7 Lessons I Learnt Through My Fitness Journey

If you haven’t already been through my Instagram feed, where I talk a lot about my weight loss journey and the choices which I’ve made through the past year, I shall repeat it all here, albeit in a rather long, explanatory post. Grab your coffee/ chai/ water tumblers, and read on!

  1. ‘Fat’-loss, not ‘Weight’-loss

But of course, internet, magazines and companies are to blame here for marketing weight-loss as the answer to everything. Sadly, most people start to rely on their weight as the focal point of their efforts. However, weight is just a number, and although it does provide basic reference for BMI calculations, it is NOT the foundation. What you really need to focus on is fat-loss.

When I started 3 years ago, I used to call it a ‘get-in-shape’ or ‘weight-loss’ initiative. I used to weigh 73 kgs (161 pounds), only overweight as per standard BMI calculations. However, a Body Fat analysis showed that my body fat was at an alarming 42%. My bone-weight has always been less. So I was mostly – enter the dreaded word – OBESE.

Now, at 62kgs, my body-fat % has crept all the way down to 25%, and I’m formulating regimes to target the body fat further down.

  1. You Don’t ‘go’ On A Diet

Another eye-opener for me. Having tried a plethora of diets like GM, Atkins and you-name-it and giving up mid-way, not to mention the sudden weight fluctuations these brought, I finally resorted to consulting a nutritionist. My first question to her was “How long will I need to eat healthy?”, to which she replied, “preferably as long as you live!”. It seemed so incredulous at that time, I almost gave up on the idea. However, I did follow her prescribed diet plans long enough to understand the simple profundity in her statement: healthy eating is not meant to be practiced for a pre-stated period; you have to commit to making these healthier choices all your life. THAT is the point.

The Diet Culture is so prevalent in the world out there that it’s extremely hard for one to ignore it. The truth, however, is that diets do not enable you to maintain any weight you might’ve lost in long term. Period. Read: 8 Reasons You Should Never Go On A Diet

Also, dieting frequently hints towards the assumption that weight-loss will solve all your problems and make your life better. While adopting a healthy lifestyle and eating healthier foods will resolve a lot of your health issues, keep diseases at bay, make you feel lighter and energized, it simply won’t change every aspect of your life.

  1. Self-worth, not Punishing Yourself

I will always be grateful to my nutritionist and my fitness-obsessed husband for opening my eyes to this reality. My nutritionist was very clear about the fact that my eating habits were very unhealthy and that I would have to stick to her prescribed diet plans thoroughly for them to work. I was determined to lose my body fat, and as a result I stuck to the plan like a leech. For real! My friends and family were alarmed – I would not touch any food option that wasn’t in my diet sheet and alcohol was a strict no-no. Many misjudged my determination and efforts to ingrain self-discipline as my tendency to punish myself. While I do understand that they were merely concerned about me, I believe this strict adherence to the diet plan initially helped me develop a disciplined approach towards my food choices eventually.

It is important to understand that loving yourself and your body is what should motivate your fitness journey, and not self-loathing and punishing yourself.

  1. Do It For Yourself

In 2013, I joined a gym (read, the husband made me). I hardly ever went.

In the year 2014 (a year after I discovered my shocking 42% body fat stat), I did begin to hit the gym, but I did it like I was going to please others, and doing others a favor by exercising, not my own self. It sounds so disgraceful of me now! Also, I ate every junk food option that came my way. My portions were small, but the choices were pretty bad. I had no idea what balancing macros meant. I didn’t know a thing about portion control and moderation. I would mostly do cardio at gym, and gain back all minor weight lost even if I didn’t hit the gym for a week.

Finally, a year ago (in 2015), I felt it was I who controlled my life, and that I would benefit the most by altering my lifestyle. I consulted a nutritionist, attacked the gym like it was nobody’s business (even twice for some regimes). Once I picked up weights and indulged in strength-training, there was no looking back. Call me an adrenaline junkie now if you will, but working out is now a crucial part of my day.

