Sometimes knocking the junk food on the head just isn’t enough – any successful long-term weight loss journey is founded on a total lifestyle change, and for a lot of men, that also means giving up two of your dad’s/Liam Gallagher’s favourite vices: cigarettes and alcohol. Aside from the more publicised negative (and fatal) health effects of sweet, brown liquor and lovely fags, they also contain lots of empty calories and artery clogging fat. Cutting them out of your life can have a dramatic positive effect on your weight loss efforts, as Amazing Loser Dan found out…
- Name: Daniel Prodrick
- Location: Lincoln, Lincolnshire
- Job: Shop Assistant
- Height: 6″ 1′
- Age: 28
- Highest Weight: 238lbs (108kg)
- Lowest Weight: 176lbs (80kg)
- Plan: Tracking calories, trying to eat sensibly and cut down fast food.
Why did you get to the position where you needed to lose weight?
I got to the position where I wanted to lose weight because frankly I hated what I saw when I looked in the mirror and could not believe I had let myself get that big. When I was in my teens and early twenties I was always slim, but I ended up taking what I believed to be good genetics for granted.
I ate whatever food I wanted whenever I wanted without a second thought. I was also a binge drinker and smoked which had made my asthma and general health extremely bad. When I saw this guy with a double chin in the mirror looking back at me I couldn’t believe that this was who I had become. I knew things needed to change, but at the time I didn’t know how this was going to happen.
What negative experiences did you have of being overweight?
When I was overweight I used to sweat a hell of a lot, sometimes I would cycle to work and when I turned up I was absolutely drenched even though it was only a 10 minute cycle away. It would sometimes take half an hour after arriving at work to stop sweating.
I used to sweat a lot in social situations too which was very embarrassing. This was partly due to my weight and partly due to anxiety. Since I have lost weight, the excessive sweating has completely stopped. I also suffered sleep apnoea, so I would wake up in the middle of the night gasping for air and having to reach for my inhaler. Again, since losing weight, stopping smoking and improving my general fitness, my sleep apnoea has stopped.
“When I was big I used food as a drug.”
What made you decide to change?
When I was big I used food as a drug; if I was bored I would order pizza and if I was depressed I would drink and eat more fast food. If I was in a good mood I would treat myself to McDonalds.
I rarely cooked and most of the food I ate was from takeaways, or ready made food from the shops, such as sandwiches or wraps. What was worse than anything else though was my self-esteem, which was practically non-existent. I had just become someone who was working far too many hours, consuming way too much food and alcohol and was depressed practically 24/7 as well as being unfit and out of breath doing the most simple things.
I kept pushing all my feelings down until one day I decided that if things didn’t change this was who I was going to be forever, and I wouldn’t accept that.
How did you do it and what made it different from the times before?
This was my first real attempt at weight loss and so I realised I would have to educate myself. I was looking for weight loss guides online, but each article I read seemed to contradict the article I had read before it. Everybody was saying different things about how losing weight worked and everybody was promoting their own diets and ideas. The more I read, the more confusing it got and I didn’t know who or what to believe. Thankfully I came across a book in Waterstones called MAN v FAT Weight Loss Manual [COUGH – Ed] which broke everything down for me and introduced me to this wonderful online community.
I downloaded the MyFitnessPal app on my phone and started tracking what I ate as often as I could. I started preparing more food for myself at home. For breakfast I would have porridge oats and add some fruit and honey. Dinner may have been things like chicken breast with a huge salad and baked beans. I was trying to cut out as much takeaway as possible too, and focusing on getting more fruit and veg in my diet. I slowly lowered my added sugar in coffees from three to just half a sugar.
I also realised I should start exercising, so I joined a local gym and hit the treadmill. The first time I went I managed just 1km before I was completely exhausted and left, embarrassed at how unfit I had become. The second time I managed 2km, then 3km. I eventually hit my first 5k about a month later and was really proud of it. In the meantime I was trying to quit smoking. I tried nicotine patches and going cold turkey, but I eventually settled for vaping. Quitting smoking improved my lung function dramatically and helped me with my running, which in turn helped me in burning more calories.
How was the journey? Straight-forward or were there a few plateaus along the way?
The first year of weight loss was a huge struggle and was anything but perfect. I would monitor my calories and eat sensibly for a few days only to go on a food binge, lose motivation and give up. I would still exercise and I really did want to lose weight, but I found it so hard to stay away from fast food and I would still binge drink. Binge eating was a real problem for me and there were so many times where I was ready to give up.
My depression wasn’t helping either, it was very hard to concentrate on any long term meaningful goal when I was constantly undermining myself and feeling horrible about everything. All I wanted to do was eat rubbish food and drink alcohol to try and feel better, but it only made things worse. It was a vicious cycle.
Eventually I ended up quitting my job at the bookmakers where I was working 50/60 hour weeks and decided to get a CSCS card so I could get a job as a labourer. I knew quitting the bookies would make me feel a lot less stressed and I desperately wanted to lose weight, so I knew that getting a more physically demanding job would help me in this area.
It was January 2016, a year since I made the decision to lose weight and the changes I had made were finally starting to pay off. I had increased my fitness levels hitting my first 10k run, and I had actually lost nearly 2 and a half stone!
I’d had a lot of time off from running due to injury, but my body was now used to it and the injuries stopped after this point.
