Today, I’ll tell you about my weight loss journey, how I overcame my unhealthy eating habits, end-up losing 50 pounds (23 kilograms), and the role of mindfulness in all of the above. Don’t believe me? Here’s a before and after shot.
All the cliche talk about balancing the carbs, getting the right amount of macros, consuming enough protein, staying off junk food, and forming a daily workout routine, is the not the main point of this post.
There are a gazillion articles out there that talk about diet, exercise, sleep, etc. That’s not what I’m here to discuss. In addition to sharing my weight loss journey, I also want us to explore and understand the underlying cause of why it’s so hard to lose and maintain weight loss.
Why are we not able to stick to our diet and workout regime? Why do we fall back to old unhealthy eating/sleeping patterns? Why do we crave unhealthy food?
Without understanding the root cause of our bad habits, we will not be able to change them.
The reason for our poor state of physical and mental health is the lack of self-discipline, self-control, and most importantly, self-awareness.
We all want to look attractive. Have a well-toned body. But when it comes to putting in the effort – we don’t want to do that. Why? Because we don’t feel like it.
The problem of the present generation is not the lack of motivation – it’s laziness. And what causes that laziness? Easy access to visual stimulation that causes excessive release of dopamine (the pleasure hormone).
We have become like Pavlov’s dog. Visual stimulations like video games, OTT entertainment platforms, social media likes, etc., trains the brain for easy pleasure.
Now when we perform activities that require physical and mental effort like working out in the gym, reading books, playing sports, solving puzzles, painting, dancing, singing, and so forth, the dopamine released is in small quantities, and that does not satisfy our craving.
While sitting on a couch and watching television with a bag of potato chips allows for easy and high dopamine release. But guess what? The crash comes soon. It causes us to feel worthless afterward.
On top of that, we also feel guilty of reaping the rewards without having done nothing. And the sad part is that despite knowing all of it, we still don’t take action. What does that happen?
Well, human beings are complex creatures. What happens in the conscious mind is known to us, but what goes on in the unconscious – a much more powerful mind, is oblivious.
It is the unconscious mind where troubling emotions are trapped. It is there we have the beliefs like, “I ‘m not worthy”, “I don’t deserve success”, “I’m ugly, so why bother”. A lot of self-esteem issues stem from the unknown.
I was the guy who though like that. This was me back then 👇
Our inability to understand ourselves, and confront our underlying emotions, keeps us trapped in the old habitual patterns.
We are so fearful that the moment we are alone, we panic. We immediately grab our smartphones, start checking our emails, social media feeds, or switch on the idiot box.
It’s a sort of defense mechanism of the mind to avoid dealing with pain and discomfort. However, this kind of suppression is unhealthy. It causes the pain to come back, and with higher intensity.
We distract our attention from what’s inside to the outside, and we enjoy the short moments of pleasure we derive from it.
The important thing to realize here is that, though all of this might feel good initially, but in reality, you are cheating yourself and creating a storm of afflicting emotions within yourself, which are likely to cause severe physical and mental health problems in a matter of time.
I’m not trying to say that you can lose weight without eating healthy and exercising. Sorry! There’s no magical pill that can transform you overnight. You have to do the work.
The calorie in – calorie out principle still stands, but there’s more to it that people need to learn to lose weight in a healthy manner.
I know many people who lost a ton of weight quickly only to get it all back after a year or two.
You have to prepare your mind whenever you’re making a change to your body; otherwise, there’ll be a powerful backlash that will cripple you emotionally.
How I lost 50 pounds?
I know I don’t have the perfect body, but I’m satisfied with what I have achieved up till now. I’m not in completion with anyone out there. I just aim to the best version of myself.
After struggling for years with my body weight and shape, I finally understand the importance of fitness. It’s not just about how you look.
You need fitness to keep a happy state of mind. You need it to remove inflammation from the body.
No spiritual or other material achievements are going to make any difference unless you make fitness a priority. Living with aches and inflammations will only degrade your experience of life.
I had been struggling with my weight since high school days. Although I was never obese, I was overweight and had issues with flexibility in my body.
Over the years, I tried all the different types of diets, joined the gym, tried various forms of workouts, spoke to nutritionists and fitness experts, but nothing helped.
The most frustrating part was that even when I was successful in losing a couple of pounds, I used to get it all back and double the amount.
There came a time when I was struggling financially to make ends meet. After working as an IT consultant for over 12 years, I was sick and tired of conventional corporate culture.
So one fine day, I decided to quit my job and start my own freelancing business. But that’s when the trouble started.
Needless to say, but I was struggling to make it on my own. Over time I started getting bitter towards everyone I knew and also the people I loved.
As a result, I started overeating. I started hogging unhealthy junk food. I lost interest in activities that I used to like, gained a lot of weight, and also started having inflammation in my lower back and knees.
I didn’t feel like working out. I didn’t want to work on my freelancing work. The easy escape for me was food. As soon as I was out of bed in the morning, I use to think about food.
It took me some time to realize that I was addicted to one of the worst drugs in the world. It’s called sugar. Most studies show that sugar is almost as addictive as cocaine and that it stimulates the same regions in the brain.
But wait! Now comes the interesting part.
So I decided to cut down on my sugar intake. I started reading about quitting sugar, withdrawal symptoms, and all that stuff. I tried hard, but I couldn’t. So I started deceiving myself by finding alternatives to refined sugar.
