A paunch belly & other tales!
My personal story of my fight against really stubborn belly fat and a paunch belly!
Since we are starting a new initiative called #inspire2aspire on our website, it is only fair that I go first and start the ball rolling!!!
Motivation the key!
For those of you, who haven’t heard of it before, let me explain what #inspire2aspire is. In all my writing about weight loss I have found that along with physical exertion, dieting, lifestyle change, supplements, medicines etc the key ingredient to any successful weight loss program is motivation and a viable, visible goal.
When the chips are down and the daily routine sucks what is it that keeps you going? When the days are black and the returns are diminishing what keeps you from stopping? It is this inner reservoir of strength in all of you that I seek to tap. And if there is anything better than motivating ourselves it is to motivate & inspire others. In turn others may motivate us in our weak moments. The collective strength of all of us is far greater than the sum of all our individual strengths.
We are attempting to collate together a collection of motivating success as well as failure stories. And we are calling it
Because no failure is final!
Failure is NOT a person, it is an event!
So now that you know, I have a story to tell. It’s personal, real and has a happy ending. But it is not the end because the story is not finished and good health is not a destination but a direction. We have to keep at it all lifelong. It is such a precious thing that it needs to be guarded and cherished, always!
For all those of you who haven’t visited the About Page at www.fashionaaina.com I am Abid Umar, the author of this blog. The story that I am about to recount happened about 3 years ago as I approached my 40th Year.
My personal struggle against ill-health, fat & a paunch belly
I have always enjoyed good health, not as a consequence of any effort on my part but solely by God’s grace. My build has always been lean, fit and rugged though never muscular. I love the outdoors, am a keen sportsman and have never had any major illness or medical condition. I love good food, late nights out with friends and in general having a nice time.
Now all that is good when you are in the full bloom of youth and I cruised through my twenties & thirties in this way. But then I got married, had a family and settled down. Though physically active, I did not get the same amount of exercise due to work pressures, wifey & kids. Plus as I approached my forties my metabolism was obviously slowing down.
As is well known, we South Asians like our food oily and spicy. Hence late night binges and the resulting lack of sleep began to take their toll. Pretty soon my body fought back. First there were the little signs which I ignored. I developed a chronic cold and regularly began complaining of acidity. My nose was permanently stuffy. To make matters worse I picked up the habit of smoking.
Now for the first time since my childhood I began to put on weight, especially around the middle. I developed a paunch belly, my face grew puffy and pretty soon I had grown a double chin. Thankfully I do not lose hair or I would be the perfect caricature of the middle-aged man with a paunch and a receding hairline. At this point in time my wife was the only person who thought me cute, but as you probably guessed she was only being kind (refers the #fatfibbers).
So what did I do about it?
Being a sociable fun-loving guy that I am, I relied heavily on my growing circle of friends and relatives. I have found that if there is one thing that people love to give freely it is ADVICE! As a result I was bombarded with tons of well-meaning but conflicting advice. Some people thought I was over-reacting or even being a hypochondriac. Others referred me to doctors, quacks, health clubs and sundry.
As a consequence of this overload of advice I was paralyzed and what I did was Nothing!
Like an ostrich that buries its head in the sand, I began wishing that it was all a dream and that one of these days I was going to wake up and be my former self again. Never having had to live with weight gain in my life until then and I was ill-equipped to deal with it.
My general health deteriorated. Every night I needed antacids before I could sleep. In the mornings I would wake up groggy and have really ugly hiccups.. For the first time in my life I began feeling a general weakness accompanied by back pain and aching joints.
A heavy feeling encompassed me like I was carrying a monkey on my back, which was tearing away at my hair!!!
I reached a point where I dreaded meeting up with old friends & colleagues because they commented on my weight and the way I looked.
Its not that I didn’t try and I have the receipt stubs from several health clubs to prove it. My wife encouraged me to exercise. But it did not last long as I could not consistently follow any health regime. I would go to the Gym for a few days and then drop out. I would feel a powerful lethargy early in the morning. My body ached because of the intermittent workouts.
I churned my diet around and I was not particularly choosy who I listened to. Having tried everything, I gave up meat, rice, oily and fried food to no avail. Some people advised me to skip meals other to eat less soI starved myself then binged, then starved myself again. I would eat a light breakfast, skip lunch and overeat at dinner time!
