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A Woman of Resolve

December 2006
A Woman of Resolve

This season, when making your New Year resolutions, take inspiration from Aarti Patel. From an overweight mother of two to a buffed fitness guru, Aarti's is a truly inspiring account for countless women (and men) who struggle daily with weight and health challenges. More so for desis, for whom a fitness routine is not too ingrained a concept.

Aarti's is not a simple boast about how she lost 40 pounds. However admirable, loosing weight (even 40 lbs) is a clich�d feat in this weight-conscious country. Rather, hers is a story about how she not only transformed herself from an overweight mother of two to a buffed and fit health nut, but also how she spread this zest for life and health to others. Today she is a Lifestyle and Weight Management Consultant, a Group Fitness Instructor, a certified Personal Trainer, and an Online Personal Trainer. If this is not enough to unequivocally demonstrate her missionary zeal for health, then she has more. She also has a B.Sc. in Health Information Administration from the Medical University of South Carolina.

So what brought about such transformation that most only dream about? One thing was the disgust of continuing to need maternity clothes even six months after her second child was born. "I walked the treadmill at home, but nothing happened. I was 145 pounds at that point, so I started researching what I needed to do. I found a program on the Internet that guaranteed weight loss in three months. The results were unsatisfactory, and that's when I hired a personal trainer."

"Just three months of doing this and I felt great! I would walk into restaurants and people would stare at me and they wouldn't even think that I was a mom! And I looked around at other women who are actually younger than me but in terrible shape. That's when I said I want to really help, especially women, to learn that weight training is good for you. That if you have two children, it doesn't mean that you have to give up and be overweight." Aarti also realized there were really no Indian trainers around and decided then that she wanted to be a one.

As she would tell you, there are no shortcuts in this journey. Months of hard work, strict diet, and sweating it out at training sessions have gone into Aarti's journey to fitness. What started out as a personal pursuit to weight loss turned into a passion and led Aarti to her present profession as a fitness instructor. Yet, she believes any woman—working professional, homemaker, student, or mother—can get in shape and in peak health.

Considering her commitment to health and to reach out to our community, it is no surprise that Aarti has also managed to team up with Dr Gulshan Harjee to co-host the Health Watch column of Khabar magazine. Seeing the merit in combining her medical background with someone who brings in such enthusiasm for fitness, nutrition and health, Dr. Harjee couldn't resist bringing her on.

This September, she also helped turn the spotlight onto the Indian community by being the very first, and only, Indian participant at the National Gym Association's 8th Annual World Body Building and Fitness Figure Championships at the Gwinnett Civic Center. Competing for the first time, Aarti placed a commendable third in the novice category (those who have never competed before). "I thought my accomplishment was just to be on that stage, being the first Indian participant there, so placing third was a big bonus," she surmises enthusiastically.

Training very hard for months, working out fifteen hours a day, Aarti also observed a very strict diet for the competition. "I wanted to prove that Indian women could do something like this."

Hers is a story of determination leading to effort. Making up her mind that this is what she wanted to do has earned her success. "People go into it with the false expectation that they are going to get a lot out of it without putting in the effort," says Aarti. "The most common mistake people make is that they are not realistic. They think if they get to hire a trainer, they'll just automatically get the results. They don't understand that this should be a continuous process. They don't regard fitness as important until something bad happens to their health" A good starting point for such folks, Aarti advises, is to make up their minds first on what their goals are. For a beginner in fitness, Aarti's advice is to pursue an activity you enjoy—but if you're trying to lose weight and stay healthy, then a combination of some kind of cardiovascular exercise, weight training, and watching your diet is what delivers results better.

She does admit having witnessed the flip side to fitness too. "I have seen that it can be quite an obsession for people. Actually being part of the fitness competition has really taught me a lot. Sometimes, people have worked out so hard for months and when they don't get the place they want, they want to do whatever it takes to get to that position—but it shouldn't be that way." Aarti's mantra - an equal balance. Enjoy life in moderation, and also work out to keep fit.

So can we hope to cheer on Aarti in competition next year? "I saw some areas that I made mistakes in, and I could have placed better, so I can see myself doing it again ? especially because I enjoy it, I like to work out hard, I like the challenge," adds Aarti. A loving mother of two, she stresses the importance of a supportive spouse, "I have a wonderful husband, very patient. Initially, we lost our weight together. My husband likes to work out, too. He has seen how much of a benefit it has been to his health. In fact, he says, ‘I know you can do better the next time in the competition.' (Laughs) I haven't made up my mind, but he's already made up his mind on this!"


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