Category Archives: Inspiration

It’s a marathon, not a sprint

It’s all so fast paced today. It’s common to expect overnight turnaround on everything. Our microwaves heat up food within seconds. Our washing machines wash and dry within minutes. Our smart phones give us access to messages in milliseconds. And Facebook provides us information about everything about everyone we don’t really care about every second of every minute of everyday.

So it’s natural for us to expect things to be done quickly and this is absolutely fine. That’s what technology is meant to do – make life convenient, efficient, better, easier and, most importantly, faster.

But when we expect physiology to match technology, we have a problem. 

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Photo Credit: LindaSC via Flickr

You see, today, everyone wants to go to bed drowsy from a dozen donuts but wake up with washboard abs. And this in all probability includes you at some level. Quick results are what you’re after. You don’t care for patience anymore. You’re all about the results.

You don’t have the patience to focus on the process anymore. It’s all about what the process results in. You don’t really about the journey anymore. You’re too busy obsessing about results, you don’t take the time to enjoy the journey.

But let me know ask you this – What’s the hurry? What are you rushing towards? Why this insatiable desire to lose as much weight in as little time as possible?

It is this desperation that makes you vulnerable – vulnerable to food manufacturers who scam you into believing their food will let you have the cake and eat it too, vulnerable to pseudo-fitness gurus and gyms/fitness centers who promise you results that are too good to be true and vulnerable to a side of yourself that is always tempting you with shortcuts.

So what’s the deal then? Focus on slow gradual results over a period of time? Absolutely! And here’s why.

Firstly, any and all of your efforts towards fat loss and health are meant to be done for a long time. 3 months? No. 6? No. It’s more like for the rest of your life. In other words, it doesn’t matter how long it takes you to lose those kilos that you so desperately want to lose because if you don’t keep those kilos off you’re back to square one!

One way or the other you are going to have to keep doing what you did to get there, for the rest of your life. Let’s say you ate well and exercised consistently and lost a significant amount of weight and are now at a place where you are happy with yourself. If you choose to stop and go back to living like you did earlier, you will end up going to looking and feeling like you did earlier. No doubt about that.

The only way to consistently and sustainably stay in shape and/or in good health is to make long lasting sustainable changes to your habits – physical, nutritional, physiological and social.

With that being the case, let me ask you again, what’s the hurry? What are you rushing towards?

Realize, it’s not a sprint. It’s a marathon and a hard one at that. The better you pace yourself, the more you learn about yourself, the better you plan your life, the more sustainable your results will be.

New Year’s resolutions – A new look

It is that time of the year when most of the urban population make another set of resolutions for the New Year 99% of which will not make it past March purely because, well, the year isn’t new anymore! Looking at how most resolutions don’t result in anything, are there meaningful resolutions that can keep you on track for the duration of the year? I say yes. But they need to be about habits and not about numbers. They need to be about lifestyle changes and not about products.

What the majority of fitness enthusiasts (and the resolution making crowd in general) don’t realize is that it isn’t about the New Year or about a particular event or result but about the consistent actions that lead to the chosen event or result. If, for example, your New Year resolution is to run a marathon, it isn’t about the marathon but about the training, consistency and discipline required for you to be ready for the marathon and, more importantly, about what you learn during the process of preparing for the marathon and how you incorporate what you learn into your daily fitness life, personal life and professional life.

Here are 8 very strong changes I recommend that will help you move robustly towards those results you’re looking to achieve in 2013.

1. Eat dessert 62 times in 2013.

  • There are a total of 52 weeks in 2013. How about eating dessert once a week and on 10 other days? The 10 other days should be days you choose – relevant festivals, important birthdays/anniversaries, respectable life events etc.

2. Get in at least 104 training sessions in.

  • It doesn’t matter what kind of training. It could be a run or yoga or strength training or zumba for all I care. At 500 calories burnt per session (either directly as in cardio or indirectly as in other forms training that increase BMR), you’ll burn a good 50,000+ calories during the year which will result in a ~7kg weight loss in addition to the myriad other health and lifestyle benefits that stem from exercising consistently.

3. Sit for no more than 60 minutes at a time.

  • Every hour stand up. What you do after you stand up is almost irrelevant but don’t sit for more than an hour at a stretch.

4. Try a new vegetable every month.

  • We all have vegetables we love and vegetables we hate. But almost invariably, we tend to hate some of the most nutritious vegetables mainly because we have bad memories of that vegetable from when we were kids. Well, we’re not kids anymore. Our outlook towards life has changed. Our needs have changed. And it is very probable that our tastes might have changed too.

5. Lose your temper less.

  • Every time you lose your temper, give yourself a little black mark.

6. Plan your vacation before February.

  • Everyone is very busy today. No one has the time to take time off. But guess what? The industry/company won’t pulverize if you take a week off and there is enough statistics to prove that people taking vacations are more productive. The truth is that most people don’t take vacations because they don’t plan in time. Plan your vacation well in advance. You will have something to look forward to during the year and you can save yourself a couple of bucks.

