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“Staying Fit Is A Part Of Me Now”: Heena on Her Fat-to-fit Journey

I am Heena, a remote mechanical engineer. Here’s my story on growing up super fit while playing different sports, picking up an unfortunate sedentary lifestyle, not realizing how disconnected I had become from this beautiful art form, and then making the much-needed change after oodles of trying. When I started gymnastics at 4, then moved on to competitive swimming, trained in rifle shooting and horse riding. I did some Taekwondo and practiced parkour. I played football for a club, handball, volleyball, badminton, ran races back, table tennis, skated for leisure, and tried my hand at basketball.

I completed P1 and P2 in paragliding and guided people from rappelling to hiking for an adventure company. I completed my basic mountaineering course, during which I strained my knees heavily and was forced to stop doing lunges and squats. In the last ‘project’ semester of engineering, I would cycle for 3 hours in the morning, work out for 2 hours, practice yoga for an hour, and cycle again in the evening for 2 hours, 6 days a week for about 3 months straight. I trained so hard to be able to cycle from Manali to Leh, and I did it!

However, with time as I began to travel more, opportunities to play sports significantly reduced. If it were a team sport, there was a lack of girls to make a team or memberships were expensive or more long-term based. By 2016, my motto became to sit at home and binge eat, which wasn’t cool. I moved back to India in 2017 at 64 kilos. It was a time when just getting up from the floor so hard for me, so I made an effort to sign up with a nutritionist and join the gym, but it didn’t work out for me. From then on, thanks to my remote full-time job, I was pretty much living a nomad life while occasionally returning to my base in Mumbai and therefore taking up a membership never made sense.

While contemplating joining a gym chain that I came across, I managed to finish my teacher training course in aerial yoga. I was 62 kilos when I started working out six days a week at this gym. This was when I hadn’t worked on my lower body in 10 years and just had a minor slip disc. I felt confident in trusting my trainers on this journey and I started with slower workouts. At this time doing even 3 squats would mean soreness for a week. I just tried cardio formats once and gave up.

I learned from a friend who runs marathons that even 200gms of the upper body weight comes on your knees and makes a difference while running and that changed everything at my end. I realized how getting fat was only hurting my knees and I was determined more than ever to work hard to lose weight only for my knees. I gave indoor cycling a try and fell in love with it, so much that I even did that intense class on consecutive days. I then moved towards boxing and I couldn’t even finish half of my first class. With time I was able to complete it entirely and would want a higher intensity. Yoga has helped me gain so much flexibility, and I can now do headstands and bakasana. It has increased my concentration and has trained me to balance better. I also started doing dance workouts which increased my stamina. On some days, I would even do 2 or 3 classes in a go-to challenge myself.

I grew up with the idea that meditation is boring and slows you down. But I tried one session at a time, and they were so logical for me to believe in. I have been able to increase my mindfulness and concentration. I eventually experienced Yoga Nidra and setting the Sankalpa of ‘I am content’ actually had led me to be happy at home during covid times, not wanting to leave my house once. My mental health has also improved.

I never gave enough attention to nutrition until late last year when I signed up for the nutritionist session over video. I was amazed by how she asked me about my schedule, what I like to eat and then suggested a diet which meant I didn’t have to force myself to follow something. I never followed it to the T, but at the same time, I kept in mind the concepts. It changed the portions I ate and brought back the kind of missing things from my plate. I didn’t starve once and have never felt like binge eating since. This new routine has become a habit and has led me to be mindful about my ‘food’.

The lockdown has been a game-changer because then I spent time doing live classes and personal training online. I also had to stop ordering food but that got me to reduce my packaged and preserved food purchases too. Apart from eating healthier, it has always been more about reducing waste.

Slowly and steadily, I have been dropping kilos and at some point, I got to 50.4 kilos through this fat to fit experience. I can already feel my knees thanking me! Now staying fit is a part of me. My body reminds me in case I miss making time for it consciously. It reminds me to meditate, to work out, to eat well, and to sleep tight. It reminds me to keep trying out new things constantly and make the most out of this life. This march as I turned a year older, I took my first skateboarding and surfing class, where I managed to stand up already.

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