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My story (65lb so far...)

#1
Hello all. I hope you can forgive my self-indulgence but I just want to put down in writing my journey over the course of 2011, mainly so I can have an opportunity to think about it properly for myself. If anyone else finds it interesting or, better still, something of an inspiration to their own journey, then that’s a real bonus.

For many years – since the age of around 10 – I’ve been overweight as a result of eating far too much and doing next to no exercise. On occasion I’d try to do something about it, but even the best such attempts never lasted more than a few weeks. Slowly things got more and more out of control until on New Year’s Day this year I weighed myself for the first time in years and got a result of 18st 13lb (265lb; 120kg.) I’m 5’ 10” tall (1.77m) giving a BMI of 38.45. At an age of just about 40 (I turned 40 at the end of January) I found myself extremely overweight, utterly unfit and facing the prospect of not being able to run around with my 18 month old daughter as she grows, or with her sister, due to be born in March.

I didn’t make a New Year’s Resolution, really – until that day it had never even occurred to me other than in a trivial way to actually do anything. The specific impulses were my growing family and my wish to be a proper, active father able to keep up with my girls, and a close family friend who was visiting over New Year having had a heart attack at the age of 44 a few months beforehand. He’d lost a lot of weight since then, and never said anything to me about doing the same, but I guess my subconscious get the message loud and clear.

On that day, I stopped drinking, stopped eating meat (but not fish), any form of junk food and any significant source of saturated fat. Drinking was a particularly big deal; I’m not an alcoholic in a clinical sense as it’s never a particular hardship to go without, but I’m a big wine nut and have been collecting for years.

All the advice out there talks about taking “baby steps”; not giving up everything in one go etc. I am not doubting the wisdom of that advice generally, but it wasn’t right for me. I had to make a clean break.

At the same time, I started doing a little exercise. This was really tough. For the first month, it didn’t consist of any more than taking some evening walks after work – my usual route was four miles.

The change in January was enormously encouraging. I lost just over a stone (for non-UK readers, a stone is 14lb, or about 6.4kg.) Obviously a lot of this would be water etc but it gave me a great spur. Around this time I made the decision to only weigh myself every two weeks, so as not to become overly excited or depressed by short term fluctuations.

February proceeded in a similar manner, but I felt like I wasn’t really getting anywhere in terms of fitness. Towards the end of the month I found a programme called “couch to 5k” (Google it) which promises to take a couch potato and get them to a position where they can run (slowly!) 5km after just two months. This sounded utterly impossible to me – I literally couldn’t run for a bus! Nevertheless, I gave it a go, giving myself a target of being able to jog 5km by Easter Saturday at an organised, properly timed run in a park just outside Cambridge. I told a lot of friends and family about this, and to increase the pressure on myself I raised some money for charity by sponsorship as well. To say that colleagues, friends and family were amazed would be putting it mildly… I don’t think any of them genuinely believed I could do it.

The start of the programme consists of jogging for one minute, followed by 90 seconds of walking, and repeating this eight times. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t jog for a minute even at a snail’s pace. But after three days (not consecutive!) of trying, I found that I could. I felt like collapsing afterwards, but I could. Every week, the proportion of jogging increased and the proportion of walking decreased. Some weeks weren’t too tough; some weeks I thought I was killing myself. But by Easter, sure enough, I ran 5km. I even managed to beat my target time of 30 minutes, although only just.

I think this was the point where I really started to believe that I was going to keep up what I was doing, and to believe that I could genuinely be a fit and healthy person.

At this point, I relaxed my diet somewhat. Meat was back on the menu, although not every day, and a bottle of wine each weekend was permitted, too. Even a second one on occasion, such as my wife’s birthday or a weekend away with friends. An occasional genuinely bad day no longer felt like a complete disaster as it had on previous brief diets, leading to falling off the wagon entirely and giving up. This mindset change was key, and I can’t really explain how it happened; I’m just very grateful that it did.

