A Healthier Designer

A Healthier Designer: Part 2

Between January 2014 and January 2015 I lost over 2 stone in weight, dropped 2 waist sizes and became happier within myself than I’d been for years. This is the story of how I achieved it…

Way back in 2011, I wrote about being ‘A Healthier Designer‘. I raised my concerns about the effects that our industry can bring on our health if we’re not careful.

I raised a point that if you’re a work-from-home freelancer and not thinking about your own health then you could find yourself in the situation where you don’t leave your home for 3-5 days. It brought about a fairly large discussion both in the comments and on twitter.

I detailed my own personal story of being overweight for quite a lot of my life, especially since I entered into the industry. I’ve often found it very hard to lose weight apart from a period in 2003 when I lost 3 stone in about 3 months, it was on purpose and I felt great but couldn’t keep it up long-term.

When I wrote the original post back in 2011, I talked about how I managed to lose weight by focusing on a new healthier lifestyle and entirely changing my diet. I was extremely strict, and un-knowingly sent myself down a path which resulted in a trip to hospital.

As I started to lose weight, I thought I was winning, everything was controlled. I knew what I was eating and when and because it was working I didn’t want to change anything, and didn’t. The meals I ate were the same for months on end. That was my downfall. Shortly after I wrote about my diet I began to feel some excruciating pain which I thought was muscular pain and treated it with pain-killers. It got gradually worse and one morning I woke up and couldn’t stand up straight. In order to relieve the pain I had to lean or sit. I ended up in hospital with a compacted bowel. Gross. I’d been so strict with myself that I had in fact not eaten enough of the right things. There clearly wasn’t enough ‘roughage’ and definitely not enough diversity.

Daddy Fat

You hear that women put on weight when they’re pregnant. I now truly believe that Dad’s also put on weight when kids come on the scene. I was still going to the gym quite actively before both Addison and Nyah were born yet I still managed to sky-rocket my weight again by the time Nyah turned 1 month old.

Around that time, I was once again my heaviest weight and I was also going through a terrible time of male post-natal depression. My wife went through post-natal depression with both children and it looks like I ended up with it the second time around because I was so concerned about what she was going through. This taken from nct.org.uk explains a little bit:

There is also a moderate but clear link between a dad experiencing depression and his partner also suffering from depression.

Now, focusing on your own well being when you’re trying to control depression is exhaustive at best because you really don’t care.

However, having dealt with plenty of challenges throughout my life I knew that one of the best ways to get a grip was to take control.

At this point in time, I wasn’t going to the gym, wasn’t keep an eye on the food I was eating and was touching 14stone 3lbs. 36inch waist jeans felt uncomfortable, and there may have been 38inch jeans being worn. I was wearing anything and everything as baggy as I could. Let me just post the ‘before’ data:

Weight: 14stone 3lbs
Waist: 36-38inch
Clothing: Extra-Large

February 2014 and the introduction of Slimming World

Jen had been wanting to lose some weight and tried weight watchers, having visited one of their get-togethers she realised it wasn’t for her. After speaking with a friend she happened upon Slimming World. I did my usual “these things are all the same and never work” explanations. She loaned a load of the Slimming World books from a few people and we sat down one night to look through the things that you could eat. I’m not going to lie, the food looked amazing and the variation of what you could eat was incredible.

I didn’t understand, nor still do understand the over-easy, under-easy, healthy B or whatevertheheck they call them options but we started it and kept at it.

We were eating meals like ‘Burger in a Bowl‘, ‘Beef Ragu‘, Chicken Curry, Chicken and Chips (no joke) and load of other amazing meals.

This is what a typical day looked like for me;

Breakfast: Special K Cereal Bar + Cup of Tea
Mid-Morning: Piece of Fruit
Lunch: Sushi + Muller Light Yoghurt + Can of Diet Coke
Dinner: One of the above meals or anything from the Slimming World books that we wanted at the time
After Dinner: Chocolate (another no joke) 2x party size chocolate items

Note: I was once again off alcohol and maybe having one drink per 2 months if at all.

This time around I wanted to track as much as I could. I opened up the WeightBot app on my iPhone, put in my starting weight and then picked a Saturday morning to do my weekly weigh-in. Within the first few weeks I wasn’t doing any physical exercise but I started losing weight. Again, I’d expected an initial drop and then everything to level off. This time around, everything carried on in the right direction, week by week I started to lose a little bit of weight. I would lose 1 or 2lbs every single week by following routine above.

I felt like I was eating better than I ever had in my life with massively varied meals.

March 2014 and the introduction of Strava

Pete is the avid runner in our team at traveljunction. We’d discussed several times in passing that we’d go out for a run together on a lunch time. I’d put it off countless times before I bit the bullet. I knew I’d struggle, my lungs were weak and I knew I’d have issues with my asthma at first. We settled on an introductory route of 1.5miles. I nearly died. I think I did more walking than running and nearly ate my inhaler at one point.

But I didn’t give up, if I was at work I’d go running with Pete, if I was at home I’d go for a run by myself, tracking all of my runs on Strava. Work runs were fairly flat, home runs were awful as I live on a hill and every road around me is a hill. It certainly brought around some hard cardio work.

