Achy Knees

When I was really overweight, I developed this wonderful condition called gout. It is a form of arthritis, where uric acid crystals get deposited in the joints, causing them to be painful and swell. The even more delightful part of this situation is that I felt vertigo every time I popped a pill of the only medicine prescribed to me – by two separate doctors. So I couldn’t take the cure, because I was practically losing hours of my life thanks to the sensation of the ground moving under my feet.

The next thing was to try and tackle gout through diet. Which, oh joy, reduces proteins and increases carbs. Just peachy. I gave up trying to accomplish losing weight at all as a result, and made peace with being overweight. I suffered with swollen feet and hands, painful finger joints, and achy knees that pop frequently.

This was all when I was still in Goa. Moving back to Mumbai, I got sucked into work and couldn’t figure out a weight loss strategy till the beginning of this year. So far so good.

I always assumed that my knees would stop hurting once they stopped having to support the excess weight. But what I am realising now, to something of dawning horror, that my knees are cracking quite a bit thanks to exercise. Somewhat counterproductive. So I turned to trusty Google.

[I saw a WedMD article, but panicked so fast that I closed down that tab without reading any further.]

– I need to strengthen the muscles in my thighs and glutes, because they centre the patella in the knee, and therefore they prevent potential knee damage. The important thing though is to have good form when doing these exercises. [https://health.usnews.com/wellness/articles/2016-06-17/is-it-bad-that-my-knees-crack-when-i-exercise]

– Some exercises to release the pressure: https://www.prevention.com/fitness/a20455297/exercises-for-cracking-knees/ [I need to buy a massage ball, which I didn’t know was a thing till today.] and https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-17675/why-your-knees-hurt-during-a-workout-what-to-do-about-it.html

– Yup, weight is a factor. [https://www.getthegloss.com/article/clicking-knees-or-creaky-joints-during-exercise-here-s-why]

– Anatomically speaking: http://www.bodyresolution.com/kneepainandexercise/

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Potbelly

Micro post, because this doesn’t really fit into the previous one. I am very annoyed with my tummy. I know that belly fat is the last to go, but oh my god. Absolutely fed up of looking quite trim everywhere else except for the tummy.

Case in point: my mum’s friends saw me, and were surprised at my weight loss, till I turned away to get them coffee. Then shock struck them like lightning, because, and I quote: “Whoa. You can really tell how much weight she has lost from the back. She looks so trim!”

Gee. Thanks tummy. You are letting the entire side down.

Overly Optimistic

It has been quite a while since I met any of my friends. I think the last time I met one of them was in May, when I got back from a trip to Pune. He was taken aback by my appearance then, and the obvious weight loss that had taken place. [I think I posted his reaction on Facebook, because it was so funny, but neglected to post it here. I’ll fix that someday.]

Since then, exercise and diet has really become a part of my daily routine. I occasionally skip days in between, but those are for various extenuating circumstances. Gone are the days where I pause, and the pause becomes permanent.

However, last week we were invited to an event. [I’m not going to reiterate all that transpired there, because I’ve already done so ad nauseum.] Before that, family friends were visiting from Dubai, and they actually stopped dead in their tracks when they saw me. It was.. embarrassing. So I’m not going to get into a description of those events.

So there is all this positive praise floating around me, because I have lost 17 kilos. I know it is a considerable amount. I know that it is visible. For people seeing me after a while, it is quite a surprise too. I don’t blame any of them for their reactions.

Add to all this, I can see the changes in the mirror. My jawline is no longer obscured by several soft layers of fat. My legs have thinned out considerably, and I can see muscle definition in my outer thighs. My clothes are hanging off me. [Not exaggerating; some of my nightclothes were loose to begin with, and now I pull them over my head and my body passes through the neck hole.]

It is all very heady. Success IS heady. I very nearly got lost in that headiness.

The thing is, I am nowhere near my target: I’m only halfway there. For my height [SHORT] I need to be in the ballpark of 55 to 60 kilos. Now, I am aware that muscles weigh more than fat, and all that jazz. However, I still need to cut down on the excess weight so that there isn’t so much pressure on my joints and bones.

It was super easy to bask in all the success of reaching this point, which was hard in itself. Like I said, I nearly did. It is so easy to rest on the laurels and feel self-satisfied, accomplished, and smug. Thankfully though, I was anticipating the euphoria and jumped right back into my routine. [Oh, I forgot to mention that all this meeting up with people made me skip quite a few days.]

