"once I started seeing results it felt great"
Businessman Suraj Sodha showed off the results of his weight loss transformation in a photoshoot to celebrate his journey.
A combination of a poor diet and personal factors saw his weight increase. This eventually prompted him to focus on his fitness and to get in shape.
Suraj grew up in a typical South Asian household in North-West London and enjoyed a comfortable childhood.
From a young age, Suraj always had entrepreneurial aspirations as his uncles had their own businesses. He was inspired by their success and lifestyle.
At school, he made money by selling things in the playground. He went on to study Law in Leicester before completing his Legal Practice Course (LPC) in London.
Between the ages of 22 and 23, Suraj started his own business and spent most of his time building it. He got married at 30 but it was unfortunately short-lived as it ended two years later.
Leading up to this event, Suraj’s weight increased as he was attending events and was eating out as a result of his work life and changes in his social life.
The separation put him in a difficult place but it led to him thinking about his health and focusing on his fitness which is what kickstarted his body transformation.
It acted as a way of giving Suraj something to focus on while also helping him to cope with the breakdown of his marriage.
Eighteen months later and Suraj is looking in great shape. He spoke to DESIblitz about the changes he made in terms of diet and exercise in order to lose weight.
Tell us how your weight gain happened?
Like a lot of things in life, it wasn’t an overnight change but a much more gradual change of lifestyle that caused me to gain a lot of weight.
Over the last 5-6 years, I became less active and my work routine meant that I was eating out a lot more every week.
I wasn’t eating consciously either, I would eat until I was absolutely stuffed and then with hardly any activity to burn those big meals off it all added up over a number of years.
Changes in my social and personal life meant that I was meeting friends a lot more for dinners, going to a lot of events which were centred around food which meant I was over-eating a lot and not offsetting it with any sort of physical training to burn off those calories!
What kind of eating habits did you develop?
Like a lot of people who go through a difficult period in life – whether it’s work or personal – I found myself comfort eating to make myself feel better when I wasn’t feeling great.
Unfortunately, comfort food is never healthy food! So I would end up ordering a pizza or some other takeaway for myself and a bunch of sides to go with it and it would hit the spot for a short period but you never feel completely satisfied so you end up snacking and nibbling on other things around the house.
I would also cook less often and rely on grabbing lunch or dinner on the go, without any forward planning. This ended up with me have really unhealthy eating habits.
I would very often ‘reward’ myself at the end of a week with a takeaway without realising that it was undoing anything healthy I did do during the week and wasn’t making me feel good about myself long-term
But the short-term instant fix was what I focused on which is the dangerous way of treating your eating habits, especially on the weekends.
How much weight did you gain and lose?
Over a few years of gaining weight, I found myself at around 85kg which was the heaviest I’ve ever been.
By the end of my fitness journey, I lost 25kgs and my lowest was just over 60kg when I did my photoshoot to mark the journey I’ve been on and to show the difference 18 months can make!
The fitness journey was difficult to start as I had to break lots of old bad habits, but once I started seeing results it felt great and that gave me a lot of momentum to push forward.
Watch behind the scenes of Suraj’s weight loss photoshoot
What did it feel like going to the gym for the first time?
As I’d never really been a ‘gym guy’ I was a bit nervous about going to the gym, especially to the weights section because I had always seen guys in there who were already in great shape and were able to lift much heavier weights than I could.
I was anxious and worried about looking like an amateur but I quickly realised that nobody looks or stares at you like you think they will.
They’re all focused on their workout and actually everyone was really supportive in helping me find the right machines or the right weights to use.
You have to get into the zone and focus on why you’re there, and not worry about what others think.
What kind of routine did you do in the gym?
When I first started training, my gym routine was a full-body workout 3 times per week to get me used to lifting weights and learning how my body reacts to my new training and meal plan.
I drastically increased my daily step count to 10-15,000 steps per day. This was my routine for the first 3 months.
Following this, it was switched to a four day split, based on two ‘heavy’ days, and two ‘light’ days.
