It took a medical research study for Tanvir Hussain to realize he was unhealthy. The 42-year-old general cardiologist from Los Angeles, California, had been working 30-hour shifts in an intensive care unit—on his last night at that job, he performed CPR on a woman to resuscitate her six times before she passed away. “It was an extremely stressful time and in hindsight my metabolism suffered for it,” he says.
After leaving that job, he joined the study, only to learn that he was pre-diabetic, with mild calcifications in his heart arteries. He was shocked: His family had a history of cardiovascular disease, but he was also a doctor, and figured he should know better. “About 80 percent of what we deal with in cardiology is preventable,” he says.
Hussain set out to take back control of his body. “I was a pleasantly chubby nerd growing up,” he says, eating junk food and not exercising at all. Then came the party-eating of college, followed by the sleepless nights, long shifts, and terrible diet of med school. And when he settled into a well-paying career, he turned into a foodie, eager to try all of LA’s hottest new restaurants. When he vowed to turn things around, he was 5’10”, weighing in at 175 pounds, with 27 percent body fat.
He started working with a trainer from Ultimate Performance. First he cut out carbs for several months to push down his body fat percentage. But he still worked irregular hours, which messed up his sleep schedule. His weight loss was slow, but he eventually quit eating any processed foods, trading them for lots of vegetables. Instead of junk, his breakfast might be a cup of oatmeal, a cup of berries, and a scoop of whey protein powder.
Hussain worked out three times a week: a full-body day and two upper-body days, finishing each session with some high-intensity interval training (HIIT). At first, the workouts were daunting; he’d previously been taking spin classes, and his new regimen drove home just how out of shape he’d gotten. But having a routine really helped. “Working with a trainer has been great for me because I don’t have to think too much,” he says. “I just work out during my sessions and eat how I’m supposed to eat, and the body automatically changes.”
In a year, he went from 175 pounds and 26.9 percent body fat down to 156 pounds and 11.2 percent body fat. “Anyone who hasn’t seen me in a while is pretty amazed,” he says, and all of his health issues—from insomnia to heartburn to moodiness—have cleared up. “Granted, I live a much more regimented life now, but it is absolutely worth it,” he says.
Anyone thinking of a similar change should just try something, he says. Jump in and see what appeals to you. (As a doctor, he suggests getting bloodwork first to see where you’re starting.) After all, throwing himself into it worked for him: “I feel 10 years younger and just want to keep going,” he says.
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