Success Story: From overweight to awesome

Note: Read my previous article ‘How to go from overweight to awesome‘ first and understand what it actually takes to make a change this significant.

In March 2011, I got an email from this person…

Divya (October 2010)

… and it read –

Hello Raj!

Greetings from Sydney!  I came across your blog via the Jugalbandi blog, and was very impressed with your own story, the diabetic client’s story and so on.  Needed some advice, and perhaps you can help!

I am an almost 40 year old South Indian living in Sydney. I am currently a stay at home mom with  a  one year old daughter. I have always been overweight (obese per the BMI index calculations), although no noted medical problems.  I have had a typical sedentary lifestyle being in IT.  I am a staunch  vegetarian (no eggs, avoid cheeses that are made with rennet etc.) I do however love my milk, curds, ghee, paneer etc!

About 3 weeks ago, I felt bloated, uncomfortable and without energy. I decided to change my lifestyle, and slowly began cutting down on grains, and started some moderate 30 min work outs – with the Biggest Loser XBOX game.

Last week my med report showed  5.8 on the Total/ HDL Ratio. and the GP’s suggestion was ” get some cardio exercises”  and “watch your diet – dont eat fried stuff”.  I do know that typically the only cholesterol source that I have is the dairy products, so the last one week I have done away with dairy, have negligible oils, but landed up not watching the grains!!

I know from your blog I have to go  ‘grain free’. However with cholesterol do I have to give up dairy as well, or will the grain free diet be enough to correct the imabalances?  I dont mind swallowing fish oil if I have to …but really cant eat eggs, salmon etc! 😦   I want to stay fit as long as I live and have an active life …I dont want to run marathons etc!!  I lost two approx 3 kilos in 3 weeks and currently weigh 82kgs (my height is 5.2′), and want to get to 70 kilos for now.  Please advice!

Thanks  and Regards,


Realize that I get too many emails like this and 1) I’m not going to play doctor and give them specific health advice and 2) Is it worth my time? How many of these people are truly going to make a change? To want is one thing, but (as many of you know real well), to do is a whole different ball game. So I replied with general information that could possibly help her. Very similar to what you would find on my Nutrition Cheat Sheet.

I love helping people who are committed to make a change and I always give them a choice between…

Here is the general information I can give you. You can start here and continue making iterative improvements. I’ll help you as much as I can without getting into specific details.


If you are not comfortable doing this by yourself, then (and only then) we can consider an online consult.

I have certain rules when I work with people. I always urge people to make changes by themselves before ever getting into a consult with me since there is a lot one can do using the information that is on this site. Its never about the money. Its about the commitment. I don’t have enough time to consult with everyone who contacts me but I do have the information that could help pretty much everyone who reads this site. So why not use it right?

Anyways, after that initial email exchange, Divya kept sending me updates with plenty of questions and concerns. Soon, I realized she was not the usual ‘Help me now!!!‘ fat loss enthusiast but the unusual ‘I had a wake-up call and I’m ready to make a serious change!‘ fighter. Our interactions grew and we moved on from general recommendations to more specific recommendations as and when she shared more specific details with me. It had been 2-3 months since we started interacting and Divya was seeing some great results mainly because she was making every effort possible to eat real food irrespective of whether she was traveling or working or whatever. Only at this point (mid-May ’11) we got into a consult and we got into a more regimented approach with respect to nutrition and working out.

Slowly but steadily we worked our way up to 150+ emails. And this is what we have in the end after 10 months, here is what we have.

Part 1 – Some random emails

Exhibit A – An update email dated 8th June ’11

Hello Raj – Weighed and measured my self today.  Before starting the workouts my weight was already down to 71.65kilos!  I was 75kilos when I filled out your questionnaire.  Was thrilled to find that today’s reading was 70.40kilos!

Exhbit B – My reply

You know why this is so awesome? Because on March 6th when you first wrote to me, you said…

“…I want to stay fit as long as I live and have an active life …I dont want to run marathons etc!!  I lost two approx 3 kilos in 3 weeks and currently weigh 82kgs (my height is 5.2′), and want to get to 70 kilos for now.  Please advice!

Thanks  and Regards,

And in 3 months you have lost ~ 12 kg and reached your goal. All this while you slowly made changes to your diet and while you traveled to India and while you were a vegetarian! And guess what… you have just started consulting with me and your journey toward fitness has just begun!

