This was one of Lifestyle's top stories in 2018
When personal trainer Nalisha Patel returned home to New Zealand after spending the best part of five years travelling the world with her husband, she did so 15kg heavier.
Her sabbatical saw the ultra-fit 36-year-old break out of her usual routine, and indulge in pasteis de nata in Portugal, baklava in Greece and churros in Spain - and soon Nalisha realised she'd gone from 54kg to almost 70kg.
Despite earning a living coaching clients through the diet and lifestyle changes needed to help them achieve peak physical condition, Nalisha said doing all the "right things" didn't result in her shedding the pounds once she got back to New Zealand in December 2016 - and given her career, the extra weight left her feeling "ashamed," she said.
According to the Daily Mail, it was only when she strayed from her own rule book that the pounds finally began to melt away, said Nalisha, who explained she lost weight by skipping breakfast - in a direct contradiction of the advice she gave to her clients - and ate a maximum of three meals a day, not five small meals as she had previously recommended.
Here, Nalisha, from Auckland, reveals how she ripped up her own diet and exercise rule book to slim back down to 57kg in the space of 16 weeks.
"When I came to the realisation that I was gaining weight, I decided to do what I taught clients," Nalisha told FEMAIL.
"Cut back on sugary treats and junky foods, with Saturday as my only 'cheat' day," said the PT, who explained how she and her husband Janak funded their travels by continuing to work on their online business, selling health programmes, the whole time they were away.
"Eat five meals per day, supplemented with snacks of apples and salmon on crackers.
"Walk every day, and workout three times a week with resistance bands and exercises that use the body weight."
But Nalisha found her tried and tested methods weren't working, as she and her husband hopped from country to country over their near five years exploring the globe.
"The challenge was traveling to a new location," she explained.
"It was like going on holiday regularly. All 'rules' were off. My cheat day turned into a cheat week - especially upon landing in a new country."
Nalisha's unconventional weight loss strategy
Nalisha said it was dropping her old, tried and tested methods in favour of a different routine that ultimately saw her shed 12kg in the space of 16 weeks.
"I skipped breakfast three to five times a week to increase fasting time until 10am," she said - "even though I always advocated to clients that 'breakfast is the most important meal of the day.'
"I also ate two to three times a day maximum, having always advocated eating five meals a day to my clients," Nalisha said.
She went on to describe how she limited herself to a single cheat day every month, having previously allowed clients one cheat meal per week.
"I started using a blood sugar monitor and tested my blood sugar levels to track which foods did not suit me," Nalisha added, explaining: "I had my clients only focus on diet, exercise, and basic lifestyle habits.
"I found I was borderline pre-diabetic when overweight."
Instead of following the same weekly mix of three weight training sessions, three HIIT sessions, and five stints of lower intensity cardio such as walking that she had recommended to her clients, Nalisha started rebounding on a mini trampoline to increase lymphatic drainage, using a specific HIIT routine, and only threw in weight training a maximum of twice a week.
Finally, she added: "I worked on my mental health, which impacted my mood and happiness, which had a huge effect on my sleep and, in turn, eventually, my weight."
Lack of routine
Nalisha and her husband Janak Patel first embarked on their adventure in 2011, returning two and a half years later in 2014 for a short stint in New Zealand before jetting off again for the second leg of their travels - mostly around the US and Europe - at the end of that year.
"Every four to 12 weeks we would move to a new country or city, experiencing the culture and food," said Nalisha, who said the second leg of their odyssey was particularly indulgent.
"I loved landing in each new country and checking out their chocolate aisle," she said.
"We'd spend at least an hour and a half to two hours in a supermarket that first day, throwing fun new foods into our cart.
"In our previous travels, I would sample a local treat, like a pastry or savoury snack, just the once, but the second time, I would eat the treat several times per week.
"When we spent 12 weeks bouncing around Italy, pizza and pasta were a near nightly thing, along with local delicacies like fried cheese and fried up meat savory snacks.
"And we spent three months in Greece in 2015 that really did a number on my waistline. We'd eat Baklava and other sugary Greek sweets near daily."
It was when the Patels were living in Croatia in mid-2015 that the extent of her weight gain dawned on Nalisha.
"Every time I sat on the couch, I could feel rolls of fat around my middle," she said.
"I felt fat and so disappointed in myself. It had crept up on me. As a Personal Trainer, I literally felt so embarrassed and ashamed I had gained weight. It really put a dent in my usually really robust self-esteem.
Old habits die hard
"I bought scales from Ikea when I was in Portugal in January 2016," Nalisha said, adding "I was determined to make that the year I lost the weight.
"I ate chicken breast for breakfast and lots of vegetables. I snacked on blueberries and air-popped popcorn.
"I ate as clean as I could, just treating myself to Portugal's famous custard snacks every few weeks.
"After doing this for 5 weeks while living in one apartment, I could see that my measurements and scales had not budged much."
Nalisha said that while she'd shifted around 2kg on the scales, she felt the same in clothes and her measurements hadn't changed.
"It was very disheartening," she said.
"When we came home to New Zealand in Dec 2016, I was still overweight.
I basically tried to eat clean, and exercise at home with weights for most of 2017.
"I spent countless hours each week researching the latest in weight loss and how to create a healthier body. But there was so much conflicting advice out there, I ended up gaining 4kg in that year - all while trying to lose weight," she said.
"Something was not right. That's when I started experimenting with new strategies and learning all the latest on weight loss, health and wellbeing, and come January of this year, I put my new plan into action."
After her blood sugar monitor readings led her to discover she was borderline pre-diabetic, Nalisha said she began eliminating certain foods and monitoring the results.
"I watched as my blood sugar dropped based on changes I made," she said.
"I discovered that I was intolerant to my beloved air-popped popcorn, which I had been eating regularly for two years."
The focus on her mental as well as physical health was another revelation, Nalisha said.
"2015 was challenging as I was going through significant business changes," she said.
"I was bored and uninspired with my work. I think this contributed to me gaining weight.
"I eliminated negative people from my life, and I also incorporated some Ayurvedic techniques to help ease my stress and give me a deeper sleep.
"I think all these elements literally helped the weight to start falling off.
"I ended up losing 12kg in 16 weeks after putting everything I'd learned into action,"
"I lost 11cm off my butt and 12cm off my waist. After so much trial and error, it feels like I've finally discovered a blueprint for weight loss."