Being Fit at 40: A Decade of Weight Loss, Acceptance and More
Yes, the title is like one of those ‘self-help’ blog titles, but trust me it is an honest one. This story is not just about weight loss and body transformation, but a long and arduous journey filled with small successes and big failures finally leading to acceptance and desire. Who needs to accept and desire me, you ask? Nobody, but MYSELF!
I am Sangeetha Aiyer, 41 years old, a media professional and mother of a 12 year old boy. Like most average girls, my growing up years were always full of insecurities about the way I looked. From the color of my skin, to my weight, to my teeth, I always found ways to criticize the person I saw in the mirror.
Guys, don’t stop reading. This is not a sob story! I promise. (Plus I share some tips right at the end)
My Insecurities and I
It’s not the outside world that made me feel a certain way or that I was called names or was bullied growing up. Its not like boys rejected me. On the contrary, I got a lot of attention. But there was one person constantly ridiculing and rejecting me. And that person was ME!
But life goes on with little awareness of what’s going on in that head of yours. So, I made up for those insecurities by being a certain person on the outside. An extrovert, always the life of any party, good grades, above average communication skills, a string of boyfriends.
But the thing with beliefs about yourself, especially the negative ones is such that, no matter what you are on the outside and despite how the world around you sees you and appreciates you, the nagging voice inside just doesn’t stop. It always comes back louder and stronger, making you feel inadequate.
Basically, I went through life’s motions with this constant conversation with myself which went from ‘you are awesome, you cracked that presentation’ to ‘you fat f*^k, just look at you”. And somehow the latter stuck far more than the former. As a young 30 year old woman, there were two things I truly hated. Going shopping and having sex with the lights on.
Why, you ask? Just see the picture below!
Age: 30, Weight: 78
I was 30 years old, weighed 78kgs and my son was a year and a half old. Now the deal with change is this. You don’t need large life events to trigger something in you. Sometimes it’s the small and insignificant mundane everyday things can make you pause and reflect. For me, it was this picture after a shoot at work.
When I saw myself here, I just couldn’t imagine how the hell I f*&ked myself to this extent! I let myself go and have become this slob!
I can either keep having those frustrating conversations with myself or I could get off my ass and do something about it.
The years 2007 to 2011, was a long struggle for me in the sense that, I was taking care of a kid, career was demanding, commute hours were long and I was trying to find my own rhythm in eating right and going to the gym. But it was a start.
I looked up on the internet for some basic advice on eating and exercise and got on to a regime. And guess what, I did find some success in losing weight.
Age: 33, Weight: 65
The year was 2010-11, I guess. I was 33-34 years old and weighed 65 kgs. Kudos! Right? I wish!
The morning weigh-ins can make or break your day, depending on what the scale reads. You dread social occasions. You are terrified to eat out. But hey, that’s the information you are bombarded with right!
But you know how it is, life has a way of screwing up your plans. Always! Especially the ones you really need!
Age: 35, Weight: 70
The year is 2012, despite all the well-meant information and advice, my effort to eat right and exercise, I f*^ked up, again! I joined a new work place and work was demanding as I was launching a new TV channel.
So end 2012, I was ready to go through the motions again. This time I hired a personal trainer (I hated going to the gym) and was on every diet possible. I am serious!
I was reading tons and tons of articles and papers on diets. I became a walking –talking app for what food and drink contained how many calories, how to count calories, what to eat at what time, etc. I was evolved! (really?!).
And weight loss was still the major GOAL! And I achieved it!
Age: 38, Weight: 63
Finally! Weight Goal hit as per every chart. I was 63 kgs. It was December, 2015. And I was looking pretty okay for a 38 year old. Right?
Wrong. Did I not tell you about those nasty voices in your head? The ones that won’t stop screwing with you. Those voices went on. Despite all the effort, constantly losing weight as per plan, the voice of rejection did not stop.
And this is what self-persecution does to you. You start setting difficult and more difficult goals. Almost as if you want to fail, only to reject yourself further. That’s what I did.
I said to myself, ‘Come on, let’s round off this weight and hit the 60 kg mark! You’ve not weighed 60 kgs since 1996!’ That’s a good goal to have!
I must tell you that by this time my husband, friends, co-workers, mom basically everybody I could think of and who knew me were worried, and with good reason annoyed with my obsession of losing weight.
I was tired frankly! And I started to think, that I can’t be doing this all my life. Seeing food as calories, the gym and exercise as a means to burn them and the big, and every-time new weight loss goal looming on my head, all the time!
Plus, I had hit the weight loss plateau. No matter what I did, the weight did not budge.
Age: 39, Weight: Umm... Doesn’t Matter
Early 2016, some shit show was happening on the personal front, another TV channel launch was impending, and given my history to gain weight during launches, I was doing what a weight-loss internet junkie would do.
Scouring through the web for articles and write ups for weight-loss when you hit a plateau, I stumbled upon an interesting article that talked about a way of eating that helped cancer pateitns, helped patients with epilepsy and host of other major disorders.
