From food fanatics to fitness freaks

Food fanatics Rocky and Mayur talk about their fitness regime, diet plans and their new show

They’ve travelled to every nook and cranny of India to bring you the best food from all across the country, and now they’ll show you how to stay fit while indulging yourself. Known for their humour and spontaneity, food fanatics Rocky and Mayur in their latest show Get Fit with Rocky and Mayur have taken up the challenge of losing weight and getting fit. Complete Wellbeing caught up with them for a quick chat…

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Were you always on the heavier side or did you gain weight during your show Highway On My Plate?

Rocky: I was a national level hockey and football player and I boxed as a boy. So, being healthy and fit was a part of life for me. But you could say that I gained some kilos during the show.

Mayur: We grew up very active, and back then fitness was a way of life instead of the buzzword that it is today. The air was clean, the food and water was uncontaminated and exercise involved playing out in the open at least four hours a day. I was 78kg when we started HOMP in 2007. At my peak during HOMP I was a 104kg. So yes, I suspect it's an occupational hazard. [winks]

Tell us about your new show Get Fit

Rocky: The show takes the two of us, a bit overfed, and puts us to work. We realised, "If we could do it then anyone could do it." Apollo hospitals was working on a great public initiative for people to take better care of themselves. So we joined hands with them to show people how we do it. The show puts us through the paces and makes people realise that fitness is a good thing. Hopefully our journey will inspire people to start their own. Each person’s journey to health is unique and here’s hoping that people find the fitness route that’s best for them in order to get fit. Physically, I felt we were slowing down. When energy levels dip in our line of work, it’s usually the end of the line. So to make sure the free food kept coming our way for longer it was important to get into a better shape—and it is helping like you would not believe.

Mayur: Get Fit is correct. It's not just “get thin” and it's not about binge diets and random spurts of activity. It's about a gradual and sustainable change in lifestyle. Pruning the excess six laddoos one at a time. [laughs]

Why we're doing it? Do the math... get fit, live longer and eat more. Five years of life extended is equal to at least 1500 meals more and if even five per cent of that is a binge then that's 75 extra opportunities to eat jalebis. [smiles]

Can healthy food actually be tasty too, what’s been your experience so far?

Rocky: There’s a whole world of healthier options out there. Fresh produce, seasonal vegetables, millet, ragi, bajra, dals… they are all so healthy and tasty. It’s not about how much food we are eating, it’s about what kind of food. Toss up a good salad with some delicious masala vinaigrette home made dressing, grab a whole wheat toast and a glass of skimmed soy milk and join us in getting healthier and fitter.

Mayur: Yes! Fresh fruit smoothies, yoghurt based dips, multigrain bread with nuts and seeds, almonds, walnuts, organic dark chocolate… what's not to love? Almost everything you love to eat can be had in a healthier avatar. If it can’t, then I feel there's no harm in eating those once in a while.

When it comes to losing weight and getting fit, what’s your mantra?

Rocky: I was 42 kilos over my ideal weight. So I’m hoping this journey will start me off to my ideal weight. With so much weight, the first step for me was to lose the extra kilos and I achieved it by eating healthier. Not eating less, not dieting, but just eating healthier. Now I've started exercising slowly, with consultation from a doctor [and make sure you do that too when you’re starting] but initially it was only healthier eating. The journey continues and now I’m in a ‘more exercise' phase so it’s great fun. My mantra is simple… whether you’re partying or during festivals, no matter where or when, eat healthy.

Mayur: My mantra is eat small, eat often, do 45 minutes of cardiovascular exercise daily, drink lots of water through the day and get more sleep.

What is the ultimate comfort food for Rocky and Mayur when back home?

Rocky: Spicy chicken curry, spicy bhindi, red chilli pickle, sliced onion with lime and chilly powder and a seven grain mixed roti. It has been my favourite since I was five years old. And my grandmother taught us all how to make it... it’s the best.

Mayur: Dal, roti, palak paneer with sliced onions, mint chutney and raita. Mmmm yeah!

Any fitness idols you have?

Rocky: Milkha Singh. The rock version of the song Bhag Milkha Bhag does it for me.

Mayur: My cousin Milan. He treks 30 odd days a year, cycles an average 50 km/day and plays squash twice a week. He's not a professional athlete but at the age of 46 his resting pulse rate is in the low 60s. He also meditates everyday. Above all, he can actually touch his toes without bending his knees.

To lose weight, how much of it is about counting calories or following a dietician’s advice and how much is about instinctive eating?

Rocky: When you go to a dietician and find out what’s best for you [and YES, it’s VERY different for everybody], it’s hard for about two weeks. By the third week you start making better choices and putting your imagination to work and then it’s a lot of fun. Binge eating of unhealthy food is allowed too. I eat a mad meal once a week and then for the rest of the week it’s sensible, healthy, fun and varied eating.

