Mine is not a 6-month success story – it’s a 6-year journey where I eventually found a path that worked for me.
I’ve always been well built (by that I mean stocky, or chunky if you prefer). It runs in the family so it’s just one of those things. In 2002 with my wedding a year away I was desperate to get trim – I wanted to look good in the photos that would hang in the house for the rest of my life.
I tried eating healthier, I tried eating less, I tried cycling more. Nothing worked. I went to see the Doc, who referred me to a dietitian. Weight loss is apparently simple: calories out has to be greater than calories in so eat less and exercise more. Watch the glycemic index, get lots of fiber, and here is a booklet with the macronutrient context of a load of foods. While this may be true it was of absolutely no use. I was eating healthy home-cooked food with fruit and veg and cycling 50 miles a week. This was verging on the depressing: I needed to do something so I could enjoy the happiest day of my life.
The mother in law to be suggested weight watchers as the point system simplified calorie tracking a gift over the tables from the dietitian. I was not keen on the idea of town hall meetings with fat women and eating gimmicky food (what I expected WW to be like). When she explained the spaghetti carbonara I’d just enjoyed was a WW meal I was intrigued. I borrowed some recipe books and made a start. The meals were OK and I discovered that WW had an online service. It included access to online food and weight trackers, a recipe database, and best of all no need to go to group meetings. With 5 or so months to the big day, I set to it.
I was starving at first as 20 points were not enough but I sorted that by adding loads of point-free veg to every meal and that helped. I suddenly noticed how many little treats I was indulging in. And how shocking some of them were (5 points – ¼ of my allowance – for a single jam-filled donut). With the goal of the wedding photos (and the knowledge of the cost of them) I continued with steely determination and lost over 50lbs. More importantly, dropping from a tight 38” waste to a comfortable 34” waste (wanted to get to 32” though). It had been a challenge but I was driven by a goal of that special day.
I left the WW point tracking behind after the wedding but my appetite was smaller and for 3 years I kept a similar shape as I continued to bulk out meals with veg. As my wife’s due date got closer I started driving to work more so I could get home quickly if the call came to witness the birth of our first child. When Sam arrived I continued to drive more as I was too tired to cycle (interestingly the clothes I wore around the time he was born are now too big for me). When Sam started nursery at 6 months I did the evening pick up so I started driving every day. He was not a good sleeper so I often snacked on bad foods for a sugar rush. The weight started coming back. I got a bike seat so I could cycle and do the nursery run but only on days when it wasn’t cold/wet/windy /. I’d broken the habit of cycling and I was using bad foods for comfort and stimulation.
I started tracking my weight again in 2008 when I discovered I was 2kg over my heaviest ever weight. I lost a stone over 6 months and then Christmas happened and I put most of it back on. So I tried again. Without the wedding as a target, I didn’t have the power to push through and when you are busy at home and at work and your priorities have changed it’s hard. I went back to the docs. It was worse this time as the wedding was proof I could do it. I felt like a failure. I knew there was no medical reason for me not to lose weight as I had done it I just lacked willpower. In Autumn 2009 the Doc said if I could drop 1kg/2lbs on my own he would give me tablets that would reduce the body’s ability to absorb fat. I did it in a week and got the wonder tabs. Not a great time. I didn’t want anyone to know I wasn’t doing it on my own. They also had unpleasant side effects. I didn’t take them if I was away diving, or if I was going to eat out. They were not delivering the results and I felt guilty when I didn’t take them to avoid the side effects. I was failing and I was sad and angry about it.
My weight crept up. Mostly slowly but a 3 week trip to Florida was a big shove in the wrong direction. I started training for a 10k run – this was a double edge sword as I was much hungrier when I was running and not just on the days I was running. I had 2 goals – complete the 10k without stopping and to beat my colleague. I lost about 3kg in the training (not as much as I would like) and on race day, 27/11/11, my training suggested I could do 10k without stopping and my time would be better than my colleagues. The race was not a great success (though 60 minutes is not a bad time). I started too fast, I didn’t pace myself on the hills and ended up walking a bit. Lugging 91k up Cotswold hills is not easy. Once I had broken the goal of not stopping there was no drive to get up subsequent hills so when the going got tough I walked. I failed on one goal but did beat my colleague :-). It got too cold/dark/wet/icy/ to run over winter. I stopped running and with Christmas, the weight came back.
In August 2012 I panicked as my weight hit 100kg. For the 3rd, and hopefully last, time in my life it was the heaviest I was ever going to be. Type 2 diabetes and CHD run in the family. I was criticizing my dad for the damage smoking was having on his health and his ability to enjoy playing with his grandkids and watching them grow up while worrying about what my weight was doing to my long-term health. I had a push and lost some weight and with Christmas, it came back. Some friends also wanted to lose some weight so we decided we’d do it together. We devised a 7lb challenge. The first person to drop 7lbs could choose the next social and so on. Weekly weigh ins would keep us all on track and we could support one another.
