Tag Archives: weight loss

5 years on

So, the 16th of March. Back in 2005 I’d fallen into bad habits. I was seriously overweight and spent most of my time watching TV, playing computer games and eating takeaways. Although I had a bike it only got used once or twice a month. However change was in the air. In January 2005 I bought a Sony PS2 and GTA San Andreas. As part of the game you can train at 3 martial arts gyms, one boxing, one kung fu and one kick boxing. I was kind of curious about the boxing so I bought some cheap shorts and gloves and decided to see if I could find somewhere to give it a go. After a bit of Googling I found a few boxing and kick boxing places that looked promising. Some had web sites while others just had email addresses. I left it for a few weeks but then in March 2005 I had to do some work in Cardiff so I called into a martial arts shop there and bought some Thai boxing shorts because the boxing shorts I had didn’t fit, with the proviso that if I was going to spend that kind of money I’d better use them. After watching a couple of old fights on the C5 show Now is the Time I finally got round to doing things and sent the following email to Richard Smith, the main instructor at Bad Company on the 8th of March:

I’m interested in joining the gym and coming to classes. Before I do, I was wondering if you had any requirements regarding health or level of fitness as it would be fair to say I’m somewhat unfit and overweight. In the past when I’ve spoken to my doctor he’s suggested that the best way for me to overcome this is to get more exercise, such as joining a gym. I’d also be interested to know if there is any particular equipment or clothing I should bring when I do come. 

If you’d like to contact me over the phone, my number is xxx.

Thanks.

mh. 

By the time I got a reply the next available open session was Wednesday the 16th. I was very nervous when I got there but I decided the best plan was to go with the flow and see what they could teach me. During the warmup Richard came over to me and told me to just do what I could, possibly the first and last time he’d not told me to try harder. Can’t remember much about that session but I do remember trying to do a push kick and falling backwards. I was pretty achy afterwards but I decided I was going to try doing six weeks and then decide whether to continue. Unfortunately after that I got mumps and had to miss the next couple of sessions. Certainly wouldn’t be the last time I was disappointed that illness or an injury meant I’d miss training.

In April was Linz & Dave’s wedding where I shocked a few people with the state I was in:
Me in April 2005

However plans were already in place to do something about it.

Continue reading 5 years on

Hold the Mayo!

A couple of weeks ago it was revealed that Maggie was following a special diet that was heavy on eggs, grapefruit and various other things. It’s a diet that I’m actually quite familiar with and which calls itself the “Mayo Clinic Diet”. Unfortunately it has two minor drawbacks: 

  1. It has nothing to do with the Mayo Clinic, which is a respected medical practice in the US 
  2. It’s bollocks

Someone introduced me to it when I was at uni 10 years ago and needed to lose a couple of stone. I decided to give it a try but after a couple of days something didn’t seem to add up. I did a bit of Googling , had a look at a couple of calorie counting websites and did some cross checking with the NHS pages on diet and nutrition. What I found was this: 

  1. This diet is an ultra low calorie one (c. 500 calories a day), an amount which is advised against by many dieticians
  2. Claims of food combinations that dissolve fat have no basis in science
  3. Another claim is that it is used by cardiac wards. I seriously hope not. While the diet is very low in calories, it is very high in saturated fat via things like eggs and pork chops. 
  4. Carbohydrates are absent . Cutting out an entire class of nutrients, particularly carbs, is common with fad diets but it’s one I’ve never understood

As soon as I found this out I stopped the plan and went out to buy a pork pie and some cakes. Only sensible thing to do in the circumstances

