06 Oct Punit Rawal Case Study: How Punit Battled Mental Health To Transform His Body & Life
It was a month or so into 2020, and it was a Monday. Check in day. Punit had been gathering momentum since the turn of the new decade, and it was time to lock in the exact day for his photoshoot checkpoint. We were about 8-12 weeks out, and I suggested we pull the pin to peak for May 24th – our 3-year anniversary as a company, and the day of the book launch for Transform Your Body Transform Your Life.
As one of the founding clients at RNT, who placed tremendous faith in our journey, I couldn’t think of a better day to mark Punit’s entry into the Reward, and capture the progress on one of the most incredible journeys we’ve been fortunate to facilitate.
What you see in the pictures is a fraction of the story. Punit’s body has totally transformed, but it’s everything else you’ll hear about on Episode 164 of RNT Fitness Radio, and read as we go on, that’s become unrecognisable; from his relationships, his mental health, his career and his lifestyle. It’s a true transformation in every sense.
So where did it all begin?
Every journey has an immediate trigger that forces you to act on the underlying muck that builds and festers over time. For Punit, the muck started accumulating ten years ago, after he ridiculed himself for failing to get into vet school twice. With all his peers around him starting and finishing university, progressing in their careers and lives, he felt like he was falling behind, that he was not good or worthy enough, and that he was a failure. What this led to nearly a decade of self-destruction, as Punit found solace in food, alcohol and poor lifestyle choices to feed the muck, and escape from his perceived reality.
Punit’s Comments: “My starting triggers go all the way back to when I finished school and took a gap year. As a 17-year-old on my first salary, I disregarded all notions of self-control and started eating, drinking, sleeping and repeating on a daily basis. I saw my friends move forward and enjoy university, while I was stuck with no direction. I slipped into a self-destructive lifestyle.
I remember a visit to another city for a night out with friends. I was wearing a jacket that used to fit me well; a friend told me I ‘used to look hench in that jacket.’ My first warning that I had lost control. On a beach holiday with my girlfriend, now my wife, I was too embarrassed to take my top off at the beach. All of these triggers told me that something had to change, but I took no notice of them as I deemed myself unworthy.”
Where fate took its course was through a tap on the shoulder in the gym from my guinea pig at the time, and now fellow RNTer, Shyam Kotecha, who recognised Punit from the year above at our same high school. They were both studying for post-degree qualifications in Bristol, and so started to occasionally train together. While it was nothing serious, it planted the seed for Punit.
Becoming A Vet
When RNT launched on May 24th 2017, it was the impetus for Punit to pull the trigger. He’d seen how training had helped him, but his lack of education on living an overall healthy lifestyle let him down. The demons swimming in the muck were constantly screaming at him, and he wasn’t equipped to fight back to silence them. The self-destruction was continuing, and as he qualified as a vet, they only grew in size and noise.
After a nine year journey to become a vet, the concept of quitting never crossed his mind. His life’s purpose resides in helping animals, and creating joy in the human-animal relationship. A genuine purpose means you have the armour to withstand anything. Yet, what Punit never saw coming was the harsh realities of being a vet. With one of the highest suicide rates amongst all professions, Punit’s mental health was challenge to the maximum. He was even diagnosed with allergies to the animals he was treating (!), but he persisted, yet struggled inside.
Punit’s Comments: “The veterinary industry is an odd one; a self-contained bubble that so few enter, which means that there isn’t much to prepare you for what is to come, until you’ve started. In essence, a veterinary practice is a business, where owners bring their property (ie their pets) with a problem to be diagnosed and fixed. Just like an automobile garage, an exchange of currency needs to occur for the business to carry on. This is where the main problem lies as many customers, especially those in the UK, have been spoiled by “free” human healthcare such as the NHS.
When owners’ finances are an issue, the outcome for the pet usually isn’t a great one. This is when the vet, as a perceived care-giver, receives emotional and sometimes physical abuse, sometimes on a daily basis, for ‘only caring about money, and not caring about the animal at all’. When, in fact, we have sacrificed huge proportions of our lives to help them. This conundrum of wanting to treat every animal for free whilst still needing to keep the practice profitable in order to stay open, is a daily struggle for all vets.
Things start to get ugly when the realisation dawns that your dream career has made you the villain in some peoples’ eyes. Coupled with long, physical hours and working days on end, it can lead to dark thoughts and serious mental health issues for many vets.
In 2 years of working as a vet, I personally know other vets who have tried, and succeeded, in taking their own lives.”
