- Name: Kristian Norman (say hi on MAN v FAT Talk)
- Age: 30
- Job: I’m currently writing a book about my experiences, and run the website www.MEandMe.org to help provide relevant information to anyone dealing with similar issues.
- Height: 5′ 10″ (177.8 cm)
- Highest weight: 280 lbs (127 kg)
- Lowest weight: 158 lbs (71.6 kg)
Before we get into the amazing weight loss you’ve achieved, let’s talk pre-diet food – what were you eating on a normal day?
Lots! A typical day would usually include four slices of toast for breakfast, followed by a large bowl of cereal, with four or five teaspoons of sugar and full-fat milk. Mid morning, lunch would be four sandwiches (usually cheese!) accompanied by a packet of crisps and a chocolate bar.
Mid afternoon I’d usually have more chocolate or sweets (quite a lot!), then I’d have a fairly robust dinner followed by dessert and maybe some more toast or a sandwich later in the evening. Looking back now, I can’t quite believe how much I used to eat, especially as I always used to argue that I didn’t eat that much! Denial is a wonderful thing.
You’re still very young but I know that a lot of your life you’ve struggled with ME (Myalgic Encephalopathy) which is a debilitating condition that leaves people feeling a range of symptoms from exhaustion, through to joint pain and trouble concentrating. What impact did that have on your weight?
I had been suffering badly with ME for over seven years, and had been unable to attend school or have much of a life outside my house. Food became something that occupied my time, as well as something I took comfort in when I was feeling particularly unwell or unhappy. A combination of comfort eating and an enforced sedentary lifestyle saw me steadily gain weight throughout my teenage years.
I initially changed my diet to help boost my recovery; I cut refined sugars, caffeine, e-numbers and any artificial additives from my diet, and my energy levels improved instantly. I found myself able to do more, and started walking into town every day; the weight began to come off, and as it did I felt progressively better and better, which encouraged me to keep going.there really is no secret, just self belief and determination.
So you dieted for health reasons, did you follow a particular programme?
I didn’t follow any specific diet ‘plan’, I just worked out a sensible diet for myself. I’m not a big subscriber to the idea that you have to buy weight loss products or part with cash to lose weight, simply because they present weight loss as something you can’t do alone or without artificial aid – there really is no secret, just self belief and determination.
Was there one factor that made you decide to change?
I don’t remember having a particular “Eureka!” moment, but once I’d recovered from the ME I found myself with the opportunity to live a ‘normal’ life, and I wanted to seize that opportunity with both hands. I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life as an obese person. I’d also just become an uncle, and I didn’t want my nephew to get picked on for having a ‘fat uncle’ when the time came for him to go to school; I already knew first hand how cruel kids can be.
What made it different from the times before?
When I’d been ill, food was often the only enjoyment I got out of life; I was too unwell to socialise, and I often comfort-ate to relieve the boredom or cheer myself up. Once I’d recovered from ME, a whole new world opened up to me, and I became far less pre-occupied with food.
What sort of challenges did you come up against when you were losing?
The weight loss itself was fairly straight forward; I paid attention to how the weight came off, and learnt to accommodate changes in my metabolic rate to make sure I continued to lose weight steadily. Afterwards, however, I was left with large amounts of excess skin and tissue, which I’ve had removed through a number of extensive reconstructive surgeries over the last ten years. I’ve had excess skin removed from my chest, stomach, back, buttocks, groin and legs; it’s been a long journey, but well worth the effort!
How has life changed now you’ve lost the weight?
I am a completely different person now; before I was so unfit that I couldn’t walk 100 yards without getting out of breath, whereas I now swim 20km+ a week in my local leisure centre. Before I would have shied away from doing things that others took for granted, such as getting on a plane or going to a theme park, for fear of not fitting in the seats, but these days I don’t even give that a second thought.
Mostly it’s given me confidence in myself, not just because of how different I look physically (although that helps!), but also through knowing that I’d achieved a goal that felt so impossible at the beginning of the journey. It’s a process that’s taught me that all obstacles are overcome one step at a time, no matter how big or small they are.
Who helped you along the way?
I’ve had fantastic support throughout my journey; I owe a debt of gratitude to so many people, from my family and friends who always encouraged me to keep going, to my incredibly supportive reconstructive surgeon and the various medical teams who’ve looked after me (and, on occasion, saved my life) throughout the process of surgical reconstruction. Nobody ‘got in my way’; weight loss is a personal journey, and ultimately the only ones accountable for our successes or failures are ourselves.It’s given me confidence through knowing that I’d achieved a goal that felt so impossible at the beginning of the journey
What advice do you have for others who are looking to lose weight?
Don’t be fooled by the food packaging. Most items that claim to be ‘low-fat’ are actually packed full of the white stuff. I was horrified at quite how deceptive food companies can be in their marketing campaigns – don’t get taken in!
I would also say don’t be afraid to fail, just make sure you pick yourself up, dust yourself off and persevere if you do. Make sure you’re doing it for yourself and not for anybody else; losing weight is a hugely personal journey that takes real commitment – you have to want it, you have to earn it, and most importantly you have to know that you deserve it. Don’t lose sight of your goal; stay strong and stay determined, and you absolutely will get there. Never give up! Never!