Five years ago

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How it started

Strangely, very few people actually remember the time I was morbidly obese.
I remember going to the Dr one day and explaining how I always seemed susceptible to illness. How my chest felt tight at night, and the hunger. Oh, the hunger. If I didn't get a regular fix of sugary, fatty food I'd become faint, unable to reason and extremely grumpy.
My Dr told me I had the early signs of diabetes and that given my current stats, I probably wouldn't make it to 40. This was 5 years ago. At 6 foot tall and 31 years of age, I weighed in at 336lbs. That's 153kg's metric.

If I wasn't working I was sleeping. And if I wasn't sleeping I was eating.

The funny thing is that it all seemed to happen without me realising it. Less than 3 years before, I'd been a regular gym goer. I worked out around 4 times a week and watched what I ate. I knew refined foods were fundamentally bad for me, and yet here I was tucking into a frozen lasagne with a side of cheap garlic bread.
It’s sad really. The marketers would let you believe that the ready meal you just bought is as healthy and nutritious as a home cooked meal, while being far more convenient. Fast food once a week? Sure, it’s not like you do it every day.

The problem is that it all adds up. Most of us, especially if you’re like me in the tech industry spend most of our day sat down in front of a monitor. An extra 100 calories each day starts adding up very quickly.
For me it was worst. I’d filled my day full of diet foods. You know those supposed low fat meals and snacks that are supposedly better for you. Only, they’re not.
A lot of nutritional ridiculousness started way back in the 60’s when scientists thought that obesity was caused by fat and that all calories where the same.
What happened next was that food/nutritional companies wanting to cash in on this common misconception, was that they started selling reduced fat, high sugar alternatives. Why the high sugar content? Well, when you reduce the amount of fat in something, one of the ways to make it still taste good is to add more sugar. Also, because of the myths around nutrition, sugar wasn’t believed to be the cause of obesity, so adding more of it shouldn’t be a problem.

It was after realising the above that I took the long error prone journey of getting my health back. Notice, though that when I say health I don’t mean becoming skinny. It’s a sad fact that we often associate skinny with fit. I’ve been there and I can tell you, I was only slightly healthier than when I was obese. Sure, my blood sugar was normal as was my cholesterol. But my weak back muscles were crippling me as was my poor cardio performance.

What I changed

Before I started working on my fitness, I was under the impression that merely changing my diet would be the magical fix I needed. This started with started calorie counting, which as anyone who’s done this knows that while you might see some improvements initially, your progress will eventually cease. Not to mention the crazy cravings you’ll get caused by the reduction in calories.

Next up was Atkins. I really tried hard to persevere with this and I have to admit, I did loose an incredible amount of weight with it. My biggest problem was the lack of carbs, including complex carbs. I guess we’re all different and some athletes out there can perform at optimum efficiency on a low carb diet. Unfortunately I’m not one of them. I need carbs to help me concentrate when I’m programming and I need carbs when I’m doing my power lifting and HIIT workouts.

It was because of my inability to workout at my max that I stumbled upon Paleo. Now, I know some people think Paleo is also low carb. But it’s anything but. What it does promote is the consumption of unrefined foods. Grass fed beef, very little in the way of grains. Complex, slow burn carbs such as sweet potatoes.
Eating, like this, not only did I manage to stave off the cravings and loose body fat, but I was also able to consistently increase intensity and add weight to my lifts each week.

Where I am now

I weighed myself this morning and came in at 103kg/227lbs. That’s a 50kg loss over 5 years. It may seem like a long time, but truth be told I actually lost a large portion of that in the last two years. With my biggest strength gains coming in the last year.
The first few years I was making the usual mistakes and taking in the propaganda from a variety of so called experts. I’ll detail those work out myths and what my current regime looks like another time. But let’s just say, most of the stuff that works as far as fitness was discovered in the 50’s.

If there is one thing I wish I known when I turned 28, it’s that if you give your body and mind a reason to not improve each day, then it’s an all so slippery downward slope that happens ever so quickly. Most of the time without you ever realising it before it’s too late.

Jonathan Conway

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