29 Oct Sanjay Halai Case Study: How Sanjay Got Shredded In 12 Weeks On A Vegetarian (No Eggs) Diet
Everyone should get into incredible shape at least once in their lives. Not for the abs, or the great physique that comes with it. But for the lessons it teaches you, and the tremendous amount of self-development it serves to give. The positive habits, additional structure and the management of willpower reserves are attributes you can take forward across multiple domains in your life. The self-awareness, self-belief and the introspective exercise of understanding the value of your ‘why’ all has the power to contribute to your overall self-mastery.
If you’re able to produce these life changing improvements, while at the same time also creating a physique that exudes confidence and fulfils all the physique goals you set for yourself, then you’ve hit the jackpot. Which is what Sanjay did for himself this year, when he completely transformed his mind and body to achieve a goal he wasn’t always sure was possible.
After seeing this total true transformation in Sanjay, who was being coached under the watchful eye of the ‘Hitman’, Nathan Johnson, we decided to dig deep into his story to find out what drove him, the mindset required to transform, and some of the tangible benefits he’s experienced in his time with us at RNT.
Without further ado, let’s dive in…
AV: When did you first start training and why?
SH: I started training back in 2014 because a new gym happened to open near to me. It was relatively cheap and I had a little more spare time than normal, so I decided to join up. I wasn’t a fitness guy, nor was I an inactive individual. Throughout my life I’ve always enjoyed playing a lot of sport, especially cricket. But I’d never really trained with weights, or with the intention to build a physique.
There was no real ‘why’ at the beginning. It was more a case of trying out a new activity and seeing if I enjoyed it. I remember in the early stages of going to the gym, I felt intimidated by the weights area. The whole environment just felt strange to me. So I would resort to doing mostly cardio (running and rowing). It was all very haphazard. I never had a plan or structure in place. It was a case of turn up, see which machine was free, and do a little bit of work.
As time went by, I realised the gym became a sanctuary for me. A place where I could escape from the realities of the real world. I faced a lot of issues in my personal life, and the gym quickly became a place to relieve stress more than anything. As a result, I quickly developed a lot of gratitude for the ability to look after my fitness, and I’m now very glad persisted through the boring and aimless phase to have somewhat of an anchor in my life. Over time, I fell in love with training, and soon started seeing immediate mental benefits. I felt more content, confident and enjoyed the idea of getting better on a daily basis.
AV: It’s interesting how it took a long time to find your passion for training. Had you not continued through that ‘boring’ phase, who knows, we might not be having this conversation now! You mentioned you didn’t really do much in the way of weight training. What were your results like, and were you following any nutrition advice during these early years?
SH: Around August 2017 is when I decided to take my training more seriously. I was at my heaviest point of 85kg, and after having taken two months out from the gym due to a sprained ankle, my main goal was to lose body fat. Up till then, I’d never really had a goal, and trained purely for stress relief.
Now I felt a new sense of purpose. I switched my gym sessions from random evening sessions to rigid 4am morning sessions. I went all in, and lost 14-15kg in 6 months.
This might sound great, but looking back I know it wasn’t done correctly. It was mainly from cardio, and I don’t think it was done in a healthy way. My joints were constantly hurting, and I went from fat to skinny fat, with no real muscle mass to show for it. I was overthinking everything, chopping and changing exercises all the time, and I was spending far too long in the gym (2+ hours), with nothing to show for it.
I didn’t track macros or calories. What saved me is that I never indulged in junk foods or takeaways, which likely stemmed from a young age where I brought up eating home cooked foods all the time. As a vegetarian, I focused on a mix of fruits, vegetables, nuts and protein powders, while at the same time eating more traditional Asian home cooked foods such as daal (lentils), mogo (cassava) and paneer.
AV: It sounds like what ultimately worked for you was adhering to the number one rule of any fat loss endeavour – being in a calorie deficit. The problem was you achieved a lot of weight loss, and not necessarily fat loss. So despite losing 15kg, you weren’t left with the physique you were hoping for, and instead simply reduced the size of your frame. This is extremely common, and a distinction people often forget until they start taking a more cerebral approach to body transformation. Which leads me onto my next question… how did you come across us at RNT?
SH: I started following you pretty much when you started RNT. We had a mutual friend who was posting up about the launch of RNT, and so started reading your content off his recommendation. At this point you were deep into your bodybuilding prep, and watching your transformation inspired me to take action. When I started the weight loss phase in the summer of 2017, I remember I was always being told the same story that my genetics were against me, and I should accept having a belly and being skinny fat. I actually had this limiting belief for a long, long time. But as soon as I saw your transformation, it immediately changed. I became immerse into the content you guys were putting out, and I was constantly floored by the quality of your transformations.
