“I love how I feel, and I can’t get over how I look in the mirror!”
In the summer of 2009, I spent two weeks interning at the law firm my dad worked at. It was the last straw. Having started the path of becoming a lawyer from 2003, my six-year escapade of curating my subject choices strategically, undertaking work experience at law firms in London, Mumbai and Aachen (Germany), and looking at the next steps with universities, all came to an end.
I was firmly bit by the fitness bug, and became totally consumed by it. I’d been training for a year and had started to transform out of the 58kg skinny fat seventeen-year-old with moobs and a pot belly. What I know now, but had no idea back then, was that I used the physical as the vehicle to give me the confidence and courage to make what’s still the best and most life-changing decision: taking the road less travelled.
Working at my dad’s law firm showed me the light. It was my trigger to start a cascade of events that culminated in telling my parents that I was going to pursue a career in fitness. If you haven’t listened to Episode 100 of RNT Fitness Radio, where I bring my parents on for the first time, check it out here:
The story, and the reaction, has become something I’ve told more times than I can count. It still sticks with me: “How are you going to pay the bills?”
I tell this story because ten years later, I don’t know what life would be like if I didn’t make that decision. Or if I never started on this journey. The physical has always been the vehicle, and it’s why I believe everyone should experience the life-changing benefits of it. Most of all, I’ve always wanted my parents to start their own transformation journey. For ten years I’ve tried, only to watch them yo-yo with large swings in body weight, habits and behaviours, with an “I’ll start on Monday mentality”.
It all changed in the fall of 2019, when my sister began her RNT journey. She was the way in – as soon as she started, they started adopting similar habits to support her (losing a combined 10kg in the process). And having watched her transform into a new and confident woman, they wanted to be a part of it.
In the first ten years of my career, and specifically in the last three and a half since the formation of RNT, I’ve been lucky enough to facilitate thousands of lives through a transformation. My family’s journeys have been the most special of them all. Ten years after I started walking the path, it all came in full circle. Shyam Kotecha was my first test guinea pig, who I’ve been coaching for ten years now. He is now the man behind the lens (www.skotvisuals.com) as he captured my parents’ first transformation checkpoint as a memory.
My parents had one goal with the photoshoot itself: to inspire the 60+ generation to turn back the clock and rewrite the script.
The Worrying 50s
Over the past ten years, it’s been hard to watch my parent’s health become more of a concern.. When issues like muscle and joint pain as well as heart conditions and cholesterol began to rear their ugly head, it was tough, because I had a solid method that could improve their health and over-all well being.
In 2011 my dad suffered a minor stroke (TIA), both sides of his family live with a worrying track record of heart disease. A few other scares, along with a prostate treatment in 2018, and a decade of cholesterol and blood pressure medication, meant if nothing was acted on, his troubles in his 50s would only amplify into his 60s.
I asked him how this impacted his decision to begin, and he replied:
“On both sides of our family we have a history of heart disease and cholesterol; my late grandfather also suffered from high blood pressure. Following my dad’s death in 1998, our GP kept a close watch on my cholesterol levels. I managed to keep the statins at bay until the age of 47 when I was prescribed the minimum dose, which I continued to take until I hit 51.
That’s when I suffered a mild stroke, which resulted in being prescribed a blood thinner for the foreseeable future along with the statin dose being increased! In 2011, following the stroke, I also underwent a PFO closure as this was the possible reason for suffering a stroke. Whilst I made efforts to control what I ate, the losses were short lived and I was always back to square one (if not minus one to three!).
The trigger to finally act started in September 2019, when Roshni, your sister, started her journey. Having seen her transform, it gave me the confidence to know I could too. Especially when in late January, after her photoshoot, you suggested that I embark on this journey to show whether a man about to hit the big 60 can get into the shape of his life and make drastic changes to his health. Looking ahead, I didn’t want to find myself being prescribed more medicine. This was my last shot to see if I can make the change I’d always internally wanted, and with the family support, I ‘dived in’, as you like to say! My goal was to improve my health via better lifestyle choices, and I didn’t want to let you, and more importantly, RNT down!
I also want to touch on an important point here. Men, as a rule of thumb, do not volunteer their health issues and I was no different until I suffered a stroke. Even then I would hesitate, and the possible explanation was that I did not want to be considered ‘broken’. This was thrown sharply into focus when I suffered prostate issues in 2018 necessitating a procedure. During this difficult period, I happened to mention my condition to a friend who fessed up that he too had suffered a similar fate, pointing me in the direction of a brilliant urologist. After the treatment I am happy to talk about my condition because it is surprising how men are suddenly open about health issues, medication and the difficulties they face.”
For my mum, she found her average body weight creeping up each year, while also witnessing more people around her in their late 50s struggling with their health, strength and energy. She didn’t want to follow suit.
