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.
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.
Update: My definition of oily stuff has changed. Eating plain butter or plain coconut oil is fine! Eating roasted carbs is terrible!
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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