A combination of things sent this week’s Amazing Loser Tom spiralling into a vicious cycle of feeling unhappy and comfort eating. After a nasty car accident, he turned towards food and away from the healthy habits he’d been trying to build, resulting in him reaching his highest weight of 23 stone and finding that he didn’t want to live. That is until a chance comment by a friend changed everything…
Name: Tom Almond (ask him anything on Talk, and follow his excellent Instagram here)
Height: 5ft 9
Occupation: Graphic designer
Highest weight: 324lbs (23st 2lbs / 147kg)
Lowest weight: 173lbs (12st 5lbs / 78kg)
Weight lost: 151lbs
How did you get to the position where you needed to lose weight?
It was a combination of things. As I got older, I started playing out less and spending more time inside on computers and games consoles, and this was when I started to gain weight. Eventually I gained a noticeable amount and became the target of bullies in school. It was at that point I became very unhappy and used food for comfort, and it all just spiralled out of control from there.
What negative experiences did you have of being overweight?
Being overweight made me incredibly unhappy. It was a vicious cycle of being unhappy, turning to food for comfort and gaining weight. I had no confidence, no desire to socialise. I spent a lot of time pretending to be something I wasn’t to please other people. I’d drink alcohol to excess to overcompensate for anxiety and shame. I have people telling me to this day “I had no idea you felt that way” – and that was because I didn’t want to let it affect the people around me, so I kept it all to myself.
I found myself in a place where I was suicidal and no longer wanted to be alive. I knew deep down I’d never make an attempt on my own life, but I did just have this numbness inside me and a desire to die. I spoke to doctors and their solution was to offer me antidepressants, but I felt like that was just covering the cracks and wasn’t a solution, so I refused them. I knew that if I was going to do this, I had to figure out the solution myself.
What made you decide to change?
I was sat in a bar one night with a friend, and we were having a general discussion about weight loss. I’d mentioned how I’d managed to lose weight before, but I’d been in a car crash that undone all of my work. My body eventually healed, but mentally I never got back on the right track. My friend told me that maybe I just didn’t want it enough. Those words stuck with me when I went to bed that night, and when I woke up the next morning I decided that I did, and there was no looking back from that moment.
How did you lose weight?
I lost my weight by doing a 20 minute HIIT cardio session 5 days a week and eating at a large calorie deficit. On the face of it, it’s literally that simple! Obviously, this included making a lot of small changes, which ultimately added up to one big change.
I reduced the amount of deep fried food I was eating to basically nothing, reduced my alcohol intake, started drinking a lot more water and aimed to improve my sleep. But this isn’t stuff we should do for the sole purpose of losing weight, this is healthy stuff everyone should be doing anyway!
People might think I’ve made huge compromises to my lifestyle here, but I can honestly, wholeheartedly say that I don’t miss junk food. Sometimes I’ll remember “Oh, I love that chocolate bar”, for example. And if I still remember it in an hour, or if I remember when I go shopping in the evening then I’ll have one. But most of the time it’s already slipped my mind.
Had you tried to lose weight before? What made this time different?
I’d made a lot of half-hearted attempts before (as most readers are probably more than familiar with) that always seemed to fizzle out pretty quickly. I found that when I was younger I always tried to do it for other people, and not for myself. To make other people accept me, or find me more attractive.
I made one major attempt where I was walking 4 miles a day and eating an improved diet and managed to lose 3 stone. I was definitely on the right track, but then I was in a car crash which left me unable to walk far or exercise. I let it get the better of me and quickly slipped back into my old ways, and gained all the weight back plus 2 stone more – putting me at my heaviest weight of 23 stone.
I think everyone who has success losing weight has their moment where they decide they want it enough, and nothing will stop them. This just happened to be my moment.
What did you eat before you lost weight?
I think I had probably the worst relationship with food you could have – I already had a healthy appetite, then combining that with extreme comfort eating and working in a fast food restaurant. Looking back it was a really horrendous time in my life.
What do you eat now?
I’m so lazy when it comes to food. SO LAZY. Most of my meals take like 20 minutes or less to cook. Trust me, I didn’t become a Michelin star chef to get to this point. In fact I have a Story on Instagram called “Awfully Photographed Food” which I created to emphasise that I eat all kinds, and it looks awful, but I like it and it works for me. I eat stuff off the shelf and out of tins, and you can too. You don’t have to be perfect.