I think this is one of the reasons why I’ve since been sceptical about amateur nutritionists. Gillian McKeith is an obvious quack but there’s a lot of other nonsense out there. One problem of the “caveman diet” that seems to be overlooked is that people back then had a life expectancy of 33 whereas now life expectancy is more than double that. Others advise against processed food or food that’s full of “chemicals”, but all food is processed to some degree. Some foods cannot be digested properly until they’re cooked and some are actually toxic. Food processing is done to make it last longer, keep it safe in storage, and to improve its taste or appearance among other reasons. “Chemicals” have been used in food preparation for centuries, such as saltpetre being added to cured meats such as bacon and ham. The problem with processed foods is not the fact that they’ve been processed per se, but because some of them contain a lot of processed fat and salt (one of my biggest downfalls in my larger days was those 10 packs of Herta sausages: a full day’s worth of fat and salt). Processing and rendering can also be used to disguise low quality ingredients such as mechanically recovered meat. I worked in a bacon packing factory for a week so I know what low grade food can look like. Not pretty.

Another one I’ve never understood is why fad diets and quacks dislike carbohydrates so much. Some say no carbs after 12, or 3 pm, or in the evening. What do you do when the clocks go back? I think this is one of those that’s been repeated so often that it’s become received wisdom with little basis in fact. Here’s an alternate take on the idea: not having carbs after a certain time is counter productive because later on in the day your blood sugar level crashes and you lose energy which makes you feel weak and dizzy. If you don’t get any more until breakfast the next day, it just makes it worse. There used to be an idea that carbs were responsible for making you fat, but science has since moved on from then.

So, one problem with nutritionists and fat diets is outdated or incorrect science. I was looking into qualifications, and becoming a qualified dietician takes a 4 year degree course. Much easier to call yourself a nutritionist and give out advice that might occasionally hit on what works. Add some kind of gimmick to make it proprietary and you can charge for it. Probably safe to say that I’m not enamoured of these people, but what would I suggest for healthy eating? Losing nearly 50 kilos over 3 years while training for some of the toughest sports around needs a certain level of knowledge of these things and fad diets just won’t cut it. I go for the calorie deficit theory: eat whatever you want to lose weight as long as you burn up more calories than you take in. The main things I do are: 

  • Watch the calories! This is the main point. Around 500 calories less than you burn off through exercise or just day to day living will do.
  • Plenty of carbs, mostly starchy ones like pasta or bread 
  • Reduce the amount of fat and sugar. 
  • Eat a mix of things at every meal, regardless of what time of day it is 
  • A light snack such as a cereal bar about an hour or so before training will help keep you going 
  • Baked things like pastry or cakes contain a lot of fat (shortcrust pastry is 33% fat) 
  • Drink plenty of water 
  • Protein tends to be lean stuff such as chicken breast or diced pork or beef, and either stir fried (in things like curries) or baked (things like chicken bakes) 
  • Processed food and ready meals are fine and can be very convenient if you don’t have a lot of time to prepare food, provided they’re made from reasonable quality ingredients and don’t contain too much fat or salt 
  • It isn’t actually essential to eat 5 portions of fruit or veg a day. It was invented to make sure you eat a range of foods to get a mix of nutrients

Got to say I’m glad I never had to share an office with Maggie when she was eating 4 eggs a day, anyway. Did she dislike miners so much because she was banned from mines for being a source of firedamp?

A Letter on Corpulence

One of the first ever diet plans was written by William Banting in 1863. There’s a downloadable version of it here. The first hint of what lay ahead with my diet plan was in a comment to this journal entry. It’s flocked so here’s a few extracts:

…one of my new year’s resolutions [is] to lose a load of weight and improve my fitness to enter a Thai boxing match in December. I know I’m massively overweight and I’m going to do everything I can to get my weight down to 95kg by then. It means I’ve got to lose around 35 – 40 kg, but I think I need to.

That was written on the 6th of Jan 2007. On the 10th of Jan was my first entry about training:

First trip to the gym of the year, and I decided to hop on the scales to see what Christmas did for me. I’m not sure how it happened, but since I last weighed myself on the 13th of December I’ve lost 1.2 kg. Now I’ve got Christmas out of the way I’m planning on trying to lose a stone for the end of February and then another stone by about Easter. My target is to get my weight down from tonight’s 131.5 kg to 95 kg by December, and then take it from there. Looks like one thing that seems to work is to have a cuppa rather than a snack. Instant coffee, semi skimmed milk and boiling water contains less than 30 calories and virtually no fat, so it looks like one to try.

