this is why you never lose weight at the gym

*the great indian fitness series*

i have paid hefty sums and been a member of four gyms in all of my adult life. like everyone else, i have slogged over the cardio machines, sweat more than you possibly can in the chennai summer and also tried the eating tiny portions of food route. none of it has worked in giving me what i truly wanted – to lose weight and to keep it that way.
it took me a few tries but i have finally cracked the factors that impact my end goal.

the science of the body, the state of affairs of gyms in chennai, the females only gyms, the weight loss struggle – by the powers combined – i present to you the first in the series. 

the trainer

this is THE HOLY GRAIL. a good trainer is KEY to fitness. notice that i have made the switch from weight loss to fitness? that’s the first thing a good trainer should be able to tell you! it’s never about losing weight. it’s about losing fat, toning the muscles to stay strong and fit!
unless you pay top bucks for a personal trainer like a film star, the chances are, the trainer in your gym is either a whey protein-muscle man or a thin-by-genetics girl they stick at the front table. 
the “trainers” at the females-only gym in chennai are pretty bad when it comes to fitness and the science of the body. most gyms have girls that are thin/lean to project a certain body image and have professionals come in for specific classes. these professionals who typically handle yoga, zumba or aerobics do not have the time to spot form or give you personalised advice. 

what do you typically need to look for in a trainer?
* someone who knows the fitness routine – understands the difference between weight loss and fat loss.
* someone who is themselves toned, fit and strong – not just thin
* someone who understands the body – should be able to help you with form, cramps and aches too!
* someone who can invest the time to give your personalised fitness program and help you achieve your goals.

the diet

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i have utilised the chance to speak to “dietitians” at all the gyms i have been a member of. let me start by emphasising that salads may sounds fun but the indian food system is totally different and you do need a customised plan and not some diet chart off pinterest.
the said dietitians did give me sheets of what to eat and what not to. 

typical advice from a dietitian at a chennai females-only gym.
* avoid rice! eat rotis, salads, fruits and steamed vegetables
have green tea! have bullet coffee! have gow-moothra!
* avoid sweets, chocolates and junk food.
* have 2 chapathis and 1 bowl of steamed vegetables for dinner!
* my personal favorite – dont eat after 8 pm!

everyone truly needs to hakuna their tatas about dieting. Soheefit on instagram is super fit and awesome and she did the the snickers diet!

what you ACTUALLY need to know about dieting
* pick any diet plan that you like or better yet, dont even pick a plan. it’s up to you!
KEY is to stay in CALORIE DEFECIT. 
* eat whatever you want in a day, as long as you stay in calorie deficit – eating just 5 snicker bars a day is much better than struggling through teeny cups of veggies with a HANGRY neon sign above your head!
* ensure that your protein levels are adequate, especially when you work out! your body needs protein to repair itself
* what you must also know is that protein needn’t come from magic powders – stick to eggs, poultry, chick peas and dhaal!

the exercise

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most females only gyms in chennai do not have kettle bells beyond 5kg or dumbbells beyond 7 kg. you are lucky to have bars and weights only if you are at a unisex gym.
cardio can only get you so far. the main reason people complain of putting weight back on when they quit gym is because they dont strength training. 

no, you will not bulky and look like a female arnold schwarzenegger if you do strength training. 

strength/resistance training uses anything from bodyweight, gravity to weights to oppose against a typical muscle movement. this is the key to getting fit and staying fit!

the females only gyms have “gym-cards”. they write you a set of floor exercises using 2 kg dumbbells, a whole bunch of ab crunches and 20 minutes of cardio on a treadmill or the elliptical cross trainer. once you fill up a card (typically 45-60 days), someone writes you a new set of exercises. given irregularity and sheer loss of will power at no/less change on the scales, most members rarely cover three such cards over an annual subscription.

strength training is key to losing fat and building muscle on the yellow brick road to fitness. i am yet to come across a trainer who has asked me to move on to a bigger set of weights given that i am used to a lower one after a month or so.

so what can you do.

trainer –  if you find the unicorn, consider yourself  blessed and do pass on contact information. else look through the millions of instagram, pinterest and youtube videos and be your own trainer.

diet –  in 24 hours, what you eat is key. it doesn’t matter if it’s ONE BIG MEAL/day or several tiny meals. timing of your meals makes no relevance to the body. your body processes food in the same manner irrespective of the time. understand that the circadian rhythm may affect the time taken to digest your meals but the absorption of nutrients including fat is the same for all meals you eat.
i eat brownies and biryani by the bucket  and on other days eat eggs and salads. 
maintain a balance. maintain a calorie deficit!

exercise – cardio is not wrong but you cant get very far with JUST cardio. understand resistance training. start with simple ones using your body weight (planks, burpees) etc and move on to using resistance bands before hitting the weights. make sure to stretch before and after and stay hydrated.
i can not stress enough the importance of “form” while exercise.  you could hurt your neck doing simple ab crunches and never have any effect doing planks because your form is wrong. the right form puts the right muscles into play and helps avoid injury!

i dont look like mandira bedi, yet. but understanding the road that leads to OZ, was my true blue light-bulb moment. i plan to continue this series with more about being your own trainer, the right exercises and of course the diets that worked for me and the ones that didn’t.
watch this space!

image source: 1, 2, 3

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