I can be a little competitive at times. So when I did my first weigh in I was gutted to see 103kg (16st 3) but also thought the more I have the more I can lose. I started calorie counting for a few weeks (my fitness pall) and running again (a little). And going for lunch time walks. Anything to get me moving. The calorie counting novelty wore off, so did the lunch time walks as work got busier. I was worried I’d not be able to do it, that I’d fail again. I’d recently watched the hairy dieters on TV and figured if they could do it so could I.
I was planning to get to my wedding weight for my 10th wedding anniversary. I’d done it once (OK this time I had a 10kg penalty start). My aims were to do this by sustainable lifestyle changes not a fad diet (though I was also thinking in 6 months I’ll be there and able to relax). I’ve never really believed in calories. Not all calories are created equal and burning things in an oven is a poor proxy to the human body. Friends were trying slimming world and soup diets and I was getting confused at the amount of contradictory advice. I wanted to reduce my health risks and hopefully improve my cardio and flexibility to help with my scuba diving.
I had a good team at work who supported me. They would ambush me if I went to the tuck shop and they even started keeping healthy snacks in their desks to substitute for me. Karen, my wide, cooked Hairy Dieters meals for me every night. I stopped drinking alcohol unless it was a special occasion (well almost).
I learned early that to eat healthy you need to shop healthy – it’s hard to snack on a biscuit when there are none in the house. I’m lacking in will power so there is nothing naughty on the shopping list that I like. We also planned meals so we’d have healthy enjoyable dinners without the need to look in an empty fridge and call for a take away and as an insurance policy pasta, pesto and tuna in the cupboard. I found once I’d made some reasonable progress its easier to say that Danish pastry is not going to taste as nice as being slim will feel. If I’m going to have a treat it has to be special not a soggy Danish. It’s a balance between what I want and what I want in the moment.
I then discovered the calorie myth podcast. It all made so mush sense when I got over the rage of being consumed by bad advice for so long. I had managed to get down to 88kg buy was flat lining – miles off target with sort of following some of the SNAE ideas without knowing what they were.. The mid 80’s was a weight that had escaped me for so long. With a collection of the podcasts under my belt I started applying the SANE principles and got some of Carries booked to help me. I was perhaps a bit misguided at first tucking in to SANE treat and ice cream thinking all would be ok. My weight didn’t shift as magically as I’d expected but my body shape was changing.
I was worried about my all inclusive holiday in Tunisia. Free food and booze would doubtless take their toll. I knew I’d be inclined to eat more at meal times as I’d worry I’d get hungry before the next meal and there is nowhere easy to get food from if I do. I decided to set myself some process goals and worry less about the outcome goals (weight). I would do my eccentric training and some cardio while away and not drink until the evening meal. It eat an abundance of SANE foods to excess if necessary to crowd out inSANE foods. I gained weight while I was away but I was happy that I stuck to my process goals and I knew I could get back into the swing. I realized my mindset had changed from “I can’t do it”, “Can I do it?”, “Can I stick this out for 6 months?” “I can do this – it’s working” “whats wrong it stopped working” to “I am doing this, it is working, it’s no longer a destination it’s a journey and set backs are just minor detours to learn from”. In the past I’d been guilty to “Oh well I’ve eaten ________ so I might as well have another and get back on the diet next week” but that’s bit like saying I’ve got a flat tire so lets puncture the other ones. I’m not worried about what others in the gym are doing I just want to be the best me I can be.
At the end of my first weight lost year I lost 30kg (66lbs) and got down to lower than my wedding weight and most of the time I was eating more than I have ever eaten before. I didn’t get to my wedding weight by my wedding anniversary but I have transformed how I look and what I eat. 12 months on form that I have slipped a little I’m currently at 78kg so I have gained 4kgs this year. but my weight has been reasonably static all year and I can see where the increasing inSANTY of my diet for the sake of convenience has counted to the gain. Shopping for salad 3 times a week and making fresh salad every day was taking its toll so I started buying lunch at work if I was too busy. I have spotted this and started making soup in bulk no need to shop as much and tasty hearty filling lunch. I still miss my bread and my pasta but when I over indulge on the carbs I feel like crap. I feel bloated and lethargic, my thinking is impaired and if I have really over done it my joints ache.
When i discovered SANE it was a revelation for me. I’m good at influencing people as a project manager it’s part of my day job.So I tried to convince people in ways I thought appeal to them talking to the science to those of that persuasion etc. For some reason it didn’t work I guess the mass (miss)understanding is too ingrained. The some folks noticed how much I was eating and how the weight was coming off and starting asking what I was doing. Suddenly people were coming to me for advice.
I think my journey is over. I now understand my body much better than I ever have I know how to fuel it to keep it in good shape and I know I can relax, indulge and recover. I’ve found a new SANE way of life.
By Mike Tickle