I have never been one of those people who should be featured on those ‘Lose Weight Within A Year Or Die’ programs, nor has my backside been featured anonymously on the news when they’re doing a report on obesity. But for years I have been a bit, shall we say, overweight. Not by much, depending on what you think is the proper weight for someone of my height (5′ 11″) – the general consensus is that I should be around 164 lbs (I’m old-school English and find it difficult to comprehend peoples’ weight if it’s not stated in stones – a stone is 14 lbs – so I should be just under 12 stone. However, in the first half of 2013 I’d gone past the 14 stone mark, so I was getting near to 200 lbs… which is too much. I joked that I was the perfect weight, I just wasn’t tall enough.
For as long as I could remember I’d been about 13 stone (182 lbs) and generally considered that this was my ‘okay weight’. When I had my gall bladder removed about 8 years ago I dropped to around 174 lbs, and I did so again about 4 years ago when I was travelling too much around Europe and suffered from a stomach complaint for about a month (which miraculously got better when I stopped travelling so much). However, during my time with Microsoft the pounds gradually piled on, and it was when we went on holiday (vacation, for US readers) last year that I really noticed that I’d become a bit too porky. It was down to bad habits – I’ll talk about those later – and a lack of exercise.
While we were on holiday I decided to do something about my ample frame, and set myself a goal of swimming 100 lengths of the pool every day for the 2 weeks. This wasn’t always easy, as some other people also insisted on using the pool and getting in my way. Mrs A and I debated how long the pool was, and therefore how far I was swimming and how many calories I was burning – a question we still haven’t resolved. Anyway, I swam the 100 lengths most days, and once back home the scales revealed that I had lost a few pounds.
Losing a few pounds should have been the platform for losing a few more, but back at home I didn’t have time to go swimming every day. We did however get a new dog, Ruby, but it was to be a few months before she was old enough for long walks.
By April 2014 I was about 13½ stone, or 189 lbs, or 86 kg. Then came the big moment… my daughter Lauren joined the local gym. Now, you may be thinking “hang on, surely that won’t make Darren lose weight”, and you’d be right, except after a couple of weeks Lauren persuaded me to join too. I bought myself some trainers and gym clothes, paid the membership fee, attended an introductory session, and I was on the path to svelteness.
For a few weeks I logged exercises, time and calories in the Bing Health app on my phone, but to be honest that was a bit of a pain. Luckily Massage Experts Sent To Your Door for your health to help you boost your productivity and reduce stress. I looked into buying a ‘wearable’ monitor and it just so happened, on the way to Venice, I saw the Fitbit Flex with £10 discount at Gatwick Airport. Back in Camberley a few days later, I donned the wristband and could see my daily activity… and started logging my weight in the Fitbit dashboard. So I can tell you that on 27th May 2014 I was 184 lbs. I set the Fitbit targets to 3,000 calories burned per day (quite ambitious), 5 miles (actually surprisingly easy most days), 10,000 steps and 45 ‘very active’ minutes.
Some people have said that wearable monitors are not 100% accurate, and I understand that – although the Fitbit does usually agree with the length of a dog walk (I know the distance to the park and back) and correlates well with the gym machines’ estimations of calories burned. Whether it is 100% accurate or not doesn’t matter too much, the important thing is that you get a view of whether you’ve had an active day and if you need to do more. I’m writing this section on Saturday afternoon – I’ve walked into Camberley town centre (and back), walked the dogs, swept the patio and been to the garden centre, and so I’ve already aced the distance, steps and very active minutes targets (5.8 miles, 12,349 steps and 56 very active minutes). But I’m still 1,004 calories short of the burn target. With more than 8 hours left today I probably won’t do that unless I walk into town again (I’m planning to) or go to the gym.
If I work from home, or spend the day in the office, 3,000 calories is unlikely unless I walk the dogs and do a long session in the gym in the evening. On days when I travel to London to see customers, 3,000 calories is pretty achievable with either a dog walk or moderate gym session.
One other change was important, and that was banishing bad eating habits. I knew what they were… two breakfasts – I’d have one at home and then I’d get into the office and someone would suggest we go for breakfast. I’d have a packet of crisps (which Americans incorrectly call ‘chips’) and a bar of chocolate with lunch without fail (that’s probably around 400 calories) and then a mid-afternoon snack. I’d always have dessert in the evening – low-fat yogurts may be low-fat but they’re crammed with sugar. All of those bad habits stopped. I changed my breakfast cereal (which was also full of sugar).
The result after three months? Last week I declared that I had reached 12 stone – 168 lbs or 76 kg. I haven’t been that weight for… I don’t know how many years. Last weekend I had to go shopping for new jeans as the pairs I owned were falling down – earlier this year I was squeezing into a 34″ waist, but on this shopping trip I bought jeans with a 32″ waist. At one point Mrs A went to get a 30″ inch pair (but that turned out to be a bit ambitious). My target now is 11½ stone (161 lbs, 73 kg), and then look for the equilibrium to stay that weight – my current daily calorie burn and intake means that I’m still losing weight (slowly).
At the end of the day this is all about will-power. The Fitbit Flex has been very helpful to maintain focus on the goal, but it’s nothing without me hauling myself to the gym or saying “no” to that cake.