Weight loss and the journey of life

The theme of this article centres around how one often attributes the lack of will or inability to do something of value (something that is good for you and brings you happiness and makes life better) to factors other than their own sheer will simply because its the easy way out! The article also talks about what one can do about such an attitude towards life and how almost any of life’s struggles can be faced if and only if, one decides to follow the philosophy described below. What’s surprising is the extent to which the concept/solution mentioned below applies to any of life’s challenges.

The entire article is set in the context of the life of one boy (ambitious and with high level of self-serving bias) and how he went from being a fit sportsman to an obese man, how he managed to go from 78 kgs to 120 kgs in weight and how he did nothing about it. Or did he?

Who should read this article?

Anyone attributing all the negative events in life to factors beyond their control

Anyone noticing warning signs of change in life (Definition below)

Anyone facing or suspectedly facing depression

Anyone looking for a way to get out of bed (and do something about their situation)

Anyone looking for tips on weight loss :p

I particularly picked this topic because it is personally one of the most defining moments of my life. Losing weight (dieting/exercising) is something I feared doing for a long time. In addition, the problem goes much deeper than I’d originally thought. The attitude I had toward weight loss was both an extension of my attitude towards almost anything else in life and also a direct window into what the next 50 years of my life would look like. But that is not the entire reason. Its also of interest to me because I (with the help of the solution/philosophy I describe below) managed to not only turn this phase of life around but also managed to connect with my 18-year-old self (full of ambition and a ridiculous inclination towards leading a healthy life). The most important reason, however, is that this is the most real topic I could think of.

Scene 1: The struggle begins

As a young boy, I was always into sports with my two favorites being table tennis and cricket. In fact, I pursued cricket professionally and would like to believe I was headed somewhere with it. The entire drive for pursuing sports was largely inexpiable. But in short, I felt the happiest playing and was crazy about looking and feeling fit. That is, until the age of 17, when I was diagnosed with disk bulges in my lower and upper backbone. I was diagnosed at AIIMS at least with 4 follow up visits, was prescribed physiotherapy (possibly surgery if physiotherapy failed) and was advised to stop playing cricket. Another injury to the back could have possibly gotten me bed-ridden for a long time in the words of the doctor. This is where the struggle started. I was annoyed, frustrated and angry. But who could I possibly blame right? So, I found the easy way out. Blamed life. Blamed the fact that someone, somewhere (possibly god) did not want me to be happy. Blamed my parents for pulling me out of cricket 4 months before Delhi league selections. Worse was that I used all of the anger and blame throwing as an excuse to do everything I would have considered a crime before my injury. I started eating junk food 5 times a week, developed an addiction to aerated beverages and to cigarettes and gave up any form of physical activity unless it was to walk to the places where I could buy these items.

Scene 2: The struggle continues

I joined my undergrad college almost a year and a half after the above events. By now, I was a full-on addict to junk food, aerated drinks and cigarettes. In addition, this was around when the financial situation of my family went belly-up, to an extent where I consider twice before spending 10 Rs. on a bottle of water. Ironically, I always managed to save up for a bottle of coca cola. The environment at home was no longer happy and something I would love to spend time in. There were arguments. There was depression. This by the way, was possibly my first exposure to depression. So I decided to give up on sports entirely and was focusing my energy on distracting myself from noticing what I had turned into as a person and possibly also on distracting myself from everything at home. Eventually, in another year or so, I would have a slight paunch and would start feeling the weight on my knees. But who cares, I am now an official loser (I’ve given up on things I cared about and won’t ever go back).

Scene 3: The struggle is real

I went on to work for two of the big 4 accounting firms as a risk advisor. This required quite a lot of time and travelling from East Delhi to Gurgaon everyday was no joke. In total, this would require me to spend close to 13–14 hours a day on work. There were short-lived phases where I realized the level to which I had given up on physical exercise in life and the amount of weight I had gained (I was officially over 105 kgs as opposed to my weight of 74 kgs 3–4 years ago). But what could I do? Working 14 hours was no joke, right? I needed to let off some steam. I needed to de-clutter my mind. In comes the smokes, the junk food and the aerated beverages. Yummy!

