Once in a while, you come across people who not only fill your life with positive vibes(I mean you LITERALLY feel a positive, happy change in the energy around you just by seeing their name pop up on your timeline) but inspire you to be the best version of yourself. They don’t even do this intentionally at times, it’s just something about them that wants you to be happy, stress-free and super duper motivated. Chitra Balachandran is one such awesomesauce human I’ve had the good fortune of meeting (on the otherwise dreadful internet) and she, along with a bunch of more awesomesauce people, is the reason I’m still sane when it comes to social media (read Twitter.)
It all started off with #TwitterGetsFitter, a community that works towards getting people to be fit together. I simply connected because this is what I had been doing too! What was in it for us? Nothing but the greater good. And hence started an internet friendship that I know will last forever.
I couldn’t get the gorgeous belly-dancer (one of India’s first few professional belly dance instructors) to show us them moves here, but I did manage to have a rather fun chat with her, something I am sure you will enjoy too. This one’s packed with fitness, good vibes, positive energy, and there’s a little message to the trolls too! The entertainment starts right here!
Who is Chitra Balachandran?
A socially awkward girl who makes a lot of jokes that only she finds funny. A former fat kid who’s always one packet of potato chips away from relapse. Mallu blood beating through a Bombay heart.
(The word Mallu tempts me to request her for a home-cooked meal when I meet her this October)
What was your childhood like?
My dad was in the Indian Navy, so I grew up close to the ocean. Most of my life was in Bombay, with stints in Cochin and Vizag. I was always an overweight child, so I was horribly shy and unpopular growing up. I was also a nerd, which didn’t help matters. So up until I was maybe 17 or 18, I don’t think I even spoke to most of my schoolmates… because I simply didn’t know how to!
So…how did fitness enter your life? Tell us a little about Twitter Gets Fitter.
The whole thing started quite by chance (as did some of the best things in my life!) I woke up on 15th Nov 2016, and realised that there were only 45 days left in the year, and that yet again, my “resolutions” to get fitter had gone down the drain. So I tweeted out to my followers and friends, asking if anyone who felt the same way would like to team up and be workout buddies. Within 30 minutes, I had 12 people sign up. By the end of the day, it was 20. In less than a week, it was 70. And before I knew it, we went from being simply Twitter buddies to “Fitter buddies”. It was born of completely selfish reasons, but it has turned into something so much bigger than myself, and I’m still reeling from it all. Every damn day, the now 250-strong tribe blows my mind with their dedication and positivity.
What does fitness mean to you?
It means being able to stay healthy and as self-sufficient as possible, as long as I can. Yes, wearing a smaller dress size is great, but I’m more concerned about being able to take the stairs when I’m older, and not need to walk with a cane or a walker.
How do you stay motivated on this fitness journey?
It’s incredibly difficult for me, because I’m not an active person by nature. I love to dance, but not to “work out”. I need to be pushed, I need that kick on my butt every now and then. And that’s what the TwitterGetsFitter
tribe gives me. They call me “the drill sergeant”, but in all honesty, they’re the ones who keep me
(I know right! Seeing those DMs and mails telling me how I’m inspiring people to workout has me going “Thank YOU for reaching out to message me, YOU have motivated me to keep this going)
We all have our off days. How do you deal with such days?
I have two ways of dealing with a situation — wine or whine. Depending on the intensity of the bad day, I either pour myself a glass of Port, or I rant to my husband or my friend Stuti. Sometimes I whine while I wine. I multitask like that.
Being in the public eye is tough- how do you manage the attention? And the trolls? — It’s unnerving most days. I have crippling anxiety, and social media allows me to befriend people I may normally not have the courage to speak to in person. However, it backfires when people troll or bombard me with hatred. Since my return to dance & fitness has been post a long illness, I know that my body and my ability have both taken a beating. So when trolls tell me I “should be ashamed to publish videos of myself dancing”, or that I am “no sort of ambassador for fitness”, it cuts deep. I’ve often been reduced to tears by their comments, sometimes even deleting videos. But everyday, I try to steel myself against the hatred, and tell myself that it’s a process. I know what my body is capable of, and I will get back there.
(I could totally relate to this. Harmless trolling can affect people too! You never know how strong/weak the person being trolled is. You don’t have the courage to say something to their face, so don’t say it at all. If something is negatively affecting your life, reach out to them in person and let them know. There is a mature, sane way of dealing with this. Genuine question- doesn’t being a troll doesn’t affect your sanity?)
(anyone else notice how HOT this GORGEOUS woman is?)
Your favorite social media platform?
Twitter, undoubtedly. I’m more a writer than a visual person, and Twitter allows me to unleash that. And also to crack really bad jokes and actually be lauded for them!
(She sounds like a fun version of me)
Which social media platform do you dislike?
Snapchat, because I never quite understood the appeal. I’m also developing a dislike for Facebook, solely because their algorithms are making it near impossible to actually achieve any sort of impressions or engagement without paying.
What do you love the most about being an internet sensation? What do you hate?
Tee hee, “internet sensation”. I think the term is far too kind. But I do love that these 15min of fame allow me to reach out to other people struggling with fitness, and tell them that it’s okay — It’s okay to feel like you could do better, it’s okay to still crave junk food, it’s okay to not look like a poster at a gym. What I hate are the trolls, and the fact that people seem to think that because I’m “leading” the group in a sense, that I should already be ridiculously fit and look like a poster at the gym. I’ve been called a fraud so many times, it’s not even funny any more.
(I could continue ranting on trolls here, but I’ll save that for some other day)
What do “rest days” mean to you?
Rest Days usually involve me sitting at home on the couch, watching endless FRIENDS reruns while editing videos or writing blog posts. I’m the Queen of Couch Potatoes, and rest days are when I nestle my bum comfortably upon my throne.
Lastly, any fitness advice you’d like to share?
Be patient with your body. Everyone responds to diet and exercise differently, and it’s unfair to stress your body just because you aren’t seeing results as quickly as you would like. Listen to your body, and treat it with kindness. It will return the favour, I promise you. Also, get regular health check-ups. Several obstacles to your fitness goals only show themselves in blood tests or other investigations. Be informed.
I am *PRETTY* certain that Chitra
is a more fun, older, Mallu version of me(and this makes me soooo happy!) I’m going to save all the energy to give her a bone crushing hug when I meet her soon, because I feel that is the only way I can express my love for her energy and positivity and general awesomesauceness. Here’s to happier, fitter times.
P. S. – Join the #TwitterGetsFitter community on Twitter and make a positive change in your life. You will want to thank us later.