The Turning Point
I decided to take the *drastic* step of going on the Conefit fitness plan back in April 2018. Why?
Because I had gained a lot of weight from months-long junk food binging, I barely had any energy/motivation and I would feel tired all the time despite sleeping 8+ hours. My days were just filled with work-eat-sleep and if I were to describe those 3-4 months in one word, it would be: blah. I needed SOMETHING to zap me out of this infinite lethargy loop and then I came across Neha Shingade on Instagram, through Colin D’Souza, who I had interviewed a couple of years ago.
Colin & Neha have together started a fitness consultancy called Cone.fit. Colin, of the legendary 3 Hungry Men, had an amazing transformation losing 63 kilos in 10 months. So I had high hopes after he recommended Neha. Plus she had a picture on her Instagram profile where you could see her abs (and they are epic).
I messaged Neha, told her of my fitness goals and signed up for the 3-month fitness plan.
The first thing I had to do was to get a blood test done, so Neha could see if I had any deficiencies (iron etc) and balance my diet accordingly. So, after a couple of days, I received my Week 1 diet plan from Neha, got my groceries for the week and was all set. I’m not sharing the exact diet plan here since I don’t think it would be fair to Neha or Colin, but I will share the fundamental principles, and how to make the most of it.
Things you’ll need before starting the Conefit Plan:
- Blood test: Got it on 1mg.com, cost about Rs 500. Technicians came home & took a sample and I got my results in 2 days.
- Food weighing scale: Bought this one on Amazon, it costs about Rs 250
- Human weighing scale: I didn’t buy this one, my colony security guard had one and I’d borrow it every Sunday
The diet plan requires you to eat 5 small meals throughout the day so you neither starve yourself nor overeat. This meant that I had to prepare for 5 meals – breakfast, mid-morning snack, lunch, evening snack & dinner. Since my work schedule was 1-10 PM, I had enough time to prep my food in the morning. The first week’s diet consists largely of nuts, eggs, chicken breast, salad, rotis and fruit. So I would wake up, spend about an hour boiling eggs, chopping vegetables, cooking chicken and of course sending the customary ‘Day #1’ photos to my family and to Neha.
Sending the photos to Neha was mandatory, who also followed me on social media to make sure I wasn’t cheating on my diet. She would give her feedback if the portions were too big, or it wasn’t enough. She’d also suggest replacements, if required. Sending photos to family was optional, and a big source of encouragement. Week 1 went by smoothly because it was like playing the first level of a fun game. The only downside was carrying 5-7 tiffin boxes to work.
Neha would check in with me every single day without fail, and assured me I would lose about 1 kg a week, IF I didn’t cheat on my diet. But by Week 3 I found that I wasn’t losing weight as expected. This is when Neha recommended that I take up exercise. Till then I was just doing some stretching, light yoga and crunches in the morning – totally disorganised & not planned/structured at all. But gymming wasn’t possible given my timings, so I picked swimming instead and boom, the results started showing.
Neha has this rule where you weigh yourself every Sunday morning (after pooping, before breakfast) and giving her the weekly update. I found that on the weeks I strictly followed the diet plan, I was losing an average of 750 gms to 1 kg per week
But somewhere during Week 4 I had a strange stumbling block. For some reason I would get a sugar craving late at night. And unfortunately I had a pack of the ultra delicious York chocolate peppermint patties in my fridge which I have severe weak spot for (ooooh that dark chocolate and creamy mint inside ooooh yummmmy) I ate 1… and then 2… and then 3. I convinced myself that it wouldn’t make much difference.
Needless to say, I didn’t lose any weight that week.
I guiltily confessed to Neha when I had to update her about my weight that week. Her solution to cutting sugar cravings was to drink black coffee. While that works like a charm during the day, I didn’t want to stay up all night, so the alternative suggestion of milk & cinnamon worked better. A good suggestion for daytime black coffee is this one from Colombia Coffee.
I LOVE the vanilla flavour, it is so so good and smells so yummy and is a welcome departure from the sludge that is coffee machine espresso.
By Month 2 I got a better hang of the diet, my schedule and ability to say no to sweet treats, especially in office. People’s questions changed from ‘why are YOU dieting? You’re not fat!’ to ‘What do you eat? Tell me also about it’. My skin was a LOT better, largely a combination of the clean eating & daily exercise.
One of the patterns that emerged from Neha’s diet plans was alternating weeks of having no carbs and regular carbs (in the form of rotis). That meant some weeks lunch AND dinner were chicken salads and soon I got tired of the bland chicken I’d make using a lemon & curd marinade. Which is when my Chakrika craze began.
