How Does Extreme Weight Loss Feel?
You’re going to have to forgive me for being a little bit self-indulgent when I talk about extreme weight loss transformations.
Because I am talking about my journey of losing 140 pounds, the good, the bad, the ups, the downs, and the lasting impact – both of being at my starting weight and the process of losing that weight.
What Does An Extreme Weight Loss Transformation Feel Like?
I get a lot of questions about the weight I lost:
- How did you do it?
- How long did it take?
- Which diet did you follow?
- How did you exercise
And honestly, it was one big, long journey, with a lot of twists, turns, and detours throughout. It had a dramatic impact on both my mental and physical health and continues to impact me even years after I reached a healthy range BMI.
Just to add a disclaimer, the term “extreme” weight loss can mean different things to different people.
From my heaviest to lightest I lost 140 pounds (or 63kg). That is only just slightly less than my current weight.
So I think it’s fair to say that losing nearly half of your body weight would come under the bracket of extreme weight loss.
But depending on your goals, health, lifestyle, background, and body composition, extreme weight loss might be a different measure for you.
Also, I am using the term “weight loss” because that is 100% what I focused on throughout my journey – weight. But if we’re getting really specific I should be referring to this as fat loss because that is what I really wanted. But the difference between weight loss and fat loss was completely alien to me.
How I Lost 140 Pounds
From Unhealthy Beginnings
Growing up, I came from a family that – collectively didn’t lead healthy lives. None of us was into sport or exercise, was never mindful of our nutrition, and didn’t really moderate intake or control portions.
So as a family, all of our weights were on the higher side – to put it politely.
And at this point, I will pause and say if that is something you would categorise yourself as and you are happy being you, then please continue to be you.
Growing up, my waist reached trouser size 44-46, depending on where I was shopping.
In school, the official uniforms didn’t go up to my size so I had to buy another blazer and sew the badge on.
Around the age of 12 or 13, I started to become more aware of my size and shape and around the age of 15, I really started to become more sensitive and conscious about it.
At this point, I didn’t try healthy eating or exercise. Instead, I tried diet pills and fat-burning tea. But it didn’t work and I gave up.
I even remember joining a gym but the front door was up 2 flights of stairs and I was out of breath just getting there so I gave up on that really quickly.
So weight loss felt impossible at that age. And instead, I went inwards and focused entirely on studying and getting good grades. I told myself the point of school is to get good grades so I made that my main focus and my bubble.
Getting Started With Weight Loss
The change started when I started at university.
When I was at school I used to get dropped off and picked up outside the school gate so didn’t need to walk much.
When I was at university and walking to the station, getting the train, getting on the underground and walking to my lectures and classes and then repeating that on the journey home really brought into focus how important it was to do something to make coping with my day-to-day life easier.
The first diet I stuck to and actually had some success with was from Rosemary Conley. I didn’t pay money but read up on it (and to be 100% honest, I still don’t know if what I followed was right or not).
My understanding was that you stick to foods that were under 4% fat – so less than 4g of fat per 100g.
That was what I stuck to and while I didn’t track my weight, I know I lost some purely from how my clothes fit. If I had to guess, it would be around 20-30 pounds.
The stumbling block happened during the summer holidays. We went away for a family holiday and I enjoyed myself and then found it really hard to get any kind of consistency when I came back.
I just couldn’t get back into the plan I had been following. I honestly don’t know why but I just couldn’t get back into that mindset with it.
Abhi Meets Slimming World
Throughout my second year of university, I didn’t gain any more weight but weight loss completely stopped as well.
I had a lucky encounter with someone towards the end of my second year at university and they introduced me to Slimming World.
I have done plenty of content about Slimming World already, including some more information on how Slimming World actually works, so I won’t go into too much detail here.
But it was the first diet ever that I could stick to and lost a lot of tracked weight with it. I was seeing results within a couple of weeks, my nutrition was a lot better and I was feeling healthier.
I was getting a lot more fruit and vegetables, and a lot less processed food.
Make no mistake, it did work, and I was consistent but that doesn’t mean it was easy. I struggled, progress was slow and it was very uncomfortable for a good few weeks.
I was 19 or 20 and the typical Slimming World meeting attendees were generally women, in their mid-30s and up. There were plenty of weeks when I would turn up and be the only male and also the only person under 40.