Left: Before – In September 2014, 72 kgs, body-fat – 42% Right: After – In October 2016, 62 kgs, body-fat – 25%

Moral is, you cannot get the desired results if you do not give it your 100%, and you will not be able to give it your all unless you are convinced that going through this metamorphosis will help you the most. None else!

  1. Nutrition Over Calories, Any Day!

Again, courtesy my nutritionist’s valuable guidance. Of course, calories do matter. Internet scientists will tell you to set a calorific deficit in order to steadily lose weight over a matter of weeks. While it’s true to some extent, it is not all that simplistic. What you eat holds a lot more importance than how many calories you consume. For example, you cannot choose 1200 calories worth of pastry cakes over, say, salads or even khandvi (flour rolls, tempered and sautéed; Indian cuisine) and expect to lose fat all the same. This is because different macronutrients like carbohydrates, protein and fat are metabolized and stored in different ways by the body.

This is where macronutrients or macros and micronutrients or micros come into play. Also, my nutritionist believed – and I’ve come to appreciate this fact too – that the basic purpose of food is to nourish the body, and most foods (barring deep-fried/ carb-laden foods with tons of added sugar/ artificially structured) do just that. It is important to understand the nutritive content of the food options you choose. Eat mindfully and in moderate portions, rather than being obsessed with their calorie content.

  1. Sweat It!

There are no two ways about it – you need to exercise and lead an active lifestyle in order to stay fit and healthy. Those TV commercials that claim to sell you a magic fat burning pill/ fat burner sauna/ tummy tucker and so on will not really work. All that these fat-contraption might do is help eliminate water stored in your body, which will show a weight reduction for a few days, until the water weight comes back all over again. Strength-training is the only permanent and effective way to lose body fat and sustain the fat loss over time. Period.

Strength training for effective and sustainable fat-loss.

Walking is an activity, not a form of exercise. Aerobics, Zumba & Cardio at the gym do help, but these more or less help in toning your body as the fat loss sets in. Yoga is a great form of exercise for toning as well. But for effective and sustained weight loss, you HAVE to lift weights. Take a personal trainer’s help at the gym, or follow a great regime at bodybuilding.com as per your fat-loss objectives. Rotating regimes and schedules works best – repeating the same exercise plan for too long will get your body used to it, yielding disappointing results.

I keep alternating between shredding and muscle-building plans. Shredding requires a very stringent diet to be adhered to, whereas muscle-building phase allows a flexible diet plan. Of course, you will need to keep an eye on balancing your macros and the overall nutrition picture all the same, whichever phase you are in. Read: Why Strength-Training Is Best For Body Fat-Loss

The best part of strength-training – you can take short breaks if need be, without worrying about significant weight gain. What happens when I take a break from strength-training and hog like crazy? I gain perhaps a kg or two, which I lose as soon as I start training again.

  1. No Guilt Trips Allowed

This lesson takes its time to be ingrained if you’re over-zealous and are trying to discipline your food choices fiercely. We’re human, and it is human to err. Also, most of us ascribe certain foods to a ‘good mood’ and other foods to ‘because-I’m-depressed mood’. While it is a fact that some foods are nutrition-wise more sound than others and hence should be eaten more frequently than those stripped of any nutrition, devouring those potato crisps or French fries or that enticing chocolate-glazed donut is what will make you feel good. And indulge you should at such times. However, feeling guilty about it might place you on a roller-coaster ride of related emotions like embarrassment, shame and remorse, which will in turn make you throw caution to air and indulge some more. Instead of going through this entire rigmarole, simply practice not associating guilt with occasional so-called unhealthy indulgences, shaking it off and getting back on to your healthy eating ways.

I now occasionally down half a plate of biriyani or a portion of garlic bread with abandon, simply because at times that is what makes me feel good. After it is done, I just get back to clean-eating and eating home-cooked, healthy foods.

I hope my fitness journey inspired you enough to know embark on your own! More importantly, I hope that you make efforts to eat more nutritionally sound foods and lead a healthy lifestyle, instead of focusing on how much you weigh.

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