Here at MAN v FAT, we’re happy to support anything that leads to healthy weight loss. We get a lot of emails from people wishing to push their magic pills, wraps and shakes on the site – you know the type, the things that will DEFINITELY help you lose a million pounds a week. We obviously say no (or send their emails straight to spam) but there’s a bit of a grey area in between your conventional ‘eat better, exercise more’ and the wacky ‘this aloe vera shot will help you drop 6 stone before you can say ew‘: that of the very low calorie meal replacement diet.
This week’s Amazing Loser lost a phenomenal amount of weight while following the Lighter Life plan – a meal replacement diet plan which you can do only under the supervision of a trained, experienced counsellor. For those who have a lot of weight to lose, or those who find food too much to think about, it can be a good option to help you lose weight. So we wanted to find out how it feels to only have shakes for dinner, plus what really happens in the weekly LighterLife group counselling sessions…
Name: Russel Newland
Height: 5ft 6
Location: High Wycombe
Occupation: Assistant Manager at local recycle centre
Highest weight: 339lbs (24st 3lbs / 153kg)
Lowest weight: 161lbs (11st 7lbs / 73kg)
Weight lost: 178lbs
How did you get to the position where you needed to lose weight?
I didn’t start having any problems with my weight until I reached my mid-twenties. I worked in a factory at the time and, because I was the only one with a motorbike, I would go and collect everyone’s lunch for them from the pizza place or fish and chip shop. Most of the girls I worked with could never finish their lunch, so I’d do it for them. Before long, my weight began to creep up and at my heaviest, I was 24st 13lbs.
What negative experiences did you have of being overweight?
Getting around was difficult. I hurt my foot which was impeded by my weight gain. I never had any energy. The list goes on and on. I was also unable to do an indoor skydive due to my size. Now that I’ve lost weight it has given me a whole new lease of life.
What made you decide to change?
On the first day in my new job, the site manager declared that they had a pirate on their hands. Always up for a laugh, I reinvented my look to embody that of my new namesake. By the time my pirate image was born I had a 44+ inch waist. Before long I wanted to look smarter couldn’t but couldn’t fit into clothes that I deemed stylish and still look good. My partner was also concerned about my health, so the combination of the two made me take action.
How did you do it?
I joined LighterLife where I swapped conventional food for four nutritious meals, shakes, bars and pots a day. I also attended weekly group telephone sessions, where my LighterLife counsellor helped me identify the reasons behind why I’d been overeating. They also gave me the tools I needed to help me understand how I could make long term lifestyle changes to improve my health.
Had you tried to lose weight before? If yes, what made this time different from the times before?
I have tried diet after diet but LighterLife was the first diet that worked for me. I became frustrated by the slow rate of weight loss while doing other diets and I soon fell back into old habits. The thing that makes LighterLife different from all other weight loss programmes is the weekly group sessions. Although other weight loss plans have weekly meetings, this was different: each week I attended weekly calls with my Counsellor and other guys, who like me, were struggling with their weight. During these weekly sessions I learnt a lot about myself and my relationship with food. I also enjoyed having a strict plan to follow. Taking conventional food out of the equation gave me clearer focus on the other areas of my life.
What did you eat before you lost weight?
Before I lost weight I would eat whatever I wanted to eat, I would eat but on a larger scale. Growing up I was the youngest of six siblings. When food was put on the table you had to eat as quickly as you could or risk going without, wasting food was not an option. I carried this mantra into my adult life, so if someone didn’t finish their food I would finish it for them after I’d finished my own.
How did you find LighterLife? Was it difficult to adjust to eating the products?
My first week on the LighterLife packs was a lot easier than I thought it would be. I was amazed by the range of meals, bars and shakes that I could choose from. Not only do they taste really good they also fit easily with my lifestyle. I attended weekly telephone groups, which were fantastic. Having followed different diets in the past I thought I knew everything there was to know about going to groups. But LighterLife’s weekly group telephone sessions were an enlightening surprise. Each week I dialled into a group session with a trained counsellor and other guys who were also struggling with their weight. During these closed weekly sessions I learnt a lot about myself and my relationship with food.
Can you give us an example of what these sessions entailed?
The LighterLife telephone groups really help you identify more about yourself and your relationship with food. My weekly group calls have 12 other blokes on them and together you learn the tools to help you banish temptation and improve other areas of your life. One of the modules I now use in everyday life is called STOP. This helps you stop and think about how you’re feeling when you reach for an unhealthy meal or snack. You take 10 seconds to think about how you’re feeling, how you’ll feel if you give in and how you’ll feel if you don’t give in. It’s really helpful. Some people in my group have also used it to help them stop smoking.
What do you eat now?
Now I’ve reached my goal weight I just eat smaller portions. I make mindful choices of what I’m having for dinner, I plan better and eat lots more fruit and veg.
What was the most difficult thing about losing weight?
Temptation is the most difficult thing about losing weight but the results are more than worth it. Seeing other people enjoying pizza used to be hard but, back then I could never stop at just one or two slices. I can now enjoy a piece of pizza without feeling like I have to eat the whole thing. I am now also able to enjoy my food instead of sleepwalking through meal times.
How has life changed now that you’ve lost weight?
Losing weight has given me a whole new lease of life. I can now wear my skinny jeans and waistcoats with pride. I’m also so much more comfortable and have lots more energy. Since losing weight I’ve also been able to take part in an indoor skydive at iFly in Milton Keynes – something I never would have been able to do before I lost weight.
Who supported you the most on your journey and how did they help?
My partner Kate was so supportive, especially around mealtimes. By doing what I was doing she also started making healthier choices, so doing the diet benefitted both of us.
If you could go back to the person you were at your heaviest, what would you say to him?
If I could go back to the person I was at my heaviest I would tell him to sort himself out. I would explain that he is better than this, he can do better than this and he could have a whole new lease of life by starting to make changes today.
Now that you’ve lost weight, how are you planning on maintaining your weight loss?
Now that I have lost weight I will continue going to my Lighter Life groups. They’ve been teaching me so much about the importance of nutrition and portion control. They’ve taught me not to live my life by the scales but to adjust my intake sooner rather than later to prevent weight regain.
You’re Prime Minister/President for the day – what law would you bring in to help combat the obesity problem?
If I was Prime Minister for the day I would make it compulsory for everyone to take part in food education classes. It’s so important to educate people what food is about, and how to make conscious decisions around food choices. Eating in front of the TV should also be banned unless you’ve portioned out your food properly beforehand, it’s so easy to overeat when you’re not aware of what you’re doing.
What three things do other fat men need to know about losing weight?
The three thing people need to know about losing weight is:
- Even losing just 5% of your weight will improve your health and reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, blood pressure etc
- When you lose weight your confidence will come back in leaps and bounds
- Taking control of your weight will help you realise that you can be comfortable, you won’t be laughed at, you’re not restricted by your weight, you can achieve what you want to achieve – it will help you realise that you are in control and that will make you happy