08 Jan Sital Nakarja Case Study: How Sital transformed her body to photoshoot lean using our triphasic solution
Achieving a true transformation should never be considered a short-term fix. It needs to be lifestyle driven. It’s never something that happens in only 8, 12 or 16 weeks. It’s a long-term process based on a foundation of positive habits, structure and education.
Sital understood this, and after almost a year of building this foundation, is now reaping the rewards of sporting a body that’s strong, fit and healthy. She’s in the shape of her life. She’s now stronger than ever, both emotionally and physically. And the best thing about it? She’s only going to get better, and she knows it! She has a new-found level of confidence which has created a previously unseen level of drive and ambition to fulfil her potential in everything she does.
But it wasn’t always like this. Before working with RNT, her fitness endeavours revolved around quick fixes, program hopping, and wasting endless hours in various classes with nothing to show for her hard work. At the same time, her husband Biraj was in the process of his own transformation (you can read his journey here), and this inspired her to take a new path.
As a busy working mother of two young boys, her time was precious. She couldn’t afford to waste any more time. She needed something which was going to work around her lifestyle, and ultimately, provide a long-term solution that would allow her maintain her results for life.
Which is where RNT came in.
Knowing her struggles, needs, and goals, we knew Sital needed to shift her mindset, play the long game and utilise our triphasic approach to her transformation.
If we look back at her journey over the past year, it was split into three key phases:
Phase 1: Fat loss with a focus on habit formation and lifestyle design
Phase 2: Muscle building through developing as much strength as possible in her key performance lifts
Phase 3: Fat loss with the goal of getting into photoshoot lean condition
Achieving your ideal physique can never happen in a short period of time. And through this triphasic approach, Sital has been able to develop the tools necessary to truly transform.
In this case study, we’ll be discussing how Sital interwove these phases into her life to drop over 25lbs of bodyweight (arguably lots more in body fat), build muscle (so she could be ‘toned’) and push herself completely out of her comfort zone to do a photoshoot!
Sital’s Comments: As a busy mum of two boys (three if you count our dog!), I work 5 days a week in a small business that requires travel to China twice a year. I got to a point where I thought I’m not going to have any more kids and it was time to get my body back. I have always been active since I can remember. I have tried different gyms, fitness classes, boot camps and PT’s. I loved anything to do with cardio, and weight training at that time was never really a thing. After my second son I was a lot older, and without realising at the time, my pregnancy did take it’s toll on me. Pre-RNT, I was training five times a week (often at local bootcamp classes), I thought I was being good with food. But I still wasn’t feeling like I was accomplishing anything. My husband Biraj (who had started training with RNT) could see how I was feeling and pushed me forward to start. And so the journey began!
Before starting with RNT, these were her stats:
Starting Bodyweight: 62.1kg
Starting Umbilicus: 81cm
Her diet was typically as follows:
Breakfast: Protein Shake with Banana
Snack: Yogurt with Fruit or Mixed Nuts
Lunch: Salad or Soup
Dinner: Lentils or Beans with Rice and Vegetables
On the surface of it, Sital’s initial diet wasn’t too bad. But it was very low in protein, and it wasn’t a true consistent reading of her weekly intake (given untracked meals and extra bits in between).
As an example of how we changed her diet initially, here’s what we did (weights and amounts aren’t included as they were individual to her):
Breakfast: Eggs, Greens
Snack: Greek Yogurt, Berries, Almond Butter
Lunch: Light Haloumi, Rice, Vegetables
Dinner: Tofu, Rice, Vegetables
We realised early on that while she was consuming protein shakes every morning, she didn’t agree with the texture and flavour. We tried multiple brands and types (including whey, rice, and pea variations) all to no avail, and so decided to scrap them and increase protein elsewhere. Remember, protein shakes can be a convenient way to increase protein intake in the day, but it’s by no means ever an essential to making progress.
Her training was typically in class format, 5 days a week. To begin with, we shifted to three full body, progressive weight training sessions a week and a simple step goal of 8,000 a day.
