Neha Dhupia: Don’t give two hoots about how you look as long as you are happy in your body

Shweta Sharma
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The actor was recently seen in the short film, Devi. (Photos: Varinder Chalwa/designed by Gargi Singh)

Whether it's her strong performances in films like Tumhari Sulu and Devi or her fuss-free style, Neha Dhupia is admired for more than just one reason. She speaks her mind and is not afraid to take on trolls, making her a role model for many women out there. The actor, who recently flagged off the Bio-Oil Pregathon in Mumbai, told indianexpress.com about her pregnancy journey, her views on fat-shaming, and what keeps her going.

Pregnancy can be challenging as it leads to many changes in a woman's body. How would you describe your journey?

It's hard! Your body changes every day of your life, and you see a lot more changes when you deliver the baby. For the first few months, you don’t know what’s going on because you are so sleep deprived, and there is a brand new responsibility that you have at hand. I have heard this saying and I think it’s beautiful — everyone’s there to hug the baby, but who hugs the mom? When you believe in a little bit of self-love, it always makes things better.

Many women tend to take a backseat, while some go overboard when it comes to their health during pregnancy. How did you strike a balance?

You strike a balance with the thing you love. So if you think that the one thing you love to do is go for a walk and get a pedicure, you do that; or if spending time with your baby is something you love to do — do that. And if sleeping when the baby sleeps or waking up when the baby wakes up makes you feel better about yourself, you should do that. Spending time, reading a book, hanging out with friends — I am just saying that a lot happens and you see your life go by and you are like what did I do, my children are all grown up and now they are busy with their lives. You don’t want to be in that situation. You want to be continuously doing things that you love to do. I just feel like you’ll be a better person to be around as well.

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How challenging it is to be a 'celeb parent'? What is the worst and best thing about it?

It doesn’t matter if you are a celeb parent, but if you are a public figure there is always judgement there. You are okay being judged but you don’t want to put your children in the limelight. I feel like whatever should happen to them, should happen at their own time when they are ready for it as opposed to me just throwing them out there to a world they may or may not be ready for.

You gave a befitting reply to those who commented about your post-pregnancy weight gain. How do you think fat-shaming can be addressed, especially if you are a public figure?

I feel that fat-shaming should stop. We as a society need to stop putting ourselves in boxes, and define what’s normal and what’s not. But who defines that? Who actually has the answer to that question, and more importantly it’s not about being a particular size, it's about being healthy and fit and feeling good about yourself. For me to come out and talk about fat-shaming, it took a lot more, because people may think that you are a public figure and can come out and talk about things easily. On the contrary, it’s harder because you are also worried about the consequences. But I felt very strongly about it. I was somewhere between hurt and angry, but felt I needed to be a voice for many other women. To all the moms and others who have ever faced any sort of fat-shaming, I just want them to know that people have too much time and instead of giving a befitting reply, work upon your own fitness. As long as you feel fit, you need not give two hoots about how you look as long as you are happy in your body.

ALSO READ | ‘Celebrate your flaws’: Sameera Reddy on pregnancy, bodyshaming and post-partum blues

In a previous interview, you have also commented on how you were glad your bump wasn't showing until the sixth month as you were worried that you may stop getting work. 

I actually want to clear that up. I think it started from a micro-blogging site, where I was misrepresented. It was not that I am not okay with my bump showing or not showing, it’s just that I wanted to come out and talk about my pregnancy when we were ready, and when we as parents thought that we were ready to tell the whole world. A lot of people come out and talk about it at 12 weeks and some like to announce it at 16 weeks or at 20 weeks. As a couple, we wanted to make sure that we both were ready to announce our pregnancy.

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Having said that, you have often given major fashion goals for curvy women. What tips would you give out to women who still struggle to be comfortable in their own skin?

My first and only tip is don’t look at fashion magazines because 90 per cent of the things you see there are a lie, and 100 per cent of the world does not look like that. Wear things that make you happy and comfortable, wear things that you feel beautiful in and don’t go in for fashion and trends. Understand your own style.

Do you think the glamour industry is to be blamed for propagating mindsets like 'thin is in', 'slim is sexy' etc?

I won’t take a dig at an industry, but as an audience, we shouldn’t be gullible about every little thing without applying our minds.

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A lot of celebs share snippets of their diet and fitness regimen on social media. What does your daily fitness routine and diet chart look like?

I lost a chunk of my pregnancy weight doing intermittent fasting, so I eat early dinners and late breakfast and throughout the day I don’t eat sugar, dairy or red meat. Apart from that, I have a very healthy diet with the right amount of carbohydrates and right amount of protein and essential amount of fat.

There is a lot of conversation about sustainable living as well. Have you adapted a similar way of life?

Yes, absolutely. From throwing away all the plastic in our house and upcycling everything possible, to teaching my daughter how to use minimal amount of water and no running taps. There are also hand-me-down clothes to doing away with things that add to our carbon footprints, we are a very, very conscious family.