4 February 2016

My weight loss journey - The Beginning

Since birth I have always been a large person. I am tall and broad shouldered, a combination that hides my weight well. As a kid I was a little overweight, but you couldn't tell by looking at me.
I was also inherently lazy and always looked for the simplest and easiest way to do something with the least amount of effort. That worked well for video games but not for being fit.

Over the years I steadily built onto my fat supply but I never really thought of myself as obese. Yes I knew I was overweight but even to my eye my natural size spread the weight evenly so I didn't look super fat. At the time, mechanical bathroom scales only went up to 120kg so I had no idea how heavy I actually was.
Mechanical Scale
Useless for me back then.
As the years progressed I had a lot of back and knee issues due to my weight, and as a true Aussie bloke I ignored them. A doctor advised me to lose weight but as he didn't offer any methods to do that I just continued on my way. My epiphany came a couple years later.

Almost by accident I discovered my true weight and was disgusted with myself. I was working near a scale designed to weigh cargo and on a whim stepped on. The figure of 175kg stared back at me and I quickly stepped off before anyone else could see it. I was emotionally down the entire day and by the end decided it was time to fix my body.

I had several friends that were into body building and figured it was a good place to start. I imagined getting rock hard abs in under a year. I tried a gym membership but work got in the way so I bought a home gym with free weights. I got my body building friends to show me how to workout and set about my programme. After three months of hard work I lost only 5kg and hadn't gained any noticeable muscle. Without seeing results I lost faith in the routine and stopped.

The problem was I received advice on converting fat into muscle from guys that stripped their body down to skin and bones then built it back up into a well oiled muscle machine. They knew all the techniques and meal plans for gaining bulk, but I already had bulk. I needed to convert it to muscle, and adding a body builder's diet was not conducive to weight loss.
Wii Fit
Not intended for use by Heffalumps

So I tried mixing my love of video games into my weight loss effort and bought myself a Wii Fit. I was excited as my hours of gaming would be a workout. After plugging it in I found a huge fly in my ointment: the balance board only supported up to 150kg. I was 20kg too heavy to start using the accursed thing. That was a very low point for me. What made it worse was that I had friends over when I stood on the board for the first time and a big warning flashed on screen screaming at me to remove the whale that was breaking its back. Right then I created my first real goal: to lose enough weight to use the Wii Fit.

Until that point my only goal was to lose weight. I didn't have any targets other than to look good naked (did I mention this post comes free with a disturbing image?). Setting this small goal was a giant boon. I had a target weight of 149kg and I wanted it within 3 months. That is where my diet kicked in.

Until then I foolishly decided to keep eating what I normally did, just slightly smaller portions. I figured exercise would drop off the weight. Pizza, Coke, ice-cream, chocolate, fast food, chips and lollies don't mix with a small waist line. Over the years I had dabbled in diets but they all lacked in one key point: I had to completely change my entire diet in one fell swoop. Worse still was the fact the food suggested didn't agree with my taste buds. That is where Weight Watchers (WW) came in.
Weight Watchers
Without going into much detail, the WW plan allots a certain amount of points per day and food is assigned a value based off its nutritional content. I had about 50 to start with but that reduces as you shed the kilos. A can of coke is 4 points, a chocolate bar is around 6 points, a slice of pizza is 8 points, a hamburger is around 20 points. Most fruit and veggies are zero points, a litre of coconut water is 1 point. A sandwich with two eggs, lettuce, spinach, grated carrot, grated cheese and a slice of bacon is around 10 points and quite filling. So with this approach you can eat healthy while still eating the food you love. I got very good at figuring out how much chocolate I could have with 3 points left for the day.

That was the key for me: moderation. It is why WW succeeded when every other diet failed. By calculating the points for all food I was being educated on what is healthy, what appears healthy but isn't, and what is generally bad. With this lifestyle change I dropped 20kgs in just over 5 weeks.

That kind of rapid weight loss is common at the start for people as obese as I was and isn't a medical problem. It did slow down a lot after this point however, and the next 20kgs took me about a year.
Losing weight is an endurance sport that can take years to win. You need dedication, focus and multiple short term goals to see it through.

Now I was able to use the Wii Fit, however I'd reached a plateau in my journey. I wasn't losing weight but thankfully didn't gain any. That sufficed for the time and I figured I could make a greater effort in a few months as I was pacing myself. That was a nice little lie I told myself. I was the primary driving force behind getting in shape. I had no external help or guidance. I didn't go to WW meetings as I didn't like the people. I needed a support group that shared my interests and helped me stay on track. I found that in martial arts.

I will continue this story in future posts but for now I'll sum up the lessons learned.
  • You have to create small short term goals to achieve greater success
  • You need the right type of training to reduce weight, body building won't cut it
  • You don't have to work hard, 10 minutes of the right exercise a day is a good start
  • Change your eating habits slowly
  • Get into Weight Watchers or similar programme as it allows the food you love but in smaller quantities and teaches you good nutrition
  • Get external support. You can only motivate yourself for so long. Over my journey I changed motivation 7 times as I kept reaching plateaus
  • Don't give up. I am almost a decade into my journey and still have a little way to go.
Look for future posts that show you more detailed steps on how to do the above. Like my weight loss, getting this information out and available to you will take time. Stick with me and you'll get what you require. To continue this journey please click here.

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