The frustrating thing for me when I was carrying 18 stones (115kg) of weight on a 5ft 7 frame, was the compromise I was making on my lifestyle. From a young age I’ve always enjoyed the outdoors and loved adventures in the great outdoors. I’ve spent most of my adult life earning a living as an adventure sports photographer and cameraman. I work in an industry where I create imagery for people that sell healthy lifestyle products, and to an extent I’m expected to blend in with that image too. But my life of travelling and erratic eating patterns, combined with a lazy approach to eating the right foods, meant that over a gradual period of time I piled on the extra pounds and my body shape soon shifted. Before long it became very apparent that I’d drifted a long way from the healthy vibrant image I was endorsing through my photographic work.
On top of a generally slack approach to my eating habits, extra weight piled on after a serious motorcycle accident I was involved in. After my time in hospital I spent months on crutches and almost 2 years getting back to a point where I could think about being fully active again. I wasn’t able to work in this period or enjoy the sports I previously loved. I substituted these things with eating and drinking even more than before and it wasn’t long before I ballooned to a size that scared me.
Scary on all levels
I eventually recovered from my injuries and wanted to get back to being the active person I used to be, pursuing my sports as I did before the accident. I was still trying to live the active lifestyle in a body that just wasn’t built for it. The effects of being so out of shape were having a big impact on the sports I was trying to engage in. Cycling with my mates meant they were forever waiting for me to catch up. Snowboarding with all that extra weight was putting extra stress on my knees and ankles. I really noticed it most on the slopes when I was making more stops to catch my breath and rest my legs compared with my friends. It meant less fun riding the mountain and more time for my friends hanging around and waiting for the chunky guy to catch up! But much worse, I was compromising my own safety when I was skydiving, my biggest passion. I got to a point where I was actually getting too heavy for my parachute and I even had to buy a bigger one to remain safe. Basically my parachute became too small for my body and my comfort zone. Granted, it would still open and save me, but bring me back down to earth at a frighteningly fast pace – putting me and others at risk. This experience was the wake up call I needed, along with a stern warning from my doctor around the same time. It was following a routine health check that I was called back to the surgery to discuss my weight. My doctor was concerned. My BMI was at a point where I was on a fast track to all sorts of scary weight-related diseases. Red flags came up for cholesterol, heart attack risk, diabetes, stroke and osteoarthritis.
Around the same time a friend had taken a picture of me at a wedding and I almost didn’t recognise myself. When I looked at the picture I just saw someone in a body that looked ill. I couldn’t relate to that person. I didn’t like what I was seeing. Beyond the chubby smile I was putting on for the camera was someone who’s body was suffering from years of lazy eating. I was literally eating myself to an early grave.
Seeing that picture of myself made me want my old body back. I stuck the picture on my fridge door as a warning to hopefully stop me from grabbing a sneaky cheese sandwich. Luckily for me I have some healthy friends that work in the fitness industry, and my good friend Matthew Nairn from Mint Fitness put me in touch with a clinical psychoneuroimmunology (cPNI) and nutrition practitioner he had worked with and suggested I contact her, but only if I was serious about getting my health back on track. He told me that Adele Wolstenhulme could help me get back to a healthy weight and good condition, but only if I was committed. He told me she wasn’t into ‘faddy diets’ using quirky magic pills or gimmicks or powders, but instead she advocates sensible, sustainable evidence-based approaches to eating and lifestyle change that would be the start of a whole new level of fitness to set me up for life. I knew that I was going have to dig deep and was going to have to find a new level of commitment and determination if I wanted to really make the change. I pondered over it for a while, and when I felt ready to commit, I made the call.
I met with Adele who explained the simple, yet thorough approach she uses to reverse the adverse effects of poor diets like mine using a combination of cPNI principles and Metabolic Balance. I signed up to have my body evaluated using a blood testing and bioimpedence measurements. I already knew that I was out of shape, but when Adele gave me the results I was shocked to learn that my metabolic age was equivalent to that of a 63 year old man! She determined that my liver was in pretty poor shape and I was definitely on track to an early grave and a miserable time getting there unless I was prepared to make some changes and commit to myself.
