Transforming Anuj: A 40-Pound Journey to Better Health
By Anuj Dua, Member of ClubSport San Jose
I ran my first Bridge to Bridge race in San Francisco this year — a 12K run that began at the Ferry Building in and ended at the Marina Green. While the run was grueling, any fatigue was well masked by glorious views of the bay and the Bollywood playlist pounding in my ears.
This was my third run of 10K or more this year. Before 2017, the odds of that happening were the same as the Cubs winning the World Series last year. And while the euphoria from my personal milestone could hardly compare to that of "The Lovable Losers," it’s been a rewarding journey — one of introspection, self-discovery, action, and transformation.
When people who noticed my change ask how I did it, I simply say diet and exercise. While the catalysts for a healthier life are no secret, overcoming the inevitable day-to-day obstacles are the biggest challenge, and I faced them all. The pressures of work, commuting in the Bay Area, and school pick-ups and drop-offs make the hours evaporate fast. Even if I could carve out an hour here or there for exercise, there's no way I could do it consistently.
And that's just one side of the equation. Even if I could get the RHS (calories out) sorted, the LHS (calories in) were in a constant conspiracy to trip me up. No time for breakfast. Skipped several meals due to work, so famished for dinner. Can't say no to your dad's birthday cake! I've been invited to dinner – can't be rude or difficult and ask for alternatives. I can start again tomorrow. I soon realized the challenge was never in the "what," but in the "how."
I've always struggled with my weight. I grew up in a home where, like many North Indian families, the day seemed to revolve around food. Meals were milestones for the day and they ranged from the sublime (goat meat curry on Sundays) to the ridiculous (breaded fried potato rolls). While circumstances evolved, my fondness for food remained. Long story short, the consequences of my early childhood lifestyle lingered into adulthood, amplified and accelerated by my introduction to American fast food. I mean, cheese IN the crust? C'mon – who could resist that?! Over time, these indulgences took their toll. Even so, I never really felt inconvenienced by my weight gain – the car was always in the driveway when I needed to get out, and stores had Big & Tall sizes, the full range of which I had yet to explore!
It took two events to get me to think differently. The first was marrying a nutritionist who introduced me to the world of fruits and vegetables and shared vivid descriptions about the amount of fat in a hotdog. While I listened, I didn't internalize the implications until my first son was born. I don't care how impressive your treadmill, there's no better cardio than trying to chase after, play, and raise a toddler. And being unable to play catch or hang with my growing son made me think about my health for the first time.
Like every mature adult who needs answers to an existential crisis, I searched Google and landed on the page for the Atkins Diet. I shunned carbs for the next five months and saw dramatic improvements in my health. I lost almost 20 pounds and was convinced I had discovered a way to beat the system. Soon enough, life and work pounded my carb resistance into submission and I yoyo-ed back to my pre-Atkins weight. Since then, I've dabbled in some combination of food selection, portion control, gym memberships, home equipment, and personal training, all of which were no match for my indulgences and sedentary lifestyle.
While my weight continued to be an annoyance, it hadn't reached the point where I felt compelled to do something radical about it. That is, until January 1, 2017, when I was looking over our family pictures from a getaway to Half Moon Bay to celebrate my wife's birthday and ring in the new year. No iPhone filter or Photoshop could conceal the megapixels staring back at me.
Being the first of the year, I thought what better time to hop back on the weight loss carousel. Only this time, I had a more serious incentive. As a father of two young boys, I'm even more conscious of the example I'm setting. I can't ask them to leave their video games and go outside if I can't join them. I can't ask them to eat their veggies if I won't. I want to see them grow into fine, healthy, smart young men and I want to be around to see them when it happens.
I re-upped with the gym and I hit the ground running – literally. I ran 28 days in January and burned 14,000 calories that month. Not a bad start to the year and my resolution!
Sure enough, within two months, I had lost 10 pounds. But I was afraid I would soon plateau or yo-yo again and was desperate for new ways to sustain my efforts. That's when I met Coach Jessica at ClubSport San Jose, and she introduced me to REV32, an eight-week program of exercise four days a week combined with sensible nutrition. I figured I had nothing to lose except those extra pounds and signed up.
What followed was a near daily regimen of group exercise with my REV32 coaches. I'm an early bird, so signed up for the 5:30-6:30am classes that best fit my schedule. It takes odd types to get up pre-dawn only to have your body and mind pushed to the edge, but we bonded over our common cause.
I experienced new thresholds of pain (yep, it's true, no gain without it), discovered muscles previously buried, and learned a whole new vocabulary — kettle bells, stinkbugs, inchworms, planks, burpees (damn burpees!), bear crawls, and more. And I began to test new levels of endurance as my MYZONE tracker would spend a lot of time "in the red."
In the beginning, I would look forward to Thursday, which marked the end of the weekly session; however, I soon began to miss my workouts and would come in on Friday and the weekend for the extra cardio. At the same time, I started paying more attention to the "LHS" of the equation, not in small part due to coach Coach Jessica's constant nagging about the food logs. Initially, I resented this, as it felt like too much work. But then I started sending in pictures of my meals and Coach Jessica would critique my choices and offer suggestions for substitutes or replacements. This was a big breakthrough for me, as it meant I didn't have to struggle with fancy apps that didn't have all the information or the chore of manually entering the food. End result, I became more conscious about my intake.
With the LHS and RHS working in some harmony, things began to kick into high gear. Before I realized it, my eight weeks were up and I had lost a whopping 21 lbs! My body fat percentage had also dropped and I had replaced it with muscle mass. Back in Week 1, I could barely do a sit-up, but by Week 8, I was doing minute-long sit-ups with a 10 kg. kettlebell. I signed up for two more four-week summer sessions and am now in my fourth session of REV32. In all, I've lost 40 lbs. since January 1 and am targeting another 10 lbs. before the end of the year!
While the weight loss feels great, the secondary benefits are far more gratifying. Both my kids are now active in their school's swim and baseball programs. We shoot hoops on the weekends, completed a 5K run together, and watch each other's eating habits. Recently, my wife also joined the REV32 foundations course at ClubSport and now we sympathize at the common aches and pains we experience after workouts.
As this New Year's Eve slowly approaches, I have much to celebrate and be thankful for. I think I'll have my cake and eat it, too — and bear crawl my way into 2018!