Yasmin Karachiwala

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Meeting Yasmin was daunting and awe inspiring. Her presence comes across as someone who means business and who knows how to get there. But surprisingly she is not overly critical over how fit we normal mortals are, as she deals with film stars every day and seeing their perfect bodies all the time could color her opinion. Meeting her and chatting with her was like meeting a friend who could be straight forward with you and tell you right from wrong not necessarily in the tone you would like to hear. But then her firm tone of voice and steely resolve have made her a brand name to reckon with in the world of fitness. Presenting to you the reason we have the sexiest film fraternity in India – Yasmin Karachiwala.

1. Tell us how it all started.

My friends in college were very skinny and blessed with good bodies.  So compared to them I felt overweight, not really fat but I was plump.  I used to have a massive appetite so I would eat a lot. I’m a complete foodie, but I made a decision to be fit and I made a decision that I like looking the way I want to look so I can’t have it all. I can’t eat everything that my eye wants. Basically food satiates your taste buds and then it’s your eyes that eat. So if you actually want to enjoy food then two bites of anything is enough and then you drink a glass of water wait for two minutes and see if it works.

It’s a psychological thing, my niece just told me this a day ago and I’ve personally not needed to practice it because my mind is strong enough to decide what I want to eat or not. Like now literally for the past 2 years I have not eaten sugar. That doesn’t mean like if there is something I want to taste, I will not taste it. There’s no promise made but an understanding of the difference between desires and wants. It’s just that I decided to cut sugar out of my life. I don’t drink tea, I drink black coffee. I use to drink cappuccino but I gave up milk as well about a year ago because I don’t want to have dairy, it’s not good for your body. Research has showed and I have believed in it for the last 30 years.

2. What about soya milk?

It doesn’t suit me, and I just feel, If I can’t have milk why do I find alternatives. Either I give it up, or I don’t give it up. When I mix smoothies I use almond milk and it’s fabulous. I use coconut milk and I use almond milk. But of course with tea and coffee I’ve tried almond milk with coffee and I’d rather not have the coffee so I switched to black coffee.

3. You love black coffee?

Yeah I love black coffee; I can have cups and cups and cups of black coffee.

4. How do you maintain your skin? It’s absolutely flawless.

Food! A. it’s hereditary and B. Food.

A face person told me many years ago even what’s hereditary needs to be maintained. So I eat a lot of vegetables, I drink two glasses of vegetable juice every day. I don’t eat sugar, I don’t eat dairy, I don’t eat gluten. My food is very clean & wholesome. In fact I used to have dairy in my coffee but I’ve actually given it up since I met Rashi Chowdhary, my dietician, because she put me on a program that didn’t have dairy. And I think this was August, since August 2015 I’ve just given it up completely

5. So you don’t crave?

No my mind is stronger than my taste buds because you just have to figure out what you want and what’s important in life and to me it’s being fit and healthy. My Dad had cancer and he passed away in May last year. I gave up sugar with him, for him. Because he wasn’t allowed sugar and he was a big sugar person. That’s when I realized, health is so important and my dad followed a really healthy food plan and, the years he lived after discovering cancer, it was an amazing life. He used to come and work-out in the gym, he lived a good life. So I feel that’s it’s only because of his food that I had him for longer; food plays such an important role. So for me, I don’t feel like I deprive myself because I still eat healthy desserts and I love them, I love dark chocolate. Rashi’s food, her snacks and all her protein truffle, I mean I love all of that.

6. What do you have to say about organic food?

I think it’s all a big scam. If your farm has one portion that grows organic, your farm gets certified of being organic. So what is really organic? Unless you grow in it your own backyard then I will trust it. If vegetables really look like a poor man’s version of the vegetable, you know it’s organic because that’s how organic vegetables look.

The day I found out that your farm can get an organic certificate I was like – why bother? You know at least make the changes, if you are eating organic in the other parts of the world how much other of your food is clean eating? Your eating junk, sugar, you’re eating dairy, gluten and then you say you’re eating organic? I eat clean, I am not eating organic food but my food doesn’t have preservatives, I don’t eat anything from a packet, I don’t eat gluten, I don’t drink milk, I don’t have sugar.

7. How about alcohol?

Alcohol has loads of calories and I tell my clients who drink alcohol “you need to make food choices even better” because alcohol has carbs, it has calories, it has sugar, it has everything that’s not good. So really if you’re drinking say once a week, and you’re drinking four drinks then the 6 days of the week you have to eat right to make up for it.

8. What about the diet coke fab?

I don’t talk to people who drink diet drinks. I mean all of my friends do, but I don’t see the point. I’m not a soda person either. So when we go for lunch or dinner and everyone else orders soda, I order water. I mean I’ve never gotten into the culture of soda. Although as a kid I used to be a big fan of Coke and Fanta with Mangola being my favorite which has the most calories. I used to have samosas, batata vadas and fried chicken, condensed milk, Thumbs up, Limca, Fanta and Mangola. So that was my diet as a child until I was 20, and then I changed it.

