How I lost weight, gained it all back and lost it again!

I describe my lessons from losing weight, gaining it back and losing it again! I have always had a problem with my weight. Thankfully I also had a metabolism that instantly responded to lifestyle changes. So in my case, it was a matter of whether I ate right or not.

This is unfortunately not the case for everyone. Eating right/healthy is mandatory. However, that may not be accompanied by a decrease in weight due to hormones, thyroid issues, stress etc. Therefore what follows is not a fool-proof way to lose weight but it will not do any harm if done right.

The second key point to understand is that weight loss has little to do with exercising. Exercising is for staying fit. Weight loss is about training ourselves to not eat more than what is required. Read more: Weight Loss and Long-Term Investing.

In the above post, I had mentioned about my first attempt at losing weight - about 22-23 Kgs over a span of 2.5 years. I believe an exercise regimen is literally the very last thing to include in a weight loss program (explained below).

So I did just that, fitter, faster and lighter than ever before. I thought I had turned the page on a sedentary lifestyle and poor eating habits. Then just like that, I was diagnosed with an auto-immune disorder - myasthenia gravis.

This came along with a benign tumour in my thymus gland and my weight plummetted like a market crash. Then came the medication -steroids stopped my immune system for triggering attacks for no reason. Along with it came a basket of side effects! The most desirable one was hair growth 🙂  I will need a separate post to describe the others!

Steroids are supposed to trigger weight gain. I do not know if this was the reason, but after the tumour was removed, I gradually started to gain weight. I think the main reason for this is  my state of mind.

I have this bad habit of associating happiness with food. If I get stressed or sad, I try to cheer up by eating more. Naturally not fruit, but some junk food!

All other things being normal (hormones, stress levels etc., which is not easy!), weight gain is governed by a simple formula:

If we eat more than what we require, it stays behind as fat.

Photo Credit:
Photo Credit: Conny Sandland

Which is why exercising to lose weight can be dangerous. Exercising burns fat and this will trigger hunger pangs. If we answer that call (and we will, if we are sill fat) then we will almost always overcompensate. So the benefits of exercising could be instantly lost.

Instead, I would recommend gradually training our metabolism to eat a little bit less and force the body to burn our fat reserves .. gradually.

It is important (for me) to recognise that when I decided to lose weight the second time, I was feeling much better in health. That is, I did not start a weight loss regimen when I was depressed. So no big deal.

My symptoms can recur at any time and if they do, all the work done can be erased within weeks and I may become fat again. With that warning (again for me), here are some key steps I followed.

Sugar, carbohydrates and fat are the key villains. It is important to recognise that sugar and carbs can get converted to fat in the body.

A low sugar product can be high in fat (and sodium) and a low-fat product, high in sugar. So it is better to avoid all processed food.

1. Reduce sugar or stop eating it completely. None in coffee or tea. No sweets. Not even ordinary bread. I stopped it cold turkey (down to zero immediately) because I was in danger of becoming a diabetic because of the steroids (in principle reversible). I think as of now, I am not. This may not be easy to do for others. Going easy on the sweets will be a simple first step.

This is the key difference from my first attempt and second attempt. I did not cut back on sugar in the first. I believe this is the reason it took a lot longer to reduce.

2. No oily stuff.  At home or outside. No processed food in general.

3. Gradually reduce carbs. This is the most tricky part with respect to metabolism. Steps 1 and 2 is a matter of self-control. Carbs are the key source of energy for most of us. So I never changed my breakfast. I need the energy to get through most of the morning.

This time, I eat a very light lunch and then eat a mini-meal around 4-5 pm. This keeps me going until dinner and the load my body has to process is much lower at any given time.  A not so heavy dinner 3-4 hours before sleep again helps. Initially, we will get hungry often. But munching something small and healthy will get through that.

A low-fat, low sugar muesli is a good choice for those who do not like fruits or green vegetable (ahem). Eventually, this also has to be kicked.