I would care about that a lot less now, but at that age, and with a lot less maturity and a lot less life experience, it was tricky.
After a few weeks, I found I was making more progress than most of the other members of my Slimming World group. And while it was mean (I was only 19 at the time!), that competitive side and sense of smugness (or pride) helped keep me motivated and helped keep me on track.
I was not exercising at all at this stage. I had zero positive experiences of the gym or working out or physical activity of any kind up to this point and decided I want to lose weight before I start exercising.
And yes I know that is illogical. But that is how I felt at the time. I know plenty of people have a fear of going to the gym. It isn’t that uncommon.
Getting Obsessed With Weight Loss
Things were ticking along nicely in terms of weight loss and progress was slow and steady.
As I was losing weight though, I was getting more conscious about body image and more obsessive about losing weight.
When you get praised for weight loss, it is usually meant as a compliment. And when I was around 35-40 pounds down with Slimming World, it was happening quite regularly.
But while it was meant well, it did also reinforce the idea in my head that a thinner me is a better me. So I needed to make sure I kept losing weight.
Plus as an introvert who hides in most social situations and seems to always be a background character, being put front and centre even for a few moments just felt nice. That is the best way to describe it.
Healthwise I was doing better. I was feeling good and I had lots of energy. I wasn’t getting out of breath going up a flight of stairs. So I was happy with my progress.
All of these things did combine to reinforce the idea in my head that thinner is better and that I needed to lose more weight. Once I lost more weight, I would almost be more “worthy” of being me. I know that is a terrible way to think but that is honestly how it felt.
From a physical health point of view, based on my starting weight, being thinner was definitely going to have some health benefits. But I did also allow weight and weight loss to have a huge impact on my own beliefs in terms of my worth as a person.
When you notice how differently people treat you, how different you can be made to feel, and how you can go into most shops and know that their clothes will fit you – it is very hard to prevent that from having an impact.
On that specific topic that’s really all I can say because I still don’t know how to do that. I still feel like a failure sometimes if I eat more than I planned to or if my weight creeps up. And it is something I am still battling.
Joining A Gym And Severe Food Restriction
I started to exercise shortly after graduating from university and starting my first full-time job. One of the employee perks was a subsidised gym membership, and the gym I could use it at was literally across the road.
Plus one of the new joiners who started with me was going to join too so I had some company.
When I started exercising, I quickly picked up a knack for running. I don’t know how because I had never in my life had a positive experience with running. So it might have just been the fact that I could actually physically do it now.
Anyway, I became fixated on running and made progress quickly. From there it just kind of became my thing.
At the same time, my fixation with weight was getting worse.
I was still with Slimming World, but my eating habits were definitely getting worse. Having lived with my family throughout, stepping out into the big wide world with my first job was a lot to take in and my brain I guess decided that to make sure I get the most out of this, I needed to be skinny (because thinner = better in my head).
It got to the point where my daily eating was as follows:
- Breakfast was a packet of oats, a banana, some semi-skimmed milk, and some sweetener
- Throughout the day was mainly fruit and coffee
- Dinner, when I got home, was a “normal” meal
And that was it.
So I was getting plenty of vitamins, minerals, and hydration.
But there was minimal protein, no dietary fats and almost no actual nutritional variety. Plus the general volume of food was way below what the body of a fairly slim runner in his early 20s would need.
Bootcamp And Better Nutrition
By another stroke of fortune, the son of one of the Slimming World members I spoke to regularly was starting outdoor fitness bootcamps. I tried that, really enjoyed it and became a regular member.
It also happened to be my first real experience of trying to do any kind of weights or strength training.
I sucked for a while (and honestly some exercise I probably still do) but I kept at it and enjoyed it.
It was giving my body more variety, and different kinds of training, and challenged me in ways that running couldn’t.
During this time I also started to learn more about nutrition, protein, good fats and fuelling yourself properly. And at this point, I left Slimming World.
Slimming World started me on my journey, I lost around 70-80 pounds with them and I still feel very grateful for the change that was created in my life.
But I had come to a natural endpoint with it and found something else to move on to.
With boot camp, I got fitter, stronger, and started to have a bit of muscle definition. I was also continuing to lose weight consistently.
I was learning more about calories, nutrition, natural whole foods, and processed foods.
As I was losing weight and performing better, I started to get more obsessive with eating “cleanly” and at this point, my eating habits probably started to fit the mould of orthorexia.
