Many people wanted to know how I lost ten kilograms of body weight over the last six months. While I would like nothing more than to share how this happened to me, I am wary on two counts. One, what worked for me, might not work for anyone else. Two, weight loss is only the beginning. The tip of the ice berg. Keeping that weight off and leading a fitter, healthier lifestyle is my ultimate goal. I do not want to detract from that. “Lost Ten Kgs!” sounds like a gimmicky, “get rich quick” headline and I do not want that to be the selling point.
So I’ve dawdled and wondered how best to approach writing about this and this is what I am going to do : I will give a brief background of my lifestyle and body type, alongwith a brief list of things I did this time that worked. At the end of this blog piece, I will then ask for questions. If you have a question about a specific thing I did, I will ask you to please leave a comment. Or send me an email. I will then collect these questions and do a follow-up blog post to answer them.
“I have always been 67kgs.”
For as long as I can remember, I have weighed around 67 kgs. Sometimes 65, sometimes 69. From my college/junior college days in 1996 till 2014. I used to be about 60kgs before that. Then I was diagnosed with Juvenile Myoclonic Epilepsy. The wonderful doctor warned my parents and me about the disadvantages of the drug he would be putting me on ( Valproate was the medication ). There would be weight gain. He also said that this was one of the best drugs to cure this form of epilepsy that had been spotted at an early stage ( I had had only one grand mal seizure but lots of smaller seizures prior to that. ). I would have to take this medication for 6-8 years but the dosage would be tapered off every six months.
I don’t recall exactly when I put on the extra seven kilograms but I did and it stayed. I completely quit the medication around 2004 and have no symptoms of the epilepsy till date. The weight stayed on.
This is what my lifestyle looked like : eating great home made food till the time I lived with my parents, sitting for hours on end in front of the computer screen, little to no physical activity. Sedentary lifestyle. No sports. And I loved eating. Large portions. Two of my favourite things were : a bowl of fresh cream with about 5 tablespoons of crunchy sugar and a tall glass of full fat chilled milk with a packet of Parle G biscuits dunked in it. I worked from home and I worked late nights. I have never been much of an alcohol drinker but I am not a teetotaller. I also used to be a smoker ( about a stick a day ) till 2012. ( If you’re interested in that type of thing, read how I quit smoking. )
In 2006/7 I got very thin. I don’t recall my weight because weighing myself was not a habit. But I remember skinny arms. This was because I was smoking more than usual, drinking a lot of alcohol, not eating properly and travelling around Bombay a LOT. Walking mostly.
I wasn’t obese but I was overweight. I was always above my ideal weight by 5-6 kilograms.
I wanted to get rid of it but because it was such a small number, I wasn’t bothered enough. I would sign up for gym memberships and stop going after seven days. I never tried dieting. I loved chocolates and had a massive sweet tooth. I never drank too much Cola or ate processed food.
Over the years, it started to change after I stopped living with my parents. Processed food intake went up, alcohol consumption went up, erratic eating habits, etc. I noticed the extra tyres around my middle and the upper arms getting flabby but it was ok because I wasn’t “fat”.
By the end of 2014, I weighed 72 kgs, which was 12 kilograms in addition to my “ideal weight“. Now the fat was starting to show. I was getting tired just climbing a flight of stairs! I was 34 years old and I couldn’t even walk a kilometer without feeling like the world was coming to an end. I panicked and asked a friend for help. She has a PhD in obesity and I was sure if I didn’t follow her instructions, I was on my way to getting obese.
This is what I did :
No added fat.
No added sugar.
She asked me to keep a record of exactly how much I was eating in terms of calories. She asked me to do this for 3-4 days only. I ended up doing this for two months. I have a tiny food weighing scale that I used. It went something like this : I would get an apple out of the refrigerator, I would first weight it on that food scale, write down the no. of grams in my diary. Then I would use Google on my mobile phone to search for “calories in an apple”. It would give me a value like “100gms of apple has x calories”. I would then open my phone’s calculator and calculate how many calories my particular apple had. After I had written this down in the diary, I would then eat the apple.
According to my BMI, my body required about 1400 to 1600 calories per day. On the first day of measuring calories, without changing my diet, I realized I had consumed about 3600 calories. No wonder my body was storing all that extra food as fat. I was eating three big meals daily and a lot of junk otherwise. Half a jar of Nutella, a bar of chocolate, full packet of Haldiram peanuts, etc. I had no idea this stuff had so many calories. It was HARD keeping the calorie count to 1600.
For 20 days, I turned down all social commitments and stayed home alone. The boy was sailing so I had all the time for experimentation and no junk-food distractions. ( The boy is the fittest person I know in real life. Eight-pack-abs, not six. He eats like there’s no tomorrow and he trains like that too. I can’t. So I end up eating like there’s no tomorrow but no training. Guess why I got fat haan 😉 )
For these 20 days, I ate only raw stuff or stuff I had cooked at home. I blanched spinach and blended it with yoghurt and salt and drank two liters of that – tasted like raita and I love raita. When in the mood for something sweet, I blended chikoos and cinnamon with yoghurt and drank two liters of that. This filled up my stomach and reduced food cravings. I also ate two sunny-side-up eggs each morning pretty much as soon as I woke up. I started drinking a glass of water at regular intervals so I’d be hydrated throughout the day. I started drinking black coffee with organic honey. No alcohol whatsoever. No sugar.
