Hello there! I’m Ankurman, the bespectacled guy on the right. To my left is Mauro, my gracious host in Albuquerque, NM. Also in the picture are Snuggler (right) and Curiosa (left).
If you’re like most, you probably have a few questions about who the crazy guy is behind this crazy project.
Well you’re in luck.
Below I’ve shared a bit about what led me to do this project by answering a few frequently asked questions. If, for some reason, you do not find an answer to your question here, or you just want to say Hello, please feel free to send me a message. I’d love to connect!
Born and raised in a small town in the southeastern part of the Indian subcontinent, my grandparents were immigrants from Nepal, and thus I was fortunate to have experienced both, the Nepalese culture and the diverse Indian culture. My father, a private small-business owner, dropped out in his sophomore year of high school to help my grandfather in his clock repair business. As for my mother, she couldn’t finish college as she had to move out of Nepal after marriage to go to India, and start her new life as a house-maker. I spent a good 22 years of my life in India, before moving to the US during the fall of 2012 to attend graduate school at the University of Cincinnati (UC), Ohio.
Currently, I’m a Chemical Engineering graduate student at UC and also work as a graduate fellow in a National Science Foundation funded creative project (grant #1102990) with the core objective to inspire high-school graduates to pursue STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) in college and enter the technical workforce.
In addition to that, I’m a health and wellness enthusiast with a passion for eating healthfully and working out habitually to stay healthy, and love to help others incorporate this as a lifestyle. Calisthenics, yoga, adventure sporting, creative & performing arts, non-fiction reading, frugal traveling, being a student at the school of life, etc., are some of the things that inspire me to wake up every morning with anticipation and go to bed every night with satisfaction.
To answer this, I’d have to share with you two stories of my life. The first story is about PASSION.
As I look back into my past: it’s 2005, and I’m an overweight teenager with thick round glasses who’s leaving the house to go to a new town and finish the last two years of high school. With a severe lack of self-confidence and no ambition in life, I was so painfully shy that the only way I could deal with people was to march by them with my head down, my gaze pinned to the ground. I lived through all my high school days without even talking to a single girl. However, I was in love with math & science, and thus spent my days studying all day long while munching on to my favorite snacks.
It’s the fall of 2008, my sophomore year in college; I’m 19 years old, standing at 5 feet 10 inches (178 cm), weighing over 210 lbs (97 kg). It had been over 6 months since I had fully recovered from chicken pox. While my doctor wanted me to start exercising to strengthen my immune system, I had already figured out that indulging in eating made me happier and more satisfied, and thus I’d not take any corrective actions to change my unhealthy habits. But soon all of this was going to change as I was about to get one of the biggest shocks of my life.
Later that year, I was diagnosed with chronic hemorrhoids and had to go under the knife at a short notice. The homely operation was a success and I was back in college after a hiatus of 3 weeks. I spent the next few months recovering, letting my wounds heal, and also coping up with the embarrassment and humiliation in the class. There were days I’d miss my lectures and lay on the bed in my dorm room, both, for physical reasons and due to the overwhelming amount of mental and emotional stress that I was going through.
“Why did this happen to me?”
Gradually things got better with the passage of time. My wounds were healing faster and I was also able to overcome my feeling of awkwardness in the class. And then one day, my uncle from Nepal, a neurosurgeon by profession, who had come to visit my family, paid me a surprise visit in college. During our conversation, he enlightened me with the fact that with a history of diabetes and a premature heart attack in my family (my father was 38 years old when he survived his first and hopefully the last coronary attack), that I was also headed down the same medical path.
Things had to change for me sooner, or else it could be too late to act. And that was my WAKE-UP CALL to take actions.
By the time I graduated from college in the spring of 2011, I had lost over 50 lbs. But more importantly, I’d spent my last 2 years in college reading and exploring the immense world of health & fitness, and by then I had built my own bank of knowledge with valuable information ranging from the intriguing fields of neuroscience and psychology, to the science behind nutrition and exercise, and the physiology of motivation.