However, I still wasn’t happy with the way I looked and knew that I could lose the weight faster if I only I was more consistent. I then hit a plateau for a few months until April when I hit a crisis point. My motivation to lose weight was at an all time high, I knew it was possible for me because I had already lost 2 and a half stone, yet for some reason I would still binge eat chocolate or order takeaway in the evenings and this drove me nuts. I wasn’t shifting the weight and what’s more, I had still been binge drinking. The drinking had become a serious problem which was taking a toll on my mental health, which in turn made it harder to focus on healthy eating and exercise. Plus all those empty calories from the booze weren’t helping matters. With some support I decided that abstinence from drinking was my only option.
Who helped you the most?
I desperately needed help conquering my evening cravings. I noticed a phone number in a MAN v FAT email and I rang it as soon as I could because I wanted to explain my dilemma to someone who might be able to help. I explained to Andrew that I felt I had hit a road block and that my evening cravings for bad food were driving me nuts. He suggested I post about it in the forums which I did and got a lot of helpful replies. A fellow MAN v FAT user suggested that I allow myself the bad food instead of trying to resist it, but that I should incorporate it into my daily calorie goal (which was 1700 calories at the time). It made so much sense and it gave me a renewed vigour and focus.
The biggest help to me losing weight came from people I spoke to on MAN v FAT. I was inspired by other Amazing Losers and I always seemed to get the right advice at the right time when I asked questions. I also had a few friends who were very encouraging and interested in what I was doing. They we’re also trying to improve their own health so it was really good supporting each other.
“Instead of trying to resist bad food I incorporate it into my daily calorie goal.”
For the next three weeks I monitored every single calorie that went into my body using MyFitnessPal, I ran 5k three nights a week, and I allowed myself chocolate in the evenings to fulfill my cravings, never exceeding my calorie goal. Every day I told myself that I only had to stick to my calorie goals today, and not to worry about how long it would take to lose weight but just to take one day at a time. It paid off big time and I lost 15lbs in those 3 weeks which far exceeded anything I could have hoped for. It was crazy how fast the weight fell off and it gave me so much self belief in my ability to lose weight. Since then I have continued to lose weight steadily.
How has life changed now you’ve lost the weight?
I am now down to 176lbs and look completely different to when I first started out. More importantly I feel happier in myself and I know that I will never let my weight get out of control again. In addition I have only drunk alcohol once in the last five months which was a couple of glasses of wine at a wedding, and I plan on staying sober for the long term.
Since then my cravings for fast food have dropped dramatically and I probably eat takeaway only once or twice a month now. I still allow myself a chocolate bar in the evenings if I feel like it but again the majority of those cravings seem to have disappeared. It’s also nice to know that I can treat myself to food when I go out and not have to worry. To date, the furthest I have run is 13km and would like to train for a half marathon. I have a much healthier relationship with food now and my new goals are to start building muscle. So I have a new journey ahead of me that is just beginning!
Could you give us a typical example of what you ate over the course of an average day?
Back in the day:
Breakfast: Cereal or some sandwiches.
Lunch: Meal deal from Boots or Co Op.
Dinner: A McDonalds meal on the way home from work, or takeaway pizza,or both.
Drinks: Four or five cans of beer.
I didn’t drink every night, but when I did I would normally keep drinking until I passed out. Probably smoked about twenty roll-ups a day.
A good day for me would look something like this now:
Breakfast: 2 scrambled egg on 1 slice of wholegrain toast with half a tin of beans and cottage cheese. If I am in a hurry it will be a bowl of cereal.
Lunch: Chicken pasta salad or a sandwich & crisps. (I’ve never been very good at preparing a healthy lunch!)
Dinner: Chicken breast, Tuna with some light mayo, Beans, Lots of Salad, Hummus.
Evening snack: Bar of chocolate.
Drinks: Lots of water, a few coffees a day with no added sugar.
All food tracked and not exceeding daily calorie goal.
What surprised you about losing weight?
The thing that surprised me most about weight loss is how quickly you can lose it when you are doing everything properly. Monitoring your calories on MyFitnessPal is an absolute must. You never really know what you are putting into your body until you start tracking everything. It’s no good simply guessing what you have eaten and going from that. You must track it all. It may seem obsessive when you are weighing your food up to figure out how many calories it has and recording it, but this is what will get you the results.
If you could go back to the person you were at your heaviest – what would you say to him?
I would say to him not to go so hard on himself for not always sticking to the diet. Everybody messes their diet up but the most important thing is not to write your weight loss off as a failure. When you mess up you must forgive yourself as soon as possible, get back on your feet and keep moving forward. This is why you will succeed, because you will not give up in the face of defeat.
You’re Prime Minister for the day, what one law do you bring in to help others who are obese?
I would make it law that any overweight person could attend free weight loss groups every week where they would have access to the right information about weight loss and get help putting together a diet that would meet their individual needs.
What three things do other fat men need to know about losing weight?
1. Weight loss is simple, to lose weight you must burn more energy (calories) than you eat over a period of time and create a calorie deficit.
2. You should track everything that you eat using an app like MyFitnessPal. Don’t overlook anything or rely on your memory, build up the habit of tracking food as soon as you have eaten it. If you are preparing food at home I find it fun to track the food on my app as I am cooking it, so I have recorded the calories before I have even consumed them.
3. Everybody messes their diet up, the quicker you forgive yourself and get back on track, the faster you will see the weight go. If you follow all these steps you may surprise yourself as to how quick you can lose it!