It’s frighteningly easy to put weight on, but perhaps most frightening of all is how easily it can creep up on you. We’ve all been guilty of looking for the next guy who’s worse off than we are – congratulating ourselves that “at least I’m not that big”; baffled by how a man could let himself reach that weight before taking action, safe in the knowledge that we could never, not I, no never allow things to get so out of control. But it’s in these moments – looking to vilify others in order to placate our own egos – that we are in the least control of our own destiny. It’s in recognising this truth that Amazing Loser Will finally discovered the power of looking within, rather than without, to make the change on the inside and out that we are all striving for.
- Name: Will Newell (ask him anything on Talk)
- Location: Kettering
- Job: Reprographics/Graphic design
- Height: 5’11” (180cm)
- Age: 25
- Highest weight: 336lbs (152kg)
- Lowest weight: 203lbs (32kg)
- Plan: Loosely based on Slimming World
Why did you get to the position where you needed to lose that weight?
People often say to me, did you not realise you were that big? Or, you couldn’t have been that size all your life so why didn’t you stop yourself earlier? The best way I can describe it is that it’s like the old science experiment: if you put a frog in a pan of boiling water, he will jump right out but if you put it in a pan of cool water and slowly turn up the heat over a period of time, the frog won’t notice and he will boil to death.
It’s a horrible way of looking at things but just like the frog, my weight gain was gradual and I just didn’t notice how big I was getting. Over the three years I was at university, I started to put on more weight over a shorter period of time due to excessive alcohol, takeaways and cheap rubbish food. It really does suck that the majority of healthy foods are expensive and foods filled with rubbish which are made in bulk are pretty cheap to buy. When you’re a student you don’t really have much of a choice.
What negative experiences did you have of being overweight?
It was always a sad feeling walking into a clothes shop and finding that the only thing you can buy that will fit you are socks and hats. You start noticing people wearing designer clothes and you’re just wearing clothes you’ve got from a ‘big guy’ shop or from certain websites.
One thing that always sticks in my mind is the time I went to Alton Towers, a theme park here in the UK. There was a ride called AIR, it has been there for a few years but this was my first time visiting since it had been opened. A few friends and I queued up for the best part of a hour and a half and when we were at the front my three friends got on and I was asked to sit in a special seat for bigger people.
It took two people to try and secure the safety harness in my seat but the bars just wouldn’t come down and I was asked to get off. I felt humiliated and I knew everyone was watching and thinking why are we still waiting.
What made you decide to change?
I had decided to try and change so many times before throughout the years and just failed after a week or two and fallen off the horse. My sister was getting married and I just didn’t want to be in those photographs as a sweaty overweight mess, for her sake and mine. It was about a year from her setting the date to getting married. I knew I couldn’t lose it all in that time, but if I started I could definitely make a good impact.
I was also invited to friend’s wedding in Germany. I hadn’t been on a plane since I was around 15 years old and I knew I wouldn’t be able to fit in one of the seats at my size, which was another reason I knew that I needed to shift some weight.
What made it different from the times before?
I think it was different this time because I wanted it. Before I would try and lose weight but I wasn’t really that determined. I would tell myself that I was, but when it came to eating healthy, I’d pick a pizza over a salad, or I’d pick going to see some friends over going to the gym.
It was also different this time because I could see the worry in my family’s eyes. I am very close to my family and in particularly my Auntie Moira – I would quite often visit her for a couple of weeks at a time during the school holidays and most weekends we would visit. We had a really special connection.“The reason that I only dieted is that at my size I was too embarrassed to go to the gym”
As the years went on she could see how big I was getting and as a caring but worried family member, she would comment and try to help me. As the weight piled on I could see how worried she was getting and it would hurt me knowing that I was hurting her. When the first few pounds started to drop I could see the joy in her face and how happy she was, knowing that I was trying to better myself.
In March 2015, she was diagnosed with bowel and kidney cancer. After a short but strong fight, she unfortunately passed away on June 6th 2015. My life could have gone two ways at that moment; I either could have gone off the rails and destroyed everything that I had done in anger, or continue on my journey for her sake. I can stand here and thank God that it was the second path which I took.
How did you do it?
I first started dieting around three years ago, changing my meals for healthy foods and cutting out all rubbish. The reason that I only dieted is that at my size I was too embarrassed to go to the gym – I would always think that people would be staring at me and judging me for the way I was.
Looking back I feel so stupid, who cares what people think, you’re doing it for you and not them. After 18 months of dieting, I finally found the courage and joined the local gym. For me it was a real game changer, I could see results happening a lot quicker and this would always spur me on. My routine is a combination of cardio and weights. Being able to work out with weights have given me a huge advantage in tightening and toning my skin but also working on my muscle mass.
What did you eat over the course of an average day?
To be honest, as crazy as it sounds, I didn’t actually overeat that much. I just ate the wrong things and at the wrong times. My worst was during my studies at uni – I never had breakfast and usually grabbed a sandwich from the university café around 10am.
I would quite happily live off Iceland frozen chicken burgers as these were just so easy to make; I think that is one of the reasons that I got so big, it was just so convenient. I was also a big lover of chicken nuggets – to my shame I ate a pack of 36 in one sitting once.