AV: It’s funny. I now publish content daily without second thought. Back then when I first started RNT I had to overcome so much internal resistance to be able to hit publish on anything. The biggest mindset shift for me was developing the belief that it was my duty to put my message out there with the aim of helping at least one person. If I could do that, then it was worth it. So hearing the impact of publishing my 2017 bodybuilding blog is a really cool feeling.
SH: I’m glad you had that shift! And to be honest, despite following you for almost a year, I was still reluctant. Purely out of ego and stubbornness to ask for help. I remember sending you a plan to review on Instagram DM. You gave me some advice on it and thought great, I can now do it all alone. But it didn’t quite work out like that as I didn’t know how to make the necessary tweaks later down the line. The other part of my reluctance was financial. This was a really big amount for me at the time, and would mean taking potential money away from other areas in my life. I still remember when I signed up. It was literally a leap into the unknown for me. I thought to myself, ‘if not now, then when?’ So I put my ego aside, enquired about joining, and the rest they say is history.
AV: I remember the day too. I’ve always thought of coaching as an investment into yourself, and that with the right coach, you can achieve things you didn’t think were possible, can fast track your results, and make the money back ten fold with the transformation in can create for you (in all domains). When you started with us, what was your ‘why’? What truly drove you to succeed?
SH: I wanted to seriously challenge myself on a personal level. This was never about getting six pack abs. I wanted to pick myself apart, and to go to a place that I didn’t want to go to. When I saw the transformations RNT were putting out, I wanted to experience the process for myself to see what these people were going through. I wanted to go through the process and embrace all the hunger, ups and downs, and ‘suffering’ (in the context of dieting!)
I wanted to prove to myself that I can do it (Me vs. Me), and take real ownership for something in my life. My father passed away when I was very young, and my mother managed to raise my sister and I by herself. So I’ve seen her work tirelessly for many years and go through a lot of pain, and I knew I wanted to change many of my old habits and the way I was living my life before. Ultimately this transformation was the first step to becoming a better son for her and living up to my potential.
AV: Having an extremely strong why is critical to making change in any part of your life, and this is no exception. Even more so, because you attached such a strong value to your why and to your transformation, it allowed you to take it to a whole new level. How did you find the initial period of working with your coach?
SH: I’d never had a PT before, let alone an online coach, so this was completely foreign to me. The hardest part was handing complete responsibility to someone I’ve never met before. I was battling my ego on a daily basis. I remember changing exercises and not sticking to the diet plan, and trying to do it my way. A few weeks in I realised how futile this was. I’d paid money to hire the experts, so why wasn’t I listening to them! I was up front and honest with Nathan, and we resolved the issue in time.
We adopted a more flexible approach with my diet, and I continued to update him with how I was manipulating the macro targets to different healthy food choices I wanted to incorporate. When I look back, it was simply old habits creeping in, and I don’t think I realised what needed to be done to get the results I was after.
AV: You’re not the first, and you won’t be the last to admit this. I don’t think many people realise what it takes to transform your body. It’s also not a case of shutting everything out of your life. Instead, it’s more about building a plan that fits your lifestyle. This really is the critical piece of the puzzle, and what allows everything to fall into place. For you, it was having more flexibility (while staying within macro targets and using the right food choices). But as soon as you had that conversation with your coach, it was easily solved, and you were now able to push forward. What else changed for you?
SH: I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one! After learning the power of honesty in the coaching process, and how everything could be tweaked for my lifestyle, personality and goals, I wanted to really harness this and create a big deadline goal. So I booked a photoshoot. Now there was another level of accountability, and there was no room to mess around.
AV: Great point. There’s no hiding away from a camera! What were some of your struggles along the way to completing your photoshoot?
SH: It wasn’t easy, especially with my working hours. Most days I’d be in the gym at 4-5am, so my days were extremely long. But having this anchor at the start of the day gave me structure, drive and purpose in my life again. It also forced me to get out of bed!
I don’t like to think of it as a ‘struggle’, as it was all a learning process for me. It was a case of adapting and growing within myself each week. Becoming more self-aware, learning about nutrition, and having new perspective on health and fitness overall.
For example, I developed a real love for cooking. I started to begin to view food differently, and really enjoyed spending time in the kitchen. It was relaxing, calming and it allowed me to be at my most creative. This was a real profound insight that I didn’t think would come from the experience.
AV: You’re also vegetarian, which brings with itself it’s own limiting beliefs when it comes to body transformation. Did you consider that an obstacle?
SH: Not really. While I’m vegetarian, and don’t eat any eggs either, I never saw it as a hindrance to my progress. My coach was understanding, and helped educate me on different food choices available. So it never felt like I was being short changed for being vegetarian. I know there’s a big misconception around being vegetarian and in shape, but I think a lot of this is due to the mindset you approach it with. I also know you guys have helped many vegans and vegetarians transform their bodies, so this gave me confidence too.