When I asked her more about her history and her ‘why’, she said:
“One day, if you remember, I was showing you my weight log sheet that I’d always kept, and mentioned how my weight had been creeping up over the years since I’d turned 45. When you saw it, you said that when I’d turn 55, I’ll be 10kg heavier. This proved to not only be right, but worse! When I reached 55 I’d gained 13kg in the ten years prior.
While I’d picked up small habits over the years from you, such as joining a gym, swimming once a week, what we both should have done is pay serious attention to what you were proposing. We would have been in the shape of our lives 10 years ago. And it was. As I entered my 50s, especially as I turned 55, all the women I’d meet when socialising would rattle off a long list of illnesses.. I felt shocked and wondered if we women had to go through some sort of disease at this age. They also kept mentioning how the doctors had asked them to lose weight, but that it was impossible to do so at our age.
With my family health history, where both of my brothers suffered heart attacks, and my father and many uncles all passed away at a young age from heart conditions too. My sister had breast cancer, from which she has recovered. Considering how close to home all these health issues are, I continued to ponder if this was my reality as well.
Like your dad, it was when Roshni started her journey that things started to turn. She wears her emotions on her sleeve and so everyday we’d get a breakdown of how she was feeling. Both Dipak and I started to support her as much as we could on the journey by adapting our food, and being careful not to snack in front of her. RNT also supported her immensely and made her reflect on anything she could not work out. When we saw a new woman emerging in Roshni, and seeing her confidence, ambition and overall personal growth, I asked you after her photoshoot to join RNT – the rest is history.”
My parents are holding the weight they lost on this journey so far – 15kg each!
Armed with strong underpinnings to perform, my parents started their journey alongside our January cohort, under the watchful eyes of the RNT coaching team, who I can’t thank enough for their mentorship and guidance. It’s an impossible task to hold your immediate family accountable without it turning into a fight! Proven by the fact that they were able to do what I’d been trying for 10 years in 10 months!
Forging The Lifestyle Solution
From the outset, my parents were clear that once they started this journey, they didn’t want or need to have to diet again. They wanted a lifestyle solution that allowed them to be in the shape of their life, for life. It’s been close to ten months since the start of their journey (as of writing this), but clear evidence is already showing this to be the case, as they completed their photoshoot after their consolidation phase, yet in even better shape than at their checkpoint! It’s hard enough to go through the #VaghelaGrind, and even harder to effectively consolidate. So to do a photoshoot one (mum) and three (dad) months post checkpoint is an incredible feat that highlights the early formation of a lifestyle solution.
Reflecting on these early months, my dad said:
“As I mentioned, yo-yoing was our biggest failure in the past decade. We would start diets in earnest usually, if not always, on a Monday, and after a period of due diligence I’d fall off the wagon and put on more weight! This is the first time (since records began!) that not only have I lost the weight but have managed to harness the skills learnt on this journey to keep my weight steady.
One of the biggest contributors to this so far has been meal hygiene. I never quite understood the phrase ‘meal hygiene’ and for me, this has been my biggest ‘takeaway’ and as per your book, my ‘aha’ moment. I’ve learnt to enjoy the food on my plate, and now savour and stay grateful for every morsel. This has helped break a lifetime habit of wolfing down my meal in a matter of minutes and then hitting the snack box half an hour later!
This journey is also the first time that I’ve enjoyed and become educated in nutrition. It’s still a work in progress , but I’m now learning to work within allocated macronutrients, and with a bit of planning, able to enjoy the occasional treat without worrying. The education has taught me to respect food, enjoy, and always remain grateful for it.
Now close to four months past my first checkpoint, one of the keys to staying in shape for me has been the 3Ss (structure, strategy, system) you learn. It becomes a way of life for you and are the keys to continue your daily physical self-care practices. Every week that passes, I feel these become more and more ingrained. There’s no going back!”
Over the years, my mum has been even more guilty of yo-yoing. I’ve seen her try everything under the sun from books, magazines, DVDs, you name it. I asked what was different this time, to which she replied:
“Since a young age I’ve tried loads of diets but nothing has been as sustainable as what I have with RNT. I used to be part of the ‘1st of the month’, ‘1st January’ and the ‘diet starts Monday’ crowd. Each time I’d be back to normal weight (and more) within six weeks.
What makes RNT different is the weekly check in. It’s our time to hold ourselves accountable, introspect, and reflect to see where we went right or wrong, to then take action the following week. Without realising, you are evolving in the process.
The biggest differentiator has been the education on nutrition. I love knowing about protein, fats and carbohydrates, and understanding how to combine different foods together. I’m also slowly learning how to autoregulate food. En route to the photoshoot, I was buffering. But now I’m learning how to create a lifestyle solution without buffering through mindfulness of the food and increased levels of education. It’s a continuous education right from day one, and that’s what has made this different.