The weight training remained steady here throughout, with the only addition coming in the form of cardio, which was sprinkled in the week depending on progress.
Embracing Muscle Building (And How to Become ‘Toned’)
Earlier on we touched on the triphasic nature of Sital’s approach to her transformation. Arguably the most fruitful of them all is the muscle building phase.
Getting lean is the ‘easy’ bit. The problem is, if you’ve not built a solid foundation for yourself, you’re not going to have much to show for it at the end, and may end up just looking skinny.
That’s why it’s critical that once you lean down and you’re in a position to build muscle (you always want to start a muscle building phase when lean), that you dive deep into a lengthy period of doing so.
If we look at Sital’s initial photos, the real problem was she lacked muscle. Many women are often scared away by the idea of building muscle (wrongly thinking it’ll make them ‘bulky’), but Sital embraced it, and knew why it was beneficial (you can read more here). She wanted to be ‘toned’, and knew that to be toned, you need to build muscle and lose body fat.
This is exactly what she did, and throughout the process so far she’s had a rigid focus on becoming as strong as possible. She’s become obsessed with applying progressive overload with perfect form, and it’s worked. She’s now hip thrusting over 120kg and is another success story in the ‘zero to one (and more) chin up club’; two feats which have been integral to her physique development.
Because of this progressive mindset, the scale has never been a reliable indicator for her. Such has been her level of recomposition, there have been long stretches of time whereby the scale wouldn’t move much at all, yet her physique would completely change. While initially confusing, she’s learnt the importance of tracking umbilicus measurements and taking regular photos as well in order to assess her progress (you can read why the scale doesn’t always tell the full story here).
Here’s an example of how her upper body shape completely changed in a period of the first 5 to 6 months where there was minimal scale weight change:
Building RNT Into Your Life (Tips For Mums)
There’s a real difference getting into shape when you’re in your early 20s with no responsibilities and when you’re on the cusp of 40 with two kids and a full-time job.
A few weeks ago, we spoke to Sital to ask her how she built the RNT philosophy around her life…
AV: What three tips would you give to people in the same situation as you who want to get into shape, but juggling many different responsibilities?
SN: Here are my top three…
1. Routine, routine, routine. This is key. Keeping a structured week and creating ‘non-negotiables’ really helped to keep everything on track. Even to the point of going to bed and waking up at the same time, and keeping workouts on the same days. Of course, there are times where things will get thrown out of the window, but this is where a little planning ahead helps. If you’re training as a couple, work as a team. Push and support each other to keep to your workout schedule throughout the week.
2. Get the whole family involved. Getting steps in can be tough, especially anything over 10,000. So instead of staying at home watching a movie with the kids, we go to our local park with their scooters, or get out into the garden to play football. Fresh air = tired kids!
3. Set a goal that isn’t about weight loss. I felt if I tried to hit a ‘number’, I would be disappointed with every fluctuation, and that would lead to me being demotivated. I didn’t even look to aim for any stomach definition. My only priority was to build my strength levels, and to try achieve solid reps of chin ups. I’m now the strongest I’ve ever been while also weighing in at my lowest! Focusing and trusting the process has made such a difference to my mindset.
AV: This is great advice. Creating routine is so critical, and it really is true that structure equals freedom. The more you can control different elements of your day, the more in control and prepared you feel about what’s to come. So it’s advice that can apply to people across the board.
The third point is one which I believe will hit home with many women who are endlessly chasing an ‘ideal’ bodyweight. The more process, habit and lifestyle driven you can be, the better place you’ll be mentally, and ultimately the better shape you’ll be in given the beneficial by-product of getting strong and ticking all the boxes on a daily basis.
I’d be interested to know more examples of how you’ve made this a lifestyle, as opposed to just a quick fix.
SN: What RNT has taught me is sustainability, and how to maintain all of my results. It’s now nearly 4 months since my ‘peak’ shoot day, and I’ve maintained similar condition while being even stronger now. My mindset towards food has changed, and I now think of it as fuel instead to charge up my workouts.