Literal melt down
It wasn’t just the fact that Adele had shown me bare facts in black and white detailing my deteriorating body that shocked me. I was already fed up feeling the way I was. Some people kid themselves they’re content being out of shape and say the benefits of eating a care-free diet outweigh the time it takes watching what they eat and getting on top of their eating habits. I was not one of those people and Adele knew it, which is why she agreed to coach me back to health. I followed her instructions and fully committed to the short 90-day metabolic reset. I was amazed at how quickly I started seeing results. Pounds were literally melting off my body while I slept. I was impressed at how fast my metabolism started getting back to peak performance, simply by eating the right foods at the right times during the day. In just 3 months I transformed my body from 110kg at the end of October 2013 (with a waist measuring 110cm and hips at 114cm) to 88.8kg in January 2014 (waist down to 98cm and hips 103.5cm). It was a strict eating plan, which meant I had to follow it to the letter, but it was certainly doable and I'm so glad I did. I even managed to stick to the plan when oversees on various trips. It just meant I had to plan ahead and be a bit more organised than usual, but it was easy to stay on track and keep motivated when the results were so worth it. The planning and organising was a small price to pay for the amazing transformation I was going through. It’s set me up for life with a new approach to food, and the benefits are huge. I feel so much better in my mind and body. I have so much more energy I’m able to put to good use. People around me see the difference and I get comments and compliments all the time. Some think the results are so drastic they think I’ve had surgery. Others don’t even recognise me!
Bye, bye chunky boy
I’m applying my new found zest to areas in my work and sporting life. I’ve got rid of my chunky boy parachute and replaced it with a much less embarrassing smaller one. I’ve had a massive clear out at home and all my big boy clothes have gone. Those expensive shirts I grew out of years ago, but didn’t want to throw away, now fit me perfectly. It’s like I’ve been given a second chance to enjoy living my life without the compromises. Various doctors who’ve seen my results have also congratulated me. One radiologist who inspected my liver in an ultrasound was amazed when I told her my weight just a few months earlier. She was gob smacked at the healthy state of my liver, and said she was expecting it to be in a much worse state than it was. Adele my cPNI therapist / nutritionist puts it down to a determined effort to return my body back to the original way of living, from an evolutionary biology perspective. Basically this means eating the way we’re naturally designed to eat, which means not eating little and often as so many of us do when we snack mindlessly. Whenever I made that trip to the fridge for that extra chunk of cheese I wasn’t really hungry. It was just a habit I had to break. We just need to regain our natural hunger and thirst feelings Adele explained, and stop the snacking. Just eat when we’re hungry and drink when we’re thirsty. Makes complete sense! It’s all based on our ancient physiology from hunter gather days. We haven’t changed much as humans since then, but fast forward a couple of hundred thousand years, and the way we eat and move certainly has. All this has helped me to ‘re-set’ my metabolism, as she put it, so I can use fat for fuel much more efficiently, instead of my body always being in feeding mode, and storing fat all the time. You can’t use fat for fuel if you’re constantly fuelling the body’s tank.
Loosing the bulge allowed me to fix a hernia in my belly button that I’ve struggled with for years. I was previously denied the operation because I was too over weight and had to live with the tear in in my stomach wall. As soon as my doctor saw my weight loss in just 3 months he was actually excited to refer me for treatment. The actual surgeon who performed the operation was equally impressed at the lifestyle change I had made and wanted to know how I did it. I went on to explain the PNI / Metabolic Balance process Adele put me through, which he’s now interested in learning more about to see if its something he can recommend to more of his own patients.
Today I’m enjoying living at a weight I feel excited to be at. I'm not falling faster than the rest of my friends on sky dives and I’m looking forward to snowboarding in the mountains this winter without getting out of breath or worrying about how long my friends have to wait for me. I’m now at a weight where I enjoy life to the full, where my mind can work at its best with a new enthusiasm for life. I’m currently enjoying working as a free-fall cameraman in New Zealand – something I could not have considered a year ago. And I’m already planning new challenges for the rest of the year and beyond. I’ve signed up to run a marathon and I’m going to be embarking on challenges that Adele and the rest of the Bite the Sun team are setting for me, including a high-altitude mountain climb, along with endurance cycle rides and some adventure racing. My goals are ongoing and I want to get my body into a state where I can take on bigger and greater challenges. These are all things that I would have wanted to do this time last year but my body just wouldn’t have allowed me to do. For me there’s no going back. I’ve embarked on one heck of a life changing experience and I have no plans to turn back the clock. Life is for living and that’s exactly what I’m planning on doing from here on in.