Amazing Loser: Stephen Wood’s Weight Loss Story

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You’ve made such a massive change Steve, it’s hard to imagine what you were like before. What would a normal day have involved?

Pies, pasties, fry-ups, cheese, chocolate, crisps! Then after I changed, a typical breakfast was shredded wheat with Greek yoghurt and honey, I switched white bread for smaller seeded bread, opted for less processed food, more fruit and veg. I still enjoy a mini fry-up and the occasional crisps, chocolate and a beer once a week, but I have to earn those. If I want my “mini full English” on Sunday, I cycle to the supermarket, an eight miles round trip on a Saturday, to get the ingredients. Pay first, enjoy the fry-up guilt free later.

What was it that made you want to change?2010_2

I had a mindset that this was just me. This is how it was and I couldn’t change. I’d tried loads of the wrong things to lose weight and I’d just decided that this was the way I was programmed. It was madness. Because of my weight I started on blood pressure pills, and then my daughter took a side-on photo whilst I was on holiday and it all led to this eye-opening realisation that I was not an invincible young lad any more.

As you say, you’d tried lots of different things before – what was it that made it different?

A combination of things but I’d have to say that the gadgets I started using, including the digital scales and the Strava cycling app really helped. It was amazing to see that what I was doing was indeed making a difference. I could measurably see myself getting lighter, faster and stronger. What I was doing in my small changes to my eating and moving was actually working! I just needed then to continue to do more of the same. It just worked! For me, gadgets are the key to actually see that you are improving. Without these, how do you know, and very quickly you go back to your old ways. Get the gadgets, they work for you!

[blocktext align=”left”]For me, gadgets are the key to actually see that you are improving.[/blocktext]

So take us through the changes you made. I know you built your exercise up slowly, tell us about that. 

I started off by still driving to work but parking outside work and walking in for eight minutes. Then back to the car after work. 15 minutes total exercise per workday I was not otherwise getting. And saving £30 a month on car parking! Then I took my bike into work, left it there and went out for a half mile / mile cycle at lunchtime in the local woods. Then I started to leave the car at home, walked for 10 minutes from home to the bus stop, caught the bus, then walked from bus stop to work. That saved £120 a month on petrol. Better than that though I got 30 minutes a day exercise and gradually built on the routine my body was used to.

Then in September 2013, I built up the courage to cycle in to work (a grand trip of five miles) for National Cycle to Work Day. It took me 90 minutes. I was absolutely knackered at the end of it. I made myself a promise that if I could do it and survive, I would do it at least once a week until I was fit, come rain or shine. I have not failed on that promise yet, it is now December 2014.

That’s such a good model for anyone else out there reading to use – the notion of just gradually building up. What else helped?

The Strava app really helped as it was telling me I was getting faster day by day, to where now I can complete the same 90 minute five mile original journey in just over 20 minutes, and not be out of breath at the end of it. I also joined Trim Down Shape Up in December 2013. It’s a great men-only fitness group where it’s all blokes together exercising and losing weight in a bloke’s kind of way with fun team games, bloke-ish banter, great camaraderie, super (and vital!) nutritional information and just the best fitness instructors. And its free for the men of Wigan and Leigh. FREE EXTRA LIFE! Who does not want that? Highly recommended.

Before, during and nearly there! - Dates on images

You’ve continued to love cycling, culminating in an impressive resolution last year.

I made myself a New Year’s Resolution in December 2013 to cycle 1,000 miles in 2014, with my Strava app keeping count. As I write this it is Boxing Day 2014. I have done my 1,000 miles. In fact, I have surpassed it, past 2,000 miles and as I type, I am on 2,972 miles and tomorrow I will be going over my 3,000 mile revised target by cycling from Blackpool Tower to Wigan Pier for Wigan and Leigh Hospice Charity, going further than I have ever gone before on a bicycle ride.

Did you suffer at all from the dreaded plateaus. How did you deal with them?

Because I was using gadgets to measure my progress and the number kept going down I knew I had to just keep doing what I was doing. There were times when my weight just stopped going down for a few days. I had no factual evidence for the reason why, other than what I think was my body’s way of saying “Hang on a minute fella, just give me a minute to shuffle a few thing around in here…”

This is an important message to people losing weight. There will be times when your body will not drop weight for a few days no matter what you do, and I believe it’s just your body’s way of adjusting. When this happens, just rest for a few days, let it “have a minute” and shuffle a few things around and rest and recuperate, but then after a few days, get back on its case and continue, and the weight will start to go again.

How has life changed now you’ve lost the weight?

I can run faster, cycle longer, climb Glastonbury Tor with bike and not be out of breath at the top! I feel more confident in myself, and the best feeling is passing on what I have learned to others and watching them lose weight too. That gives me a really warm glow. I have a lot of people to thank including my family, friends, colleagues, FaceBook friends, and by no means least, Trim Down Shape Up.

What surprised you about losing weight?

Knowing that I could actually do it. Knowing that there was a way to achieve it. The overwhelming support I received by everyone, and the fact that from a 48″ waist I thought I would never again be able to fit into a pair of 36″ waist jeans.


Steve using his daughter to illustrate how much weight he’s lost!

What advice do you have for others in your position?

My advice would be to get a “bloke MOT” from your doctor. Then declare on Facebook that you are going to change – you will receive an overwhelming response of support. Get armed with gadgets such as digital scales, smartphone with Strava app, to monitor your progress. Start off with small changes to your eating and moving habits. Build those changes into routines. Build up on those routines. Start cycling, stay strong and through the initial sore bum of not cycling in 20 years! Cycle one mile every other day, then after a week, go to 1.5 miles every other day, after a month, three miles etc.

Sign up for your local “Trim Down Shape Up” or equivalent group. Keep doing the above but more of it, building and increasing your routines, getting fitter, lighter, faster, until you have golden flashing lights around the numbers that your gadgets are reporting back to you. Make that New Year’s Resolution. Make it achievable. Make it realistic. And when done, you can always double it up or triple it up. I would never have believed it if someone were to say to me in Jan 2013: “Woody, in Dec 2014, you will have cycled 3,000 miles and lost over eight stone in weight!”

BELIEVE! Just start by making small changes, monitor your progress and build up… and if you fancy a fry-up or a chocolate bar or a beer, remember, earn it up front, then enjoy it!


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