The Addition Mindset: How I ate more to lose more

Aditi’s surprising fitness revelation

Pic 1: Year 2000, Weight 50Kgs Pic 2: Year 2012, Weight 69Kgs Pic 3: Year 2018, Weight 53Kgs

I asked a few people which of these photos looked alike and almost all felt that the first and the third were more alike than the one in the middle.

Well, they are both right and wrong. Right, because my body weight in the first and third is the same but if you consider my fitness quotient, then first and second would be similar.  Don’t believe it? Read on.

Phase 1: Ignorance is bliss

“My daughter is too thin. She doesn’t eat much. How can I make her a little chubby?” This is my earliest memory of my mom speaking to other moms.

While other moms would be exchanging study notes, my mom would be exchanging pantry notes.  I didn’t look like those golu polu kids you’d like to cuddle or pull the cheeks of (there barely were any cheeks)

Infact, I was a thin kid throughout my school days. Which basically meant I ate whatever I wanted to. My typical diet would be something like this:

  • Breakfast: Rice and fish
  • Tiffin: Homemade pizza or rice noodles
  • Lunch: Sabzi, rice, fish, glass of coke and chocolate
  • Evening snack: Samosa / bhel &  rosgolla
  • Dinner: Sabzi, rice and fish, chocolate/ sondesh 
  • I barely ever drank any water. 

Physical activity: Does playing solitaire count? I never moved. I’d always be found lying around the couch, the bed, floor, you get the drift, right? I even studied lying down. My grandmother suspected my spine was missing. (Unless of course I got into a fight. Then I would show plenty of it.)

Everyone put my sluggishness down to mere laziness, but didn’t link it to the bad diet.

Phase 2: Deprivation

On March 2002, I was getting ready for an exam and when I tried to fit into my “lucky” trousers. I realized the trousers wouldn’t go past my bottom.  I was bummed out (pun intended) –  this was the first time I experienced not fitting into something. Little did I know this would be the start of ten long years of trying to fit in, in all possible ways. 

For as long as I can remember throughout those ten years I was always dieting. I know I looked like I ate a horse. But if you asked me I was always NOT having something.

I did the GM diet, Atkins diet, juice detox diet and every fad diet that released that decade. I also signed up with innumerable dietitians, spent some years not having rice or not having salt in the night, avoided bananas, potatoes, yolks, – the works!

The closest analogy to my diet mindset is me lugging my office laptop on my last holiday. I never opened the laptop even once, but I carried the burden on my shoulders.

I guess the word I am looking for is a “guilt” mindset.

Feeling guilty about eating things freely and wholeheartedly. And of course, there have been those 10000 times where I might have binged till the food was up to my throat because I would start my diet “tomorrow”. When “tomorrow” came I was engulfed with sadness, deprivation, cursing my metabolism, bone weight, water weight, even the extra hair growth on my head! 

I felt so sorry for myself that I would give in to the dessert served at the cafeteria or Maggie during weekends. It is because with a sense of deprivation comes the need to “comfort”. The diet mindset increased my need for “comfort food”. 

Few months back I chanced upon a diet diary – a place I would note down everything I had religiously – from 2011. This is a screenshot of it. When I read it my first thought was “No wonder I was fat!”

Phase 3: Addition

Around September 2012 I went to visit my 101st dietician, a middle-aged man. Actually, it was my parents who had dragged me down there. My mother wasn’t very happy that her “wish” had been granted and was very keen on getting it reversed. 

The dietician asked me to write down the food items I had the day before. I wrote it with sincerity. He asked me to read it out. As I was reading out, my mom pointed that I had forgotten to mention the Maggi noodles I had for breakfast and my dad pointed out that I forgot to mention half of the pastry I had “tasted” from his plate. 

I was embarrassed that these two items had genuinely skipped my mind. The dietician smiled and said “That says something doesn’t it? You forgot the food you shouldn’t be having.”

“Do you know which kind of people always lose all their excess weight?” he asked.

I nodded a “no”.