It is important not to stay hungry and suffer. Else it would be back to square one in a hurry!

Therefore, I would suggest implementing one step for six months and then take on the next one. For example, if we go six months without direct sugar, then our tounges will become extremely sensitive to it and we probably cannot stomach too much of it.  The same with oily stuff.

A weight loss regimen spread over years not weeks will be much more effective in training our metabolism to want less fuel (food).

The first time I lost weight, I took 2.5 years to lose 20+ Kgs. The second time, less than 6 months to drop maybe about 10 Kgs. I do not know my weight. I just check if my pants need a belt to stay put and the new holes need be punched in the belts 🙂

Protein and fibre intake are also important along with drinking at least 3 litres of water every day.

Portion control is essential. That is we can taste different types of food but not go overboard on any. However, I will never master this art. I cannot eat just a few peanuts. Once the first nut hits my tongue, I just keep going. So instead of portion control, I prefer abstinence - not exactly an intelligent thing to do.

As I write this, I cannot help but wonder, how long I will manage this. Maybe I will have to write a sequel to this post: How I lost, gained, lost and again gained weight! oh dear!

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13 thoughts on “How I lost weight, gained it all back and lost it again!

  1. Rohan

    Amazing! Knowing a person like you over the few months that I have been on the internet, this is the most sensible advice. Too many times I have tried and refrained from consuming sugar based products, but have failed miserably. There are times that I have become a hungry wolf who just couldn't control the burning desire to have some chocolate, Indian sweets, or even biscuits. It's just that I don't know what to do to prevent myself from binging during such moments.

    Reply
  2. Rajan Thomas Choondal

    A very interesting article ! Especially the counter-intuitive idea that exercise does not contribute significantly to reduce weight - very true !!. Happy to note that you are doing well. I am briefly describing my experience with finding the right diet. I reduced and am maintaining my weight, managing diabetes (without medicines) and maintaining proper health. I was diagnosed with diabetes three years back. I was prescribed the mandatory medicines and diet and condemned to the fate of a chronic disease by the well known doctors - meaning it will progressively get worse and i will die from heart attack, kidney complications etc.. That was when I decided go the DIY route for my diabetes. I eventually found that it is a disease of metabolism and a proper diet will take care. I started with something called a ketogenic diet (veg/berries, cheese/cream/butter, coconut/olive oil, eggs/fish, BUT NO bread/fruits /grains/milk/lentils) and then moved to low carb high fat diet (added fruits/lentils but no grains/bread) and finally slowly increased carbohydrates till i have the right balance. However, the proportion of carbs, fats should be juggled for each person depending on his genetics and cultural and geographic background. Carbs, fats and proteins are equally important and eaten as natural food (not processed) are good. However, each type of food has its characteristics - carbohydrates are meant for short term energy and too much causes fat deposition. Whereas fats are meant for long term, fasting and whenever there is less food. But these days we overeat carbs - pizzas, biscuits, sugars, sweets, items made of maida, polished rice, fried items etc and overeating - which damages our metabolism and increases weight. And fats like butter. ghee, coconut oil are good but to be eaten in moderation.

    Reply
  3. Ajay

    I have been sort of over weight since I was a baby. Luckily, playing basketball during my teenage changed my body for a decade (during which basketball went on only for 3 years straight). Ever since then, it has been a downhill (weight gain).

    Accusing my sedentary lifestyle would be right. Yet, I don't like sugary foods, and their weight-putting power is always immediately visible in a matter of days when consumed. However, it is beer which is difficult to resist. 🙂

    Nevertheless, it is absolutely true that if one doesn't stick for life with one's chosen exercise (mine's a slow-walk for 1.5 hours straight) then weight gain will happen again.

    Balance is the key, they say, which if achieved gradually.. stays for long. And, that's what I plan to make my mantra when I restart my weight loss program after coming back from home town after this festive season.

    Felt great to hear your experience. Felt a validation of my own inherent theories on weight management.

