2012 was a momentous year for many. Andy Murray was the first ‘British’ man to win a grand slam tennis tournament since Fred Perry in 1936; Manchester City pipped Manchester United to the Premier League title on goal difference to clinch their first title since 1968; and there was the small matter of the Olympics, which came to my home town. It was also the year I changed my life.
I had completed my 10th year of secondary school teaching. During those dark, lonely and stressful times it sometimes seemed food was my only friend!!
Moreover, stressed spelled backwards is desserts!!!
My weight increased exponentially since I got married. Asian elders maintain that it was, and is, a sign of a happy marriage!! But after a public dressing down in Ramadhan 2011 and an increased awareness of a family history of diabetes and heart disease, I came to the conclusion that I needed to do something drastic to address my malaise.
I lost over 20kg during an 8 month period from January 2012; dropping from over 100kg to less than 80kg. The sheer size of this feat can be understood in terms of everyday objects. 20kg is equivalent to a giant indian pantry size bag of basmati rice or more simply 20 bags of sugar!! At my peak I was losing an average of a kg a week!!! Some people were taken aback by my sudden weight change, even whispering in my ears, “Are you ill? Do you have cancer?”.
In this post I will explain how you can achieve these same fantastic results.
There’s no magic bullet
Unfortunately there is no magic tablet or miracle food that one can consume and lose weight. Quite simply, most weight loss tablets are either hunger suppressants or vitamin pills which at best are tools that may aid weight loss when combined with a healthy diet. The most effective and scientifically proven method of losing weight is having a proper diet and adopting a healthier lifestyle. People often asked me if I was on a diet, my reply… “I’m not on a diet, I’m eating healthily”.
Some fad diets can make you lose weight very quickly. However if you’re thinking of long term weight loss and maintenance of a healthy body weight, fad diets don’t work, as they are unsustainable.
What to eat
I come from a traditional Muslim gujarati family who enjoy their food. The good news is that I didn’t give up my foodie heritage when I undertook my fitness journey. At most, the food was adapted slightly to ensure that I attain my fitness goals. More good news was that I didn’t need to starve myself either!! Meal frequency is very important in this healthy eating plan. Its hard to believe but you need to eat every 2/3 hours to lose weight!
So this is my typical working day.
07.15 Breakfast: Muesli/Weetabix with water and a dash of milk. Black tea
10.30: Fruit (apple, orange, banana etc)
13:30 Meal (sandwich; protein source and complex carbs)
16:00 Fruit/ Snack (wholemeal bread toast & sugar free peanut butter with black tea)
18:45 Main meal (complex carbs; wholemeal rice or chapatti & reduced fat curry made with olive oil).
Fruit/0% fat yogurt if peckish! (at least 1 hour before sleeping).
All meals should have the following three elements
1. Good quality protein source (lean meat, chicken, fish, lentils etc)
2. Complex carbohydrates (wholemeal bread / chapatti, wholemeal pasta, brown rice)
3. Good fats (olive oil, fish oils etc)
Its tough at the start! I remember my first day; even though i was eating much more than usual, I was starving at 5pm!
Eating regularly maintains a healthy metabolism. So you have to eat to lose weight. If you stop eating your body will slow down your metabolism and therefore you’ll feel lethargic, as your body tries to conserve its energy stores.
Its not how much you eat, it’s what you eat and when you eat it.
Why wholemeal/wholegrain carbohydrate sources?
Wholemeal/wholewheat carbohydrates sources are low GI carbohydrates, which are slow burn and give a sustained release of energy. White carbohydrates are high GI and are ‘fast burn’, which will drastically increase blood sugar levels. This in turn causes an insulin spike, that causes the production of glycogen and eventually fat (if the glycogen is not used up).
So use wholemeal sources and LIMIT YOUR WHITE CARBOHYDRATES. Make sure you have loads of healthy snacks around. Initially, your body will be craving the sugar, so get some healthy sugar alternatives such as dates, raisins and dried fruit (not sugared). You will also need to plan and structure your day around your food. Stay away from the high sugar, high fat and high salt foods, such as crisps, chocolates and biscuits.
To count or not to count
The jury is still out whether calories should be counted. Personally I didn’t bother counting calories, I just ate clean, low fat, complex carb foods. However, later on I used the My Fitness Pal, smartphone app to track macro-nutrients, especially when I was focusing on building up lean muscle. Some people may find calorie counting useful.