At the end of March I started back at the gym doing my weight training. Weight training is my thing, if I could do any form of physical exercise it would be weight training. I started with a variation on previous workouts which were ok, I got some strength back but not a huge amount.

By the end of April 2014, I weighed in at 13stone. I’d lost over 14lbs and could physically feel the difference in myself. Running up the stairs was easy, playing with the kids was easy and I just felt more comfortable overall.

April to July

I continued running with Pete, you could say that I became addicted. I think that, combined with my diet and weight training had the biggest impact on my weight loss. As by the end of July I’d hit goal after goal. My weight at the end of July was 12stone 2lbs.

In total up to that point I’d lost 2stone 1lbs of weight. An incredible feeling.

The end of July, however, brought something which would change my routine. An office move. At the old office we had a shower which we could use when we wanted to go for a run, the new office location didn’t have one so my runs with Pete would have to stop. I was petrified of the impact that could have on my weight loss.

But the fact is, it didn’t. Not even a little bit. I was the lowest weight I had been since 2006 and I was able to maintain the steadiness of my weight. There were no increases and I was able to drop weight if I gave it enough focus.

August and thinking about what I do next

When you hit goal after goal, you can tend to get a bit complacent. I’d never expected to hit any goals after the first one. I hit many plateau’s where I just couldn’t break through to the next level of weight loss and nearly gave up but with some determination I carried on.

I figured that now being 7-8 months in on this journey I needed to look at where I was headed and what my ‘next goals’ were going to be. I doubted that just generally keeping an eye on my eating habits and going to the gym 3-4 times a week would enable me to break in to the mid-11stone area. I should note that my lowest weight was achieved in August and I hit 11stone 13lbs.

The reasons why, my current routine and what the future holds…

Having hit 11stone 13lbs in August, I knew that would be all I could muster for a while, I was cutting my intake pretty heavily (still the right food) whilst still training. It was my decision to not commit too heavily to continuing this. I wanted to spend time building some muscle whilst not focusing on weight loss for a while. I levelled off at around 12st 2lbs and would fluctuate +/- 1lb from week to week.

I began to think about why I originally started this new journey and where it would lead me. I wanted to be ‘better’, I wanted to be ‘fitter’ and most of all I wanted to be able to sustain the amount of energy which is needed to chase around after two little girls. I’d definitely got that far so I needed to think about where I was headed next. I’d clearly shown that I wasn’t in it for the short term, as I write this its nearly 12 months to the day of when I started.

I changed my entire mindset to thinking that nothing is immediate, everything takes time and you’ll never achieve anything long-lasting in the short-term. I’m in this for as long as it takes, I keep thinking about a 5 year mark and then run through ideas of what I can do in 5 years. I have varying goals like run Tough Mudder, succeed in achieving ripped abs (I’ve only got close once in my life) and a load of other crazy stuff.

I know of quite a few people in our industry now that do some sort of training similar to my own, some more intense than others. One of my best friends, Craig, works at proteincard.com and has previously achieved what I’d love too. Danny Keane, a fellow designer and now WBFF Pro works his butt off and posts regularly to YouTube / Instagram, Heather Noonan-Hargroves and Ashley Baxter  both train weights too as well as our very own Tim Gale. It’s great having someone sat right in front of you who does weight training so you can discuss routines. The likes of Doc Parsons and Richard Wiggins are avid cyclists and Rachel Andrews and James Young are keen runners. It’s nice to know that there are other people in the industry doing similar things to myself and to see their successes.

I don’t really talk about my training, nor am I yet at the stage of posting before and afters. A few people have seen me over the past 12 months and noticed a difference, which is nice. This year, as I begin training that little bit harder towards my goals I may start actively talking about it. Who knows.

Current State

Currently, these are the stats.

Weight: 12stone 2lbs
Waist: 33inches (awkward as hell)
Clothing: Large or Slim Fit

I’m continuing with the slimming world menus, they really do work. I often eat more protein based meals due to my training. My diet is far from ‘clean’ but it is far cleaner than it probably has been in the past, hence the maintaining of the lower weight.

I train 4 times a week and currently it looks a bit like this:

Saturday: Chest
Sunday: Arms
Tuesday: Shoulders
Thursday: Back

Arms is the shortest work out and it last about 40-45minutes. The other three can take anywhere up to 1hr 30mins depending on how far I want to go.

If you’d like to know my specific workout, let me know in the comments and I’ll post it up in a separate post.

In January I shifted my routines to focusing on building strength which is going well and I’ll continue focusing on this for the next 3-4 months. Then I’m going to spend the next 6 months focusing on a cut which will be tough, I’m looking forward to the challenge but know it will be a hard slog.

Sticking with it…

Throughout all of the last 12 months, I’ve done one thing and that sticking with the process. You hit plateau’s, there are times when you find it hard, times when you can’t workout but if you stick to the process and aim for things which aren’t time-sensitive you can do anything you put your mind to.

I hope this helps someone.

Published by

Gavin

Head of Interaction Design at DigitalDWP.