Heshani Assalaarachchi

If you’re on Instagram, you’d want to follow Heshani Assalaarachchi’s account. It’s the one with the ‘before-and-after’ images showcasing an incredible weight-loss transformation. What you don’t see is the positive and persevering attitude that helped her achieve it. The bubbly 32-year-old shares her journey with Pulse.

By Thushanthi Ponweera

Instafamous, but nothing instant about it!

I love how you’re smiling in every picture!

Smiling comes naturally to me. You will notice though, that I never posed in full profile for pictures unless I absolutely had to, like at my graduation. In fact, I hated it and would look for a way to hide behind another person when posing. But luckily for me, you don’t need to see someone’s entire body in a picture to see their smile!

Were you ever worried about your weight?

Being overweight was not something my life revolved around (it shouldn’t, should it?). The only times I had to face some discomfort was when I had to be weighed. For example, during the end of each school term, we were weighed and that weight entered in our report card. When I was 18, I was 85kg when everyone else in class were mostly in the 50-60kg. Also, each time I visited a doctor I would get lectured on how I needed to lose weight. I felt anger, but perhaps it was shame too. Although I was very good at talking myself out of it!

What was the catalyst for the change?

I was at the salon to get ready for an event (I was 113kg at this point), and I had to put on my shoes. They had to be buckled. I had to bend. Can you guess the rest? (laughs). Well, long story short, I couldn’t. It was a low point in my life. The salon owner, Piyanki, happened to mention that her friend was a trainer and had a TRX studio which maybe I should try out. After a lifetime of hearing these ‘suggestions’, I didn’t give it much thought at the time. But a few days later, my curiosity got the better of me and I discovered ‘The Breakthrough Studio’ run by Ashanthi Soris Mirchandani.  I had no idea what TRX was, but I wanted to find out. And it was something I’ve stuck with ever since.

What do you think made you stick with it?

At first, I was so intimidated by the thought of starting a workout style I wasn’t familiar with, and skeptical too. Prior to this I had truly tried it all- diet pills, diets, gym, even consulting a doctor about weight loss surgery (I had to lose weight to even be considered, so I was back at square one!). In hindsight, I’m glad I didn’t qualify for surgery, since I know now that it IS possible to lose this much weight naturally. I’d say the amazing support and guidance of my instructors as well as peers at Breakthrough Studio, made all the difference. You need to find a method or a system you really enjoy, and then it doesn’t feel like a chore.

What is your usual routine like, when it comes to food and fitness?

I initially went all out, going for 50-minute TRX sessions 5 days a week, along with a low carb diet. After losing a considerable amount of weight, I scaled this back to 3 TRX sessions weekly, and just being mindful of what I eat. I also go on the treadmill at home for about half an hour most days of the week, and if I’m not too lazy I do a quick set of ab exercises.

How did you stay on course and not get frustrated or overwhelmed?

I didn’t and still don’t have any crazy deadlines. I’ve lost my weight very gradually, losing 47kg in about two years. Losing weight should be just one part of a commitment to have a healthier lifestyle. We see many women losing a lot of weight in a short time frame, but sometimes they gain it all back because the methods weren’t sustainable. But taking time gives your body the space it needs to adjust to the changes.

Do you feel society treats you differently according to your appearance?

Unfortunately, yes. Especially in Sri Lanka. If you’re big, people think they have the right to comment on your weight- which is totally unacceptable and inappropriate. Of course, being overweight is not healthy -nor is it ugly- but it does not mean you have the right to ridicule someone because of it. I don’t have to go through it now, so I would say that’s the main difference. I wish it wasn’t the case though.

How has this transformation made you feel?

Just one word: ‘Fabulous’. I can wear anything I want to now! I am not proud of this, but I have missed out on going to certain occasions just because I didn’t have anything I liked to wear! The best changes are those that aren’t visible though, like how much more energetic I am, and how mentally stronger I feel. It has given me so much confidence and self-belief. And yes, I can wear my own shoes now!

What is it like being ‘instafamous’ for losing weight?

It feels really good, and also really humbling to know that just sharing my story helps others make a positive change in their life. I do get recognized, and have been approached to ask “are you the girl who lost lots of weight?”. And then there are those who message me to tell me about their success stories, and also those who talk to me about their challenges, which is quite an emotional experience. I understand this, because I went through it myself. I don’t hold back, and am willing to share what I did, and how I did it with anyone who wants to know. My friends often ask me why I spend so much time with my long captions and personally messaging others. But I know how hard it is to take those first few steps, and if I can help someone through that, then that makes it all worth it.

Heshani’s tried and tested tips for weight loss success

  1. Avoid eating after 7.30pm/about three hours before bed.
  2. Hydrate! A glass of water when you wake up and as much as you can during the day.
  3. A cup of green tea post-dinner
  4. A bag of almonds/peanuts wherever you go for when hunger strikes.
  5. Journaling: of your efforts and the results. It helps you figure out patterns.
  6. And lastly keep away from negative people or from people who don’t believe in you. Trust me, this helps!

Originally appeared in Pulse magazine, Nov/Dec 2019 issue

Picture credit: Pulse