The definition of orthorexia, as provided by BEAT, is:
Orthorexia refers to an unhealthy obsession with eating “pure” food. Food considered “pure” or “impure” can vary from person to person.
It was a problematic relationship with food, but I was still making progress and to me, that was really all that mattered.
Gradually I shifted towards more weightlifting and strength training, to try and build some strength and muscle.
At this point, I would have lost around 125 pounds in around 6 years. So the end of my weight loss journey was feeling close. But I still wanted to be leaner and I wanted a bit more muscle definition too.
This was probably when I found body image much more of a struggle.
I was constantly feeling like I was overweight despite fitting into a size small in most clothing brands. I had a lot of loose skin on my chest and abdomen which always played on my mind.
And I ended up in this weird limbo of feeling too big, too small, not fit enough, and a bit fitness-obsessed, all at the same time.
Because of career changes and generally getting busier, I ended up staying in that limbo for a few years.
It became a lower priority and rather than being a sharp stinging issue at the front of my mind, it was more of dull background noise.
During this time, I also had a couple of failed attempts at “bulking” where I went from around 75kg up to around 80-82kg. But I gained very little strength or muscle. It was mostly just body fat.
Covid Pandemic Lockdown Weight Loss
Aside from those, I ended up hovering between 78-80kg until COVID and lockdowns started.
I was still showing some symptoms of orthorexia and I was still obsessive about sticking to a training plan but wasn’t really making progress toward any specific goal.
Then a couple of months into the COVID pandemic and lockdowns, I lost my job.
I was stressed and anxious as I’m sure a lot of us were back in the early part of 2020.
But I had more free time and the weather was very nice in 2020 actually, so I started walking a lot more.
I also started playing around with intermittent fasting to see if it could help me shift that extra bit of weight I seemed to have gained.
If you’re not familiar with intermittent fasting, to put it simply, you eat in a set eating window and fast the rest of the time. There are plenty of variations of it, but what I was doing was eating between 12 noon and 8 PM, and then after 8 PM, not eating again until 12 noon the next day.
I don’t remember what prompted me to start, but I did. And it was working great!
I was fuller on fewer calories, I was losing weight, and for the first time in years, I was starting to get more comfortable with so-called “unclean” foods.
And then a couple of months after losing one job, I started another, which I hated and actually only lasted around three months in.
I’ve talked about this job and how it impacted me when I discussed binge eating order, so I won’t go into too much detail here.
But the main thing is that because intermittent fasting was making me fuller on fewer calories, I was allowing myself a bit more wiggle room in food intake at the end of the day, and I would often end up having a dessert or some kind of sweet indulgence.
That, combined with stress, segued into nighttime binges, which snowballed into binge eating disorder. The tipping point was the stress from that job I was in.
Repairing My Relationship With Food And The End Of My Weight Loss Journey
These days, and at the time of writing, my binges are a lot more manageable.
It is still something I am working on. But I am in a much better mental space and I feel much more in control. But it is something I need to be mindful of.
I was still able to lose weight despite binge eating disorder and got to the target weight I wanted to.
And in March 2022, I finally had surgery to remove the loose skin from my chest and abdomen. I am writing this in June 2022 and am coming towards the end of the recovery phase. Depending on when you’re reading this, there may or may not already be some posts around my journey with this procedure and cosmetic surgery for men more generally too.
But having now had that surgery, I am at the point where for the first time I think I can say my battle with weight loss is truly over. It has been a lifelong battle but I feel like I am there now.
I may need to try and shift a little bit of weight in the coming weeks – no vigorous exercise and severely reduced activity for 8-1o weeks while eating as normal will take its toll of course. But that is a very short-term plan.
I can finally say I feel like my long-term battle to constantly be skinnier is done with.
It has taken its toll, and will of course leave me with mental scars. But I feel like I am finally there. And I now also have physical scars from my surgery too.
Extreme Weight Loss Motivation
Now I am aware that telling you that it took me more than a decade, finishing off with cosmetic surgery, to end my battle with weight loss is not the most inspirational or motivational message.
It is my story and it is my truth. But there are positives, and some glimmers of motivation and inspiration in there.
And a few lessons you can pick up from my mistakes too.
Things To Remember With My Weight Loss
There are some key points to remember here.