Running, however, was causing me some problems. Running can be like that, being fairly high impact. In particular my left hip was aching a lot after most runs, and it just wasn’t possible to keep going. So, I did something else I thought I’d never do – I joined a gym. I was lucky that I was just starting a six week period between work contracts so I was able to devote plenty of time to this. For that period I went five times a week, for an hour at a time, split between cardio machines (40 minutes per visit) and resistance machines (25 minutes per visit.) Unbelievably, I enjoyed it – and treadmill running, although much more boring than outdoor running, was much gentler on the joints, and it was easy to mix it up with exercise bikes, rowing machines etc. On Sundays, I’d take my eldest daughter swimming in the gym’s pool. She’d never been before. She loved it, and still does.

This takes us up to June, when a new work contract meant living away from home four days a week in York. I couldn’t find a gym I liked much, so I decided to give cycling a try. I had my old bike serviced and went out a few times. In no time, I was hooked. By the end of July I’d bought a new road bike and I’m now getting up at 6am during the week (utterly unheard of for me!) so I can get out and do 20 miles before work. In a month’s time I’ve organised a group cycle for myself and a bunch of friends – we’re going to cycle from Hampstead Heath in London to my home in Bedfordshire, 50 miles away. Even a month ago, this seemed like a real stretch. Now, it doesn’t even sound particularly tough.

Remember – at the start of 2011 I very literally could not run 100 yards.

It’s not all been plain sailing. The hip problem ended the running, although I do still try to do a 5km run a couple of times a month just as a change from cycling. A 10 day holiday in France meant an incredible increase in the food and wine input, and several pounds backwards progress, but I didn’t mind as I knew it’d all come straight back off again afterwards.

So now, I’ve gone from 18st 13lb to 14st 4lb – that’s a quarter of my bodyweight gone. My waist has dropped 8 inches. My neck has dropped 2.5 inches. My fitness is light years ahead of where it was; I feel like I can do pretty much anything now, whereas previously I’d avoid even a single flight of stairs, and the idea of cycling two miles would scare the hell out of me. I’m not done yet; I’m still overweight, and eventually I’d like to be down to 12st 7lb (175lb; 80kg.) But there’s no hurry. I’m not going to quit the exercise – it’s part of my life now. I’m never going to lose my love of food and drink, but I now focus entirely on quality rather than quantity. I’ll get to that target weight some time next year.

What have I learned?

- Getting fit is a much faster process than I thought, but don’t confuse it with losing weight. There can be some correlation, but they are two different things. Eat properly AND exercise. The former will deal with your weight, even without exercise; the latter will deal with your fitness, even without eating properly. Do both.

- All it takes is genuinely making the decision to change. Include friends and family; they love you, and they’ll support you. If you actually DO it, it will be the best thing you’ve ever done.

- Do not think of it as a “diet”, which mentally implies something temporary and transient. Eat a healthy, balanced diet that you can stick with for life. Once you lose the habit of eating high-fat, high-salt junk, while you may crave something like that occasionally, you realise that healthier foods are actually nicer, too. I know from years of experience that grabbing a burger and fries is easy, but eating like that all the time becomes a habit, sometimes even an addiction. It’s hard to break habits. I started by doing my food shopping to a strict list, based on planned meals, and never taking any cash with me when I went out if there was any chance I’d be tempted by some fast food joint. It takes time, but removing temptation makes it possible.

- Although it seems daunting to start with, and it’s difficult at times, it’s not really THAT difficult. Like anything worthwhile, it does require a commitment, but you don’t have to be perfect. Bad days – even bad weeks – don’t matter, in the grand scheme of things. Just climb back on the wagon.

- New clothes are expensive! Throw the old ones away. Don’t keep them “just in case.”

- Seeing old friends who I haven’t met this year yet is fantastic – there’s no feeling quite like seeing the astonishment on their faces when they realise it’s me they’re looking at.
 
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Shivie

On a mission!
#3
Thanks so much for sharing your incredible journey with us Amanensia. Wishing you continued joy & happiness & looks of astonishment from old friends!

x S
 
#7
Kernow Jo - I just had a genuine tear in my eye reading your story. I pray your operation goes well. You're a superstar - makes my story look like small beer. Hugs!
 
#12
Congrats you look like a different person, what an amazing gift to your lttle girls, a fit healthy energetic daddy!!
 
#16
It sounds as though you actually enjoyed and are continuing to enjoy the process and that has certainly given me food for thought. Thank you for sharing and making me rethink my approach and of course very well done.
 


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