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Losing 20kg in a year and other success tips

In February 2015, I weighed 98kg. If you were to look at my picture then, you would see an overhanging midriff, and a round chubby face. Worse still, my blood pressure was 159/109 (that's high for those of you who didn't know), my cholesterol levels were also bad, and the uric acid accumulation in my body was high (and that accounts for gout). All in all, I was a poor reflection of a physical specimen then.

Today, one year later, I am 76.4kg with no hint of a bulging stomach, I have lost 6 inches off my waistline (38-in pants to 32-in pants) and more importantly, my doctor gave me a clean bill of health, saying that I am now normal. I have even been able to get into my wedding tuxedo - tailored 25 years ago - and I feel 10 years younger! Although my BMI is below 25 (which in the Western standard is normal), they say for Asians, it should be below 22. That would be a stretch, since at 1.78m tall, I should only be 69.7kg. I have not been that weight since secondary school, and wonder if it is possible now. I will therefore strive to maintain a weight of 75kg, and I have 1.4 kg to go.

You can tell that I am proud of my achievements. But this is not a "boast post"; I want to outline how I did it, to show that it is not difficult to achieve, but more importantly, I also want to extend it to success in other areas. After all, the process of being successful in weight loss is also the same for other endeavours. So, if you are keen to be successful in studies, in business, in relationships, in your job, then this article is a must-read for you!

(1) It starts with the end in mind

I know it is a Covey Cliche, but it is a fundamental ingredient for success. You got to know where you are headed, so you need to start with that. You must be able to paint the picture of what success looks like to you, and understand how that success leads to the overall scheme of things for you. For me, it was really doctor's orders. He told me that in order to improve my health, I had to lose weight. He challenged me to get to 80kg. According to him - and to medical science, actually - when you carry around less weight, the heart does not need to work too hard, and the pressure to the system drops. This reduces the risks of stroke and heart attack. So that was really why I started on the weight loss - so that I could be healthy. So that I don't drop dead all of a sudden. I suppose that is as good an end as any that I could conjure.

Likewise for you, if you want to be successful, you need to paint that picture of success for yourself. If you are looking to be successful in your studies, does that mean a GPA of 3.98? Or does that mean a PhD?

And if you want to be successful in business does that mean a constant annual revenue? Or the number of large accounts? Or both?

And in relationships, success could mean marriage, companionship, children or the like.

Of course, to each his own; hence your picture of success will be different from someone else's. And what constitutes success for you does not mean it is the same for someone else. So, your first step really is to conjure up what is success to you. Be vivid, be encouraging.

(2) Stretch yourself

And that brings me to my second point - stretch yourself. When you are 98kg, moving to 80 is a huge stretch! One cannot even fathom what it looks like! One might be tempted to play it safe and split the difference, trying to hit 89kg instead. Don't be too timid with your goal. If anything is worth doing, it is worth stretching for! Some people caution over-stretching, against demoralising yourself even before the work is started, and it is abandoned. That is defeatist talk. If you think that you might abandon your goal before the task has begun, then the goal was not compelling enough.

Mine was a real compelling goal - to not drop dead and leave my beautiful wife and five children stranded.

Once you have that, you stretch it. I did start by thinking of 89kg, but I then thought that it was not big enough, so I stretched my goal to 85kg, although I had secretly hoped to hit 82kg.

One should not be afraid of being stretched, only of not stretching enough, of giving up just at the point of being successful!

(3) Know your metrics

82kg, BP of 120/80, LDL less than 100, HDL greater than 70, triglycerides less than 150 mg. These were some of the metrics I was monitoring to ensure that I stayed healthy. The truth of the matter is, whatever gets measured, gets done. If you only say you want to lose weight without knowing what your current weight is, and what you want to lose to, and then continuously monitor that, you will not lose it.

Similarly, if you have defined success in terms of revenue, then you have to define the amount that constitutes success. But that is not all, is it? That is only the final metric you need. You also need to identify the supporting metrics like number of key accounts, rate of account growth, productivity of labour, etc. The more you know what metrics constitute the overall picture of success, the better you will be in achieving it.

(4) Measure, measure, measure

Different metrics require different frequency of measurement. Weight can be measured on a daily, or even thrice-daily, basis. The blood tests can be done on a quarterly or half-yearly basis. Whatever the frequency, it has to be done consistently, so that key contributory factors are identified and amplified.

