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  • Writer's pictureAlan Martin

On Having a Normal BMI

My birthday for the most part passed by without note. Not in a bad way, it was very enjoyable, but other than my life clock ticking over another year, there wasn’t much to label it anything but a standard Saturday. Except that weighing in the next morning I discovered that for the first time in my adult life, Wii Fit was calling me healthy.

This would seem counter intuitive, given the diet of vodka and Eurovision I had consumed the previous evening (stay classy, Alan), but apparently that was just the thing to kick me under the BMI score of 25. Pushing me from overweight into normal. It was the latest part of a journey that started in July last year, and was no accident.

Sure, I went out to a ridiculously meaty birthday lunch with someone straight after and jumped up to ‘overweight’ again, but within a week I was back in the normal part of the curve.

As you can see from the graph, my enthusiasm kind of tailed off in November last year, 3 stone down, but for the following few months I did what I liked and barely gained a pound. So on realising that I’d left the job 'half finished’ I decided to get back on it. I plan to return to my previous slovenly lifestyle when my BMI is bang in the middle of the normal graph.

In June 2012 I was 18 stone 2 pounds. In November 2012 I was 15 stone 3 pounds. Today I am 14 stone 9 pounds.

Here’s a before and after picture for comparisons’ sake.

June 2012:

Giving a horse a noogie in Spain (I wasn’t really touching him, but he really wanted to hang around me!)

November 2012:

(The tiny flag says 'Well Done’, which I hope is inspiring)

May 2013:

A picture message for my brother to pass on to my other brother, who was so late for drinks that I had to leave.

So how did I do it?

Well, the first thing I’d recommend anyone wanting to undertake such a dramatic transformation is to have a traumatic change in your lifestyle. In my case it was going from in a quasi-married relationship to being suddenly single again. It’s not like I was brilliant at being single last time around, so any advantage I could get was essential. This tallies up rather nicely with the graph above - when in a relationship, my graph has stalled, and when its ended, its taken off again. It’s a frustratingly tightly bound symbiotic relationship.

The second is related: I didn’t doubt for a second that it would work this time. I’ve made efforts in the past, but they’ve ranged between 'half arsed’ and 'easily derailed’. This time I was going to keep at it until it worked, and if it didn’t work I’d change it so it did. This combination is powerful because it gives you no escape routes, but it’s interesting to look back at the difference, because I’m sure in the past I felt that this was for real, but this time I knew, KNEW it was different.

The third, to keep me on the right path, was positive visualisation. Now I have a terrible imagination at the kind of motivational images that will keep you on track, but then I discovered the 'Lose It’ community on Reddit, where people upload their progress photos. By looking for people of similar proportions, I had a clear image of what I could achieve with what in the greater scheme of thing counts for only a couple of months of dedication.

So I started running, every other morning. The rational for morning runs, by the way, was that if I did it while half asleep I wouldn’t remember it later in the day. I’m somewhat ashamed to say that kind of works, but now I actually almost prefer an evening run, and it certainly helps you to sleep afterwards. My route is two miles around the local park, and although my times have improved (I can now do a mile, on a good day, in under 7 minutes 30), it doesn’t really matter as long as I come back having run a decent portion of it. Incidentally, when I first started I got myself a decent pair of running shoes, and got properly fitted. This is important, because if you don’t, you may find your feet don’t move straight which can (medically speaking) knacker your knees. I was in this position, and the Asics store ran tests to prove it, filming me in a treadmill. I did have to sign a release form saying that I wouldn’t hold them responsible if I died there in the store, but if I’d died with 2 minutes of light treadmill work, it’s safe to say I’d have been facing more of a challenge than I ultimately did.

Next up there was the 100 Push Ups app, recommended by a good friend of mine, though I remember thinking during the first week whether or not this is the kind of thing a friend should inflict on someone else. I struggle to put into words how much I hate push-ups, but for the purpose of this post I’ll have a go: it’s a horrible feeling, the feel of your arms slowly turning to jelly as you try and force yourself upwards. The 100 push ups app believes that everyone is capable of doing 100 push-ups, as long as you build up to it, and while I can’t hit 100 yet, I have made progress. When I first started, I barely made double figures and now I can hit 80 on a good day, before my muscles take the unilateral decision to disarm, and I tumble to the floor. This was necessary though, possibly even more than the running. Physically, my arms no longer resemble a cocktail stick protruding from a sausage, but more importantly, greater muscle mass increases the rate you lose weight at. It’s possibly been a more crucial part of my regime than the running.

To be clear, I will never ever be the kind of person that enjoys exercise and physical excursion, but I’ve gotten myself to the point that my body has at least given up trying to mutiny every time my brain starts its personal trainer routine. And that’s all I need.

The final piece of the puzzle is diet, but this doesn’t come into it half as much as you’d expect. Sure, I started off cutting out junk food, and making sure I ate breakfast. My lunches were soup, and my dinners were a meat plus salad. I realised with hindsight that I’d come up with a version of the keto or low-carbohydrate diet purely without trying, but now I’m still losing weight and I’m allowing myself to eat more or less what I want - I guess the break just put things into perspective and changed my attitudes somewhat. I still don’t eat many carbohydrates: potato, pasta and rice tends to be replaced with extra vegetables, but its not something I feel I have to stick to if I have people round, or am eating out somewhere in London, say.

I hope that helps someone. Losing weight is a complete paradox: really easy, yet maddeningly hard. If you follow my model, I imagine you’ll have the same luck, but y'know: not a doctor/dietician/physiotherapist.

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Note: This post originally appeared on The Inquirer, which heartbreakingly closed in December 2019, losing a huge amount of my best work in the process. Given it's all been scrubbed from the internet


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