Thursday, 17 March 2011

My Fitness Story... - Garry

Welcome to the My Fitness Story... series, which has now become a regular Thursday feature on this blog. Today's contribution is by Garry AKA Him Up North, who is a good Twitter friend and blogs at The Blog Up North, which is always a fantastic read. Garry also designed the badge for this series as he has the ability I lack in design! I knew he had a fitness story to tell, so I asked him if he would write a post for this series. He took a bit of persuading that his story was worth telling but, as I have said before, this series encompasses the full range of experiences that people have with diet and fitness. The fact that he has a personal experience means he has a story to tell, so he wrote it, and as always, it's a great read. Garry had to lose weight for medical reasons, having never been on a diet in his life so he had to work out how to lose the weight. Here is his story. 
Two years ago, a doctor told me to lose weight. I had a health problem which was being exacerbated by carrying a bit too much timber. “A stone or a stone and a half,” he said.
Okay, I thought. Which limb do I cut off...? Seriously, I was at a complete loss.
I’d never tried to lose weight. I wasn’t a gym type. My story, like many men, was one of gradual middle-age spread (ie my age was spreading to my middle). But my choice was clear. Lose the weight or face surgery and quite possibly pain. Lots of pain.
So I assessed my lifestyle and realised I was doing many things wrong:
  • I was eating the wrong things, often at the wrong times. Working shifts meant I was relying on convenience foods (so called because they belong in a convenience) and eating at odd times of the day.
  • I was far too sedentary. I drove everywhere, even short journeys such as the school run, and got virtually no exercise. Because my job is a) desk based and b) has no long break that also reduced scope for activity.

As Gandhi would have it, I had to be the change I wanted to see. Pretty obvious, really.
So my plan was a simple one.
My diet became more virtuous. I cut out bread altogether because up to that point, what I ate had been something of a yeast feast. I reduced my calorific intake by cutting out snack foods and sweet things.
It was bloody hard – I was a grazer – and the lure of the biscuit barrel was great. But I had my motivation – threat of pain – and gradually “educated my appetite”. I could eat little without feeling hungry.
My lifestyle became more active. I left the car behind for any trips around town. Much to the kids’ chagrin, we started walking to and from school (which just happens to be up a steep hill – cue much redness and sucking of air in the early days).
Okay, I didn’t take up trampolining or orienteering. But I did start walking just for the exercise; a four and a half mile route with hills and stuff became my workout.
Because my target was a statistical one, I weighed myself regularly. To my astonished delight I found I was actually losing weight. It was slow and gradual. There were times when I lost nothing or actually went back up. I realised my metabolism meant it was a high wire act with very little margin for failure.
But I had my target and I knew my changed habits could work. I was down to my target weight in about ten months. My regime, such as it was, had become normal. By the time I saw my consultant, my weight was no longer a contributing factor and I avoided the surgeon’s scalpel. Phew.
However, with the threat went the motivation. I played fast and loose on that high wire, choosing to dive into the safety net too often (or the crisps stash as it’s known). Some of the weight is back and I’m verging on disliking it all again.
I realise getting fitter and losing weight was and is very much a journey without end. Just a series of signposts. It may be time to embark upon it again.
Many thanks to Garry for telling his story. I'm sure men can end up feeling a bit inadequate when they see magazines like Men's Fitness which show men with bulging six packs (in the right way!) that give the impression that you have to do lots of exercise in order to get and stay fit. It doesn't have to be that way if it's not for you - simple changes that you build into your lifestyle are more effective for many as they are easier to keep doing when they become part of your normal routine. 

Please share any experiences you have in the comments below. Alternatively, if you have a fitness story to tell, then get in touch with me on Twitter or via the email address on the About me page. I will link back to any blog you write if you wish, or you can remain either partly or fully anonymous.
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