- Name: Mark Ludlow (ask him anything on Talk)
- Location: Northwood (Middlesex)
- Job: Personal Trainer and Life Coach Facebook Instagram Twitter
- Height: 6′ (183cm)
- Age: 35
- Highest weight: 329lbs (149kg)
- Lowest weight: 187lbs (85kg)
- Plan: Calorie counting*
*The first 8 stone, I calculated my Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) and just made sure that I was in a calorie deficit each day, eating healthily but not being very calculated with the types of foods I was having.
The last 2 stone that got me super shredded with an 8 pack in 10 weeks took a much more scientific approach to nutrition. Over the last 3 years I have qualified and been working as a personal trainer. During this time, I have learnt about how certain foods are much better than others at achieving good aesthetics and how people respond differently to different foods, depending on variables such as age, gender, ethnicity, how active they are, what they have in their current diet, etc.
How did you get to the position where you needed to lose that weight?
I have actually lost a very large amount of weight twice: Once in a my early 20’s (lost 8 stone), put all the weight back on by the time I was 26/27 and then lost 8 stone again by the time I was 29. I lost the last 2 stone (to make 10 in total) over 10 weeks between April to July 2015 when I was 34.
I began gaining extra weight by the time I was four years old. I grew up with language learning difficulties that hindered my ability to communicate with people until around age seven. Language specialists weren’t as common in schools when I was growing up in the 1980’s, so I was never actually diagnosed and didn’t get the needed help and support that I needed during these years of my development. All of this caused me a lot of frustration while I was growing up.
Even though I didn’t specifically know why, the language difficulties caused me to grow up feeling something was different or wrong with me, so I comforted myself with eating which became my coping mechanism through to adulthood. I see these early years as the beginning of my “limiting beliefs” that plagued me for many years. Throughout my life, I have had a host of limiting beliefs about my abilities, how I looked and how people perceived me which made me feel stressed, anxious, depressed, bored, angry and generally unfulfilled. I naturally have an addictive personality and although my go to vices to comfort myself when I felt this way were sometimes cigarettes and alcohol, 9 times out of 10 my go to was food.“The more overweight I was the more uncomfortable I was and the more uncomfortable I was, the more I wanted to eat”
What negative experiences did you have of being overweight?
Physically, even small tasks like walking up and down stairs or going down the street to the local shops would wear me out and my parents used to comment that I seemed out of breath all the time.
There are so many things that people take for granted in their day to day lives, such as going for a walk, which are just out of reach for someone who is excessively overweight.
To hide my size, I used to wear baggy clothes, avoid being in photos and stay away from mirrors. The name-calling I had directed at me throughout my teenage years and early adulthood was particularly painful.
When you have people say unkind things to you because of your size, it does stay with you. I think there is still a stigma that if a person is overweight, it automatically means they are lazy or weak-willed, which just is not true.
As well as the physical, my own psychological restrictions were the most challenging when I was overweight. At social gatherings I wouldn’t interact with others and didn’t ever want to get out of my comfort zone. This caused a negative spiral—the more overweight I was the more uncomfortable I was and the more uncomfortable I was, the more I wanted to eat.
I had this overriding feeling that I just wasn’t good enough. At some of my lowest points, I even considered the idea that suicide may be my best option.
What made you decide to change?
The first time I lost 8 stone in my early 20s, my main impulse to lose weight was to be more successful with women. I was tired of always being in the ‘friend zone.’
The second time when I was 26/27 was because I’d had enough of thinking about myself in such a negative way and I was concerned about my poor physical health.“For most people, weight loss is not a physical challenge but rather it’s a mental one”
What made it different from the times before?
Without question it is because I got to the root of the problem. I’m a strong believer that for most people initially, weight loss is not a physical challenge but rather it’s a mental one.
Whether people suffer from stress, depression, boredom, low self-esteem or anxiety related eating for example, no matter how well thought out the diet and exercise plan, nothing will work until the emotional crux is resolved and put to bed.
How did you do it?
The first time I lost 8 stone in my early 20s, my main impulse to lose weight was to be more successful with women. I was tired of always being in the ‘friend zone and this is what prompted me to try the Atkins Diet. I managed to reach my end goal in just 10 months! But I would never recommend losing weight in this way.
Although I reached my goal, over the next 5 years I slowly gained the weight back. Even once I finished university and was in a relationship, limiting beliefs I carried over from my childhood seeped into my career affecting interviews and performance in job roles.
When you are telling yourself various negative things all the time such as “you are never going to get to grips with this” or “you are not good enough to be here” for example, it makes it practically impossible to make a success of yourself. I soon got a lot of job rejections, which further damaged my self-esteem. Whatever you believe, it does become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
By the time I was 26/27 I hit rock-bottom when I broke up with my long-term girlfriend, lost yet another job and gained back the 8 stone I had lost on the Atkins Diet. I had essentially comfort eaten myself back to square one.
