There are many stories out there that inspire one to start the fitness plan. Here is mine. It’s for regular folks like you and me, people who balance the home and the office, the kids and the boss, you get the drift.
My tryst with fitness began about 5 years back…I wasn’t really fat or unfit, but then neither was I really fit. It just hit me one fine day that I wanted to be fit before I hit the new year, but it was easier said than done. I soon realised fitness has to be self-inculcated and internalised till it becomes a non-negotiable way of life. It’s not something you do for six months or a year and then stop once you reach your desired weight/size. It needs to be continuous and consistent. Mind you, it’s a lesson better learnt sooner than later. Point to note here – you WILL have good days and bad days, you will have great phases and horrible phases – what is most important is that if you fall off the track, you need to get back right on, instead of wallowing in pity, and self-disgust, and anger, and digging yourself deeper into a hole. Trust me, it happens to the best of us, and yes, a majority of the fitness enthusiasts will agree it’s happened to them at least once if not more.
Also read: Weight loss story: “I lost 20 kilos by giving up dairy, adding salads to my diet and walking 7-10k steps daily”
What typically happened to me initially was, that I’d reach my weekly goal (yes, I set weekly goals for myself) and then do a victory lap that included happy hours and snacking late into the night thinking I’d earned it…alas, the scales spoke another language and I would be so upset that my binge party would continue, making it worse. I’d be too worn out and frustrated to exercise and feel totally defeated. “What’s the point yaa” was my general state of being during these days. Then I got an instructor who allowed me mini-binge meals (NOT DAYS) and explained I could have a cheat meal…not a cheat weekend in the most polite and stern way possible. I felt hurt, guilty, angry…everything together. Later, I sat back and thought through what she’d said and I realised I was working against myself – my eureka moment happened, and not to say I haven’t gotten distracted and binged, but I’ve come back on track faster and smarter.
Now the occasional binge happens but with portion control. You literally need 5 bites of anything you “really love” to satiate the taste buds — the first two you gobble, the next two you savour the taste, and the last bite, that’s for indulgence. Once portion control started, it was a matter of how I worked off those calories in the most enjoyable manner.
Like with everything else in life, I’ve always been the one to experiment and enjoy variety. It was the same philosophy that sub-consciously extended into my fitness space. Like different foods for different moods, it’s the same with exercises – I tried various modalities – Pilates, yoga, Zumba, walking, running, etc. It took me a while to zero in on the combination of what I enjoyed most X what would be most beneficial to me. Today I do a mix of Pilates and yoga, Zumba, aerobics, and HIIT, depending on what my mood is and believe me when I tell you this, it’s the mix and match of these that’s really keeping me motivated and fit throughout the last 3-4 years. Especially when the lockdown hit and we were stuck at home, I was so grateful that I had instructors with whom I already had a great equation so I continued online classes. It was during this time that I really needed the variety to break the boredom of isolation. On the days I was mentally exhausted, I’d do Zumba or Aerobics with loud music to lift my spirits. The day there were 100 things running through my head I’d prefer the calm center I got from doing yoga, and when I felt like I’d been glued to my seat the whole day I’d go for HIIT to jolt every muscle and nerve into action. Pilates was my go-to when I just knew I had to loosen up those taut muscles.
A big part of fitness is the food we eat. There are innumerable studies that prove this. There are 3-4 ground rules that I now follow 80% of the time (I allow myself a 20% flexibility so I can cheat once in a while without beating myself about it).
1. Eat only when my stomach is actually growling, then to drink a glass of water first, wait 15 mins because half the time your body is actually craving water. Then if your stomach is still growling, it’s time for a meal.
2. What really helped me is eating a soup bowl full of a raw salad – cucumber, carrot, lettuce, tomato, beetroot etc. then having a large serving of veggies and a bowl of dal, with ½ a roti or 2 tbsp of rice. This way you load up on the good foods.
3. If I am really craving something sweet, and if you have good Indian genes, you will, I eat a large piece of dark (70%) chocolate or take a portion that is 3-4 bites of whatever I am craving – cheesecake or halwa or anything else.
4. The most elusive, yet most effective exercise that’s extremely tough to master as I learned along the way, is the one where you move your head from side to side when there is a plate of unhealthy food in front of you and proceed to walk as far away as you can from those devils calling out to you with love and calories.
Fitness lessons I learnt
Having been on the fitness journey for a few years now, what I have noticed is that the people who tend to fall off and get easily demotivated are those who have an issue with their work-life balance.
Today’s work environment for most professionals is extremely tough to navigate, and while it’s our work that pays for our lifestyle, we also need to remember we can aspire to enjoy a certain lifestyle if we are hale and hearty. This means we need to carve time out for our own well-being both physically and mental. To be honest, initially, I’d be very worried that I’d miss a call or miss some email, even though the company I work with is amazing when it comes to work-life balance. The fear was more in my own head I realised as I began to keep aside at least one hour every morning doing something for myself. Some days I’d do Pilates, others, yoga, or Zumba, and on yet other days it was my riyaaz. Training in Hindustani classical music had been a dream when I was a kid, a passion I rediscovered a few years back, and I am so grateful as it’s been a source of so much joy and calm to me. Doing one or more of these, I soon realised that my productivity, my energy levels, and my positive attitude were all on the rise.
Today, I make sure I do some form of exercise every day and also do my riyaaz diligently. These have kept me going in good stead through the pandemic and all. Today, I can say with pride that I have cleared my Hindustani Classical Singing 3rd year exam and now prepping for the 4th year – it’s like my dream is becoming a reality. As for fitness, even after a full day’s work, I have enough to work out another hour! My passion is singing, pick a passion you have, whether it is needlecraft or art or cooking, anything that takes you into zen mode works.
Once you find your passion and your fitness favourites, the sense of well-being you get is awesome. You switch off mentally from the humdrum of daily life and work, you breathe in freshness and recharge yourself. Mentally you feel good and happy, which is extremely critical to overall health. We have all realised in the last couple of years how critical mental health is to overall health and we must learn to nurture our minds, our emotions, and our hearts so that our steps still have a spring in them when we wake up each morning and we have a prayer of gratitude on our lips as we put our heads to our pillows each night.
So it’s time to take charge of your health, your happiness. I’d urge you to take that first baby step today, start with as little as 15 mins a day and soon you will be set on your journey to wellness and joy!
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These views are not generic in nature. Weight loss results vary for individuals and the views shared in this article offer no guarantee of specific results. The content is not intended in any way as a substitute for professional advice.