An Indian Civilizational Perspective

Losing weight is a long distance race – sustaining is more important than losing fast

I grew up as a very skinny kid and since I was also a vegetarian, some would mock and some would keep giving me advise on why I should add meat to my diet to have a “healthier” physique. I think I was in my 9th standard when I stumbled into a park near my house and found a small but well equipped “Akhara” (local/rural gym)- with dumbells, bench-press (bench, weights and rods) and other stuff. People there were regular and would be at the place as early as 4 am. I started slow but by 10th – in summer holidays – I had become a regular! I would regularly get up at 4 am and be at the Akhara at 4.30 or so. Do my weights and then walk around the park. Then come home and do push ups. The number of push ups increased from 25 to 50 and by my 11th standard, I was comfortably doing over 100 push ups at one go. By that time, most of the voices who wanted me to get a better physique had stopped. I was probably one of the better built kids in my school.

As life went on, I left my weight training. In fact after my 11th standard, I don’t ever remember doing anything serious for even a month at a stretch. In my MBA days though, I did win the second prize in the Powerlifting competition – missing the top one by a whisker and specially after I had spent the day doing Quizzes, Painting, Races etc while the other participants were busy practising their weights!

Anyway, as I moved into the job and then to the US, I put on weight. From a 75 kg lean but well built guy, I had grown to almost 210 lbs by last year.

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During the July 4th weekend, I went to a friend’s place. He saw me and didn’t approve of it quietly. As I came back, he sent me a well detailed email with links showing why I was “severly over weight”! And as I saw it, I realized the time had come to get back into shape.

I had tried once before a few years back but I could not sustain it. So, I realized that losing weight is important, but it is NOT the most critical. THE most critical thing in this journey has to be SUSTAINING it! So I made a few assumptions:

– I would not go for any peculiar or “special” diets. I will eat the regular stuff I eat, maybe change a thing here or there and reduce portions surely.. but NO energy bars for lunch or any of those miracle stuff for me!
– I will NOT go for any exercise that makes me hate exercising! I will do what I feel most comfortable about.
– I will add weight training to my schedule – as I was told that lifting weights along with cardio increases your metabolism. Moreover, the narcissist that I am, I love to exert more if I look good to myself!

The first 4 weeks, I did eat cereal for dinner – which I enjoy doing and exercised on the treadmill and the elliptical. I would try and run half a mile or at the most one mile. But I do have some problem that I get breathless very soon (a thorough heart check did not reveal anything though). Even in my childhood I used to be a sprinter and not a long distance runner. So, I did what I could. If I could run, I would. If I couldn’t, I would walk.

By 5th week, I had lost 15 lbs. My aim was 30 lbs. Meanwhile, my wife and kids had been to India and brought back sweets (mithai) from India. My weakness. I had half a kilo of dhoda (made of concentrated khoya or milk extract) in a week. And at the end of the week, I was still the same weight – I had increased my exercise a bit to factor in the extra indulgence.

I went on a project where I would travel from Monday to Thursday and stay in a hotel. I made a point – for the first time – to exercise regularly.. morning and evening! Still maintained my weight around 192 lbs. And kept hovering between 194 and 190.

Now, came the toughest test. I planned to go to India. Now, the test of sustaining the exercise is that EVEN if you dont have a gym, you should be able to have the motivation to exercise and maintain yourself! In India I went with a mission to “Just Do it!”. The apartment I stayed was on the 10th floor. So it became my best exercise. I would not take the elevator but run and/or walk all the 10 floors twice a day. Also go around and run or walk in the colony. Walking is a good enough exercise if you can do it for an hour or so.. I told myself. And that’s what I did!

In India trying to go for all that you miss eating in the US can take to very greasy options. I did try all of them, but in real moderation. I tried all the things I liked but I was more regular on things that would satisfy my taste buds while also being less fatty – Bhalla Papri Chat in Karol Bagh was one of those options. While I would visit there every day to complete some chores that I had to, Papri Bhalla Chat at Punjab Sweets became my favorite lunch option!

When I returned back to US, I was curious about my weight! And as I hit the gym the first day, did my regular cardio and weights and got on the weighing machine – I was 189! I had been able to reduce my weight in India!! I had hit a personal milestone!

I kept on it, as I was desperate to break through the 189 barrier. I reached 187 yesterday. And I can almost see my six packs taking shape. In fact right now, I am in better shape than I ever was in my life! Another few months and I will reach where I wanted to.

Its been around 6 months to reduce roughly 23 lbs. Some would say that’s not much of a big deal. But I have learnt one thing over this journey – that the real strength and achievement is NOT in how FAST you lose the MOST weight, but how LONG you KEEP yourself at the reduced weight! I may not have lost much in the last 5 months after those first 5 weeks, but I have not gained as well! In fact I have reduced while I maintained! THAT to me is my victory. I wanted sustenance of weight reduction not lose it at the fastest possible rate. I think that is where most diets and dieticians go wrong… terribly wrong!

Losing weight should be taken as a marathon not a sprint. And I am happy this is one race I have enjoyed doing long distance in.

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