It is worth remembering that a lot of what I did was through self-experimentation. If I worked with a coach or a professional, I might have made progress much more quickly.
And I might have been more consistent with sticking to one thing.
It is also worth bearing in mind that my personality type leaves me prone to obsessive and compulsive behaviours. It is likely to be a form of ADHD although I have never been diagnosed.
But it is very easy for me to hyper-fixate on things and need things to be perfect.
And I get stressed and anxious, and discipline goes out the window if I can’t do that.
So that definitely slowed down my progress, thinking about all those days when I was less than perfect on my diet so ate freely.
Never Giving Up
Looking back, once I found Slimming World and started to make progress with that, I never really gave up or let myself stop.
I think once I finally found something that was working, I understood what was possible. From that I knew I could get to my goal. And I don’t think I ever truly doubted it.
I didn’t know how long it would take or what the journey would look like. But I don’t think I ever let myself fully derail.
I had lapses, I got frustrated, and I definitely had moments where I felt like quitting. But those were just a few sparks here and there, and those feelings would fade quickly.
Important Lessons For Extreme Weight Loss
There are some other lessons or takeaways that I think can be helpful here, and which I have realised after spending some time reflecting on.
The Mental Health Impact Of Long Term Dieting
Think about all the different kinds of diets I tried:
- Rosemary Conley
- Slimming World
- I had a brief stint with Weight Watchers
- Low carb
- Calorie counting
- Intermittent fasting
- Fat burners
- Diet pills
- Diet teas…
Throughout that, I’ve had different bouts and different periods of trying to ban certain foods.
At various times there have been some mental health issues, and there have been a lot of highs and lows.
And there have body image issues and issues around eating disorders that I am still working through. I still get a lot of stress and anxiety and guilt around food.
My relationship with food isn’t great. My brain is having a hard time letting go of the idea that thinner is better.
It’s not deliberate, but it is conditioned into me still.
And it might sound scary, and I wish there was an easy fix. But it is something I am still working on.
As intense as that all sounds, there have also been a lot of positives.
Healthy Habits, Healthy Family
I know more about nutrition and wellness, and a balanced diet than I ever did. And that will set me up for better long-term health.
As a collective unit, my whole family’s lifestyle and health were transformed.
My mum was the first person to lose weight, then me. My brother and dad both followed. But used Slimming World to start their journeys, following in my footsteps.
My brother lost around the same amount of weight as me, and my dad was able to undergo major surgery and get back on his feet quickly because of how his health had changed.
My experiences also set me up to qualify as a personal trainer. Between my in-person clients, online clients, gym members, and participants in the classes I used to instruct, I have been able to help hundreds of people feel fitter, healthier, and happier as well.
I’m in my mid-30s and in an overall very good spot with my general health.
I can do things I couldn’t do as a teenager. I can still get my legs to switch on and run quickly without feeling wrecked. I’ve never been particularly strong or muscular, but I can hold my own with weights as well.
My immune system is pretty strong, and *touch wood*, I haven’t even had a cold in something like 8 or 9 years – or at least felt the symptoms of a cold in that time.
I’ve been able to do six Spartan races and a couple of other obstacle races as well.
I qualified as a personal trainer and fitness instructor and built up the stamina to be able to instruct up to 12 vigorous classes a week.
I still have a lot of work to do around self-esteem and confidence but that is now also on an upward curve.
Weight loss was the starting point, and I do still have issues in my head that I need to work through. And the whole journey has left me with both mental and physical scars.
But the overall change to my health, fitness, and quality of life has massively outweighed any downsides. And there have been so many things I’ve been able to do and experience that I just couldn’t do before.
Some Final Lessons From An Extreme Weight Loss Transformation
Let’s look at some lessons that you can take away to help you on your journey if that’s something that you’re on as well.
Long Term Goal
Very definitely have a long-term goal in mind. But also set short-term goals to help keep you on track. You can then adjust the course when you need to.
Celebrate Every Win
Celebrate every win, and every bit of progress, no matter how small. Those celebrations will serve as reminders of how much progress you made from your starting point.
Even getting started is a win – that is sometimes the hardest step.
No one likes when I say to start slow. But it is important.
If you have a long journey ahead, and you are aware it will have some challenges, you want to take your time and pace yourself so that it feels as effortless as possible.
Unsustainable crash diets plus burning out after a few weeks are common. We don’t want to do that.
