How I Lost 15 kgs with Seven Easy Steps
It seems to be in my genes to gain weight easily. I was a skinny child for the first ten years of my life, and then seem to have hit a switch and become a chubby teenager and adult. I was also not a physically active person, and never really played sports, simply because I was smaller than most of the kids in my social circle and as coordinated as a newborn giraffe. My sources of entertainment were video games, books, and the internet, all activities which didn’t require much in the way of physical exertion.
I knew I was overweight, but didn’t really think it was that bad. After all, I wasn’t morbidly obese like those uncles and aunties I saw walking in the colony, or the really fat children who looked like they ate cake every day.
It took a harsh word from a cousin (I won’t say which), who one day told me, to stop trying to suck in my tummy and appear thinner. I was overweight, and trying to hide it with baggy clothes and a different posture was only me fooling myself.
It’s then that I decided to put in some real effort into losing weight. I was around 82 kgs in 2014, and after 18 months of effort, I had lost 15 kilos and now weighed 67 kgs.
There are a lot of resources, diets and exercise plans available which show us different ways to lose weight. I will say there is no one fixed formula which will work for everyone. My weight loss journey was a combination of trial-and-error and trying out different ideas.
I have distilled those weight-loss ideas into seven easy steps which have worked for me, and which I believe will work for you too:
1. Losing weight is 80 percent diet, 20 percent exercise
“You cannot out exercise a bad diet”
This is the most important and core concept with any weight loss plan. Losing weight is primarily done by consuming fewer calories than you burn in a day. You can try and do a lot of exercise to achieve this goal, but you will find that it is very easy to simply consume more food to undo even hours of strenuous exercise.
For example, jogging an hour a day at a moderate pace can burn 400 - 500 calories. That seems like a lot, and it is. But say you eat a single packet of Maggi Noodles and drink a glass of fruit juice. That small snack contains 500 calories in itself. In a few minutes, you have just undone all the hard work you put into your jogging.
The only way to consistently lose weight is by changing your diet, so that you consume fewer calories than your body expends in energy in a day.
2. Making a diet you can follow
Now you know that you need to primarily focus on your diet to lose weight . But how do you go about creating a diet which works for you?
There are a lot of fad diets, but those are only short term solutions. The key aspect of a diet is one which is sustainable, i.e. something you can follow for weeks and months on end. That is why I will not recommend changing your food habits completely, rather I recommend you tweak your existing diet. Here’s how:
See what all you are eating in a week. Write down everything you consume, from breakfast, lunch and dinner, to tea time snacks and midnight hunger runs. Do not leave out a single item.
Now that we have a list of all the items you eat, see where you can reduce your portion size slightly. For example, if you eat 4 slices of bread in the morning, see if you can make do with 3. Do not reduce your potions by more than 20-25%, since that will make you very hungry, irritable and more likely to snack.
Cut off all sugar. I find sugar to be the number 1 culprit as to why we cannot lose weight. I find sugar to be present mainly in tea, milk, soft drinks, fruit juices, biscuits and sweets. Just doing this one thing will reduce your daily calorie consumption by 200 - 300 calories. It does take a few days to get used to no sugar, but I find I can taste the natural sweetness of food items more. Simple milk or fruits taste a lot better after a week.
Change your snacks items. Some of us find it difficult to go long hours between meals and if we are hungry, there is no reason we should not take a snack in between. Here, I would recommend changing your snacks to healthier items. It primarily means getting rid of snacks which contain sugar and refined carbohydrates like biscuits, chips, soft drinks, maggi noodles etc. You can substitute them with healthier options like peanuts, whole fruits (not juice), cheese cubes etc.
Drink water when you are hungry. Sometimes, when we feel hungry, it is simply our body’s thirst which is displaying itself. If you are feeling hungry, drink a glass of water. You will see that often, your hunger goes away. If it doesn’t, it means you are genuinely feeling hungry and you can now take a snack to satiate your appetite.
Following the above steps should not be too difficult, and more importantly, it will be sustainable. I do not recommend fasting since it is not for everyone, and is not sustainable over the long term.
3. Setting a realistic target and keeping track
We all want to lose weight fast, but that often involves taking drastic steps like fasting, fad diets, doing a ton of exercise etc. That is not really sustainable beyond a week or two. Instead, if you follow the above dietary guidelines, you can lose 1 kilogram every 2 weeks, or 2 kilograms every month. That means if you have a weight loss target of 10 kilos, it should take you 5-6 months to achieve it. Keep in mind the initial weight loss happens quickly, and beyond a point, say after 5 kilos, progress will be slower. This is because your body adapts to your new diet and when your weight is less, you also burn fewer calories at rest.