“The one who have had a heart attack lose their weight fastest because the will to live is more than the will to eat. Majority of the people are fat because of what they eat and not because of who they are.”

It was the first time someone had made me accountable for the excess weight I was carrying around. Not my bones, not the water content, not my metabolism. 

I didn’t sign up with him, but I knew what to do. I thought what the one thing was every dietician had told me to do and I never did – Drink 3L of water.

So, I added this to my lifestyle. Within a month I increased my water intake from 500ml to 3L and I lost 600 gms!! While some of the sceptics might call it just water weight, it helped me to adopt the “addition” mindset. These are the few things I added along the way  

  1. Steps – all 10K of them. My fitbit Zip was with me even when I slept (what if I sleepwalked? Didn’t want to lose out on those precious steps!)
  2. Eat every 2 hours- I was obsessed with it and I would carry my Marie biscuit everywhere. I even went into a Tiger Reservoir with them even though outside food were strictly prohibited.
  3. Rice, Yolk and Banana- yes, I brought them back to my life. 
  4. Cheat weekend – Instead of eating out 16 times a month, I decided to add a cheat weekend once a month. Those two days I ate out and ate everything to my heart’s content. So now I didn’t feel so sad to pass on a dessert. I knew I would be having it on the next weekend. Initially I would binge, but gradually I couldn’t eat much and now I don’t need to do it at all.
  5. Variety – one of the crucial reasons my diet went astray was because it was very difficult to cook variety at home. So, I got myself an alternative – a healthy dabba. This helped me not get distracted to look for options at the office canteen.
  6. Be prepared – there were always times I caved in. For me this was 4pm at work and on weekends. I decided to get a tiffin for 4pm that satiated me, and I didn’t have to go hunting to the cafeteria. Currently I carry different tiffin boxes. Likewise, I was more prepared for the weekend. Either eat before the party or scan the menu before going to the restaurant.
  7. Cook once a week – if I had to name one thing that one can do to dramatically change their relationship with food, it would be this. Even reading recipes can help. I am a huge fan of Chinese food but when I tried cooking “Chili Chicken”, I was scandalized with the amount of sugar and deep frying it required.

And just like that by adding one thing to another I began losing weight. The best part of addition mindset is I never felt deprived or sorry for myself.

Also, it didn’t test my willpower. If you really think about it, the mind is like a toddler. If you say “No”, it will want it but if you distract it, it will eventually forget about it.

Does that mean I don’t diet?

No. To maintain my current body weight, I don’t need to deprive or delete any food from my life, but I do take up diet challenges. For me they are fun. Currently I am doing “100 days of no sugar” for the second time. I don’t have any sugar except those derived from Fruits (so no white, brown, jaggery, honey, raisins etc).

The best part of doing this challenge was to get into the habit of reading labels. I was forced to check if any food item had sugar in it. Did you know Lays chips has sugar?!

In that sense Paleo, Keto, Gluten free are good diets if you want to know more about food but I wouldn’t go down this route to lose weight because unless it can be a lifestyle, it will introduce more deprivation than delight.

Every year I add certain fitness related goals and as a result my diet has been evolving. Last year for the first time in my life I added proper physical workout (endurance, strength training) to my routine. Currently I assess my fitness on a new list of parameters. I ask myself, can I:

  • Climb 5 floors without panting? 
  • Deadlift my body weight?
  • Complete SRT (sit rise test) hands free? 
  • Pass a bakery without craving a cake? 

Sometimes I do well. Sometimes I do REALLY well. And sometimes I see a samosa and eat it. That’s why I keep adding new things so that I don’t have to avoid the samosa but so that I can one day tell all junk food “I am just not that into you”.  

Also published on Medium.

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One thought on “The Addition Mindset: How I ate more to lose more

  1. I liked this story . The best part is I got a Mantra that one must do something new to keep urself fit & challenge urself so it doesn’t become boring & keep ur interest alive. I like her challenges like 100 days Sugar Free , climb floors without panting , complete SRT !! It’s great !! Given me some new thought !! Thanks Sir for publishing such inspirational stories !!!

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