Being an (Indian) vegetarian, I always get asked what Indian foods I am eating on the RNT journey. I started off by approaching nutrition with an open mind (to follow a set meal plan), but then started to get curious about learning to work within the macros and cooking different dishes. I eat moong, masoor dal, lentils, black eye beans, khichdi, rice, oat theplas and occasionally upma! I love how RNT is globally suited to all cultures and cuisines, and can educate you to eat in accordance with your preference.
Oh and one more thing – I don’t think I’ve ever gone hungry! Eating quality food is filling!
The Vaghela Kitchen Board which dictates 80% of meals to eradicate decision fatigue. The 20% Zone is for more flexibility with educated choices.
Feeling Like A Million Bucks
My mum won’t ever hesitate to tell you how many times she’s been asked if my sister is her sister, and how she looks too young to have a son who is almost 30. That’s gone up to a whole new level now, and the messages I received after sharing an early photoshoot picture only echoed this.
My parents feel and look a million bucks! I’m shocked that my dad’s 60 and my mum’s 56 – they look 30 and 26! They’re fitter and stronger than most people half their age, and they’ve well and truly turned back the clock with a newfound confidence that you can’t fake.
My dad recently said to me:
“I cannot explain the confidence this journey has given me in both my personal, social and professional life. I am prepared to put forward my view and argue rationally, when previously I would have conceded or walked away. That’s immeasurable. This journey gives you a sense of intangible belief about yourself. It also gives you a self-belief that anything is possible.
In terms of body composition, I have dropped two trouser and jacket sizes and I now also wear your shirts you’ve left at home!
I also love my new-found strength. I now look forward to going to the gym, not just for the workout, but to build up on new skills. I’m now able to do 10 chin-ups with 8kg attached, while also learning how to ‘skin the cat’, do the Turkish Get Up, bridging and overall mobility practices.
My sense of wellbeing is off the Richter scale, and during this journey so far I have re-discovered journaling (that I used to do decades ago), and listen to challenging and interesting podcasts more often.
Best of all – my cholesterol has come down considerably which has surprised both my doctors and consultant, and am now awaiting an appointment (Covid-dependent) to discuss my meds to see if/when they can be stopped!”
Echoing my dad’s feelings, my mum added:
“I’m not sure about looking 26, but I’ll take it! It’s inspiring to have people mention to me that they weren’t sure if it was Roshni or me! Since this journey, I’ve never enjoyed going to the gym as much as I do now. I am now addicted and enjoy waking up to head off to the gym!
I’ve learnt so many new skills such as push ups, chin ups, bench presses (32kg) and deadlifts (75kg), and I love the strength. All my pains I carried have gone, especially in the knees. Additionally, the movement I take most pride in is the bridge. It took me almost four months of daily practice five times per day to learn it, but the best bit is that once you learn it, you only need one or two sessions a week to keep it up. I’m enjoying the competition with myself, and the drive to always improve my form.
Outside of the strength and flexibility gains, I’ve also opened up a whole new way of thinking on mindset, growth and learning how to better myself. I’m learning to think at a higher frequency while also increasing positive vibrations within the family and community.
Aesthetically, I’m now wearing clothes that I only dreamt about! I used to try on clothes and think I’d wear it when I lost X amount of weight. Of course, that never happened. But now, the world is my oyster! I love shopping now. In fact, with the first batch of clothes I bought, I had to return all of them. Despite ordering two sizes down, I needed to go another size down from there! In one of the high street shops, I used to buy size 14 and now I need an 8. Best of all, I sometimes sneak into Roshni’s cupboard to wear her clothes!
I’ve also embraced life to the full. But now I’m out and about and full of energy. We’re walking to places we used to take the car to, and enjoying our new lease of life. The next challenge on the cards is skiing. There’s one walk we do locally that I’d huff and puff my way through, and I said to Dipak, the day I glide over that hill you are booking a ski holiday. Once lockdown is lifted, we’ll be on the slopes!”
Inspiring A New Generation
Age is only a number. Anyone has the power to transform. You only need to be committed, consistent and coachable to a new way of being. I hope my parents’ case study has the power to transform a generation of 60+ year olds who may think they have missed their window of opportunity.
The statistics on sarcopenia (age related muscle loss), and hormonal and bone density changes are worrying – the best chance you can give yourself is to take charge of your health and well-being. You owe it to yourself, and to the loved ones around you.
But the problem is, as we discuss on Episode 162 of RNT Fitness Radio, is that the older generation are stubborn to change. Doing something for forty plus years means a lot of deep-rooted habits, behaviours and mindsets. It also becomes an identity that you don’t want to develop. It has to start with small steps, support from loved ones, and a belief that it’s not too late. It also requires a new education, and one to combat many of the long-held beliefs around self-care that this generation will have accumulated.