- Breakfast – protein porridge with almond milk, a cup of tea
- Morning snack – fruit
- Lunch – chilli con turkey with white rice
- Dinner – chicken with pasta in a chunky veg sauce
- Evening snack – popcorn or a curly wurly and some fruit
I also still drink alcohol and eat takeaways, but dramatically less than I used to. I think as long as you’re mentally prepared for those things, it’s absolutely fine to indulge. I have a takeaway once a week (or more, if there’s something going on!)
I don’t try and count calories for takeaways or alcohol – I just get on with it, make sensible choices where I can then move on with my life. You can’t accurately count a takeaway (unless they provide nutritional info, thanks Nandos), and if you try, before you know it you’ve added an inaccurate 10 million calories to MyFitnessPal and are heading for a nervous breakdown!
What was the most difficult thing about losing weight?
The only thing that I’ve found difficult is coming to terms with loose skin. I’ve lost half of my body weight, so it was inevitable. However – you’ve got to know that having loose skin is a small, small price to pay for living a longer, healthier, happier life.
How has life changed now that you’ve lost weight?
Honestly, I feel like a completely different person. The one I always wanted to be! I’m generally so much more confident. I also feel like I’m so much more approachable and people gravitate towards me more because I’m more open and people can see it.
My health has improved dramatically. I very rarely get sick now, and I never get heartburn which was very common. I used to get really bad infrequent migraines which I haven’t had once since I started. My weight was causing back pain when I was getting out of bed in the mornings which is also a thing of the past.
AND CLOTHES! I can walk into any shop and buy clothes, something which was hard to do in the past. Unfortunately, I’m still unlucky in love (one place I still lack confidence), but I’m working on it!
How did you overcome any difficulties?
By simply not letting it get to me. Before, I would let a lot of things influence my mood, I found it easy to get stressed and down, but I decided that nothing is more important than my health. I remind myself that I’ve done good and I’m doing good. I’ve made a huge change that has absolutely changed the course of my life. Nothing can take away from that, definitely not a bit of loose skin.
On days where I felt a bit down, I just went to the beach for a walk and reflected on everything I’ve accomplished. Then I’d get back in the car and make sure the next thing I do is a positive step to reinforce my commitment to this life I’ve chosen.
Who supported you the most on your journey and how did they help?
One of my closest friends Ray was the original inspiration when I initially started on my journey (pre-crash), I was inspired by his discipline and dedication towards his fitness goals. He guided and supported me every step of the way.
Joe Wicks has also been an amazing support and inspiration throughout my journey. I got in touch with Joe on Snapchat and I think he just genuinely got a buzz off seeing me progress; we kept in touch throughout my journey. He is the real deal and such a great guy.
My wider network of friends (both in real life and on social media) have also been a constant source of motivation. I think monitoring my process on Instagram and making myself accountable helped a lot, so I had a lot of support along the way.
If you could go back to the person you were at your heaviest, what would you say to him?
Probably nothing, because the person I was wouldn’t have listened. I think my journey has played out exactly the way it needed to, and nothing would have changed it.
Now that you’ve lost weight, how are you planning on maintaining your weight loss?
Honestly, at the moment I’m still losing weight! I still intend to visit the gym every weekday morning, because I think it’s such a good habit, doesn’t take up too much of my time and I genuinely enjoy it. So when it comes to maintaining my weight – all I’ll have to do is up my calories.
I’m hoping once I up my food intake I’ll start to see a lot more muscle mass develop, but it’s not my intention to become a huge ripped bodybuilder. Not because I don’t think I could, but it’s just never been a desire of mine.
You’re Prime Minister for the day – what law would you bring in to help combat the obesity problem?
I think we need to spend less time coming up with new taxes and more time educating people on the basic principles of exercise and nutrition. I would look to create an initiative that sits in between hiring an expensive personal trainer and going to your GP – where you can go for practical and emotional education and support for weight-related health issues.
I would also ban Jamie Oliver from being involved in campaigning for new legislation (sorry, Jamie). You can tell he’s has never struggled with obesity, because his solution seems to be “make it harder for fat people to get the stuff making them fat”, like the sugar tax. I don’t believe his efforts will change consumer behaviour. All he’s doing is patronising people, helping to make them poorer and the government richer. Not everybody who wants to consume sugar is overweight or obese, and I think a lot of people are resentful of his efforts.
What three things do other fat men need to know about losing weight?
1. The most important thing is that you’ve got to want it enough. Really, that’s all you need.
2. The harder you make it the more likely you’ll be to fail. Don’t make yourself miserable by completely cutting out everything you love.
3. It will change your life. Do it!
Many thanks to Tom for sharing his story. If you’ve got a weight loss story of your own that you’d like to share, don’t forget that we’re always looking for weight loss stories to feature, so get in touch if that’s you!