If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you know how much I love that Mangalorean masala brand. I love the two variants of it – ghee roast & Coorg chicken. It can be added to anything and it instantly gives it a lovely spicy, tangy kick. Side bar: It also got to be a problem because it was so delicious that my colleagues would hover around my desk while I ate and I couldn’t share any because I had a strict 100 gm quota. So I would make a little extra in another dabba and take it. That masala is the shizz for real.
By month 3 I had sort of figured out what to expect in terms of my diet. What I didn’t expect was how much of a habit the cooking & exercise would become. It was a good cycle of starting the morning with a swim, preparing my food, sleeping well and just avoiding the oiliness and heaviness that comes with those late night snacks. I also found ways to spice up my diet, be it with masalas or additions of herbs and vegetables (I always checked with Neha first).
It also pretty much tested out the 66-day habit theory, which states that it takes 66 days to form a habit and make behaviour automative. The diet discipline became so ingrained in me that when I had to attend a wedding in Month 3, I just gravitated towards the roast chicken/chicken curry and avoided the biryani, naans & icecream. It wasn’t that I had to force myself to stay away, I just got used to not having it and also felt like ‘I’ve come so far, I can’t give up now’.
The high-protein, low-carb diet was easy to maintain since I bought my groceries on time and then I had no excuses of ‘Oh there’s no food at home, so I’ll order in’. It got to such a point that even on my cheat days I would find it hard to ‘cheat’ and order a pizza, especially the Dominoes ones, because my body just felt uneasy digesting all that processed flour & cheese.
So I found myself preferring handmade, thin crust pizzas or the yummy stuff from places like InnerChef, FreshMenu etc. The latter was still technically not ‘cheating’ since it followed the high protein-low carb discipline. But you do need a cheat meal once a week to kind of shock your system and avoid hitting a plateau, and for some it’s just a way to maintain your sanity.
- Groceries: About Rs 1000/month
- Swimming subscription: Rs 2000/month
- Conefit charges: Rs 5,000/month
Total: Around Rs 11,000/month.
It might sound like a lot, but since I was only following this diet & exercise plan, I didn’t spend money on eating out etc. If I did watch a movie, I didn’t order the popcorn & coke (which is anyway astronomically priced). In fact, one time I went out to meet a friend and texted Neha if I could have a frozen yoghurt. This was her reply:
So yes, it was excellent value for money because you’re redirecting your ‘entertainment’ finances to your diet. Plus, you have the 24×7 availability of a scary strict fitness guru.
So did it work?
Absolutely. By the end of Month 3 I was down 8 kilos and was the fittest I had ever been. Conefit worked for me because I had a structured plan of what I had to do and someone was supervising my progress constantly. I think the supervision/mentorship is one of its strongest features since you know a) there is someone as invested in this as you are b) it’s a safe space where you can learn to admit your weaknesses and work to building your strengths. It is a pretty strict diet that I don’t think I could follow to the T for the rest of my life, but when it’s time-bound to 3 months, it’s more doable.
Another bright aspect of it was that since the plans are sent in weekly, it’s like receiving a mystery box every Friday since you until then don’t have an idea what you’re going to be eating the next week. It was especially exciting when you’d just be coming off a no-carb week because…. Yes! Rice! Brown bread! Crunchy stuff that’s not lettuce!! And unlike most diet plans this one had all Indian ingredients and not fancy stuff like avocado toast etc. So it was easy to procure the ingredients and easy to prepare as well.
So it works, but is it a long-term solution?
A couple of months after finishing the Conefit diet program I did put on weight because I got a bit overconfident about the fit me and started eating junk again. (‘One pizza won’t make a difference, one taco won’t make a difference’ and so on and so forth) Since there was no Neha to ask what I ate that day, my cheat meals expanded from just Sundays to include Mondays (because Monday), then to Wednesday (yaay middle of the week) to then include Fridays as well (because TGIF).
But this time the weight gain did not bring with it the sense of despair and hopelessness that I had last time. Since I had been through this rigorous process I knew the discipline, methods and ingredients required to get back into shape. The second round of getting fit began in November 2018 and included going to the gym which MY GOD is amazing and not as boring as I thought it would be.
Bottomline is that getting on the Conefit Diet does get you results at the end of 3 months. You will most likely put on that weight after those 3 months if you’re not as strict with your diet and exercise. But with what you’ve learnt through being on the Conefit plan, you can easily bounce back and take control of your fitness. And that independence & confidence is a lesson worth investing in.