Amazing Loser – Dave Beevers
- Age: 58
- Lives: Bolton
- Job: Journalist runningwithdiane.blogspot.co.uk
- Height: 6ft 3in
- Highest weight: 153kg
- Lowest weight: 98kg
Your weight loss journey started in tragic circumstances, what happened?
My motivation for turning things around was the death of my wife Diane, who I lost to breast cancer in February 2013. I was consumed by grief and fear – seeing someone who was your whole life for so long be taken away from you so cruelly makes you realise how fragile and precious life is.
During the years of her fight against the disease – she was diagnosed in 2006 – she would often try to get me to promise I would sort myself out if the worst came to the worst. It was a conversation I would refuse to have. She would be fine, I would be fine, everything would be fine, I kept telling her. She worried that I wouldn’t be able to cope without her. So when that awful day came, I sat in a side room on the hospital ward, numb with grief and facing the prospect of life without her. I tried to come to terms with what had happened, with what I had lost.
There are two ways to go when this happens to you. How would Diane feel if I just went on some downward spiral? What kind of husband would let her down like that? No, the only way was up. To do her justice. To honour her memory. And to stop her worrying about me coping. I looked at myself in the mirror and saw a man who would probably be confined to a wheelchair inside a couple of years if I didn’t do something drastic and I was actually ashamed of what I had become. I was only 57. And I looked 87. I had to make the change for Diane’s sake.
The motto from then on was simple: Look up and not down, ahead and not behind.
How was your own health at this point?
My health was shocking at the time I lost Diane. I was 24 stone and couldn’t even run for a bus. Years of inactivity and poor diet had seen my weight balloon and only when I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 2012 did the seriousness of my size and condition really hit home.
My legs were beginning to swell, I was constantly tired and it made me depressed. It also made me angry that I’d let myself get this bad over the years. It creeps up on you to some extent but by and large, the warning signs are there if you choose to see them and take heed. I didn’t.
What sort of food were you eating before and after the weight loss?
A typical day before the weight loss would be a breakfast of cereal with sugar and jam on toast. Then mid-morning I’d have a sandwich bought on way to work. Lunch would be pie and chips, through the afternoon I’d have snacks including chocolate and crisps then in the evening I’d have a full evening meal, usually a meat and two veg.
What worked for me was making my own diet which was based on advice for diabetics. No potatoes, very little bread, no sugar, no pastry, no biscuits, no cakes. Only wholewheat pasta, brown rice, loads of vegetables, oily fish and chicken or turkey. Honey for sweetness and protein shakes instead of snacks.
You seem quite scathing about the diet industry – are there any other parts you’re not keen on?
The first rule is to ditch the word diet. It has very negative connotations. Say it and most people think of eating stuff you dislike, doing without stuff you do like and hardship. Diet means deprivation. You hear the word and immediately your spirit sinks.
So don’t use it. Just eat lots of food that is good for you. Eat lots. Eat as much fruit and vegetables as you want. Most of us will not reach the maximum number of portions we require in a day (currently six to 10 depending on which recommendations you read) even if we commit fully to eating healthily. There really aren’t enough hours in the day to overdose on fruit and veg so tuck in.
The second rule is to ditch the diet clubs. They are there to make you feel like you’re losing weight so they can take more money off you. But diet clubs will not teach you how to keep the weight off.
Was your weight loss straight-forward or were there a few plateaus along the way?
There were many plateaus, that’s how it happens! You lose weight, your body adjust and accepts the new weight so it levels off and then after a while it drops again.
What’s happened to your diabetes since you lost the weight?
My Type 2 diabetes is always going to be with me, it’s not something I can ever get rid of, no matter what I do. The aim of all people suffering from it is to make it undetectable, or “dormant” as it’s called. I’ve done that through just exercise and eating the right food as often as I can. My blood test levels are now well within the range required and if I went to the doctor today and had a test, he wouldn’t be able to spot the diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes is often called the lifestyle disease. It hits people who are overweight, unhealthy to begin with, who are inactive and have sedentary office jobs. So if those are the causes, then removing those causes from your life will sort out your diabetes. It’s not rocket science. It is simple. And the simpler you keep it, the more you will benefit. Eat fruit. Eat veg. Eat well but eat wisely. Exercise every day. It doesn’t have to be a lung-bursting gym session to do you good.
