Following in the footsteps of MAN v FAT Football legends the Gallon brothers, this month we bring you a tale of two parts: a weight loss before and after story from identical twins who both decided their weight had held them back for too long and it was time to lose weight, leaning on each other for support and inspiration along the way.
This week we hear from Dan, who having tried – and failed – to lose weight in the past, decided to change after a humiliating experience with an airplane seatbelt (you know the one). Unlike the strict regimes which were doomed to fail in the past, this time Dan had a secret weapon: he had the support of his identical twin brother, and a way of exercising that he truly loved – and both helped him to finally start shifting the pounds for good…
Name: Dan Walsh (ask him anything on Talk)
Occupation: PR Consultant
Highest weight: 426lbs (193kg)
Lowest weight: 322lbs (146kg)
Weight lost: 104lbs (47kg)
How did you get to the position where you needed to lose weight?
I’ve always been a big lad, but it got to the stage where I wasn’t just a ‘big lad’ – I was huge and needed to sort my life out. After playing rugby from the age of 14 to 21, injuries meant I had to stop. Looking back that was definitely the start of becoming increasingly lazy and inactive. I tried the gym thing countless times but I just couldn’t stick to it. Year after year I continued to pile on the weight until it got to a point last year where I said enough is enough.
What negative experiences did you have of being overweight?
There’s been plenty!
From turning up to meetings with clients sweating like mad to struggling with seats in restaurants – everything became a struggle. I realised when you’re bigger that you are looked at differently and so social situations in general became negative at times. Looking back I think my weight definitely contributed to the breakdown of a previous relationship too.
The biggest one for me though was a stag do I went on last June. It was the first time in years that my friends and I had flown together. For weeks before I’d been worrying about the seatbelts fitting and my fears became reality in front of all of my mates. I laughed it off but the embarrassment was huge. I don’t blame them for laughing one bit – it was my fault I was in that situation. It’s definitely the one experience that sticks out the most.
<div>“When you’re bigger, you’re looked at differently”</div>
What made you decide to change?
I remember sitting on that flight thinking “never again”. It was like a lightbulb moment. I’d had enough of the way I was. I’d had enough of being lazy and letting so many things pass me by. I’d had enough of thinking “I’ll start the diet on Monday”. I’d had enough of funny looks and comments from people. I’d just had enough.
How did you do it?
From my rugby days, I had a pretty good idea about nutrition and what to eat once I was on a diet. For me it’s always been the exercise. I needed something to get my teeth into and something I’d stick to.
I’ve always loved boxing so I started to do some research into local clubs, and I came across Ian Bailey, who is a professional boxer and personal trainer. I’m not going to lie, before that first session I was so scared; I couldn’t sleep the night before. It was so hard and I struggled at times, but I loved it and afterwards I was buzzing for the next session.
For the last year I’ve trained with Ian 2-3 times a week. At the start I was so drained from each session that I wasn’t able to do any other exercise the rest of the week, but as I got fitter and stronger I joined a local gym, I found a hill to run up near where I live – I have even been running!
Ian also runs his own boxing shows where amateurs can fight. After 6-7 months of training, I decided to really challenge myself so I signed up for the next show in June of this year. We upped the training and I was so strict with myself leading up to the fight. I lost narrowly on points but I was so proud of myself for getting in there. I would never have imagined when I was sitting on that flight without a seatbelt able to go around me that I would step into a boxing ring in front of hundreds of people less than a year later. I was so proud of myself.
For my diet, I decided to totally cut out carbs. It took a while to get used to but it’s really paid off. Once a week, normally Sundays, I have a cheat afternoon where I can eat pretty much what I want, although I have completely cut out takeaways.
Had you tried to lose weight before? If yes, what made this time different from the times before?
For years! I have lost count how many times I have tried to lose weight before. What made this time different was the boxing training. I was getting fit whilst learning a totally new sport that I loved. I’m at a point now where I couldn’t imagine not boxing or training with Ian.
This time I’ve managed to find a whole new level of motivation too. At times where I’ve really struggled with my diet or the exercise, I’ve kept going. Ian has pushed and pushed me but not once have I ever given up or stopped.
The support of my family and friends has been massive for me too. As the weight started coming off and people started to say nice things it gave me an extra boost to do more and more. I felt like I was making them proud.
What did you eat before you lost weight?
Breakfast – either nothing at all or something sugary like a cereal bar
Lunch – baguette or sandwich, chocolate, fizzy drink
Dinner – any type of fast food
I’d binge on sandwiches or chocolate after work regularly. All I used to drink was Diet Coke. At weekends I would go mad with beers too and would have takeaway Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
What do you eat now?
