- Name: Iain Littler (ask him anything on Talk)
- Job: Business Recovery Administrator
- Height: 5′ 10″ (177.8 cm)
- Age: 30
- Highest weight: 231 lbs (104.8 kg)
- Lowest weight: 148 lbs (67.1 kg)
Hi Iain, now we know that no one looks good in graduation robes but you’re clearly a lot Littler now (sorry, I promise that’s the only time I’ll make that joke).
I’ve heard it before! I’m sharing my story because I want everyone reading this who is overweight or obese to note that I was in the same position and, with dedication, achieved results that I am really proud of. There is nothing to stop you doing the same if you really want it.
Weight loss in my opinion is a 50:50 proposition. 50% of it is educating yourself so that you know what goes into the food you eat and what you need to do to burn it off. The other 50% is the dedication to reduce your calories intake accordingly and exercise even when you don’t feel like it. It is easy to make excuses for yourself and indeed I regularly am tempted to miss sessions when it is windy or rainy. If you persist regardless of the conditions then you will get the results you deserve.There is nothing to stop you doing the same if you really want it.
You calculated that before you changed your ways you were eating over 4,000 calories a day – what on?
I’d eat nothing for breakfast, maybe a couple of biscuits or a piece of toast occasionally. At about 11am I would have a chocolate bar, a packet of crisps and a can of diet soft drink! Lunch would be either a chip shop, soft drink and some snacks. I would generally snack through the afternoon on more crisps, sweets and chocolate before dinner. A typical dinner would be a large pizza with a stuffed crust, chips and beans, with yet more soft juice and some bread. After dinner, I would generally have some cake, more sweets, thickly buttered bread, ice-cream and anything else I could get my hands on. I also drank a lot more alcohol back then which can’t have helped.
You’re actually an example of a New Year’s Resolution that stuck – what happened?
I weighed myself at the tail end of 2008 and saw I was a fair bit over 16 stone for the first time ever. Having put on a stone in the past six months I was worried about what weight I was going to end up at. It was also having an impact on my health and my confidence. I was out of breath even walking up the stairs and I also got affected by the general teasing that comes of being a “big lad”. People don’t realise how hurtful it can be when you make fun of them about their weight and how it leads to you have no confidence whatsoever in social settings, despite seeming like you’re laughing it off. So, at the start of January I decided to try to lose a bit of weight.
What changes did you make?
I immediately cut back my calorie intake and to assist with this I started to read food labels. This gave me an appreciation of what things were the worst for me. In general I knew that things like chocolate, pies etc were bad for me, but I wasn’t aware just how much of your daily calorie allowance these things took up. I tried to stick to 1500 calories a day as much as possible. In addition, for the first time in my life I started to regularly eat breakfast. I wasn’t aware before doing some research that this would kickstart my metabolism and stop me snacking by mid morning.
Reading food labels is a great piece of advice – what should readers look for?
What surprised me when I started was just how many calories and how much fat were in certain products. For example, a regular supermarket pizza can have over 40% of your saturated fat allowance for the day and around a quarter of your calorie allowance! The three main things a look at on a label are calories, fat and saturated fat. The limits, or at least the percentage used of the limit, should be apparent from the packaging, but beware that these are not always 100% accurate as they take into account the average person.
And you began this transformation into a award-winning runner about then as well? How did you do that?
The most important part of my weight loss journey though was without a doubt the exercise side of it. I started by going to the local social club gym three nights a week. I was typically doing about an hour of cardio during each session – 15 minutes of the treadmill (alternating jogging and walking to start with), 15 minutes on the cross trainer, 15 minutes on the bike and 15 minutes on the stepper. It was at this point I truly realised the value of calories as I was truly knackered at the end of each session and was only burning off around 600-800 calories – or a couple of chocolate bars and a packet of crisps. This drove me to restrict these kinds of foods even more!In general I knew chocolate and pies were bad for me, but I wasn’t aware how much of your daily calorie allowance they took up.
I lost a stone in the first two weeks and this drove me to work even harder, as I knew that weight loss would not always be this quick. I kept up my efforts in the gym and continued to restrict my diet to 1,500 calories a day as much as possible. I lost over five stone in a few months and by May 2009, I was down to 11 stone. This was a weight I wanted to stay at so I increased my calorie count such that I stuck at around this weight. The only time after this that I went much below 11 stone was when I dropped down to about 10 stone 7 lbs in 2011 when training hard for my first half marathon.
What has been the best change?
I am now confident in my own skin and am a far fitter and healthier person both in body and mind. I don’t worry about people looking at me and thinking ‘look at that fat sod’ anymore and indeed get plenty of compliments about how I look.
You properly got into running and you look like a natural now – how did that change happen?
Towards the end of my weight loss journey I realised that I was getting bored of the gym and that I would need to find something else to keep me active. At this time one of my mates convinced me to sign up for the Paisley 10k against my better judgement. I remembered all to well the suffering and humiliation of the 1500m at school and was nervous about running in public. Regardless, we trained a couple of times a week and before I knew it the day came around. I set myself a target of finishing in under an hour and amazed myself as I managed to finish in under 50 minutes (49’23”).
I had caught the running bug and five years later I am a veteran of nearly 140 parkruns (including two wins!), numerous 10ks and two half marathons. I run for Cambuslang Harriers and with Nike+ Run Club and have personal bests of 17’41” for 5k, 36’41” for 10k and 1h 24′ 24″ for Half Marathon. I do two sessions of intervals, a parkrun and a long run each week in addition to two gym sessions. I could never of dreamed of this six years ago!
You lost the weight very quickly and clearly the combination of a restricted calorie diet and plenty of exercise that you enjoyed was key for you – what’s surprised you about the difference?
The big thing is how much easier even the simple things like walking are. Obviously you are carrying a lot less weight and therefore every motion you make is easier than it was at your original weight. It also amazed me how addictive it got setting a goal for the next week and the great feeling that you get when you achieve it. Running has replaced this goal-orientated approach now and it what keeps me fit and healthy in the main, apart from injuries!
The election is coming up – what would you change about the world to make it healthier?
This is a tough one. Things like putting a message on high calorie food or making exercise at school compulsory never really works as you have to want to achieve weight loss to get it. I would say that subsidised gym membership and personal training sessions would be a good thing to provide to those who are wanting to get into shape as the cost of these things can prove prohibitive to many. I try to help with this myself as I am a regular volunteer at Great Run Local Glasgow Quays which has the expressed goal of helping people lose weight and stay fit.