My fitness journey hasn’t been smooth or easy by any stretch of the imagination, but it has been worth all the ups and downs that I have experienced throughout the years. It wasn’t too long ago when I used to dread going to the gym and when I used to hate exercising. I would always be looking for any excuse not to work out. If it was a Wednesday, I would tell myself I would start fresh on the following Monday because it was the start of a fresh week. If it was October, I would tell myself I would start in January because it was the start of a fresh year. If I had one pizza slice, I would tell myself there was no point in working out because I already ate bad for the day anyway. If it was raining or snowing, I would use that as an excuse to stay inside and tell myself I would go tomorrow. If it was Friday the 13th, I would tell myself that if I went to the gym, I would die in a horrific, unlucky accident there. Okay, not literally but you get the point –
I enjoyed going to the gym as much as I enjoyed a cauliflower steak or drinking orange juice right after brushing my teeth.
Deep inside, however, I always knew that being active was extremely important, but I would always put it off because I was too busy living in the moment. Binge drinking, binge eating, partying, and living a sedentary lifestyle was easy and convenient, and it allowed for me to live with a false sense of security within the confines of my comfort zone.
During my younger years, the effects of such a casual lifestyle didn’t quite take a toll. I thought I felt good, but I was just distracting myself in any way that I could. I hovered around 180-190 pounds up until my early 20’s, and although I would occasionally hit the gym here and there to try putting on some muscle, I never really felt that I needed to change my habits. It was around my early to mid 20’s when I started to put on some serious weight and when the years of self-abuse took a toll on my body. At the age of 25,
I was at my heaviest, weighing roughly 280 pounds.
I remember the feeling of being depressed and ashamed at being so overweight when I used to check the scale. At 5’11 and with minimal muscle, 280 pounds was a morbidly obese weight for me to be at. My habits of binge eating and binge drinking distracted me from the stress of life that I was dealing with. I didn’t have time to introspect and make sense of the law school, career, relationship and family stresses and problems that I was dealing with because I was so used to the escapism that came with drinking heavily, partying often and consuming greasy, sugary foods that would distract me from thinking clearly.
As I packed on all this weight, my confidence was at an all-time low. I constantly argued with my girlfriend at the time because I wasn’t happy with myself. I didn’t go into job interviews feeling good about myself, and my insecure body language easily conveyed that. I was constantly worried about how I looked and felt like I would be judged. I didn’t enjoy going out as much and I also primarily wore loose, baggy clothing to feel more comfortable.
As my steadily increasing weight affected my self-esteem, I began to drink and eat more.
The cyclical nature of poor self-esteem leading to more self-abuse was one of the worst phases of my life. Looking back during those times where I lacked the self-care necessary to take care of myself and my body, I realize that the depression and insecurities that came with being overweight also trickled down into many other areas of life.
In many ways, the obesity battle I was going through and the resistance to working out also made me think in negative and insecure ways. For example, I didn’t quite believe in any of the body transformations I would see; I always thought there was some magic or behind the scenes wizardry that went into all the before and after pictures of people who decided to change their lifestyle habits.
In many ways, I was pessimistic about the fitness industry and myself; I didn’t believe I could achieve any significant transformation in either body or mind. To say that I was stuck in a rut would be an understatement.
Instead, I felt hopeless and powerless just like a turtle on its back – with a brick on its stomach pinning it down for good measure.
At this weight of 280 pounds, it was a common occurrence where, yet after another late night of greasy food, I would feel nothing but self-loathing and regret. It was also common for me to have a night of heavy drinking followed by a morning of shame and disgust. I would hit rock bottom many times, and each time I would vow to kick my negative habits and vices to the curb. I wanted to be in shape, or at the least start to take care of myself, but I wasn’t able to snap out of it. At these moments of rock bottom, I would sometimes become super motivated, and I wouldn’t have any junk food for weeks, not even a bite. I would also become a perfectionist in my fitness routine; I didn’t treat myself at all because I didn’t think I deserved it yet. I would start jogging, or hitting the gym on a daily basis while closely watching my caloric intake under the scrutiny of a microscope. Sometimes, this meant avoiding going out, saying no to cake on someone’s birthday, eating 1000-1500 calories a day and slowly phasing out anything fun. I would do this for weeks, where I was literally ‘all in’ but eventually life would call my bluff.
