Super women series: Madhuri Ruia, nutritionist and fitness icon #WomensDaySpecial

It’s March already, and the most noteworthy day of the month is Women’s Day, that falls on the eighth. To mark the occasion this year, we spoke with some of India’s iconic super women who have exhibited immense talent, courage and confidence to get to where they are. The first person in this series is nutritionist and fitness icon Madhuri Ruia.   

Madhuri Ruia is a living legend of women’s empowerment. A nutritionist by profession and an optimist at heart, her fitness journey over the past two decades is definitely a story to be told. She is also a pilates expert and founder of Integym and has authored a book on fitness “Who Stole My Calories”. With Women’s Day just around the corner, our correspondent Odeal D’Souza speaks to Madhuri Ruia, who has become an inspiration for the modern health-conscious woman.

What inspired you to build a career in nutrition?

When I was in my late thirties, I witnessed a family member’s condition of severe diabetes being brought to remission within six months with the help of a sensible eating plan and daily workouts. This got me motivated to learn more about the power of nutrition and exercise and its several known as well as unknown benefits. That’s when I decided to learn more about the subject and here I am now two decades into the business as a nutritionist and pilates expert and founder of Integym as also the author of “Who Stole My Calories”.

What are the challenges you faced as you navigated this career?

The first challenge that I can remember is that of not being a science graduate. None of the Indian nutrition oriented colleges could find a way to enroll me. A science degree was compulsory. So I applied to the American Academy of Nutrition and managed to find admission there.  

The next challenge was getting around the discipline of self-study and completing my studies. It was a whole different ball game with no tuitions, no friends to check notes with and above all no professors to guide me. And the worst of all being unable to process the nutrition study material. But I persisted and found several reference books and material to get through some serious science. To my pleasant surprise I found myself doing well in almost all of my exams.

Some years down the line emerged the challenge of setting up a fitness business. By then, I was in my forties and had no knowledge of how to run a business, a fitness centre, what customer service meant.  Again I persisted and found an opportunity. I attended a London Business School seminar conducted by John Mullins on behalf of the National Entrepreneurship Network for Women set up by the Wadhwani Foundation.  Here I received excellent mentoring and have been a fairly successful fitness entrepreneur since.

How important is health, nutrition and fitness for women and girl children?

I can’t stress enough that good health is the true wealth. On one hand, consistent healthy nutrition and fitness routines help women to naturally regulate puberty, menstrual, and even menopausal symptoms that affects our day to day life.  Bone health, heart health and blood pressure are silent conditions that can be improved and be strengthened with a healthy lifestyle. Mental clarity/stamina and intelligence both intellectual and emotional are improved with the endorphins produced by exercise as well as the health protection that is obtained from following a nutrient dense diet.

In a nut shell, women can stay away from PCOD, acne, mood swings, reduce the risk for cancers and look and feel their best with a healthier lifestyle.

What are the nutrition tips that you would like to share with women of all age groups?

  • Look after yourself and your health before you do that for others. Remember you need to be the role model for your family and they need to see you energetic and enthusiastic about life.
  • Don’t skip meals or workouts.
  • Eat nourished and wholesome foods.  
  • Choose whole grains like millet, bajra and nachni and include starchy vegetables like sweet potato.
  • Include a fist sized serving of protein like paneer, eggs, chicken, sea food or legumes at least 2-3 times a day.
  • Have at least a five to seven servings of fruits and vegetables daily.  Include a green juice comprising organic Baby palak, apple and ginger or a red juice like beetroot, tomato and celery
  • If you are vegetarian remember to add a dash of lime to your meal to improve iron absorption.
  • Snack on nuts and seeds. It’s true you can have 24 almonds a day as a healthy snack provided  of course that you are exercising and leading a healthy lifestyle.
  • Add a tablespoon of ground flax seed powder to your diet especially if you are a vegetarian.

Can you elaborate the role of exercise and weight management? How important is it for the women and girls these days?

Exercise plays a vital role in improving our overall metabolism, in regulating hormones and reducing fat stores.  Hormones like insulin have their levels increased in the absence of exercise and hyper insulin levels in turn increase the rate of fat storage, especially around the waist. Waist girths over 32” increases the risk for diabetes, hypertension and heart diseases, PCOD, and thyroid problems.

Ideal Body Weight IBW for women in kilograms is their height in centimetres less 105 so for instance if a woman’s height is 150 cms her IBW is 45 kgs approximately.  Obesity and being overweight increases several diseases risks and also significantly dents appearance, self worth and confidence.

Young girls should be active and athletic, to maintain a healthy body weight and not give in to crash dieting. Young girls and women should also focus on adequate sleep and rest to restore their metabolism. Young girls should focus on making fitness a lifelong habit.

Can you also tell us the importance of weight training, pilates and core training for middle aged women?

Middle aged women are most likely on the verge of menopause, a time when women lose their protective hormonal cover that helps keep bones sturdy and the heart strong. Weight training done about twice a week with the help of a personal trainer helps keep the bones and muscles healthy and also prevents premature aging.

Pilates and core training helps strengthen the deeper muscles of the abdomen and trunk that get lax as we age or after childbirth. That apart, pilates and core training strengthens the spine  and also keeps it flexible

Your message for women on Women’s Day?

As a woman, I love life and accept responsibility for my life and my health.  I am independent because I take care of my health and I work out purposefully to be an athlete for life in my own way.  I look fabulous because I am strong myself and therefore I can help my friends and family also find a way to be independent, athletic and strong for themselves. The bottom line is I don’t age, I only mature gracefully.

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