Before moving to the US, I spent the second half of 2011 and the first half of 2012 working as an IT consultant in Mumbai; where I saved on the hefty gym-membership fees for my grad school application fees, and also picked up on Yoga & Calisthenics (strength training using only body-weight movements) which could be done anywhere. At UC, which boasts of America’s finest campus student recreation centers, I encountered a serious episode at the gym that led to a chronic lower back injury. The MRI reports later revealed a degeneration of the discs in my lower lumbar spine and sacroiliac joint dysfunction, thereby refraining me from lifting weights for life. And thus, I switched to Calisthenics and Yoga for the good.
However, my WAKE-UP CALL had already done its job to act as the major post-traumatic growth factor, and led me towards my passion for health & fitness as a lifestyle.
The second story is about DREAMS.
The day is Aug 7, 2012, 7 PM CST; after a 28 hour long flight, the plane landed in Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. As I slowly moved forward along the immigration line, I was surprised to see people from all around the world, waiting for their turn to set foot into the mainland. My turn came in the counter and after a couple of minutes, I got the green signal.
As I took my first steps on the American soil, I asked myself:
How does America attract such a rich and culturally diverse pool of people towards her?”
And as I boarded my next flight to Cincinnati, sparks of curiosity buzzed all over my brain to find out what this great nation had in store for me. ‘THE AMERICAN DREAM’, a phrase I had heard over a million times, and as I stood on the land of infinite potential, I said to me:
A day would come when I shall proclaim my own American Dream.
In 2013, driven by my curiosity to learn and explore, I embarked on this wonderful journey, where by the end of the year, I had successfully walked across 21 States, and became friends with numerous fascinating people from different walks of life along the way. I stayed with the locals in every cities that I visited and immersed fully in their culture. I also came across some really creative people during my travels.
Everywhere I traveled, I was welcomed. People were curious to know about me and my culture as much as I was curious to know about theirs. This journey helped me to get out of my comfort zone and conquer my fear of the unknown. And most importantly, it raised my FAITH in HUMANITY.
However, I also observed the prevalence of obesity in every city that I traveled to. This was a big red flag for me to take immediate actions as it posed a serious threat to my dreams. I have had these dreams for a long time now, and today is the day, I’m going to share my dreams with you.
I have a dream that one day we shall all live in a world with highly motivated, passionate, and healthy individuals having a plethora of energy to accomplish any task humanly possible, at a physical, mental, and social level.
I have a dream that one day this world will be free of all medical illness; high blood pressure, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases will be eradicated from its roots.
I have a dream that one day we shall all walk hand in hand with a sense of camaraderie, and work with a common vision towards the growth and success for the greater good.
This is my dream, and I’m not going to let obesity shatter it into pieces. Thus, through ‘A DRIVE TO INSPIRE’, I intend to pursue both, my PASSION and my DREAMS, while making a difference.
On May 19, 2014, I got an email from University of Cincinnati’s College of Engineering & Applied Sciences Graduate Admissions Office, of a $391 increase in my 2014-2015 tuition and fees. Out of the $391, a hike of more than $200 was an increase in my health insurance premium. This came less as a surprise and more as a reason for me to take actions towards both, my personal finances so as to keep myself covered for the forthcoming school year, and also dig deep into the healthcare system in the US.
I exercise and work out my body every day. I cook and eat healthy, and at all costs, avoid junk food (burger, fries, and soda). Then why do I have to suffer this hike in my premium?
At first, $200 didn’t seem that big of a figure but it soon occurred to me that this amounted to almost 3 months of living expenses for my parents back at home in India.
I pulled up my research socks and dug into hundreds of peer reviewed journals on the subject: ‘Causes for the rising medical care costs in the United States’.
Obesity – the number one cause for the increasing healthcare costs in the US.
I knew I had to take actions – for the love of my parents and to make my dreams come true.
And thus, ‘A Drive to Inspire’ was born.
From my experience of having gone through a phase of obesity, I learned a few crucial things that helped me to put on a successful personal fight against this enemy. I learned the importance of finding a strong answer to the question, “Why do I want to get fit and healthy?”, which is governed by the theories of neuroscience and is a key factor in motivating individuals to take continuous actions towards their health & fitness goals. I wanted to get fit and healthy because I never wanted to go through that physical and emotional trauma ever again in my life. I wanted to have greater self-confidence, be better at communication, and have high aspirations. And thus, after having found the answer to my ‘Why?’, I then gradually discovered other important insights that could make or break an individual’s attempt to become healthy & fit.
