About this time of year lots of people are interested in losing weight and getting fit. This time last year I was one of them. It took a long time and a lot of hard work but I’d like to class my journey as a success. Let me start by showing you before and after photos:
Not the most flattering before photo I’ll admit and I’m a bit embarrassed by it but it’ll have to do. The before photo was taken at the end of December 2012. I then spent the next year getting into shape. The after photo was taken this week in early January 2014.
At the beginning I weighed 108.7kg (17st 2lbs). The lowest I managed to get down to was 79.4kg (12st 7lbs), which means I lost a total of 29.3kg (4st 9lbs), which by the way is 27% of my body weight. Holy cow batman!
How did I get that fat in the first place?
The short answer: Being greedy, eating too much and living a very sedentary lifestyle.
The longer answer: I think I had (and still do) have a problem with food. The problem is that part of my brain tells me that I need to stop eating but another part of my brain says “one more biscuit will be ok, go on” and that part normally wins. Where most people will just eat a couple of biscuits, I would polish off a whole packet in a single sitting without a second thought. Not just biscuits either, cakes, chocolate bars and general junk food. The other problem with food was portion size. Eating at home, my plate would be stacked and I’d probably have seconds. If we went out to eat I’d always order the biggest thing on the menu to “get my monies worth”.
In addition to the food problem was that I did zero exercise. Not just zero exercise, but virtually no movement at all. Here is a typical day: wake up, get ready, drive to work, sit down all day, drive home, sit/lay down all evening then go to bed. Walking to and from the car was the most movement I ever did.
So combine being greedy with not moving very much over a period of years and hey presto, you’re obese dude!
Houston we have a problem
I thought I knew what I looked like but it turns out that my self-image was way off. It first hit me one night in late 2012 when I stayed overnight in a hotel. The bathroom walls were covered in mirrors and there was no escape. I’m not one to stare at myself in the mirror but here I saw for the first time in years what I really looked like and to be honest I was disgusted.
I had to do something about this!
How did I lose the weight?
I did some reading and as I’m sure you all know, there is no quick fix or miracle solution. I needed to eat less and exercise more. That’s easy to say but what does that really mean in practice and what would work for me?
First, I cut out the following foods completely:
Then I basically changed my eating habits to 6 small meals a day. I drank mainly water with the odd cup of tea in the evening. Here’s how a typical day goes for me:
- 07:00 - Breakfast (2 Weetabix with skimmed milk)
- 10:30 - Snack (Mini Ryvita Pack or breakfast bar)
- 13:00 - Lunch (Tin of soup only)
- 15:00 - Snack (A hand full of nuts)
- 17:00 - Snack (Fruit)
- 20:00 - Dinner (Salad with a little Light Salad Cream and lean meat)
I think I was eating about 1,100 calories a day, maybe a bit over that. According to doctors, an average man needs 2,500 calories a day to maintain their weight (depending on activity). So this drop in calories was enough to see the weight come off.
How long did it take?
To get down to within within the healthy BMI range it took a total of 6 months. To get down to my weight target of 80kg (which I just plucked out of the air) took a further 3 months. I weighed myself every Monday morning (I recommend digital scales) and kept a record of my progress over the last year. Here is how long it all took:
On the graph above I’ve shown the various BMI zones for my height and also my target weight line. I’ve also added a dark green target zone which is between 79kg and 81kg. This is where I want to keep my weight from now on. As you can see it started to move out of that zone at the end of the December. Yeah I went a bit crazy over the Christmas holidays but I managed to pull it back in the last week to 79.9kg when I started running again and eating properly. BOOM!
What about exercise?
To start with I did no exercise at all. That’s right, no exercise. Zero, for the first 4 or so months.
I came to the conclusion that it’s all in what you eat, get that right and you are set for success. Think of it this way, if a piece of food contains 100 calories and you don’t need that food to survive then not eating it saves you from running 1km. So, you need to change your relationship with food. It is a fuel to keep you alive, it is not a treat. Just eat what you need to to be healthy and nothing more.
After I lost the first 20kg (3st) from improved eating alone (end of April) I decided that I wanted to increase my fitness as well as losing the weight. It was hard at first to pick the right exercise for my lifestyle and commitments. I work full-time during the day and my wife works most evenings where I takeover looking after our 3 young children.
Finding the time was the hardest challenge here. I decided to give running (I really mean jogging) a try as I could fit that in and around other stuff. Also, as I was now lighter running was a bit easier. I could go out in the morning before work and at the weekends without too much disruption to our schedule. How was I going to get from being a couch potato to a real runner? Well, I took it slowly as I didn’t want to injure myself!
To start with I wanted to get used to going out of the house to “do exercise”. I started off by going for a 20 minute walk 3 times a week. After I did this for a couple of weeks I started with some running intervals and gradually after a few weeks at each stage would then move onto the next (3 runs per week):
- Run 3 minutes, 1 minute walk - repeat for 20 mins
- Run 4 minutes, 1 minute walk - repeat for 20 mins
- Run 5 minutes, 1 minute walk - repeat for 24 mins
- Run 6 minutes, 1 minute walk - repeat for 21 mins
- Run 7 minutes, 1 minute walk - repeat for 24 mins
- Run 10 minutes, 1 minute walk - repeat for 22 mins
- Run 22 minutes
I used the Strava app on my phone to track my runs and how far I was going. Turns out that was was doing about 3km. Once I could run that distance without walking, my next aim was to complete 5km in under 30 minutes. Over a number of weeks I slowly increased the distance until I got to 5km. As something to aim for I entered an official race for charity where I would do my first 5km. This happened in August 2013 and I made it in 27:35 :o) My current PB for 5km is 26:17, so I’m not going to win any gold medals but I’m still pleased with that.
I’m now doing a steady 5km 3 times a week and I have no plans on changing that. I think that distance (and time commitment) in enough for me.
If you are going to start running, get yourself a good pair of running shoes. These will really help prevent injuries. I just bought some new Asics GT-2000 Duomax trainers, really nice. I’d highly recommend going to The Sweat Shop as they can analyse your running form and recommend the best shoes for you.
Interested in reading more?
As I talked about in my last post, I’m considering writing up my experiences over the last year (and beyond) into an e-book with more details of what I did and how I did it. If you are interested in reading that book, you can sign up to hear news about it and also help me understand how much interest there is.
Want to chat to me about this post? I’m on twitter as @andypike