I have changed my thoughts, opinions, values and priorities. I now have a good, healthy relationship with food, I understand more about nutrition.. - Bijal
It was early 2020, Bijal Kara was on a trip to Mexico with some friends, while everyone was shooting selfies or posing for photos to share on their social media, Bijal was trying her best to hide from the lens. If she couldn’t control the angle of the camera she didn’t want to be photographed. She didn’t like the way she looked and she definitely didn’t like how she felt.
“I was so uncomfortable in my own skin. Every time I looked in the mirror, I would ask myself, ‘Who are you and how did you get here?’ Living a busy life and working in Central London made making healthy choices really difficult. We would eat out all the time! Most of the time I had about half an hour to grab a meal at lunch time. After work we were expected to head down to the pub for a pint. Although I used to try to prepare my meals for the evenings, my food choices during the day were terrible!”
A Difficult Relationship with Food
Trusting yourself to make good food choices consistently is tough for most of us. For Bijal it was even more complicated. When she was little she would eat very slowly, and as a way to get her to eat faster, she was told if she didn’t eat quickly the ghosts would come to catch her.
This seemingly innocent tactic to get her to eat faster had a lasting effect on her psyche, she found eating such a chore that she chose to avoid eating if she could. When she was 16 she was diagnosed as being anorexic. When her parents found out, they were devastated and did all they could to support her. They tried their best to make meals that she would find tasty and she would even cook them with her dad. This helped her find her way back to eating food again and she managed to regain some semblance of balance.
“I have never been happy about the way I looked. I was anorexic when I was 16 and at that time I would eat half a sandwich for the whole day and convince myself that I was full. But then later on in University, I went from hardly eating anything to eating way too much. I feel like my whole life has been about people commenting on how I looked. As a teenager I was ‘too skinny’; as a young adult at University I was a ‘bit too healthy’. I was sensitive and comments from other people bothered me, I would think about what someone said over and over. I guess when you aren’t in a good place physically you aren’t in a good place mentally either.”
The Dreaded Diet Dance
Before becoming an RNT member, Bijal had yo-yoed around following a keto diet. She would manage to lose some weight with her diet but then would fall off the track and put on all the weight she lost back again. During lockdown, while living at home, she fell into the trap of snacking and reaching for that too tempting bag of crisps or a chocolate bar. All the social media trends that kicked off around the first lockdown influenced her. Not wanting to be left out, she started baking cakes and breads which of course meant she put on a lot of weight. This constant swinging back and forth left her feeling defeated and that’s when she knew she needed some guidance.
The Trigger to Transform
Bijal’s brother had emerged from an RNT Journey completely transformed.
“I remember looking at my brother’s transformation and thinking, I want that for myself. And he asked me, ‘why don’t you do it!’ But I felt like I couldn’t commit to something because it was my birthday soon. When I told my brother the reason why I didn’t feel ready to commit to the RNT journey he said, ‘You don’t want to go into an amazing journey of transformation because of 1 day in a year!’ His comment on my inability to commit because of something so superficial really changed my perspective. I feel like I have always been average in my life, average in tests, sports, cooking, baking and I felt like I really didn’t want to be average any more. I wanted to give this transformation journey at RNT my 100%. I didn’t want to be uncomfortable and unhappy any more. I wanted to be stronger mentally and physically. That’s when my journey started.”
Setting Up the Board
After carefully assessing Bijal’s lifestyle, habits and her goals, the team at RNT presented a plan that Bijal could just execute. When we need to make a drastic change in our lifestyle; what we really need is for someone to steer us away from our known pitfalls so we can reach our destination safely. This is where the 3Ss came in, we created a Structure, System and Strategy for Bijal to follow throughout her journey, making the habits she was going to incorporate integral to her everyday life.
Decision fatigue is real, throughout the day we have to make choices. We decide what clothes to wear, whether we should meet a friend or go to a movie. We also have to make a lot of important decisions at our work, all of this thinking takes up a lot of our energy and we face decision fatigue. So at the end of the day, when we are tired we don’t have the capacity to make any more decisions.
This is why we reach for those chocolate buttons or that bottle of wine in the evening - that’s when our will power is at its lowest. However, if we have our meals and schedule set, we don’t have to think about making better choices, there is no choice, there is only one option, the best option. And when you have a healthy support network (in Bijal’s case her parents, brother and of course the team at RNT) that keeps you accountable it makes sticking to that option that much easier.
