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.

I interview Sarah Parmenter

Hi Sarah, a big thanks for taking part in the interview!

1. Full Name and Age please. 🙂

Sarah-Jane Parmenter – not long turned 25

2. Favourite Biscuit and Drink.

It’s got to be Oreo and De-caff coffee,  I’m allergic to caffeine which somewhat limits my coffee consumption but I’m partial to Starbucks Christmas coffee!

3. Last Book you read and last movie you saw.

Last book I read was The Four Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferris, the classic that I think most web people have read,  and last movie I saw was Quantum of Solace.

4. Where and When did it all start?

When I was 3 my Dad sat me on our Atari and taught me how to play a game called “Kings Quest 3”  – but on a web design front, it all started when I was 14, so that would have been 1997. I remember having the Internet which charged you per minute and thinking chat rooms were amazing. My friends and I used to use Geocities as personal homepages for photos of our friends and family. My best friend had a page of her family photos, another friend thought it would be quite funny to get me to see if I could hack into her account (yahoo security wasn’t that hot back then, all I had to know was her dogs name to change the password) and change all her pictures to Transvestites (running joke as her family were all above 6ft) instead. The Geocities UI was clunky and instead I learnt the HTML to quickly enable me to change the pictures every night after she changed them back. She never knew it was me and I only owned up to it about a year ago.

When I had grown up and become a bit more mature (!!) our family friend from Australia came over who is a web designer carving his name out in the Australian web design world. He handed me a copy of Dreamweaver and I decided to tinker with it every night after school to see what I could do. I then had a brief stint in casting, whereby I did more work on the company website than casting people in commercials, I decided from that point on to go solo and try and get into the web design world, having no overheads and nothing to pay out for made this an easy step for me.

I then built up the business from my Mum and Dad’s spare room, after 18 months the business had outgrown the room and I looked into renting an office suite in Leigh-on-Sea, this I did and employed a friend of mine to help me run the business. In 2007 I bought my house with Stuart and it coincided with the girl who worked for me wanting to move to London with her boyfriend. The building in which our office resided had been refurbished, and not for the better – we found we were taking clients out rather than seeing them at the office, so it seemed a good transition to move out of the office and set back up again with a dedicated office at home, and this is where I am today. You’d be suprised how many of the well known web designers work from home!

5. Is there anyone in the industry who you look up to?

Andy Clarke and Twitterers, Andy is a web standards guru and genuinely nice guy, we keep in contact and he always makes me laugh, I’ve learnt so much from him and his books. People on twitter are just amazing too – always willing to help and offer guidance. Twitter has been an amazing tool for me, I’ve learnt so much from different people.

6. What was a key factor in your professional growth and development?

The Australians. As Roger is an insomniac he’s practically online 24/7 so whenever I got stuck I was able to get an answer quickly and finish what I was trying to do. This is still the same now, he’s an amazing person to have on board.

7. Where does your heart lie, with design or development? And why.

Development, I think. I get more satisfaction out of development as design is classed as art and it’s so subjective, I do absolutely love designing however I don’t like the process of getting sign off, where you grapple with the typical “make my logo bigger” comments. I have had the opportunity to work with other designers recently, this has been great as you both have common goals and objectives. I’d ideally love to fill up my diary with other designers work!

8. Out of these 3, WordPress, Light CMS and Expression Engine, which do you like the most and why?

Expression Engine without a doubt. Andy Clarke introduced me to it and it’s capabilities overwhelm me, it’s just an amazing tool that can be used in so many situations, I’m still learning about it but I’ve managed to gain quite a  bit of knowledge in a small amount of time just experimenting with it.

9. Where did the name YouKnowWho come from?

I was browsing around the Internet and came across a link at the bottom of a website that said “Designed by You Know Who” –  I was curious and clicked it, it went to a totally differently named company site and it became clear they did that for inquisitive people to click on. I then decided I loved the name and the potential it could have for future marketing and snapped it up there and then.

10. What is the biggest project you have worked on?

A personal one actually. One Valentines day we decided to flood our local privately owned shopping area with heart shaped balloons and hand written cards simply saying “Love You Know Who” with our contact details on the back – we had over 3000 balloons and to pump up and over 400 cards to write. We had a team and went out at 5am putting them in front of the shops. By the time everyone started going to work the area was flooded, it looked amazing.

11. Throughout your entire career to date, is there any particular problem you’ve ran in to more than once? Clients, Jobs, Work, Family?

Clients – ones that barter with your prices are bad news, never do a job on the cheap as a one off, they will always expect further work at that price. Never send anything over without them paying their invoice in full first and always get a design brief. If I had lived by these rules the first 2 years in business I would have done a lot better!

12. What do you consider to be the biggest contributing factor to your success?

I don’t believe I am successful yet – I think I do my job very well and that it’s unusual for a girl to do this job. I make mistakes, we all do, but I like to think my mistakes are kept to a minimum and always try to learn from them quickly. The definition of success for me is the ability to hand pick clients you want to work with and disregard those you don’t, I’m not in that position yet!

13. Where do you get your inspiration from and where are you most inspirational?

I find inspiration mainly online. There are great galleries for almost anything on the internet, I especially love faveup.com. When not online though, it’s generally about lunchtime when I’m walking the dog, I’ll come up with a crazy idea for a website or realise the best way to mark-up a site.

14. As we all know you’re a mac girl, what are your 3 favourite apps?

Adium, LittleSnapper and Things.

15. What other projects are you currently working on?

I’m currently in e-commerce mode, I think due to the economic downturn people are placing budgets online rather than retail stores. I’m currently working on a skateboarding store, a fancy dress store and a DIY store.

