Welcome to MyFitnessPal’s Victory Stories series, where we share the accomplishments of real MyFitnessPal members! Whether they’ve lost more than 100 pounds, improved their health markers or ran their first mile (or all of the above), we love celebrating their hard work and dedication to achieve their biggest goals.
Do you have a MyFitnessPal Victory Story of your own? Share your story here for a chance to be featured on a future installment of our Victory Stories!
Today, we’re featuring Rohit Sharma, a self-proclaimed “data guy” who attempted to lose weight several times before finally finding a sustainable approach to nutrition and fitness. By tracking his calories and macronutrients with MyFitnessPal, Sharma used the data in the app to understand the importance of a balanced and sustainable lifestyle, free of fad diets and restrictions.
FULL NAME: Rohit Sharma
LOCATION: Seattle, Washington
OCCUPATION: Data & Analytics Lead
ARE USING THE FREE OR PREMIUM VERSION OF MYFITNESSPAL? Free
STARTING WEIGHT AND CURRENT WEIGHT:
Starting Weight: 304 pounds
Current Weight: 161 pounds
WHAT WAS THE MOTIVATION BEHIND YOUR DESIRE TO MAKE A POSITIVE CHANGE IN YOUR LIFE?
I have struggled with my weight my entire life. I was morbidly obese by February 2017 when I decided to do something about it. The last few months before I “officially” started my weight-loss journey, I was not doing great, physically and mentally speaking. I had a lack of confidence in myself and even tried to avoid things like looking at myself in the mirror while brushing my teeth. I was constantly out of breath after walking up a few flights of stairs, and I ate meals that I knew, deep down, were hurting me. I was starting to wear XXL shirts, and my waist size was expanding.
My ultimate motivation to make this change was to ultimately change who I was, both mentally and physically. My long-term health would not look good if I continued my current lifestyle. As silly as it sounds, I wanted to be able to “rock” skinny jeans and wear slim-fit clothing. I wanted to have the confidence to carry myself wherever I was without having to worry about what I looked like. I didn’t want to have to worry about my stomach spilling over my belt or having a double chin. I just wanted to not worry about what I looked like and enjoy the reflection of myself in the mirror.
EXPLAIN YOUR LIFESTYLE BEFORE BEGINNING YOUR WEIGHT LOSS/HEALTH JOURNEY.
My lifestyle before my weight-loss journey was pretty bad. My eating habits were horrible. I am vegetarian, but I come from a Punjabi household where all foods are (what feels like) soaked in ghee/oils. I would mindlessly gorge on foods and grab whatever I could from the fridge without a thought of the calories I was packing on for the day. I also was very inconsistent with generally being hydrated and would drink sugary juices.
My relationship with food was horrible. I knew most of the food I was consuming was not healthy for me. Sure, all foods can be consumed in moderation, but I had no moderation. I could easily consume 3,000–4,000 calories a day, and the food was high in carbs and unhealthy fats, with very little nutritional value. I would do this, knowing what I was doing was bad, but I’d continue to do so.
I was not active at all during this time. I was doing internships at various tech companies as a data engineer, so I was glued to an office chair and desk, which did not help at all. In all seriousness, my only “activity” was the walk from my office desk to the parking garage in the building.
Ultimately, I was unable to walk more than a few city blocks without stopping to catch my breath. I remember, vividly, two months before I started my weight-loss journey, I went on a bike ride for the first time in years. When I started Strava for the first time, I only crossed the 0.2 mile mark, but I was exhausted and winded. I had to sit next to the bike for a few minutes just to catch my breath. I even noticed my car seat was flattening out as the sponge material was becoming worn out. My mattress even wore out. I was having to find new clothes as my previous clothes were now getting tighter.
Mentally, I had formed a lot of bad habits of essentially letting things ruminate in my mind, even the littlest things or thoughts that were fabricated in my head. For example, if a person in a meeting didn’t make eye contact with me, it meant they didn’t like me.
I also never had any sort of health markers I followed. I never really had definitive lines on how I should measure my health.
HOW DID YOU LEARN ABOUT MYFITNESSPAL? WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO DOWNLOAD THE APP?
I learned about MyFitnessPal through a Google search nearly a decade ago. I decided to download it as I thought it could be a tool to help me lose weight.
TELL US ABOUT HOW YOU USED THE APP ALONG YOUR JOURNEY.
Interestingly enough, I had a MyFitnessPal account for nearly a decade. In 2011, I had started to use the app for a few days, but never really got it to stick. At the time, I just never did myself the favor of understanding how calories really work and the difference between a carb, fat and so forth.
