As a lifestyle coach, I get all kinds of people from all walks of life, desperately imploring me for magical solutions to simplify their overworked, hassled lives. They look to me for guidance and I try to help them, whether it is through exercise, yoga, breathing or other tricks that I have developed over time. So, in my first book, I decided to deal with stress, that rampant-yet-most-underrated lifestyle menace.
What matters the most with stress, as you will learn in the course of reading this book, is how you train your mind and body to tackle each situation. Throughout my own stressful situations and ordeals, I’ve always managed to stay sane, and in this book, I will share with you my secrets to overcome stress. So, if any of this sound likes a description of you and your state of mind, then do turn the page. It’s time to calm down—and hopefully this book will help you do it.
And now I can finally say: I’m not stressed. And you don’t have to be either.
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