16. How do you balance your time between work and normal life?

I’m rubbish at it. I used to be excellent when I had an office as it was a  15 minute drive away and quite scary when no one was in there, but now I’m in my home office, I’m rubbish. I’m always checking my email or working out what app might help me run my business better, but because I enjoy what I do, it never feels like work.

17. Where do you see the future being?

I would love my future to be in designing and building top notch sites for other designers. I’ve had a taste of this recently and it’s great as they know why you might want to leave whitespace or not make a logo 500% of normal size. I went to a psychic recently and she said I’m going to be doing a lot of talking via work based travel, which could mean conferences – this is something I’d really love to get into as it lends itself perfectly to me also being in performing arts.

18. You’re a well known designer, do you class yourself as famous?

Not at all!! I’d be surprised if many people had heard of me, I haven’t written any books or spoken at any conferences yet so I don’t think my name is out there as much as others, I’m gradually building a profile but I think because I’m relatively young and female it’s a tougher job – not using the female card but as the majority of web designers are male I think it’s easier for them to align themselves with other male web designers.

19. Are you heading to any conferences over the next year?

Yes, I’m hoping to go back to FOWD next year and I really want to get to various workshops of Andy Clarke’s.

20. If you had one goal to reach (anything) within 3 years, what would it be?

To have my own studio down here with 2 others working with me. I’ve only ever wanted a small studio, not an office, a studio – that’s my dream.

21. If you had one piece of advice for anyone wanting to venture in to the your industry, what would it be?

Specialise. Don’t try and be clever being mediocre at loads of things just be fantastic in one.

p.s. Random questions from myself, theatre and web design? How did they become mixed?

Good question. I’ll go with the short answer 🙂 – They don’t really mix I guess, theatre is something I go into in my own time, it’s a great escape from sitting at a desk all day. Web design is my job, that I’m lucky enough to love too. Sometimes there is an overlap, like when I did the VoxPops at FOWA this year, it was like water off a ducks back as I’ve done TV in the past (that’s a whole other story) and I know enough about web design to competently interview people, that was a win win overlap for me 🙂

Thanks ever so much for taking time out of your schedule Sarah and answering questions for Floobe.

Sarah Parmenters Blog – www.sazzy.co.uk

Company Website – www.youknowwhodesign.co.uk

Twitter – www.twitter.com/sazzy

Expectant Clients are lost in translation

Clients are brilliant, they really are! They come to you when they need something, they ask you to do the job you love and they pay handsomely for it! I mean come on, we get paid for doing something we would be doing anyway. We’re certainly not going to argue with them. Whilst it’s one thing getting clients to say yes, this can often seem to be the easy part of a growing client relationship.

Designers and developers can strike up relationships with clients unlike most other industries, this is down to developing their ideas into a reality. It’s great that we can produce print design for national coverage, web design for the masses or a logo recognisable by the world for years to come.  I try my hardest with clients, I’ve got to work with them for at least a couple of months so it’s the least I can do. I learn from them and pass on my own knowledge where I can, and now there are even clients who I can  firmly call friends. Becoming friends with clients can be disastrous long term as they expect most things to be done on a ‘friends’ basis from there on out, however the real friends clients will always treat business as business and friendship as friendship. Both should be kept as far away from each other as possible and both parties should know where to draw the line.

Once that relationship is built it’s all well and good knowing where to draw the line but what happens before that time, before your relationship is welded together like solid steel. Is there a place in time where we can firmly put our hand up and shout STOP! at the top of our voices to be heard above the droning sound of clients saying I want, I want, I want. Yes there is, and there is also a reason why clients expect too much.

Clients Categories

Depending on the category of client you work with you would usually have an initial meeting to gauge and measure up the client and see if they’re on the level, if they know their www’s from there @’s and their http’s from their ftp’s. The reason why some clients become so expectant is all down to them not knowing what to expect, they don’t know how the Internet works, they don’t know how dynamic websites are built or how ecommerce software is constructed so in not knowing what to expect they expect everything.

This has dire consequences on how a project plays out over the course of weeks and months. Your initial quote or proposal ends up seeming inadequate for what the client expects and thus the relationship breaks down fairly quickly as the client thinks you’re doing half the job they expected. The supplier ends up pulling hair and banging their heads in retaliation for the ensuing mental breakdown and thanks to every action having an equal and opposite reaction if nothing is done in the first place it will always happen.

You could say the blame cannot be pointed at any individual and that it’s just one of those things but it is one of those things that needs ironing out BEFORE a project starts. What can we do to help clients understand what they’re getting or how things are going to work? Is it up to us to sit them down for a days seminar to teach them about the great interweb? I’d like to think I could give them a few hours of my time to them, however my time costs money. Do I charge the client for their little lesson, would that put them further out of joint and cause them to run for the hills? I suppose it depends on the person and how various outcomes differentiate a good client from one you would rather avoid.

Adii from Woothemes and radiiate mentioned today on twitter that he learned in 2008 to give an approximate price to a prospective client in the first email he sends to them so they know how much his/their services are going to cost. This, to me is a great way to pre-empt a situation and at the end of the day neither you or the client have the time to go running round in circles over facts or money.

In reality money isn’t everything, it’s the job at hand and the services you provide that you would like the client to understand and what you’ve quoted for is what you have understood the job to entail and you’ve costed for this accordingly.  Anyone worth their salt engages into a contract with a client because they want to work with them, it is our choice to take the work on. It would be nice for clients to understand that we do what we do because we know how to do it. We want to work with them to get to an outcome where they can stand on their own two feet in the world of the web, where they can grow and establish themselves as a recognised brand whether locally, nationally or internationally.

So here is to a few changes in 2009 where clients and suppliers can work together amicably, in a relationship where both know where they stand and what services are going to be delivered.

Would be very interested to hear views on the subject.