Diet or lifestyle change?
Diets are for fixed periods of time! You’ll lose weight whilst dieting but you’ll put it back on as soon as you stop. In order to keep the weight off for good, you’ll need to adopt a sustainable lifestyle change. You can still eat the foods you enjoy, albeit weekly. More to come in my cheat meal section!!
How to make Indian food healthy!
You may think its an oxymoron, but its very easily achieved. Think about using healthy carbohydrates. Eat brown basmati rice instead of normal basmati rice. Attempt chapattis made with wholemeal flour, or eat wholemeal pitta bread.
Chicken and fish are good lean sources of protein. I’ve seen my mother and wife spending 20 mins trimming excess fat from a single chicken carcass. The HaloodieFoodie household has also started to use more beef in our cooking. We find it less fatty then lamb and mutton, especially after Mrs HaloodieFoodie has spent 30 minutes ‘de-lipiding’ the meat.
The base of all good curries is the fried onions. We cook them in a non stick pan and use olive or sunflower oil, which is then filtered out with a sieve. You can then reuse this onion oil a few more times. Add as much spice as you want. In fact, garlic, ginger, chilli powder and most spices are thermogenic agents and increase metabolism.
My friend started this healthy eating plan and his mother lost a stone by simply eating the same food as him!!
I’m a busy teacher and bring loads of work home. I don’t have time to engage with long drawn out cardio sessions at the gym. The new trend in fitness is a short intense workout, called HIIT (High Intensity interval training). It should only last about 15-20 mins at the start, steadily increasing to 45 mins to an hour after 6 weeks.
I initially used Mike Chang’s Six Pack shortcut 9 Minute workout, but you may want to find a suitable HIIT activity. Make sure its short, intense and regular.
Mike Chang 9 Minute Workout Routine Breakdown:
Do 15 seconds per exercise and complete all 5 exercises in a row, that will equal one set. Rest for 1 minute after each set and repeat for 3 set to complete the routine.
Jumping squats with arms up
Side to side push ups
Squat and front raise
See Mike Chang’s video of the workout and an indepth of explanation of each exercise.
Some more links
After a few months I started to ramp it up and do the following dumbbell exercise routine.
These workouts are very intense and most people will enter into a state where your body cannot supply enough oxygen for your cells to use. Your cells will continue to get energy without using oxygen, which is called anaerobic respiration. Anaerobic respiration releases less energy than normal respiration, hence you will burn more calories producing the energy you require. That’s not all, Anaerobic respiration produces an oxygen debt. This is known as Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Debt or EPOC. Your body will continue to burn calories to repay the oxygen debt, sometimes hours after you’ve worked out!! Some studies have shown that after HIIT workouts, the EPOC effect can still be found up to 38 hours after the workout!! Wow.
These exercises can be very demanding please consult with your doctor before starting an exercise routine, see disclaimer below.
HIIT exercise will help you build muscle. Initially I didn’t want to build muscle, I was only interested in losing weight. However, it soon dawned on me that it takes more energy to maintain muscle than fat. Therefore building muscle is very helpful in managing and maintaining fitness goals.
For the ladies picturing abnormal looking muscular women, don’t worry. Men can develop muscles much more easily then women, as they produce the male hormone testosterone. You won’t look like a female bodybuilder unless you inject yourself with illegal substances!!
‘Tears will get you sympathy, Sweat will get you results”
After the first month, treat yourself to an unhealthy meal (called a cheat meal) and repeat the cheat meal cycle weekly. This will ensure you keep your sanity and you don’t become a recluse, especially during social events. Try to link your cheat meals with achieving your fitness goals. Its important that you plan the days of your cheat meals and it doesn’t become a cheat meal because you haven’t planned your meals. This blog has some delicious cheat meal recipes !! Finally, its a cheat meal, not a cheat day!!!
Get physiologically ready, prepare to exercise your will power, and above all don’t give in to temptation.
‘Every moment of resistance to temptation is a victory’
Fredrick William Faber
Focus on your goals, don’t sacrifice long term goals for short term pleasures. Stick with the diet plan and the short intense exercise and it’ll work. If you’re regular, you’ll notice the difference in body shape in 4 weeks. Others will notice the difference in 8 weeks.
Please use the comment section of the blog to tell me how you get on.