    Reply
  4. R Swaminathan

    Portion control is very very difficult as the moment the sugar / salt hits the tongue, there is dopamine released in the brain I believe that starts the craving. I have always found abstinence easier than moderation. This has lead to the " Calorie density" approach to eating instead of counting calories. All foods have been ranked in terms of calories per kg( or pound) as pioneered by a dietitian named Jeff Novick . Below a threshold value of calorie density of the foods / mea that you consume, no matter how much you you eat, you don't gain weight.

    Reply
  5. Syamantak Pati

    I have been into it for last 6 months and that'd the primary reason for being away from freefincal and aifw 🙂 All my internet traffics are towards healthy food, weight loss or exercise. Thankfully I could loose 16 kgs since April, 16 and I am hopeful for a down curve.

    What I have noticed is, loosing weight and loosing fat are not same. What we need to concentrate is on loosing the fat and not the muscle. One of the reasons, why a bollywood hunk could be weighing much more than what I do but he has a chiseled body with no fat and I am just opposite. Many of us become happy loosing the muscle mass. Sadly I was one till a few months back.

    Stopping or reducing carb does help, but increasing the protein helps more in boosting the metabolism and thus the calorie burnt to digest the food. Besides per gram of protein has 4 calories vs per gram of carb having 9 calories. Protein even keeps you away from binge eating or the urge to eat something frequently. a lot of vegetarians take suppliment proteins when their daily diet lacks of enough protein (approx 0.8gm per kg of body weight for a person with a sedentary job, unless kidneys are in bad health)

    And exercise does help in loosing the 'fat', provided enough protein is supplied to the body! When the heart rate is increased due to exercise, the first thing that gets burnt is the sugar, followed by carbs. Since the blood circulation goes very high, for next 3/4 hours the body would need more energy to keep it up. This stage helps to burn the stored calories and thus the stored fat is burnt. With different exercise keeping different muscles activated throughout the week, it becomes much easier (or theoretically at least) to loose the fats than simply cutting the portion size and the carbs.

    Reply
  6. NANDAKISHORE M

    Great article. Thanks for sharing.

    I have retained same weight (BMI of 21.5 to 22) for last 10 years. Key is no added sugar (in tea coffee), very less outside food -on an average once a month (not even maggie, soup, ready to eat, cereals), If hungry between meals, eat season fruit (Selection basis: cheapest), Diet high level guided by what my parents and grand parents ate. Avoid cooked food after sunset (if hungry drink butter milk), regular yoga 1 hr/day (at least 350 days in a year).

    12 years back I reduced BMI from 25.5 to 22 in 6 months (diet and gym). But back to 26+ in 1 year as I failed to maintain same discipline.

    Then I switched to yoga (cheaper, no gym set up needed, can practice even in old age). Keep it simple so that easy to practice even touring (eg: no yoga mat, no track suit). Few compelling personal needs help me to maintain discipline. (Whenever I feel lazy, I recall these compelling needs). Spending 60 min every day on yoga has also helped me to maintain diet (consciousness recalls those early morning efforts on yoga and discourages to eat bad food).

    I found difficult to reach sub 70 levels (reducing weight from 72 to less than 70). Stopping cooked food after sunset and strict on butter milk helped me.

    Reply
  7. Deep

    balanced diet is key to reduce weight as i found out.My diet had excess of carbs,which i reduced by 30% and increased fibres though increased fruits intake.It worked like magic within 6 months 7-8 kg weight loss.Fat and proteins are diificult to digest hence it burns more calories to digest also they give feeling of fullness.There has been a misdirected campaign against oil and non veg which has resulted in carbs taking a larger share in many peoples diet.Nowa days i ensure that my major meals i.e breakfast and lunch has enough of protein and fats and reduce carbs.

    Reply
  8. kiran pani Thota

    I am following freefincal page for past a year but all of sudden when i saw this post , i doubled myself am I at the right place ???

    As usual good presentation & very informative.

    Reply

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