Every once in a while you come across a person whose warmth and wisdom stay with you long after the interaction is over. Actor and winner of the Miss Asia Pacific title, Dia Mirza is such an individual. Not only is she beautiful, but she is also warm, wise and articulate. One interaction with her and you realise that the glow that she exudes doesn’t just emanate from her beauty, but from her highly evolved being.
Where do you place health in the list of your priorities? Do you think good health is overrated or do you believe that health is true wealth?
‘Health is wealth’ is not just a saying that we have heard over the years; it is the biggest reality of life. Unfortunately, it is in times of ill-health that we realise the importance of health.
There’s a song called the Sunscreen Song, which says that your body is the greatest instrument you will ever have. But I think it can only be your greatest instrument if it is well.
Good health is key in every kind of purpose you might want to meet in life—it is important to be healthy in order to think clearly, to make rational decisions, to be able to function at your optimum, to be able to execute your ambitions, dreams and desires. Good health is also essential to be able to support the ones you love. It is the key to sustenance… the key to everything. It is the one thing that empowers.
I think most humans are selfless by nature. But as much as we care for the ones around us, we don’t care for ourselves. We do not pay attention to what we eat or how we live. We do not concentrate on what is good for us and all this takes a toll on our basic wellbeing.
Exercise plays an important role in maintaining good health. You too had undergone rigorous training for a movie…
That was for Acid Factory. The film needed extensive action and I had to train for it. In fact, my countdown for filming the movie was pretty regimental in terms of exercise. There was an optimum level of fitness that I had to achieve. But more than my fitness levels, it was about increasing my endurance levels. I needed to gain a lot of strength and flexibility in order to carry off the stunts.
What all did you do in the training?
I trained rigorously for three months before I started filming. The training was essentially functional, which is the best form of workout to build endurance. It involves things like tug of war, rearranging bricks, a lot of running—with and without weights—bending, lifting…basically, doing everything that improves your blood circulation and endurance.
Since I had to do a lot of running, Pali Hill was my favourite destination for those three months [laughs]. I had to run as fast as I could up the hill and walk back.
Once that was done, I used to hit the gym for an hour of weight training. In the beginning, I worked on different body parts in a cyclic pattern. Later, the training got intensive.
In what way?
I began concentrating on working out body parts in combination. For instance, I worked on chest and back, biceps and legs together. That’s because in functional training, you are never working on one body part at a time. So you are doing lunges with push ups and so on.
Everything is a combination, which pushes you to the extremes, to endure more and also burn more calories. And the results are also much faster and more visible. It’s a very tough training.
But it’s good as it revs up your metabolism and kick-starts your heart rate to an extent you have never felt before; it’s something that you achieve on the treadmill only over time.
Your favourite part in it all…
There’s no workout like an outdoor workout!
Do you continue to train like that?
Not anymore; because my body has responded well to that training. And all the muscles that I needed to develop have been formed. Now what I do is maintenance. So I do squats, push-ups, suryanamaskar and abdominal exercises to strengthen my core. I do that for one minute or three minutes at a time. That basically maintains the body.
And what about diet? Was that as rigorous?
I used to have six, seven or sometimes even eight small-quantity meals spaced throughout the day. They comprised a lot of boiled vegetables, salads and high amounts of proteins [only from natural foods]. Plus, I used to eat a lot of whole fruits—I still do—but no juices, because they take away the natural nutrients by discarding the pulp.
Are you calorie-conscious when you eat?
I am aware of the basic parameter of 2,000 calories a day and I am conscious about it. To achieve optimum energy, you need to give your body enough natural sugar. Your body also needs enough nutrients to function well.
The basic idea when I eat is to eat more fatty food in the first half of the day and reduce the carbohydrate intake by the evening.
So are you on a particular diet?
I have a big problem with people who starve and just wean away from food in order to get fit because then you are not getting fit, you are just getting unhealthy. It’s better to opt for healthy foods like green tea instead; it’s a miracle drink. It’s great for longevity, good for digestion and for burning calories. It’s also good for skin.
Speaking of skin, you have beautiful, radiant skin. How do you take care of it, especially during harsh seasons like summer?
I have hypersensitive skin, which easily reacts to just about anything—if the sun is really harsh, I can get a rash. Hence, for me, skincare is an extremely important and difficult area to deal with.
For me, in fact for anybody, it is important to first identify your skin type and buy skincare products that are in accordance with it—a lot of your skin health depends on using the correct product for your skin. I use a line of products that is dermatologically-tested.
