Monday 3 December 2012

Ah, I'm fat!

I'm reliably told that admitting to an addiction is half the battle when trying to overcome it.  I don't recall admitting to myself that I was addicted to food but in hindsight, I was and potentially still am!

My fighting weight (24+ st)
Building up to a whopping (or whopper) 24 stone takes some time (& effort); it's something I had been working at for the best part of 30 years.  Because it was gradual I never really stopped and thought about it, I just took it for granted I need to buy bigger clothes each year.  It never dawned on me that a 44 inch waste was anything other than normal, although of course I knew my friends weren't that large.  

It was early January 2011 and David Brunner (a colleague) was setting up the post Christmas "Biggest Loser" competition at work.  Everybody seemed to be signing up and being quite competitive, I thought I'd have a go.  The rules were quite simple, 3 months to lose as much weight as possible, entry fee $20 per person and the biggest percentage loser takes the pot, simples!

Weigh in day came around pretty quickly and standing on the scales in David's office and watching him write 324 lbs on the whiteboard next to my name disgusted me!  How could I have got to this size?  Something had to change in my life - it was hearing that number and seeing it in comparison to my colleagues that really shook me.

It was also around this time that Nikki (my darling wife) made a decision to alter the size of her meals, mainly by using a smaller plate, eating slower and using a smaller knife & fork.  Whilst I didn't completely copy her, I certainly took it upon myself to eat smaller meals.  Once again, something that had become normal to me, was anything but normal; the meals I was eating were big enough for 3 people in a lot of cases!

Nikki had told me to read a book called Food Rules - An Eater's Manual by Michael Pollan - which I'd scoffed at, wondering what all the fuss was about.  Finally I got around to reading it and I was utterly amazed at how it opened my eyes to things that are so basic yet so impactful on our diets.  By altering the type of food I was eating, from highly processed to fresh, reducing the portion sizes, I could loose weight really easily. 

Over the course of the 3 months that the "Biggest Loser" competition was running I lost around 21 lbs.  Not a major achievement but certainly a step in the right direction, I think I came 3rd overall if memory serves.  Whilst I didn't take the "pot", the competition gave me the confidence that I could achieve the weight loss goals I had always had in the back of my head, I could be thin!

Bouncing friends off
the trampoline
By making some small changes I'd dropped 6.5% of my body weight - my next challenge would test me further and push me to drop a further 10%.  My brother phoned me in April and asked if I wanted to join the 10% club; between 1st May and 31st July we would all attempt to drop 10% of our starting body weight.  This was perfect, a new challenge with a new set of people, fitting nicely with the programme of healthy living I'd already commenced upon.

The 10% club was born on the 1st May 2011, a virtual group, that only existed in the ether on some Facebook servers somewhere in the world.  The use of social media allowed the members, who shall remain nameless for the most part, to share updates on their progress and post words of encouragement.  I found this really beneficial and helped spur me on, whenever I was down or reaching for that doughnut, I would find encouragement from the rest of the team!  Nikki and I found it very useful to post weight updates from our Withings Scales directly to the Facebook group, tracking out weight, BMI and body compositions.

During May my weight loss had slowed somewhat and I knew that I was going to have to increase my exercise in order to maintain the same rate.  The problem is that I'd not really done any serious exercise for 5-7 years, I was still smoking a pack a day (more on weekends) and just going upstairs could set me off panting for breath.  This is where walking became my best friend!

We always walked Keeley, our beautiful black labrador, for 30-45 minutes per day minimum but I was never concerned how far we actually walked.  So my initial plan was just to make sure I got out, everyday, for 45 minutes or so of continuous walking.  Nothing too strenuous but likewise not a relaxed stroll either, I knew I had to get my heart rate going in order to burn some of the fat.  Over the course of a few weeks I found myself pushing to complete the same distance in shorter periods of time.  Then I'd gradually add more distance so that I was out for 45-60 minutes.  Each day became a challenge, could I walk further and/or faster than the previous day.  Nikki often walked with me, although as time went by she would jog (having been running on and off for 12-18 months already) as my walking pace was apparently quite quick.

Just missing the grey beard and I could be St. Nick
Being a self confessed geek, I wanted to find someway of tracking the distance I was travelling each day as well as the amount of time I spent on my feet and the calories burned, although I never really counted calories as part of my diet.  Enter Runkeeper, an application that tracks your GPS location on a map and can be used to store walking, running, mountain biking, skiing (& more) activities, along with vertical ascent & calories burned; best of all it was free!  Another great feature of the app is its integration with the Withing Scales, with accurate weight and body composition information the app would alter my calories burned to a more realistic total.  I now had the perfect application to track my progress across the walks!

The 10% club was just the motivational driver I needed to spur me onwards and the encouragement I received from everybody in the club but especially from Nikki was just utterly brilliant.  During those 3 months I managed to drop my weight down to 260 lbs or around 14% from the start of the club.  This was game changing for me, as well as being quite expensive, I had to buy new clothes quite regularly as I dropped from 44" to 38" waste during this time.  I had set myself a goal of reaching 18 stone and this was now within sight, I needed to set myself another goal and I needed to step up my exercise levels once again as things had started to plateau.  It was time to start running……….