7. Don’t litter

  • and report the folks who do. Even a place like Chennai, now, has trashcans every 100 -200 meters in many areas. Use them. Keep the city clean. Keep diseases far away from you and everyone else. Fall sick less. Live life more.

8. Say no to weighing scales, elevators, suitcases with wheels and driving endlessly hoping to find the closest parking spot.

  • Weigh yourself once a month. Always take the stairs. Carry your suitcases. And, always, park a few hundred meters away from your destination.

And like everything else I write about, you don’t have to (and shouldn’t) follow these blindly. Find the ones that are relevant to your life and pick those. Understand the idea and add a couple of your own. Accept that you’re not going to hit all 8 or 6 or 11 and prioritize the list. Focus more on the more important ones and go easy on the rest. It’s all about you and it’s all about sustainability. Make it work.

Adios!

No sacrifices. No compromises.

Here is the deal…

There are no compromises. There are no sacrifices.

Whatever it is that you are doing you are doing it for yourself. Be it going grocery shopping to feed your family or wining & dining that person you are interested in or finding a house that you love or dealing with the shit your family (who, let’s not forget, you love) gives you or losing fat so you can look awesome.

Take fat loss for example.

I know you’ve given up gluten. I know you don’t eat at McDs anymore. I know you use very little oil in your cooking. I know eating out with friends is a challenge. I know you’ve forgotten what an ice-cream sandwich tastes like. And I know you talk about these ‘sacrifices’ to everyone you meet.

Here’s what I have to say – shut up!

If YOU want something YOU gotta work for it.

You want green in your bank every month? You got to go to work. You want the bliss of victory? You’ve got to train like your life depends on it. You want a PhD following your name? You’ve got to excel in school for years and years. You want to look awesome? You’ve got to consistently train and eat right for weeks or months or even years.

Listen. You’re giving up blahblah (or doing whatever the hell you call a sacrifice or compromise) not for someone else’s benefit but your own. So suck it up and stop talking about it like it is a big fuckin deal ‘cos it isn’t.

Once again..

There are no sacrifices. There are no compromises. There are only actions and results. Your actions dictate your results. Nothing more and definitely nothing less.

Quit making a whiny list of sacrifices and start taking responsibility for your actions. Suddenly, everything will make a whole lot of sense.

Adios!

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,

Divya

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.

and

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

Divya,
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,
Divya”

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!

Summary

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.

How to go from overweight to awesome

We all know that while fat loss is simple, it isn’t really easy. Ok screw that. Fat loss is hard and it sucks big time! Who likes to eat under control? Be it controlling quantity or quality, it sucks. As animals we are naturally gluttonous and the act of watching what you eat truly sucks. As humans we are naturally greedy and the thought of ‘having your cake and eating it too’ is very appealing as much as the reality of ‘there’s no such thing as a free lunch’ is appalling. Nothing profound here. We all know this. And there is an entire industry that lives off of our tendency to get fat, greed to not make any compromises and fear to deal with reality. As a result, we use fat loss strategies that help us reach our goals quickly without having to really hate life.

But these strategies that are aimed at fast results don’t apply to everyone and things are different for the bigger guys and gals among us.

Firstly

I really don’t want to get into the humane and morality side of the argument so I’ll throw in some disclaimers up front.

– This is applicable to anyone who is overweight by 20 kg (45 lb) or more.

– I realize that you may have hormonal imbalances or a genetic disposition to be overweight/obese, but that doesn’t change anything that I’m going to say here.

– I’m in no way being mean. I’m just not being artificially nice (read: fake) like most people you meet possibly are. So if you can’t deal with reality delivered in a no-BS tone, maybe this isn’t for you.

– Be sure to talk to your doctor before making any of these changes ‘cos your health is going to get so much better and he/she may mistakenly take credit for it.

But you have to be nice, Raj!

Ask any of my clients and they’ll tell you I’m full of love… tough love, but love nevertheless. Make no mistake – I will do anything and everything possible to help you reach your goals, but never do anything that even closely resembles sugar coating and hand holding. Why? ‘Cos you’re not stupid! Like one would expect you to take action if you’re running out of money to feed your family, I expect you to take action if your health is deteriorating rapidly. You need reality and I never think twice before giving it to you.

But the truth is – I’m nice. Very very nice actually. I care about you enough to not let you fail. And I do that by being mean real. Don’t get it?

Listen. According to you success is making that number on the scale drop. According to me, success is making you aware of your true situation, feeding you with knowledge about fitness, nutrition and health, moving your thoughts from ‘Where is that bloody magic pill?!’ to ‘This needs work but I know can do this!’ and, finally, pointing you towards the path to sustainable long term health and, hence, happiness.

But you have to be ready to work, buddy!

As far as I’m concerned, there are two types of people – the type that does what it takes to reach their goals and the type that does whatever it takes to reach their goals.

