It often starts with an emotional catastrophe. Whoever you are, wherever you are. In my case it was a particularly painful break-up in March last year and a pretty bad one at that. That I was distraught was clear. That it would be the defining catalyst for one of the biggest changes in my life was less so.
I have a pretty miserable diet, you see. I’m a fussy eater verging on the embarrassingly phobic and since my late teens it has caused me to steadily gain weight. Prior to the aforementioned break-up, my girlfriend of the time had a firm but supportive and encouraging effect on this and coupled with a GP referral to a psychologist (I’m not joking) it led to an improvement in my diet, if only a little.
It was only when sitting alone, dispirited and far from home in my flat in Warsaw that I understood something must be done, if not with the eating, at least with my size. For a 5 foot 6 inch adult male, I accepted 89 kg was certainly heavy but was astonished that a quick check of the BMI scale would label me ‘obese’. Obese?! Me?! What?! I was overweight, that was clear, but obese?! Seriously?! Compared to a selection of the massive, bovine, individuals walking down Buchanan Street in Glasgow of a Saturday, I was positively fit but in reality, I was obese. Indubitably, something had to be done.
Like many a child of the 80′s, I’m all about the gadgets so almost without consideration I hit the iTunes app store and found myself the preposterously titled ‘My Fitness Pal’. Despite a title that had me grabbing desperately for the sick-bag, I downloaded to my iPhone and set about setting it up. At this stage I had no expectation that it would do me any good but hell, I’m nothing if not an optimist so I set the curve steeply with instruction to lose 1 & 1/2 lb per week. It told me I was allowed 1490 calories per day and to this day, excepting for the occasional lapse (especially in Scotland), that’s exactly what I’ve stuck to.
By September I had lost an absurd 15kg, simply by eating what I always have but eating much less and, of course, tracking the calories in my new ‘pal’. By Autumn, my body had decided it had had quite enough of all this change thank you very much and obstinately refused to change any further – and no discussion was going to make it reconsider. Throughout Winter, I managed to steal a couple of kg without my body noticing, lest it get rather upset, however, my goal of a 68 kg target that would leave me in the ‘Healthy Weight’ area of the BMI scale for the first time in my adult life seemed frustratingly elusive.
…And then I started to play football again. A bad achilles injury exacerbated by my weight had led me to ‘hang up my boots’ a few years before and I was sure, despite my obvious love for the game, that I would not play again. Realising the tendon may be able to cope with the reduced strain, I gave it a go and indeed, It was fine. I began to play twice a week (and expect to increase this with a 3rd game soon) but stamina was a problem during a 90 minute match and to combat this, I took up running on the days when not on the football field.
Without even realising, the last few kg disappeared, solemnly, into the night leaving me to bang on to anyone who might listen that I had reached 68.1kg, safely inside the healthy weight zone on the NHS’ own BMI index scale.
I celebrated, as all Scots surely must, with a deliciously chilled can of Irn Bru and with a promise I would never let that happen again. It took me 14 years to build up that weight but it only took me a year to lose it. If that can’t be considered a positive outcome of a catastrophic situation, I don’t know what can.
Here’s to a lot more football.