That picture bears no relevance to this post. As I’ve said before, any and all pictures I have of myself are often not concomitant to the point I am trying to make, unless it involves food or beer.
When I was younger, I was a little bit on the plump side. Just a tad. Let’s just say I was slightly more cuddly than I am now. Actually, I was an exceptionally thin child up until around the age of 6. My nickname was Tin Ribs. After that age, I seemed to balloon to an unhealthy proportion.
There are many factors behind my portly posterior, and anterior for that matter. One is the terrible state of school dinners. This was a pre-Jamie Oliver time. Things were darker then; not to mention greasier.
I remember, the closest thing we had to a healthy school dinner was a salad which consisted of pickled beetroot, egg, heavily buttered bread and crisps. Which would be followed by a dessert of something drenched in custard or a massive bowl of Angel Delight. Quite frankly, I didn’t stand a chance.
Secondary School wasn’t much better. I think I ate a slice of Millionaire’s shortbread every single day I was in school and a sandwich which was more mayonnaise than bread.
Another key factor was my aversion to sports. I used to love doing gymnastics (ladies…) but that was when I was about 8. When I grew up I found that having size 12 feet is a massive hindrance, so is a complete lack of balance.
I never liked football. This was for two reasons; I couldn’t stand watching it. 90 minutes of people running around? No thanks. Reason number two, my brothers used to mercilessly tease me whenever I tried to play the flipping sport. They also mocked me because my hair was too curly to have curtains and an undercut. In retrospect, I am extremely glad of this fact.
I did really like rugby and at my skill level, my size was definitely more of an asset than a hindrance.
Factor the third. My father always seemed to have a lot of chocolate to hand. If you ever saw the man, you would never believe me. He’s built like a brown rake (he’s Indian, in case the reference went over your head). But he would turn up with boxes full of Club biscuits, crates of cordial which was basically fruit flavoured syrup or these amazing Nesquik sweets I would eat by the handful.
Factor three and a half. My mother taught me how to make sugar on toast. I’m not pointing the finger of blame here mum, but seriously?
In case you were wondering, sugar toast is amazing. Get a slice of bread, toast one side. Take it out, butter the other side and sprinkle sugar over it. Toast that side. Let it cool (sugar caramelises, which means that it roughly reaches the temperature of the Sun). Eat it and feel incredibly guilty.
Factor four, I used to work at Pizza Hut. Obviously, this was the tipping point. Quite literally, if I were balanced precariously on a ledge. I was surrounded by food and I knew about as much about nutrition as anyone who has perfected sugar on toast would. Suffice it to say, I grew exponentially larger.
You know when you’re a child and you’re a little bit chubby, everyone says “It’s just puppy fat, he’ll grow out of it”. As it turns out, if you lead a fairly sedentary lifestyle and eat like it’s a competition well past puberty, you do not grow out of it. If anything, I grew into it.
I used to drink about 3 litres of Pepsi while I was on shift, which was bad enough in and of itself. Then, when I would finish at around midnight, I would take 2 stuffed crusts home. This was before the newfangled individual stuffed crust was about (then again, any pizza is an individual if you try hard enough and really believe in yourself).
1 pizza, just with cheese, is 2,480 calories. There were 2 involved in this scenario, so that’s 4,960 calories.
3 litres of Pepsi is what, like over 1000 calories? It has to be.
So we’ll call it 6,000 calories, this isn’t even taking into account the food I ate before and during work.
That’s 3,500 calories more than I would need if I actually did the minimum amount of exercise I was supposed to. I did not.
How I’m not dead is beyond me.
Eventually, my mother tactfully pointed out that my waistline was expanding to the point that I would likely collapse into myself and form a cheesy neutron star. Those were not her exact words, but the point remains the same. My girlfriend at the time also made the similar assessment.
So, I decided to do something about it.
I stopped eating stuffed crusts and drank water at work.
There you have it. The entirety of my “Don’t die quite so young” plan.
All jokes aside, the fact that this was around 90% of how I lost the weight is incredibly concerning. Imagine if I had just continued. Good Lord, I would probably be dead by now. Man cannot live by stuffed crust alone.
I went from being 16 and a half stone down to about 13 and a half.
Admittedly, I may have taken it too far in the opposite direction when I dropped to 12 stone (bear in mind I’m 6’2″). Now I’m somewhere between 14 and 15 stone. I exercise on occasion, I eat healthily and I feel much better.
After I lost the weight, I was shopping with my mother and we passed the sugar. She asked me to hold a packet, and then another and another… until I pointed out that showing me new and fun ways to eat sugar by the bucket load was a part of the reason I was in that mess.
After giving me a disproving look and calling me an idiot, my mother pointed out that this was how much weight I had lost. I was stunned, stupefied even. I didn’t feel 20kg lighter. I didn’t feel like I could jump higher or run faster. In that moment, I felt like my arms were tired because I was holding 20kg of sugar. I had no idea what I had actually achieved until that moment.
The point I am making with this blog post is not to explain how easy it was for me. I’m fully aware that I am incredibly lucky in that respect. The point I am making is that I got out of 17 years of habitual eating to be healthier and feel better.
And if I can do it, anyone can. I have the willpower and self-control of a crafty goat most of the time. I once made myself ill because I drank 4 cartons of apple juice. Just one after the other. Shotgunning those bastards.
The trick is, start small. It may not seem like a big change, but you have no idea of the effect it can have. I did. I actually started off by switching to Pepsi Max until I figured out that was why I couldn’t sleep. Seriously, it has so much caffeine.
And I started eating salads at work. However, did you see the old Pizza Hut salads? If I were a pretentious sort, I would have put “salad” in quotation marks… which I just did… dammit! Instead, I will just talk about them disparagingly. They were basically pasta with cheese and mayonnaise and a range of sauces which you could sprinkle bacon bits over. That’s not a salad.
I also started exercising. Admittedly, I may have gone overboard on this one for a short while. Getting up at 5am to get to the gym before college and then again in the evening. I don’t do portion control or self control.
It was a series of small changes which led to a big one. It’s not an easy road, nor is it a short one. 10 years later and my weight is still something I consider on a regular basis.
Losing weight can seem difficult but it’s all about these seemingly insignificant changes. Bit by bit you break bad habits and begin to feel results.
Until one day, you’re stood in Tesco holding 20kg of sugar while your mother walks away laughing.