After 2 months of moping around and feeling depressed, I decided that I’d had enough of thinking about myself in this way and I’d had enough of my poor physical health. I made a decision that I was going to get to the root of the problem – I was going to go on a journey of self-discovery and understand what was making me think and feel in this way and conquer those inner demons once and for all.
I started learning about psychology, self-development and techniques to help me learn and retain information more easily through books, the internet and going on various courses. Over time, I started to find self-acceptance.
I learnt techniques to enable me to think in a more positive and optimistic way. I discovered ways of learning that suited my way of thinking. I started taking a more pragmatic approach to life and only allowing people and things into it that were going to help me grow as opposed to self-destruct. All this made sticking to a healthy eating and exercise plan so much easier because I was happier.
The first 8 stone I lost on my second journey took about 2 years taking me to 29. Nutritionally, it involved calculating my Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), making sure I was in a calorie deficit each day and eating healthily but not really being very scientific with the types of foods I was having. The main type of exercise I did was High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).
The remaining 2 stone I lost over a 10 week period when I was 34. This involved a much more scientific approach towards nutrition, making sure I ate the right foods at the right times of day for my body. The main type of exercise I did was weight training.
What did you eat over the course of an average day?
Breakfast: Full English with 4-6 sausages, 3-5 rashes of bacon, 2-3 fried eggs, a whole tin of baked beans, 2-3 slices of toast, 4-6 hash browns and loads of mushrooms. To drink I would have a pint of orange juice.
Lunch: 2 chicken and stuffing sandwiches, 2 sausage rolls and a large packet of Doritos
Dinner: 2 large southern fried chicken burgers in buns, a whole packet of McCain southern fried chips and onion rings
Snacks: 1 large bar of Dairy Milk chocolate, 3 donuts and ¾ of a large Victoria sponge cake
Drinks: Fizzy drinks throughout the day such as Cola, Fanta and Sprite
Meal 1: 12 egg whites and 80g oats with water
Meal 2: 180g chicken breast, 150g sweet potato with vegetables
Meal 3: 160g chicken breast, 100g basmati rice and vegetables
Meal 4: 2 cans of tuna in spring water and vegetables
Meal 5: 180g chicken breast, salad and balsamic vinegar
Meal 6: 10 egg white and spinach omelette
How was the journey? Straightforward or were there a few plateaus along the way?
From reading this, you have probably realised that my journey has been far from straightforward. I lost a huge amount of weight in my early 20s, but because I went about losing weight by doing a quick fix fad like the Atkins Diet and didn’t face up to my psychological demons, after 5 years I was back where I started.
I have been lucky that I have not really experienced physical plateaus. Breaking past them involves putting the body under shock to fire your metabolism up. Examples of ways of doing this include eating new types of food, doing a harder or new type of training or eating a massive cheat meal for example.
How has life changed now you’ve lost the weight?
My life has completely changed since I have lost the weight. I am now a confident and outgoing individual who is proud of himself and his achievements. My successes have led to me starting up my own successful personal training and life coaching business which is the best job in the world as far as I’m concerned.
With regards to women, let’s just say things have changed since those days when I used to be ‘friend zoned’ 😉
Who helped you the most and who got in the way?
When I lost the last 2 stone that achieved a more chiseled physique in 2015, I became friends with a professional body builder at the gym I am based at. He taught me the fundamental principles of nutrition and exercise that achieve the best possible physical aesthetics.
So much of what he has taught me I now apply to my own clients’ food and exercise plans.
The person that got most in the way of my success was me and my negative way of thinking. This aside, there are certain friends I have had to detach myself from due to their unhealthy lifestyles.
What surprised you about losing weight?
It’s not just about cutting calories and just hoping for the best. There is a science to successful weight loss and it’s about having the right type of foods and doing the right types of exercises.“My life has completely changed since I lost the weight. I am now confident, outgoing and proud of my achievements”
If you could go back to the person you were at your heaviest, what would you say to him?
“All the suffering you are experiencing now is going to make you an excellent personal trainer and life coach and you are going to change lives. Hang on in there!”
You’re Prime Minister for the day, what one law do you bring in to help others who are obese?
Put taxes on sugar. Sugar is just as addictive as cigarettes and alcohol and has such a negative impact on weight loss.
What three things do other fat men need to know about losing weight?
1. Weight loss is not a physical challenge but rather a mental one
2. When dieting to lose weight, you should never feel hungry or starve yourself
3. Sugar is the devil when it comes to losing weight. Not to mention that it is incredibly addictive. When dieting to lose weight, I believe that all forms of sugar should be removed from daily eating. Even fruit!
What else should we know about your weight loss story?
The Sun newspaper is releasing an article about my weight loss story and my personal training and life coaching business. Watch this space!