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:

Before I lost the weight After I lost the weight
Wow, I was actually shocked when I saw that photo when I was looking for a before photo!

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:

  • Bread
  • Pasta
  • Potatoes
  • Cheese
  • Crisps
  • Chocolate
  • Cakes
  • Biscuits
  • Sugar
  • Alcohol

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:

2013 Weight Graph

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.

Asics GT2000 Duomax

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.

I’m interested, tell me when it’s available!

Want to chat to me about this post? I’m on twitter as @andypike

Welcome to my new blog. For those that don’t know me, my name is Andy Pike and I’m the Technical Director of a web development agency in the UK called 1minus1. This blog will contain posts on various subjects including programming, managing teams, ESports & gaming, raising kids and probably some other random stuff too.

Goals

As it’s the start of a new year I wanted to set myself some goals for the next twelve months. Last year I set myself the goal of getting down to a healthy weight and reasonable fitness. It was hard work but I made it in the end. So this year, here are some new personal goals to aim for:

  1. Start up a blog and post to it regularly.
  2. Speak at a Ruby conference (for the first time).
  3. Improve my Ruby and general programming skills.
  4. Attend an ESprorts event (again).
  5. Maintain my current weight and fitness.
  6. Author an e-book about my weight loss journey last year.

Starting a Blog

Welp, as you can see I’ve started the blog :o) The hard bit is going to be posting regularly. I’m going to start off aiming for one post a week and see how that goes.

The blog is built using Jekyll and is hosted on GitHub Pages. I’m using the HPSTR Jekyll Theme at the moment without too many modifications but I might tweak it over time.

To start with I’m not going to enable comments on posts because, well, here are a few reasons. To contact me, the best place to start is Twitter @andypike. Failing that, drop me an email to andy [at] andypike [dot] com.

Conference Speaking

This is going to be a big one for me. I’ve spoken at a couple of local user groups before but never at a large conference. If the up-scale isn’t intimidating enough I still feel like a relative newcomer to the Ruby world (3-4 years) so what an earth can I speak about that will give value to an experienced audience. I’ve always felt that the best talks are the ones where I come away with either some new knowledge or even a spark of an idea that I can explore further. The trick here is finding a subject that I feel confident enough in but can also give the audience something to think about.

I have submitted proposals to Ancient City Ruby 2014, EuRuKo 2014 and Scottish Ruby Conf 2014. I’m waiting to hear from these conferences but if I’m unsuccessful then I’ll try some others :o)

Ruby and Programming

I’ve been doing Ruby (and Rails) for about 3-4 years now and I’m pretty confident with it all now. I came from a Microsoft .NET background before I made the switch. I think I’m at the point where I can make most things work with a reasonable solution but a lot of the time I look at my code and I just know there is a better “Ruby” way. The code isn’t always beautiful but with a bit of research I can sometimes improve it.

I’m trying to read more this year. I tend to buy a lot of tech books but then don’t end up reading them. I’ll try to fix that this year too. I have just finished Sandi Metz’s POODR book which is really good and has certainly helped me. I’ve now made a start on the GOOS book which will hopefully help improve my TDD.

The other thing I’ll try to do is to contribute more to some open source projects and work with some people outside of my normal team. That way I’m hoping to be exposed to new techniques and ways of thinking. As part of this, I’ve made a start on the Long Running Ruby Benchmarks project with Sam Saffron. It’s very early days but we have something up and running on Heroku already and the code is of course on GitHub.

ESports

If you follow me on Twitter then you will know that I have a passion for ESports. For those that don’t know, it’s watching geeks play computer games competitively for prize money. In particular, I watch a lot of StarCraft II both on YouTube and Twitch. In 2012, myself and my good buddy @george_good travelled to Sweden to watch the European SCII Finals. We had a great time, here are some of the highlights:

This year we’re talking about going to Sweden again to attend DreamHack which should be epic!

Weight & Fitness

Last year I decided to lose some weight and get into shape. I dropped from over 17 stone (108.7KG) down to 12.5 stone (79.4KG). That means I lost 27% of my body weight, yikes! My aim this year is to keep my weight at around 80KG without straying too far above or below it. That should be easier than last year but still a challenge.

Last year I started running and managed to clock up 380KM since I started in April. This year I’ll be starting up again in January after the Christmas break and hoping to break the 500KM mark over the twelve months which should be easily doable.

Weight Loss E-Book

Becoming an author, that is definitely going to be a challenge, mainly because of time. I’ve written a ton of notes during the course of last year which cover a whole bunch of things regarding how I lost the weight and my mindset at the time. I think I have enough material to put something together that would help people in a similar situation. Anyway, we’ll see how that goes. I’ll post updates here when I have them so watch this space. Hopefully, by telling you all this it might help motivate me to crack on with it.

New Avatar

Obviously the biggest thing is my new avatar. I’ve had the same avatar on all my online accounts for the past three years or so. Now is the time for an upgrade. I got some new glasses for Christmas and as you can see, my new avatar is radically different.

My old avatar My new avatar
The old avatar is on the left with the new one on the right.

That it for now

That wraps up my first post! I’m looking forward to the year ahead and the challenges that it brings. Let’s do this…

Want to chat to me about this post? I’m on twitter as @andypike