Very very proud of you!

Keep pushing hard… its all going to be great!

Exhibit C – A not so unusual OMFG email dated 14th November ’11

Hi Raj!  I feel like I betrayed my good body!  I cooked and cooked and cooked for my little girls bday party. Sugar, Fat, Wheat, Deep frying etc etc! The food was a hit, and I did land up eating a lot – in the name of tasting etc. But my weight is down to 60.85 today!! Maybe yesterdays sins will catch up tomorrow!!

Exhibit D – My reply…

Youre good dude. Its your little ones bday and you had some fun. Chill out. Havent you realized that youre not the crash dieting type? You are all about lifestyle changes and thats why you are at 60kg today… far far away from where you started! You are adream client Divya! Dont feel bad about the party and please dont call it a sin. Food is nourishment for the most part and celebration rarely. Embrace it. You’re good dude… you’re good!

Smile… cos its all good!

Exhibit E – The final update dated 30th January ’12

Hi Raj! Didn’t realize its been over a month since my last update!!!  Well I got down to 56kgs and then did some mega cheats over the holidays!  I also landed up not working out for a week as I was down with a severe cold &flu!  Re-started my strict routine last week!

Part 2 – Some random thoughts from Divya

Note: I wanted to keep this real (like I always do in this blog) and hence didn’t want to Divya to write a  testimonial or anything. I asked her to jot down whatever she could come up with when thinking about the last 10 months and this is what she had to say. Again, everything is quoted verbatim.

* I have always been overweight / obese. I have tried a few diets and programs earlier. It’s always been a losing battle that left me demoralized.   I never realized health and fat-loss  is so unbelievably simple until I started reading Raj’s blog, and began trying his approach. am convinced that this lifestyle is one of the best, and I can very easily follow it for the rest of my life.

* Something clicked when I felt his no-nonsense approach. Fat-loss, not weight-loss. Nutrition, not skimpy diets. Minimal effective exercises, not boring cardios. Great Health, nor merely great looks.

* I was obese, had messed up cholesterol figures, sleep-deprived, stressed, irritable and totally unfit. I shot off a mail to Raj, not expecting him to reply to a random blog reader. To my pleasant surprise, with two days, I received not just a  reply, but  clear and concise guidance on what to eat, what to avoid, what supplements to take and how to begin exercising.

* I started feeling better, happier and healthier  almost immediately after I began following his advice on eating clean. What had always seemed a Herculean task, was suddenly so easy.  Weight seemed to fly off effortlessly right from week 1.

* Raj’s blog is a wealth of information for anybody.  His customized nutrition and exercise program even more effective. It  is easy to follow, and filled  with sample diets, exercise videos, inputs on what supplements to take and so on.  He understands where you are in life, and plans what’s just right for you, and directly addresses your goals.

* The nicest part –  he even tells you how to have your ice cream cheese cake sundae, without beating yourself up about it!

* Raj’s facebook group of likeminded people is huge support, in a world that still largely believes whole grains, low fat food, heaps of fruit  and expensive gym memberships are key to good health!

* I used to find simple day-to-day household work tiring. When I wasn’t at the office, I was zoned out on my bed in front of the TV, for entire weekends.  These days, I am nearly always out all day – Beaches, Parks, Swimming,Dancing, Music, having the time of my life with my toddler.  I am raring to go even after the part is over.

* Motivation  is key. It’s not enough just to want and wish to be fit. Healthy lifestyles cannot be just a choice. I believe it’s the only way to live.  I am in my 40s, and I found my motivation with the arrival of my little girl.   I HAVE TO BE physically and mentally young and healthy in order to be a good parent, for many many  more years to come

* Socializing, partying, travel is not so difficult, and becomes easier and easier once you learn how to choose the right foods within the options available.

* About Familial and social pressures – What I have realized, is that people who care about you, are happy with your choices when they see the good it’s doing you. The others who mock your choices or refuse to see reason  –  I couldn’t care less about!!

* Interactions with Raj – Always honest, factual, no-nonsense and very prompt!

Part 3 – The before and after

I work with so many overweight/obese folks and they all complain about how long a journey they have ahead of them. What they don’t realize is that a year or two of fighting hard results in 30 or 40 or even 50 more years of bliss!

