So, how did I get from being over 270lb (19st 4lb) who couldn’t walk for four miles without feeling like I was going to keel over to someone who three years later weighs in at a much more healthy 189lb (13st 7lb as of 22.7.12) and able to run a couple of marathons? This is how I got from fat to fitter.
Firstly, I spoke to someone about my concerns. The weekend after I slogged my way down the hill dripping in sweat my wife managed to convince me to come out on a stroll along the cuckoo trail in Sussex, a mercifully flat footpath. Without even being aware of it I had been avoiding any form of exercise and finding excuses not to get out of my comfort zone (or the couch) as it made me feel uncomfortable. Recent studies on the causes and effects of obesity have suggested that it is not simply the case that a lack of exercise makes us obese but rather that being obese makes us uncomfortable, unwilling and often unable to exercise. During this walk I explained to her that I was unhappy with my level of fitness and that it worried me that I was getting tired so easily. I suggested that I might need to get some more exercise and do something about my diet. Now, I should point out something about Mrs HerbiFit, she doesn’t believe in hanging around. I once suggested that at some point in the future we might like to consider digging a pond in the garden. 5 minutes later I was off my chair and holding a spade while she was buying pond liner. So my suggestion that I needed to get more exercise led to stage two in how I got from fat to fitter.
Secondly I joined a gym. Not the day after thinking about it, not on January the 1st or some other specific future date. We stopped at the gym on the way home from the walk and we signed up with a joint membership. This was our local ex-council run gym, not a beautiful shopping arcade and café with some exercise equipment thrown in for good measure. I think this was a vital step in losing weight and becoming fitter, taking immediate action. Anything you are going to ‘do tomorrow’ that you could do just as easily right now you are not fully committed to. So, at the risk of infringing copyright – Just Do It. We joined the gym together and this was the third step in getting from fat to fitter
Thirdly I teamed up. It seems that people are much more likely to stick to something if they are doing it as part of a team than if they are going it alone. It keeps you motivated to keep going and gives you someone to talk to about progress or any problems. It also made the whole thing less scary as up until that point I had never set foot inside a gym and didn’t have a clue what I was doing. Once in and shown how the various machines worked I was fine. And I went straight back the next day. This was the next stage of how I got from fat to fitter.
Fourthly I went to the gym 5-6 days a week. You need to do something regularly if it is to become a habit. If you head out to the gym once or twice a week then eventually you will miss a session and you will find you haven’t been for a few weeks and it is easy to let things slide. Make a commitment and get there whenever you can. Since I work regular hours I was able to plan time at the gym around it. I just needed to make my health a priority. I went after work for an hour Monday to Friday and on Saturdays I started running outside. When I was in the gym I largely stuck to the treadmill, bike and elliptical trainer. I started off slowly and over the first month built up so that I could complete 20 minutes on each at a high level of intensity. I then spent more time on the treadmill and less on the other two. This brings us to the fifth stage in how I went from fat to fitter.
Fifthly I prioritised cardio work. I ignored the lure of instant six-packs and bulging biceps promised on the cover of men’s health magazines and focused on the activity that would burn maximum calories. This is running. After a while I bought some weights and started using some of the resistance equipment at the gym but for the first year it was cardio all the way. The main way I got fit and lost weight was by running and nutrition. And this of course brings us to the sixth stage in how I got from fat to fitter.
Sixthly I didn’t eat up all my hard work. I recently read Gary Taube’s interesting book ‘Why We Get Fat’ and in it he suggests that exercising doesn’t help us to lose weight because we just work up an appetite and end up eating more. All I can say is that this didn’t happen to me. My diet improved the more I ran. I drank less because I didn’t want it to interfere with my running; I passed up on snacks because I became aware of how much hard work would need to go into running it off (One Snickers, some 30 minutes of high intensity running… I’ll pass). I didn’t go on a diet, there were no foods that I said I wouldn’t eat anymore (until a few years later when I went Vegan), I just found my tastes were changing and I was making better decisions. Step seven of how I went from fat to fitter helped.
Seventhly I educated myself. When I was obese I knew very little about nutrients, calories and exercise. At 19 stone I had no idea at how just how over weight I was or what it would take to do something about it. Now I do J I have a library of books and piles of magazines on the subject. I can happily discuss the merits of low carb v low fat and the effects of different carb sources on exercise. I decided that my body mattered and that I should probably have a peak at the owner’s manual.
So that is it really, that is how I went from fat to fitter. No crash diet, no quick fix solution. It took three years to shed the 6 stone that took me from obese to, at 6 foot 2 inches, just into the healthy weight range. No drama or sob story. I make a decision and with the support of my partner I saw it through.
Next – Where am I now?