Healthy Hero Series
It’s time to start sharing some remarkable success stories from individuals who have read the book, follow the blog and/or have seen me in the clinic. For those of you on the fence about whether you should adopt the SAHS (South Asian Health Solution) lifestyle, I hope hearing from some folks who have found success despite facing similar challenges to you will be inspiring. Whether you are a sedentary, vegetarian engineer stuck in a cubicle all day or a working mother trying to manage home stress and work stress while striving to make healthy lifestyle choices for the family, hopefully you’ll find a story you can relate to. To me these individuals who have been sharing their success stories from all over the world are truly “healthy heroes” because they have not only overcome inertia and cultural barriers to achieve optimal health, but they are now spreading their message to family, co-workers and their community. If you have a healthy hero story to share, please click on the e-mail icon and tell me your story. Where did you start and how did you achieve success? How did you overcome common barriers like time pressure and family/social pressures? Have others benefited from your success? Let’s kick off the series with Harish, a hero featured in my book who experienced a remarkable transformation, and is inspiring and educating those around him. In Harish’s case he shifted from a vegetarian to a non-vegetarian lifestyle, but I have plenty of success stories in patients who have remained vegetarian which I’ll share in the future.
Harish is a 34-year-old Asian Indian male I met at a health and fitness seminar in Lake Tahoe called Primalcon, who later came to see me in my office for a consultation. Here’s his story:
IF YOU HAD TOLD ME that some day I’d be a featured success story in a health book written by Dr. Ronesh Sinha and published by health and fitness expert Mark Sisson, I would have laughed in disbelief! Partly because at that time my health goals seemed extraordinarily daunting…but mostly because I owe my remarkable transformation in body and health to these two men. Having grown up as the fat kid, and never having had success with weight loss goals as an adult, the 90 pounds* I dropped along with the better health and improved energy levels I now enjoy, should serve as inspiration to all South Asians struggling with diet, weight, and less-than-optimal health.
Growing up in Bangalore, India, I was fueled on a vegetarian diet consisting primarily of white rice, lentils, legumes, potatoes, vegetables (which I must admit I wasn’t very fond of), dairy, fried snacks, and sweets, along with Indian breads such as chapati, paratha, puri, and naan. This type of Indian diet primed me for obesity, but it wasn’t until the teenage years that I started to feel self-conscious about my weight. I internalized my feelings, but was incredibly frustrated, and my self-esteem suffered. Rather than tackling my weight, I indulged in spicy, greasy restaurant foods. By the time I was 21, I weighed 220 lbs, quite a lot for a 5 ’11” guy.
My health took a turn from bad to worse when I moved to the United States to pursue higher education. Western food took its toll, and my grain-based vegetarian diet gave way to conventionally raised chicken tainted with antibiotics and hormones. There was no time for exercise, and I immersed myself in work.
Upon moving to San Francisco in May 2013 and hitting rock bottom with my weight and health, I decided to take some time off work and focus exclusively on my health, fitness, and well-being.
Ready to make changes but unsure where to start I began searching online for healthier restaurants based on a more ancestral or primal diet (the ancestral diet had always intrigued me and was an approach I could easily follow). I found plenty of unhealthy Indian restaurants nearby, but didn’t find many eateries that would support my new eating plan. I decided instead to start with a narrow selection of healthier foods. My new daily diet consisted of eggs, low-fat dairy, cheese, avocados, grilled chicken, hummus, nuts, and the occasional vegetable. Eventually, I became more Primal-aligned and replaced low-fat dairy with raw, full-fat dairy, store-bought eggs with organic pastured eggs, and added grass-fed butter and more vegetables.
My biggest challenge in terms of fitness was finding an exercise program that was sustainable. I had rarely exercised before and knew very little about fitness. I was looking for a personal trainer when I stumbled upon a training facility in the Bay Area by the name of FNS360. While they did offer training services, they also offered several group classes that focused on functional fitness (similar in some ways to CrossFit). These classes were a game changer as far as my fitness was concerned and I have seen steady improvements in my strength, speed, agility, endurance, balance, and flexibility. I also started playing tennis regularly and have incorporated hiking and walking into my lifestyle.
I met Dr. Ronesh Sinha for the first time in Lake Tahoe at Mark Sisson’s PrimalCon event in September 2013. My interest was immediately sparked, since Dr. Sinha is an MD of Indian origin who has incorporated Primal/Paleo principles to successfully treat high-risk South Asian vegetarian and non-vegetarian patients. I immediately scheduled a consultation with Dr. Sinha. We did some baseline blood work and I was amazed that all of my blood markers had improved, and many of them significantly!
Thanks to this new lifestyle I now…
- Feel better about myself…the way I look and feel
- Am happier
- Have more energy
- Am fitter, stronger, and faster
- Enjoy physical activity and try activities I previously shied away from
- Have a healthier relationship with food
- Enjoy improved body composition
- Have disposed of all my old “fat” clothes
- Am in better control of my health
- Have improved health markers (blood pressure, LDL-C, HDL- C, LDL-C density, triglycerides, hemoglobin A1c, C-reactive protein) and a reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes
I didn’t take control of my health until I was 34 years old. It is never too late to change habits and change your life, and Dr. Sinha outlines a proven path to success in his book.
*In the book, South Asian Health Solution, Harish’s personal account mentions a 70 pound weight loss. He has lost 20 more pounds since the book was published, resulting in a 90 pound weight loss to date.