Weight-Loss Win is an original Yahoo Health series that shares the inspiring stories of people who have shed pounds healthfully.
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.
The Turning Point
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!