Things must get better, that’s how it works! Thing get worse before they get better. But they only got worse!I kept waiting for a turn around that never came
Making the same mistakes does not yield different results!
All this while I did not give up my old lifestyle, going out with friends and eating out late at night, smoking and depriving myself of proper sleep. You must probably have figured that all this did my health no good and I had accepted the fact that I was now permanently overweight
You are probably curious to know about the lowest ebb of my slide into ill-health since you do know that things did indeed get better. I cannot remember any one particular moment. In fact several insignificant little things helped me pull back from the brink of the abyss.
At a college reunion with my friends when we sat comparing pictures of the old days and one of my buddies dug up an old pic of a social event back at college where I was voted “ the guy most unlikely to accumulate FAT!”.
What did they know poor suckers!
I confess I felt really Really BAD! I wished I hadn’t let things go downhill so easily!! I wished I’d remained just the same as I was 20 years ago. I wished my friend had burnt the pic!!! My cheeks burned with embarrassment as my pals howled with laughter. More so I was mortified.
Another little tweak of fate which nudged me in the right direction was the construction of a flyover bridge just near my home. It diverted all heavy traffic and left the 5km stretch of road by my house ideal for running, jogging and other outdoor activities. Anyone passing by will not fail to notice that it is a picturesque and tranquil place running parallel to the River Tapi with lots of fresh air. And any residual octane pollution was drained off by the flyover which diverted those chugging vehicles elsewhere.
My walk to glory!
Now things started moving quickly. I bumped into an old friend I hadn’t seen in a while. I found him tucking into a heap of steaks at a dinner party & noted immediately with vindication that he had a bulging paunch belly. When I kidded him about it he nodded sheepishly and mumbled something about needing to lose weight.
I didn’t need any more encouragement than that and I promptly seized his hand and told him he had to be my “Running Buddy”. It was only after he relented that I let him get back to his substantial dinner. This was lucky because he had just recently moved into the neighborhood and we planned to start the next day.
Well, we didn’t go the next day, nor the day after that but after a couple of false starts I put on my best pair of running shoes and we went walking one beautiful night. I guess the Gods must’ve wept because it rained and we got our shoes all muddy. But we had a great time and my friend is a funny man to have around even in the worst of times. So for the first time in a long long time I actually started to look forward to our “Walking time”
Pretty soon our little Walking Club expanded to 4 members. Guys like me, from slightly overweight to borderline obese. We made it a point to start 90 minutes after dinner and walked initially for 3 quarters of an hour.
More than the walking I began looking forward to the company of these guys. The conversation was good and even the jokes about weight didn’t hurt as much when they came from other overweight guys.
The walking was something we did in the meantime.
Pretty soon the autumn days gave way to winter and we donned our warm clothing but kept walking. We initially started by walking about 3 miles but gradually kept increasing the distance.
Surprisingly I did not have any trouble keeping up with this schedule and rarely missed my daily walk. Walking per se is a light exercise and that is why we tend to underestimate it. Since then I have discovered that walking is the ideal exercise to reduce paunch belly fat.
Walking about 4 miles at a brisk pace, I barely ever broke into a sweat. But it was an exhilarating feeling. Being cooped up indoors all day, my spirit soared in the natural surrounding on those moonlit nights.
Within about 4 weeks, the daily walk at night had become a regular part of my routine and I planned my whole day around it. Just when I thought things were going pretty smoothly, 2 of our walking buddies dropped out. So we were back to my friend and me. But we bravely trudged on!!
Now let me confess that, even after walking for 6 weeks I had barely lost any weight, my paunch belly was still there nor had I any other tangible result to show for my efforts. The only reason I put on my walking shoes and marched on was that it felt good. A side benefit to my walking was that I began sleeping well. I made sure I got at least 7-8 hours of sleep.
It felt good!
In the long run I believe this was the most important thing I did. More than anything else, sleep deprivation is the root cause of a lot of health issues. Sleeping well gives your body the time to recuperate and recharge your batteries. If you can’t do anything else, make sure you sleep right!
My daily walking regime meant that I had the perfect excuse to avoid going out at night with my friends. No going out meant no late night meals & no smoking!!!