Then, photos from the event were sent to mom. And I still look big. Not as much as before, but the sari I was wearing didn’t help my figure any.

Head = Not swollen any more.

Weight Loss Extras

I always knew that sweating improves skin quality, since it flushes out debris from the pores, but there were a couple of unexpected surprises with the whole exercise thing.

First, my skin is SO much smoother. And not the facial skin [which has contradictorily become rougher] but the skin on my body. I wear boxer shorts and tshirts at home, so there is a lot of exposed skin, and when my hand brushes again one of my limbs now? SO SMOOTH! Buttery smooth, in fact. This is crazy for me, because I have suffered with dry skin all my life. In winters, I empty out a bottle of moisturiser every two weeks, because my skin feels parched.

Conversely, the skin on my face is a little rougher. I have a minimal skin care routine, which involves a spritz with rose water and a little face cream to combat dryness. [Otherwise it is a dried river bed situation with white cracks and flakes of skin. Not comfortable, and darn ugly.] I can’t remember the last time I had a facial, because with all the fat under my skin, my skin was glowing and pink. I still don’t have wrinkles, but I anticipate they will arrive shortly. C’est la vie.

Second, the hardened slabs of fat on my hips have become so much softer. Ok, so I expected that the fat would slowly dissipate – after all that’s the whole point of exercising – but I didn’t expect it to become softer. At first, I panicked because I thought the skin would become floppy, which I’ve seen happening with rapid weight loss. But thankfully, my weight loss is more gradual, and perhaps this is giving the skin time to tauten appropriately. There is no way I can have skin surgery to cut off the excess.

On both the points above, I thought I was imagining things. So I found these interesting articles that corroborate my experience:

Skin benefits from exercise
“Softening” fat

Another 5 Down

Finally, halfway into the year, I have my workout groove on. I had gotten into the habit of going for a walk every morning, but the monsoons soon put paid to that ritual.

Instead I needed to come up with an indoor alternative. [Something which my mother was telling me to do repeatedly, so that I was not reliant on any external equipment or venue to exercise. Smart lady, that one.]

So my current routine consists of segments drawn from a bunch of apps:

1. Stretching with Sworkit
2. 30 day challenge [Initially started with the Full Body – Easy Plan 1. Have now moved on to Full Body – Easy Plan 2 + Butt – Easy Plan 1.]
3. [Not from an app] Reps of abdominal exercises
4. Yoga with Down Dog

I do the yoga at night, and it helps me wind down too. I have incrementally increased the time intervals, till I am now on 10 minutes of stretching, 2 30-day challenges, 200 reps of abs, and 30 minutes of yoga. It’s quite good, considering I was rivalling the Pillsbury dough boy for love handles at one point.

Today, my weight clocked in at 79.9 kgs. I have been stuck in this zone for the past week or so. The lowest was 79.1 kgs, but I have been seesawing back and forth over 80 kgs, so not counting that for now.

Therefore, total weight lost for the moment is 15.1 kgs. I’m fairly pleased about that.

Sugar is the Enemy

I keep making resolutions about losing weight, and not sticking to them. Falling off the wagon with a resounding thud is a more apt description. But then I discovered combat fitness, or rather plugged up the courage to call a number that was on my phone for over a year. And I fell in love with exercise.

People told me that they loved exercise; that it gave them a high. I didn’t believe this, because the only form of exercise that made feel great was swimming. I loathe running, thanks to the big melons genetics has seen fit to strap to my chest.

Combat fitness was amazing, except not sustainable for me. Work and stuff got in the way, and I have dropped out for now, fully intending to go back some time soon.

But in the interim, I decided to grab my diet by its balls. I made one change: reduced my sweet intake. Avoided desserts wherever possible, and substituted with fruit when the urge was too strong. In any case, I preferred natural sweeteners like honey, and disliked the overly cloying sweetness of sugar. So it wasn’t a leap for me.

The next thing I am trying to do is reduce carbs overall, but that’s tricky because I have gout too, which calls for a reduced-protein, increased-carb diet. Plus, I experience vertigo with the medicine prescribed in India for gout, so I have to control it with diet exclusively. Joyous.

