March 28, 2018 – During my TEDx event, I was fortunate to be sharing the platform with some exceptionally inspiring speakers. I had a casual chat with one of them during the break. We were in the canteen to order some snacks, and this gentleman (very slim and fit) said to me:’ Pao Bhaji lelo yaha se. Bahut famous hai. Full Time Public Speaker toh nahi ho na? Kyonki agar ho toh mat lena, agar pet nikal jaayega toh public profile maintain karna mushkil hota hai.’ (Order some Pav Bhaji from here. It’s quite famous! Are you a Full Time Public Speaker? If you are then don’t order, else you’ll get belly fat which could make it difficult to maintain your public profile).
Those words, though said casually, struck a chord with me. It was true that celebrities and people who have to maintain a public profile are more concerned with looking in their best shape than others. But why is that? Is it because we are all seeking validation in some way? Is self-love not the biggest reason to stay fit and healthy?
The next day, I decided I will join a gym. I wanted to be the fittest version of myself, and the TEDx co-speaker’s words were stinging inside me like a Bee. I almost enrolled myself for a Gym membership, but then I thought to myself – ‘Hey! I am not really fat. No one has ever called me ‘fatto’ or any such depreciating nicknames in life. So why should I join gym? I got too much on my plate already. Let’s reserve it for some other time.’
November 30, 2018 – A personal incident had left me completely shocked, helpless, dejected, shattered and hopeless. I was on an all-time low. Luckily, I was blessed to have mentors who have always guided me in life. Mr. Manasvi Singh and Mr. Mohit Bhambri (my two mentors) invited me over to their house. Immediately from my body language they sensed something was wrong with me. They heard the personal problem that I was facing at that time patiently and offered me the much needed support.
Manasvi Sir then said -‘Anubhav, channelize all this negative energy into something creative and constructive.’ I thought about it for a while, but at that time it didn’t make much sense to me.
December 1, 2018 – I was walking past a Gym and saw a 30% discount offer. I wasn’t enticed by the offer, but there was some latent energy that pulled me inside the gym. The first thing I saw when I stepped inside was an equipment called ‘Body Composition Analysis (BCA) Machine’. Apparently, I could use it without paying a dime. Curious to know what results it could throw, I decided to step onto it. And that was perhaps the turning point of my fitness journey. The results were shocking: – I had 24% Body fat, most of it around belly. Waist circumference was on borderline (35 inches). Now, I was nowhere near what’s traditionally defined as ‘Fat’. I did have a slightly protruding belly, but not enough to be termed obese. But that wasn’t the concern. The concern was – I wasn’t fit by any standard. I again recalled those words from the TEDx co-speaker I had met in March, and then started regretting not taking action on them. Self love starts with loving yourself first, and if you aren’t bothered about your fitness, then what the hell are you doing by loving anything else anyway?
I decided to do a trial class (Boxing) at the Gym. It was a one hour session. And I was the worst performer – be it stamina, endurance, weights – I was literally the worst in all departments. This gave me even more anxiety.
I called up Manasvi Sir and discussed this. He said – ‘ Well Anubhav, maybe you have found that constructive activity then to channelize that energy. Join that Gym. No excuses. Join it right now. Join it today.’
The next day (December 2, 2018), I finally decided to take the Gym membership. But how would I track progress? What’s the goal? I called up Manasvi Sir again. He said -‘Six packs. Get your body fat below 13% and you will start seeing abs.’ Having a phenomenal physique himself, he shared some tips on diet and exercise with me and then cut the call.
Now I had a Goal. I had a point to prove. I wanted to see how fit I could possibly be.
And in three months, I dropped my body fat percentage to 12% (my current reading), and I have never felt so happier. My waist circumference is now 30 inches. All that negative energy is gone for a toss. Everytime I wake up in the morning, I don’t see myself in the mirror. I see a fitter version of me, a version that is going to get more fit with each passing day. That’s the beauty of fitness – you can never say you are truly fit. Because your body is amazingly adaptive and can surprise you to limitless degrees!
