Friday, August 02, 2013

I'm Three Quarters Of The Man I used To Be

Earlier this year, at the invitation of my best friend John, I went along to a WeightWatchers meeting with him. I've been overweight to some degree since my early 20's. On getting weighed at my initial meeting I was 16 stone 6lbs, or 230lbs in US usage. In the five months since that weigh-in I have lost exactly 4 stone, or 56lbs in weight.

I am now 12 stone 6lbs, I have run two half marathons and I can can wear a men's medium size shirt and trousers with a 30" waist for the first time in 25 years.

This all sounds like it was easy, but serious weight loss isn't easy. It involves commitment and perseverance, organisational skills and will power.

Nobody decides that they're going to get fat. Becoming big is just something that creeps up on you gradually. For me a lifetime of working stupidly long shifts in kitchens certainly didn't help. When you work 14 hour days you're always a little tired, or very tired, and when I'm tired I get hungry so I tended to snack at work and have 3 large meals a day.  The massive hours I was working also mostly ensured that I had little or no time, or inclination, to exercise. I love exercise though, I have always been a keen hiker when time allows. I'm also a bit obsessed with time and distance, I don't want to go faster, I want to go further.

So, on to the actual weight loss bit then and how I accomplished it.

I followed the WeightWatchers' plan. For months I entered every food and drink that passed my lips into my daily online log. This forced a realisation of what I could and couldn't eat and with it came a sea change in how I cook and prepare meals at home, and also with how to organise myself for dining away from home. WeightWatchers gives you a daily ProPoints allowance for food and drink (50g of reduced fat hummus is 3 ProPoints, a pint of ale 6 points, half a bottle of red wine 9 points), plus a weekly allowance of an extra 49 points for binging and splurging. Your own points allowance is calculated on your weight and changes as you lose weight.

This constant focussing on what I eat (and by extension what we both eat, Meg is now doing WW with me) has changed the nature of our diet and the contents of our fridge. If there's cheese at home now it is Morrisons NuMe half fat cheese, bags of snacks are WeightWatchers own brand or supermarket equivalents, desserts and biscuits are the same, and the fridge is packed with vegetables and fruit.

The two biggest changes that the eating plan has brought about is that I eat much less carbohydrates in the form of potatoes, rice and pasta, and I eat less meat then previously, that meat also tends to be leaner (turkey breast is the best ProPoints to weight ratio). To fill up, I consume far more vegetables than I used to. Sometimes vegetables can be a little bland so I make good use of stir fried dishes with highly flavoured Asian ingredients and rich tomato based sauces.

I try to attend every WW meeting I can. It isn't that every week's advice is useful (although it may well be to a someone whose situation is different from my own) but the camaraderie is great, the group are always happy for you when you reach a new goal, and our leader Mary is always bright and positive, cheerful and full of encouragement. I'm sure that the success of any plan such as WeightWatchers relies heavily on the personality of its leaders and I have clicked with Mary's blend of happy cajoling and informing. Attending the meetings regularly makes you feel more involved with the process, you can get the friendship and support of the group and I'm sure that you are far less likely to fall of the wagon if you keep attending.

I have also heavily increased the amount of exercise I do. I have taken up running again using Runkeeper and Fitocracy. My initial run was less than a mile and a half, with frequent stops along the way. Three weeks ago I ran my first half-marathon distance, and just to prove it wasn't a fluke, I did it again a week later. Progress in exercise of any sort is slow going, I didn't suddenly get out of bed and become able to run for 13 miles. Instead it was a steady progression, the initial runs were very hard work and left me stiff and sore for a couple of days afterwards, but I kept going. Each time I went out I tried to run a little further. Soon I was doing a standard 4.7 mile loop down into Burley-In-Wharfedale and back. Then I ran down to the river instead of running through the Barrat Estate, that made it nearly six miles. Coming back along the main road instead of Menston Old Lane made it 7.5 miles. And it's all hills around here, I live at the top of a hill so I always have to face a climb in the last mile.

Over The Odda 10k in April, I was 3 stones heavier when I ran this

WeightWatchers sets constant goals for you, and your leader will encourage you to set mini-goals for yourself. It's a great feeling when you get your 5% Award and everybody gives you a round of applause, it feels even better to receive your 10% and my 50lbs certificate is in front on me on the desk right now reminding me of what I have accomplished and also serving to remind me not to slacken off and let the weight start creeping back up.

There are some things I have pretty much given up food wise. I do like KFC, but the huge ProPoints cost of my favourite fast food means it's only ever going to be a very rare treat. The same applies to donner kebabs, pizzas and quite a lot of take-away Chinese food. Rare treats rather than weekly staples. Chocolate, cheese and dessert wine are all infrequent treats as well. It's not that you cannot every have your favourites if you're going to follow a life plan such as WeightWatchers, but if you are serious about losing weight and keeping it off then you do have to look seriously at what you consume and make some choices about it.

The benefits though are great. I have lost count of the number of people who have complimented me on achievement and my new, slimmer figure. Everyone enjoys receiving a compliment, it makes you feel great. I'm loving the amount of exercise I can do, and the more weight I lose the better I can run, the more I run the more weight I lose, one fuels the other. I have purchased a whole new wardrobe of clothes in smaller sizes, I am actually wearing clothes that indicate my size rather than seeking to conceal it, including some skin-tight stretch jeans that might well not be appropriate for a man of my years but hell! I can fit into 30" waist skinny jeans so I'm wearing them just because I can.

Is the the end of the weight loss then ? I'm now inside the upper limit of my Body Mass Index for my height. I think that I would like to lose about another 7lbs or so and see how I feel about being 12 stones in weight.
It hasn't been easy, but neither has it been tremendously difficult. The support I have had from leader Mary, best mate John and from Meg I couldn't have done without, the biggest thanks go to you three. Many thanks though to everyone who has been so kind and so complimentary on my weight loss.

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  1. Good for you! I just need to catch up now :)

  2. Hi, I believe I met the other three quarters a few years back. Folk hereabouts keep mentioning WW. Quite obviously it works. Will look into it further.

  3. Anonymous6:01 pm

    Very inspiring.

  4. Holy cow. Well done mate. I look forward to seeing you out running on the moor sometime soon.