“For me CTP was a revelation, I realised I do not need variety in my diet. I was perfectly happy to eat the same thing every day. I ended up sticking to the meal plan for 13 weeks and I felt satisfied and happy! The only reason we changed it was because my calories changed and we couldn’t fit them within this structure.”
Bijal’s Sample Meal Plan:
M1: 15g Whey, 30g Oats, 10g Peanut Butter
M2: 20g Whey mixed with 200ml water, 10g of Peanut Butter
M3: 150g White Fish, 30g Rice, 2tsp E-V Olive Oil, 150g Assorted Vegetables
M4: 20g Whey mixed with 200ml water, 10g of Peanut Butter
M5: 35g Red Lentils, 30g Rice, 2tsp E-V Olive Oil, 150g Assorted Vegetables
Playing to Win
After setting the plan in CTP, Bijal’s next challenge was to nail The Process Phase. She was dedicated and was determined to complete every task. Sticking to the schedule and hitting the gym, stirred up a lot of emotions. Bijal found a lot of the ‘muck’ rising to the surface.
‘The muck’ is the RNT term for the deep-rooted distress or struggle that’s caused poor lifestyle choices in the past, they may also continue to impact in the future. In Akash’s book Transform Your Body, Transform Your Life he talks about ‘the muck’ and its affect on our mindset in greater detail.
For Bijal, her muck was all the negative associations with food, the constant comments and remarks on the way she looked.
During The Grind when all of her energy was being focused on training she realised that she didn’t want to waste what precious energy and time she had on relationships that weren’t serving her. She didn’t want to waste hours scrolling through Instagram and worrying about other people’s opinions.
“For me The Grind was like a much needed detox. It was really tough but it had to be done! I am eternally grateful to RNT, the support they gave me throughout was invaluable and I found the strength to wake up and keep going in my journey. The really amazing thing was, I was walking on the treadmill, which is in the shed, and I noticed in the corner these cans of Nourishment. That’s what I used to drink when I was anorexic! My parents would feed me cans of that drink so I could put on some weight while I was recovering. Being anorexic was a major part of my life but at some point I had blocked it out, I had totally forgotten that I had gone through that! And suddenly, in the free, uncluttered time on the treadmill, I remembered! I had flashbacks of going through anorexia, the struggles I had with my own self esteem at that time! I would cry thinking about all of the pain and embarrassment I had gone through. After The Grind when I look at myself in the mirror I see strong Bijal, I see someone who has shed a lot of negativity.”
Using The Physical as The Vehicle - The Big Win
Bijal really used the physical as the vehicle to defeat her demons and rise above the muck. During The Process Phase she dug deep and found that the comments and jibes about her looks and appearance didn’t matter anymore, other people’s opinions didn’t affect her any more. The reason she went on the RNT journey was to find her self-esteem and to feel strong and confident. Today, she looks into the mirror and she feels proud of what she has accomplished.
“Going through The Grind has given me a complete shift in perspective. I have changed my thoughts, opinions, values and priorities. I now have a good, healthy relationship with food, I understand more about nutrition and how as long as I keep an eye on my macros, I can keep on top of my calories.”
Bijal’s lack of know-how on food was one of the biggest stumbling blocks she faced before she became an RNT member. She had misconceptions about carbs and thought the only way she could lose weight was to completely avoid them, something that she knows now is not only unsustainable but also inaccurate. She is also experimenting more with a vegetarian diet, with her new found knowledge she knows how to ensure she gets her share of protein even while being vegetarian.
The Next Steps…
Bijal is now firmly set on a trajectory towards finding optimal health and fitness. When she started a new job in Central London the old lures of snacking and evenings at the pub threatened to unravel her carefully constructed plan. But she did the smart thing, Bijal went back to her basic meal plan in the CTP Phase and set her calorie targets. She has her 3Ss in place and she knows that when she is in doubt she can always use them to keep her on track.
“After the lockdown, I went back to the gym and felt like I was back home! I love going to the gym now. I feel strong and confident and I know my way around the weights room. I look back at how I used to feel everytime I went to the gym. I felt self conscious, as if all the men were looking at me and judging me for lifting my 4kg dumbbells. I also want to tell all other women who wish to become stronger to avoid the women’s only area of the gym, they don’t have the kind of weights you can push yourself to achieve, why should women have to hide away in a small corner of the gym. You are there for yourself so go there for yourself and strive to be a better version of yourself.”
You can hear from Bijal about her struggles with food and her journey of transformation in this podcast (Episode 207). Bijal talks in more detail about her struggles and how she rose above the social pressures to become a strong woman with an admirable sense of self-worth.
Watch Bijal’s podcast video here.