Quest: The Journey So Far….

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There comes a time in everybody’s life, I imagine at least, that they realise they are no longer as young as they used to be and that they cannot get by on the vitality of youth alone any longer. This epiphany crept up on me through the latter parts of 2013 and has carried forward into this year. It used to be that I would just eat/drink what I wanted, do minimal if any exercise and generally just muddle on by like that, knowing that I was out of shape but with a general acceptance that it was never really going to change so not to worry about it and just get on with things, but I realised that this was just an excuse I was feeding myself to get away with justifying whatever next piece of fast food I fancied devouring for dinner or to avoid having to actually put the work in to change how I feel and look, and once I had realised and accepted that fact I almost instantly found myself with the resolve to change it.

Please do not take this the wrong way, I do not want this to come off as some on my soapbox, preaching the good life piece that demonises anyone who dare pick up a McDonalds in the future, I still enjoy and unhealthy plate of grease as much as the next person and no doubt have not had my last, I simply wanted to portray how a few simple changes which provide a better balance can really make a difference and, more importantly, are not as difficult as the may at first appear.

Even though I had the general feeling of wanting to get healthier and fitter for a while, I can attribute the moment I really decided it was time to Christmas just past. The morning after a night out with some work friends at one of the various Xmas get togethers we all have at that time of year I saw a picture taken the previous evening and if I am brutally honest, was really not happy with what I was looking at. Instead of getting down about it and comfort eating (a vicious circle) I decided that there was only one person that was going to be able to change it and that was me. The fact that I have a few medical conditions which meant looking after myself more would be advisable only helped strengthen that resolve. It’s a stark reminder of your expanding waist line when you got for a checkup every 6 months and when they check your weight they say “Up a little bit more this time I see”.

As I alluded to above, I have never exactly been the athletic type or worried about my diet in the past, so I wasn’t really sure where to start or even what to do. I did however remember someone telling me once that losing weight is more about diet than it is exercise. Not to say exercise is not important as well but just that if you do not sort your diet out then all the exercise in the world is not going to give you the results you want. So, with this in mind I made the decision to quit all processed meals, fast food & fizzy drinks while majorly cutting down on my snacking. I started cooking all of my own meals again, buying more veg than meat in the weekly shop and investigating different ways to put them together. Lunches at work changed from massive portions of whatever hot food was on the go to soup and if I was extra hungry a piece of fruit. I set myself a challenge of choosing 1 or 2 ingredients I had never cooked with before every week just to keep things varied and expand my tastes a bit. This lead me to using items like Brussell Sprouts, Soya Beans, Pak Choi, Asparagus, among others. Not all were a success, for example I don’t think I will ever buy stuffed vine leafs again, but the vast majority did work out and the other example I gave above would be more than welcome in my kitchen any given week now.

Since I was looking to lose weight I also decided to try restricting my calories and got a hold of the app MyFitnessPal to help keep track. I don’t ever want to be someone that needs to check the amount of calories in every single packet they pick up, but for an interim period it seemed like a good idea. It is worth noting that on that day I also weighed myself to give a starting point for the app and at the time the scales read 12st 3lbs (171lbs). Not the biggest weight you have ever seen I am sure, but standing just around 5’5 this was probably the most I have ever weighed so simply reaffirmed my dedication to change. After putting in all the information MyFitnessPal informed me that I should be looking to eat a little over 1500 calories a day so I put my trust in this figure and began my journey.

That was in January and I won’t bore you with the weeks directly following as I pretty much stuck the the plan as much as possible and kept with it. I found myself really enjoying the cooking side of things and started experimenting a bit more here and there which kept things fresh and interesting while, aside from a couple of days, religiously sticking to my 1500 calories a day limit. The result of this was that after just 4 weeks I was down to 11st 6lbs (160lbs). I actually couldn’t believe that with just changing my diet and applying what could be seen as portion control I had lost half a stone and hadn’t increased my activity level at all. I had never been more motivated to keep going and was looking forward to seeing future results, but as so often happens in life it was at this point that I hit a wall.