Divya realized that and here she is showing us what (a short) one year of investing in health and fitness can do for you…

January 2011                                                         January 2012

Thank you Divya. Thank you for being awesome! You inspire me and I’m sure you will continue to inspire many many more folks who see, hear and learn about you!


So a 40 year old vegetarian (who doesn’t even eat eggs) was able to lose 60 lbs in 10 months and literally changed her life around. All this she did by just eating real food and working out 2-3 days/week for less than a total of 2.5 hours/week. I’m sure a lot of you eat ‘cleaner’ than she does and workout for much longer than she ever did, but there is something she did that you didn’t do – she stayed the course! Divya was very very consistent and lived true to her goals. And that is exactly why she is where she is today.

So I have nothing different to say other than stop complaining, quit whining, forget shortcuts, throw your excuses into the bin and start making a change already! But what do you have to say? Why are you not making the change? Is it motivation? Do you not have the resources? Can I help you in any other way? Let me know in the comments section.

Peace out.

27 responses to “Success Story: From overweight to awesome

  1. Mamatha February 9, 2012 at 9:25 am

    This is beyond awesome! Congratulations Divya – your journey is truly inspiring!

    As for your last question, my excuse has been, “I just don’t have the time, I have a super active toddler to take care of” but then that is the case with Divya too. I guess it boils down to motivation.

  2. Clueless February 9, 2012 at 10:12 am

    Am not quite eligible to congratulate this marvelous lady, TONS of admiration is allowed I guess! Thank you for opening the post to public and to Divya for sharing her awesome experience.

    To your last question: I am unable to find out what my body loves. (I perfectly qualify to lose weight, but my first goal is to eat clean and well, as much as possible and then figure out “losing weight” as a second goal.) I enjoy eating clean. Just want to be comfortable all day as well -which I have not been so far.
    1. Clueless metabolism: Somedays, stomach cannot take it at all. Somedays, feel constipated. Eating veggies (cooked/raw) till close to satiety causes gut discomfort. Not been able to identify specific culprit veggies in this regard, appears pretty wide range to me.
    2. So I tried eating smaller more number of meals. That means chances of missing a meal while drowning at work and meetings is super high. Also means more packing dabbas in the morning, and even more guilt at night when dabbas don’t return empty/precious food is spoilt. #FAIL.
    3. No rice, no energy. The two or three times a week I eat rice, I feel AWESOME. The remaining days, I am almost asleep at desk. People explicitly ask me about my zombieness. (they are not sabotaging :D) Funnily, it does not happen on all non-rice days uniformly, what am I supposed to draw out of it?! Don’t know.

    Been avoiding wheat and its forms for over 8 months. I am doing that per my doctor’s suggestion for migraines. That’s helping the migraines sure, but not in totality. There are other triggers that still cause it, but that’s a whole different story..

    Long story short(!), what sucks in my life right now is- to still be unable to form a good food routine after so many months. (like it used to be when I was eating unclean: morning: south indian meal/tiffin. lunch: south indian meal/tiffin.dinner: south indian meal/tiffin) Causing much irritation in family as well, LOL if I may laugh. Sorry for a long comment, wanted to vent. Thank you for the wonderful work you do.

  3. Loveen February 9, 2012 at 10:14 am

    Congratulations Divya and as usual very real and inspiring Raj!

  4. nutrivore February 9, 2012 at 10:29 am

    great going, divya and raj!!!

  5. Arjun February 9, 2012 at 10:29 am

    HOly shit…i wanted to scroll down immediately coz i saw the first picture and was certain there was an ‘after’ pictuire….. but i restrained myself and read through the whole thing….. her ‘after’ pic just blew me away!

    Now one of my issues is that i just can’t get myself to go to a gym regularly enough. The trainers there suck, they are disinterested unless they think they can con you into a “personal training” gig (I mean, if you aren’t there to train customers, WTF is your job description?? Why do i need to opt for personal training to get some attention.) Also, none of them do any kind of functional training.

    I had once tried out a trainer who came home… we rarely went to the gym, he would take me to a field and get me to do workouts there, kickboxing at home, power yoga, stuff with resistance bands – and i felt very healthy then. But he was more irregular than i was – so that didnt work.