AV: Completely agree. I really don’t think it’s anything to worry about. It still baffles me when people enquire asking if we can still help them get results because they’re vegan or vegetarian. Especially in the modern day, when there’s so many available options to vegans and vegetarians now. It’s never been easier to follow this style of eating. Anyway… I side tracked there. What other obstacles did you face when dieting down?
SH: I always struggled to fit my daily steps in, so I had to come up with various ways I could build this into my day more. I started getting off the tube a stop early and going for short walks on my lunch break, which helped a lot. Having a step goal, and incorporating more general movement in my day really was a game changer. I always thought the only way to lose weight was to run for miles on the treadmill. I didn’t think something so simple could have such an impact.
AV: The small things add up. What people forget is that your NEAT (non exercise activity thermogenesis) can make up a significant part of your energy expenditure, and ultimately impact your calorie deficit. The more active you can be in day to day life, the better. What about your mindset during the transformation?
SH: Oh yes. There were many moments where I doubted whether I could it, and started to question why I’m doing it. My ‘why’ is what got me through these moments. I would tell myself that the pain you’re going through is nothing compared to the pain my mother suffered when she lost her husband and child. I’d repeat that over and over again in my mind, and it pushed me to a place I didn’t believe I could go to. I guess I had such a strong value attached to my why, it made it immediately more powerful.
AV: Your last sentence hit the nail on the head as to why you were able to get the results that you did. What were some of the benefits and positive changes you experienced?
SH: The list is long. But let me give some examples. I started to feel a sense of empowerment I hadn’t previously experienced. For example, when I’d hit a squat personal record, it always felt like a mental victory. I’d defeated a voice in my head that said you can’t do it. The mental benefits of the transformation were amazing. I felt like Neo from the Matrix!
Growing up I was always the shy kid who never had any confidence or self-belief. Yet, I found a person in myself that I didn’t know was there. And working with you guys has allow that person to become free. It’s easy for me now to get my top off, and I don’t hesitate to do so, ha! I’ve now got a level of confidence that I didn’t realise was possible. It’s also taught me about myself, and what ultimately matters to me at the most fundamental level. I started listening to my heart and gut. I blocked out the noise that was drowning me for so many years.
My initial ‘why’ was driven a lot by my mother, and arguably the best benefit is that my relationship with her has improved tremendously. We’re much closer, healthier and open with one other, and that to me is invaluable.
AV: That’s powerful, thank you for sharing. Do you have any final words?
SH: I’d like to finish by saying a big thank you to Nathan and the whole RNT team. I really appreciate everything you’ve done for me.
AV: You’re welcome, it’s an absolute pleasure. You smashed it, and I’m so happy to see how transformative you’ve found the whole RNT experience!
Sanjay’s next plan is to build size and strength, while staying lean. Here’s what he’s had to say about his overall experience with RNT so far:
I would highly recommend RNT to anybody wishing to make a change or thinking about it in the slightest. The greatest thing about the whole process was having someone supporting you throughout the journey.
I was able to get in touch with my coach at all times, which was very handy during the latter part of the plan when things got hard. I also loved the weekly check in’s and the simplicity of the workout plan. I just went to the gym and executed on what I needed to do. It was that simple. I’m also vegetarian (no eggs), but my coach equipped me with everything I needed to still make gains, which I didn’t think was previously possible with my dietary requirement.
The plan has had a tremendous impact in my personal life. It has taught me invaluable life long lessons that I hope to carry with me to help me succeed outside fitness and in my career. I am now more confidence in myself, and have more courage and belief to try different things I wouldn’t have thought of doing before. My relationships with my mother for example have benefited tremendously. We are much closer, healthier and more open with one other.
I also wanted to use this opportunity to thank RNT and my coach Nathan especially. As I have mentioned before I never had a personal trainer before. Nathan was so helpful throughout the process and whenever I had questions, he would get back to me straight away. He was always there to provide messages of support especially when I was close to breaking point. I don’t think I would have been able to get through the latter part of the plan without his guidance. Doing the photoshoot with him by my side was also a privilege and was an amazing way to cap off the plan. In meeting Nathan, I know I have met a someone who I can always go to for guidance and support, even outside fitness. Going through this plan, and deciding to do it, has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. The money was truly well spent.
I decided to choose RNT because they know how to get results. I was following them for a long time before. I have seen the transformations. The content they provide on their IG and website is incredible. I have learned so much from reading their articles, case studies transformations and applied the lessons in my very own life. The most amazing thing is that it is free! Not so many people and companies are willing to do this. Which just goes to show how humble and honest they are in their approach.
To read more case studies like Sanjay, have a read of the different articles here.
For more examples of our transformations, have a scroll through growing page of before/afters here.
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