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How I lost a stone in 77 days….

In Dec 0f 2020 (yes, that year) I hit 15 stone for the first time in my life.

And I knew that was coming.

2020 had been a bit of a slob fest for me. The grim full stop on a miserable couple of years as my marriage ended. I won’t talk about that here as we all have our sad stories to tell – I mention it purely to add context as to where I was.

The Reckoning

Since separating from my ex (finally divorced last Dec) I’d fallen into bad habits. Bad habits such as little or no exercise, too much pub time, poor quality food – the usual.

I knew that, at some point, change was coming; but I also knew that I had to choose that point. So, in that sense, I was happy to go with the flow for a while and let it work itself through my system.

15 Stone

The reckoning point for me hit in December. The divorce had finally come through, and, whilst it didn’t change anything (we’d been separated for years), it felt decisive in other ways. Like a crossroads, and an opportunity for renewal.

I also hit 15 stone. The heaviest I’d ever been.

All my concerns about the booze, the lack of exercise, the diet etc all came running home. I focussed on how I wanted to be in 2021, and what steps I needed to take.

Tech addition #1

On the 28th of Dec, my new scales arrived. I wanted one that didn’t cost the earth and came with a phone app so that I could track progress.

Setting it up was a sinch but I was saddened to see my weight had hit 15st. I decided to weigh every Tuesday, thinking that daily would just be a distraction – you needed a week to see bigger picture changes (and then I was more focused on the overall change per month).

Still, 15st was my starting point. My personal body fat ground zero.

Tech addition #2

I also wanted a basic step counter; the Xiaomi Mi Smart Band 4 was cheap and perfect for this.

Setting a daily goal for 10k steps, I was now on my way to dealing with the 15stone situation in front of me.

Let me know talk a bit more specifically about the approach I took, and the reasons why….

Booze

Booze (like it can do) crept in too much in 2020. So rolling into 2021 a much stricter regime was put in place; with only a small amount of drink on Friday and Sat.

Also, this meant no Guinness or bottles of ale (meh!). Which is a shame, as I love those. But they are basically like a hamburger in a bottle, a calorific hand grenade – and you can’t just keep chugging those & expect no consequences.

I found a great 0% beer from Morrisions which, whilst still containing calories, was completely booze-free – so that helped me in the week where I’d conditioned myself to a beer at the end of the day. It actually tastes nice, I can’t tell the difference between that a non-0% lager.

In terms of a dry Jan, or dry 2021, I did consider it but, at the same time, I didn’t want to set myself unrealistic goals in what was already going to be a difficult, transitional year.

Going back to very moderate drinking on the weekend, would be a good plus. My intention though, is to revisit my thoughts on booze as I go.

Exercise

The Xiaomi smart band was fantastic. The daily 10k step goal gave me (a very task orientated person) an easy way to take action.

Starting from late December I’ve done the 10k every day (apart from, annoyingly, one day when I just dipped under and didn’t notice in time!).

Walking was the obvious/simple way to knock off the steps but, with that needing up to 3 walks a day, another method was required..

Bon to Run

I’ve run before. I can’t say I love it, personally I prefer swimming in the morning but that’s just not an option at the moment. So running presented the easy, straight-out-the-front-door option.

I’d not run for a while so I knew it would be uncomfortable getting back into it. On top of that, I was now 15st which made a bad situation only worse. A double whammy.

My approach to running was this: ignore how fast etc, just do what you can, the fact that I was running meant that I could knock a good chunk of my 10k steps goal in one hit.

I got used to running a daily 5K. No times. No apps (aside from music). Just get out the door and run.

It was certainly hard at first. Laying in bed, not feeling particularly positive, the last thing you want to do is to shift your arse out of bed and pound the streets. However, I focussed on the goal. And I focussed on how I felt when I returned from the run: proud of myself and full of positivity. Aside from the steps, this was a much better way to start the day mentally.

Also, and perhaps I’m an oddball here, I don’t mind running in the rain, in fact, I think it’s quite fun. So on those days where it pees it down, running was always an option if walking was not.

Food

In terms of diet, I’ve never been too bad. And, thinking about it now, I don’t think I’ve ever really struggled with my weigh etc.

In 2020 I probably had too many takeaways, so that had to be knocked on the head. But, aside from that, I was fairly sensible.