I also stumbled, on another article (total tangent, but I told you about the shit show on the personal front) on the importance of having the right values and beliefs. I know! Very spiritual and all.
This switch in the value, started the process of acceptance and desire for self.
What the hell happened to weight loss you ask? Refer to the pictures.
Age: 41, Weight: 57 & Self-Desired
My name is Sangeetha Aiyer. I am a media professional. I am 41 years old, have a 12 year old son. I weigh 57 kgs and my body fat percentage is 23. Oh btw, I truly desire myself, except for my teeth may be (just kidding).
So, what did I actually do, apart from having those ‘oh I am enlightened’ moments? Two things:
- I embraced the ketogenic lifestyle (I did not say diet!). Because when you say diet, it seems like a temporary thing to most people.
- I started focusing on building strength and fitness instead of having a weight-loss goal.
Let’s elaborate a little on both. Let’s start with food!
What Do I Eat?
I have been following the ketogenic lifestyle since January 2016. I have been on it for more than two and a half years now. I know it’s the current buzz word and seems like the newest fad. But trust me, it is great. And why? That is a whole new article to elaborate on. Since January this year, I combine Intermittent fasting (IF) with Keto and the results have been amazing.
Both these lifestyles are core to our DNA as homo-sapiens and our ancient culture. So quick bullet points on what my nutrition philosophy (ooh big word! Nah just way of eating) includes:
- Sugar in any form is not a part of my nutrition. This includes white processed sugar, brown sugar, honey, jaggery, etc. My go to sweetener is Stevia or Truvia. This also takes away desserts, confectionaries, bakery products out of my nutrition plan.
- Fizz and Cola, and any food/beverage item that is made by Big Food companies. It’s a big NO to processed food. And by processed food my definition is – if have to open a packet to eat or drink it, DON’T!
- Healthy and good fats are big part of my meal. Ghee, unsalted white butter, cheese (in all forms), coconut oil and groundnut oil are the sources of fat.
- Meat is also a significant part of my nutrition. From chicken to fish to pork to mutton, all form the source of protein for my meal plan.
- Now to the grains. Carbs form 10% max of my nutrition (not more than 50 gms a day) and I get it from vegetables mostly. I avoid grain and pulses completely when I am on keto.
- Most importantly, I listen to my body and eat only when really hungry. Which is not more than 2 meals a day.
This forms 80% to 90% of my eating pattern. Now and then, I introduce variations, I will go off keto and combine IF with a low carb meal plan, but include grains.
How Do I Workout?
Let me start by saying that there is always this debate going on, on what one should do. To each his own. But the important thing is, each of us are wired differently to different exercise routines and types. Some like endurance, others weight training and a few others running. From a fitness standpoint a combination of strength training, endurance and conditioning is key.
How you assign weightage to these three things, depends on how you are wired. Having put that on the table, this is my fitness philosophy:
- For the last 14 months, I am back working out at the gym. After 3 years of training at home, I now work with a fabulous personal trainer, who knows his shit! And that’s important. My trainer has taken the time and energy to explain what weight goals in terms of strength one needs to have and why.
- I strength train with weights 3 times a week for 40 minutes and no more. Out of these 3 days, 2 days are heavy weight training (read: squats, dead-lifts, push ups, pull ups, overhead press and pull downs). This is like the basics of strength training. Like Maths and Science in school, if you will. The balance one day is endurance or conditioning work out. This means lighter weights and more repetitions. My trainer calls this ‘cosmetic workout’.
- The other 3 days in a week is cardio. I walk 30-45 mins only (only walk, no run. I screwed my knee joining the running movement) which allows me to cover 4 kms at a brisk pace.
- Sleep is an essential part of fitness. I am not very good at this, but I am trying. I am told 7 to 8 hours of good sleep is non-negotiable for health. It does a bunch of stuff. Regulates hormones, promotes recovery of muscle, etc . It is a big factor that aids weight-loss.
I can’t end this blog without this picture!
BTW are you wondering about the voice in my head? No, its not gone. But it has changed the conversation. I hear things like ‘let’s hit that strength goal of lifting 60 kgs! Let’s see how strong you are’ or ‘Wow, someones’s looking real sexy!’
And coming back to the two things I truly hated, shopping is a fun activity now (its another thing that I don’t shop as much) and I feel so sexy that I can bang myself!
I honestly desire myself!
And trust me, those who know me, know that I am no saint when it comes to certain vices. (that will call for another blog!).
So, that’s it folks. Its been a long read but I have tried to be as authentic as possible in my writing and in sharing my journey with you guys.
I hope this will encourage you in taking that first step that you’ve been thinking of. Cheers!
(Sangeetha Aiyer is a media professional by day and a dreamer, drifter and seeker by night. She is a keto enthusiast and a strength training evangelist. She believes that life is always work-in-progress and that it’s important to love the process than the result.)
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