I recommend investing in a weighing scale for keeping track of your progress. Take a measurement of your weight once a week at the same time of the day, preferably in the morning after you have gone to the bathroom. Do not weigh yourself every day. You will find that your weight can fluctuate by as much as 1-2 kilos every day, so you will not have a good idea of your progress if you weigh yourself daily.
4. Supplementing diet with exercise
So you have now taken control of your diet and are progressing well on your way to your target weight. To help speed along the process, and for general health and well-being of the body, I recommend supplementing your diet with exercise at least 3 days a week.
Exercise need not be anything strenuous like lifting weights or aerobics. I find walking to be the best and easiest exercise to do regularly. You can walk every day of the week and not feel fatigued or worn out. I recommend at least 30 minutes of walking to get the full benefits from it. You can read more about it on my other article, “Walking and Counting Your Steps”, at the link below:
Of course, you can also do other activities like cycling, swimming and playing sports. The most important part is to just get moving. When we are sitting, we burn just 60 calories per hour. On the other hand, a one hour walk at a moderate pace burns almost 300 calories. And swimming, cycling and playing sports burns even more calories per hour.
5. Allow yourself cheat meals
It is important to be consistent with your diet, but it becomes monotonous after a while, and you will get bored of it. That is why I recommend cheat meals, once a week or once every ten days. A cheat meal is a scheduled break in your diet. This is a meal which is not really in line with your weight loss goals, but something that makes you feel good and includes your favourite foods. It is different for everyone, but normally includes items like burgers, pizzas, desserts, biryani etc.
When you reward yourself with a cheat meal, it allows you to feel good and get a break from your daily diet. It satisfies the taste buds.
Another benefit of the cheat meal is that it boosts your metabolism. When you keep eating a consistent diet, your body adapts to the lower calorie intake and reduces its metabolism. That is why after a while, it becomes difficult to reduce weight, even though you are eating less.
When you eat a cheat meal, which is normally high in calories, it boosts your metabolism temporarily, since the body suddenly has a higher number of calories to digest.
Just do not completely overindulge in your cheat meal. For instance, don’t eat five gulab jamuns, three pieces of cake and a whole large pizza. That is because such an overindulgence will undo the good work you have done throughout the week. Cheat, but in moderation.
6. Do not feel disheartened by setbacks
Losing weight is not a linear process. We are all social creatures. Often, we will be invited to social functions like office parties, birthdays, family get-togethers, weddings etc. Or we are travelling and we cannot stick to our diet during that time.
In such instances, do not feel bad if you gain a kilo or two by eating more. Simply compensate by eating a bit less either before or after the said function. Also keep in mind that your weight will fluctuate week-on-week. Sometimes it seems you are doing everything right and the scale remains stuck or even increases. It is not cause for panic unless there is an upward trend for over a month.
This applies to exercise too. Sometimes, it is raining and we cannot go for a walk. Or we are just too tired to exercise. Do not beat yourself up. Just do something else you enjoy in that time. Just do not make it an excuse more than 2 times in a row. For that is a slippery slope to laziness.
7. Once you hit your target, its ok to cut back
So assuming you have stuck to the diet for a few months, congratulations. You will have lost some weight. You may have hit your target weight, or even reduced further. You have now earned the right to relax a bit on your diet. Sustaining a diet is ideal, but once we hit our target, it is ok to increase your calorie intake a little bit to sustain your current weight. You can now enjoy a few sweets and snacks on occasion, or maybe increase your cheat meals to twice a week.
Just remember to keep a track of your weight once every two weeks. Because if you do not, you can inadvertently find yourself getting back to your old habits, and gaining weight is far easier and faster than losing it.
Don’t worry if you cannot sustain your target weight forever. A few extra kilos (not more than 5) is a leeway you can give yourself. With the stresses of modern life, it is inevitable that you will gain back a few of the kilos you have lost. But that’s ok, because you are still in a much better position now than you were before.
I consider losing weight to be one of the best things I did for myself. You feel a lot better after you lose weight, you gain confidence, your health improves, and you feel lighter. You do not need to target 15 kgs of weight loss, like I did. Just start with 5 kilograms at first, and go ahead from there. I hope this article helps you in your weight loss journey, and I look forward to seeing you fitter and trimmer than ever.