I began my weight loss journey in November 2013. But it took me precisely 15 months to realize that I was responsible for ME! It wasn’t anyone else’s onus but exclusively mine. I owed myself too much to ignore this fact. And another 12 months later I had lost 11 kgs.
Since I began, it’s been a roller coaster journey with many a setback. In between, I gave up physically and more importantly lost the motivation to continue dozens of times. Giving up was the easiest while pulling myself back to hit the gym again was the toughest.
It surprises me every time I listen to women speak about loosing weight. We all seem to have the same story.
Like them, when I joined the gym too, I thought I did so for all the right reasons – to look thin, fit into my old clothes, be energetic and feel lighter. I wanted heads to turn while I walked down the road or into a room full of people. I planned and desperately hoped that I could do all those wonderful things after losing the excess weight.
A sign in the gym said, ‘an hour a day is only 4% of your day so no excuses!’ Unfortunately, this mantra didn’t work.
And every time I failed, I had all the right excuses too – no time to gym, people stared at me while I struggled to exercise, age was catching up, work pressure, changing priorities, inability to find the correct exercise regime etc. Getting back to the gym after a short break (for whatever reason!) was difficult and I believed that if I ate less it would mean that I will loose weight eventually.
Basically, I was stuck between wanting to be thin yet remaining obese! I had stopped ‘living’ my life and just survived a day at a time.
When my daughter was born, I was already in my 40s. After the initial year of learning to be her mother, suddenly I realized that if I didn’t make changes in my life, she would grow up to become ‘me!’ While I felt elated that it would be wonderful to have someone who was my mirror image, in reality it was an awfully scary thought. How could I let her be like me, with all my flaws, emotional baggage and misdirected ambitions? No!
She was the reason I embarked on this journey yet it wasn’t enough to keep me committed.
Doing it for ‘MYSELF’
After the third failed attempt enlightenment struck. I realized that I was doing this for external validation, for ‘other’ people. I always looked at myself through everyone else’s eyes. I had to look good for others not because I wanted to look good for myself! I had to loose weight for my daughter so that she learns that it’s important to stay healthy.
It took me almost half my lifetime to truly begin to care for myself. Growing up we’re hardly ever taught to love ourselves as morally it’s being selfish and therefore unacceptable. Instead we’re taught to love others, inanimate things, God, the good things in life etc. But no one tells us, ‘child, first learn to love yourself before trying to love the whole god damn world!’
It took 27 months to slowly unpack and let go of the baggage that I had been carrying within – both physically and mentally.
Today I go to the gym for myself because I wholeheartedly acknowledge that first and foremost, I love myself, care for myself and want to stay healthy for myself.
Earlier, when my instructor asked me to do 50 or 100 repetitions (reps), I made a face, thought he didn’t understand me, or did it so I remained occupied while he simply walked the floor. It took a while to understand that those many reps impacted me directly and had nothing to do with him. I used to shy away from doing weights as I thought it would make me beefy but actually doing it right only helps to build muscles. This acceptance made a huge difference to building my stamina, flexibility and aided weight loss!
He also explained that osteoporosis impacted women more than men as we tend to have smaller and thinner bones. Also estrogen, the hormone that protects bones, decreases sharply as we reach menopause causing bone loss. It was a wake up call for me. Today when I look at my well toned calf muscles I’m proud and know that even as I grow older I won’t suffer knee or leg pain. Before I would wake up sore with either a backache or neck ache or my knees would hurt. I couldn’t sit on the floor or carry my daughter for a long stretch or heavy grocery bags. Walking up stairs would be a challenge.
Exercising hasn’t only helped me to loose weight but to be strong. Strength is both internal and external. It’s the inner strength that forces us to push our limits. Unless we push ourselves, we can never know how strong we really are.
Building strength and stamina
Like most women, I would think about myself, last! When it came to taking care of others, I would aim for perfection. This need went beyond performance pressure. Sometimes I needed to prove myself but soon it became a habit. I overlooked that it was ‘me’ who was taking care of others and therefore needed as much care and attention. And I never acknowledged that the best part was that I didn’t have to depend on anyone else to take care of me.
So along with an hour of exercise every day, I began to portion control my food intake, tried to have less sweets and fried food. From being a rice eater, now I’m ok about having rotis. But I don’t deprive myself (or feel guilty) and perhaps that’s why losing weight has been a slower process but it doesn’t bother me anymore. Suddenly I realize that this journey is no longer about weight loss but about being healthy!
Working out helped me to stay focused about caring for myself so that I could manage the house, cook and clean, take the dog out for walks, take my daughter to school and work on my consultancy projects. I value my gym time and no longer look at weight loss as it’s only outcome. Staying healthy, building stamina and upbeat about life are equally important.
I’ve learned to love myself and value my body as it’s the only source of strength I know that I have complete control over. In the last year, apart from the common cold and cough, I haven’t fallen ill. And two months ago, there were major upheavals in my life. We had to shift house and simultaneously our full time maid left. My strength was all that I banked on to pull me through successfully.
I’m super proud that even during this difficult time I didn’t stop working out. And needless to say I’m happy, really happy with myself.