In 12 months, a Leeds man has lost almost half his body weight. he tells Katie Baldwin how he did it.
A year ago, Gareth Davies decided he had to change his life.
He weighed 33 stones and apart from hating the way he looked in his brother’s wedding photos, he was fearful for his future.
“I was thinking ‘I’m not going to reach 50 at this rate,” he said.
“I knew my problem was simple – too much food, not enough exercise.”
The IT manager admitted he had a “couch potato” lifestyle, as well as a love of junk food.
Gareth, from Farsley, Leeds, decided he was going to set himself a goal of getting down to the weight he was at the age of 18, 120kg or 18st 12lbs, by the end of the year.
“Having made the decision to lose the weight, I needed an approach. After seeing the Hairy Bikers diet TV series where they stuck to 1,500 calories a day plus exercise, and the results they got, I decided to do the same.”
His boss, who was starting a fitness regime of her own and has now lost over two stones, persuaded him to take up exercise too.
“A few of us started going for a walk on Friday lunchtimes and the first one on January 11 nearly killed me,” the 39-year-old said.
“It was about 2km and took around half an hour, I had to stop three times to catch my breath. It was utterly humiliating but the start of a long process.”
Firstly, he needed to learn about portion size.
“I knew intellectually that pizza wasn’t going to be great, but finding out that a large pizza could contain two days worth of calories came as a nasty surprise, as did the fact that my idea of a portion of ‘healthy’ cereal was in reality about four portions,” he said.
“I started weighing everything, and everything I ate was logged in the MyFitnessPal app.”
He checked with the NHS’s Leeds weight loss service to ensure his diet plan was safe, which they said it was.
Gareth said he learned quickly that the lowest calorie bread tasted like it, and decided it was worth using up more calories on bread from Leeds firm the Sunshine Bakery.
Not previously a keen cook, he said he now makes more meals but has also found out which healthy ready meals are tasty.
For his snacks, he tried to choose the most flavour for the fewest calories, including cereal bars, crisps and chilli coated peanuts.
“If you’re eating limited calories the worst thing in the world is for those calories to be bland and tasteless,” he said.
Meanwhile, he was increasing his exercise levels from previously getting out of breath walking around the supermarket. As well as walking each week with colleagues from Lloyds Banking Group in Pudsey, he began walking on a treadmill at home three times a week.
Initially he could only walk 2km in half an hour without any incline, then over time got faster and increased his lunchtime walks to four a week.
“On May 20 I did the first ever voluntary running of my life, 1.83km in 20 minutes which took my heart rate to 155 and completely wiped me out,” he said.
Gareth started a programme to work up to running 5km, in July he starting running after work, eventually ditching his walks in favour of runs.
He added three weight training sessions a week, than in October joined the Leeds City Council Bodyline gyms and started swimming as well as a doing a regular class and the 5km weekly Leeds Parkrun.
“It just boils down to constant progression. At first it’s slow, but you have to keep working at it, every time just that little bit harder.
“Never in my life have I been able to run 5km, I not only do that every Saturday now but I’m working on preparing for a 10km in 2014.
“There comes a point where you realise you can actually do exercise, you’re not an athlete but you’re no longer unfit.”
Now Gareth weighs 18st 10lbs, with his aim to lose another two stones, then hopefully build that back up as muscle.
“It’s genuinely life-changing. I’m now looking at the future and saying I am looking forward to things,” he said.
Gareth’s top tips
Limit of 1500 calories per day, if it fits within the calorie budget it’s fair game.
If you’re out with friends, all bets are off. Enjoy and carry on dieting tomorrow.
Leave enough budget for snacks.
His overall top tip: If you have a bad day, just write it off. Don’t starve yourself to compensate, just crack on with the rest of the week.
Gareth logged calories via www.myfitnesspal.com. He recorded exercise using www.endomondo.com and www.runtastic.com.