On the morning of 16 June, I got an email from a top insurance company that said it wouldn't be covering me as I was overweight and pre-diabetic. I was at a hotel in Dar es Salaam having hot coffee at its poolside café. That email ruined my mood. I was furious. How could they reject me?
Gradually I realised that being a commercial organisation, the insurance company was in business to make money. Why should it cover me, a risky asset, even if I was ready to pay premium. I was 5'7" and 86kg. I looked like I was more than five months pregnant. I found it difficult to bend down and tie my shoelaces.
I needed to do something about it. I decided to lose weight and announced this to my wife and close friends. They all laughed, and then suggested that I should approach some other insurance companies that don't insist on covering only fit people -- maybe a public sector insurance company.
I had paid for gym membership several times in the past, but never used it. Instead whenever I got a chance I binged on food.
I told them that I don't want pity from insurance companies. I would rather lose weight. They all laughed and made fun of me. They knew well that I didn't like going to gym and exercise. I had paid for gym membership several times in the past, but never used it. Instead whenever I got a chance I binged on food. So how could anyone take me seriously, especially my friends?
My sedentary lifestyle was no help either. From 10am to 6pm, five days a week, I sat before a computer screen, reading, researching and writing something or the other. There was no physical activity. To be honest, I wanted to lose weight but didn't want to go to the gym and exercise. And I couldn't change my job that required me to sit before a computer like a statue.
But my life was no different before and after office hours either. I read newspapers or flipped through my mobile while commuting to office or returning home. Even at home, I spent my time either before the TV or on the phone.
Yet, I wanted to lose weight this time. Somehow! Anyhow!
And guess what?
I did it.
I lost 8kg in four months, and what's more, I never went to the gym. And no, before you think the worst, there was no liposuction involved and not one diet pill passed my lips. This is how I did it.
1. I changed my eating pattern
Earlier, I used to have three big meals: breakfast, almost always taken in hurry, heavy lunch and then elaborate dinner that included something sweet (as in most Indian families from north to south). My dinner never happened before 10pm. I'd go to bed almost immediately after dinner.
I reversed this meal routine in the following manner: I started the day with a morning walk, followed by some fruit and oatmeal/muesli with toned milk (sometimes I added muesli to oatmeal in 75%-25% ratio). My lunch included broken wheat dalia with dal and green vegetables. Between 3.30 and 4pm, I had light snacks -- either roasted gram, sprouts or cut fruit.
The smaller you make your meals the better. To deal with hunger pangs, increase the number of meals but keep the quantity limited.
I left office sharp at 6pm and reached home around 7.30pm thanks to Mumbai traffic. Had dinner latest by 8.30 pm. Dinner included four very thin chapatis, green vegetables with paneer cooked with minimum possible oil, and one bowl dal. For three persons-- me, my wife and two-year-old son -- the maximum permissible limit of oil is 1 litre a month. We never exceed this. And I stick to my 10pm deadline for going to bed. Sometimes even earlier.
Thus, from three large meals, I shifted to five smaller ones. I reduced the size of my meals by 30-40% without much difficulty. The smaller you make your meals the better. To deal with hunger pangs, increase the number of meals but keep the quantity limited.
2. I banned certain items
I imposed a complete ban on the following food items: any sugary food and sweets, including cakes/pastries, soft drinks, packaged juices, sugary breakfast cereals like cornflakes/wheat flakes/oat bites and all kinds of junk foods, whether of desi or videshi origin -- so no pizzas, burgers, samosas, vada pav or pav bhaji for me, not even once.
I avoided any processed or packaged food made of refined flour or maida. I stopped eating even biscuits because of their sugar content. Yes sir, even Marie biscuits contain 25% sugar.
My advice: buy any packaged food only after scanning through the labels. Use mobile apps like FoodSwitch that can suggest healthier alternatives if you can't resist packaged food. For the right endorsement fees, our beloved cricketers and film stars can convince even well-educated people that junk is indeed healthy. The only packaged cereals that I have are oats and muesli with low or no sugar.
3. Yes, even some fruits and veggies were off limits
I stopped having the following fruits and vegetables: bananas, chiku, dates, mangoes, beetroot and potatoes. Instead I mostly relied upon bottle guards, French beans, spinach, fresh paneer, apples, guava, papaya, pears, musk melon and watermelon.
It helps to have a caring and understanding spouse who will help implement your low-calorie, low-fat food regime.
4. Light exercise
I made sure to undertake a 40 minutes' brisk walk six mornings a week before on an empty stomach (except water). When I couldn't wake up on time, I did stretching exercises -- a combination of push ups, squats, dips, jumping and slow running for 20-30 minutes. However, I kept it limited to not more than twice a week. Besides, being a lazy soul, I prefer brisk walking that doesn't require any serious effort. You can do it while talking on the phone or listening to music.
5. Regular sex
Doing "it" twice or thrice a week does help in burning calories and de-stressing. You should try this if you have a willing partner!
And it helps to have a caring and understanding spouse who will help implement your low-calorie, low-fat food regime.