I avoid too much sugar, and processed foods as really it’s sugar (not fat) that’s the cause of weight gain. I think I stopped buying fruit juice as, even though it’s nice, it’s a huge blast of sugar, and not great for the teeth.

There was no calory counting or cooking certain food or food groups etc. I just carried on as normal (e.g. tacos with kids, spag bol, chilli-con-carne etc). I’m not knocking calorie counting etc, whatever works for you. I’m just saying that I never went hungry.

I’ve never had much of a sweet tooth so I don’t buy loads of choc etc; what I do buy is for the kids. And I would certainly have some of it. So this was not a choc/sweet free zone, it’s just that I don’t like them much.

Thinking about it, I think the reason I didn’t consider getting stricter with the diet is that I felt that the easy gains were all booze-related. In my mind, I’d packed on the pounds in 2020 from alcohol – and if I could do the basics right, perhaps it would come off as quickly as it went on.

Sleep & Mental Health

A bugger about too much booze all the time is that it robs you of quality, rejuvenating sleep. You wake up from a crappy night’s sleep, and the day begins again – with you already behind the curve. This holds you back in the day and ends up being a self-fulfiling prophecy for having more booze in the evening.

The mind and body need sleep. It sounds obvious but they do. And you can’t constantly undercharge the body with too little sleep and expect there to be no consequences.

I got into the habit of getting in to bed around 9 (yeah, you read that right) reading a book for about an hour, and then drifting off. The exercise that I’d done in the day will have helped weigh me down here, making me ready for sleep.

Best foot forward

Another thing with mental health & starting the morning on a positive note. I found in 2020 I was leaving the kitchen in a bit of state in the evening and waking up to the it in the morning; confronting the mess was very much a ‘urrgh!” moment – and how is that conducive to starting the best with your best foot forward?

So, I got into the habit (and fair does to all of you who’ve been doing this for years!) of ending the day with a proper, quick mini-clean up of the kitchen and the front room.

This then means that when I wake in the morning, and make my first cuppa, I’m greeted by a spick and span kitchen not, to use one of my mum’s phrases, a ‘shit hole‘.

Small wins like that (such as making your bed first thing) can add up to big mental health wins.

So, those were the basics for my method going forward…

2021

My weekly regime was pretty much:

  • 10K steps a day (achieved my running or walking)
  • Running most days
  • No booze in week (and very moderate on Fri / Sat)
  • Being sensible with food

As off today 20th of March, my weight graph is:

I’ve gone down from the first reading on 28th of Dec (15 stone, 27.5% body fat) to March (16th 13st 8, 23.6% body fat).

I’m obviously very happy that the steps I put in place have worked, not just for the weight loss, but also for the feel-good factor, the mental health pay off. And the fact that I can wear t-shirts again!

….but where do I go from here?

Next Steps

I’ve never been a on/off diet person so I don’t see any ballooning back here with weight and piling it back on. And I have no intention of slipping back into bad habits (though, with the pubs reopening soon, and summer coming, temptation is certainly on the horizon!).

Now that I’ve established a routine, I’m looking at what I do next. That will be a combination of:

  • Pushing the running more. Go faster. Go for PB times with my 5K and weekend 10K. Strava is great for encouragement from other runners for that.
  • I do like my red wine on the weekend. My mate Stu Robson mentioned the small bottles which are great, and fit into my approach.
  • I’ve bought a juicer! I love fresh fruit etc and this is a nice way to get a big hit. Carrot and ginger is great. Like I said before though, you do need to be careful with the sugar here; fruit is full of fructose after all.
  • When things open up, I’ll be swimming again. There is a great gym close with a decent 25m pool. Have been a member before and will join again for swimming and classes. That’ll probably mean I swim one day, and run the next.
  • Swiming again: I’ve done a bit of open water swimming and love it! The exercise and the buzz when you get out. Whilst I have a wet suit, I’m not venturing out there until it’s a little warmer (kudos to you who brave the chilly water already!).

The End (not)

The way that I see it, I’m now entering phase 2. I’ve established a basic rhythm here, made some initial wins, the key now is to carry on and build on that.

I think the final thing I’d say is this: what I’ve laid out here is what works for me, if other methods work for you, that’s fine. If you are reading this and thinking ‘what a wanker! I could never lose that weight!” then I’m sorry – that’s not the point here – I’m more trying to say this: when I was ready, I knew the approach I needed to take. But you have to be ready.

Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions.

Love

Joel

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