Other than that, I do the cleansing, toning, moisturising routine regularly. And I don’t do facials; I don’t believe in them. I prefer home or natural remedies like a besan, fresh cream or lime juice scrub, which is also a good detox remedy for skin.
In case of any rash or breakout, I use a certain brand of skin cream. But this is not something you can do all the time; your body gets used to the products like it does to antibiotics. So it’s better to keep their usage to the bare minimum.
It is also important to detox your body. So drink a lot of water and consume the right things.
What are your views on the mind-skin connection?
I think our skin is the biggest reflection of our state of mind. And any dermatologist in the world will tell you that. If you are stressed, it shows on your skin in the form of a rash or itchiness. The most terrible skin diseases like psoriasis or eczema are triggered by the state of mind—when your mind is not in balance your skin has all kinds of reactions.
But it is something that can be improved upon. When you meditate or go for a cleansing programme, you come out looking fresh because you calm your mind. The key to beautiful skin is a calm and peaceful mind.
Speaking of state of mind…would you call yourself an emotional person?
Absolutely! I am very sensitive—especially to other people’s feelings—but I’m not fragile. For instance, a lot of happenings around I read in the newspaper bother me. So I feel it, then I let it go; there’s no point in getting caught up in it.
Are you equally sensitive towards personal successes and failures in life?
To me, no failure is big or small. I feel that failures are more important than success. And I am a big believer in this. Failures take you inward. They bring about a great sense of realisation, understanding, discipline and respect for whatever it is that you do. Great passion always arises out of failures.
Success is a high. It’s something that you feel and enjoy. It’s quickly forgotten. But failures have a deep imprint on your mind and they make you a stronger person. Failures are the biggest gift from the universe to us and it is important to treat them such. Understand that every time you fall, it is only to rise up stronger. That’s how I look at every failure.
When you don’t get something that you badly want, how do you react?
Well, the instant reaction is disappointment, and then determination to work harder and ensure that I get what I want [laughs].
What’s happiness to you? And what is more important to you happiness or fulfilment?
Oh God! Doesn’t fulfilment translate into happiness? Happiness is something that you just are; it’s something you choose to be.
Fulfilment is derived from external things. It is something that you get through an effort that you make or a job that you do. It is derived from action.
But happiness is a state. You may be just sitting alone in a room not doing anything and you could be happy.
Very profound! Where do you derive your inspiration from?
I derive inspiration from many sources. I call myself a seeker. And if you are a seeker and you want to learn, then you will find things to learn even in places where you least expect.
For instance, the other day I was watching footage from an IPL match. And Sherry [cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu] said something wonderful—it was a quote by Bhagat Singh, which went like this: Zindagi apne dam pe jee jati hai, auron ke kandhon par to janaze uthte hai. [Life is to be lived on your own mettle; only dead people take the support of others to get anywhere].
The way you view the world is a reflection of who you are.
What are the things in life that you value most?
I think there are some core universal values that we all have…like value for family, relationships, discipline, honesty, and respect. I think these ultimately translate into everything that you do.
Let’s now talk about the role of relationships in your life.
For me, relationships hold the most important place in life. Nothing is more important to me than family and friends and the ones I love.
I think relationships form an important security blanket in your life. The balance, harmony and strength you derive from your relationships—from the ones you love, or your family and friends—translates into every other action of your life.
We’ve heard you are very close to your mother?
Yes, I am. She is my world, my universe.
I honestly think that there is no place in the world like your mother’s arms. You can’t receive more security anywhere else than in her arms. Because I feel these are the arms that are so non-judgemental, so sincere, and so full of love—the only arms that have an abundance of honesty and that always hold up the mirror of life for you.
Advice to CW readers
Well, if you are reading this magazine, then you are already on the right path [laughs].
Role model… my mother
You cry when… I am sad, unhappy, and angry
You laugh when…all the time. Anything in the world can make me laugh. Simplest things
Happiest moment…cannot be confined to a moment [Oh my Lord, if only you can confine happiness into a moment]…maybe the day I become a mother, but not right now.
Favourite food…Mughlai, mom’s cooking [she’s a fantastic cook], Italian
Favourite season…Spring; In India, monsoon but only when I am indoors
Money is…a means to an end, not the end in itself
Love is… all of us
This was first published in the May 2010 issue of Complete Wellbeing.