Friday, May 1, 2020

12 smart hacks to help you lose weight at home during lockdown

When people ask me, "How did you lose weight?" "What are you doing to maintain it?" "Tell me about your diet." I only tell them one thing. 'Find your trigger.'

The reason why I am hell-bent on maintaining my current weight is all because of a trigger. A trigger that changed the way I look at food and look at how it affects me. 
What was it? I'll come to it... read on.

I see so many Indian women, at home and in my neighbourhood, putting in a lot of effort for their families but not for their health and well-being. Even now they keep their health on the backburner and compromise a lot for the sake of their loved ones. 

Looking at the ageing women in my family and their ongoing health issues, I made up my mind that I didn't want to undergo the same in my prime years. I know I can't guarantee a clean bill of health when I'm old and grey, but what I know is that I will try to reduce my risk as much as I can. 

Indian women are susceptible to osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, backaches, joint pains and related such complaints as they age. These issues are usually lifestyle-related and can be reversed or managed effectively with the right diet, exercise, and rest. Sadly, many working women and home-makers think housework and chores are their cardio - a myth I used to believe until November 2018, when my cholesterol levels had turned borderline high. I was flabbergasted and I knew I couldn't carry on like this. THAT was my trigger.

Me in Aug 2018

From that day on I made a commitment to myself, I need to become fit. I made quite a few changes in my life from that day on. And after that day, there was no looking back. No, I didn't go on a crash diet or hit the gym like a maniac. My mantra was to take each day as it comes and go one step closer to my weight loss goal.

I made changes to my diet, and along with that swore to exercise EVERY DAY, at least 30 mins NO MATTER WHAT.

On my journey to losing 17 kgs of weight, I realised some tiny but significant hacks could turn the weight loss game in one's favour. 

Now as we are all locked in because of the COVID-19 scare, the least we can do is put a speed breaker on our binging and eat sensibly.
Take action right now!

Me in Feb 2020

I have listed 12 tried-and-tested diet hacks for you all:

1. Only ONE piece of your weakness 

I L-O-V-E-D to binge on junk food. Chips, farsan, samosas, pizza, french fries, you name it! They were my Achilles heel. For the first few months, I had gone cold turkey on junk food, oily snacks, and sweets. If the craving for a portion of particular junk food was intense, I used to have ONE piece, only one. But that too if it was homemade. Remember, the sacrifice will be WORTH IT.

2. Tracking my intake

I track my calories on the HealthifyMe app. You can also use MyFitnessPal. As you need to eat lesser than 2000 calories in a day (for women) to lose weight, it is really helpful in tracking every portion you eat. You can set a daily reminder on the app for tracking your intake until it turns into a habit.

3. Early Dinner

I am usually dinner by 7.30, max by 8. I know this is going to be tough initially as your body is not used to it, but make a habit of eating dinner early, at least 3 hours before bed. Also, it is important to make it a light meal as our bodies are unable to effectively digest heavy meals post-sunset.

4. Homemade is happiness

Have homemade and unrefined meals as much as you can. Substitute maida for whole wheat, white rice for single polished rice, etc. Make sure you don’t cook out of a ready-to-eat packet.

5. Small, frequent meals

I have 3-4, sometimes 5 small meals a day. I do this so that I don't overeat during any mealtime and avoid long gaps between meals. There will be a particular time that you might tend to overeat and have intense cravings to snack on something unhealthy. For me, it was between 4 pm and 6 pm. So if I'm having lunch at 1-1.30 pm then I make sure I eat some fruit or roasted chana at 4 pm to keep myself from starving till dinner and loading up my plate then. This avoids a long gap between meals.

7. Don’t confuse thirst signals for hunger

I drink lukewarm water once I get up in the morning, and also before and after meals. I count my glasses (at least 8) so that I don't confuse my body's signal of thirst by mindlessly munching.

8. Don’t plan 'cheat days', they will happen naturally

I do indulge in cheat meals, but still, in the back of my mind, I stop once I'm full. The secret to cheat days is to NOT plan it. Circumstances will arise from nowhere and you may have to cheat. In fact, make it a CHEAT MEAL instead of a cheat day.

9. Use a small plate for meals

I have all my meals in a smaller than usual plate. I feel this is a great way to trick your mind into eating smaller portions. I had watched a YouTube video that said that we 'eat with our eyes' and have a tendency to clean our plates or a particular food container. This makes us feel more satiated. (Some psychology behind it).

10. Load up on veggies

Divide your plate into two parts. On one part, add the veggie preparation. It could be a stir fry, a sabzi with tadka or just a curry with vegetables. Divide the other half into two parts, where in one part add a source of protein like egg, piece of lean meat like chicken or fish, while the other part, add your carbs: roti, rice, bread, etc. 
The key is to put more portions of vegetables, protein, or pulses vs carbs like chapati or rice. Nutritionists say the carbs on your plate should not be more than the size of your fist.

