Slowly I had grown to be on the verge of being overweight
I had never thought I would need to diet, for years I had been pretty lean but slowly I took on a bit of weight. I had grown heavier very slowly and in fact I had started to feel okay about this as I didn’t look so thin as I had once looked.
Gradually my belt needed to be let out a notch and then a year or so later another, but the weight was only increasingly slowly.
Then one day I bought some new shirts from Marks and Spencer’s. The neck size was right, the chest size was the same but as they were a tailored fit they were rather tight around my tummy. This was a wakeup call and checking my weight I realised that I was just 200g short of being classed as overweight, in fact I later discovered that due to faulty scales I had just been on the limit of being classed as overweight for my height.
Something had to be done!
My wife who is a GP and has a diploma in sports and exercise medicine advised that to get my weight down I should follow a combination of exercise and calorie reduction and in particular drew attention to my snacking on biscuits during the working day.
I realised that there were several areas I could make an almost instant and painless reduction in my calorie consumption including:
Reducing the amount of cheese, chocolate, and biscuits I ate
Cutting out that occasional glass of wine and replacing it with a glass of Beck Blue non-alcoholic beer.
Cutting out the large amount of bread I consumed with my sandwiches at lunch and replacing it with a bowl of soup and a tasty salad.
In terms of exercise I was already occasionally cycling but rather than go for a longer and harder ride at the weekend, what I decided to do was go for a ten mile round trip bike ride on a purpose built cycleway on as many evenings as possible. Using www.strava.com, an on line app for my mobile phone I was able to monitor my rides. Strava providing details of the height and distance covered plus an estimate of the calories consumed, my evening ride for example being calculated to require about 340 calories of energy.
What was encouraging with this approach is that almost immediately I started to make some progress at reducing my weight.
However; after a few week I started to plateau and I realised I needed to up the ante. Looking at my diet I realised that although I had done something significant with my snacking and high carbohydrate lunch, I still was eating a normal evening meal which often included pasta, potatoes and even occasionally chips.
Following the Approach of Marginal Gains
Now I got serious and decided to follow the advice of British Cycling and looked at different ways I could make a number of marginal gains which would add together to make a significant difference.
For example, I decided to replace the carbs in the evening meal with a large quantity of salad with a big bowl of leaves, fresh tomatoes, radish, spring onions and either capers or olives. I also identified that by reading the labels on food items that we could chose brands of foods or products containing fewer calories but tasting just as good.
Using an on line application www.aktibmi.com to monitor my daily progress and weighing each morning I was encouraged that I was again gradually losing weight and on average this was by about 200g a day. Along the way the Akti-BMI app give encouraging little cheers when I made progress or achieved one of the waymarks I had set myself on my path of weight loss.
Dealing with the Plateaus
However, there were clearly times and periods when I plateaued, or my weight increased. See graph below. However; these periods often coinciding with family events such as staying with relatives or a meals out to celebrate birthdays or periods of time when it was not possible to cycle as frequently.
One of the largest plateaus was when we were away on holiday and although cycling every day I eat a large breakfast and evening meal with wine.
However, I now knew not to be disheartened by this and if I continued with the discipline I had developed when I got home I was soon back on track and making progress.
What was an encouragement was when my wife also decided to join in and to also lose some weight; I think this was partly as a result of her seeing me make progress. Thus each day we were challenging and encouraging one another and watching each other that we didn’t slip by having some feta cheese on our salads or eating some of that dark chocolate I used to enjoy that was still in the cupboard.
Reaching the Finish Line
One of my biggest challenges came when I again started to plateau when my weight was just a few Kilograms short of my target. However; a conversation with a friendly cyclist on my evening rides gave a possible solution. To burn fast and reduce weight when cycling requires to be exercising relatively hard. Ironically what had occurred was that not only had I got fitter but I was now some 13kg / two stone lighter and although I was doing my ride at the same speed this now required less effort, so I was using less energy. The solution was again to tweak what I did and to increase the effort. Perhaps unsurprisingly this again had an immediate impact, and I was again losing weight although now it was down to 100 grams a day.
Final after some four months my weight has dropped nearly 18Kg and is now down to 60Kg and I cannot believe I had lost some 44lbs or three stones let alone that I could lose this amount in a few months.
Now the real challenge begins of keeping it down and continuing the good practices I have learnt over the last few months, whilst changing my diet again this time to plateau my weight and keep it within acceptable limits.
It is interesting to see and hear the reactions of friends and work colleagues, both of us have found that many people are concerned that we may have lost weight due to illness and ask questions such as. “Are you all right?” Often when I explain I have been deliberately losing weight the reaction is clearly one of obvious relief but also sometimes the comment. “You have lost enough”.
My wife has found that many of her friends make comments such as you look brilliant but have also found that we need to purchase new clothes and finding clothes that fit our new slim shapes is not always easy.
Clearly what we have both achieved is counter cultural. The pressure to eat food and portions that encourage weight gain in our country today is immense. However, it’s encouraging to find that more cafés now list the calories on menus or have low calorie options.
Finally, what does my experience of weight loss teach me about me about the personal disciple required to lose weight.
· First of all was the realisation that I needed to make some changes and to develop a plan which was achievable to make some progress, with the realisation that this was going to take some time.
· Secondly by monitoring the progress I was making and the things that improved my performance on the journey of weight loss I was able to fine tune what I was doing so that I could make further progress.
· Thirdly it wasn’t just do one big thing like a 70km bike ride at the weekend or missing lunch my steady weight loss was achieved by doing lots of small things. I.e. there was no quick fix or magic pill. My weight loss was achieved through lots of small actions like regular short bike rides, cutting out those biscuits and cheese and glasses of wine and choosing lower calorie brands of pickles.
· Fourthly having the support, advice and companionship of my wife made a real difference to enable me to make a plan and follow it through effectively.
· Realising that occasionally things would not go as planned but with the ability to look back on the progress I had already made enabled me to regroup and continue to press on towards the goal that was set before me.
· Being open to listening and evaluating the comments made by others to constantly strive for the goal set before me.
· Even what appeared to be simply little cheers from the Akti-BMI app on my phone was an encouragement to make further progress.