My Weighloss Story
One of the many stigmas that gamers face is that we gamers (and geeks) spend a reasonably large part of our lives sitting in front of a screen, lying in front of a TV or just generally being quite sedentary people. It fits right into the narrative of the badly socialised, overweight and unhealthy lifestyle that many paint us with. In truth, for the most part, we are guilty of much of this – we often don’t get enough exercise and opt for easy and unhealthy meals when we get stuck into a focused night or few days of gaming after a new release we’ve been looking forward to.
Gaming is a particularly time-consuming hobby, and that means that we want to squeeze as much time out of every day as we can to enjoy it. Especially those of us with 9-to-5 jobs, we tend to forego much of what constitutes a balanced healthy lifestyle to get a couple more hours of gaming in.
Usually this means we sleep less, don’t exercise and eat poorly.
I know I certainly did.
How I Got This Way
To understand why we need to worry about lifestyle and why my story is important, you should know how I ended up at my worst.
I’ve struggled to a large part with weight for most of my adult life, going on various diets and lifestyle plans or even to weight-loss programmes and managing to bounce between somewhere in the region of 150 and 130kg. I’d diet really consistently for a few months, and slowly lose interest, either because I got bored of the exercise or I stumbled in the eating plans and couldn’t mentally recover from it – or meet a pretty girl and stopped worrying about it.
One day just before Christmas in December 2015, I stood on a scale.
I’d let myself get to a point where getting off the couch was a struggle and barely able to stay awake for more than a few hours at a time without feeling fatigued and on the verge of narcoleptic. I’d lived for so long on KFC and litres of orange juice and Coke and without paying attention to myself or my weight and appearance that I’d unintentionally reached rock bottom.
I say unintentionally but that’s not true. I knew I was doing harm to my body and I knew I was gaining weight, but I never quantified it to the degree it was actually happening because facing that truth meant making real changes, and I was an addict to food and laziness – and it would mean giving up time from my love of gaming.
The truth was that while I maintained a balance between a social life and gaming, I maintained no attempt at a healthy lifestyle.
Let’s Talk About Diet
To this day I consider reaching that weight and that point in my life as a good thing. It allowed me a stern and harsh reality check that I desperately needed to finally do something real about it. I had finally, after years of ignoring the issue and taking it far too lightly it was finally as real as “do something about it or die.”
So I did.
I downloaded the Real Meal banting food lists and on the first day of 2016 I hit the ground running. I don’t want to focus too much on the precise method and diet I used because I don’t believe in the cookie cutter one-size-fits-all approach to this.
I went shopping and bought an entire month’s food supply and spent the whole of Sunday cooking individual meals that I put into plastic containers and froze – 30 individual meals, one for each day of January. And I did this again in February. And March. In fact, I managed to keep doing this for the whole of 2016, and all the while I did no exercise.
My weight flew off – in 6 months I was at 150kg and another 6 I was down to 130kg. It was dropping so quickly that I started weighing other things on the scale to make sure it wasn’t broken. A year later I was 55kg lighter and mentally I was bouncing between severe imposter syndrome and incredible self-pride.
It was “meal prep” – preparing a month’s worth of meals in one day and simply defrosting and eating them in the evenings – that I attribute to my success. I designed the changes to my diet and lifestyle around minimising the impact on my life and subsequently my free time and maximising the return on my efforts, which was the most important thing to me because it meant not having to give up time spent watching my favourite series or playing my favourite game.
To date I have lost 65kg, putting me at 120kg, which is still overweight of course, but I’m not done yet.
Let’s Talk About Exercise
I consider not exercising in that first year as my biggest failure. I kept making excuses to myself all the way through 2016 – rhetoric like I’d do damage to myself if I exercise now and I should rather wait until I am thinner before I start were the excuses I used and I regret not starting with exercise sooner.
Sometime during 2016 I decided that I needed something to motivate me to start exercising, so I signed up to hike the Fish River Canyon in Namibia in May 2017. Even still, I put off starting for another few months using the same rhetoric I’d been using.
