How I lost 10 Kgs in 5 Months

Somethings I did and somethings I learnt

The Outcome

My journey started on the 26th of December 2020. Why not 1st Jan? Because almost no resolution taken on the 1st reaches fruition in my experience. Also as Kabir said...

Kaal Kare So Aaj Kar, Aaj Kare So ab; Pal Mein Pralaya Hoyegi, Bahuri Karoge Kab

(Instead of tomorrow do today, instead of today do now; in a moment destruction could arrive, when will you do it then?)

Simply put, now or never.

Here is what happened

I went from being 83 Kgs to 74 Kgs

From 23% body fat, I came down to 17%

And the muscle mass went up

In terms of exercise, I did about 95 workout sessions across 150 days. ~30 Mins of workout on Nike Training App per session. 2 out of 3 days I did exercise. I did not use any other app or workout. Just what the app asked me to do.

This was more like 1 out of 2 days in January but increased as it went along. As you can notice, not by too much. Instead of 3-4 days a week, I started working out 4-5 days per week.

I burnt north of 850 Calories on average. Exercise days obviously topped 1000 active calories, other days because of my walking, I would hit about 600 calories.

Also, I walked a lot. Walking inside your house as you talk on the phone is not the same as walking outside. I walk a lot inside the house and this probably helps burn 20 calories in an hour. Walking outside for an hour can deliver 100 calories in an hour.

Just for comparison -

From June 2020 into 2021

Some basic facts

There are two types of calorie burn that take place - Active and Passive. Passive is the number of calories it takes to keep you alive, heating your body, etc. Unless you live in Siberia, have to cut wood and hunt animals every day, your passive calorie burn will be between 1500 and 2000 calories. The colder the weather you are exposed to, the more calories you burn. The Siberian lifestyle will suck out 5000 Calories a day.

To mimic this people like Chris Hemsworth walk in a refrigerated pool for an hour every day. Forget about looking like Thor, unless you don’t have any other work to do.

Diet alone is not going to make you lose weight partly because you are not going to end up consuming 200 Calories a day. Even the most paltry diet will end up contributing 1000 Calories a day. A Kg of fat can generate about 7700 Calories. Another way of saying this is, you need to burn about 7700 calories to lose 1 Kg of fat. Do the math, it is going to take years of living like a rag picker to lose weight just by dieting.

Not all calories are equal. You can have an egg and add 90 calories to your body or you could just eat 2 tablespoons of sugar. The two are not the same. So apart from counting calories, you need to look at the quality of those calories.

Also, the more cold your body is exposed to, the more of the white fat is converted to brown fat. Brown fat is how you ensure that your passive calorie burn increases. I read a book about Wim Hof a couple of years ago. He has a lot of videos on youtube and I would recommend watching them. He teaches how to expose your body to cold to increase fat metabolism. I have been taking cold water showers every day even in winters since I read that book. It has markedly changed my body composition.

This is a graph from 2015 to 2021 of my body fat. The sharp drop in body fat is when (2018) I started taking cold water showers.

This brings us to exercise.

Exercise comes in different forms and not all are equal or the same. But ultimately you are looking to burn as many calories as possible while at the same time creating an impact on various parts of your body where fat has accumulated.

I have been exercising off and on for the last 10 years. I have lost as much as 20 Kg in the past going from 93 to 71.

The one thing that I can tell you is that fat burns from the extremities to the core. If you think you have a lot of belly fat and start crunches, you are just going to have a bigger belly. A belly with more muscle and the same amount of fat.

The key to losing fat is to begin by making your hands and legs as strong and as lean as possible. Almost every exercise on the planet will depend on using your hands and legs effectively. Yes - even those crunches. Also if there is no more fat to burn on the hands and legs, the body has no other choice but to dip into other stores of fat.

YOU DO NOT HAVE TO EXERCISE 7 DAYS A WEEK.

When you exercise you are straining the body. If you lift weights, you are causing tiny lacerations on the muscles so that they tear and regrow afresh and healthy. You need to rest your body to give it enough time to heal and grow.

When it comes to startups we say, the go-to-market strategy that got you 10 customers would not get you, 1000 customers. Much the same way, pick an exercise to get started, to break the inertia but don’t bank on the same thing to take you all the way to your goal. Start by just walking 30 minutes, if you have been doing nothing, it is a great start. But thereon, you will need to keep evolving.

Food

Food provides us sustenance. But not all food is the same. All of us know the various components of food. Fats, Proteins, Carbohydrates, Vitamins and Minerals. Apart from this, we have water and roughage, which is good for the body in any quantity.

Nothing is good or bad until such time that it becomes excessive.

Two things that you must avoid are Salt and Sugar.

The only thing that I would like to say from my own experience is that fat gets a bad rap for no reason other than the fact that Kellogs waged a huge war against fat so that they could get you to buy more corn flakes. A lot of nonsensical studies have been published over the years to back up these claims often by torturing the data until it admitted.

Carbohydrates are readily converted by our bodies into glucose. If your blood is awash with glucose, there is no need for the body to burn fat. Cutting down on the amount of carbohydrates that we supply to our body is important.

Fats stored in the body have already been converted, so think of it as ready cash available to spend. But carbohydrates supply more cash to the system. The body will never dip into its own reserve. By comparison, if you supply more fat to the system, it is like providing a cheque that needs to be cashed - in other words, the body needs to work hard before being able to use this energy.

Further proof that fat is not all bad is how a croissant is made.

There is a slab of butter in there. If fats were all bad, French people would be all fat and unhealthy.

Food loses nutrition the more it travels. So buy stuff that is locally grown. There is no need to import food from across the globe because someone told you that it has great qualities. A kiwi that has travelled 10,000 kilometres is just empty calories.

