Sweet Nothings – Amazing Loser Tim Vickery Kicks Sugar
- Name: Tim Vickery (ask him anything on Talk)
- Height: 6’3″ (188cm)
- Job: Marketing Director
- Age: 42
- Location: London
- Highest weight: 322lbs (146kg)
- Lowest weight: 220lbs (99.8kg)
For every complex, subscription-based, bells and whistles diet program out there, there’s a simple plan that asks you to simply cut one thing from your diet. Traditional enemies fat and carbs have enjoyed a more favourable reputation in recent times thanks to a deeper understanding of their variety (good carbs, bad carbs, sat fats, trans fats, Minnesota Fats et al) and associated health benefits, coupled with the rise of the current flavour-of-the-month villain: sugar.
The crux of Amazing Loser Tim’s approach to weight loss was a simple reduction of sugar intake. So tell us Tim, how did you combat your sweet tooth and did you follow any diet plan, such as Davina’s 5 Weeks To Sugar Free*? (*Other sugar eliminating plans are available)
There wasn’t any real diet as such – but a significant change to the way I consumed food, and the types of food I consumed. I removed all added sugar from my diet and limited myself to 2,000 calories per day, severely limited alcohol intake (only red wine, and only on special occasions) and all fruit juices, and I increased the amount of water I was consuming with a minimum 2 litres per day.
Removing the sugar was a big change – as this meant I had to really think about what I was eating, so there were things like no store-bought soups or salad dressing – or bread. I drink a lot of coffee, and would always put two or three teaspoons of sugar in each cup and I was regularly consuming close to 500 grammes of sugar each week just from coffee! Dropping the booze made a big difference as well. I drank often – and it was always pints of fizzy lager and normally with garbage pub food.
Could you give us a typical example of what you ate over the course of an average day?
I look back at my old diet and the thing that stands out is the amount of bad carbs I used to eat. White bread was my weakness – and nearly every meal had white bread with it. Breakfast with toast, snack would be a bagel, lunch a sandwich, afternoon snack would be a doughnut, and dinner would be pasta with bread. Evening snacks would be crisps or chocolate. I would drink alcohol most days at lunchtimes and in the evenings.
The white bread, the sugar, and the carbs in booze are my Achilles’ heel. My body just cannot cope with them and after consuming them my insulin levels would shoot up and the bread and sugar would turn to fat. Add to the bread the chips, pizza, pasta, and booze and it is no surprise that I ended up weighing over 320 lbs. I drank virtually no water – which looking back seems just crazy! I estimate that before changing my lifestyle my daily calorie in take would be in the region of between 2,800 to 3,500 – with no exercise.
My diet now is healthy and varied. Examples daily intake would be as follows: Breakfast of two poached eggs, three rashers of dry cured bacon, microwaved until crisp and rye bread (which has no added sugar and low GI). Morning snacks are apples, bananas, and oranges, lunch is either salad with protein with a home-made vinaigrette with no sugar or sushi. My afternoon snack is more fresh fruit, and dinner is normally grilled meat with green vegetables or salad. Evening snacks is either more fruit or nuts. I drink lots of water, and coffee without sugar.
What made you decide to start your weight loss journey?
I knew that I was fat – and I knew that I was getting fatter. I had to buy suits from Big and Tall shops, and I just felt awkward and uncomfortable in my own skin. I really felt like I was in someone else body and living someone else’s life. I hated being fat and desperately wanted to change, but I kept putting it off and never did anything about it. I had a chronic snoring problem which created significant difficulties with my wife, as well as headaches, back aches, knee aches, chest pains, a smoker’s cough and frequent illnesses.
I have three young sons and keeping up with them and having energy to do things with them was an issue. All I wanted to do was to sit on the couch and rest. Knowing with some certainty that I was heading towards having a heart attack or stroke before I was fifty played on my mind a lot.
What negative experiences do you have of being overweight?
I had a very embarrassing experience at work with a team member. There was some light-hearted and not at all mean-spirited joking at her expense about something that had happened at the pub the night before, and she loudly announced at me, so that most of the office could hear, that “at least she didn’t have a huge fat stomach.” I was mortified, embarrassed beyond words. I decided then that I no longer wanted to be fat – and that I would turn my life around. Although this team member was extremely mean, hurtful, and malicious in her intent, I guess in some strange way I owe her a thank you.
How did you get in shape?
After the embarrassing incident noted above, I almost immediately bought a bike. I started cycling to the train station every day (about five miles round trip) and made the dietary adjustments noted earlier. It was hard work, with rides up some long and steep hills that really hurt and really challenged me. I was, however, determined to keep going.
I dropped a large amount of weight rapidly (about 20 lbs) which I am guessing was water. I carried on cycling about five miles a day for about four months and was pleased with my progress. I took three weeks off work for a summer holiday and took my bike with me. Every day when I was on holiday I managed to go cycling through a beautiful pine forest and started increasing my rides to 10 miles a day, and then 15 miles.
