If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I’ve been overposting and oversharing the fuck out of my fitness regime and diet. That only really tells a part of the story, so I wanted to write this post to give you a little insight into why I’m doing this, what I’ve gone through and how I let myself down by making simple mistakes.
2013, 2014 and 2015 weren’t great years for me. These years were spent with me suffering depression, being treated badly by people who I thought were my friends, being angry with the whole world because of that and adopting some really unhealthy habits. These included smoking, drinking and eating poorly. I would do these things just to escape the amount of bullshit being thrown my way. I was irritable and not a great person to be around. On top of that, the pressure of passing uni and doing well in my internship caused me to lose sleep, which didn’t help things (In July 2014, I averaged around 2 hours of sleep a night). By the end of my undergraduate degree, I had lost most of my friends due to my bad attitude (some were lost due to reasons out of my control). To compensate for that, I medicated myself with food. I usually like to eat alone, so by going out to buy food I was removing myself from being around people (particularly the shitty flat I was living in), so I could just eat on my own and mind my own business. I avoided going to the gym, because the lack of sleep made me so tired I just couldn’t be fucked to go and exercise. I started gaining weight fast.
By the end of 2015 I tipped the scale at around 21 stone (294 pounds, 133kg). During the height of my rugby playing days, I was around 120kg. I wasn’t really concerned about it then because I was getting regular exercise (rugby training 4 times a week plus gym 5 times a week) and I played prop. You need to be big to be effective in that position, especially down under. However, this time around it was just me being a fat ass. I was eating all kinds of crap (jelly babies!) trying to deal with stress that uni was causing me.
Around November 2015, I resolved to do something about it. I was sick of seeing the ‘near-death’ look in my eyes each time I woke up in the morning. I hated the fact that I let myself go and gained so much weight. I realized that if I didn’t change my habits now, it would be the end of me. So I decided to get off my fat ass and do something about it.
I started simple. I couldn’t just jump into the gym and smash out a 5k run like I used to. I didn’t even have the money to join the gym. If you’ve ever been in England during the winter, you know that it’s bloody cold. I tried to use this to my advantage. I’d put on excessive amounts of clothes and walk 10k every day. This included Under Armour thermals (top and bottom), hoodie, two pairs of rugby socks, tracksuit bottoms, woolen hat and gloves with weights attached to my legs. I looked a ridiculous version of the Michelin Man, but the purpose was to just sweat it out each time. My washing bills increased tenfold, but it was working. As the weeks progressed, I tried to do little runs in between walking distances (250m slow run, 500m walk and so on). By the time January rolled around, I lost 2 1/2 stone.
I had to return to New Zealand to do a Summer School course to get into the postgraduate course that I wanted to do (I love Information Systems, not much of a Statistics fan). Luckily for me, I was living close to the uni gym (If you’re ever in Auckland and you need to hit the gym, go to the uni gym. It’s pretty good for a uni gym and the instructors are a good bunch of people). I decided to haul my ass to the gym and I started lifting weights again. As with running, I couldn’t just go back and crack out my 200kg deadlift I could do back in high school, I had to do smaller weights with lots of reps.
Now I love my alma mater, but the UoA uni gym has a MAJOR bro problem. You have to time when you go to the gym carefully and for God’s sake, DO NOT GO AT 5PM. All the bros wake up, sake their syringes (no evidence to support this allegation) and hog the squat rack. I desperately wanted to avoid these people, so I had to wake up at 5am just to get ready to go at 6. This wasn’t fun and it meant I had to go to bed at 9pm like I was 13 again, but if want to avoid the meatheads, you gotta do what you gotta do. I also didn’t want to do light weights around the steroid monkeys who were lifting 300kg dead-lifts for 1 rep and then take 10 minutes break grunting to their fellow steroid monkeys. It may seem like I have a thing against bodybuilders. I don’t. I just don’t like the dudes who scream their heads off lifting a heavy weight, take 10 minute breaks between sets and then leave the fucking weights on the bar because they can’t be arsed to unrack themselves.
Anyway, after a couple of months lifting, I managed to get my weight back down to 15st 11lbs and I gained a bit of muscle. However, just going to the gym was pretty boring so I joined a kickboxing gym. I hate running so doing kickboxing seem like a good way to make exercise interesting. I wasn’t great at it, but it was fun. I did mostly pad work with some sparring. I had a sparring test about 3 months in and got my ass kicked. But it worked. It gave me something to look forward to and it was a nice change from just lifting weights.
By the end of middle of November 2016, I was around 14st 11. So from the start of the year, I’d lost around 6 stone. I felt so much better about myself and I didn’t look like a guy that makes beeping noises when he walks backwards.