In order to achieve my goal, I was very adamant about 4 aspects – Diet, Lifestyle, Exercise and Mindset.
- This is the most crucial aspect, plays more than 80% role. I observed a lot of gym members who used to workout with high intensity, but they never saw any results. They would often blame it on the exercise and trainers. The problem was their diet- if you are going to have french fries or high carb junk meals frequently, then you cannot expect any results. Maybe you would stay at maintenance calories and hence not gain weight, but in terms of Body recomposition – you will have a hard time
- It’s important to have at least 6 to 7 cups of veggies every day (by veggies I don’t mean the cooked sabzi, I mean the raw/sauted/steamed vegetables). The veggies should be green leafy/cruciferous mostly along with carrots, capsicum etc. All these are fat burning foods because they are full of antioxidants and will make you satiated for a long time
- No matter what your goal is, have at least 1.5 times the body-weight in kg amount of protein per day. Go for leaner protein sources: – Protein Shakes, Peanut Butter, Lentils, Beans, Paneer (Raw), Soy, etc. I am a vegetarian so won’t comment on eggs/meat
- Have only complex carbs (in moderation) – Oats, Brown rice, etc.
- Have a Cheat Meal once a week (so that your metabolism never adjusts)
- Stay in a moderate caloric deficit of 300 to 400 calories. Track your macros. Each and every particle that enters your mouth needs to be tracked in order to see genuine results. You can download healthify app to get a general idea of calories per food item and use measuring cups while preparing food
- Put minimum oil in food (avoid if possible). We don’t need to put oil in veggies (we can have it steamed/sauted/through soups). We don’t need to put oil in Daal (we can have it simply boiled or have Chilla)
- Maintain a good ratio of omega 3 to 6 (you can have flaxseed capsule)
- There are good fats (Unsaturated) and bad fats (Trans, saturated). Good fats never make you fat, in fact they are essential for proper functioning of our body. So have a good dose of healthy fats through Nuts, Peanut Butter, etc daily
- Have only fiber rich fruits – Apple, Guava, etc.
- Have at least 4 Litres of water a day
- Workout at least six days a week, with one rest day. Focus should be on Strength Training. Cardio should be minimum
- In order to burn fat, your output of exercise should be the highest – and that’s what strength training does. It produces an EPOC (excessive post oxygen consumption) effect that lasts for hours post workout – which means that your body is burning calories even when you are resting, simply because you stressed your muscles. Whereas in case of cardio, your body stops burning calories immediately post the workout
- Strength training will also make sure that you don’t lose your muscle mass. In fact, it could possibly increase (like it did in my case, because of adequate protein intake and elevation of human growth hormone)
- Your legs, back and chest muscles produce the most strain. Therefore squats, lunges, Deadlifts, bench press, etc. are your best friend!
- Do HIIT twice or thrice a week for at least half an hour to again reset your body into fat burning mode
- Follow Intermittent Fasting (This is perhaps the Golden Rule of my Journey). If there is only one thing you would want to imbibe from this article, choose this. Intermittent Fasting is magic! It melts your fat in ways you could never imagine
- Basically, I followed a mix of Lean Gains (16 hour fasting, 8 hours eating), Warrior Diet (20 hours fasting, 4 hours eating), OMAD (23 Hours fasting, 1 hour eating) on different days of a particular week (this was important to always shock the body, thereby mobilizing its fat burning mechanism and never allowing it to settle or guess when the food is coming in)
- There is this whole misconception of how fasting could make you weak or fatigued – it actually does the entire opposite! There were days I could fast for as long as 40 hours without having anything in my body except water! (And working out in this condition). It will obviously take some time to adapt. But once you do adapt, you will realize that we often eat food because our brain traps us into thinking we are hungry (whereas actually brain is just craving for some quick glucose: – read carbs/sugar). Carbohydrates aren’t bad, but our habit of eating oversized meals 4 to 6 times a day have made them sound like a villain. Once you become fat adapted (which you do if you follow intermittent fasting), you will feel energetic because your human growth hormone is higher than others (this is an anabolic hormone, responsible for fat burning and muscle building) and since your insulin is low, your body is getting its energy from ketones (by burning fat). So you can have your daily dose of healthy carbs without feeling guilty
- Always workout in fasted state. Since in a fasted state your glycogen is depleted and insulin is at baseline, all the ‘beast like energy’ that you require for working out will be derived from your own fuel sources:- the dreaded body fat molecules!