My dad expanded on this sentiment, as he said:
“The initial reaction when I first started this was fairly negative. I was often told I looked ill and that my wife was not feeding me, to which I’d often reply she was feeding me properly now! I had to shrug off a lot of these initial comments and stay clear of what I wanted to achieve, but I did notice that the comments started to change to discreetly asking about what food I now eat… I took that as the beginning of a shift in mindset with those around me. There’s now an understanding and grudging acceptance that this rewired (although not complete) model is not going to fall back into his old habits.
My aim is now two-fold. Firstly, I want to continue shedding old vices and replace them with a new set of systems. I plan to continue the journey to learn how to maintain my hard-earned gains and turn them into an automatic lifestyle solution. Secondly, it’s to make people of my generation understand that it is never too late to change. It’s going to take a lot of convincing, but hopefully this old man’s story plants some seeds!”
Inspiring others is something close to my mum’s heart too, as she added:
“I’d love to inspire even one person who may read this. I’m not saying it will be easy. It will require commitment, dedication and time (or a priority shift), but every minute is worth it. I can guarantee that each person on the journey will become addicted to the feeling of being alive and active.
I’ve spent decades working long hours and spinning my wheels with my health. It’ll only get you so far. I’ve learnt that you must make time for yourself to do resistance exercise, go for walks, eat better, stay hydrated and sleep. Changing the way you use your 24 hours in the day can enhance the lifestyle you live.
I don’t plan to ever return to my old large shape now – I love how I feel, and I can’t get over how I look in the mirror!
I want every woman in their 50s and 60s to feel like this. It’s so important. So many bad relationships with food and physical health come from deep rooted issues in childhood, teenage years, as well as issues around family, work, relationships, the list goes on. At this age these are often buried deep within, and as mature women we’re afraid to look there as we’re not sure what’s going to come up. I’d love to use my journey so far as a springboard to become an ambassador for RNT to show that it can be done!”
The Family Connection
With my sister being such an integral part of the journey for my parents, it emphasises the role the younger generation has in facilitating this evolution in thought. Getting your parents to listen to something like this is like talking to a brick wall, but if there’s one point my parents have emphasised is that all of the older generation would be wise to listen to the young folk when it comes to health and fitness. They regret not doing so for ten years, and I know they won’t be the only ones.
I asked my sister what could be done to help here, she replied:
“We became the three musketeers. I took every opportunity to go to the gym and for walks with them. I think a really good idea for anyone young is to take your parents for a walk. Make health and fitness more subtle, and suggest short walks as a way of bonding. Build it up slowly so they can begin to feel the benefits without realising what they’re doing. Even small things like doing the housework together can be an easy way to be physically active without thinking intentionally about it.
I also helped them learn more about their nutrition, and took part in giving small real time tips on what foods contain what. When I cooked, I showed them cool ways to experiment with recipes that fitted their macronutrients. This was during lockdown where going out was limited, so it was the perfect time to recreate restaurant experiences, but healthy!
Above all, I learnt that support is key. The older generation can be stuck in their ways, and they need support to embrace new behaviours. By showing them a new way with small changes such as reduced oil in cooking, more vegetables in the diet, walking, household chores, you can slowly build the feeling that our parents have felt, in everyone!”
Episode 163 – RNT Fitness Radio
To dive deep into my parents journey, and inspire a generation, tune into Episode 162 of RNT Fitness Radio here:
I want everyone to experience the power of the physical to act as the vehicle for the greater good in their lives, with age never being a barrier. It’s more important than ever as you age to embark on this journey. There may be more muck, more battle scars, more scrutiny, but the upsides are even higher. It’s not life-changing, it’s life-extending. It’s a chance to rewrite the script, shape your future, and transform to make your 60s more fruitful than your 20s. It’s an opportunity to live life to the fullest at a time when most would rather slow down.
Thank you for reading this special case study, I hope you’ve been inspired on your own journey, and you’re able to inspire a loved one in your inner circle to do the same. The power of this story lies in the domino effect we’re able to elicit to transform communities globally – it’s our duty to make this happen.
The Podcast Film
Watch my parent’s podcast film here.
At the point of their photoshoot, the change in their stats were as follows:
Starting Bodyweight: 78.5kg
Shoot Bodyweight: 64kg
Lifestyle Bodyweight Aim: ~65-67kg
Waist Change: -12.5cm
Starting Bodyweight: 64.3kg
Shoot Bodyweight: 49kg
Lifestyle Bodyweight Aim: ~50kg
Waist Change: -17cm
Thigh Change: -9cm