When I returned from New Zealand, I wasn’t in great shape. All the progress I made last year losing weight, adopting the right habits and getting my ass to the gym regularly had gone out the window over a Christmas period that extended into March. I remember graduating from my Bachelors degree in great shape and the shame that I felt when I graduated from my postgraduate degree in terrible shape. I had let myself go, luckily not too the same extent that I did last time, but I still felt as if I had let myself down and thrown away all that hard work.
I couldn’t even blame it on stress from uni or work. I was just lazy this time around. However, looking back on the whole year I’d say that I didn’t really have a balanced diet. Due to my student status and lack of knowledge about food, my diet consisted of mostly chicken, spinach leaves and mushrooms. It was repetitive and mundane. Over the weekend, I’d extend my diet out to rice crackers (sodium for the win!) with cottage cheese. To be frank, this restrictive diet probably caused me to let myself go again. I’d go through cycles where I’d lose four pounds in a week and then not lose anything for a couple of weeks.
Nevertheless, when I returned from New Zealand it was Christmas time. The green light was on. Chocolate, ice cream, cake, fizzy drinks you name it. It was all back on the menu. Fuck exercise I thought. We’ve got the first-class honours we wanted, we did the hard work, let’s celebrate a little. A little celebration turned into a lot and 3 months later, I was almost back at square one. Thankfully I didn’t return to 21 stone, but I did climb back up to 17 stone. It was at this stage where I had one of the moments where I said to myself ‘dude, what the fuck are we doing?’ It was back to the drawing board. No quick fix plan, no crying about it. Just get the fuck back to work.
I’d saved up a bit of money from work in New Zealand and decided to head to my old local gym. While it isn’t as good as UoA’s gym, it has everything I need. Fitness centre, abs area and a weight room. Even better, instead of the steroid monkeys you’d find in Auckland, a few ex and current army lads train there. You want to be inspired to get fitter? Train with some army people. Real good bunch of lads who work hard. When people say you should surround yourself with hard-working people, you can’t get better than soldiers.
I focused this time on a mix strength training and cardio. Doing 5 reps for 5 sets on weights that weren’t huge, but enough to make me work for it and cardio that would push me to work off the excess. It’s been 3 months, but so far I’ve managed to bench 105kg for 5 reps, dead-lift 130kg for 5 reps and squat 110kg for 5 reps. Not massive numbers, but it’s a start.
Outside the gym, I made a couple of changes to my whole regime. This included getting a FitBit to track my work, weigh myself each week and write my progress down and also track my meals. I’m able to be a bit more flexible with the range of food that I eat. There are some meals where I have to chow down on chicken and spinach, but I’m fortunate enough to be in a position where I can go for fish as well with more veggies. (It may not sound exciting, but I promise it is). I also bought an exercise journal to keep track of what and how much I’m lifting. Sure, I look like one of those maniacs who’s taking notes on everything he witnesses, but it helps me log what I’m doing and it helps me make sure that I’m actually working in the gym rather than just showing up.
I’ve also become one of those people who overshares on Instagram. Yep, I know, but it’s important for me to be accountable and I find that posting stuff on Instagram helps me keep to the path. I do also try and be motivational in the hope that someone will gain something from it. It’s tough starting out (and continuing) this journey, especially when people are inclined to put you down, mock you and ridicule you for taking the first step. So I hope that by posting on Instagram, those who are starting out or trying to achieve something can look at me and stay on their paths. I’ll never be one of those sponsored athletes or insta models (not that I want to be either), I just want to stay on the path and help others with theirs.
But let’s be clear. I’m not going to use it for an ass account. I’m even reluctant at times to do a bicep flex picture. On the one hand, I think it’s vanity on my part and on the other I’m not really at that stage yet. Plus having a background in Information Systems, I know better than to post a body shot of myself on the internet (that isn’t some Mice and Men ‘saving my hand’ type privacy either. I’m just a private person with some aspects of my life).
I’m 12 weeks in now and I’m back at 15 stone 8 pounds. I still have 14 pounds to go before I decide what to do next. I enjoy weightlifting and I’d like to be able to lift some big numbers again so after I lost most of the fat, I might want to be one of those freaks (Hey, I might be called one of those monkeys!). I may decide to take up a sport again and see where that takes me. Right now, I’m just enjoying the process and seeing what happens. I’ve learnt that it’s not just the exercise that’s involved, it’s everything along with it that makes a difference. If you don’t enjoy the process, you won’t stick with it and you’ll fall of the wagon time and time again (Like I have).
I know I’m probably going to get some shit for sharing this story, but hopefully by providing a little insight into my story, somebody will be able to relate to it and take inspiration or learn from the mistakes that I made so they don’t make those same mistakes themselves. If you want to comment, go right ahead. It’d be great to hear some thoughts besides my own on this or if you have a story of your own, I’d love to hear it.
If you see a typo, let me know! I may have a postgraduate degree, but I still have (as my music teacher once told me) stupid fingers.