- No amount of exercise, good diet or lifestyle would help if you do not believe that you can do it
- I always used to track my progress. I was literally obsessed about that BCA Machine
- Every week, I would step on BCA and see whether I am progressing or not
- Obsession about something productive always helps. I was obsessed about abs, I wanted it at any cost. I had trained my mind into believing that I am getting abs (The Law of Attraction does work). Intention leads to attention which leads to manifestation
- Surround yourself with positive people and do share your goal publicly if you aren’t too afraid! When a lot of people know about your goal, you have that added pressure to conquer it!
- Do meditation daily. This is a must. It will help you stay stress free (again very important for achieving any fitness goal)
- Know each and every detail about what you are putting inside your mouth. Once you know everything about what you are eating, you will surprisingly start hating all the junk and greasy foods. I just dread those chole bhature now, and feel a sense of pity on anyone having them!
- Stressful eating is the biggest culprit. Even I fell prey to it on many occasions. But I devised a way. Whenever this happens to you – close your eyes and imagine yourself in the best possible shape. And then open your eyes and see yourself right now. That piece of cake, pastry or Gulabjamun is the only impediment standing on your path. With mindful awareness (which again gets sharpened as you meditate more and become more regular with gymming), that thought of eating some rubbish will quickly disappear
- Whenever you feel like giving up, whenever you are doing that last set and feel like dropping the weight, just close your eyes, think of things that frustrate you, think of things that made you feel like a loser, think of that particular incident that once upon a time stormed you with negative emotions, and then open your eyes and finish that Bloody Set!
My Fitness journey has been a roller coaster ride so far – full of sacrifices, self-discipline, self-doubt on whether you could do it, and finally the euphoric moment of witnessing a version of yourself you had never imagined in your wildest dreams.
The best part about setting Fitness Goals is that it is not a team effort. It is just YOU. You can’t blame anyone for your failure so no one gets the credits for your victory either.
For anyone reading this, please do not make the mistake that I did in March , 2018. You might feel you are fit, but there is always scope for improvement. And there are a lot of parameters when it comes to defining fitness which are not measured when you step on to weighing scale. So please do get a BCA test done!
It’s also important to have tangible fitness goals. Why are you going to the gym? To get fit? Ok how would you define that you are getting fit? Merely seeing a reduction in your weighing scale does not necessarily mean you are getting fit (your weight is a combination of fat mass, muscle mass and water weight). If you are losing muscles instead of fat then you will look skinny fat, which is a pretty embarrassing condition. Most of the weight loss programs focus on reduction of significant percentage of fat, and a small reduction of muscles. Intermittent fasting, on the other hand, makes sure that more than 99% of the weight you lose will be from fat. And if you combine that with strength training, you will gain muscles, defying all the traditional fitness science!
My two cents on what could be tangible fitness goals? A) Reduction in Body Fat Percentage. B) Reduction in your Waist Size.
For women, a healthy body fat percentage would be around 22 to 25%. For men, a healthy body fat percentage would be 14% to 18%. Below 14% is difficult to sustain, but your face does look chiselled, and those abs do pop! So it’s actually worth the effort.
And even if you are not seeing the scale move, it’s fine, be patient. I did not lose much body fat in the first month. You gained so much fat after years of eating, so it’s impossible to look like a Greek God in just a few months. If not for anything else, it’s important to exercise for more energy, for a confident and happier version of yourself. And eventually there will come a point of time when you would look forward to going to the gym (I go nuts these days even on my so called rest days. It’s like an addiction. Craving for those endorphins is any day better than craving for sugar!). Until that point, keep going!