Breakfast – eggs and salmon
Lunch – chicken breast, eggs, avocado, mixed salad
Dinner – chicken/turkey/salmon/mackerel with asparagus, vegetables, feta, halloumi
My snacks now are seafood sticks, a pack of chicken or some nuts. I have cut out Diet Coke completely and now when I do drink its G&Ts.
What was the most difficult thing about losing weight?
Sticking with it and being consistent. In years gone by I would start a strict regime and last for a month or 6 weeks. This time I have been going for a whole year.
Once I got into the exercise I haven’t looked back. Having that rugby background has definitely helped. The fitter I’ve become the more I’ve wanted to do. Setting a goal, in my case fighting, really helped in the way it made me focus on something too.
Diet-wise, having that afternoon on a Sunday where I can stop being so strict I believe has helped me so much. I don’t go crazy and I never have a takeaway, but I will go to M&S and get a sandwich or something carb-heavy for dinner. Then once Monday hits I’m back to it.
How did you overcome any difficulties?
I feel like I’ve developed an inner strength and drive that never existed before. I don’t let anything get in my way or distract me from continuing, and I think that is massive.
The support network around me is so important too. My mum, sister, brother and friends have helped me so much. My twin brother Rob is big like me and although it took him a while, he has now joined my sessions with Ian and we’ve become competitive against each another. He drives me every session and we help each other stay on track with our food. I couldn’t have done this without him.
<div>“I’ve developed a drive that never existed before”</div>
How has life changed now that you’ve lost weight?
It has literally changed my life in every way.
With work, I’m not arriving to meetings sweating like crazy. My job is all about how people perceive you and that wasn’t a good look. I look better which means I’m able to dress better and I have my confidence back – all of which are helping me in my job every day.
I’m able to do lots more. I feel like I want to do more. I’m so much more confident now than I was so dating and meeting new people feels exciting rather than a worry that they’ll judge you for your size.
It’s changed for me socially too. No more am I worried about not fitting into seats in a bar or restaurant. Or worried about people looking at you. It sounds crazy, but I feel like I’ve become invisible again – people aren’t staring at me on the tube or when I’m walking down the street. I’ve got a long way to go with my weight loss, but I’m at a point where people aren’t thinking “Wow look at the size of him”. I like being invisible.
I’ve gone full circle when it comes to flying too. 6 months after starting I had to fly to Finland for work. Again, I was scared and worried…but the seatbelt fitted! I was so happy and now that feeling of dread when I travel has gone.
Who supported you the most on your journey and how did they help?
It has to be my family, but mostly my brother. Since joining in our sessions with Ian in January, my weight loss has sped up and we’ve become a team. We box together and drive each other. Like I said, there’s no way I could have done this without him.
You lost weight along with your brother – how did you find having him on the same journey?
It took me a while to convince him to join me! He hasn’t looked back since he did. Sessions have become competitive against each other and we’ve pushed one another on a level.
To have him by my side has been amazing and something I’m so proud of. It’s changed his life as well.
<div>“[Losing weight] has literally changed my life in every way”</div>
If you could go back to the person you were at your heaviest, what would you say to him?
Stop. Enough is enough. You don’t want to live your life this way. You are better than this. You deserve better from life, Dan.
That’s it really. I’d want to show him that there’s more to life than worrying about what seats you’ll fit into or how you’re going to stop sweating after walking from a train station for 5 minutes. You’re too young to feel like this!
Now that you’ve lost weight, how are you planning on maintaining your weight loss?
Boxing is going to continue, and I can’t ever see that stopping. I’m due to fight again in December so that will be something big to aim for again. I’ve also been back to rugby training in the last month or so and I have set myself some goals which I’m determined to tick off between now and the end of the year.
The diet I have is now something I’m used to and love. I feel great, so why change?!
You’re Prime Minister/President for the day – what law would you bring in to help combat the obesity problem?
Classes in schools focused on food, nutrition and what you should or shouldn’t be eating. I never did anything like that at school.
What three things do other fat men need to know about losing weight?
- It’s not easy. It can be horrible at times but you need to have an image in your head about where you want to be – and don’t give up until you get there
- Exercise is massive – but only exercise that is sustainable. I don’t think I’d have got the results I have if I’d just gone to a normal gym 3-4 times a week. Go and try a new sport or something out of the ordinary. You could end up loving it
- Support network – tell everyone that is close to you about you planning to lose weight at the start. They will support you.