I have kept to a regime of diet and exercise since the start of May 2011. In that time I have gone from about 220 pounds and a 40″ waist down to 160 pounds and a 30″ waist. I have replaced all of the clothes in my wardrobe more than once and gone through two belts. I couldn’t have imagined 5 years ago that I might have achieved this sort of weight loss. I think I’ve weighed more or less 210+ pounds for the last decade. I probably weigh as little now as I did 20 years ago when I finished my degree course at the University of Huddersfield.
How did I lose so much weight? Willpower and green tea, I think. Effectively, I cut my calorie intake down to 3/4 than 1/2, hitting a low of around 1000 – 1200 calories at times. I would eat 300 calories of high fibre cereal and a coffee for breakfast, something warm and filling like soup and a fibre-rich yoghurt for lunch, then a fairly standard dinner, with restrained portion size. I cut out cake, biscuits, chocolate and other treats. I switched from tea and coffee with milk during the day to leaf green tea. I also snacked on small portions of vegetables and fruit during the day when I got hungry, alternately with cups of green tea or water to keep my stomach busy and avoiding hunger pangs. I never needed to eat more than cup of soup and a yoghurt for lunch because I never really got hungry – and by the end of the day a light dinner would be all I needed.
I balanced out a whole new diet with exercise, too. I took to riding a stationary bicycle for 20 or 30 minutes a day with some light aerobic exercise to warm up and cool down. More recently I have added weights to the equation along with stretches for my stomach and butt to try shaping up the bits where I have lost my weight. When the weather got too cold for a workout in the garage on the bike, I took to using a workout package on the PlayStation instead, using wrist weights or a resistance band to raise the difficulty of the exercises.
I passed my 40th birthday this month and, like I said, I now weigh as much as I did when I was 20. I had a health check five years ago and another a fortnight ago. I have gone from an obese BMI rating down to a healthy one, and my blood pressure has gone from worrying to acceptable. I eat plenty of fruit and veg, drink plenty of water, and can walk up a couple of flights of stairs without losing my breath (something I couldn’t have said last May).
I got through the process with willpower – and I guarantee without medical intervention you’ll need some of the same. At times I would face a challenge – and willpower saw me through. I would see doughnut, a slice of pizza, or a chocolate bar and my willpower would allow me to walk away or get myself a cup of green tea instead. Now, I can walk into a bakery or supermarket and not worry – I simply don’t feel the call of temptation anymore. I suspect science involved somewhere in the form of dopamine management. Dopamine levels in the brain handle the reward system of the body, so when you eat chocolate or cake you can favourable sensations, but next time you might not get so much unless you eat more or opt for a glazed doughnut instead of a sugar one. Yes, I’m simplifying the concepts and process, but dopamine works somewhere along those lines. I seem to have managed my dopamine delivery system so that simply seeing something sweet and sticky doesn’t kick off a tsunami of pleasurable feelings that must end with cake. I have built up my willpower levels to not only abstain, but actually not feeling bothered at all.
I might feel tempted to write-up more about what I’ve done to lose almost 5 stones over the last year if anyone might get some benefit out of it themselves. I certainly feel a great sense of achievement. Eating healthy and exercise have now become a part of my life that doesn’t feel like a chore. I eat well and exercise because I want to and I enjoy it. By keeping to my diet and exercise, I can feel better as a person and do more. I can run to the end of the street without puffing and panting for the next 10 minutes in recovery. I can try on something size M or even S, and look in the mirror without squirming. It feels good to feel good.