It wasn’t until I got home that I realised there was a problem. The belt didn’t fit. I could drag it around my stomach, but the prospect of getting the thing to fasten would have had a similar impact as an attack from a boa constrictor.
Instead I had to head into town to have an additional notch added. And even then, I had to deal with the indignity of the thing digging into my burgeoning gut as I sat at my desk at work.
In a nutshell, I was massive. A little over 21 stone with a waistline that I optimistically calculated as 48 inches. The only thing that wasn’t massive about me was my self-esteem.
So it dawned on me that I had to do something about it. I was in my late 40s, looked like a state, and thought the prospect of making 50 was optimistic, let alone 60.
There was no way I was going to be a runner - a broken ankle a few years back made that impossible. For me it was the gym. It had always been the gym. In my younger days the gym had been my thing - although my attendance had always been sporadic, at best. I’d be dedicated for a month, two months maybe, and then it would drop off again.
(Although, back then, I was skinny, and not bothering with the gym just meant that I became skinnier).
I got committed
So I got committed. I joined a gym - Pure Fitness, in Darley Abbey Mills, Derby (not to be mistaken with similar sounding chains).
It's an independent run by two brothers who are passionate about what they do. Getting fit isn’t just about turning up and doing the hours; it’s about how you think about it, how you commit to it, how you mix it up so it doesn’t become a drudge.
Initially, I started with a lot of cardio - bikes, treadmills, rowing machines - but as I slowly got hooked it really wasn’t enough. I didn’t just want to shed a load of weight.
I wanted to look good at the other end. I didn’t want to be one of these dieters you see with folds of baggy skin handing down, and a place on an NHS waiting list for the mother of all tummy tucks. I needed to get strong as well, so I moved into the brave new world of high-impact cardio - medicine ball slams, squats, skipping, boxing, kettle bell lifts.
All of these not only shed the pounds as effectively as half an hour on a bike, but also help the long-neglected muscles groan back to life. They all hurt. They all really hurt, and I’d get up most mornings after a workout not sure whether I could make it out of bed or not.
Paracetamol became a firm friend, and the fact that I’m lucky enough to be married to a trained masseuse also came up trumps at times. By December 2017 I was down to 18 stone - on my way but still nowhere near where I wanted to be.
So from January I upped the workouts - minimum of four a week, at least 90 minutes, with a mixture of cardio, high-impact cardio and weights. I also started attending a regular session at Pure Fitness called Fight Club (not that I can talk about it) which is an hour-long boxing-based beasting, from which I’d emerge having thought I was going to soil myself twice and die at least once. And the weight came off. Down to 16 stone by April of 2018.
It was time to think about the next stage, so I ditched the pure cardio and added to the weights - light toning weights at first, before switching it up to heavier weights, mixed in with some gruelling suspension training. Now it’s all about weights - I’m down to 14 stone eight and it’s a question of maintenance rather than loss.
It has to become a way of life
|... and now.|
In a nutshell, it has to become a way of life. It has to become a commitment, a need. But it’s not all about the exercise. Diet plays a crucial part as well. I went carb-free for three months. In my mind, carbs are your enemy. Your body is lazy. It will burn whatever is easiest to burn. If you eat a cheese sandwich, your body will burn off the bread first and foremost, then store the cheese and the butter on your hips for a rainy day.
If you take away the bread, it has to burn the cheese. Simple. After three months, when I was down to the fourth notch on my new belt, I reintroduced some carb. Complex carb. No potatoes, no bread, no pasta. If you want bangers and mash, then use sweet potato. It takes three times the time for your body to burn as a regular spud.
It doesn’t allow your body to store the sausages. It processes it all at the same time. Cauliflower has also become a big part of my diet, as has cous cous and lots of fresh fruit and veg. Beer is gone, apart from as an occasional treat when I’m out.
Go for a gin and slimline instead if you want a drink. In terms of weight management, it’s way better for you. My waistline is now 32 inches and I’ve had to purchase a whole new wardrobe. I occasionally turn up at the gym in one of the T-shirts I wore when I first started training, and it looks like I’m wearing a dress.
I’m down to the ninth and final notch on my belt, and I’m looking forward to heading back into town to get another one added."