I also signed up to take part in the gym’s interclub competition in February. I just hope I’m not expected to be the first person on.

Nearly 3 years on a lot has happened. My plans had a few revisions as time went on, and not everything went according to plan. I’ve written more than enough here about the details so I’m not going to go into them again. Over the last few weeks the main points are that my weight started to creep up a bit and I decided to not just stop it but also work on getting down to my final target. This was originally 80 kg but I decided to revise it up to 84 kg to take into account building muscle rather than just losing fat. I’m very pleased to say that at my final weight check of the year on Wednesday I was near enough that to be happy. Starting weight: 133 kg or 21 stone. Final weight: 84.8 kg or 13 stone 4. Total weight loss: 49 kg or 7 stone 10. Inches lost off the waist: 15 (from 48″ to 33″). In other words, that’s it. My close to 3 years of hard dieting is over with the final target reached. Going by the system of milestones I came up with a while back, this is the 7th and final milestone.

It hasn’t just been a physical thing but also quite an emotional one as well. Just losing weight is one thing, but this has been a serious lifestyle change going from a bit of exercise occasionally to training for combat sports at competition level. Underpinning this is the idea of making hay while the sun shines. There will be a time when I can’t do this for one reason or another, but that time isn’t here yet so I’m going to keep doing this for as long as I can. Keeping fit and looking after my health also gives me a bit of an insurance policy for when bad things happen. I know a few physios socially and they’re impressed that I got full range of movement back in my right arm so quickly after last year’s bike accident.

What happens next? I’m going to concentrate on keeping my walk around weight in the range 84 – 86 kg. Maintaining should be easier than losing, and if I’m fighting I might temporarily drop a bit more if need be. I’ve still got a bit more flab to lose and I’ve started doing bits of weight training which means I’ll be muscling up. I’ve always had relatively weak upper body strength, which is one of the symptoms of Dyspraxia, but running around with sand bags, playing around with kettle bells and climbing ropes should help with that. As far as training goes, there’s a few things coming up early in the year that sound interesting. My MMA gym is running a show on the 6th of March. I’ve said I’d like to do it but I know I haven’t training there very long and I’ll let them decide if I’m ready. If that doesn’t go ahead they do have plenty of others later in the year, and there will be Thai boxing shows going on as well.

One more training session to go this year (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu on Monday) and then that’s it. I’ll be having a break from training over xmas to let the minor aches and pains to sort themselves out, and then back into it in the new year.

There’s a few lines from a Chimaira track called Try To Survive which I think are appropriate:
“Been through just about everything/But we’re still here/We still have much to prove/To ourselves… This journey’s taught me to stand strong/Never again will I/Surrender my fears/Surrender my dreams/Surrender my soul/To the infection”

Milestone 6.9

Definitely on track with the pre-xmas weight loss. Tonight on the scales I was 85.8 kg or 13 stone 6 lbs, being a total loss of 48 kgs or 7 stone 8 lbs over a bit less than 3 years and the last stone in the last 6 weeks. Just one more kilo to go and that’s it. As I’m very close to my final target I thought it was about time for a new photo, as well as comparing it to April 2005 when I first got into martial arts and May 2008 just before the bike accident. From lard bucket through Thai boxing and finally MMA. Less curved, bigger muscles, and a much more intense look in the eyes. You probably wouldn’t want to get a punch off those MMA gloves either. I’m going to work on getting down to 84 kg for next week, but 85 will do if I don’t get there.