I now walk to work after the kids’ school drop off, in rain or in shine! Additionally, I’m more aware of how to manage food and balance eating out, and also know how to manage macros / calories, especially when travelling (I go to China regularly for work).
When I’m home and in my normal routine, I try to use Sunday’s as my meal prep day. This helps so much. Every Sunday we plan out what’s going to be on the menu in the week for everyone, shop accordingly, and get organised. I then spend Sunday morning getting a week’s worth of food ready so I have no excuse to deviate.
Creating these sustainable routines, along with planning and preparation saves me so much valuable time and energy in the week.
Can Vegetarians Get Results?
AV: A common misperception is that following vegetarian diet makes it 1) more difficult to get into shape and 2) you have to eat really boring food. How did you find it?
SN: I thought exactly that before starting. I felt I was going to struggle to reach my protein targets, especially as we also decided to cut out protein shakes! But the plan is great with lots of vegetarian options, and with a little creativity, I was able to create some really yummy (and simple) dishes that fit into my meal plan.
Here’s one of my favourite veggie recipes that tastes great, is easy to make, and is high in protein:
Baked Tofu with sticky sweet chilli sauce
This can be done within 40mins and is really easy to make.
Here’s what you need:
1 Block of tofu (firm)
Sweet Chilli Sauce
The recipe is as follows:
1. Set your oven to 200C.
2. Remove the excess water from your tofu by wrapping in tissue and place something heavy on top. If your tofu is firm you won’t need to do this for long.
3. Remove the tofu, chop the tofu into cubes (not too big) and drizzle some soy sauce, salt and pepper. Place the tofu pieces on an oven tray (I put some greaseproof paper down). Bake for 20mins.
4. While the tofu is in the oven, add soy sauce, sweet chilli sauce, grated ginger and garlic into a bowl and mix.
5. Place the sauce in a small pan and heat up to boiling point. Continuously stir and the sauce will become thicker.
6. Once the tofu has nicely browned, divide the tofu into portions and mix the sweet chilli sauce. Serve with rice and veg (I love just simple steamed broccoli!).
This part of the RNT training really helps me understand what goes into not just my own food, but the family’s too. I can’t wait to take food prep to the next level, and become even more adventurous with it!
Overcoming Long Haul Travel
AV: Being a vegetarian, how do you navigate around your long-haul flights and travels to China?
SN: China isn’t the most vegetarian friendly place at all! Here’s what I typically do to begin with. On the flight I fast throughout and avoid plane food. Then when I land, I train at the hotel with either a bodyweight workout, some light weights, or cardio.
During the working days, I use intermittent fasting, pack protein bars, and drop my meal frequency down to 2 to 3 a day with whatever I could find that’s vegetarian! It’s never ideal, but it work and allows me to maintain my gains when away.
Couples That Train Together…
AV: The reason you joined was because your husband, Biraj, had gone through such an incredible transformation of his own. How did it help?
SN: Training as a couple has been really beneficial in a number of ways. Not only am I accountable to myself and to my coach, but also to Biraj. If I don’t stick to my workouts, it affects his week too, and vice versa. To allow us both to train with the kids, what we do is alternate days. One day I have the 5am slot to go the gym, and the other it’s Biraj’s turn. This way we can get the kids ready for school with no interruption, and we have our own time to train too.
It also becomes a little competitive too with who can do more steps, who can lift more (!), and so on… But also at times when I’ve felt like ‘why am I doing this?’, you can push each other on with a pep talk. With Biraj having been through his own photoshoot prep before me, he really helped me push past those low points that inevitably come when you’re going hard in the lead up!
To listen to her episode of the RNT Fitness Radio podcast alongside Biraj, tune in here:
Pushing Outside of Your Comfort Zone
AV: This brings me nicely onto my next question, how did the idea of a shoot come about, and what was it like?