In 2014, I tried to track again for nearly two weeks. But again, I just never fully educated myself so I never used it. It wasn’t until the summer 2017 where I sat down and tried to understand what goes into carbohydrates, protein, fat and, essentially, all macro- and micronutrients. I began to understand not all carbs are bad.
My background is in data science and analytics, so being a “data guy,” I suddenly realized I could use MyFitnessPal to track my macro and micronutrients and use the data to finetune my eating as I progress in my weight-loss journey. Now, so many years later, I use the app to track everything I have consumed in the day. Whether it’s a stick of Trident gum or one TicTac that has less than 1 calorie, it has to get logged. I track my water consumption for the day, too.
I initially started using the app to easily track my own “data” on my food, but I also wanted to see how I could finetune my meals on certain days, and even see if I allow myself to eat a specific meal with a high amount of calories, how I can “budget” my day with other low-calorie options. This also created the habit of weighing all my foods as I cooked/ate them and getting control of my portion size.
Today, this does all feel a bit second-nature to me as I do trust myself with the foods I eat, but the general satisfaction of seeing my streak growing and growing and collecting more data on myself (as weird as that sounds!) makes me want to continue tracking everything I consume.
WHAT MYFITNESSPAL FEATURES ARE YOUR FAVORITE?
The barcode scanner for sure! It is such a lifesaver in a rush. As a “data guy,” it is also amazing seeing how embedded the app is to allow data visibility in overall food consumption, and the ability to break out and see all macronutrients, and even viewing ways meals can be adjusted for in the future.
I also am a fan of the streaks and overall weight-loss progression menus next to the profile. That is a constant reminder of “how far you have come” and lets me acknowledge the progressions that have been made thus far.
WHAT LESSONS/EDUCATION/REALIZATIONS DID MYFITNESSPAL HELP YOU ACHIEVE ALONG YOUR JOURNEY?
My biggest realization with using MyFitnessPal was finally being able to understand the food I ate. As obvious as this sounds, not all foods are created equal. For example, I thought a packet of trail mix from a supermarket was a healthy snack, but as it turns out, one packet (one serving) has nearly the same amount of calories as a protein bar, which in all honesty does a better job of satiating you.
Similarly, a serving of ice cream has a high level of sugar, but it doesn’t mean you can’t eat anything else for the day. You just have to “budget” your day so you don’t overload on carbs (mainly sugar) and go above your calories for the day overall.
I also just realized I generally hate the word “diet.” By literal definition, it serves its purpose, but the way it is so loosely thrown around (Paleo diet, keto diet, etc.)… ultimately, we don’t need to jump on some diet fad, but instead just need to understand what our goals are, and adjust our calories and macronutrients to achieve those goals.
CLICK TO TWEET THIS ARTICLE > As a self-described “data guy,” @roheat_ used @myfitnesspal data on himself to lose 143 pounds. #weightloss #myfitnesspal
ANY OTHER HEALTHY HABITS YOU PICKED UP ALONG THE WAY?
Strength training. At first, I was mainly looking to lose weight, but I picked up strength training along the way. It became a way to “recharge” and center my mind. I also play pickup basketball and bike very frequently.
DID YOU FACE ANY CHALLENGES OR SETBACKS ALONG THE WAY?
I did face challenges and setbacks throughout the journey. Before “officially” committing to my weight-loss journey, I had many attempts at trying to lose weight. I would often broadcast to family, friends and even on social media my sudden newfound wisdom to losing weight, but it would only last a few days or a week, at most. And, often, it was just trying some fad diet that had no real substance or sustainability.
I also had an Achilles injury that sidelined my ability to do any type of cardio or strength training for months. I couldn’t do any sort of lift that required my legs (deadlift, squat, etc.). This was a major challenge because, by this time, I had built a strong routine of going to the gym consistently at a specific time. For those few months, it was a challenge trying to think of creative ways to still be active. Even going through the physical therapy sessions was tough. Once it was technically “safe” to go back to my old way of working out, the mental block of being afraid of re-injury was always in the back of my mind. I was able to power through it, but this period challenged my discipline in continuing my journey of weight loss and general fitness.
Lastly, I am sure everyone in the world can agree with this, but this entire pandemic was a challenge. This was the first time where I had no real option for working out, aside from doing some sort of bodyweight exercises or going for a walk/run outside. I have no (fitness) equipment aside from some elastic bands, and my discipline and overall routine were challenged once again. It was a bit discouraging because I was finally hitting PRs and fully past the Achilles injury when gyms shut down due to the pandemic. Once gyms reopened, going back and seeing I was behind on my initial PRs was discouraging, but I managed to power through it.
HOW DID YOU STAY MOTIVATED THROUGHOUT YOUR JOURNEY?