Your stomach has Gut Bacteria, which plays a very critical role in digesting your food. That gut biome is developed by the food that you habitually eat and the work that your stomach does and the microbes that it meets. If you do something repeatedly, you get better at it; similarly, your stomach gets better at absorbing the nutrients from the food you eat, the more it processes it over and over.

Having a standard diet or standard set of ingredients that you consume repeatedly enables your body to get better at digesting those ingredients. You do not need a non-vegetarian diet necessarily to build muscles. You just need to help your body learn to process vegetarian proteins effectively by subjecting it to them routinely.

What I did

Exercise

If you are to maintain a workout, you would find it hard to do it unless someone is setting the agenda on what to do. You would not be able to push yourself to the limit all by yourself. I, therefore, stuck to the Nike Training app and let it set the agenda every day. I would provide it with certain constraints like 5 days of workout each week and the amount of time I wished to spend exercising. Apart from that I just blindly followed what the app asked me to do.

I have lost weight in the past just sticking to the cross-training machine and the spin cycle. With lockdown and covid in our midst, I had to resort to something that I could do at home. The more diverse the workouts are, the more areas of your body you are able to impact.

Throughout, I have maintained a workout routine that is spread across 4 to 6 days a week. Typically between 30 to 60 minutes in duration. In addition to this, I walk for about 1 hour in the night after my dinner.

Generally, keep moving through the day when taking calls, I would not just sit in front of a system the whole day. The idea would be to get about 500 steps in each hour of the day. This could be while taking calls or reading or just sending replies to emails, etc.

Motivation

I started working out 20 days after Salma, my partner started working out. She was hammering it in and losing weight which motivated me. I kept saying I also want to do this and then eventually started.

I cannot begin to emphasise how important it is to have a co-conspirator. It keeps you going when you are about to lose motivation. Being able to compare notes and knowing what is working and what is not helps a lot. You need what is best described by the Hindi word humsafar - which literally means fellow traveller. But in reality, it is more like hum-suffer - two people who can suffer together.

Get yourself a companion. I cannot emphasise this enough. She lost a lot more than me in the same period and that is her story to tell

Food and Diet

After my workout in the morning, I have a standard diet of 4 slices of bread with 2 eggs. Eggs prepared however I like and a cup of tea. Sometimes I would throw in some veggies if I was cooking an omelette but otherwise just that. This was not a poor breakfast, the bread would have a generous slathering of butter, eggs also prepared in butter (if not boiled).

My eating pattern was not too different from an intermittent fast. This was not by design.

I had breakfast by 10 AM and hence skipped lunch and went straight to dinner which I would normally have at between 4 PM and 7 PM. Dinner was not standard but often things that you would find in any Indian household. Roti/Dal or veggies; Dosa; rice perhaps once a month; chicken perhaps once a month.

All the food was cooked as richly as I wished. No compromise on butter, milk, cheese, ghee, creme. You won’t believe it, but I consumed 3 Kgs of butter during this period. 6 half Kg slabs of Amul Butter in 5 months.

The only thing was that I used portion control. I would not eat more than a small bowl full of whatever it might be. If roti, not more than 2 Rotis.

What not to eat

Frankly, this is more important than everything that I wrote above.

Juices - Almost everything on the spectrum from Pepsi to so-called “Real” fruit juices is loaded with sugar. Orange juice is probably the worst thing you can buy off the shelf, you could just eat a cup full of sugar instead. Even Raw Pressery is loaded with calories. Paper Boat has very few variants that have low calorie. The best thing is to buy tender coconut water if you have a strong craving for drinks.

Make Orange juice at home if you love it a lot. For that matter apple juice or anything else. Have it with the fibres, not strained.

Anything that comes out of a packet - Almost everything that is ready for consumption is shit. In order to preserve it, they use the two things I mentioned you should avoid - Sugar and Salt.

Cook Make the richest white sauce pasta and have it, would not hurt you as much as a packet of potato chips. But more importantly just learn to cook, because then you know what goes into making the things you eat. You learn to be more mindful.

After having spoken to people who manufacture packaged food; they themselves agree that it is full of chemicals. There is one exception which is if you can see the ingredients they claim to put in there. Some energy bars are good. You can actually see the ingredients and you can tell that they have not been excessively processed.

There are still things like bread, butter, milk, cheese, curd that you may have to buy. A good test is, leave it out for 2 weeks. If there is no fungal growth or it has not gone bad, avoid the brand. If even bacteria does not want to eat it, should you?

I think part of the reason I put on all the weight, to begin with, was the flavoured yoghurt by Epigamia. Sugar mine!

The Faster, the worse - Fast food is horrible. All of the ingredients are processed to be frozen, heated and served. The faster they can make it, the worse it probably is for your health. You can eat out, but in moderation - twice a month and at places that are healthy. Not every kitchen is a shit show. If the food is freshly cooked, it should be fine.

Nothing fried, anything baked.

Personally, I avoided rice. It does not help me. Maybe your metabolism might be different. Test it.

If you have questions, please put them in the comments section. I will be happy to answer them to the best of my ability.

My Resources

I use the Withing Body Cardio scale for measuring my weight, fat, etc.

I use the Apple Watch to record exercise and calories used.

I used the Nike Training App for exercises

Books

What Doesn’t Kill Us: How Freezing Water, Extreme Altitude and Environmental Conditioning Will Renew Our Lost Evolutionary Strength by Scott Carney

Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body's Most Under-Rated Organ by Giulia Enders

Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art by James Nestor

Hear Your Body Whisper: How to Unlock Your Self-Healing Mechanism by Otakara Klettke


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What we think, we become ~ Buddha

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