Body confidence is something most of us struggle with. We are bombarded with images of stick-thin models and actors, which leads us to have the unhealthy belief that they are the ‘perfect size’. The obsession with being thin and perfect makes many youngsters end up having eating disorders and turn to unhealthy distractions like alcohol and drugs.
Right from school days I was ashamed of my weight. I wasn’t overweight at that time, but I always felt that I was bigger than other girls my age. I wasn’t an active kid, I never played any sport nor did I ever participate in any physical activity. I was more inclined towards studies and grades, and so health and fitness took a backseat. I was ashamed of my weight, but I never did anything about it.
However, now I am mature enough to know that skinny isn’t something I want to be. I want to be fit and healthy, because that is what really matters. Weight loss is a superficial goal, optimal health is what we should all aim for.
I had joined the gym twice in the last ten years, both the times I gained all the weight I lost. I didn’t enjoy going to the gym as nobody really helped unless you hired them as a personal trainer. After that, I started doing High Intensity Interval Training workouts at home, I thoroughly enjoyed them and being an introvert, I definitely preferred exercising on my own. But then studies came in the way again, I stopped exercising and gained back all the weight I lost. (I had continued eating unhealthy foods all that time.)
I had been to a dietician 5 years ago, but she charted out such an extensive diet, I never stuck to it as I made excuses about being busy at work and not having time to prepare the food items she suggested. I now know that it is important to be self-educated about nutrition and there are tons of articles online as well as videos on YouTube to help one out.
In February, 2018, I was at my heaviest – 79 kg (175 pounds). I had a large percentage of body fat. Being 5ft 6″ in height, I was highly overweight. At that time, I had been on a trip with my close friends where we had to walk a lot. For someone who never exercised for years, suddenly walking for 12 km on a single day was a task. While returning back to the hotel I broke down – I just couldn’t carry on. My chest was hurting and I couldn’t breathe. I cried and was more ashamed of myself than I had ever been before. My friends, being the amazing people that they are, consoled me and told me that it’s not the end and I can still work on my fitness levels. That trip changed my life because it made me realize that I had to do something before it was too late. Although I did start exercising when I was back home after the trip, work got in the way and I stopped.
At the beginning of May, 2018, I had to attend my friend's wedding, and none of my Indian outfits fit me, so I had to wear a sari. I was too ashamed to tell anyone about it at that time, but that is when I decided that it was about time I did something about my weight. From the next day, I started walking for 2-3 km per day, but my weight remained the same. After 2 weeks of walking 4 times a week, I realized that there was something wrong. How could I not lose weight when I was walking so much? The scale hadn’t budged even a little. That’s when I started researching about the right diet/nutrition. I watched a whole lot of videos on YouTube, more than 50 videos in a week, as well as read a lot of health articles, and I noted down all the changes that I had to make.
I had always read, and knew very well, that weight loss is 80% diet and 20% exercise. However, I always thought that a diet meant eating tons of lettuce and feeling hungry all the time, because that’s what they show on television - and that's why I never tried dieting in the past. There is a huge difference between a healthy diet/lifestyle and fad diets, and one should always stick to the former.
After all that research, on 21st May, 2018, I started cleaning up my diet.
I have been able to lose 30 pounds in 3.5 months.
I did not join a gym, neither did I go on an unhealthy diet. I ate clean, healthy foods and made sure that I exercised daily.
(You can check out my progress photos, here.)
Insights about nutrition which will help you drop pounds like never before :
1) Stop consuming sugar – Sugar doesn’t provide the body with any nutrition at all. It is basically empty calories which leads to a host of health issues. You can have a small treat once in awhile, but try as much as possible to refrain from consuming sugar. Tip – Make a list of the foods or drinks you add sugar to, and try to not consume those foods or drinks, at least for a few weeks till you get over your sugar addiction. Trust me, being someone who was addicted to sugar and desserts, it is tough but it is definitely possible. (The science : Sugar is at a 100, the highest, on the Glycemic Index (GI) scale. GI represents how fast your body processes a certain food. Once you consume sugar, your insulin increases. Normally, the insulin will convert the sugar into glucose for energy. However, your body usually doesn’t require this energy at the moment, and so it stores it for later use, in the form of fat. The more sugar you consume, the more fat you will gain.)
2) Stop consuming processed foods – Foods high on the GI scale are processed by the body in a similar way sugar is processed. All processed/packaged foods have a very high GI. These foods lead to spikes in insulin as well as water retention due to high salt and unhealthy fat levels.
3) Stop consuming white/simple carbs – These mainly include white rice, white bread and refined flour, as well as products made from the above. They are high GI foods and will lead to increase in fat. Tip – Download a Glycemic Index chart (I find this one very helpful http://www.the-gi-diet.org/lowgifoods/) and see that you consume foods which have a low Glycemic Index. Get rid of all those biscuits, chips and sweetmeats. Start eating more vegetables, fruits, whole grains and nuts.
