Thursday, 15 September 2011

Compare and contrast

I’m going to talk about my contrasting approach to two important parts of my preparation, namely diet and exercise.

As I alluded to in my last post, the events of the last few years have lead to me having what would politely be described as a somewhat ‘jolly’ appearance.  I’ve usually been able to hide most of my excess weight with a cleverly selected shirt and, when discussing dieting, most people have told me that I don’t look like I need to lose weight – which is very kind, but sadly untrue.

However, the fact remains that as of the second week of August (coinciding with my first diabetes hospital review since I moved house) I was a 30 year old, 5’11” (ish) weighing more than 210lb (about 97kg for all your new money people).  All that added together puts me right on the cusp of obesity (clinically overweight at least).

What I’d lacked for the past few years was clear motivation to actually do something about it.  Moving back to Sheffield felt like a fresh start and if I’m going to run/walk/hobble for 26 and a bit miles, the last thing I want to do is to lug any excess weight around.  So after that hospital appointment I made a change.

I’ve dieted before (and very successfully – I lost over 2 stone in about 5 months back in 2008) but it came at a cost in that it made me miserable.  There are plenty of approaches to losing weight out there – a lot of them accompanied by a bit of a hefty price tag.  But really, losing weight is down to science - eat fewer calories than your body requires to keep you warm and breathing (determined by your BMI) and you’ll lose weight.

My approach to dieting is somewhat gung-ho.  I lost all that weight the first time around by carrying a calorie book everywhere, weighing all my food and recording everything in a spreadsheet.  I was fairly slim (I got down to 174lb I think) but it wasn’t sustainable and when I stopped exercising, the weight went back on.

I’m employing a similar ‘all out attack’ approach this time round, but with some concessions.  I’m not weighing my food, I don’t carry the calorie book and I don’t have a food spreadsheet.  What I have done is dramatically reduce the amount of food I eat and significantly alter the kind of food I eat.  I won’t go into the details but let’s say that salad, homemade fruit smoothies and stir fry have become my friends.

I feel better for it and fortunately the bathroom scales don’t lie – I lost 4lbs last week and 3lbs this week and I currently tip the scales at 202lb (just under 92kg).  I’m fairly proud of that given that I’ve lost it all essentially through diet alone.

That leads me to exercise (sort of).  I actually enjoy exercise so finding my opportunities limited is frustrating at the moment.  My physio told me that swimming would be a good way to get back into physical activity (and should help with my foot) and so I’ve started swimming again.

This is where the contrasting approach comes in.  I used to be a very gung-ho exerciser.  I was a member of a gym and I’d go at least three times a week and swim once a week.  This time around, however, I’m taking a much more measured approach.  Marathon training (or any kind of exercise) isn’t about doing as much as you can as often as you can.  It’s about conditioning your body to be able to gradually do more and more until you reach your goal.

It’s taken me far too long to really realise that, and it takes quite a bit of self control to actually exercise in that mindset.  I’ve set myself a target of swimming twice a week at the moment with an aim to steadily increase the distance I swim.  ‘Old’ me would have jumped in the pool and stubbornly refuse to get out until I’d done 40, 50 or 60 lengths.  ‘New’ me knows that I’ll get to that distance but I’ll do myself no favours if I start out there.  While my diet can afford to be a bit more extreme (for now at least), my approach to exercising can’t.

Looking ahead a few months, I think that I’ll have a slightly steeper training curve than I’d like (when I start running it’ll be shorter distances than I’d need) but I feel confident that I’m starting with the right foundations to get me to where I want to be (coughing my guts up on The Mall in April).

I’m also not so blinkered to know that my diet won’t have to change (more exercise require more calories) and I know that will lead to changes in how I approach my diabetes control.

But for now, I’m losing weight, exercising and have a sensible blood sugar level, all for the first time in a long time.  I’ve got another hospital check up next week and I’ll blog again after that before my long anticipated week’s holiday.

As always, if you want to get in touch or fancy a general chat, I can be found on Twitter as @Broomowl or mail me on

Thanks for reading.  Andy.

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