It was June 2015, when my girlfriend at the time, told me about her colleague’s magical transformation — not in a spiritual way, but physical way. At my puzzled look, she grabbed her phone, opened her browser and typed k-e-n-z-a-i.me. As the page opened, I saw this beautiful specimen’s face staring out at me, with links for exercise, diet and lessons — nothing out of the ordinary. She went ahead and searched for her colleague’s name (which for his privacy, I will not disclose), and then, showed me his transformation — in photos.
Eyes widened, my jaw almost dropped to the floor and my hand, that was still crunched inside the bag of chips, refused to move. This man had lost, what seemed like, 20 kgs. in 12 weeks! He was a shadow of himself — leaner, smarter and with an effervescent glow! Convinced that this journey was also going to be hers, my girlfriend announced she was going to sign up for it. I asked her how much it costed, and US$500 for the program did not seem a lot to her, “as they tell you what to eat, what to exercise and also lessons about life”. Fair enough, I said (with a mouthful of chips), and moved back to the sports website that had me occupied prior.
A week later, my girlfriend, asked me, “Do you want to join me in the program?”
“What? Me? Do you think I am fat?”
“No, but, I think you could do with some better food habits, given that you eat out every single day, and have done that for 5 years.”
Mildly offended, deeply conscious of my sparsely-seen double chin, I peeled my eyes away and said, “Let me think about it”, or man-speak for Let’s change the topic now.
A week passed. And then another. Without any mention of the topic. Then, suddenly, one day while dressing up, I noticed that I could not fit into a suit I had got stitched just 6 months prior! Shock. Horror. Embarrassment. And then, a realisation. Maybe it is time to make some changes.
I opened that browser again, and read about the program. 3 months. No Alcohol (That’s not a problem). 1 cup of tea / coffee a day (No problem, again, I don’t take caffeine). 1 tsp of sugar/salt (HUGE problem)! I looked at myself in the mirror placed outside my door. “Are you ready for this?” I put my game face on, took out my credit card, and paid the money. Just like that, in a blink of an eye, I decided to change the course of my life’s choices for 3 months, or so I thought.
Principally there were three parts to Kenzai Body 1, or as I will call it , ‘the program’ — exercises (changed every day), diet (updated once a week), and blogging (compulsory once every 10 days). Don’t underestimate the last one! They kick people out if you don’t blog in 10 days (I came close twice).
1 July 2015. Bally’s Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada.
Open Kenzai blog. Heart rate: 110 beats/minute.
Exercises? Easy! Just 20–30 minutes.
Diet? Eat what you usually do, just leave a quarter on the plate.
The look of elation which my girlfriend and I shared! We don’t have to ‘diet’. For. A. Week.
Next thing we know, we hit Bellagio’s famous buffet breakfast. US$60+ per person, and boy, I redeemed it. No quarters left. Or given. 7 plates full. Amen.
That first week, my dear friends, was false hope. The real back breaker was ahead. “It is going to get so hard, we will cry to ourselves, and I will blame you!”, I told my girlfriend sometime later that week.
Oh boy! How right I was.
Week 2 onwards. Everything changed. Workouts? Now they lasted 40+ minutes. Meals? They had to be prepared in advance as we had to eat small and measured portions every 2–3 hours. Blog posts? Some people were already slipping up!
Slip ups were not surprising, as eating and drinking are a necessity in our society, not a luxury. Convinced that I had to avoid the fate of my cohort members, I told myself — If I am to do this successfully, it will require a lot of planning, a whole lot of stubbornness and keeping them sugar cravings at bay.
I was right about 2 out of the 3 things.
- The planning was enormously hard. Meal preparations started 2 nights in advance, with portions to be measured (I loved that!) and put in small boxes for lunch, evening snack, dinner, post dinner snack.
- Stubbornness was also mighty important. Just how many times can you say No for drinks? Ask me. I said No for drinks for 6 months!
- Sugar cravings. Ah. Well, technically, our meal plans were moving us away from processed sugar to natural sugar — one we get from fruits and carbs. But, just because I am weird that way, I put chocolates in my fridge (from Spain, Belgium and Australia, no less!) My reasoning? If I feel a really strong urge, I should not hold myself back. It should not feel like a prison sentence!
The Changes — and the will power test
Mentally, I was prepared that things would change — what I ate and drank, where I ate and drank, who I ate and drank with — but I was not prepared at the quantum of the change. My friendships were tested (thankfully, there were lessons on how to deal with that!), my emotions were tested (hanger pangs, anyone?) and my will power was tested (how do you get yourself to exercise when work ends at 10pm?).
Alas, the real test of my will power happened 2 weeks in (July 15, 2015). When a ‘minor’ surgery created a major hassle. A bandaged leg that could not take any weight, meant I was home bound for 48 days, with no exercise possible. I could only leave home to see the doctor every 2–3 days, and came back with more medicines, more precautions and increased leave certificate! That meant, no exercises! So, despite all the gusto, I was stopped. Gutted. But strangely, enjoying the routinisation of my meals, so, despite the obvious annoyance of being home-bound, I continued on my meal program, and losing some pounds (without any exercise)!
19 September 2015 — Kenzai Body 1, Take 2.
“I’m back! :)” — my post said it all.
I was back in the Kenzai fold. This time, determined to finish what I had started. And finish I did! Every exercise. Every skipping rope. Every V-sit, Plank and Chest Dip. It was excruciating. And it was working. For every scorned look, Kenzai’s lessons helped. Why are you cutting salt from your diet? Here, read this! Why are you exercising every day? Here, read that!
Being back amongst a group of Kenzai warriors unleashed a wave of positivity in me I had not known to exist! Bizarrely, it was a hugely productive part of my time, despite being buried in work (due to my 48 day work from home!) Nonetheless, I did not complain once even though exercises started at 6 or 6.30am. I looked forward to meal measurement and preparation like a child looks forward to the final school bell! And, I was using the experience of previous 3 months to support my cohort members.
12 weeks hence. Multiple playlists later. From disapproving friends to winning moderate respect. From discussions on the ills of losing weight to sustaining the change. I, finally, reached my final week.
Melbourne, December 2015
20 mins. jump rope. Check.
Floor Jumps. Pistol Squat. Cross Lunge. Check
Kung-Fu Sit Up. Captain’s Chair. Plank. Check
The end was marked, quietly with a beer and a chat with an old dear friend.
12 kgs. lighter. In need of a new belt to hold my falling trousers. Looking like I had borrowed every single T-shirt I had. Kenzai was a success.
This from my final blog post:
As I stand here, 177 days later and 12 kgs. lighter, I am a proud Kenzai graduate. These words fill me with glee especially as I had to give up on the dream body because of a surgery mid-July. When I started, I had no goal or number in mind, which perhaps made it easier for me to go with the flow. Measure the food? Done. Give up on oil, salt and sugar? Done. Pick up the jump rope? Done. In all fairness, the path has not been very difficult for me as I had made up my mind to give up eating out and give Kenzai my full dedication, time, energy and soul. And boy it has rewarded me with new found zeal, enthusiasm and a willingness to give fresh and natural a try!!
And, remember those chocolates? The urge to consume them never arrived, and they were thrown away untouched.
There in lies my biggest lesson from those glorious and victorious 177 days.