Binoli Zaveri is many things - an avid foodie, an accomplished architect, and a GIA diamond graduate, but most of all, she’s an electrifying inspiration. She keeps herself busy with all of the above and more, and claims to “always have too many things on her plate” (pun intended ;)). A once chubby teenager, Binoli has shed her negativity, love for fried foods and some extra kilos, to achieve fitness goals that could seem impossible to many. Despite being diagnosed with thyroid, Binoli let nothing deter her from vanquishing the weighing scale, let alone the fact that thyroid is notorious for dissuading weight loss. Once drowned in people’s acid comments and relentless body shaming, she is now an epitome of positivity, motivation and sustainable fitness. Along with burning 60% of her original weight, she also #burned those with negative comments and sneers, leaving their jaws dropped for a hella long time!
What are some comments that you received from people previously surrounding your weight? How did these affect you mentally?
Could you possibly imagine what it’s like to be reduced to nothing more than a number on your scale? Other than the lack of interest in my career or personal life from people who considered themselves “close to me,” I do recollect the countless times I was asked “What do you eat? The entire town’s food?” What played out as humour for them became the sole reason for my deep embedded feelings of self-loathing.
Having been extroverted since as long as I can remember, I was always celebrated as a bubbly girl who flashed toothy smiles and exuded happiness everywhere she went. However, these smiles soon evaporated against society’s judgments and name calling. I was never one to be timid or withdrawn, or even closely believe the fact that I was defined by my weight, until I was. Society had different plans for me - yes, that statement is as ironic as it gets (society making decisions for me? Why yes of course!) They didn’t spare me anywhere, and their comments followed me from parties, to weddings, to birthdays, and finally to my mind. I was helplessly spiralling and experiencing nothingness, like Alice tumbling down the rabbit hole. Their sneers stripped me bare of my confidence, inner happiness and peace of mind, leaving me feeling constantly drained and exhausted on the inside.
How has your comfort in your skin changed over your fitness journey? How does it continue to change?
People did everything in their power to aggressively snatch my feeling of contentment and comfort, until I was driven to the point where I felt nothing but restless and uncomfortable in my own skin. Large forests of people intimidated me and my instinct to curl up into a ball until I was invisible to the crowd kept resurfacing - I mean anything seemed better than facing those piercing glares and harsh judgments.
With the passing of pages on the calendar and the loss of a few kilos, I gained the courage to confront and resolve my toxic relationship with the mirror again. This was when the tables steadily started turning, and people around me started replacing their scowls with approvals. Of course today, I’ve found more confidence than I’d ever lost in the first place but more importantly, I’ve also found that nobody other than myself should have the power to make me love or hate my body. I wish this came to me earlier, before I wasted countless days wallowing in self doubt and self pity over someone’s opinion about me. But like they say, it’s never too late! I now trust my gut and my individual journey, like no one else does, and will continue doing so for as long as I can.
When did you first get into fitness? What motivated you to start?
If contacting dieticians profusely, dragging myself to workout and helplessly trying different “promising” fad diets is considered being concerned about fitness, then yes I really was. Before I was able to process this, I was slammed with a diagnosis of hypothyroidism that did nothing to motivate me further. After what seemed like ages of knocking doors of multiple dieticians and still failing to see any notable changes, I felt myself getting absorbed into a vicious cycle - seeing no visible changes, plunging into a depression food trap, gorging on snacks I knew were bad for me, feeling worse about myself, refusing to enter the gym to avoid discomfort from the fit ones, and repeat. Over and over again. This cycle had entrapped me until a once horribly received, negative comment triggered me and shook me to the core - I overheard a family member saying "Why do Puja and Anand bring Binoli to all these weddings, she seems to finish everyone's food. Why don’t they just leave that hippo at home?" I admit it doesn’t pass as the ideal story for being motivated but the horrifying nature of their words seemed to do it for me. After ages of being consumed by this cycle and frantically scouring for motivation, I realized that I would have to face the world if I wanted to see the change.
I didn’t wake up one magical day, decide to get fit and stayed in my ideal shape. It was a constant struggle to push myself every damn day. I moved my focus from other’s victories at the gym, and instead worked towards defining and achieving my own. In my quest to revive my lost confidence and self, I made sure to regularly visit my gym equipment and give them a whirl. All it took was 3 what-seemed-like-3000-years-back-then months of patience and steady consistency for me to notice visible differences on my body. These drove me further to work harder, and made me abandon all the negativity that surrounded me until I started craving results more than craving munchies (jk, I crave both. I mean who doesn’t love their chips and chocolate?)
Were there times you felt like giving up? How did you work towards pushing yourself?
Of course!!! In the end we are humans and we tend to feed into getting impatient when we don’t see results after giving it our all. I’ve lost hope on more occasions than one, and still sometimes do. There are days where your mind doesn’t align with your body. Sometimes, you just want to sink into your couch and cram as many potato chips as your mouth can fit. And you are allowed to do that. Just be cognisant and don’t let this mindset and lethargy translate into a habit, or a vicious cycle of languor. What has helped me snap out of this cycle is befriending those Monday blues. You will never see me skip my Monday workout, because this day sets the tone for the rest of my week. There will always be moments of weakness that will test your strength, persistence and patience more than your highs ever could. I know I’m growing stronger with every tomorrow, mentally and physically.