    I look back at what all i have tried in an effort to remain fit and realised that playing a sport is what i was able to sustain for the longest – whether it was tennis in school, basketball in college, Ultimate frisbee when i was working in chennai…… So my question is…. is it enough to eat real food and just play a sport thrice a week to lose fat? (I have about 20 kilos of fat that i’d like to lose)

  6. ananthavalli February 9, 2012 at 10:36 am

    Great to read such a wonderful stories!!! Congrates to Divya and Raj..!!!

  7. aarthi February 9, 2012 at 11:20 am

    Awesome Divya ….

  8. Ramya February 9, 2012 at 11:27 am

    I’m officially totally totally inspired!!!WOW Divya

  9. Reva February 9, 2012 at 11:44 am

    Amazing. Seriously awesome stuff, Divya and Raj! You are such an inspiration 🙂

  10. skp February 9, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    Great …. excellent coach…. even more excellent student… Rather than Raj’s coaching, Divya’s determination has to be applauded. Wish her all the best to never ever fall in to the addiction of sinful eating. skp.

    • Divya February 10, 2012 at 2:45 pm

      Thanks much skp.

      The point is I have never over indulged or been addicted to “sinful eating” or anything. Just been eating what people normally call healthy viz whole grain foods, low fat everything. After I connected with Raj, I realized I have been eating the wrong foods – thats all!

      Just for the record, I still eat plenty – but the foods I eat now are different! :-))

      • Nikhila February 15, 2012 at 11:26 am

        Congratulations Divya and to your guru , Raj ! Can you share with us the different types of meals/dishes you cooked which came under the “real food” category.

  11. Kiran February 9, 2012 at 4:48 pm

    Wow! I am going to keep this story open on my laptop everyday to inspire me 🙂 Well done Divya and many congrats on achieving your goal!!

  12. JD February 9, 2012 at 8:08 pm

    Awesome Divya truly inspirational!!!!

  13. rkk February 9, 2012 at 10:33 pm

    truth triumphs. that’s seen both in the coach and the student. great! Keep rocking.

  14. EnKay February 9, 2012 at 10:49 pm

    Absolutely Awesome Divya! Kudos to your efforts and thank you for sharing your story. I looked at the before picture and went that is me. Seeing the after picture is so inspirational. As to the question “Why am I not making the change?” I truly have no answers because everything I come up with are just excuses.

  15. Smita February 9, 2012 at 11:15 pm

    Thanks for sharing your amazing journey Divya and congratulations! Also, thanks Raj to continuously try and motivate us! As the earlier comment mentioned, I am the ‘before’ picture and I have nothing but excuses as to why I am not the ‘after’ picture. Finally it all boils down to motivation.

  16. Ramachandran February 10, 2012 at 3:32 pm


  17. Sonia February 11, 2012 at 12:13 am

    This is definitely motivating. I have lost 12 pounds in the last 3 months. And all by making little changes (now that I don’t like sugary stuff I can call them little 😀 ). I keep coming here for reminders and it has helped a lot. Its the subtle changes in quality of life (glowing skin, not sleepy during a 2 o’clock meeting, being able to go on tougher hikes with my husband) that really gives me the kicks. Thanks for being blunt, it really helps sometimes.

  18. Sangeetha February 11, 2012 at 11:22 am

    Congrats Divya ,u look awesome 🙂

    Raj Thanks a ton , i lost 12 kgs of Post pregnancy weight just by reading your blog and maintaining since Aug 2011 🙂

  19. Mahesh February 11, 2012 at 11:48 pm

    Awesome progress! Great job Divya. This is be an excellent motivation for a lot of people who want to lose weight the healthy way and lead a healthy life.

  20. Roopa February 14, 2012 at 1:27 am

    Amazing!!…congrats Divya and Raj!

  21. Ms. Tic February 14, 2012 at 5:43 am

    Congrats Divya!!!! This is such an accomplishment and a lot of women out there wouldn’t even have bothered with getting healthy. You’re setting such a beautiful example!!!

  22. Benedicta February 17, 2012 at 11:37 pm

    Divya, Pls share the menu u followed n the “plenty of wat you eat now”…Being a south indian, your diet plan wud really help me n your story is really inspiring, thanks!

  23. Kay March 16, 2012 at 6:43 pm

    Fantastic!!! What an amazing accomplishment, Divya!

    Just goes to prove that if you treat your body nicely, it responds back even more beautifully.

  24. hanan May 11, 2012 at 1:25 am

    w.o.w! Thats brilliant
    Now i know whom to consult post delivery!!! 😀

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