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Kareena: From stout to skinny

When I signed on Kaho Naa. . . Pyaar Hai opposite Rakesh Roshan's handsome, young, and at that time completely unknown, son, Hrithik, I still had every ounce of my puppy fat intact. But at that time, it really wasn't a big deal, and nobody told me I was looking too fat or needed to lose weight. As fate would have it, I didn't go on to do that movie and J P Dutta's Refugee turned out to be my launch vehicle in 2000 with Jaya and Amitabh Bachchan's then unknown son Abhishek! I learned overnight that the camera really does add a few kilos. But who cared. It was too much fun to be living the fabulous big Bollywood dream.

Throughout this time, fitness wasn't high up on my list of priorities. Let's face it; I was never the sporty type. In Refugee, I was the cute, slightly chubby girl next door. My puppy fat worked for the character and brought her alive.

In my head I was doing absolutely brilliantly when it came to my body. But then my movies hit a rough patch. With Main Prem Ki Diwaani Hoon, Mujhse Dosti Karoge and LOC Kargil all sinking at the box office, my focus was diverted from working on my body to improving my body of work.

Which is probably why keeping track of the numbers on the weighing scale was the last thing on my mind. Besides, I wasn't going to be baring it all in a bikini, right? WRONG! In 2007, my life changed forever. I signed on Tashan, a full on glamorous masala movie, with two of the hottest and fittest actors around: Akshay Kumar and Saif Ali Khan. And me, rising out of the sea like a Bond girl, wearing nothing but a green bikini.
This was completely new territory for me. So, when I looked into the mirror to decide whether I really had the body to pull this off, I had to be honest with myself. I panicked. I had nightmares of how my love handles would be on display for the whole world to see. I was determined to do something that would shock the entire industry.

But I was still very far away from being in shape. I desperately needed something which would give my weight-loss programme a turbo boost. That's when my friend Shaira Khan told me about a genie called Rujuta Diwekar. She was a brilliant trainer at Sykes Gym, where Shaira worked out, and I was told that she helped her clients by prescribing diets to them along with their exercises. Rujuta stormed into my life like a whirlwind. We met and chatted for a bit, and I signed up for her weight-loss programme. The next thing I knew, she was in my house, discarding my stash of banana chips, chocolates and french fries. My junk food de-addiction had begun. I will admit, though, the first few days were pure torture. I spent my time daydreaming about mountains of masala-topped potato chips. The hardest thing to do was change my perception of food. I had grown up in a proper Punjabi household, where ghee equals love. I was taught the fattier and meatier the food, the better it is.

This time around I had made up my mind to stick it out, no matter what. The combination of my controlled vegetarian diet and intense yoga sessions started working its way into my body. I saw myself shrink every ten days. My arms, legs and abs looked rippled. I felt fit, empowered and super hot. I had dropped ten kilos in ten months, and my waistline went from 28 to 24 inches. Muscles appeared from under layers of puppy fat, and my collar bones made their debut appearance.

I shot the now-famous bikini scene and I must admit I was a bundle of nerves! But soon the shot was ready, the film was complete and the promos hit the screen. And everybody seemed to love the new me! I had officially become Kareena 'Size Zero' Kapoor. And so, the size-zero syndrome had officially begun. Everything I wore, even the most daring clothes straight off the ramp, looked super hot. Honestly, I had no idea what Size Zero meant. I learnt about it from reading the newspaper, where they said that only the top models in Paris had those measurements. Six-foot-tall supermodels. . . and me!

This was around the time that I began shooting for 3 Idiots with one of my favourite directors, Raju Hirani. One day while we were on sets, he took me aside and gave me an order: 'Gain some weight. ' He pointed out that since I had lost so much weight, my face was looking too sharp and angular on screen. Instead of looking like the cute, spontaneous college girl I was supposed to be playing, my face was making me seem harsh and mature. I had no choice but to listen. After all, this was the same man who cast me opposite my favourite actor, Aamir Khan. I owed him.

Saif, who has always been my voice of reason, was also concerned that I had become too thin. Or in his exact words, 'You're looking like a twelve-year-old boy. ' He isn't a subtle one! That was it! Two of the most important men in my life at that time wanted me to gain weight. Plus, I had proved my point, shocked enough people and been the cause of too many debates on skinny vs anorexic. I had made my decision: I was going to put on weight and become my ideal, perfect size.

And I have to confess, putting on weight was fun! I was still eating every two hours, except now I didn't have to limit my portions. Instead of only one slice of pizza, I ate four. But that doesn't mean I threw every rule I had learnt until then out of the window. Size Zero had changed how I perceived food. This isn't the sort of thing that is temporary. I was enjoying my food more than ever. I had even begun enjoying vegetables and dishes that I would never have looked at before.

Sorry, Rujuta! From 24 inches, my waistline reached 26 inches and that's when I stopped expanding. My previously chubby arms and calves, that were lean and mean during my size-zero phase, were now perfectly shapely and lovely. I could fill out a sari like a real Indian diva. Saif loved my fuller figure, especially my now-recovered butt, which we both agree is my best feature. Like all men, he likes his woman with a little meat on her bones. And I realised that I was happy being curvy. This rollercoaster ride of losing my baby fat, becoming super skinny and now being sexy and curvy has taught me one thing: looking great is 40 per cent style and 60 per cent confidence. It used to be a daily battle between me and those parts of my body that I didn't think were perfect. But I'm no longer shy about showing them off.

Once you begin to love your flaws, you can turn them into plus points. I may not have the most sculpted arms or thighs in Bollywood, but I have a great back and butt, and I can use them as weapons of mass distraction.

Excerpted with permission of Penguin Books India from the book 'Style Diary of a Bollywood Diva' by Kareena Kapoor with Rochelle Pinto. Shobhaa De Books/ Rs 699

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