What were some life changes you had to make to achieve your goals? Which one was the hardest for you to keep up with?
The biggest change that had a domino effect on the rest of my life was primarily my mindset. Instead of trying out multiple options and nursing my impatience, I decided to give time to the process and myself. I spent hours studying different foods to learn what my body would thank me the most for. Being an avid foodie and a thyroid patient with a sluggish metabolism, I’d be lying if I said that it was easy abandoning my breads, cheeses and sweets. However, instead of feeling miserable and pining for my carbs, I got down to becoming innovative in the kitchen and created healthy replaceable treats to stroke my cravings. Gaining the upper hand over my appetite, taste buds and ingredients gave me full control of my cravings, whether they arose from mood swings or my occasional binges.
I often comment on how my “life changes” back then are just my “lifestyle” now. Over a year later, I continue to maintain my daily habit of pre-planning meals and my workout of the day. This strategy helps me overcome sudden hunger and cravings, and I’m sure it will for anyone else wanting to give it a try. Your body will express endless gratitude if you gave it one hour a day to do any movement it wanted - whether it's the gym, a sport, zumba, boxing or even yoga. After all, an hour only makes 4.2% of your entire day. Just take the first step and consistency will be obligated to follow you like Dobby following Harry (if you don’t get this reference, please make reading Harry Potter your first step). Today, my lifestyle doesn’t require that I make any sacrifices around my diet and workout. I primarily aim to maintain consistency and gain strength, and what pushes me to maintain this drive is my stubborn refusal to never see those “dark” days again.
What were some reactions you got after your transformation? How did they make you feel?
To be completely candid, I was more than elated to see how many mouths I shut! I was chuffed to see faces that, at once, terrified me - all those jibes effortlessly turned into jaw drops! My close ones didn’t stop being proud of me, the genuine ones didn’t stop praising me, and the negative ones, well they didn’t stop doubting me. Sometimes it sucks to see the society we live in - “How did she do it? Did she get a surgery done?” But having risen above this fog of negativity that previously had the ability to suffocate me, I continue to be proud of myself. I wish my then-self knew what I was capable of achieving, and how fickle people’s opinions are. I feel thrilled when people tell me they can’t recognize me anymore, quite on the contrary from my previous experiences. When people see me now, they find it difficult to conceal their surprise and shock. My phone is constantly buzzing with messages asking for my diet and workout plans. People I haven’t talked with in ages reach out saying they are proud of me. What else could I possibly wish for?
How did you feel when you reached your goal? How do you continue to keep yourself motivated even after achieving success?
Fitness, for me, is an evolving process and I don’t think I’ve reached my destination yet, but I do know that I feel incredible after my workouts. That time of the day is my detox from the constant chatter and chaos of the outside world. Having lost 60% of my original self, I feel a cocktail of emotions, ranging from disbelief, to sheer gratitude for this process. Confidence has become my best friend that accompanies me everywhere, and I’ve regained the courage to meet people’s gaze now. I have full ownership and control over my mind and feel nothing short of grateful when people tell me how much they look up to me.
I’ve hoarded my wardrobe with all the outfits that I longed to wear back in college, and ditched all those long kurtas that I previously donned to conceal my extra pounds. To keep rekindling my fire, I constantly read up on new recipes, treat myself to yummy healthy meals, revamp my equipment and try out new forms of exercise. The more I learn, the more I strive towards bettering myself. I also get constant bouts of motivation when people look up to me, and reach out to me asking for advice and suggestions. I feel grateful to have this influence to motivate others, and help them learn from my shortcomings. I’m passionate about spreading knowledge surrounding a healthy lifestyle and hope that others can take from it to better theirs.
How do you think people need to change their views about weight issues? What do you want to tell other people that are struggling with weight loss?
In an ideal world, I'd love for the idea of “only skinny people can be beautiful” to dissipate. I’d love it if people weren’t shamed for being on the heavier side. I’d love it if people saw beyond one’s weighing scale to evaluate them for who they really are.
For those who are struggling like I did, as difficult as it may seem then, please come out and speak to your loved ones about all that you’re feeling. I promise you it’s anything but shameful, in fact it’s the bravest thing you could possibly do and your future self will definitely thank you. Secondly, please withdraw from anyone or anything that makes you feel anything less than what you deserve to feel, because your mental health holds the key to all the other parts of you. Be gentle with yourself.
Also remember, as cliched as this may sound, nobody can push you except you. Start with having a vivid understanding of your body type and what suits it best - your diet, workout routines, and mental sanity (you don’t want to get burned out in the process of burning cals). Make small lifestyle changes - whether it’s giving up your phone 15 mins before bed, or engaging in 5 minutes of stretching - that will be by your side in the long run. Play around with your workouts and keep introducing your body to new modes of sweating, because this will not only excite you but also challenge your body to adapt to different intensities. Lastly, please be patient. Yes, it might start out slow like the first episode of Breaking Bad, but you’ll find it hard to give it up once you’ve started your (binge) working out. Don’t focus on results when you begin, focus on being consistent and results will follow.
Want to be get more motivated? Struggling with fat-shaming and negative comments? Looking to make a lifestyle change? Or simply want to tell her you're proud of her?
Reach out to Binoli!