I started consuming whole-wheat pasta, bread, sugar-free biscuits, diet drinks, low-calorie cupcakes, diet-soda, and so many other things. Make me cringe even thinking about it.
My anxiety levels were so high that I didn’t even shy away from eating my children’s chocolates (don’t tell them I did).
I was just substituting one substance for another. People who label sugar as the “villain” tend to find other substitutes to satisfy their cravings, which are either equally bad or worse. And most of these substitutes, if not more, are almost as high in Glycemic Index as sugar.
The craving is not the main problem. The underlying cause of craving is the real culprit. Understanding the cause gets rid of the cravings.
For that, it’s essential to do some self observation, and take things slow.
I never went cold-turkey on sugar. Reducing my sugar intake was a slow progression. First I identified all the sources of sugar (like wheat, white four, etc.), and cut them one at a time.
First-year into forming healthy habits, I went from consuming 10 gm of sugar to 6 gm. I replaced refined sugar with more natural sources like jaggery and maple syrup. I also increased my intake of fresh fruits and nuts.
Changing habits is tough because it’s not merely a physical change; it’s an emotional change as well. How can you change a habit overnight when you’ve been practicing it for years.
So don’t be hard on yourself and give it time.
Mindfulness is a practice that helps us to clearly see these troubling thoughts and emotions, without judging or reacting to them.
It creates that space inside our mind that enables us to observe your thoughts and feelings without creating any reaction of judgment to them.
This simple act of mindful observation helps us in understanding the nature of our cravings, where they are coming from, and how to let go of them.
Mindfulness helped me to deal with my inner thoughts and emotions, which I had been suppressing for years.
Whenever I felt like eating something unhealthy, I closed my eyes and tried to be aware of the underlying feeling.
And in most cases, it was some kind of stress that was surfacing on the conscious layer of my mind that was the cause of craving. Once I was aware, the craving went away on its own.
That’s all that I did. Just being aware of the afflicting thoughts and emotions created a space between the ‘self’ and troubling thought, and at that moment, comes the wisdom to choose the next action consciously.
When you’re new to this whole concept of mindfulness, you’re going to fail many times. I failed a lot. There were times I just could not control my cravings. But that’s okay. You’ll get it with time and practice.
The Science Behind Mindfulness
Sara Lazar, an associate researcher in psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital, explains that whenever we engage in a particular behavior over and over again, it leads to changes in your brain activity and starts forming new neuron connections.
A region in the brain, known as the prefrontal cortex, is responsible for executive functions of the brain such as memory, learning, emotion regulation, and self-control.
It is well documented that as we age, this region of the brain shrinks in size, leading to impairments of these executive functions. That’s why old folks face difficulty in memorizing and recalling stuff.
A Little About Meditation
If you feel a little motivated with my story and want to start practicing mindfulness, I suggest that you choose a suitable time and place, and practice every day.
One of the most effective mindfulness exercises is breathing meditation. Just 10 minutes of practice every day can make a significant difference. Meditation for me was a life-changing experience.
Your initial goal should be to form a daily meditation Routine. It’s not the length of time that matters, but the intensity of your meditation session that counts.
If you’re interested in learning about meditation, you can check out my ebook, The Ultimate Meditation Guide.
Getting started is always challenging. If you have never done meditation before, you will feel uncomfortable initially. I know some people who dread silence, and they are not willing to change even if they are unhappy.
I remember when I started, I used to feel a rush of troubling emotions, the moment I used to close my eyes.
The feeling, at times, was so intense that I could not even sit still for two minutes. But with time and regular practice, my situation improved, and now I can sit peacefully in meditation for one hour or even more.
So don’t be hard on your self and give it some time. Just start by sitting comfortably in a cross-legged position or a chair (however you feel comfortable), keep your spine straight (very important), choose a quiet place with minimal noise and disturbance.
Keep all the distractions away, and just close your eyes and start observing your breathing for five minutes or so. As you get more comfortable, increase the time to ten or fifteen minutes.
Remember, it took me a little over two years to achieve the weight loss results shown above. This is a marathon and not a sprint. So keep your expectations accordingly.
There comes a phase in meditation, when the conscious mind starts getting more and more silent.
And then, the deepest emotions hidden in the subconscious starts coming to the surface of the conscious mind. This feeling is extremely uncomfortable and will tempt you to quit and get back to the old behavior patterns.
But don’t give up. If you want more information about this, you can read my article on how meditation makes you more sensitive. But remember, this is just a phase, and it will go away subsequently.
Meditation in itself is not a cure for your addictions or health problems. It is just a practice that frees your mind and creates a space for you to understand the cause of your underlying issues.
Also, if you are extremely sick or have an underlying medical condition, please consult a medical practitioner, and choose a holistic approach to cure your ailments.
If you are trying to lose weight, quit smoking, quit drugs, or any addiction for that matter, you need to do what’s required.
E.g., when I was trying to lose weight, I was eating healthy food, working out four times a week, was in a constant caloric deficit, forming healthy habits, and much more.
Mindfulness helped me to understand what was good, and what was bad for me. It started crushing the massive ego I had developed over the years. It enabled me to understand who I really am.
Mindfulness not only helped me in overcoming my food addiction but also made me more positive and compassionate towards others.
My relationships with my friends and family have improved drastically, and I have also started performing well in my work and other areas of life.
Today, I’m at a point in my life where I’m satisfied with what I have and just feel the need to share my love with you.