A man who was “unable to get a date” has revealed how he lost 25% of his body fat in just 16 weeks – and with renewed self-confidence, went on to meet his wife.
Varun Bhanot, 31, from London, had always eaten fatty foods like McDonald’s chicken nuggets, chips and beans – but noticed he gained a lot of weight when he went to university.
A diet of kebabs and Jack Daniels whiskey, paired with a lack of exercise, brought his weight to an all-time high of 14st 9lbs.
“I walked into university looking like a stick insect, and left a few years later looking like a jelly bean,” Varun, who is co-founder of tech start-up MAGIC, told Jam Press.
“It was a combination of laziness, having too much fun living in London, and perhaps comfort eating as it was a stressful time on a very difficult law degree.”
It was only when he attended a family event four years ago that he realised how much weight he had gained.
He said: “An aunty came up to me and rubbed my belly like I was some sort of lucky Buddha. In Indian culture, people think fat is ‘healthy’ as it means you’re not under-eating.
“Over-eating is never frowned upon in the family community, despite the health risks. So when elders started saying I had gotten a real ‘healthy’ figure, I knew it was time to change.”
Varun was also struggling to dress properly with his new body shape.
He said: “I couldn’t fit into my old clothes and resorted to only wearing jogging bottoms and oversized hoodies.
“I didn’t feel confident or stylish.
“I couldn’t get a date. My skin was really bad with breakouts and acne and I just couldn’t understand why.”
Varun measured his BMI and was stunned to find he was clinically obese and had 30% body fat.
He said: “I had no idea it was that bad. Having a high-pressure day job at a tech start-up, my weight just spiralled out of control.
“I decided to commit to a weight-lifting programme and at least try to transform my body.
“I really wanted to find a girlfriend and be able to shop at Topman without the buttons popping out of my shirt.”
Varun started heavy weight training four times a week at his local gym, committing to a 16-week transformation period to transform his body.
He said: “It involved all the compound moves – deadlifts, squats, bench presses, ab crunches and dragging a prowler across the gym floor.
“There were times when I almost passed out at the end of the workout.
“I made a spreadsheet of my calories and tracked my daily steps on Fitbit.
“I aimed to have a deficit of around 500-700 calories, and consumed 1,800 rather than the 3,000 per day that I had been eating.
“I also aimed to eat 180g of protein a day – eating chicken or fish three times a day with vegetables.
“I would only have carbs on the days when I was working out, and I’d weigh out rice and sweet potato.
“I would sit in the corner at work munching on my cold broccoli – it was pretty miserable but I kept the end goal and the vision of what I wanted to look like in my mind.”
As part of his plan, Varun also had to give up alcohol – which he says was the hardest part.
Despite the dramatic routine, the results spoke for themselves, and within 16 weeks he had dropped 25% of his body fat and reached 8st 3lbs.
His self-confidence swelled after he hit his goal, and he connected with his wife, Anisha, 31 – an old friend who “couldn’t believe” his transformation.
He said: “She saw me in a new light – I think [the weight loss] definitely helped her finally fall for me after just merely being friends for a number of years before.
“I like to think my personality worked the charm too.”
They got engaged two years after his transformation, and Varun has since eased up slightly on his workout regimen.
He said: “These days I am more flexible and will allow myself to have a few drinks on the weekend and chomp on a few chocolate bars if I have the urge.
“Pizza, chips and all guilty pleasures are fine as long as I’m staying active and keep my metabolism up.
“For the long term, it makes sense to keep some variety and not punish yourself. Unless you’re doing a 16-week meltdown, you have to have some balance to keep yourself sane.”
He has continued to exercise, including weight-lifting sessions 3-4 times a week, as well as a weekly HIIT class and trying to hit upwards of 10,000 steps a day.
For Varun, the lasting effects of his weight loss have been wide-ranging – including having the self-belief to ditch his job and start up his own personal training tech company, MAGIC, which uses artificial intelligence to help people exercise.
He said: “I now feel extremely confident. The best part is being able to wear skinny-fit clothing, which makes me feel stylish when going out.
“I sleep better and feel calmer. My skin is clear and my jawline has made an appearance.
“I even find I get my best ideas when pumping weights.
“Nothing tastes as good as being healthy feels.”