Fitness Icon Deanne Panday’s Top Tips To Staying Fit & Fabulous

Fitness maven Deanne Panday tells Hannah Cardozo about her wellness journey from training Bollywood celebs like Bipasha Basu, Preity Zinta, Dino Morea and John Abraham to preaching holistic well-being. 

Fitness has always been about more than just appearance for health coach Deanne Panday. With over 30 years of experience in the industry, she leads by example by living a balanced and healthy lifestyle. Deanne got her start very early on as a model and writer, gaining recognition when she started training Miss India contestants and Bollywood celebs. Her love for writing translated into three books on fitness that became bestsellers. She has embraced holistic practices and gives us the inside scoop on crash diets, fat burners, and internet fads.

This is her story…

An Early Start

At the age of 12 or 13, I stumbled upon Jane Fonda’s workouts. I found them challenging and would do them every day. At 16, I came across yoga, it was very old-school at that time. But practising it would give me a sense of calm. I remember getting a summer job, and with the money that I’d saved up, I joined a gym. I started enjoying this, wanting to understand more, not realizing that I would make this a career later on. 

Charting Her Writing Path

At the gym, there were just men working out, there were no girls or young people. I was the only one and I became really strong, and there was a point where I would lift more weights than any of the men. I developed a passion for staying strong and fit. 

I moved to Mumbai from Delhi and did a little modelling. That’s when my passion for writing about fitness began. There was this spinning class opening in town and I ran to try it because it was very new, and then I wrote about spinning. ‘SAVVY’ magazine had a column called ‘Gym & Tonic’ and hired me as a columnist for a year. 

The Inevitable Evolution Of Expertise

When my kids were young, I wanted to write on a larger scale. So I went to Australia to do a short course. I studied nutrition and personal training. The late Pradeep Guha, the head of the Miss India pageant in India back then, had heard that I’d done this course and asked me to train the Miss India contestants. 

I Believe In One-On-One Training 

For me, a one-on-one consultation is very important because I need to see your entire medical history. I tied up with a medical center and got all the girls’ medical history done, and it was shocking. Such young girls had osteopenia, osteoporosis, and PCOD. 

If one or two girls had that, I would keep the group separate. My trainers would train them differently according to what their bodies required. Medical histories helped categorize them. Whether it was a group, my clients, or at the gym, I was always focused on one-on-one training. 

Get Fit V/S Get Fads

I used to get a lot of clients who wanted quick fixes, and I would turn them down. I try out everything and then promote what I feel is scientifically right, and not fads or something that will injure somebody. Power yoga injured a lot of people; it became a fad, it went on for a couple of years, people did lose a lot of weight, but part and parcel were the injuries.

Today, there’s a lot of awareness about yoga. But people still need to understand it’s not about losing weight or competition. We all get off that mat to be better humans, to ourselves and the world around us, not to lose weight. 

Wellness Keys 

The first consultation with me starts with your medical history, going into the history of the stress in your life, unhappy relationships, nutrition, diet and workouts. This is because whatever you do, if you come back to a life that is stressing you out, that’s not healthy. 

Wellness is a very broad spectrum, it’s not just the food on your plate or your workouts, it’s the state of your mind, your nervous system, your lymphatic system working optimally. If your medical tests are all okay but you’re feeling tired, you’re not living life to the fullest. 

You must be able to not be like the others and not get stuck in a hamster wheel. Like everybody’s doing this, so I have to do it. You and I are different. What suits you is not going to suit me. What suits you today will not suit you 10 years from now, or even one week from now. Nutrition and workouts are as individual as your fingerprint, you need to do what suits you.

Embracing Wellness

I stumbled upon health coaching about six to seven years ago. I studied a course because I had become very holistic in my way of training. I don’t believe in anything unnatural, fat burners, steroids, or crash diets. You have to work hard, have a well-balanced diet, and be fit but not obsessively fit. 

I stopped personal training over 10 years ago because I got onto the path of educating and writing books and blogs. Fitness took a very wrong turn, and it still is taking a wrong turn in a big way. People are still doing quick fixes, fat burners, and Ozempic – they’re taking it just to lose weight!

For the last 12-14 years, I’ve been going to wellness health resorts that host me as a wellness/ health coach. I’m on this path of educating everybody about wellness and detoxing; you need to look after your organs, you need to look at your health at the cellular level, your blood circulation, and your nerves. When you do a detox, it’s your nervous system that needs a break.

People are still looking at health and wellness as, “I want to lose weight, I want to be thin, I want a six-pack.” They’re not acknowledging that their bodies are not machines. It’s a living thing, you need to treat it with a lot of love. 

Deanne’s Tried & Tested Regimen

What works for me are weights and yoga. That’s something I’ve never stopped. Yoga has become very important in my life. Especially now that I’ve completed 55 years. I recently also started a little bit of Pilates because of stiffness. I follow the 80:20 rule. In a day, 80% is eating healthy and 20% is any rubbish. I have been doing this all my life and telling my clients to do the same, and this is why I’ve never craved anything. As humans, we want to enjoy ourselves. That’s why diets don’t work.

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