This presupposes therefore, that you have the right tools to measure. If you are taking weight measurements, then you need to have a good weighing scale. A digital scale is best, because it is less equivocal than an analogue one (which you can sometimes "cheat" by erring on the side of doubt).

If you are measuring relationship, then you need to be able to measure engagement level, for example. That is decidedly more difficult than measuring income level. If there is no way to measure, then there is no way of knowing where you are, where you are headed, and how to make adjustments. If you are moving along blindly, then it is no better than not having a goal at all.

(5) Uncover contributory factors

You may think you know what contributes to your situation and what you need to do to achieve your goals, yet you may be wrong, and that may have contributed to you not achieving your goal. For example, for the longest time, I always thought that exercise was the key to losing weight. After all, when I was in the Army, we did a lot of physical training, and my weight dropped precipitously, even as I ate as much as I wanted. Well, it so happened that it was not the case for me anymore. As I aged, I realised that exercise did not cause me to lose weight as much as food intake. So, using exercise to manage weight loss was not effective.

Then I started to vary my food consumption. The first to fly out was carbohydrates, especially rice. I still liked my pasta and a couple of slices of bread, but no more rice. That made a big contribution to weight loss.

Next was breakfast. I bought into the idea of the inverted pyramid style of eating - eat like a king for breakfast, like a prince for lunch, and like a pauper for dinner. As they say, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. That was WRONG for me. In fact, the minute I ate like a pauper for all the three meals, my weight dropped like a stone.

Then I realised something else. We eat too much in Singapore. Our portions are too much for sustenance. We can survive on one-fifth of the quantity we eat without having any ill-effects on mind and body. I continued to function well cognitively as I do physically with much smaller portions. Perhaps it is our culture that has caused us to eat too much, and hence, gain much more weight.

I have more to share but this post is not about losing weight; it is about achieving success. And I had uncovered all these simply through hypothesis testing. I formulated a hypothesis of the factors affecting weight gain/loss, and I tested them out. Soon, little by little, I uncovered the triggers and the contributory factors, andthis allowed me to leverage them to achieve success.

So, if you want to be successful in business and don't know how, then create a hypothesis and test it out. If you want to be successful in your business, then create hypotheses and test them out. The more you uncover what works and what does not, the better you will be, and the closer you will be to success!

(6) Don't be discouraged

Systemic change does not occur in a straight line so you cannot expect results to happen overnight. When I first started on the weight-loss programme, I saw results quickly. I dropped from 98kg to 94kg in no time. Then it seemed to have stopped. When I uncovered a little at a time those epiphanies of weight loss, the kilogrammes shed, and then stagnated. So it came in fits and starts. And sometimes, it seems like nothing was happening, and you wait and wait, and then, BOOM! you lose a few kilos in a couple of weeks! Yet, it is those times of seemingly no results that can discourage a person. It might seem like nothing is happening, and that we might be on the wrong course. We might be tempted to switch tactics to see if we can get back onto the winning track. Yet, on hindsight, I have come to realise that I had ALWAYS been on the winning track. It is just that winning is not constant. Sometimes you need to get your act together, persevere and push through the times of disquiet. Know that you are NOT on the wrong path; it just needs time.

(7) Know when to pivot

There is one more thing you need to know, and that is when to pivot. It comes with some instinct, but after a while and nothing happens, it comes time for you to try something new; it comes time to pivot. Although I have not pivoted on my weight loss programme, I know that there will come a time when my efforts will no longer lead to any loss, and it would require a new regime. As it stands, it looks like I need to adopt some muscle strenghening exercises, something I have not done yet, and am resisting because I am still making head-way with current processes. But I am looking at the signs, the data, the metrics, and when the time comes - and it might be sooner than later - I will make that pivot, as all successful people will do.

There are many routes to the top

If you want to reach the summit of Mount Everest, you will know that there are several routes. Similarly, there are several routes to get to success, and the one that I have outlined here is just one of them. But this one is well-trodden, and has produced many success stories, and mine is the least of them. You could take any of the routes to success, or you could simply follow these 7 steps to become successful in anything you want to achieve.

I wish you all the best!

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