Vishal Sharma is 26, 5′11″ tall, and currently weighs 164 pounds. At the beginning of last year, he weighed 237 pounds. This is the story of his weight-loss journey.
I have struggled with weight since I was in high school. However, I did not face my troubles head on until I weighed nearly 240 pounds last March. Like many, I have wanted to lose weight for a very long time. I tried every diet possible. In the past, I wanted to lose weight for the approval of others. I was motivated by the opinions of strangers. I knew people around me who had begun to live a healthier lifestyle, but I didn’t see myself following in their footsteps due to the fear of the unknown. I did not know how to begin, how to manage my eating, and what to do in the gym. I had a fear of failing.
One day in early March 2015, I came home after work and stared at my calendar. I remember clearly that it was a Tuesday afternoon. I told myself, “OK, starting tomorrow morning, you will change your life for yourself!” But this time, there something was different in how I thought. It was the following sentence that changed everything: “NO, you will change it now!” I changed quickly into my shorts and T-shirt and went on a two-mile run/walk, and that ordinary Tuesday changed my entire life.
What worked best for me was setting monthly goals that I knew I could accomplish. I took my journey in small steps that eventually led to giant leaps.
The first month, I took on the goal to run/walk 1 to 1.5 miles per day for the month of March. Knowing that it takes 21 days to form a habit, I ran and walked for 30 days.
After finishing the first month’s hurdle, I set my goal for the second month to run 1.5 miles non-stop. Setting this goal not only inspired me to run longer, but it also helped me to overcome my doubts. I realized in my second month that my mind gives up before my body! When I realized that mental weakness, I began to train my mind to focus.
In my third month, I set both physical and mental goals. Physically, I decided to run 2.5 to 3 miles without stopping and to incorporate some light weight training. Mentally, I began to understand how my insecurities governed my eating habits. I came to realize that I ate food not because I was hungry, but because it was simply available. I focused on these two tasks to ensure that my journey would be successful.
Now, I was at my fourth month. During my journey to that point, I had been running seven days a week for three months. I began to feel comfortable with what I was doing in the gym. I realized in order to succeed in my quest to become healthy, I needed to make permanent, life-long changes. I did not want to go on a “diet” because diets are only temporary. Instead, I made conscious decisions to eliminate substances that are not good for my mind, body, or spirit. Physically, I challenged myself to run 4 miles nonstop within 30 minutes or less. This allowed me to push myself further. Mentally, I eliminated sodas, Starbucks, and processed food — all of which contributed to my excessive eating and foolishly spending money on substances that didn’t nourish my body.
By the fifth month, I was thrilled with how I began to feel. I had immense energy, I began to look better, and I was in need of new clothes. Physically, I wanted to keep pushing myself. I signed up for a 10K that I had completed a year before with a time of 1:15:42. I challenged myself to run a 10K in under 1 hour. This goal seemed daunting, but I knew I could do it as the race was in a couple of months. In order for me to meet this goal, I knew I needed to monitor my eating in a very strict manner. I downloaded the MyFitnessPal app, and it helped me control my calorie intake. I was not only able to scan any item that had a barcode that I chose to eat, but the app also allowed me to input recipes! The latter motivated me to cook more frequently and be in control of what went into my body.
I finished my 10K in a personal record time of 52 minutes. Since the beginning of my journey, I have completed two half-marathons, both in under two hours. Now, I am training for a full marathon. This may seem, at first, like a very daunting and difficult goal, but I know that just like with my smaller goals, I will be able to accomplish my fourth race!
Once I reached my goal, I felt proud. I had never felt this particular feeling before. I was thrilled. However, the next feeling I had was determination. I knew that losing weight was the easy part, and now maintaining the weight was the hardest – especially since the holidays were approaching.
Before that March when I started losing weight, whenever I looked at myself in the mirror, I never saw an obese person. I saw a Vishal that was thin and didn’t have a weight problem. I did not feel fat. Now, when I look at the 237-pound Vishal, I do not know who that person is. I am finally able to recognize myself! I am finally VISHAL!
I have only just begun to maintain my weight, but what I have learned so far is that the scale only tells you what you want to hear. I rely on how I feel more than anything else. The majority of my healthy habits now revolve around how I eat. I have substituted simple carbs with complex ones and monitored how much salt and fat is in my food. Though I do focus on working out regularly, I feel that what I eat is what matters most when I am trying to maintain my healthy lifestyle.
Though I continue to eat similar meals as I had when I was losing weight, I now eat more frequently. I have begun to eat four to five small meals a day to ensure that my body is fueled and I do not eat impulsively out of hunger. Because I am training for a marathon, I have continued my running. I now run 10 to 16 miles at a time and incorporate cross-training (swimming, biking, and running) into my exercise routine. My next big goal for 2016 is to gain lean muscle, so I am now focusing my energy into weight training more than cardio.
I used to wake up at 5 a.m. to go to the gym and work out, but now that the weather has changed and it’s freezing out at 5 a.m., I have had to reschedule when I exercise. I work out either after work or a few hours later so that the gym is a bit less busy. That way, I can fulfill everything in my workout plan for the day in a timely manner.
I recognize that when I have cravings for something, I will answer my cravings in a healthy manner, rather than waiting for the cravings to build and ending up indulging in the entire bag of chips or the entire half-gallon of ice cream. Planning my eating habits on MyFitnessPal has allowed me to make good choices in what I choose to eat. I’d rather eat something that is 550 calories that will last me a few hours than drink a peppermint mocha from Starbucks that will only satisfy me for a few minutes.
- Know why you want to lose the weight. Do it for yourself and not others.
- Start slowly and build your confidence and endurance.
- Try mixing things up in your routine.
- Set realistic and achievable goals. There is no point in setting imaginary goals, because they will most likely fail and hurt your motivation and the hard work you have completed.
- Take your journey in small steps; every step counts toward a giant leap!