Scene 4: A slight relief

Back in 2019, I had a small development in life that turned me into a modestly happy person. I was able to secure an admission to a business school I had determined I would pursue my MBA from. While this in now way equals the amount of joy I would have received from being a full-fledged professional cricketer, it was still a positive turn of events after a long period of negativity. But by now, I had made it a point in life to use everything possible in life to justify to myself why it was okay that I was fat (110 kgs now), to why it was okay for me to smoke and have aerated beverages and that it was all somehow helping me escape all the negativity in life, even if its only for short periods.

Scene 5: The struggle is real, but so is the power of your mindset

I spent the entire 2020 at home, pursuing my MBA online and hogging on junk and coca cola. In fact, I reflected on why I had chosen to do a residential MBA programme in the first place (to escape these two years, away from my family, getting my life together etc. etc.) and how the fact the I was back home (exactly what I was trying to escape from) was another shot life took at keeping me from being happy and at peace. Of course, I would use this as an excuse to add on more weight and do nothing about it.

In comes the real deal. At the peak of all this, as of 2 months ago I weighed a staggering 124 kgs. Things at home were no good. I spent 14 hours a day sleeping and the remaining 10 staying awake watching movies and attending lectures in bed. The only time I would get out of bed was at 9:30 PM, right before all stores closed, just so I could get my daily supply of cold drinks, chips and chocolates. By now, nobody could bother me about my weight because I simply didn’t care.

Fact: As of today morning (exactly a month and 26 day from 124 kgs), I weigh 106 kgs (its an ongoing struggle!).

So, what changed? The mindset! Also, I started seeing some warning signs of change that told me, its time! These warning signs of changes can be anything that tell you that status quo can no longer prevail. For me, this was blood red stretch marks on my belly, my inability to walk for more than 15 minutes without getting winded and my inability to focus on anything other than food.

I followed a simply couple of rules to train my mind into believing I can do this and these serve as my key learnings from all that I experienced, especially over the last two to three years:

1) I am not the only one with this problem. There are others too. But I can be one of the few that decides to do something about it. As of 2016, according to World Health Organization, there were at least another 650 million people in the world that were in the same boat as me. All of them obese. Not only this, another 264 million people face depression worldwide. Clearly, knowing that I am not the only one with a problem helps me realize that its okay to have a problem. As of CDC statistics, In between 2013–16, less than 50% people in the US (out of those obese) tried to reduce weight. Clearly, I can be one of these fewer individuals.

2) Its okay to fail. Because with failure, comes guilt and guilt can be a strong motivator. I made several attempts to lose weight before. In fact, I even faltered multiple times in this most recent attempt. It was the guilt of missing my workouts or the fear of turning back that kept me consistent.

3) Consistency is key, not results. According to statistics published by National institute of health, for most individuals, 50% of lost weight is regained within two years. Consistent efforts can however, keep this from happening.

4) It’s okay to periodically reward yourself. I schedule my cheat days every Sunday where I have anything I want for breakfast and dinner and keep my lunch civil. However, I do not skip my workouts due to point 3 above.

5) It helps to think long-term. The major motivation for me comes through realizing where I would be in a few years without any changes right now. According to noted nutritionists, this is one of the most effective way of keeping yourself consistent. In fact, what helps even more is picturing yourself (literally) in the shape you would be in at the end of your weight loss period.

In addition, I personally believe in a philosophy which may be of help to the readers:

Imagine there is someone filming every moment of your life right now. If you’re eating, running, working or doing anything else, its being filmed. This would all go into your documentary at the end of your life which would then be viewed by people the world around. Would you not try to do everything perfectly? Do all the right things right now that lead up to your success?

This has personally helped me stay motivated during my workouts.

Lastly, I would like to highlight that the above section (describing what I followed to be where I am today) applies to a larger number of things in life that we would originally care to admit. We all face our own problems, have our own struggles and have period in life where we feel as though things are beyond our control. We also sometimes like to take the easy way out and blame factors other than ourselves for all that’s wrong. However, if we just manage to think about one critical question in life, we would know what we have to do. That question being:

When you are on your death bed, would you rather think back feel sad about the fact that life was rough for you and there was nothing you could do about it? Or would you like to do something (anything about it right now) and not leave the last few moments of life to regret?

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