April 2005 May 2008 Tonight (Dec 2009)

Nearly there

87.8 kg on the scales at the beginning of tonight’s session at the gym which is the lowest it’s ever been, and let’s say it was 85.9 at the end (it was near enough). This is despite picking up a stinking cold and spending most of the last few days Winehousing on menthol, eucalyptus, and hot curries and chillies (Discovery’s 2stage hot chilli sauce is actually pretty good, especially if you do it with diced beef instead of mince). Previous record was 88.4 which was on the day of my fight at the end of May. At this rate I’ll get to my final target either next week or the week after. The ideal would be 86 kg at the beginning of the session and 84 kg at the end, but 85 -> 84 will do. As long as it’s 84 at the end of the night I don’t care. This would be milestone 7 or the very last target and means I’ve got my weight down from 21 stone to 13 stone 3 and is a total loss of 49 kg or 7 stone 10 lbs. After this I’ll still keep my weight under control of course, but as my fitness has improved over the last year or so I’ve been more interested in improving my Thai boxing and BJJ technique, and now I’m doing MMA as well I’ve got that to work on too. I had a word with my Thai boxing instructor about fighting next year, and if I can get a word in edgeways I’m going to ask my MMA instructor about doing an interclub there as well.

Time for an updated progress photo probably next week. I think this one will be wearing MMA shorts and gloves. I’m not a cage fighter yet but I’m definitely working on it.

Xmas shopping with my mum in Leeds tomorrow so I’ll probably be sampling the gluhwein. I’d like a large black cherry mocha and a selection from http://starbucks.co.uk/en-GB/_Food/Cakes+and+Cheesecakes.htm but these will have to wait just a bit longer. On a related festive note, I hope k425 and oldbloke liked the card I slipped in the envelope of Observer supplements that I sent them.

One Final Push

Right, so, the weight thing then. A few weeks ago my weight start creeping up and 2 weeks ago it hit 91 – 92 kg. Not the way it’s supposed to be going so I decided to arrest it. Certainly not for want of training. Since I started training at Leeds Cage at the end of October I’ve been down the gym almost every night, and 19 times altogether in the last 4 weeks. I’ve made a couple of small changes to what I eat: no extra cheese and no cakes at lunchtime (apart from one small one once a week). In 2 weeks I’ve lost 3 kg or half a stone, and I’m down to 87 – 88 kg which is the same as it was when I had my fight at the end of May. Probably shows how finely balanced my diet is these days that I can do it that easily.

Now I’m on something of a roll I’ve decided to go for the last bit of weight loss. Once I get down to 84 – 86 kg that will be it. When the gym scales say 84 kg I’ll have lost 49 kg: a massive amount and equivalent to 7 st 10 lbs or 36% of my starting weight. 86 kg is the top end of Thai cruiserweight and 84 kg is the top end of MMA middleweight. Fights are usually matched so both fighters are about the same weight and I don’t need to lose any more but I want to. I’ll be having words about fighting next year, hopefully both Thai boxing and MMA. Even at amateur or interclub level it’s still a fair achievement to get into the ring or the cage. My original final target was 80 kg but I hadn’t counted on just how much I’d muscle up. I can easily fit into size 34″ trousers now but they have to be quite loose fitting because all the cycling and grappling I do means I have powerful legs (including 26″ thighs). At one point I was down to tops with a 40″ chest but now I’m having to get 42″ ones.

The last 5 years have been a long and hard journey but it’s one that’s now nearly at an end. It’s been a massive lifestyle change going from eating enough to feed a family of 4 on a daily basis and not getting any exercise at all to having the diet and training schedule of a semipro fighter. The support of family and friends has meant a lot and unfortunately some of them are no longer with us. As long as things go to plan I should finally get to my final target by early December. Next challenge then will be to make sure I stay there.

A quick note about motivational techniques. I’m not religious (although lack of any belief in a deity certainly doesn’t mean I don’t have a personal moral code, and I’m interested in finding out about religion as long it doesn’t proselytise) and I’m not particularly keen on proprietary techniques such as NLP. If they work for other people then that’s fine: they’re just not for me. There’s no right or wrong answers when it comes to personal ideas or beliefs. There are a few things that obviously do for me. The most important is drive and self discipline. I live alone and work from home so it’s up to me to make sure I’m up in time for work. What I think happened in the past is that I didn’t apply the sense of drive to my personal life. Since I started all this in Jan 2007 I tried increasing it just a bit at a time. When I was stuck in hospital last year with a smashed up shoulder that was obviously a pretty major test but I resolved to do whatever was needed to be back where I was. my shoulder was screwed up but the rest of me was OK.