Factors affecting goal directed automaticity, how workout habit formation is more important than being a member of an elite gym or a fitness program, the role of past experiences gained from the repetition of an exercise or physical activity towards the determination of habit formation, finding the exercise movement that makes one feel happier i.e. releases the feel-good neurotransmitters, the accomplishment of a smaller fitness goal providing a greater drive to work towards bigger goals, the physiology of motivation, sugar addiction and its adverse effects on the human brain, the importance of conscious grocery shopping and mindful eating, the concept of world is our gym, etc., are some of the knowledge that I would be sharing throughout this journey.
Starting Aug 2nd, I have a summer break of 25 days from work before the school year begins, and thus I want to use this time in the best possible way.
The lower 48 States because I want to spread this message with a personal interaction with the locals in every State rather than using the media. I believe this would help me to raise awareness regarding the obesity epidemic throughout this nation.
Another reason for all 48 States is that after having walked across 21 of them in 2013, I’m very curious to explore the remaining of the United States. I want to meet with the locals residing in the foothills of Tennessee and the fertile lands of North Dakota, the Southerners in Mississippi, Alabama and the people living all the way up in Northern Maine, etc., and learn from them – about their culture and their lifestyle. I believe that there is humanity still left on this planet and with that hope I’m going to go explore these unknown lands where I haven’t been yet, and raise public awareness regarding the obesity epidemic. Due to the time constraints and work commitment, I’m keeping Alaska and Hawaii for the next time.
All it requires to do a pushup is the gravity and the ground, while one can just use their own body weight to work out every muscle in the whole upper body. It is one of the most basic calisthenics exercises, minimal which can be performed anywhere without any special requirement.
The number 50 because I did a survey at UC’s gym asking folks lifting weights to do 50 consecutive reps, and only 3 in 25 could do it. Thus, it seemed challenging to me.
No! After I came up with the big idea and started brainstorming, I soon realized the need for a strong core team if I wanted to successfully execute something of this magnitude at the desired time frame. Thus, this project is currently nurtured by a diverse group of people, who provide continuous feedback, support, and encouragement with a common belief in the cause.
And then we also have Mia in our team, who wants to say ‘Hello!’ to you.
Hey there! I’m Mia. And just like you, I’m stoked to be a part of this amazing project. But moreover, now I have a feeling of responsibility to go on this epic journey for a greater cause. The drive is going to be rough, long, and challenging. In addition to the funds needed for this epic journey, we also need a lot of emotional support that would serve as an additional fuel to help us keep moving forward throughout this entire journey.
We’re now recruiting our own small army of remarkable people who would play a key role in spreading this message out to the masses. If you believe in our cause, please help us share this campaign with others. Together, we can put an end to the obesity epidemic.
With the help of crowdsourcing platform Indiegogo, I was able to raise 15% of my budgeted amount for this journey. And now, I’ve decided to bootstrap and go ahead with the drive that begins on Aug 1 because it is the ‘Why’ behind the project that provides me with the fuel to take concrete actions towards the accomplishment of this project every day. I’m also a firm believer of Karma, and my faith in the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita:
As mortal human beings, it is our right to perform our prescribed duty without being entitled to the fruits of our actions. And we should never consider ourselves as the cause of the results of our actions, and should never be attached to not doing our duties.
Thus, I’m determined to successfully take off this project.
Currently, I’m networking with potential sponsors and hope to find a couple of like minded organizations to support this cause.
Through my transformation from being an obese teenager to a healthy adult, I’ve gone through several changes inside of me. My self-confidence got the biggest boost while I also saw positive results in my communication skills, cognitive thinking, and creativity that gave birth to my never ending passion for health & fitness. As a result of having incorporated a healthier lifestyle, I have started to dream again, just like when I was 5 years young. And I want others to experience the same amazing feeling that I’m living through every day in my life.
From my past experiences in life, I now believe that we are all on borrowed time, and I want to use the time left of me in the best possible way – to serve, to share, to inspire, and to make a difference in this world. Ultimately, I see this experiment as a way to inspire others to conquer their fears that many of us hold on to in our lives these days, preventing us from unleashing our creative genius and realizing our true potential.