If you are obese or grossly overweight, you better learn to become the type that does whatever it takes to reach your goals! Effort is not what you think it is and don’t ever come to me saying ‘I put in all the effort but I see no results!‘ until you have understood and done everything that is mentioned below.

Your don’t want a diet. You don’t want fat loss. Diets and fat loss are for people who have a couple of kilos to shed. You want lifestyle changes. You want a transformation. A transformation is like going to school or getting a degree. It is in many ways a graduation! It requires time, consistency and effort. Working out well one day or eating one good meal is like doing well in one class test. It is worth a pat on the back but not much more. You need to be able to consistently do what(ever) is required for however long it is required for you to get to where you want to be.

It isn’t going to be quick. I took you decades to get to where you are today. It will take you a significant amount of time to get to where you call yourself fit. Understand that and get ready for the ride. And don’t forget to pack a few thousand gallons of patience ‘cos you’re going to need all of it and possibly more.

It isn’t going to be easy. You are going to be unhappy with either what you eat or how much you eat or both. Lunch will not be ‘Living life king size’ anymore. Choco-whatever-nonsense won’t feature in your life other than in the line “No choco-whatever-nonsense!”. But you had your fun all these years. Don’t try and make it easy. Harden the f*ck up and grab the bull by the horns!

You need to eat right... today, next week, next month, next year and for the rest of your life.

– Stop constantly telling yourself that you’re making sacrifices or compromises. This is your new way of life… the healthy way of life. Don’t resist it. Embrace it. This is the right thing to do!

– Eat real food! Base 90% of your diet on vegetables, meat, eggs, fruits, lentils and dairy. Supplement with non-allergenic starches (potatoes, rice etc.) and stay the hell away from potentially allergenic foods! Special mention – stay away from wheat and any gluten containing foods. Move from vegetable and seed oils to ghee, coconut oil, lard and butter. But, irrespective of what oil you use, reduce oil consumption to ~ 2 tbls per day. Read more about why and how to eat real food here.

– Keep the math out of it. Food isn’t just about calories. Eat below appetite. But don’t starve yourself and don’t eat to fullness.

– Have a legit food log. Write down anything and everything that goes into your mouth. This will help you truly understand how much (and what) you actually eat.

– Learn to cook! Understand recipes and find multiple ways to cook per these guidelines. ‘Boring food’ is a phrase that doesn’t exist. It generally means ‘I don’t know how to cook’ but in my world it means ‘I lack commitment’.

You need to stay active… today, next week, next month, next year and for the rest of your life.

– Move! This could mean regular walks or playing a sport or even zumba classes for all care. But find a place to move. Find a way to move. Find a reason to move.

– Add some form of resistance training. Push, pull, displace and carry some weight 2-3 days a week. No other details matter right now.

– Mobility is a need. A lot of overweight/obese people lose plenty of weight and find themselves (relatively) skinny but can’t seem to be able to move through their full/optimal range of motion which limits them majorly in performing optimally in life. If focused mobility work is not an option, incorporate functional mobility drills into your daily life (more on this later).

You need to get your sleep… enough of it.

– I understand you’re busy. I understand you have a taxing job. I understand you want to stay up late and watch some TV. But do you understand that the lack of sleep is messing with your health? Do you understand that the lack of sleep is stopping you from progressing towards your goals?

– Chronic sleep deprivation (i.e. sleeping a little less over years) causes weight gain, irritability, hypertension, irregular heartbeat, increased stress hormone levels, compromises immunity etc! Read more about the importance of sleep here at The Harvard Medical School and here at Chris Kresser’s 9 Steps of Perfect Health.

You need to reduce stress.

– You need to not be obsessive.Worrying constantly about numbers on the scale or whining about giving up that dessert or complaining about having to make changes, isn’t doing you any favors except making you chronically more stressed.

– Chronically elevated stress levels (due to lifestyle or work or obsession) stalls fat loss without doubt and puts you at a much higher risk of cardiovascular diseases, obesity, memory impairment and more. Read what the awesome Robert Sapolsky says about stress and it’s physiological effects and to understand more about how stress destroys you and how to keep it at bay, knock here at Chris Kresser’s door once again.

Stay sane. Stay strong. Before you say ‘No I can’t eat that cake’ with puppy dog eyes that are ready to burst into tears, say no to pity and say ‘f*ck no’ to self-pity! The act of saying no to that cake is NOT a sacrifice. It is NOT a compromise. It is an act of awesomeness that is slowly but steadily helping you walk towards a goal that is larger than life!

The world is a mean messed up place filled with tasty junk food, cushy chairs and sedentary solace! I’m not complaining. I made it that. You made it that. And it is awesome the way it is as long as you’re not a total idiot. I’m just saying you need to be aware of this and be prepared to deal with every obstacle life throws at you.

I understand this is a lot of work. Definitely more work than any of your friends or colleagues or relatives would ever need to put in. But I want you to understand that you have a lot more to gain out of this!

Now get ready ‘cos this is a challenge and this absolutely calls for a fight! But whats life without a challenge? Whats life without a fight?

Peace out!

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