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We recently invited our readers to share their body transformation stories with us. The first in this series is the story of Debarghya Das, a 24-year-old software professional who didn’t just lose weight but also got enviable six-pack abs. Debarghya tells us how to lose weight and get fit by simply watching YouTube videos:
I was 23 years old and weighed 95 kg and a bit of a workaholic. And the more hours I put in, the more time I would need to relax. To make matters worse, being a foodie didn’t help. I would regularly drop by at the local department store for chocolates and junk food to satisfy my food craving. As weeks went by, my weight kept increasing. Finally in June last year I decided to do something about it.
In the next eight months, I lost 30kg and came down to 65 kg, becoming the fittest I’ve ever been. I dropped body fat right from 25 per cent to 8 per centandhad a six-pack for the first time in my life. Using data and YouTube videos to guide me, I changed the way I ate and started training while simultaneously trying to balance recreation time and a full-time job.
How to lose weight and get fit, according to someone who’s done it
When I started, my goal was to do a 12-week training programme. But by the end of 12 weeks, I began enjoying the change so much I just wanted to see for myself how far this could go. So I kept at it and it took another 16 weeks to earn the six-pack you see in the picture above. In all it took eight months for this drastic body transformation (from June 2019 to February 2019). These were the five big changes I made to my lifestyle:
- I tracked my progress. This didn’t just keep me motivated, it also helped me plan my diet and workouts better.
- I changed my diet. From unhealthy midnight snacking, I switched to an intermittent fasting and ketogenic diet approach. I also took several supplements.
- I followed a well-planned four-days-a-week training routine.
- I also went for well-fitted clothes, lenses over glasses, and a clean shave. (It’s amazing how much of a difference it makes.)
- I learned and remained motivated by people who’ve done this before. Fitness YouTubers really helped.
What motivated me to keep going
I used data to keep me motivated during my workout. You can’t measure change just by trying to spot a visible difference in the mirror after a workout. I realized a few weeks into my training that I needed a scientific approach to my progress which needed to be calculated methodically.
JohnStoneFitness, one of the fitness YouTubers I’d started following for advice and motivation, recommends data-driven training. Having religiously tracked his food intake, calories, macronutrient breakdown, weight, body fat, and front and side profiles for almost six years in his food logs, he inspired me to do so too. While his methods may have been extreme, I discovered tracking my progress to be helpful. It wasn’t just motivating but it also helped me estimate how long it would take for me to achieve a specific goal. To record my progress, I used a body tape to measure key body areas, a body fat weighing scale that helps estimate your body fat. It does so by measuring how small amounts of electricity flows through your body. This machine may not be completely accurate but can track relative body fat change well.
How I changed my nutrition to get fit
Growing up, I was a fat kid. In the Bengali culture, the opposite of thin is not fat. It is healthy. Food is a central part of every celebration, and being fat is not regarded as a problem at all. Sweets make up a critical part of the Bengali diet. In fact, in Kolkata, from where I come, some 40 per cent adults are overweight and more than 20 per cent men suffer from high blood sugar. As a child, I would eat at least three main mealsandthree snack meals every single day.
When I asked myself how to lose weight, it quickly became apparent to me that 80 per cent of losing weight involves eating correctly. A misconception I’d held all along is that it involved a lot of cardiovascular activity, like running.
Because I had excess body fat, my diet revolved around what bodybuilders called cutting – when you try to lose weight and maintain muscle mass. My general approach to nutrition involved incorporating diet ideas from all of several theories:
CICO (Calories In Calories Out):This theory states that everyone has a Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) depending on several factors such as your height, weight, gender, age, muscle mass and physical activity. And according to the theory, consumption of more calories than your TDEE results in weight gain and vice versa. Few months into my Keto Diet and Intermittent Fasting plan, I began incorporating the CICO principles. Initially, I would use MyFitnessPal to measure my calorie intake. I aimed to hit 1600-1800 calories a day but soon I learnt to accurately eyeball calories for new meals as well.
Keto Diet: I cut out carbohydrates (no rice, bread, noodles, pastas, etc), sweets and processed foods from all my meals as the diet demanded. Later, I re-incorporated healthier low-glycemic index carbs such as quinoa, farro and brown rice. My diet consisted primarily of vegetables, meats and healthy fats (such as avocado, nuts and the occasional butter and oil).(ALSO READ What is kept diet and how it helps you lose weight)
IF (Intermittent Fasting):Intermittent fasting includes consuming calories by simply reducing the time you spend on eating food. You eat less (without getting too hungry) and give at least an eight hour window before two meals. I would start my morning with a black coffee and have my first meal at lunchtime followed, occasionally, by a snack and dinner at 6.30 or 7 pm at the very latest.
I did not stop drinking and would have about 4-5 drinks a week. But I ensured that only I drank neat hard liquors and wine because a drink typically piles on just about 100 calories, which I didn’t mind so much on a weekly basis.
How I trained to lose weight and get fit
No matter what workout you choose, it is important you enjoy doing it so you actually end up sticking to it. This is what I did:
I started by going to the gym three to four times a week for an hour.
At the gym, I would begin my routine with 10 minutes of cardio and about 50 minutes for weight training.
For my weight training this is the routine I followed: Chest+Triceps, Back+Biceps, Legs, and Shoulders+Abs.
Compound exercises, though difficult, are also more effective than isolation movements as they target multiple body parts simultaneously. Each of the four days has a corresponding compound exercise. Chest: Bench Press. Back: Deadlift. Legs: Squat. Shoulders: Overhead Press.
For your compound movement, work first on perfecting form. Do four to five sets of five to six repetitions and followed by this hit four exercises for the muscle groups allotted to the day. Do three sets of eight to 12 repetitions. You can look up an exhaustive list on bodybuilding.com.
Each week, you should be focusing on either improving the form of your exercise, or using more weight, or more sets or more repetitions than you were previously. This concept is called progressive overload.
In the beginning, everything about this personal goal seemed difficult. The more I looked up online the most confused I got. But I discovered that the fitness industry is all about convincing you it’s difficult. But, really, you can pick any diet you want or any workout you like, the key to losing weight is science and consistency. If you know the scientific truths and can consistently maintain better nutritional and training habits, you’re guaranteed to succeed.
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