When I got back from holiday I decided that I wanted to focus on getting fit and healthy, and to spend some time with my family. I took an extended break from work and threw myself into a hard cycling regime. I upped my daily rides to 20 miles (sometimes more) and really began to feel the difference.
After about a year of cycling I decided to try the popular video workout routine T25. My wife and I did the workouts each night and we began to feel the difference. After about a year’s work I had lost 60 lbs of weight and was feeling great. I had to get rid of all of my clothes as nothing fit me, and that was quite a pleasant feeling!
I continued cycling and doing the T25 workouts and the weight continued to drop. After 18-months of cycling, eating clean, and exercising I have dropped over 100 lbs in weight. I stick to consuming around 2,200 calories per day, avoiding sugar and booze, and drinking lots of water.
How did you push yourself through the moments when you just couldn’t be bothered?!
Whenever I didn’t feel like going out on my bike, or was feeling lazy I reminded myself of why I was doing what I was doing. When I looked out the window and it was raining and/or cold and I didn’t fancy going out I would say to myself “That is what the fat you would do!” I cycled in the rain, the cold, the heat, and the wind. I counted every calorie, kept my hydration levels up, and avoided sugar like a vampire avoids garlic. I hit a plateau over this summer where I couldn’t shift any more weight, so I doubled my daily cycling distance (up to 40 miles a day / seven days a week) and the fat started burning again.
How has life changed now you’ve lost the weight?
There are so many ways it is almost impossible to mention them all.
I love cycling so much that it also allowed me to quit smoking. I had smoked since I was 16 and thought that I would never quit. The moment that I realised that the smoking was getting in the way of my cycling performance I quit with ease.
Health wise I have never felt better. No aches or pains – and no snoring. I sleep like a baby and have so much energy that I surprise myself.
I have had to change my entire wardrobe twice over the last 18-months and it feels great to buy a pair of 34 inch waist jeans when only a short while ago I was wearing size 44” waists.
One of the biggest (and most important) impacts from losing such a large amount of weight is the change in the relationship with my wife. Being very fit, and very healthy has led to an increase in energy and enthusiasm. I won’t say too much more about that, but I am sure you get the drift!
In general I feel much more positive about life and I look forward to the future. The changes I have made are not a phase, but permanent adjustment to my lifestyle and outlook at life. If I miss a couple of days of cycling or exercising I feel cheated and I love the feeling I get from being active.
There is a steep hill that I cycle on the way home from work – and when I first started cycling, going up this hill was a painful and unpleasant experience. This hill made me wheeze and sweat. Often I would have to stop half way up feeling like I was going to vomit and seeing stars. Now I fly up this hill without even noticing. I have the joint fastest time up this hill as recorded on Strava – beating cyclists half my age (easily!) The crowning moment of the last 18-months was completing a 110 mile bike ride through the Ashdown Forest. The sense of accomplishment was immense – and it was at that moment of completion that I knew I would never be fat again.
I am planning a cycle ride along the length of the Rhone Valley in France – so that is something to look forward to.
Who helped you the most and who got in the way?
No one really got in my way. I set my sights on a goal to lose weight and become healthy, and I did it. It would not have been possible to do without my wife. We work out together, and eat together, and enjoy life together. My wife is very active and regularly runs 10 miles a day.
My other inspirations are my dad who is nearly 70 and is fitter and healthier than nearly all other other people, and my friend Elliot who lost a staggering amount of weight doing Slimming World. I saw his updates on Facebook about the progress he was making and was quite jealous, but in a good way! As noted above, I suppose I owe my former team member who embarrassed me so badly a debt of gratitude for making me change my ways.
What surprised you about losing weight?
The biggest surprise came when I saw a photo of myself from when I was at my biggest. My son had been going through some old photos and brought me a photo of my wife and I and I just couldn’ t recognise the person I was looking at. I had got accustomed to seeing my face in the mirror, and when I saw this old photo of myself I just didn’t even recognise myself. It was a strange moment.
If you could go back to the person you were at your heaviest, what would you say to him?
Start now! My only regret about losing weight and getting healthy is that I didn’ t start sooner. I would tell my old self about the joy of cycling through the woods on a crisp February morning and how this far exceeds sitting on the couch eating crisps.
You’re Prime Minister for the day, what one law do you bring in to help others who are obese?
Penalties do not seem to work – so I would reward. It is going to be difficult to force people to stop eating poorly and make them be active, but if there was a reward mechanism to encourage people to start cycling, or swimming, or running and eating a healthy diet, this should be looked into. I am not sure what that reward mechanism could be, but anything that helps others break free of unhealthy lifestyles should be encouraged.
What three things do other fat men need to know about losing weight?
- Kill the sugar! Just doing this will make you feel better.
- Make time for yourself to exercise. Be selfish – and make sure you do something to get the blood pumping everyday.
- Ignore the scales and concentrate on how your jeans fit.