In all honesty, I was pretty quiet about my weight loss until I thought I was comfortable enough to share it with my friends and social media. For over a year, my journey was kept only to myself, my parents and my brother. I would occasionally meet people and maybe get comments about my recent weight drop, but knowing I wasn’t broadcasting my journey and creating unnecessary pressure allowed me to basically put my head down and just get to work.
I also researched some psychological subjects like habit formation and how our bodies are productive at certain times of the day. I built personal routines and experimented with my meal and workout times to see when I am most efficient and what I can realistically commit to for the rest of my life.
DO YOU STILL USE MYFITNESSPAL ON A REGULAR BASIS TODAY?
WHAT IS YOUR LIFESTYLE LIKE TODAY?
All my lifestyle changes were created with the personal acceptance that these will be permanent lifestyle changes for my life. Sure, I can finetune certain things along the way with more research, but the idea is I want to have an overall healthy lifestyle that is not only sustainable but also makes me happy doing so, as this is not just some temporary thing.
For eating, I simply count my calories. Because I do strength training, I have a high-protein diet, but I don’t really limit carbs or fats. I simply just give myself a specific amount of calories based on my TDEE and make sure I hit my macronutrients throughout the day. What has also worked for me is to break down my food into two large meals which are usually higher in carbs and protein, and then supplement various snacks, protein bars and protein shakes to make up the remaining calories.
In terms of exercise and activity, I work as a data and analytics lead at a tech company, which is essentially a desk job with little to no movement (unless you count the occasional water break). Knowing this, I like to lift weights six times a week and supplement with cardio, which is usually done on my non-lift days. This is usually either a HIIT session on a treadmill or a steady walk outside. A little less than two years ago, I bought an Apple Watch and it has also been a great way to remind me throughout the day whether I have truly been putting my full effort into my workouts, or if I should maybe go out for a quick walk based on my Move levels.
Throughout my journey, I realized I was starting to feel a lot better physically but I wanted to still do something about my mental health. Interestingly enough, I noticed one morning I would occasionally like to sit aside and take some deep breaths for a few minutes to help clear my mind. I wasn’t sure why this exactly worked, but it did help my mind feel a lot more at ease. A few months later I came across a book on meditation (“10% Happier”), and after reading the book, I understood what I was essentially doing was meditation. I realized I should implement this into my life, similar to what I have done with working out, tracking my calories and so forth. It has helped immensely to keep me mentally clear, be more in the moment and think less of other people’s thoughts and opinions.
My relationship with food has also changed completely. Previously, I would look at food as just something to snack on mindlessly, but now, I look at it as fuel to keep me awake and functioning. It took years to get to this state, but I realize I just don’t have the same enjoyment of eating ice cream, a slice of pizza or some sort of high-calorie food. Sure, I’ll enjoy it, but I personally just don’t have the desire to go out of my way to eat these foods. Instead, I eat the same meal twice a day, along with the same snacks, and honestly like the consistency of eating the same food day after day. It is something less for me to think or worry about.
Health markers are something I never really defined or even thought about in the past. Today, it is simple: Can I hop on a 30-minute HIIT session on a treadmill without gasping for air? Can I go on a 20-minute bike ride outside without losing my breath? Am I maintaining my weight? Do I internally feel good, both mentally and physically? Am I exceeding and/or lifting close to my PRs? I use these now as a personal gauge to determine my overall health.
I also formed new hobbies along the way, like diving deeper into pickup basketball and biking. I never was able to play true 5-on-5 pickup basketball in the past, but I was able to participate in a rec league right before the pandemic hit. It was fantastic being able to run up and down the court, jumping after loose balls and sprinting for layups. I also enjoy biking now more than ever, as I feel like I can bike — whether on steep hills or flat ground — without an issue, and being able to see the scenery change while pedaling is amazing.
DID YOU REACH YOUR WEIGHT LOSS/HEALTH GOAL?
IF YOU COULD PROVIDE ADVICE TO SOMEONE WHO WAS JUST STARTING THEIR JOURNEY, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Ultimately, just start! I know in my mind, I always thought some perfect moment would come. I always thought, “I need to get some new fancy joggers for the gym. I need to find the right foods before I can change up my diet. I need to get the right playlist, etc.” Looking back at it today, I realize nothing is ever perfect. There is never any perfect moment. This is probably applicable in many situations in life!
Furthermore, I realized that even during setbacks, it was easy to just want to cave in and give up. But remember why you are losing weight, trying to lift weights or trying anything. It reminds you what you are working toward. For some reason, it is way too easy to just want to give up, realizing we may be far from our goals. But we often ignore all the work that has been completed to get to the point that we are today, and essentially how far we have come. It is just a matter of trusting the process and realizing it is never a perfect ride throughout the journey. There will be bumps, but it’s just a matter of sticking it out.
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