25/05/2016 12:28 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:26 AM IST

Richa Chadha Opens Up About Her Struggle With An Eating Disorder And Body-Shaming

ALBERTO PIZZOLI via Getty Images
Indian actress Richa Chadha smiles as she arrives on May 15, 2016 for the screening of the film 'Mal de Pierres (From the Land of the Moon)' at the 69th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France. / AFP / ALBERTO PIZZOLI (Photo credit should read ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images)

Richa Chadha, who recently appeared in Sarbjit and will soon be seen in Cabaret, has opened up about her struggles with eating right and body image issues.

In an interview with Mumbai Mirror published Wednesday, the actress, who has recently been turning heads for a bikini photo-shoot that appeared on the cover of this month's edition of Maxim, admitted that for several years, she felt guilty for feeling hungry.

Terrified by the idea of 'bad fats' and carbs entering her system, she started working out intensively and giving up the food she loved after various people in the industry passed conflicting comments, from opining that she was 'too skinny' when she first joined films, to the opposite later on.

It wasn't exactly bulimia, but Chadha would put herself through "long hours of fasting, munching on protein bars and [drinking] Red Bulls". Explaining where her fears came from, she said:

"There is a lot of pressure because everyone is judging you on the basis of how you look. On screen your face is magnified so people are pointing to your nose, eyes, jawline, smile and even your eyelashes."

Her outlook changed in December last year, when she caught Asif Kapadia's documentary Amy (2015) on a flight while travelling to the Marrakech Film Festival. The film depicts singer Amy Winehouse's rise and eventual fall, precipitated in part by a crippling eating disorder.

"It was a nine-hour flight. I saw the film in the first two hours and spent the remainder of the flight weeping, landing with red, swollen eyes. But being away from people helped and I decided to take control of my life and body."

Two months and several conversations later, Chadha got in touch with a renowned nutritionist and a naturopath to help correct her diet. She started eating all the food she'd been denying herself for many years, such as rajma-chawal, dosas, parathas, and salads — food she'd grown up eating. Along with this, she maintained a schedule of regular workouts.

Now, her skin is glowing and she feels that she will soon be in the best shape of her life.

Chadha feels that it's important to avoid a lifestyle that involves the use of 'fat-melting medicines' and 'supplements', which can cause hormonal problems in women as well as hair-loss and a decrease in sperm count in men. Decrying body-shaming as a "new phenomenon" we don't need, she said:

"All I can say is that my grandmother who is 87 still has a small but healthy dinner everyday of rice, chapati, sabzi and never misses her dessert. She laughs when I run away from ice cream and she's as slim and beautiful as she was when she was young. I'd like to tell people to love themselves the way they are without bothering about popular perception."

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