Sleep your way to good health
Formerly it was my habit to eat a huge dinner and then either I would go to sleep or go out with my friends. And when I went out I had a heavy, spicy meal or a snack and then came home to sleep. Either way the time gap between eating and sleeping was too short. Also I was wont to drink a lot of water after eating. This resulted in indigestion and more particularly a condition called Dyspepsia. Hence the hiccups, burps,acidity & paunch belly!
Now, since I had an early dinner, a gap of one and a half hours, followed by 75 minutes of brisk walking, there was sufficient delay between eating and sleeping. I disciplined myself not to eat or drink anything except water until I went to bed.
My dad chipped in with a small but valuable nugget of counsel. On his advice I drank a lot of water throughout the day (2 and a half to 3 liters). Besides, I would drink water at the beginning of a meal, even mid-way but never after a meal, at least not for another hour.
And still I kept walking.
My buddy met with an accident and had to be confined to bed for 2 weeks, but he never returned to walking. I missed his company since he was the reason I started walking in the first place. But I was too far gone to let it go now. So I braced against the bitter winds and walked alone.
Stubborn Belly Fat!
In spite of all my efforts my paunch remained. I glared angrily at the mirror looking for even a miniscule decrease in the girth of my paunch belly. Solitarily I stomped the ground beneath and walked for even longer. That became my habit. During the day I would collect all my problems & failures vent all my anger and frustration of the day on the ground and there were many in those days. I would come home exhausted, empty and serene. And the next day I would begin all over again.
At 12 weeks I was forced to take stock of the situation. Self-doubt was gnawing away at me and it was clear that I hadn’t lost any weight, nor had I managed to rid myself of the paunch belly. By then I was reluctant to stop walking and I rationalized that if I was not gaining any benefit from walking at least I was not losing anything. That was about the only silver lining on the horizon at that time.
I walked so much and with such regularity that it seemed like I had become a part of the scenery along with the trees and shrubs. After almost 3 months of the best exercise known to Man I had not moved much far from where I had started, or so I thought.
In hindsight I can say that there were a few significant achievements but I failed to notice them. I was so focused nay obsessed with weight loss that I did not realize that my digestion was improved, my cold had disappeared and my lungs were clear. My general health was turning around.
Tuck your paunch belly in!
Spouses sometimes notice things that are openly visible but we ourselves may not be aware of. My wife did something strange. She took some pictures of me, more particularly of my paunch belly. What she said was stranger still. She told me my posture was that of a man with a paunch belly. Maybe I should tuck my tummy in when I stood. Even when I sat on a chair I plonked myself and just let it go.
I had the posture of a slob!
On her advice I made conscious effort to pull my belly in about a million times a day and to sit straight. This was difficult to do in the beginning because I spent a lot of hours sitting behind a desk. This seemingly simple ruse did me a world of good and helped get me a straight tummy line.
All this while I walked, Walked & then WALKED some more. I was like a man possessed & I mastered the art of not getting distracted by anything. I blocked all negative thoughts from my mind when I walked. It didn’t matter that I was overweight, nor that I could not shed weight after such herculean efforts or that my paunch belly was a permanent appendage.
I just walked and when I came home I felt as light as a bird!
A Red-letter day!
And then it happened!!
And when it did, it was quite anti-climatic. Suddenly I was losing weight and it was visible. People were commenting on it. It seemed like all my efforts, the struggles, the tribulations were paying off. From 185 pounds at the high point I went down to 179 and then dropped another 4 pounds and it refused to stop even there.
Due to the simple exercise of tucking in my tummy, the stomach muscles became taut again. And now my paunch belly was gone. My family, once worried about my bloated weight, was concerned that I would grow too weak from weight loss. And there fears were not unfounded. At one point I weighed only 150 pounds. So they started force feeding me to fatten me up. Finally my weight stabilized at 163 pounds.
But to tell the truth, weight is just a number and moreover I felt good about my body which is far more important. My clothes fit much better. And my poise has improved. I balance my time between family & friends judiciously, sleep well and eat carefully. I have not given up walking after losing all this weight even though people ask me why I still walk and I still make time for it scrupulously and with the same fervor.
Having cut down on my smoking I still light up occasionally but now that I have the confidence to change my life I am going to attack it next and I fully intend to kick the butt completely. But that story is for another time!!