If there’s one change Upasana Kamineni Konidela would like everyone to adopt, it would be to healthy eating habits. As the vice chairperson of CSR for Apollo Hospitals Group and managing director of Apollo Life (a wellness solution provider), her work has touched several lives—from educating corporate companies on wellbeing practices to creating self-sustaining health programs in rural India. She is also World Wildlife Fund India’s first philanthropy ambassador and has ensured easy medical access for forest rangers. But the subject of good nutrition and healthy eating has always been close to Upasana’s heart.
As someone who struggled with her weight while growing up, Upasana experienced first-hand how healthy eating habits and lifestyle choices can have a positive impact of one’s life. And it’s these personal experiences that have shaped her philosophy on wellbeing.
Upasana has been spreading her message of holistic wellness through her social media handles, Youtube channel and now her website URLife. Her latest project, URLife was created to educate people on topics ranging from mental wellness, fitness, green living, and healthy eating. Here, she talks to ELLE about her no-fuss approach to health and the inspiration behind her latest project…
ELLE: Tell us about URLife?
Upasana Kamineni Konidela: About 14 years ago I started a magazine called BPositive, but a few months ago we took this online as URLife. It’s like my wellbeing journal, where I talk to doctors and convert their language and terminologies into something a layperson can understand.
ELLE: How has your personal wellness journey influenced the platform?
UKK: My wellness journey began while I was in college. I was a very obese girl who had a bunch of health problems and relied on food for comfort. I consulted various trainer and nutritionists, but over time I realised that none of them were actually qualified—they were simply enthusiasts who took it on as a job—and doctors didn’t know much about wellbeing.
At that time I was living in England and decided to run the London Marathon. I visited a physiotherapist and a kinesiologist to help me prepare, and that’s how my weight loss journey began. The kinesiologist helped me understand how my body works and my food allergies. I’ve never wanted to be movie star skinny, but I definitely understand that staying healthy is a lifelong battle.
This experience helped me understand two things: first that nutrition is medicine. Several lifestyle diseases can be averted with eating healthy. And second that while I’m not an expert, I have access to several certified doctors. So I decided to become a curator who could talk to these experts for genuine advice, rather than enthusiasts who don’t have clinical backgrounds.
ELLE: What can we do to change our nutrition?
UKK: This is an endless topic, but simply put: we need to re-look at how we spend money on food. We’re ready to pay the price for an angio surgery, but we won’t pay the price for good produce at the supermarket. Everyone complains about expensive healthcare, but they don’t think about how two spoons of reused oil in their food will impact their body. The way we look at food needs to change, and I’m saying this from my personal experiences. For example, why does prasad have to be sweet? We can make it healthy as well. We need to treat food as medicine; our kitchen is the real clinic.
ELLE: From all the wellness and health leaders you consult, whose work is the most inspiring?
UKK: Deepak Chopra—he’s not just another guru talking about spirituality, he backs it up with science. He talks about the gut microbiome and the gut and mind connection. I love Michele Paradise [a personal development coach], she helped me heal and relook at my personal relationships with family and friends. Eddie Stern is a fantastic yoga guru, and Charmaine D’Souza who teaches people the power of kitchen remedies is also wonderful. I also look up to and have been researching Johanna Budwig’s work [a German biochemist].
ELLE: What are some of your health practices?
UKK: I practice intermittent fasting so I usually drink black coffee in the morning. If I haven’t slept well then I switch it with herbal tea. As soon as my fast is over I need my cup of tea. Since I don’t digest lactose very well (like most Indians), I use a milk substitute. I avoid sugar in the beginning of my day to keep my blood sugar levels from fluctuating through the day. My first meal is protein-rich, right now I’m not eating too many carbs because I’m not as active as I should be. I make sure I have a four hour gap between meals, and I only eat when I’m hungry. I eat my biggest meal at 6pm, and after that I avoid eating anything else. This is something that works for me; it may not work for everyone else.
ELLE: What are some of your practices for mental wellbeing?
UKK: Michelle taught me to make lists, and that’s helped me a lot. I make lists of things that are bothering me, and things I want to achieve. I feel much better once I know my problems.
Photographs: Instagram (Upasana Kamineni Konidela)