It’s been an educational past couple of weeks, dissecting causes that lead to overconsumption, to weight gain and finally that tipple into the darkness. But it’s not just this journey that’s enlightening, there’s also the skittle from the helplessness to the control that only comes with self-belief. Speaking to a number of people who’ve undergone a metamorphosis – about 20 people in all – a few patterns begin to emerge.
What got them there?
Change in metabolism: I’d often hear the refrain – I lived to eat. It’s a wonderful feeling – eating anything you want, anytime you want. For many, a youthful metabolism – combined with an energetic lifestyle – means the ability to eat without an insistent yawn crying calories in the brain. When one swaps this early age benefit for a grown-up system and doesn’t adjust intake accordingly it can lead to devastating effects.
The UAE lifestyle: The best of everything can be found in the UAE, if you know where to look. From Asian delicacies to the cheesy burgers of America, Italian pasta that’s handmade and beautiful desserts that melt in your mouth. It’s difficult to resist, even when the calories turn to fat that huddles in nooks in non-complimentary ways.
Work hard, relax harder: Working life is tough alright, compounded by all those treats that keep you going through the day. The sugar rush, the crash, the re-energizing treat run – all of it is exhausting. By the time you reach home and have a few minutes to spare, it becomes a Herculian task to exercise. Lazing around feels, in the short term, so much more invigorating. It’s only later, when your body has run out of endorphins – the happy hormone - that you realise what a mess you’ve ended up in.
The ‘it’s-too-late’ syndrome: Where’s a vicious cycle of eating that yo-yo dieters know only too well about.
What changed this time around?
It is NOT enough to want to change. It is NOT enough to lose weight either. There needs to be a fundamental shift in what you want. What led all these people wanting, needing a transformation was that feeling of being fed up. Sick of feeling ill because of the heft on their bodies. Feeling uncomfortable for being themselves. The self-deprecating humour that turns into your own hypnotic negative self-talk.
What mattered was not so much the looking better; what would really make a difference would be feeling better. It’s that feeling of being cornered; there’s no choice but to fight your way out.
Initial days are crazy tough
There are hunger pangs and cravings, moods that rain ember on your temper, withdrawal symptoms – yes, zero sugar can give you this feeling - depression, weakness and just a generally bleak outlook towards life.
The elements that matter
Even if you work your way through the pain and stick with the programme there are six variables that are crucial to success. Get one wrong and that’s it, all that hard work would have been for naught.
Just as body types differ and over periods of time morph, so do the way a person’s body metabolises something. Finding a diet that’s right for you is key. On average though, most people find cutting down on carbs – which retain water and are metabolized by our bodies into glucose and so more easily the culprits when it comes to weight watching – quite helpful. All the people I interviewed went on one of the following diets:
1. Calorie-deficit diet: Where you consider your basal metabolic rate – the amount of energy a body expends at rest – and then either eat less than that or burn calories more than that.
2. Keto: The high-fat, medium protein and low carb diet that pushes your body to produce ketones that use fat instead of carbs for energy. The result – you eat fat, you burn fat.
3. Extreme diets: There’s a lot of ambiguity here – what constitutes an extreme diet, but people that have crossed over to the obese side of things sometimes give their bodies the shock they need, so we’ve spoken to people on liquid diets and diets where meals were one apple. They lost weight fast – but the doctors are out on the positive toll this takes on a person.
4. Intermittent fasting: Looked upon as a good way to detox your system, this means you do not eat for 16 hours and then have an 8-hour window in which you can eat. For best effects, keep mealtimes healthy.
This is essential to getting slim without the complications that come with extreme weight loss- think sagging skin, a lack of energy and shape, and a general discontent. Adding exercise not only tones you up but the bursts lend themselves to dopamine production in your system, resulting in a happier, healthier you.
Most people recommend a mix of cardio and weights to rev up your metabolism and tone up your skin and while it’s not essential to get to a gym, some research on full-body workouts is sure to go a long way.
Seven-eight hours of sleep is important – for repair and restoration of the body, for the rejuvenation of the mind. Any less and your body will begin to crave sugar or fat – fuel to keep it going. And let’s not talk about the mood swings; you are more likely to be irritable if you are not rested and you are wanting for something.
This is key. The backing of friends, colleagues and – more than anything else – family. It is important to be able to count on others to lend a helping hand – to help you with the groceries, a kind word, and understanding. And should you feel the need to refuse this aid – BEAT THAT THOUGHT DOWN. No one is an island; success stories happen best when there is a tonne of support.
First of all, if you want to shed the weight, look good and feel great, you need to feel that way about yourself. You need to believe you are worth it – if that comes off reading books, do it. If it comes from listening to positive people, do it. DO NOT pay attention to naysayers or people trying to get in a snide remark. Always remember, success is the best revenge.
Keep a photo on hand of the awful fat days. Every time you feel like going off your plan, look at it and remember what you are giving up and why. You may be giving up your favourite food for a while. But here’s what else you are saying never again to: You are giving up feeling bad and uncomfortable in your skin. You are saying goodbye to ill health and complications. You are saying hello to good times galore. You are saying hello to a new you, one that matters – to you.