A Fear Of Success
With life as a vet already taking its toll, Punit’s coping mechanisms were improving. Instead of self-destruction with food, he was finding solace in training and a better lifestyle. He was getting leaner and healthier, but his old demon of not feeling worthy enough began to rear its ugly head. Every time he started making strides, he’d self-sabotage. He’d always had a goal to get a six pack, as he knew it represented a healthy control of his demons. But every time he got close, his fear of success and what that meant, stood in the way.
At his first checkpoint about a year into his journey, he’d improved his physique tremendously, but he wasn’t near where he wanted to be. What he needed after consolidation, was a lengthy investment phase to start rewiring his behaviour, mindset and identity.
At his first Checkpoint – taking a few shots as a vet!
Punit’s Comments: I was getting leaner, and my abs were finally beginning to show. All the while, I kept getting ill. I now know that this was due to my allergies to animals. As a vet student, my schedule was ever-changing; going to different cities every month on different rotas. It was difficult to find a consistent routine, and a gym to go to in each place! The new me would take these challenges face-on; but at that time, I used these excuses to justify why I wasn’t progressing, when in fact I just wanted to sabotage my own development as I saw myself as a failure.
Communicating Mental Health Struggles
Everything changed in the middle of 2019. We were over two years into his journey, and having identified the recurring theme of self-sabotage, Punit had had enough. He was fed up of feeling like a perceived failure with his body composition, and wanted to pack it all in. I remember the day vividly. He’d emailed saying he was finished with this journey, despite having such a love for it. I asked for the real reason, and what came out changed the entire course of Punit’s life.
For nearly a decade, Punit hadn’t spoken to anyone about his mental health struggles. His experiences with anxiety and depression had been bottled up. He’d seen colleagues around him commit suicide. He was due to get married and move house, and the changing structure of his life, coupled with everything he was battling internally was close to throwing him off the edge. He’d not told anyone because he thought that was the ‘manly’ thing to do. He thought being a man meant suffering in silence. Until this moment, where he let everything out, and finally admitted what was really happening.
Punit’s Comments: “In Spring 2019, I was 6 months into my first job as a vet. I was mentally and physically exhausted from working long hours and back to back weeks without reprieve. My dream job wasn’t what I thought it would be. My wife and I were in the midst of planning our wedding, while at the same time sorting out a mortgage for our first house. Most people would think that these two were massive events and wins in life, but for me, I thought it was too good to be true; something bad was bound to happen. I thought that I wasn’t allowed to feel success due to being a failure.
In my usual self-sabotaging manner, I decided to stop the one thing that was helping me cope with all of these pressures. I decided to quit RNT! I emailed my coach, Akash, who replied with a simple “no, tell me why you really want to stop”. Everything that I was holding back over the past few years came out. I had always thought that men don’t talk about their feelings, that it would make me less of a man to “feel” and be stressed. But letting it all out was completely the opposite. It like a weight was lifted off my shoulders, and I felt empowered to continue with life and kick my troubles up the backside.”
The Role Of A Transformation Coach As More Than Just The Physical
As a transformation coach, this is one of the most important parts of our work. It’s why I firmly believe our work to be more powerful and productive than counsellors, doctors and therapists. We can provide a holistic overview and sounding board to some of life’s most difficult scenarios, and give 90% of the solution: create a safe environment to ‘let it all out’. There’s so much power in this, and having faith in the journey, where you repeat cycles of introspection and action while creating opportunities to do so, is a big part of this.
The outcome of this communication was a period of three to four months where we dialled the intensity of his non-negotiables right down, and took the pressure off completely. The check in for this time was a simple level of accountability to a degree of self-care, and an opportunity to offload. No KPIs, steps, calorie targets, or the like. This was transformational in and of itself. It proved the power of what we do to transcend the physical and show the ability to facilitate a journey even through the most difficult of times.
Reflecting on this, it highlights a powerful point. The journey isn’t to be taken only if you can do it with perfection, or if life is perfect. The growth in the journey is when life gets hard. When life gets in the way, real life doesn’t stop. The power of the journey in these times is an opportunity to introspect, reflect, process and offload, while keeping a small degree of accountability to self-care, which is so critical in these moments. You don’t need to always make tremendous strides, it’s okay to dial the pressure down, have a breather, and ride with the ups and downs of life.
Punit saw the power of this, and it set him up for serious dividends from his investment phase.
