I met Kishan Shah in 2007, when we both interned on the trading floor at UBS Investment Bank. While he might describe himself as heavy set back then, I remember his inquisitive personality and warm smile. In truth, he was halfway through his weight loss journey, which started in 2005 when he hit 400 pounds. In 2007 he was down to 250 pounds. Kishan hit 230 pounds when he was leaving Dubai, where he had worked at consulting firm, Oliver Wyman, after spending time at a mixed martial arts training camp in Thailand for a month (he dreamed of training like Rocky when he was a kid). Although Kishan hit a small roadblock, gaining 40 pounds while working at an investment bank in Chicago, he moved to New York to work at Goldman Sachs and got down to 195 pounds a year and a half ago using their onsite gym. He’s been at 195 pounds ever since.
Kishan surprised me this past spring with a call to discuss healthcare technology and fitness. Although he had worked in finance his entire career, he wanted to focus more on his passion – bringing his personal experience of losing over 200 pounds through diet and exercise to others. Kishan soon after joined Downsize Fitness as President and has been a public health advocate ever since, even speaking with First Lady Michelle Obama about his experience.
I asked Kishan to share some of his experiences and expertise with us:
When did you first realize there was something wrong with your weight, and when did you start to do something about it?
Taken from my article on Greatist: In 2005, I hit my turning point. It wasn’t the impending amputation of my right foot from diabetic complications that provoked me to change my health routines — it was the embarrassment of shopping for a suit. I was at a store for large men when the tailor’s five-foot tape measure could not fit around my 62-inch waist. I saw the pity in his eyes, the tears in mine, and I promptly exited the store, determined to turn things around.
Many people yo-yo diet when they are trying to lose weight, how did you keep yourself motivated at first, and how do you continue to motivate yourself?
I spent my first 19 years yo-yo dieting and was generally unsure of how the human body worked. I believe changing one’s own environment is the single most important factor towards successful, sustainable weight loss. That’s why at Downsize, our secret sauce is community. We make sure to provide all of the tools for people to live happy, healthier lives – whether that means fitness training, nutritional advice, support groups, events with affiliates and partners, a kickball league, you-name-it. We don’t advocate supplements/magic-pills/or any sort of quick fixes.
Today, it’s less about my own weight and more about helping others. I personally receive at least 10 emails a week about how my story has inspired others. It’s the greatest feeling in the world.
Do you use any health apps or devices?
I have used a Nike FuelBand in the past. We use a quantified-self device called MYZONE to track our members’ heart rates and calorie burn in real-time at our gyms. We also use an Inbody Scale to provide a detailed body composition analysis to our members at Downsize.
While I love these devices and enjoy using them, I personally weigh myself once a quarter – I judge my progress based upon how I feel and how my clothes fit. As a former Wall-Streeter, I am intensely analytical and appreciate data. However, I have come to the realization that my fitness and nutrition program’s ultimate output is to make me happier and healthier. I try not to be bogged down in the numbers and instead focus on a deeper level of awareness to understand what my body and mind are actually telling me.
You have extensive experience working at some of the world’s most well-known financial institutions. What made you make the switch to be President at Downsize Fitness?
Downsize provided me with an opportunity to do the following:
- Focus on a population segment that I care deeply about. From my personal experience, being overweight, I felt society ridiculed and ostracized me. The traditional fitness industry has ignored this population and the medical community has provided minimal support.
- Create human-level impact. Our members love coming to Downsize, no company has made sustainable weight loss fun – it’s a drill sergeant bringing you to tears in the gym or a juice cleanse which makes you starve. We’ve had members kick their insulin injection. We’re literally saving lives and making people happier on a daily basis.
- Be an operator. Growing an organization and mentoring talent excite me. I absolutely love what I do – I see a relationship between my effort and the number of lives I can touch. There’s nothing more impactful than that.
What are your passions?
Other than Downsize:
- Teaching. I want to help others in an educational setting – whether that means entrepreneurship, business lessons, or general career advice. I’ve taught at Columbia and my alma mater University of Michigan and have designed my own course at General Assembly – I hope to teach at more schools and through different online platforms in 2014.
- Hip hop music. It represents the hustle and ability to connect with people from all walks of life. Check out my interview with The Phat Startup bridging hip hop and business.
In a perfect world, from a health perspective, what would you like to see?
The AMA finally recognized obesity as a disease which is a great first step to engage the medical community. At Downsize, we hired our Chief Medical Advisor who has helped his patients lose 80,000 pounds. We are working closely with providers to generate happier and healthier communities.
What tips or recommendations would you give readers who are in the process of losing weight?
- Execute. Even on my weekends, I wake up at 6AM and I am in the gym by 7AM. It’s extremely satisfying to have woken up, get in a great workout, eat breakfast, catch up with friends over Skype in Europe and the Middle East all before noon. It may sound like a chore to do this, but your body adapts to being more active.
- Read. While I may have lost a few pounds, I am continually learning about healthy foods, new exercises and additional spiritual techniques to de-stress and focus. I love the concept of growing stronger and smarter every day.
- Listen. Play therapist and listen to your family, friends and peers about their views on food habits and exercise routines. I love hearing different perspectives and constantly tinker with my own personal (and Downsize’s) approach to keep things interesting.
- Rest. I hope that everyone takes time to rest during the weekend. As an introvert, I look forward to that special time each week that I can spend alone, away from our increasingly connected world to simply unwind. It recharges my emotional batteries, rests my muscles from my workouts, clears my mind and restores my ambition for the coming week.