You’ve really taken to running since you lost the weight – has that been instrumental in losing the weight?
The secret of exercise is not to look ahead too far. Stick to small goals. When I had my first session at my local gym in April 2013 I couldn’t walk on a treadmill for more than a minute, let alone run! But the next time I went, I managed 90 seconds. Then a week later I was walking on it for five minutes.
Little by little, I started to improve and I saw the improvement in me, which is very important. You’ll notice how even the slightest improvement in what you can do will make you feel better about yourself and your desire to get even fitter will grow with each small step you take.
It was months before I could run or trot on the treadmill, but when I did it felt like I’d won Olympic Gold! It was then the running bug bit me and I planned my first 5K race in September 2013. At the time that seemed like climbing Everest to me. But I did it, somehow and very limply, but I did it. And what’s more important, I loved it, so the 10Ks were my next target. In November 2013 I joined the Burnden Roadrunners club and they’ve been inspirational and a huge source of motivation.
Then the crazy notion of completing my first marathon within six months of that first 5K took seed in my brain. And I did that, too. And so can you. No magic tricks, no diet gimmicks, no slimming clubs. Just good food and good exercise. If I can do it, anyone can.
How did you find losing weight combined with diabetes and exercise – does it present any extra challenges?
Diabetics need to take in slow-release carbs that allow your system, short on insulin production, to digest them over time. That’s why eating little and often is also a good tip. Have small meals based on slow-release carbs four or five times a day rather than two small meals and a huge main one in the evening. The problem arises when you decide to run a marathon! You have to keep your carbs topped-up for training and races and it can be difficult to balance the two. It is tricky but once you get the right foods at the right frequency in the right amounts, you should be able to exercise and run your races as well as anyone.
There’s no doubt that the energy gels you need to consume can prove very sickly even to the most experienced distance runner but to the diabetic runner, they can be an extra problem. The important thing is to control intake before exercise, during and then after and treat those three routines differently. Carbs before, energy shots and mineral salts replacement during and then protein and a honey drink for recovery after. Quorn is great post-race – low in fat, high in protein and easily absorbed.
Tell us about the Running With Diane campaign?
I decided to run my first 5K at Salford in September 2013 to raise cash for Breast Cancer Care, the support charity which provides a network of help, advice and guidance for families going through what we did. Their work is essential in helping people battling this disease on the front line in homes up and down the country.
But I didn’t want to run for Diane or in memory of Diane. I wanted to run WITH her. She was still so much a part of my life – and when I ran my head was filled with her. We’d done everything together for over 20 years – why should it be any different now? She has been with me every step of every training run and race since I started to do as I promised her and sort myself out.
I realised she was still very much a part of my life. Cancer took her body, but it couldn’t touch the thing that made her special to me and I still have that. We are still together just as strongly as we ever were – just in a different way.
So the Running With Diane online campaign was launched. It plans to raise £100,000 over the next 12 months for Breast Cancer Care through various events and challenges – the latest one is to do my first triathlon within the next three months … and I can’t ride a bike or swim yet! I started a blog runningwithdiane.blogspot.co.uk to pour out my emotions and hopefully reassure others going through the same ordeal that they were not alone.
How has life changed now you’ve lost the weight?
I am simply not the same person I was before – since taking up running, I am more active, and I am able to do more and need less sleep. I’ve dropped five shirt sizes and taken eight inches off my waist. My confidence is sky high and I have more energy than ever before in my life.
[blocktext align=”right”]You’re never too old to make changes, never too fat, never too far gone, never too weak.[/blocktext]
When my friend a couple of doors away found out that I’d lost nine stone in just over a year after deciding to sort my life out and get fit, she looked stunned and told me that was what she weighed. So for years, I’ve been carrying the equivalent of her on my back – no wonder I struggled to get up a flight of stairs. It has surprised me how long it takes your beer belly to shrink.
If you could go back to the person you were at your heaviest – what would you say to him?
If you’re looking to lose weight then you need to know that the most important thing is that you’re never too old to make changes, never too fat, never too far gone, never too weak. Find your own strength inside to say to yourself – I’m not going to allow you to do this to me. I want to look in a mirror and say “wow”, not “ow”. You can do it.