Sooner or later, I would crash, and this extreme and restrictive regime would never work out in the long term. (As I would find out recently through Kris J. Simpson’s book, ‘All Inclusive Diet,’ the reason why my diet regime wasn’t working was that inevitably, a stressful event or an unexpected change in life would upset my routine and lead to a night of drinking or eating junk food. Instead, as Kris J. Simpson demonstrates in his book, I needed more of a balance in my daily life and routine.)
This would then turn into a cycle where I became hooked to my vices once again. I would slowly stop going to the gym, and start telling myself I would get back on it the following Monday. Those Monday’s would come and go, and I would slowly lose the progress I would be making. This became a pattern that went on for years. For a few months, I would lose 10-20 pounds, and then a few months later I would gain it back. I would then think to myself “What if I didn’t stop going to the gym and eating healthy. I wonder how the results would be now.” This feeling was never good, and it always made me feel like I failed. The progress I was making would always be lost, and I would start from rock bottom once again. I wasn’t 280 pounds anymore, but constantly swinging between 240-250 pounds wasn’t that much better. I wasn’t able to break out of my phase of yo-yo dieting for a long time, and part of that was because of how hard I was on myself. Whether it was with beer, pizza, fast food burgers, fried delicacies or ice cream, I felt myself trying to fill a never-ending depressive void with anything that brought me instant pleasure.
What I didn’t realize at the time was all these experiences would either make me or break me. I could have looked at all those experiences negatively, and that would mean I would see them as failures which would make me give up. Or, I could have looked at all those experiences in a positive light, and that would mean I would see them as indicators of my potential which would make me become resilient and try a new approach. My good friend Harpreet Kharod, a long time member of Bodies by Design, introduced me to the Bodies by Design gym and I saw firsthand how his transformation in losing over 100 pounds changed him. I did go through a few ups and downs while initially coming to the gym, but they weren’t as bad as before. I didn’t feel judged; everyone had their own story, and the energy from everyone was all just focused on self-improvement. I went to a few other gyms before coming to Bodies by Design, and none of them felt as welcoming or as comfortable as when I would work out here. Often, I would feel intimidated or nervous when working out at other gyms due to the type of atmosphere there. Eventually, the gym became a habit that I enjoyed.
I also stopped being as hard on myself as before. I ate what I wanted, but became more balanced in my approach. A day of heavy eating or two didn’t mean the week was a loss. It just meant that I should eat lighter for the next few days. If I had more than a few drinks one night, I would still push myself to sweat it off the next day.
I stopped judging myself for any missteps that I took along the way and instead, moved onto the present moment. You can’t get back any of the time that you’ve spent in the past, but you can make use of the time you have now to change your future destination. Slowly but surely, it was at Bodies by Design where I realized that hard work, patience, consistency, dedication and self-love were the primary tools one needed to achieve their goals, no matter how ambitious those goals were. The laid-back atmosphere of the gym, friendly staff, inspiring quotes on the walls and the inspiring Kris J. Simpson all contribute to making you feel good about going to the gym. With my newfound maturity and positive mindset, I started to become grateful for the opportunity to work out and exercise. One of the quotes that I read on the wall at the gym says:
“Today I have to work out,” except that the ‘have’ is crossed out and replaced by ‘get,’ making the message say “Today, I get to work out.”
This was one of the shifts in perspective that I had; I no longer see going to the gym or exercising as a chore. Instead, it feels like a privilege that I get to train, empower and strengthen my body.
At one point, I wasn’t able to jog or run for more than one minute on the treadmill before feeling like I was about to collapse and now, now I can jog and run for over an hour without taking a break.
I also weigh around 190 pounds now with some muscle mass, but I realize that it was never about the weight.
It was about my mindset, and knowing that my potential was always there, just like the possibility is still there for anyone else willing to put in the hard work, patience and dedication needed. I just needed to cultivate that potential with the right tools and energy, and for me, one of those tools was the comfortable vibe at Bodies by Design. I’ve also learned many lessons during my time working out at Bodies by Design that are applicable to life itself. I’ve seen how putting in consistent effort and discipline will slowly bring about results and how little steps can end up having a huge effect. Whether it’s starting a business, writing a novel or running a marathon, the journey and baby steps along the way are what will produce the results you’re looking for.
My fitness journey started off with me being unable to comprehend such drastic changes in mind and body, but in undergoing such changes myself, I can confidently say that one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself is self-love because taking care of your body and mind gives you the ability to live a healthier life, take care of a body that works so hard for you, overcome insecurities and replace negative thought patterns with positive ones, giving you the opportunity to transcend into an improved version of yourself.