Another source of motivation has been music. I first discovered the Hatebreed album Perseverance in 2002 and along with some of their other albums it’s difficult not to be motivated by them. Finding out that they’re into MMA and having them personally wish me good luck on Twitter for the fight in October that didn’t eventually go ahead was certainly a bonus. I’ve found other hardcore metal bands such as Terror and Chimaira to be good as well, but Hatebreed was the start of it. Almost any of the songs on Perseverance are pretty good but I think the chorus of the title track sums up the last few years quite well:

Perseverance
Against all opposition
Crushing all limitations
Pure strength through solitude
Discipline and determination

Keeping Busy

Ages since the last really long update. I think I’ve just got out of the habit of sitting down and writing long posts. Conversely I do a lot of status updates on Facebook or even Twitter because it’s easier to write a single sentence or even just a fragment of one. Written English is not like spoken English and I refrain from using chavvy txtspk in the updates, even if there are limits on how long they can be. “Y” is the 25th letter of the alphabet, not an interrogative word. “Day” is a period of 24 hours, not the third person personal pronoun. Of course language changes and it’s possible to be too prescriptive about how it’s used. However, standard (written) English is a completely different dialect to the spoken sort and you don’t spell things in the way that you would like people to read them out. Similarly, txtspk was invented with the specific purpose of getting as much into the 160 character limitation of an SMS. Twitter is limited to 140 characters for sure, but you can always post another tweet or just use shorter words. I go for the principle of being strict about what you send and lenient about what you receive, so if someone else wants to use that type of language I don’t mind as long as I can understand it.

Anyway, life continues as normal. I’m still training 5 times a week, with the usual mixture of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Thai boxing and cycling. With it getting darker in the evenings I’m probably going to switch the midweek evening bike ride for a run. To get any kind of distance on the bike I need a reasonable proportion on of my route to be along the canal, but being unlit and somewhat isolated means I need to think about personal safety. Not everyone who goes along an urban canal towpath in the dark is there for entirely legit reasons, and also in the dark it can be harder to tell where the towpath isn’t. I got back into running last year as a way of keeping fit while bike and arm were out of action and gradually built up to doing a mile in about 9 – 10 minutes and 6 miles in less than an hour.

On the Thai boxing front, I should hear in the next day or so whether or not I’ll be fighting on the 18th of October. This will be in Harrogate and will be my first full contact fight, which means that I could win (or lose) by a knockout. It’s 3 weeks tomorrow so I do need to know so I’ve got enough time to prepare. I’ve been put forward to fight at 86 kg which is the top end of Thai boxing cruiserweight class so I also need to find out what my weight is and how much I’ll need to lose. Someone has nicked the scales from the gym so we’ll need to get them back.

These days I don’t have (or need) the relentless weight loss I had in the past. While I’m technically overweight, judging by the state of me in my profile pic there’s absolutely nothing to worry about. I have a 34″ waist, 42″ chest, 25″ thighs, and a resting blood pressure of 120/60 and resting pulse of 58. Not bad from where I was a few years ago. Friday will be my 31st birthday. Probably safe to say I’ve got a lot more ahead of me than I did 5 years ago.

I also seem to have got a new job at work. I was redeployed in May because of a short term budget shortage, got a project using Oracle and Linux to keep me occupied for a few months which is now coming to an end, and now I’ve got a new one which will involve C# and SQL Server development. This is a separate one from the one I mentioned on Facebook which is for a senior Windows developer working in a different bit of the company. It’s supposed to be based in Wolverhampton and is a higher grade than my current one. On that one I’ll just have to wait and see.

I’ve also been having a go at a bit of photography. Couple of shots here (On LJ) or the full set is on Flickr. I haven’t taken many so far but it’s a start.