I always knew this was not going to be an easy journey and in some ways almost felt like I had cheated to lose half a stone since it really was so easy to do, so I was prepared for things to get tougher, however it is one thing to tell yourself that and another to push through it when it actually happens. After another month, taking us up to about mid March, I was 11st 4lbs. Still a loss no doubt but to have stuck to the same routine for a further 4 weeks and to only have lost 2lbs created a bit of a mental barrier for me and I slipped up a bit for a week with that disheartened feeling. I am glad to say though that it did not last long and I began to think about what propelled me to get here in the first place, making a change. The old phrase if you do what you always did then you will get what you always got came to mind and this inspired me to once again mix things up.

Yes, I admit I had been putting it off but there really was only one thing for it at this point. Exercise!

This is not to say that I was a complete stranger to the concept. Living in the city centre and not having a car means I walk pretty much every where and I had a spell going to Jiu Jitsu in the recent past which stopped when an old knee injury had started playing up again and this allowed to justify another excuse to myself, however, it had been a while and I fully accepted that I was as out of shape as a person really can be.

As much as I would love to get back to Jiu Jitsu at some point I made the decision that I wanted to try and regain some level of overall fitness first before I did that and as it happens a good friend of mine had just recently started with a personal trainer whom I was aware of due to him training/coaching at the same gym (Scottish Hit Squad) where I had been doing my BJJ. Since I have very little knowledge of working out in general I thought having some guidance and direction would be ideal for me so I followed suit and got in contact with Paul at Atlas Personal Training.

My first session there was a little over 2 weeks ago and I was a little apprehensive when going along, but tried to think along the lines of how bad could it really be. As it turned out a lot worse than that! Leaving that gym after an hour I could hardly get down the stairs and it took me a lot longer than normal to walk down the street back to my flat. The next 2 days were even worse, I have not felt pain like that in a long time. A workmate even commented “Are you ok mate, you are walking like The Undertaker”. Anyone who is a wrestling fan and has seen Mr Callaway in the past couple of years will understand that statement.

It would have been easy to quit at that point, very easy in fact, I mean who wants to be feeling like that all the time! Quit I did not though and even got signed up at Pure Gym here in Glasgow to attend in between sessions with Atlas. Paul also set me up with a specific diet tailored to what I am trying to achieve at the moment which I will share below however please note that this was given to me and is not here as a specific diet for everyone to use to try and lose some weight.

Breakfast: Quinoa, Egg, Flaxseed Oil, Apples

Lunch: Turkey, Brown Basmati Rice, Fresh Spinach, Onions, Avocado

Dinner: Chicken Breast, Sweet Potato, Broccoli, Red Pepper, Fine Green Beans, Fresh Spinach

Evening: 0% Greek Yoghurt, Natural Honey, Whole Brazil Nuts, Blueberries, Banana

I can mix it up a little bit using common sense, however that should give you a general idea. When I first received the above diet I was rather apprehensive. It is very different from what I was used to eating even after the changes I made in January but there would be no point in starting the process if I wasn’t going to fully commit so have been doing my level best to stick to it. I might be a bit sick of the sight of Turkey and Chicken at the moment but so far so good.

When it comes to the gym it is mainly weight training I am sticking to just now, low weight high reps, in order to basically prepare my muscles for whats to come in the future and just get them working again. Throwing in a bit of cardio at the same time but not as much as the weight training.

As I sit here now I am a couple of days removed from my latest session with Atlas and after only a couple of weeks I am already feeling the difference. We are not talking massive leaps here but I definitely felt stronger and had better endurance than I did when I began. I have to say I am quite excited about what the next few weeks and months may bring and I intend to try and and deliver further updates in this series of articles, assuming that anyone still wants to hear more after working their way through this essay. If you have got this far then I salute you!

One thing is for sure though after getting stuck into this process properly for the first time I have no intentions of letting all of the hard work go to waste. It is a marathon not a spring and I for one am in it for the long haul. Onwards and upwards!

Ross Stevenson

If anyone is interested they can find the Scottish Hit Squad at http://www.scottishhitsquad.co.uk or http://www.facebook.com/scottishhitsquad & Atlas Personal Training at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Atlas-Personal-Training/465688333548601?fref=ts

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