11. Chew your food mindfully

When I say chew it mindfully, I mean that you should savour your bites slowly, taking in all the flavours and textures. Practise mindful eating. Sit in a quiet place away from any type of screens (yes, no TV either) 

12. Never eat directly from a packet

Always put your food on your plate and lay it out. So that you know what you're eating and don't mindlessly gobble down food. 

You can start incorporating these tips from the word go. It will take time for it to become a habit. So be patient and persevere.

Do let me know in the comments if any of the above weight loss tips have helped you in your journey to become fit.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

How I Lost 17 kgs Without Going To The Gym

You might be shocked by the title, but it’s the truth. It is not some click-bait to some slimming tea rubbish, but a real-life experience that I would like to share. I have been repeatedly asked by many of my friends and acquaintances as to how I achieved this feat. So, for the benefit of everyone, I’m sharing my personal story and along with that my weight loss success story.

My Journey

I’ve always been an overweight kid. Tall and chubby, but it wasn’t in-your-face obvious. As I grew up, in my teens, I’ve always been at the receiving end of comments like: “You don’t look fat because of your height. “
“OMG, you’re 90 kgs???? Ohhhhh….Because you’re ‘heighted’, your weight doesn’t show! Lucky!”
Frankly, I never felt “lucky”. What am I supposed to feel? Happy – that my weight doesn’t show? Or sad – that I was using my height as a crutch to hide my excess, unhealthy weight?

I never really cared for my weight till my dad pointed it out that I had excess and it could be detrimental to my health. He himself was overweight and borderline obese therefore he made matters right by gymming regularly and going on a strict diet. He told me about his own experience. Then again, I was in my teens, I didn’t take him seriously. Though I went to the gym during college on his insistence,  I used to eat junk all the time. Though I did lose some weight over a period of time, it all came back and some more when I stopped gymming.

Then a few years of work, then marriage happened and then during the last month of my pregnancy, I was at my highest ever – 113 kgs!!!! (Cue gasp)

At that point in time, I was so wound up having a baby that little else mattered. Being a new mom, after all, isn’t a piece of cake. But thanks to regular breastfeeding and looking after my kiddo round-the-clock, I lost some weight again. My weight was in the 80s.

This yo-yo happened until I joined a new workplace in 2016. For a year, all was good. Only in 2017 did my weight increase steadily thanks to the stresses of being a working mom and unhealthy eating habits. Eventually, my bad habits caught up with me. In 2018 when I contracted dengue was when I realized that my health had taken a beating. Sitting on the hospital bed, I was feeling that I had really hit rock-bottom, even though dengue is not really a serious disease, but it had made me feel worse. Even after 2 days in the hospital, I felt weak and drained out. After recovering completely, I still felt uneasy and not completely myself.

I knew that something was amiss. My weight was a whopping 92 kgs! My BMI was in the OBESE category! I checked my cholesterol charts – it was BORDERLINE HIGH.

Now I was a woman who had recently turned thirty – in the prime of her life – I just couldn’t digest this fact. I realize my future was bleak if I had to start popping cholesterol pills from such a young age. Now I truly realized the gravity of what my dad had said to me years ago – “Health is something that you cannot buy.”

Staring at the results, I made a silent promise to myself – I will do something about this every single day, no matter how busy I am.

And till date, I have kept that promise to myself.

It is during the course of this, not weight-loss, but I would like to call it ‘wellness’ journey that I’ve learned that it is a lifestyle change and NOT JUST A DIET.

From November 2018 to Mid-March 2019, it was a tough few months for me as I had to fight the urge to say F this s#!t and go back to my old ways again, but then I didn’t. I didn’t because I just couldn’t break that promise to myself. I just couldn’t. And the results started showing in just a few weeks!

What Led to My Weight Gain

Sedentary lifestyle – I was sitting for more than 8 hours a day in my office. Although I used to walk to work (about 1.5 km to and fro), my work involved sitting at my desk for long hours. I barely used to cross 2500- 3000 steps in a day.

Little or no exercise – Like most women who work in the kitchen, I was under the impression that housework is my cardio. And I was so wrong. I was piling up the pounds!

Poor eating habits and binge eating due to stress – I confess, I am a foodie and I love to indulge in new cuisines and used to frequent restaurants. So my fondness for food can partly take the blame for this. I had poor eating habits and being a working mom, I was constantly stressed out how to manage taking care of the house, my kid, and work commitments. I used to gorge on fast food like burgers, greasy sandwiches, samosas, and brownies from the office canteen and mall food court. My main weakness was salt rather than sugar, so anything deep-fried and salty like French fries and KFC fried chicken was my Achilles heel.

Believing certain weight loss myths - I was constantly under the impression that you can eat whatever you want as long as you exercise hard. Long back when I used to go to the gym I believed in this wrong notion so much, that on some days I used to put my heart and soul working out for 30 mins, but then immediately after reaching home I would eat all the wrong foods with a vengeance.