SN: It came from you and Biraj pushing me towards it! I also decided it’d be really cool to document this check point in the journey, and ultimately, push myself way out of my comfort zone. It was one of the most uncomfortable things I’ve done. Having your wedding photos taken is one thing, but this was all about me and what I looked like. I was all out there with nothing to hide!
What was cool was that pre-shoot I couldn’t really see what I’d achieved, but after the shoot I felt elevated and really confident. I know I still have my flaws, but I was never looking for perfect, or even abs in the first place. Just the best version of myself at the time.
AV: What was even cooler was seeing how your confidence grew throughout the shoot. I remember saying to Biraj at the shoot, now look at her! Completely bossed it by the end.
Bringing It Together…
The photoshoot has been the third phase of Sital’s journey so far, and only made possible because of the time and effort spent in the first two phases.
After laying down the habits and behaviours to fit around her lifestyle in phase one, it enabled her to lose much of the initial body fat.
Using these habits and behaviours, Sital was able to transfer them into the most productive phase, the building phase. This is where she built her foundation of strength that enabled her to have a physique, as opposed to just being ‘skinny’, and ultimately allowed her to take it to the next level with a photoshoot!
To hear more from Sital about her story, watch this video:
Key Lessons To Learn
The number one lesson to take away from Sital’s story is that if you want real long term, sustainable results, you need to keep the bigger picture in mind. You can’t only focus on the first 3 months, and then forget about the next phase. It needs to be a phasic approach whereby you travel through the ‘ideal physique journey’ that’ll enable you to see results that’ll last for a lifetime.
Doing so may seem like an overwhelming task, which is why Sital’s points on creating routines, setting performance goals and trusting the process can be so powerful.
Stats & Pictures:
Current Bodyweight: 51.3kg
Current Umbilicus: 72cm
These are her comparison pictures:
At the time of writing this, four months after the shoot, Sital’s already been through her reverse dieting phase, whereby she’s spent time consolidating her results and increasing her calories in a steady manner.
She’s now back in the zone for muscle building, and has already sketched out the next two phases of her journey.
In the first 8 months of 2019, her goal is to continue getting as strong as possible (and chasing down specific numbers), while also trying out some challenges such as Tough Mudder.
In the tail end of the year, she’s targeting being the best of her shape for hers and Biraj’s 40th!
To read her testimonial:
As a busy mum of two boys (three if you count our dog!), I work 5 days a week in a small business that requires travel to China twice a year. I got to a point where I thought I’m not going to have any more kids and it was time to get my body back. I have always been active since I can remember. I have tried different gyms, fitness classes, boot camps and PT’s. I loved anything to do with cardio, and weight training at that time was never really a thing. After my second son I was a lot older, and without realising at the time, my pregnancy did take it’s toll on me. Pre-RNT, I was training five times a week (often at local bootcamp classes), I thought I was being good with food. But I still wasn’t feeling like I was accomplishing anything. My husband Biraj (who had started training with RNT) could see how I was feeling and pushed me forward to start. And so the journey began!
When I first initiated my conversation with the guys at RNT, I was very hesitant; I didn’t think I would be able to do the workouts. I wondered how how I was going to fit it all in with the kids and work. And the food… I had no idea where to start! But when I got the workout plan it was fine! The information was structured and in terminology I knew. What really helped was the library of videos on the RNT website that I could go to and my coach always being quick to reply. What I also love is the RNT community on Facebook; people were sharing recipes, tips and just their overall experiences, which always helps.
It’s been almost a year with RNT and I have learnt so much about my body and food, and how much strength I have emotionally and physically. They’ve helped me to achieve my chin up goal which I never thought I could do. I even recently did my photoshoot and can honestly say it was one of the most uncomfortable things I have done. Having your wedding photos taken is one thing, but this was all about me and what I looked like. I was all out there with nothing to hide! Pre-photoshoot I couldn’t really see what I had achieved but after the photoshoot I felt elevated. I still have my flaws but I was never looking for perfection or abs.
My ambition to carry on and develop myself is now so high that I am excited to set my next set of goals and smash them! Thank you RNT!
To read more case studies like Sital, 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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