A before and after shot. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: I love my food, sugar (two teaspoons) in my coffee and I’ve lost 18 kilos in one year.

Yes! You read it right!

Without spending tens of thousands of dirhams on nutritionists and weight-loss programmes (with all due respect to them), I walked my way to losing my weight. And, hey, it comes free and with a lot of fresh open air!

I am from the southern part of India and for those of you who know us well enough, there are four things dear to our heart — M.S. Subbalakshmi’s Suprabatam, a strong filter coffee served in a steel tumbler to give us a peppy start to the morning; rice in some form or the other; and yoghurt to end every meal.

Bad news

So four years ago, when my mother told me I had to knock off that excess weight or I can forget living long enough to see my children get married (why do mums have to be so dramatic anyway?) — I was angry. Plain angry.

My mother has always been my strongest critic, but I wasn’t expecting this from her, especially now that I'm in my 40s. It was a blow – one I wasn’t expecting.

I was shattered. Just to spite her, I went to the kitchen and helped myself to a nice big chunk of chocolate brownie.

I placed it on a little square glass plate, poured some chocolate sauce over it and gave it a run in the micro-wave. The sheer sight of the melted sauce dripping on the brownie was mouth-watering. I devoured it in five minutes flat.

But that night, when I went to bed, I felt a tad guilty. It got me thinking: my mother was right after all. When I think back now, this was definitely a turning point in my weight-loss journey.

The next morning, I stood on the digital scale in my bathroom. It was horrifying, to say the least. I had not weighed myself in a long, long time till then. When the numbers stared at me — I cringed. I was 78 kilos (171 lbs). I am 5 feet 2.5 inches and this meant my BMI was 30.8. I wasn’t just overweight. I was obese!

I felt a pain in my chest and I couldn’t quite put a finger on what the emotion was. Deep down, a realisation had struck. I was fat, actually obese. And it was time to get up and do something about it.

Good news

Now for the good news: — it was a start to something wonderful which I would soon experience. In fact, this is the first step to anyone’s weight loss journey.

Just coming to terms with your obesity and what you need to do about it.

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Next morning, I scanned various health websites, dug out fancy diet programmes that were ‘in’ fashion.

I started scouting for nutritionists — they usually come with a pricey tag and when they don’t, you can be rest assured they are new in the game.

There were diet plans with fancy name tags tempting you to give up everything you have eaten all your life. I did not buy into any of these.

With all due respect to the creators of fad diets – as a beginner, I felt defeated.

Defeated because the diet programmes asked me to give up eating everything I loved. “No carbs, no sugar” are two key mantras of the diet game. And I felt I couldn’t do it at all.

My head was woozy and I didn’t know where to start.

That morning, my mother was making dosas (rice crepes) for breakfast.

Those who know about this South-Indian snack, dosas are usually served alongside a chutney made of coconut and a chutney powder mixed with oil. You can smear these on your dosas or, alternatively, just dip the dosas into one of them. I ate four and I could well have eaten another lot.

Lifestyle change

Decision time

You have no idea how well my mom prepares it! But I resisted. Lunch was the same. Home-cooked – but filled with carbs, oil and spice all generously served. It was yummy to say the least.

In the evening, I decided to make a start. A life-style change, so to speak.

I decided to kick my sedentary life-style and start an exercise routine.

Back then, I lived in The Lakes, a gated residential community with walk-ways. I decided to give it a go. I put on my walking sneakers and headed for a walk.

A full circle of the community clocks 3km. It took me an hour and a half to complete it on the first day – and it wasn’t without some huffs and puffs.

It was sad, to say the least. I was only walking – not running - so why was I huffing and puffing?

The next evening, I went for a walk again. My timing wasn’t any better. But strangely, I struggled a bit less than the previous day.

I kept at it for a month.

That is when I started to see a difference. The scales showed some compassion and it showed I had lost 2kg.

I was super excited. Losing 2 kg may not seem like a lot, but remember I had done it without any major diet changes.

Diet

A large part of a weight loss programme has to do with what you eat. So while I wanted to see bigger results, I knew I had to make a shift in my eating patterns and take responsibility for what I was putting in my mouth.

I simply worked around the food I had eaten all my life. I couldn’t give it up just like that.

Basically, I was still eating everything — from carbs to chocolates to ice-cream. But I had reduced the quantities drastically.

I also changed my eating patterns.

My breakfast is as early as 7.30 in the morning, I try to have lunch by 12.30 in the afternoon and my dinner before 6 pm. I try not to eat anything after that.

My workout starts an hour after dinner. So when I sleep my stomach is practically empty, but I am not hungry.

In six months, I managed to lose around nine kilos. I weighed 69 kilos on the scale and it was a personal milestone.

My weight wasn’t in the 70s anymore!

Exercise routine changes

Motivated and ready for more challenges, I knew I had to step up and take my exercise routine to the next level.

I could not dream of a fitter me without pushing the envelope. My niece – a fitness enthusiast and a personal trainer - came on board.

I cannot thank her enough for she helped me get into shape. Cardio, stretches, lunges, abs and a cool off.

And so it was spot jogs, mountain climbers, biceps, triceps, Russian Twists. Then burpees, burpees and more burpees, too, among other workouts.

Wardrobe change

Of course losing the kilos and inches meant a whole new wardrobe change.

My cupboard was stocked with size 18s and 16s. Personally, I had little motivation to dress up or shop for new clothes when I was fat.

The only time I bought new clothes was when I could not fit into the old ones.

But losing massive amounts of weight meant I wanted to dress better and look better.

Soon, I was shopping at some high-street fashion houses for the younger, skinner crowd. My eyes would always scan clothes in the large section until one day when a sales lady came by to say I was medium.

It felt surreal: From size 16, I became a size 8. It felt and feels good. Really good.

Today, my weight has plateaued.

I am staying consistent at 60 kilos (132lbs). My BMI is 23.8 and it falls under the normal slab. But my job is not done yet. I am on my last leg of weight loss and trying hard to lose my last five kilos.

So what now?

Here’s one takeaway: I did not lose weight drastically.

It was a slow-but-sure process and that is why I have been able to sustain it so far.

It took me a while to understand my body and to know what works and doesn’t work.

Going forward, I know I have to up my ante. But I am not panicking. The mantra remains the same — but I just want to do it the right way all over again.