When I got married I moved to town side and I would eat a chocolate every single day. Yes every single day! Sunday meals were biryani for lunch and pizza for dinner, yeah that is how my lifestyle used to be. I used to eat salads the rest of the week but Sundays would be biryani for lunch and pizza for dinner and I use to eat a chocolate éclaire every day until I realized that I was looking like a baby elephant. (laughs)

9. How did your journey begin with Bollywood? How did you get into that field?

I didn’t get into Bollywood, Bollywood got into me first. (laughs)

10. Who’s the first person who found you?

Kareena Kapoor. She didn’t really find me; I used to take group classes with Gauri, Neelam, Malaika, uhmmm.. several others. I did group classes for 10 years in Bandra. I started with group classes. I had Chunky Pandey, Aishwarya, who came for a couple of classes. So I had a lot of popularity because I think the classes I did were good classes. I learned the right technique because I have done all my trainings abroad. I am US certified for everything. So everything was injury free. I’ve tried to make everything as injury-free, as functional so I use to do step group classes and they were a rage in Bandra back then. So I had these people coming to me way back 1992. That’s when I started my group classes.

11. How did they first come to know about your classes? Have you advertised?

No I have never advertised, It was just word of mouth. In Bandra I have a lot of friends. So I just started classes literally with 4 people I remember, We even had Dimple Kapadia, Twinkle Khanna.. I had all these people who used to come because there weren’t good group classes at that time and I think mine was one of the most popular ones. People with knee and back problems would come and I would make sure that we had different work-outs, like I would tell people what to do for their particular problem. I worked 9 months of my pregnancy. I remember Chunky’s wife Bhavna was pregnant then, so she came saying I’ll do whatever you do. I always wanted to work with different people, different bodies because everything works differently. Then I started personal training. After getting married I moved to Cuff Parade and that was a totally different ball game because, nobody knew me there.

Then we moved back to Bandra and I decided to do personal training and went and got certified in personal training. I started going to people’s houses and training them, that was back in 2001. It had been ten years I had been doing group classes and I was done. I wanted to do something more.  I had been training and I saw the way my body had changed with training and the training I did was different, it was with bands and swiss balls; different kind of stuff which people weren’t doing yet.  At that time people hadn’t even seen swiss balls.  I was trained by Sensei Parvez Mistry and he’s an innovator.

I didn’t like going to people’s houses and my kids were really small then, I think 3 & 1. So I asked my husband if we could convert one room into my studio and call people home. So that’s how that journey started. Kareena came when she heard about me from her best friend who was working out with me and saw some great results. Then Lolo came, because she’d just had babies, then there was Kim Sharma, Neha Dhupia and different people from Bollywood. Training Katrina has been wonderful. Katrina is like my muse, she has trained with me for 8 years.

Now we have all the top Pilates machines that you don’t have anywhere else and I keep going out to train myself and keep updating myself in the fitness world to bring in the best for my clientele. All this equipment is really expensive and brings great results under the right guidance.

I have 9 trainers here who I have trained and they keep getting updated with me. When they train people, they give me feedback about every client and I know exactly what is happening so that I can make sure fitness goals and standards are maintained.

12. What about your foray into International markets? I believe you are coming to Dubai.

Yes that’s true I am starting in Dubai with Anjali in a beautiful studio under the name of A-Tone that will be open in April 2016. So we are training the trainers now and our trained trainers will be there.

I also foresee a few more franchises this year. That’s what I’m looking towards. I am very selective because I only partner with someone who is dedicated to fitness and can carry the legacy forward in its true essence. As fitness is not a destination, you are constantly learning.

I’m constantly doing training courses to continue my learning process and I have one just during Christmas . I did a booty training.

13. Are you planning to come out with videos that you can sell?

No, I think DVDs are out now and the digital world is in. I am already on YouTube and for people who need more in depth knowledge they can read my book that has all the information they would need.

14. So are you always active and hyper?

I don’t like being lethargic but I am not restless. If I want to – I do have the capacity to chill out the whole day and do nothing.

Photo taken during the exclusive interview. Yasmin Karachiwala and Sandy Nathan.

15. What about your kids, how are they doing their fitness stuff?

My 2 boys are into football and I force them to practice some physical activity everyday or I do not give them their dinner. I tell them they will thank me when they reach their twenties as it will then become a lifestyle that they will imbibe. Nowadays kids are playing laptop and video games and they can sit and do nothing and think they’re playing football so they need to do actually nothing so I keep telling them that when you go to college and then you are fit and you can do stuff they can be like thank god my mother pushed me, and even with them I’m very particular about food we don’t have chips in the house and we don’t have gluten unless there’s bread.

16. How do you choose a particular course to do?

I watch and I try stuff on myself and I decide whether I want to do this because through the years I have become very particular about what your body dynamics and function dynamics are. I start looking at what’s good for the body. So I look up and pick a functional moment. As I learn more, and know more about the body I learn more about anatomy and I learn more about how the body works, I start questioning why we do certain exercises and what is the function?

So here is to eating healthy and exercising healthy with a conscious effort on how it affects your body and not just because it’s a fad.

I think that is sound advice to follow. What do you say??