Over the course of the next 10-15 months the two splits used were as follows:
Split 1 (months 3-10)
- Day 1 – Chest/Arms/Posterior Chain (Heavy)
- Day 2 – Back/Shoulders/Quads (Heavy)
- Day 3 – Chest/Back/Shoulders (Light)
- Day 4 – Legs/Arms (Light)
Split 2 (months 10-15)
- Day 1 – Upper (Heavy)
- Day 2 – Lower (Heavy)
- Day 3 – Push (Light)
- Day 4 – Pull (Light)
How important is weightlifting for weight loss?
Weightlifting is a great way to challenge yourself and increase your strength over time.
“Lifting weights releases endorphins in your body which make you feel good, and are proven to reduce stress too!”
For actual weight loss, it’s not only weight lifting that is important.
Of course, lifting weights and training in the gym will burn calories and build muscle but true weight loss is a balance between eating the right quality and quantity of food together with a gym routine.
How did you change your diet?
I changed my diet to be much more protein-rich rather than what it was before, which was mostly carbs and fats.
By changing the focus to having a more protein-based diet this gave me more energy to go about my day and also to give me the energy and strength to train hard in the gym.
My diet mainly consisted of eggs, salmon and fruit for breakfast. Chicken with lots of vegetables for lunch and dinner, and then ensuring I was drinking at least 3-4 litres of water a day and getting my protein supplements in too in the form of a protein shake using whey protein.
In the beginning, it was essential to stick to my new diet 100% in order to clean my eating habits and give myself a cleaner foundation to then build on.
In order to make progress, I had to clean up my diet drastically which gave me a massive amount of new energy.
I stopped eating takeouts and fatty Asian food as a rule for the first few months, and this helped me to lose those initial kgs that were simply there due to a bad diet.
Do you now still eat Desi food?
Yes, absolutely I do but now it’s part of an overall balanced diet.
Desi food is very carb-heavy and fatty so it’s important to ‘buffer’ around those days when you know you’re eating Desi food at home or at a wedding or other function.
If you’re going to eat Desi food a lot, it’s really important to ensure you’re getting the right amount of protein intake too and limiting your carb/fat intake from Desi food.
“As well as this, it’s important to keep active and find a balance between how often you indulge in Desi food.”
If you eat it all the time, it will be hard to lose weight simply because of the way Desi food is cooked and that it’s usually very high in calories.
What foods are best for weight loss?
It’s not about specific foods that are good for weight loss, but more of an overall balanced diet combined with a training program that gives you a calorie deficit which will cause weight loss.
There are no magic foods that cause weight loss – there’s no such thing.
The only thing that causes weight loss is burning more calories than you eat!
What exercises do you enjoy most?
I personally love lifting weights in the gym. I love the feeling of being able to lift weights that I once couldn’t dream of lifting because I didn’t have as much strength.
As a British Asian, are there different challenges for weight loss?
The only challenge you would have as a British Asian is because of the typical Asian diet that most of us have, especially if you live at home with your parents.
You can be active, go to the gym and play lots of sports but if you’re eating a lot of high-carb and high-fat Asian foods at home it’s going to cancel out a lot of your progress in the gym simply because you’ll never be in a calorie deficit for enough time in order to achieve meaningful weight loss.
What would you say to someone else who wants to get fit?
Have a big enough reason (your ‘why’) for getting fit which motivates you to keep going, even when you feel like you’re not making progress.
Get the support of people around you so they know you’re on a mission to get fit and to hold you accountable when you’re out with friends or family.
Enjoy the journey, it has its fun parts as well as not-so-fun parts too but you have to embrace the challenge and commit yourself to living a healthier lifestyle.
Remember, getting fit is not a temporary solution, you should do it to change your lifestyle long-term in order to live a much more fulfilled life where you’re able to do more and feel great.
Watch the business lessons Suraj has learnt
Losing 25 kilograms within 18 months while also dealing with personal problems like the breakdown of a marriage makes Suraj Sodha’s weight loss transformation all the more inspiring.
He detailed the necessary dietary and exercise adjustment he had to make in order to achieve his fitness goal.
Not only has Suraj explained the steps he took but he has also provided helpful advice to others who want to improve their fitness.
For those who want to know more about Suraj and his weight loss journey, follow @surajsodha on Instagram.