I ate boiled and salted chickpeas – chholey – great in cold salads. I added blanched spinach to everything. As it is I had never been a fan of bread and chapatis or rice. Now, I completely cut them out. Carrots and cucumbers were eaten raw. Bananas, apples, chickoos. Plain, roasted, unsalted peanuts as a snack. Lots of dry fruits when I was in a snacking mood : walnuts, almonds, cashew nuts, raisins, blueberries, figs.
I weighed myself at the beginning of the 20 days and I was 70 kgs and my body fat percentage was 33%.
I weighed myself only at the end of these 20 days and I was 66 kgs. I screamed “Yes! YES!” to myself when I saw this. For the first time in my life, something had worked. Now I was hooked. I had seen results and there was no turning back. My body fat percentage was 30%.
From that point on, I stuck to the blended greens and fruits with yoghurt. I tried to get in as much roughage as I could and I continued to write my calorie count in the diary. I also decided to start walking. Not as a form of exercise but more as “me-time” and to keep the circulation going. I have shit circulation in general. I started by installing the FitBit app on my phone and using that as a pedometer. I started with about 8000 steps per dayand gradually increased it to about 12,000 steps per day and now about 14,500 steps but not each and every day. The idea is to walk at least 8,000 steps per day but more importantly, to eat the limited calories only.
At the end of two and a half months, I was 62 kgs and 26% body fat.
I use the boy’s SALTER Bio-impedance weighing scale for the body fat percentage measurement. It doesn’t need to be super accurate but gives a general idea of what the internal scene is.
Then the boy got back from sailing and I’ve only lost about one kg since then because harder to control junk food when it’s under your nose.
I started this thing on the 27th of December 2014. It is the 27th of June 2015 now. Six months. I currently weigh 60kgs and have 23% body fat.
Here’s a graph of my weight since I started tracking it every 15-20 days.
Here’s a graph of my walking :
You can see that prior to December 2014, when I started on this diet + walking thing, I had been struggling with walking earlier as well. Couldn’t keep it up. Redefinition of using it as “me-time” has helped immensely.
Also being kind to myself and the mantra of “If you fall off the wagon, don’t forget to get back on it.”
Each time I went out, ate out, drank a beer, ate a cupcake, I told myself I would get back on the wagon and I did. The last couple of weeks have been completely off the wagon due to birthdays and anniversaries in the family. Lots of eating out and lots and lots of beer. It will not show immediately but if I don’t get back on the wagon, it will show before the end of next month. Which is why I’m considering starting to write in the calorie diary again.
This 10-15 day dropping back into older habits was also a bit of an experiment to see how long it would take for the adverse effects to start showing. The experimentation lasted about 12 days so that’s my answer. I’m dehydrated, slouchier, in a bad mood, and overall sluggish. My body doesn’t feel healthy. ( Six months ago if you’d told me I’d say this, I’d laugh at you but there is such a thing as the body feeling healthy or unhealthy. )
What I learned
This is a daily practice. I eat everything but not everyday. I feel lighter and more energetic. I’ve also learned that after having been off sugar for a month, if I suddenly eat a cupcake, I will have a headache within ten minutes and a hangover the next day. It has become easier to walk ten kilometres in one go and I don’t even have to do it everyday. I use the boy’s Audible shared subscription to listen to a book while I walk at a steady, slow pace for an hour and a half each night – I’ve finally found “me time”.
The boy has been suggesting I try out weight training but I am first going to attempt to keep the weight off and maintain this level for at least 12 months before I attempt that, if at all. I don’t enjoy exercising. But who knows what’s next. If I can lose weight and gain perspective about my body, anyone can. I might just be able to enjoy exercising as well. You have to find what works for you. For example, I can’t run. I just can’t. My knees beg for mercy. So I walk. It takes longer but it’s gentler on my body and I get more time to be peaceful.
I also learned that a pint of beer has about 160 calories and I can drink two of those instead of stuffing my face with one cupcake. I do love beer more than sugar.
I hope I won’t soon be writing “How I lost ten kgs and then gained back twenty.” I worry about this constantly. ( Another weird thing that’s happened is that when I look in the mirror now, at my tummy, I feel fatter – my brain has little to no memory of how fat I actually was before I started shedding weight – and while I have lost weight around the middle, there hasn’t been much change in my waist in inches. I would have thought that dealing with body image issues would have been easier when I’m thinner – but it’s worse. ) I also worry about getting older and having to work harder and harder to keep the weight off.
The positives are great too – I wouldn’t have had myself photographed wearing an Hermes swimsuit when I weighed 72kgs.
That’s how it was, briefly. I’ve already been answering a bunch of questions on email and Facebook and Twitter. If you’d like to know more, have a particular question about something I did, etc. Please ask in the comments section. Depending on whether I get any questions and if I do, how soon I’m able to compile answers, I will write another blog piece answering those questions.