Friday, June 17, 2016

When Health Becomes a Habit

I lost 6 kilos over a period of 3 months. There are a few insights I would like to share from this ongoing journey.

1. Weight loss is 80 % diet, 20 % exercise

My previous failures have taught me that it is near impossible to outexercise your over eating. There's a logical reason behind that. Most dieters underestimate the amount of calories they eat. So you can only lose weight successfully if you stop looking at exercise as your knight in shining armour.  Exercise helps if your calories are in line. And exercise helps you in many other ways. It keeps you happy, it is great for cardiovascular health, it keeps you motivated in other tasks during the day. But it is almost powerless when it comes to relying on it solely for weight loss. You also have a limited time window to exercise in your schedule, but food can happen anywhere, anytime. So to put it in perspective, at my weight, 45 minutes of vigorous (at your peak heart rate) cycling burns 730 calories. And you eat over 700 calories if you go out for dinner at a Punjabi restaurant (2 rotis, butter chicken and Jeera rice). Now imagine yourself doing 45 minutes at that pace every time you go over your calorie goal. 

2. "Eat every 2 hours" strategy is doomed   

I was a big fan of the "Rujuta Divekar" theory, until I started practicing it. Eating moderate amount of calories every two hours does help alleviate sudden over eating after a long bout of starvation. But it needs a lot of planning. Without professional help, it becomes tedious to constantly count your macros. You also tend to over eat a little at each meal, making you miss your goal anyway. Additionally, if you are eating five times within a span of 8 - 10 hours, you end up working much more in the kitchen trying to plan healthy snacks for the day. A lot of research points to the fact that the body does not treat bulk calorie consumption and calorie instalments differently. It is our minds that need constant feeding. 

3. For me, Intermittent fasting (IF) works

I have recently jumped on to the fasting bandwagon. This theory draws justification from the eating patterns of ancient humans. They typically had a feasting phase and a fasting phase. IF can be practiced in many different ways ( I follow the 16-8 method. I eat breakfast, lunch and tea. I stop eating at 4 PM and fast until breakfast. However, I do not consume lesser calories than what is prescribed for my BMR.  I eat all my calories in two meals. So instead of having three 300-400 calorie meals & two 100-200 calorie snacks, I go up to 600-700 calories for breakfast and 400-500 calorie for lunch. Depending on how many calories I have consumed in these two meals, I can even fit in a snack at tea. I continue to eat my macros the way they are prescribed for weight loss, avoiding sweets, fried food and sodas. The basic premise of IF is to create a time span inside your body where there is no food to be digested. Hence your insulin levels drop, triggering the conversion of stored glycogen into usable energy. 16 hours of fasting gives the body enough time to trigger that biochemistry. And if you think of it, if the popular diet urges you to eat at 7, you are incorporating a 12 hour fast into your day anyway! This method just adds a few more hours to that.  

4. Protein rich breakfast actually helps 

I have done many days of experiments where, keeping everything else identical, I only changed my breakfast to contain more protien. And it's certainly not a myth. Protein rich breakfast greatly helps weight loss. Contrary to the meticulous diet programs prescribing egg white omelettes, I have whole egg. And it doesn't derail me in any way.

5. Everybody needs a cheat day

Prior to this moderate success, I tried to restrict myself from eating out until I reached a certain weight goal. However, every "down" moment where I could not lose weight or gained half a kilo threw me into a spiral of self pity. So I incorporated a compulsory cheat day in my week. No matter what my weight loss state is, I always take my cheat day. Every week, I plan my cheat day treat and look forward to it. It keeps me well behaved on the remaining days, which means I get it right 6 out of 7 times. That's 85 %. Trust me, this is all the efficiency you need when you are on a weight loss regimen. :) 

 6. Weightloss cannot be a straight line with a negative slope. 

Don't expect it to be steady. There are going to be days when you weigh more than the previous week. But you have to keep your focus and not lose faith in your diet and work outs. It is an emotional journey but if you incorporate the fact that you can draw a straight line through all those points when you are done, life becomes easy. Sometimes  the distance between two points on the line makes you ignore the entire line. Don't let that happen. Have compassion for yourself but not pity. :)

Beyond all these insights there is one clear lesson. This cannot be a short term strategy. This has to be a lifestyle. 
Our lives are managed by larger forces which constantly aim at exploiting the addictive value of food. It is up to us to know that treats should be treated like treats! And that our body also needs a break from this constant sensory overload. Trying to do it on your own, without the help of a "weight loss program" may give you slower results but in the long run, you learn it better than trying to lease your soul to an external inspector. It teaches you a lot about food, exercise and most importantly, about yourself!

1 comment:

Deepti said...

So well written. Going to try it for sure.