4) Stay far away from ‘diet’ foods – All those diet sodas and low fat foods are loaded with sugar, salt or substitutes which are more harmful than what they are trying to mask. Stick to natural, whole foods instead.
5) Stop consuming foods you are intolerant to – Your body may be intolerant to certain foods, which you may not have noticed before. Once you start eating healthy you will be able to understand better how your body reacts to different foods. (I’m lactose intolerant and I never knew that till the age of 22. Turns out I am intolerant to many other foods as well, which I’ve realised in the past few months.) By avoiding the consumption of such foods you will reduce bloating and other uncomfortable symptoms.
6) Reduce consumption of high GI fruit – Fruit contains fructose, which in the end is a form of sugar. Even though it’s natural sugar, the body processes it in the same way as normal sugar. From the weight loss perspective, fruits aren’t good. You can get the same nutrients and fiber from vegetables. If you do want to consume fruits, have the ones which have low GI like apples and berries.
7) Consume more protein – Protein will help you feel full as the body takes time to break it down. This will help reduce your hunger and cravings. Sources of protein include lean meats, eggs, cottage cheese, etc.
8) Consume more complex carbs – The body takes time to break down Low GI foods. Consuming more complex carbs will keep you full for longer. These include brown rice, oats, brown bread, etc.
9) Drink more water – The body is made up of 75% water. If you consume less water you will end up losing less weight as the body retains water, especially if you are consuming food high in salt. When you drink more water you flush out the excess salt as well as other toxins from the body.
* Once you follow these steps, you will notice that your weight drastically reduces in the first week. However, that is only water weight. The reason most diets fail is because once you go back to eating sugar and high GI carbs after the diet, your body will start retaining water again and that will lead to weight gain. So all that ‘weight’ lost will magically appear back again. Fad diets and quick fixes are not the solution to weight loss. That is why it is necessary to adopt a healthy lifestyle, where these changes are permanent. Yes, you can have a cheat meal every week, but 80% of your nutrition should be healthy.
Important tips :
1) Incorporate exercise into your daily routine – Even a short walk for 20 mins or a quick HIIT workout will help speed up your weight loss. Being fit is always a good thing.
2) Track your calories – Fat loss revolves around burning more calories than you consume. At the beginning, tracking calories will help you stay focused. There are many apps which help in this regard. I personally use the My Fitness Pal app. Calorie tracking helps me stay accountable.
3) Eat what you love – There may be certain healthy foods which you do not like at all. Instead of forcing yourself to eat them, try eating the healthy foods which you do enjoy. This will keep you motivated to stick to the diet plan.
4) Have cheat meals – You can indulge your cravings once or twice a week, try not to exceed that. If you force yourself to stick to an eating plan you don’t enjoy, you will give up due to the rigidity. Remember that this is for the long run, so practice something you can stick to. Have that piece of cake or those chips, but limit the portion size. Moderation is key.
5) Track your progress – Make a note every day of the number of days you’ve stuck to healthy eating. This will motivate you to keep going.
6) Aim for fat loss instead of weight loss – What’s the difference? As I said, once you go on a fad diet the water weight comes off, and you lose weight. The scale shows a lower number - that is weight loss. However, fat loss is when your body fat decreases. The main way to ascertain whether you are losing fat is by taking your body measurements every month. If you follow the steps I mentioned earlier, you will notice your body fat decreasing rapidly over time.
7) Have patience and be consistent – Fat loss takes time. It takes time for your body to adapt to fat burning. You need to have patience and stick to the clean eating, no matter what. Be consistent and know that there are brighter days ahead.
8) Make changes slowly – Let your body get adapted to a certain way of eating/exercising, and then make the next change. I started Intermittent Fasting only after a month of healthy eating.
9) Do it for the long run – Do not start a diet/exercise plan if you aim to give it up as soon as you reach your goal weight. It is extremely important to stay healthy all your life. Losing weight is important, but being healthy is what really matters.
10) Surround yourself with supportive people – You are your greatest motivator. However, a strong support system is essential. Move away from people who do not support your healthy lifestyle changes and who constantly ridicule you or body shame you. They are toxic and you are better off without them.
As I had explained earlier, weight loss is something I’ve always had a complex relationship with. I never knew that I was capable of ever losing weight, but I did, and I am so proud of myself. My confidence has increased tremendously. I am no longer ashamed of my body, as I know that I am working hard towards a healthy body every single day.
You can definitely achieve the same results. Keep believing in yourself, especially when nobody else does. Be your own motivator!
Stay tuned for more weight loss posts.
Thank you for reading! Stay blessed!
Disclaimer : These were the tips I learnt both online and through experience. However, every person’s body is different and reacts differently. I have only listed the things that worked for me. Feel free to adjust according to your body type and health. Do seek the help of a doctor, if you have any pre-existing health condition.