Anyway, in two weeks, there was a rapid decline in my ability to consume any sweets. A biscuit or a mouthful of cake sated my desire for treats, and soon those went away as well. My diet is so much better, especially since I adore vegetables. Let’s see what further changes I can make going ahead.

The upshot is that I feel great. At my worst point, I was 95 kilos. Today, I tip the scale at 84.6 kilos. I still have a long way to go, but damn that feels GOOD!

Not Comatose

There has been a raging Internet debate on being healthy/making healthful choices vs. having body positivity. I have mostly been a silent spectator in all cases, because honestly I can see that both sides of the argument have merit. It is important to make good eating and exercise choices for your health, just as it is important not to be burdened by an unrealistic conception of your body should like instead of what it actually does. Ultimately, I have reached a point where I accept my [overweight] self as I am with serenity, but aim to do better in times to come.

Having said that, I do believe that only I have the right to make these judgements about myself. Everyone else can [and should] take a flying leap off a tall cliff, if they feel compelled to air their unsolicited opinions to me. Because that’s what they are: unsolicited. I didn’t ask for your opinion, and therefore please keep it to yourself. Covering up nastiness in a flimsy veil of “caring” or “tough love” is a bunch of bollocks. I can also serve up a searing indictment of your character, morals, and sundry other personal aspects, but I choose not to.

This post was borne off two things: one, a completely toxic ex, who eroded my self-esteem and confidence to virtually nothing AND had me believing that he was right; and two, a couple of conversations I had with two overweight friends. Both guys, incidentally, which just goes to show that anxiety about weight is not restricted to gender. [But y’all knew that already.]

The second of these conversations happened in Delhi, last month. I was chilling out with a friend in my hotel room, while I waited for a plumber to come and fix a faucet in the bathroom. I made a comment saying that only one person had observed that I had lost weight since the last time the group was together. And he responded by asking how I had done it. I described joining an MMA class, and sort of falling in love with the concept of fun exercise. There was also the part where I was trying to eat less, and avoid stuff I knew wasn’t nutritious, but without any ironclad rules.

But the point I stressed the most was that I had started and failed many, many, many times over. The needle of the weighing scale had stubbornly refused to budge for weeks, and when it did, it was a miserable tick of minuscule proportions. Essentially, hardly a dent in my weight. But the key was that I stopped feeling bad about it, and carried on with forming better habits and doing it for the love of it only.

He nodded, but sighed disconsolately too. And in that moment, I felt a rush of sympathy and empathy for someone who absorbs numerous ‘big’ and ‘fat’ jokes on a daily basis. He is taller than average, so does have an imposing presence. Comments and jokes from friends and loved ones are fine, but up to a point. And that point varies depending on person, mood, state of mind, and a multitude of other factors.

Which brings me to the first incident that summed it up so well for me.

I was in Bangalore, and I called up a college friend who lived there to catch up. I was horrified to learn that he had been in an accident and was in hospital with several broken bones.

When I went to visit, I met his parents too for the first time. We chatted for about half an hour, and he was telling me about his attempts to lose weight. [Tall and again considerably overweight.] He had tried exercise, gyms, nutritionists, diets, gotten tested for hypothyroidism, and so much else besides. I listened in round-eyed wonder, as he recited a litany of the avenues of weight loss he has attempted without noticeable success. The truly depressing part was when his mother chimed in to say that he hardly eats anymore. A fistful of rice and or a small salad comprised most of his meals. She sounded angry and sad at the same time, and I wondered why until he told me what was happening when his friends visited him.

In the modern hubbub of life, one tends to lose touch. So months, sometimes years, elapse before you meet old friends again. Any changes that occur in the intervening period stand out more starkly to those who haven’t been around in the recent past.

My friend had had his parents staying over for a few months, and he occasionally invited friends over to his place. The first thing they said on seeing an old friend again, after many years was, without variation: “Dude! You’ve put on so much weight!”

My friend sighed at this point of his narrative. I knew what he must have felt, having been at the receiving end of the same sort of thing innumerable times. And then he turned to me and said: “Don’t they think I know that already? I haven’t been in a coma for like 8 years, without looking in a mirror, and suddenly woken up that I can’t see that I’ve put on weight. Do they seriously think I don’t KNOW already?”

Well. Good point, isn’t it?