Here’s a candid interview with Sonam Kapoor on diets, weight loss, body image, and more, courtesy TOI:
‘Oh my God! Who says that?’ was the refrain that ran like wildfire through a very swish Delhi audience on Sunday. Sonam Kapoor had just finished half-an-hour of a jaw-dropping, candid conversation about her journey from fat and ugly to fit and fab, which she started almost teary-eyed.
With the capital’s who’s who and what-not going from delighted surprise to disbelieving admiration, Sonam, among the thinnest people in the room that day, narrated how she got there, working her way through adolescent obesity, starvation and a depressing lack of self-confidence, to reach a healthy and sustainable figure. And for the record, she’s probably not wearing a bikini in her next – she says she has too much saggy skin from losing so much weight! Excerpts:
I had hair on my face
I’ve battled my weight since I was 12. My parents took to us to New York once, for a holiday, and there I’d buy fruit loops from a 24×7 shop and sit down with my books. I never played, I wasn’t that kind of kid – I just read. I ate chocolates like peanuts. I was 86kg till I was 19. Sanjay Leela Bhansali (the director of her debut, “Saawariya”) told me, ‘you have a beautiful face but neck down, you’re like an Ajanta-Ellora painting.’ He was sweet enough to wait for me, but he said, ‘you have to wear a backless choli, you can’t have rolls of fat showing through.’ I had all the health problems that come with being overweight – I was diabetic, I had to take insulin tablets. I had hair on my face and I blamed my dad for it! My mom told me, ‘you don’t have hair anywhere else, you’ve done it to yourself.’
At 18, I was seeing someone very loving. He told me then that I love you the way you are, but you need to lose weight! I took two years to lose it all. I did yoga, I followed starvation diets and that’s why I have bad acidity – and at this age. I can’t wear bikinis because I have loose skin from losing so much weight!
Dad named me ‘Latina papita’
Like fat people are called Tuntun, I was called ‘Latina papita’, and my dad started calling me that! I told him, ‘come on, I’m your daughter!’ It was because all my weight went to my bum, and he said you look like those girls in the Bronx who walk around wearing tight jeans.
Indian junk food is my sin
Once, one of my friends had to remind me during a film that I’d eaten 20 samosas. You don’t notice na, what you eat during a film – that’s why they have popcorn, which is healthy. Indian junk food is my sin, even though I pretend to like Japanese.
A fit family is irritating!
My mom owned gyms – would you believe it? My dad is known for his fitness. Having a fit family is very irritating. My sister eats everything and doesn’t gain weight, my brother is an ectomorph (people with a high metabolism who find it hard to gain weight).
My motivation: clothes
My motivation to lose weight was clothes. I look at Kate Moss and I think, ‘I want to be a waif’. But I didn’t throw my old clothes after I lost weight, because I never know when I’m going to have to wear them again! Also, some of them are just too expensive to throw away (laughs). I work a lot with Anamika (Khanna, designer) and she has a separate section to just keep altering my clothes all the time.
The pressure keeps me on track
I look at myself in the papers every day. I look at my competition – most of them are models, one is a badminton player, another is so skinny that everyone thinks she has a problem. She actually doesn’t – I know her, I’ve seen her eat, but she’s so skinny people think she does. It’s the pressure. I’ve landed up in hospital because of bad eating habits, but if I have to look good on magazine covers and in films, I have to be thin. Do I pray for thinness? No, my mother is quite religious, but I’m very superficial. I’m very clear – I need to fit into those shorts because I need to look hotter than her!
I refuse to wear a bikini. I have a saggy bum, I have cellulite, I said in an interview recently that my tits and ass are not very nice so… I recently fit into a size 2 dress, which is great because I was size 16 once.
In “Aisha”, there were Lisa Haydon and Ira Dubey, and there was a scene with all of us wearing swimsuits. So Lisa and Ira wore swimsuits, and I had to wear boyfriend jeans over mine, in the Rishikesh heat!
Delhi is my cheat city
It’s my secret cheat city because I love coming to Delhi, and I only talk about food here! (Sonam was in the city on Sunday to launch Kalli Purie’s book “Confessions Of A Serial Dieter”). All my interviews are about food. In Chandni Chowk, you get this chhole bhature, and you get this kulcha where they put the chhole inside the kulcha and you eat it – gasp! (Slurp) Oh baap re! At that time, nobody knew who I was na, because no one recognised me in that completely different avatar after “Saawariya”. I’d walk up and down Old Delhi eating!
Soulmate diets, crazy diets
On whether she’s found a diet that fits her so well it’s like finding a soulmate: No, but I do Bikram yoga – and in Delhi, that’s, like, walking outside in the summer. I also do pilates, because I’m a broad girl so weights are not for me. I eat every two hours, but my cheat day is Sunday, which is today, and I’ve had two dosas and some walnut cake since morning. And now I’m pulling my tummy in and wearing Spanx (body-shaping underwear)!
