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#CosmoExclusive: Sarah Jane Dias Talks About Battling an Eating Disorder

Mental health. Can we talk about it, please?

 “Spreading awareness about the importance of psychological health, just like physical health, will help reduce the stigma and the ignorance towards it,” says Delhi-based psychologist Harsheen K Arora. As a nation, we are under-equipped to handle mental health issues on such a large scale. “Currently, we have only 3,500 psychiatrists for millions of Indians suffering from mental illness. India specifically has over 300% shortage of psychologists. Until now, less than 1-2% of the health budget has been dedicated to mental health, in comparison to 10-12% in other countries,” says Dr Samir Parikh, Director, Department of Mental Health & Behavioural Sciences at Fortis Healthcare.

By sharing the story of her struggle with an eating disorder, model and actor Sara Jane Dias is one of the women helping us lift the veil and speak about mental health.

“I was going through multiple things in my 20s. I used to have trouble sleeping, and would wake up in the middle of the night feeling terribly anxious. I would then sleep through the day, and not eat properly. Our industry is pretty brutal—when I first came here from Muscat, I still had a bit of baby fat on me, and people at shoots would literally hold on to what they would call ‘fat on my arm’ and shame me. They would say things like ‘You really
need to work out’, and would often give me unsolicited advise. Over time, I fell into the trap and tried a bunch of things to lose weight, and lose it fast! And it took me a long while to realise that the problem wasn’t the food, it was my approach towards it.

Not eating doesn’t make you skinny, it just robs your body of nutrition, making you unhealthy. I struggled with weight issues for a while—I starved myself through the week, binge-ate over the weekend, and then felt immensely
guilty... Let’s be honest, we all know fad diets don’t work. If you’re lucky, you’ll only gain the weight you lost. But if you’re unlucky, you’ll gain double the weight, which will eventually affect you not just physically but also mentally. If you deprive yourself of food and constantly tell your body that you’re on a diet, you force yourself in a state of panic.

After I came to terms with my eating disorder, I started reading and educating myself about choosing a healthy lifestyle. There were times when I would start crying when I ate—it was really sad that my body was so used to
associating a meal with being stressed. But I’m very comfortable in my skin now. Through all of this, from being judged for my baby fat to being called a “skinny b*tch” on social media, I wore my confidence as my defense. But there’s a difference between being comfortable in your skin and truly loving yourself—we really need to love ourselves without the pressure from the society. Women, I feel, are more susceptible to feel that way.

I’ve been to therapists, and any good therapist will not just treat your mind, but also your body. And that’s where food comes in, because healthy mind and body go hand in hand. I coped with my disorder by educating myself. The biggest lesson that I’ve learnt from it is that you must listen to your body. Your body is your own, you need to find what works for you. Consult a nutritionist and make sure that you eat a balanced meal. Do a combination of cardio and weight training, eat on time and drink a lot of water. Trust me, these habits will change your life. There’s also something called ‘mirror work’, where you stand in front of a mirror and tell yourself that you love yourself. It might sound like faff, but honestly that sh*t works.

It’s like reprogramming yourself: if you tell yourself that you’re amazing, you will feel it.”