Punit’s Comments: From that important day onwards, my relationship with my coach changed for the better. We switched from discussing KPIs; steps, weight targets and waist measurements, to discussing what really mattered. This in turn led to an even stronger return on those indicators! Before, it felt as though if I “gave in” and discussed these issues with a counsellor, it would be like admitting defeat; admitting that I had an illness, and the advice received would be the “treatment” for it. Instead, discussing my troubles with my transformation coach had a way more positive turn on them. Even though Akash wasn’t professionally qualified to tackle them, he would give an objective view and this felt like 90% of the solution was already created. Just by discussing with your coach, someone who has a vested interest only in your betterment, you can deal with anything that life throws at you.”
The Power Of Explaining The Journey To Your Partner
Another roadblock to Punit’s journey had always been a lack of an accountability network outside of his coach. His family, friends and colleagues didn’t support his ambition to get into shape, and it only meant more self-sabotage and internal struggle. The problem was that he never vocalised why this journey meant so much to him, and how it was far more than just the physical.
It wasn’t until his honeymoon in the tail end of 2019 that this changed. On a seven-hour road trip with his wife, she made a comment about his obsession with food and training, after which he finally let it all out and communicated his deep underlying why. A decade of bottled up struggle came out, and since then, his wife has been the driving force of his journey. All it took was an open conversation and clear communication. So many people struggle with this – we hear it all the time of unsupportive partners railroading a journey, and in almost all cases, all it needs is better communication.
Ultimately, Punit made his wife see that this journey will not only benefit him, but their relationship, family life and overall wellbeing would be made stronger too. Linking the benefits of the journey to both is always key here.
Punit’s Comments: Communication is a major factor in ensuring those important to you know why you are putting yourself through this journey. At first, my wife thought it was all superficial, which is completely understandable as I had never explained my why to her! Finally bringing her into the fold was a gamechanger in my transformation. My best friend was on my side and completely invested in my journey. It made everything; training, meal prep, cardio and even dealing with extremely low energy levels, a lot easier. The rest was history!
Physical Is The Vehicle
Communication is an underlying theme of Punit’s progression in the journey. After his honeymoon, I saw Punit transform in a way that was unrecognisable. He had a new mindset, forged new behaviours and identified as a healthy, lean individual. It was time to break through all limiting beliefs and barriers. It was time to take himself to the extreme he’d always wanted to go to.
When we confirmed May 24th as the big day, the switch flipped and Punit pulled the pin and embraced the #VaghelaGrind for everything it can bring. He became an essentialist, learnt the power of automation, and questioned all the doubts he’d falsely created in his head over the past decade. Punit entered into a zone where he realised he could achieve everything he wanted to in life.
On the day of his new checkpoint, Punit was in incredible shape. It was now for life. There’s no going back. One of the criteria for being in the Reward phase is the understanding this is it – you now live a healthy lifestyle and you’ll never go back, no matter what. You are a new person, transformed.
All that happens now is the journey recycles, and continues, as you seek to achieve higher levels of performance and purpose.
In the six months post checkpoint, Punit’s journey has accelerated at a speed that’s so fulfilling to see. He consolidated perfectly and is now starting a lengthy investment phase where he plans to build serious amounts of muscle while using the physical as the vehicle to take his veterinary career to new heights.
With the confidence to push beyond his comfort zone, he wants to combine his purpose for helping animals with a desire to solve the problems so rife in the veterinary world in the formation of a new brand. To say I’m excited to see his mission unravel is an understatement!
Dr P Cinematics
Another bonus that started in the Covid-19 lockdown was the birth of Dr P Cinematics. Punit’s always enjoyed playing with technology and gadgets, and with a love for movies, has started filming weddings, fitness photoshoots and other events.
To talk all about his journey, he self-recorded our conversation together here, which is also on Episode 163 of RNT Fitness Radio:
Stats & Pictures
Journey Starting Bodyweight: 75.6kg
1st Checkpoint Bodyweight: 66.8kg
Highest Investment Bodyweight: 74kg
Reward Checkpoint Bodyweight: 56.8kg
Punit’s Reflections On The Journey So Far
It is extremely difficult to convey in a paragraph what RNT has done for me. I entered the program as a boy and have come out of it as a man. This was far more than getting “hench”. RNT has provided me with fundamental life skills to enable me to pursue any vision that I can dream of. The fact that this can be related to fitness, business or relationships means that I cannot imagine a life without the backing of RNT. Read the book, complete the scorecard. What will you achieve?
To read more case studies like Punit’s, have a read of the different articles here.
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