The craziest diet she’s tried: The pineapple diet. Pineapple has bromelain which apparently burns fat. So I had some pineapple before every meal. I did lose weight on that diet, but probably because I was so full from having the pineapple that I ate less.
My heartbreaking fatty moment
During “Delhi-6”, I had to put on about 5kg for the role. I put on 10 instead, because i used to eat gajar ka halwa. During the shooting, I also did a press event wearing a western dress, and a publication drew lines showing how I’d gained weight! They even put before and after pics. I realized then that I’m an investment, there are people putting their money on me, and I have to be fit.
How I avoid sending out the wrong message (concerns about encouraging anorexia)
I’m honest. If someone asks about my weight loss, I tell them I have five people working on me, plus there’s Photoshop. I tell them I can’t eat everything and look good. I was unhealthy when I was fat, and now I’m a normal body type. I’m not special, I’m just an actress, and boys and girls are intelligent enough to recognise that.
On the candour, so unexpected of actresses
I’m never careful about what I say. I just think I owe it to people. I’ve faced a lot of demons. People say she has everything, but there are a lot of things I go through that most people don’t know about. I don’t think it should be that way, because if a young girl aspires to be like me, she can’t have unnatural goals. Because of that, I’ve made it a point – since I’ve entered the industry – to be extremely honest.
I don’t think it’s a rare trait, but it requires a certain amount of courage, self-respect, and you need to love yourself. The age group who are my… fans – I hate using that word – the people who like seeing my movies are, say, pre-teens to early 20s, and mostly girls. That’s important, and I’m grateful for that, but I need to be a correct role model. I need to tell them that everybody goes through these battles. When someone says something about my weight etc, at first I’ll be like, oh, so what if they said it, but eventually I go back home and I cry.
Your weight defines the course of your life
People ask me, don’t you get stressed out that you have to get ready all the time? They don’t know that till I was 21, I battled my weight and couldn’t wear the clothes I wear now. So for me, it’s an absolute joy to dress like this, get ready, do my makeup, my hair. It’s an absolute joy, you know what I mean? Like the best gift. Many people make fun of me because I’m always so dressed up, but they don’t understand that there’s a little girl inside me who always wanted to be that dressed up, but never got to do that because I was always a certain weight.
Your weight even rules your relationships
You become hyper-sensitive. Everything that anybody says affects you because you already have a complex about who you are and what you are. You are lazy, lethargic, don’t want to go out too much, don’t want to socialize… it’s a constant battle. When you’re constantly fighting something, you’re not easy, then relationships become harder. You need to be in a happy place.
My looks have been an issue in all my relationships. Men, when they see someone like me… they expected me to be one thing earlier, and now it’s even worse. Now they expect me to be ‘Sonam Kapoor the fashion whatever, blah blah blah’. But all my relationships, there’s always been… they admire other girls. Men admire other women, you need to understand that. Like many women, I admire other men, and men do that as well. For me, it’s a little hurtful. Not that I don’t do that, but they look at other girls and they have their “Playboy” and whatever, and you’re just like… (pauses) I need to be a certain body type to be attractive to him. But at the same time, if someone is with you, they’re with you because of who you are, so you should never forget that either. But yes, weight is a constant issue in everybody’s life. Men are also in the gym every morning.
My cousin went through it too
My cousin Arjun (Boney Kapoor’s son) has become an actor now – he’s the lead in a Yashraj film. He was, if anything, way fatter than me. His life has been a battle and he is now a thin, gorgeous-looking boy. I’ve seen him go through all that. He’s exactly my age, 15 days younger than me, we’re like Siamese twins, and I’m so, so, so proud of him. We were always on a diet together.
I want to wear a bikini on screen someday
I guess it’s fashionable to wear a bikini these days – everybody’s wearing one, which is really annoying! (‘Ok, maybe I shouldn’t have said that!’ she adds.) I want to do it, hopefully I’ll get to a point where I can, but right now it’s a battle. I know I’m hot and sexy, but I know I can be hotter and sexier!
Wearing a bikini in Bollywood doesn’t mean you’ve arrived, it just means you’re a certain body type and you’re uninhibited about taking your clothes off in front of a billion people in India. I don’t know if it’s aspirational, but for me, it’s the body type – a fit body – that you can look fab and healthy and beautiful wearing that. For me, Bipasha Basu in “Race” is the perfect example, because she didn’t look like she’d starved herself; she looked like she’d worked out and eaten really, really well. She looked beautiful. She’s OMG. She is really inspirational in terms of – I’ve seen her eat. She eats. But she exercises like a beast, and she’s very healthy. She’s not anorexic, she’s not bulimic, she’s healthy. And that should be the goal – to be a healthy body type.