Priti Vyas, daughter of FHT Vice-president, Bharti Vyas, talks about her experience of appearing in a new three-part BBC One health series, Doctor in the House (beginning 19 November, 9pm, BBC1)
Who would have thought that the invitation to take part in a health documentary would be so life changing and pivotal in helping to find the new improved me? At 48, I was going to be given the chance to get the help of a doctor to lose weight, rid me of insomnia, reduce my stress levels and renew my whole well-being – how could I turn down such an offer?
Read more about Priti’s experience…
The last 20 years of my life has been a roller coaster ride; a journey that in my wildest dreams, I never would have imagined taking. Along with the regret of an 18-year marriage, full of mental and physical abuse, I had the emotional pain of watching its repercussions on my children, who were both in their early teens. All this was mixed in with the stress of running a business and keeping up a public profile in my work in radio and the press as a beauty and well-being writer. It was all one big mess.
My top priority was to protect my children and help them deal with their stresses. I needed to be present for them, as they too were on their own traumatic journeys. In all of this I did not have the time to focus on me or my own overall well-being. I noticed that as I got older my body was giving me clear signs that it was calling out for help. My eczema flared, I had put on weight, was finding it harder to sleep and I couldn’t remember a time when I didn’t have a tension headache.
In 2008, I decided it was time to leave my past behind me and got divorced. The final straw came in December 2012, when the doctors found a benign tumor in my sinuses. I felt it was my body’s way of communicating with me; letting me know that I needed to spend some more time on me and getting my health back to what it should be.
I consider myself to be an educated person. I have also been surrounded by holistic beauty and ayurveda my whole life, and my work meant I had a lot of knowledge on the health front. Over the years, I have picked up lots of nuggets about all sorts of things, including diet, vitamins, acupuncture, massage, ayurvedic remedies, yoga, hypnotherapy, homeothathy and exercise. To be honest, I tried a bit of everything. Yet my weight went up, my sleep patterns were still disrupted and I still comfort ate. Yet on some level, it was all helping me to keep going and I did feel better for it, yet I also felt something was missing. I had all the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, but these just needed to be put together to make a complete, whole picture.
I guess the universe heard my plea and sent Dr Rangan Chaterjee and the BBC team to my door. It was with his guidance my jigsaw puzzle started to finally take shape. Not only was he going to help me, but he was also going to help those I hold closest and dearest to me: my daughter, Serena, and my partner Sandeep, an old school friend I had reconnected with after 30 years.
Dr Chaterjee quite literally came to live alongside us – observing our daily routines, eating with us, and watching how we relaxed and slept in the evenings. All three of us also received a full health MOT.
We underwent various medical tests but surprisingly – for them and me – was that all my blood tests came back clear (apart from my overactive thyroid, which I already knew about). Dr Chaterjee was slightly baffled, so dug a little deeper to understand why my body was not shifting weight. This had become a focal point, as it was a reflection of my inner body, and Dr Chaterjee knew that losing weight would trigger the internal changes that would help to kick start my body.
He came to the conclusion that stress, my pre-menopausal age and lack of sleep were all likely to be playing vital roles in my inability to shift weight. At the time, I was a hefty 15 stone and I was shocked at how heavy I had become. They got me to do a (not so attractive) cortisol test, which involved spitting. This confirmed that my stress levels were indeed high – probably linked to years of having to cope with a stressful personal life.
Dr Chaterjee was definitely up for the challenge to help me achieve my goals, and so gave us all a very strict, tailor-made diet and lifestyle plan. So, here’s what he set out for me, the process of which was filmed and monitored for eight weeks…
Diet: We were allowed to eat as much as we wanted, whenever we wanted, as long as it was within a fixed 10-hour window. We chose between 10am and 8pm, so it would fit in with our work schedule. Food and drink ruled out were dairy, carbohydrates, caffeine, sugar, alcohol, vegetable oil and caffeine.
Foods that were in included nuts, avocados, meat, fish, fruit and vegetables. We had to eat at least five different vegetables every day. Dr Chaterjee even took us out to our favorite restaurant and showed us the amount of food we could eat. My mindset started to change to what I could have, opposed to what I could not have. As the only fluid we could have was water, we automatically upped our water intake.
I was given three sessions of medical acupuncture, to help ease my hot flushes brought on by hormonal changes in my body. The acupuncture also helped to destress my body.
I made sure I had the BVM (Bharti Vyas Method) Top to Toe Harmonizing treatments once a week. These are tailor-made, using appropriate ayurvedic oils to help relax the whole body.
Mindfulness meditation and yoga
Dr Chaterjee took me to a mindfulness meditation session in North London, which basically taught me how to use mindfulness every day. He set a challenge for me to practice meditating for 15 minutes a day, which I felt I would easily be able to do. I already attended a great yoga class that I carried on attending.
As I sit at my desk for most of the day, the doctor worked out that I was not getting enough exercise. They bought me a special watch to monitor my steps, heart beat and sleep. At the start of the process I was walking between one to two thousand steps, and I had to up this to at least 10,000 steps a day. The aim was also to make sure I would walk rather than drive.
I was given acidophilus to help balance my digestive system, a multivitamin blend to help balance my hormones, liquid magnesium to help my cramps and aid sleep, plus a vitamin to help boost my thyroid function.
By the end of the process, I had lost two stone in weight, four inches off my waist and five inches off my hips. My hot flushes had greatly subsided and I felt great.
Prior to the show, I was sleeping up to six hours a night of broken sleep and now I sleep an average of eight hours. My cortisol levels dropped from 50 to 26, just above normal, and all in all I feel much healthier and more complete.
For someone who had tried every diet in the book, I found that this process became part of my lifestyle. I also recognized that losing weight was more about my mindset than perhaps the diet itself.
At first the weight loss was very slow but as I started to sleep longer, I found the weight started to fall off. Who would have thought that sleeping would have helped me to lose weight? Mind you, in the first week I often thought about giving up, as the withdrawal symptoms from the sugar were awful; the headaches were often unbearable. However by about day seven, I did not have any symptoms. I just felt better and better.
So all in all, I would say this whole process definitely came at the right time. I look forward to being super fit at fifty!
- Watch Priti in Doctor in the House, 19 November, 9pm on BBC1. For more information, visit www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06q6y95
PICTURE: BBC/Studio Lambert