At the beginning of 2017, at 130kg I was finally mentally ready to start exercising. I started by doing the C25K running programme, which slowly over 8 weeks leads you into being able to run a 5K. I highly recommend it – its 20 to 30 minutes three times a week and gives you a really great introduction into some real cardio exercise.
In March 2017 I did my first 5k in a time of 52:40. By May I was hitting 38:00 pretty consistently.
In May 2017 I finished the 87km Fish River Canyon hike.
Now, don’t get me wrong – I struggled a lot on this hike. About 1/4 of the weight of my bag was carried by others and I reached a point on day 2 where even stepping down off a rock 10cm high would cause severe pain in my quads, but I soldiered on through the pain and (with much complaining and a little help from my friends) I finished it. I proved to myself on that hike that I am stronger than I gave myself credit for during it. I’ll revisit it and I’ll do it strong and better because I want to prove to myelf that I can.
I wanted to tell you what I’ve managed not as a vehicle to boast, but rather because I want you to know that even if you think you that can’t do it or that it’s out of reach for you, you’re wrong. If you had told me in December 2016 that I’d hike 90km through a desert, I’d have laughed in your face.
My Lifestyle Now
Don’t think that you have to make extreme changes for life – rather focus on aiming to get to a sustainable lifestyle.
These days I don’t take everything to extremes like I did last year. It’s the reason why it’s taken me 6 months to lose 10kg vs the 55kg I lost in the 12 months before it.
I’ve incorporated other people in my lifestyle, like doing the Parkrun every Saturday morning with my parents or hiking with friends – having the support structure that comes along with having those people around you is utterly critical. They make you accountable and they encourage you to do better and keep going.
I still run three times a week and I still try my best to stay off carbs and eat under about 2000 calories a day, but I am starting to shift from an extreme diet to a sustainable lifestyle, while I shift my mental focus from life-or-death to do-it-because-I-enjoy-it-and-its-keeping-me-healthy. This is the most difficult shift I’ve had to do because it creates guilt when I eat something I shouldn’t or if I miss a run day because I’ve been so on point until now.
I still play games for a good few hours a day, but now spending an hour on getting fitter or a few minutes making sure I eat better is part of life.
I also haven’t been to bed past 11pm on a weeknight in months because sleep is just as important as diet and exercise.
The Harsh Truth
Studies available to us around the subject of dieting and weight loss are intensely contradictory. I’m never going to be able to convey the minefield that is weight loss, both physical and mental, in 1000 words. There is a reasonable amount of evidence, particularly based on studies from the American National Institute of Health (NIH) around the genetics and effects of rapid weight-loss on metabolism and your body and its eye opening. It deals with how weight loss will slow and why so many people put weight back on after losing it, and being armed with this knowledge up front can help you fight off the want to give up once you hit that inevitable plateau and keep going.
It’s incredibly difficult to find any real and solid facts or direction from this information and I’ve long since given up trying. The real truth is that it’s only by trial and error that you’ll find something that works for you – remembering one simple golden rule – Calories in must be less than calories out. No matter what diet you’re following, whether its low carb, low fat or any number of variations thereof, you’ll never get anywhere if you consume more calories than you burn. Fact.
There will be days where you will feel like you haven’t accomplished enough or you haven’t accomplished anything. These are the hardest days. Making sure you stay mentally happy and healthy while you undertake this monumental task is difficult and it will tax you to the absolute extreme.
There will be days that you don’t succeed. There will be days where you don’t eat what you’re supposed to or just can’t bring yourself to go to gym or go for a run but don’t beat yourself up about it. I always find that people judge themselves far too harshly when this happens. You can succeed 19 times out of twenty and you don’t pat yourself on the back for it but you mentally beat yourself up for that one failure. Don’t call it a failure because it isn’t – you just didn’t succeed that day. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and hit the ground running again.
Even If I never lose another kilogram in my life I’ll never go back to the way I was before I started this journey. I’m infinitely healthier and infinitely happier than I’ve ever been – all for an hour of work a few times a week.
That’s a no brainer.