Lack of will power – My diet made me sluggish and lazy, that I tend to put off any physical activity, forget exercise. I couldn’t believe that once an active teenager was now a sloth.

Just like I did, you too need to discover the reasons behind the weight gain and why you haven’t challenged yourself.

Key Reasons Why I chose to change my lifestyle

Borderline cholesterol – The moment I saw my report, it was like the earth beneath me shook. Learning that my cholesterol levels were borderline was a rude wake-up call, but a necessary eye-opener. Before this, I was under the impression that I can carry this way for the rest of my life but was in for a shock when I saw the report say otherwise. I certainly did not want to be a 30-year-old in the prime of her life popping cholesterol pills. No siree! This was the turning point when I knew I had to do something about this, and it was now or never.

Low energy levels – After getting home from work, I never felt like doing anything. I didn’t want to play with my kiddo either. That was a cause for concern.

Back pain – Being tall, I used to slouch a lot. And with the excess weight on my body, backaches were my constant companion, in my workplace, at home and everywhere I went.

My kid – The chief nudge that I pushed me to challenge myself was my kiddo, who adored me and looked up to me. If she saw me eating junk and being inactive, she would do the same. She too would grow up to lead an unhealthy lifestyle – I could not digest this fact. What kind of role model would I be to her?

Women’s Health – We Indian women do everything for our significant others, kids, and the entire family. But we neglect our health in turn and push it to the backburner. Looking at all the women in my life validated this point. But I knew that I was the only one who could take charge of my health and look after myself. Sure, your spouse will in case of emergencies, but avoiding a health scare is your responsibility. And I don’t want the burden of osteoarthritis, spondylosis, and osteoporosis – common illnesses that plague Indian women - with me in my old age.

So, now that I have mended my ways and have zapped people with my weight loss results, I would like to share the changes I made in terms of my diet and lifestyle to lose 17 kgs of weight in 6 odd months.

The Regimen I Followed To Lose 17 kgs in 6 months

Upon waking: (Usually between 6.30 am and 7.30 am)
1 glass of lukewarm water + juice of ½ a lemon
Breakfast: (Usually between 8.30 am and 9.15 am)
1 teacup of ginger tea with less sugar + Upma/ Poha (1 katori) OR 2 set dosa + 1 katori veggie sambhar OR 2.5 steamed idlis + 1 katori veggie sambhar.

Mid-morning snack: (Usually at 11.00 am)
2 seedless dates OR 1 banana OR 1 cup papaya

Lunch: (Usually between 12.30 pm and 1.00 pm)
1 katori steamed white rice + 0.5 katori dal/ kadi/ ambat/ coconut curry preparation + 1 katori green vegetable preparation (e.g. ladyfinger, tendli, beans, bottle gourd/ dudhi, snake gourd, etc.) + 1 roasted urad papad

Evening snack: (Usually between 4.30 pm and 5.00 pm)
1 cup Tulsi Green Tea + 2-3 tablespoon roasted black chana + 1 tablespoon roasted unsalted peanuts. If still feeling hungry, then 1 katori kurmura

Dinner: (Usually between 7.30 pm and 7.45 pm)
2 chapatis + ½ katori green vegetable preparation + 1 katori green salad OR carrot and beetroot koshimbir.

Approximate Total calorie intake: 1600 – 1700 Cal

Note 1: Yes, my diet looks a little low on protein, but there are days in a week when the veggies are accompanied by soya nuggets preparation OR eggs OR chicken preparation.
Note 2: You WILL feel hungry if your stick to this diet and start having a light and early dinner. DO NOT GIVE IN TO YOUR CRAVINGS. Just drink water. It is going to be a tough first 10 days, then your body will adjust to the diet.

Workout: Between 3.30 pm and 4.00 pm – HIIT OR brisk walking in the park OR bodyweight exercises. Duration: 30 mins to 45 mins.

For HIIT exercises I followed on the Seven app (Android and iOS) and Bowflex workouts on YouTube. No equipment required, just some space and you. Best for rainy days and days when you don’t want to step out.

Brisk walking: 3 – 5 km

Bodyweight exercises: Squats, push-ups, lunges, burpees, etc. Check videos by BeerBiceps.

Total calories burned: 300- 400 Cal

A word of caution: 
The above diet and exercise that I’ve followed worked perfectly well for me. It may or may not have the desired effect on your body. Importantly, consult your doctor/ physical trainer whether you can follow such a regimen given your existing medical conditions/ history.

Over the months, I've learned through this journey is that a lifestyle change is the only way to maintain the lost weight. So following a daily diet that is sustainable in the long run is the key.

In the end, it is all about your determination, perseverance, and commitment to improving your health that shows. 

My next blog post will be about the weight loss hacks that I swear by.