I am a Clinical Nutritionist and a Mind-Body Transformation Coach today. This title did not happen over-night or by chance.
The pursuit of understanding my body, de-mystifying the reasons for weight gain such as cravings, hunger pangs etc., which, we think is a “normal”, recognizing that willpower is as temporary as it gets acknowledging that every body is unique, that the same strategy does not work for the same body at different phases in life – all of this has helped me be the best version of myself twice over as well as help many Indians get freedom from weight.
Saga of Weight gain - the first time!
I was like any normal Indian girl growing up in terms of weight and height, rather I was considered to be fairly thin and scrawny for my height (170mts / 5ft 7in). My weight used to hover between 59 - 62 till I was 26 years. I joined the corporate world after my MBA in 2000 and like any new youngster, frequent parties, late nights along with a lot of food and some alcohol indulgence, longer work hours, irregular meals became a norm. By the age of 30 I gained about 6 kgs. The weight gain did not bother me at that point of time, as by then I had transitioned into someone who appeared normal for her height from someone who was always considered thin.
At 31, I decided to have my first child. The pregnancy was uncomplicated. However, I gained a whooping 25 kgs. For the first time I was 93 kgs. Family and doctors attributed it to family genes, a late pregnancy etc. I wasn’t bothered about my pregnancy weight gain as I thought it was a temporary phase and like every pregnant woman who loses weight after the delivery, I would lose it too, given the fact that I was always a thin girl.
Well, I was proved wrong, I did not see myself losing much of weight after my delivery or during the first year post the delivery as well. At 33 I started trying to lose weight. I tried various strategies.
I tried portion control first, but soon my hunger pangs and cravings would take over and in a couple of weeks, I would soon gain back all the weight lost. I tried exercising extensively and hired a personal trainer as well. This strategy also did not last for too long. I would lose weight but my extensive exercising would make me very tired through the day and therefore was causing a hindrance to my work schedules and timelines. Also my body would take time to recover from the strenuous workouts and I would not feel energetic to get to the gym the next day. Extensive cardio activity also did not go well with my body type as I would feel very hungry through the day after the work outs and would tend to eat a lot more, hence did not see a difference in the scale. I enrolled myself to a slimming center, believing that they would have the weight loss formula that my body needed. For me, joining the slimming center’s weight loss program was the most traumatic period experience in my weight loss journey. I definitely lost weight however, it was not sustainable as I was starving through the whole period, I continued with the program as I had paid for it. That was the time I realized that 1 – 2 glasses of water increase your weight by a 100 grams. I lost about 10 kgs during the program. Soon after I completed the program, I was craving for my favorite foods so much that I started to indulge in them and I gained back all the lost weight in six months. I tried a couple of dieticians too, however; there were no solutions that were forth coming that could help me lose weight and sustain the weight loss by indulging in my favorite foods like desserts. Nobody was able to tell me how to eat at a party, how to manage myself in a function and why we get cravings.
By 39, I had pretty much tried every solution available in the market. Not only did the ordeal of weight continue, additionally all the family genes of metabolic disorders also came knocking on my doors. I was faced with a grim reality of borderline diabetes, blood pressure, cholesterol, palpitation, knee pains, psoriasis etc. I also experienced a lot of fatigue, lethargy, irritability, mood swings along with all the health conditions. All these conditions were also impacting relationships at home with children and spouse.
I had a choice of either resorting to medicines or lose the weight. I took the decision of losing weight, but this time, I decided to study nutrition. In front of me was my inspiration - my father! If he could lose 20 kgs of weight at the ripe age of 60, by studying nutrition and sustain it for over 10 years, I could do it too as my genes are predominantly from my father’s side of the family. His weight loss strategy that did not work for me was variety in food. He could eat the same foods for over a period of time, but I would get bored very quickly with the same menu and within about 10 days, I would start looking for reasons for not following the plan, it was otherwise a very effective plan.
The application of some parts of what I learnt from nutrition courses along with dad’s encyclopedia of knowledge on Indians and Indian bodies made me feel healthy from within and also experienced weight loss. Since I now understood food in terms of nutritional composition, I brought in variety. After the initial success of 8 kgs in the first few months, my weight hit a plateau for several months, which frustrated me a lot. In front of me were 2 choices - either to continue with the process of good health or stress about not losing weight and stop the process of good health. I made the choice of not stressing on weight but enjoy the process. I in fact stopped checking my weight on weighing scale. The only strategy that I followed during that time was to follows plans that were sustainable and had pleasure in-built in it. After all, I had to follow a healthy active lifestyle for life. Along the way, I chanced upon a NLP course that promised to make me a more efficient. While I was doing the course I realized that I had very many limiting beliefs around food, health, relationships, family genes, I was subconsciously operating with these limiting beliefs,since I was a child. My context since childhood had changed, but my limiting beliefs and dysfunctional habits continued. The huge ocean of the unconscious patterning of our mind, the belief systems, our equation with food, food addictions, food cravings and its impact on our weight further intrigued me. Hence I took to pursuing a lot of unique courses in the realm of mind and body, researched a lot on these areas and applied the concepts to myself. After about 18 months, I happen to check my weight as all my clothes were way to loose. I realized I not only lost over 25 kgs. I was finally 68 kgs again but also reversed all my health conditions. During this period, I devised ways to enjoy my favorite foods, exercise adequately to support good health, socialize without worrying about weight, manage my stressors more effectively, improve my equation with food and most importantly balance health, weight and pleasure. These strategies, help me effortlessly sustain my weight till I was 44.
Weight gain – the 2nd time!
I thought, I had mastered it all., I knew exactly what to do in every situation., was happy teaching people from across the globe to sustain weight lost and was very successful. However, at 45, my body started to shift, I again started to gain weight with the same successful strategies, I had used the previous so many years. This time, the weight gain was more in terms of volume. While the gain in weight was about 4 -5 kgs only, I went up by 2 sizes. There seemed a lot of water retention. I tried all the healthy strategies that I could think off for about 2 years., some of which, include intermittent fasting, detoxing my body etc. I didn’t lose any weight and neither did I see much of impact on volume either. Of course, this time around all my health parameters were perfect. I was very happy to see wonderful readings in HBa1C (5.2), LDL (80), HDL (55) etc. What intrigued me, was the volume gain. Some part of me started to get despondent and started to believe that it could be a volume gain due to pre-menopause phase. As the lock-down due to Covid-19 was announced, I decided to use the “work-from-home” to my advantage. I decided to check on how each food group was impacting my body and remove foods which, were causing water retention. I also worked on my metabolism through foods and exercise that is sustainable, regimen, improve my digestive health with suitable supplements. I am happy to say that I have finally got to a weight of 65 kgs after 22 years and have able to sustain the weight for over 2 months now.
Few strategies I would like to share for sustainable weight loss and freedom from weight are:
Enjoy the process, else you cannot continue for a long time.
Balance health with pleasure for sustainability
Take one step at a time, quick fixes don’t work in the long term
Every body is unique, identify aspects that is causing weight gain for you and work on them. Issues of weight gain transcend mind and body., be aware of them
Acknowledge that the body is communicating with you through cravings, weight gain. Something is not working for it.
Every phase in life needs a different strategy. Recognize it!
Deepika Chalasani is a Clinical Nutritionist, Mind and Body Transformation Coach and co-founder of Fit4Life India, an integrated nutrition and wellness organisation for Indians that provides complete solutions, addressing health and wellness challenges of individuals by working on their overall well being. Deepika, best nutritionist in Hyderabad for weight loss and online dietician can be contacted via email firstname.lastname@example.org or Mobile +91 94910 11202.