Mayur: Much of it is about being sensible and listening to your own body. There are some golden rules and even those are best modified to your lifestyle, occupation, calendar and abilities. This is important as it will help you stay the course. If the calories go up then exercise a bit more.

Apart from your own book, which cook book and travel book do you recommend?

Rocky: I love books on local food from all over the world. Wherever I am, I always try and connect with a local chef. I was in Goa when I met a chef. She was a brilliant home cook, just a Goan housewife who had just started cooking one day and then gone on to become a brilliant chef. On her 60th birthday [I think it was her 60th] her family made a little book of her recipes which they photocopied for her friends and family. I am the proud owner of one of those homemade books. So if you love food, you will find the best for yourself. I recommend you look every time you have a chance. AND you make the chance.

Mayur: I love Bill Bryson's books on travel. I'll start consuming literature on food once they make edible books.

Indian cuisine is said to be one of the healthiest in the globe. Would you also vouch for that? What other cuisines are healthy?

rocky-and-mayur-400x238Rocky: Yes, traditional Indian food is possibly the healthiest in the world. Fresh local produce [unfrozen] and a bunch of spices [medicinal]. A variety of items in a meal with at least one vegetable and a lentil and there’s your proof. We eat a wonderfully healthy diet across our nation and this we’ve done in every state in India since time immemorial.

Thai cuisine is another very healthy cuisine and one of my favourites just for the tastes of their food. The health aspect has only now become important to me.

Mayur: Indian food prepared right is very healthy especially as the herbs and spices we commonly use are a fount of medicinal and healing properties. Turmeric, tulsi, cinnamon, pepper, cloves are just a few examples of ingredients with phenomenal health benefits.

South East Asian cuisines with their limited use of oil and dairy are healthy in general.

Being a foodie is often used as an excuse for being unfit. You hope to change that perception?

Rocky: That’s the attempt. You and everyone reading this would know that we will NEVER stop eating the food we love. The food of India. Between us we eat everything and we are definitely “foodies” though I prefer being called the “hungries”. So that’s important and the way we can do that for many more years is by getting to a healthier place with our bodies and then enjoy things even more, without guilt.

Mayur: Being a “foodie” in my book means that the love for food is central to your existence. Giant portions of fat laden, deep fried food or food rich in preservatives and refined sugar have nothing to do with it. So stop making excuses! First step to changing anything is wanting to change. Second step is persevering and third step is celebrating each small success [though not necessarily with halwa!]

Tell us your most cherished moment from the show Jai Hind

Rocky: It was when we were shooting with the 42 Medium Regiment. A soldier, out on exercises in the desert, sang a song; it was his friend's favourite song and he had lost his friend in action. The song was about a soldier who knew he was going to his certain death but did his duty by following orders and going still. It tells of the message he leaves behind for his comrades, his wife, his family and his nation. There was not a single dry eye in the compound when he sang this song by lamplight. The tears streamed down my face and I will never forget that emotion as long as I live.

Mayur: Seeing the surprise on the faces of the soldiers at the Commando Training School when we completed some radical elements of their obstacle course. They thought we'd never be able to manage it. Determination counts for a lot! Even when you are changing lifestyles.

Quick Fire Round:

1. One spice that is undervalued

Rocky: Machenga, a wild spice from Nagaland that will make your tongue tingle.

Mayur: Black pepper. Mixing it with turmeric can help increase absorption of turmeric by a huge factor so it boosts all the health benefits of turmeric.

2. Travel, food or fitness?

Rocky: Food!

Mayur: All of the above [smiles]. Each one is best enjoyed in the company of the other.

3. Sweet or spicy?

Rocky: Spice is the errr... spice of life.

Mayur: Sweet baby sweet!

4. Roadside food or hotels?

Rocky: Roadside for sure.

Mayur: Street food done right is unbeatable!

5. One dish you could have every day for the rest of your life

Rocky: Chicken curry

Mayur: Sarson ka saag

6. A dish that you would never eat, even if paid to do so

Rocky: Nothing. I get paid and I eat EVERYTHING [edible of course]

Mayur: Tinda!

7. Your idea of happiness is...

Rocky: A green country, full of smiles, happiness and peace for all.

Mayur: Family and dear friends sitting together at a long table groaning under the weight of fresh food.

8. Food is…

Rocky: Where it all begins until it all ends.

Mayur: Love made edible!

9. Best compliment you’ve received for your show

Rocky: Have to say it’s the hugs we get from people on the streets—no hesitation, no questions asked. A big smile and a big hug at the most unexpected times. Makes us realise how fortunate we are that people consider us approachable and consider us their own and they pass on that love with a hug. It’s the greatest compliment.

Mayur: A fan once said to me, “Three generations of our family sit together to watch your show. Your show brings our whole family together!”

10. Worst criticism

Rocky: What’s that?

Mayur: What? We're deaf, dumb and blind to the 'C' word. [winks]

You can watch Get Fit with Rocky and Mayur on NDTV Good Times every Sunday at 9:30pm. Follow their Facebook page.

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