I recently wrote an article on the harsh realities of weight loss and subsequently garnered a few reader mails soliciting weight loss advice. But this isn’t the first time I’m hearing of it. I have met several people, in real life, who have asked me: “Seriously, how did you lose all that weight?”
And that would seriously give me pause.
How the hell am I supposed to succinctly describe such an intricate process to anyone at the snap of a finger? So, I do it the only way I know how — “Diet and exercise.” Consequently, I have seen many faces crumble in disappointment upon hearing that dreaded phrase. The problem was that often people expected a miracle quick-fix from me; and then would go on to consider me with suspicion of keeping an invaluable secret away from them.
I am sorry to burst your bubble, pal, but weight loss is a grueling journey that requires unfaltering dedication and motivation. The only way I went about it was with the diet, exercise and calorie-counting triumvirate. Nevertheless, I took some time to curate a bunch of (un)healthy undertakings that helped me supplement that very principle.
1. I counted calories like my life depended on it.
The proverbial equation: Calorie Intake (Diet) – Calorie Output (BMR and Exercise) = 1000kcal deficit daily
For those who are slightly confused, this essentially meant that I burned 1000 calories more than the amount I consumed per day. Since burning a total of 3500 calories should ideally translate to a 1lb weight loss, I usually lost a minimum of 2lbs each week.
1000 calories deficit daily is insane, however, and if you were smart, you wouldn’t do that to yourself! It may seem counter-intuitive, but you should honestly avoid a rapid weight loss as it usually results in loose skin and decreased muscle mass. I’d suggest a maximum of 500kcal deficit each day.
2. I exercised daily and burned 1000kcal each time.
You will never know pain until you try burning 1000kcal at each workout session. I joined a gym and would spend at least three hours in there just to burn that much. On alternate days, I went for Muay Thai training. With the help of a heart rate monitor, I calculated each two-hour Muay Thai session to have expended over a 1000kcal.
Alternate between cardio and weight training when at the gym. 1000kcal workout sessions daily will probably wear you down. Either aim for a lower number, or give yourself sufficient rest in between.
3. I never skipped a meal — especially breakfast.
Breakfast not only provided the impetus for my daily activities, but also made sure I did not over-eat during lunch.
4. I dramatically reduced my white carbs intake, and ate way more protein.
This is pretty much self-explanatory, but just make sure you don’t exceed 1g of protein for every kilogram of your body mass lest your liver fails.
5. On most days, I replaced dinner with protein shake and fruits.
I preferred exercising in the late evenings. So by the time I ended my exercise routine and showered, I wouldn’t have much of an appetite.
6. Before putting food into my mouth, I drank a glass of water — or two.
It helped me feel full much faster during meals. Do this if you feel like snacking too; you may very well feel the craving dissipate.
7. I only ate while watching 20-minutes-long TV shows.
I read somewhere that your stomach only signals your brain that it is full after 20 minutes. To avoid looking like an idiot who ate with a timer in front of him, I paced my meal along with an episode of ‘Modern Family’ or ‘New Girl’. (If you try this and 20 minutes feels like watching paint dry, pretend you’re in a slow-motion film when you are chewing your food. The longer you chew, the faster the time passes.)
8. I painfully deprived myself of any and all junk food.
Anything that fizzes has got to go. Sweetened and carbonated beverages just mean empty calories. Drinking only plain water became a way of life for me. The same goes for you, chips, chocolates, and fast food – down the gutter.
9. I wouldn’t be me if I weren’t such a cheater. Yes, ‘Cheat Day’ is a thing.
I gave myself a break once a week, every Sunday. I let myself enjoy appropriately portioned not-so-healthy meals. I even rewarded myself with dessert at times. As the weeks progressed, I did away with Cheat Days entirely as the need for them dwindled, but I wish I had re-introduced Cheat Days into my diet towards the end of my weight loss journey. It would have probably made adapting to ‘normal’ eating habits much easier — without the emotional turmoil.
10. I can count the number of times alcohol reached my lips, with one hand, during that entire period.
Empty calories and junk food for accompaniment; enough said.
11. I became a social recluse.
I mean, who needs friends anyway? All people wanted to do during meet-ups was to eat. Why would I specifically agree to meet someone just to stuff my face with food I wanted no part of? So long suckers – I have my exercise and calories to keep me company.
This was dumb though. Don’t do this. Just don’t. Schedule your friends in during your Cheat Day.
12. I had to constantly update my wardrobe every few months.
I made it a point to never keep clothes that became too big for me. It just creates a safety net for you lest you gain weight again. By ensuring my clothes are always fitting, I knew I could never ever go back to fat again.
13. I huffed and puffed my cravings away – with cigarettes.
Smoking acts as an appetite suppressant. Whenever I felt like snacking in between meals, I smoked a stick and drank a gallon of water. That did the trick.
In retrospect, this was just moronic — so much for ‘healthy-living’.
You’re just replacing one craving for another. Smoking became an expensive habit I could not quit because I had it entrenched in my psyche that I would become fat again if I stopped. Now that I no longer smoke, I find that mints and fruits are just as effective at keeping the cravings at bay.
14. I weighed myself daily in front of a full-length mirror — naked.
Every morning, right after I relieved myself, I would step on the weighing scale to see my progress. I was naked while doing so for two reasons: I didn’t want my clothes to add the extra minuscule weight to the final number, and I wanted to visually loathe my fat-reflection. I then kept a record of my weight in this really useful weight-tracking app.
Oh, I also played ‘Ask 8-ball’ with my weight instead. Trust me on this – I made the best decisions in my life by standing on that weighing scale. “Should I skip my run today?” I say. “The weighing scale has spoken, go run.”
I wouldn’t recommend any of this. Just weigh yourself weekly and keep a record of it. Skip everything else — unless you’re into masochism.
15. Sleep like a baby – or like a normal human being.
Insufficient sleep can actually impede weight loss. Also, I was able to skip the late-night hunger pangs and let my body recover. Besides, I figured that if I wasn’t exhausted by 10pm each day, I was living my life wrong.