One big factor was the amount of fizzy drink that I consumed. No diet coke in sight, all cheap pop, filled to the brim with sugar.
For dinner it was either a pizza, burger and chips or a curry – again, something that was easy to make or order in.
If we were going out I could easily knock back 6 or 7 pints followed by a kebab on the way home.
In the morning I will always have a piece of fruit and large glass of water on the drive to work.
Snacks throughout the day will consist of apples, bananas and cherry tomatoes.
For lunch I will have some sort of salad, either tuna or avocado filled with tomatoes, cucumbers and spring onions.
For dinner I will have a Slimming World meal – this can be anything ranging from spaghetti bolognese to tomato chicken or roast beef. The best thing about following Slimming World is that it is extremely tasty food but healthy at the same time.
I will also drink between 3-4 litres of water a day.“Who cares what people think? You’re doing it for you and not them”
How was the journey? Straight-forward or were there a few plateaus along the way?
You’re always going to have days where you really can’t be bothered to go to the gym, or days where you really want to tear into that half pounder with cheese. My advice would be to have it. You’re only human, you need treats along the way to keep you going. You need to have a reward at the end of the tunnel. As long as you don’t let yourself slip and the burger starts to become more frequent and appears back in your meal plan then that is okay. My journey was more or less straightforward. Like I said, there were days where I didn’t want to go to the gym, so I didn’t, but I just picked up the slack the week after and kept moving forward.
How has life changed now you’ve lost the weight?
Life has changed in a dramatic way, everything I do now is different to how I lived my life before. It’s a cliché but it really is a life adjustment rather than going on a diet and doing a few exercises.
It’s the little things in life that you take for granted that you couldn’t do before, like being able to go on country walks and not feel like death at the end, walking into a shop and seeing a shirt you can buy that actually fits you, rather than having to buy from a specialist shop – I always used to wear big hoodies, it was like a comfort blanket to me, they would hide my front from others, as I felt ashamed if I would walk around in a t-shirt. Walking anywhere, especially on a hot day, with a large hoodie on would make me feel exhausted. I would get home, take my hoodie off and find the back to be covered in sweat marks. The fact that I can walk around town and not think that people are staring at me and judging me is a real winner.
Who helped you the most and who got in the way?
I wouldn’t really say that people got in the way as such. Everyone has been super supportive. My family have been a big help and encouraged me every step along the way. My friends have also been a great help and absolute top guys.
What surprised you about losing weight?
This is going to sound strange, but although losing weight is one of the hardest things you’re ever going to do and you need to be in the right mindset, have the will power as well as the determination, but after 22 years of being overweight, what surprised me about losing weight is, theoretically, how easy it actually is.
Burn off more calories than you consume and that’s about it in the long run. It really is as simple as that. For me, I was in denial about how large I actually was. I would always see a bigger person than me and think “Hey, well at least I’m not that guy” which is the totally wrong way to go about it. As soon as you get your head in the game and work out the right routine for yourself, it can become so easy to drop the pounds – you’ve just got to stick at it.
If you could go back to the person you were at your heaviest – what would you say to him?
I don’t really know what I’d say, I believe I’ve always had the capability to lose the weight because everyone is capable of it, but at the time I didn’t have the right mindset or attitude to accomplish it. The situation I was living in at university was also a big factor so I don’t really think that talking to myself would do any good.
If I was to give past self some advice for the future, I’d just stay stick at it. You’re going to have bad days but just stick at it, you’re going to have days where for whatever reason you’re down on your luck and you just want to hide away but stick at it.
But you’re also going to have those days where you look in the mirror and you think wow, that’s such a change from a year or two ago and feel so proud. You’re going to feel so much better in the few years to come that one bad day is going to seem like nothing compared to a lifetime of happiness.
You’re Prime Minister for the day, what one law do you bring in to help others who are obese?
What a good question, I’d say free HEALTHY meals for all children studying in school. Childhood obesity is such a huge factor on children’s health and past studies have shown that it is only getting worse. If you’re a healthy child, chances are you’re going to be a healthy adult.
What three things do other fat men need to know about losing weight?
1. Diet and exercise is essential. If you’re always dieting and not working out then you’re not working on your body. If you’re always working out but not dieting then you aren’t going to see any improvements. For the first 18 months I was only dieting and I wish that I had the courage to go to the gym sooner, as you really need both to be able to lose weight.
2. You need to lose weight because YOU want to and not because you feel like you’re being forced to. Once you feel you’re being forced to do something then it becomes a chore and you no longer have the correct mindset. Eventually you will stop enjoying what you’re doing and you will come to a stop. I can say this with honesty because I have done this over half a dozen times. When you’re not in the correct mindset you’re going to feel like the world is against you and you’re not going to want to carry on. You need to do this because you want to get to the end goal for yourself and not because you think people are making you.
3. Do something that you enjoy. If you don’t like the gym then start swimming, if you don’t like swimming then start going on long walks. You really need to enjoy what you’re doing because once you stop enjoying it then it’s no longer fun and just like number two, you will start to slow down.