A slower pace will help you build habits and a lifestyle that will allow you to not only get results but keep them easily as well.
Crash diets usually don’t get you to your goal, and if they do, it is common to rebound back to your starting weight because your lifestyle has gone back to exactly what it was before you started dieting.
Keep The End In Mind
I already mentioned long-term goals, but also have the end in mind. Not just in terms of getting to a certain goal or weight, but also in how you plan on keeping those results.
And that is also why it is important to go slow.
Focus On Health And Happiness
It’s a bit hypocritical of me to say to not focus on weight too much, having just done that throughout my journey, but please learn from my experience.
Focus on feeling healthier, focus on feeling happy. And if you are following a sustainable plan, the results will come easily.
Focus On Positives
As part of that, also try and focus on the positive things.
From experience, I know how easy it is to end up banning foods and thinking about all the foods that you “can’t have”.
First of all, unless you have a medical reason to do so, you don’t really need to ban any foods.
But hypothetically if you did ban or eliminate foods for any reason (and that is up to you), try focusing on the foods that you enjoy that you can have.
The same applies to exercise. Unless you have a specific performance or aesthetic goal, you don’t have to train in any specific way.
If you don’t enjoy training weights – FYI, some strength work is helpful for overall health – then there are other ways to workout, so it is a good idea to focus on finding something you enjoy.
My workouts when covid hit were bodyweight strength, yoga, and a lot of walking. And that was it.
But you can try other things – dancing, climbing, hiking, cycling. One of my personal training clients took up axe throwing.
If you have a specific goal you might need to train in a specific way. For example, if you want to look like a bodybuilder you might need to train like one. If you want to get better at running, you will need to put some mileage in.
But if you just want to move and feel healthy and feel active then just find a physical activity, you enjoy and focus on that.
A little bit of aerobic work, strength work, and stretching and mobility work should be part of everyone’s health regime. But if you’re coming from a background of no regular or consistent physical exercise, then just building the habit in the first place will do you more good to start with than trying to be perfect.
Consistency Is Better Than Perfection
Don’t aim to be perfect. From my own experience, 80-90% consistency which is sustainable, will do you more good than worrying about being 100% perfect, 100% of the time.
Different Diets, Different Workouts, Different Times, Different People
If you are active and focused on a balanced diet, you don’t need to ban any foods.
And different diets can work for different people at different times. Or in my case, different diets can work for the same person at different times.
You’ve already seen how many different modes of weight loss I tried.
Don’t Look For Quick Fixes
Do not look for quick fixes. Usually, there’s someone behind it selling you an unsustainable solution, usually just to take your cash.
It will take patience and discipline. You will probably get emotional and stressed at some points.
You may feel like you have a very long journey ahead of you. It may seem almost pointless to even try.
And that is an awful feeling. But remember that time passes anyway, but if you focus on your overall wellness instead of just weight or how far you have to go, you can still enjoy whatever time it is going to take.
And that’s why I also say focus on how far you’ve come and celebrate every win. It will help make a longer or more difficult journey much more enjoyable.
Don’t Weigh Yourself Weekly
Definitely don’t weigh yourself weekly. I didn’t understand this before. I didn’t understand how weight fluctuates before.
But weight-wise, do not weigh yourself more frequently than every couple of weeks. Ideally maybe even just once a month.
There Is No Perfect Time To Start
A huge thing to remember.
There will never be a “perfect” time to start. But there will never be a better time to start doing something to improve your health than now.
There will always be something on the calendar – birthdays, Christmas, Easter, vacations, and special occasions.
It’ll be much more beneficial for you to learn how to balance those things as part of a healthy lifestyle rather than trying to dodge them entirely. That way as they do come up, you won’t struggle and you can still make progress on your goals.
Plus if you are doing something to improve your health, your body will start to appreciate it right away.
Wrapping Up On My Extreme Weight Loss Transformation
So that’s what I’ve got for you about dramatic weight loss and my extreme weight loss transformation.
I say this in pretty much every post, but especially now as it is a journey I know extremely well, and am aware of how much mental distress it can cause and the emotions it can generate – but if you do want any help on this or want someone to just listen, please do feel free to reach out to me.
You can find me on your platform of choice, from here.
I’ve been there. You now know how many different things I’ve tried and the good and the bad and the ugly of it all. So if I can be of any help at all, please do feel free to use it.