This is my story of how I went from an overweight, unhappy, unhealthy, lacking self-confidence and suffering severe body image issues to a healthy, happy, fit and confident person.
To begin my story we need to take a few steps back so I can set the scene for where I was in my life, I look back now and I can’t believe I found my self in the position I was in but like many of us, we don’t notice these things happening until one day we get the shock of our lives. Lets go back to the year 2006, I was like most 30 somethings, working very hard to buy a house, drive a nice car, afford myself an annual overseas holiday, surrounded myself with great friends and a loving family. Sound pretty good doesn’t it? Yes it was. I was working for a multinational IT consumer security company, running their consumer business for Asia Pacific. I was working from home mostly due to the timezone differences and spent a hell of a lot of time in aeroplanes, airports and swanky hotels. Working in this way can be quite isolating not to mention the toll working weird and wonderful hours can take on your body. I found myself always eating at strange times of the day and constantly snacking – Tim Tam’s where and still are a favourite of mine but nowhere near the volume is consumed these days.
Working in the IT field comes with its pitfalls too, yes the industry traditionally pays very well but this comes at a very heavy price when you look at the average IT workers health. We used to party pretty hard too. I remember once flying to Israel for a sales kick off, it took 33 hours to fly each way and we were on the ground in Tel Aviv for 72 hours! Of that 72 hours I think I was drunk for about 20 hours! You can imagine how pleasant it was flying home, hung over, tired and stuck in Economy! Yuk! I think if I remember correctly it took me a good week to get over that trip. Having this lifestyle forced me to give up many things that you would think life could afford you. Such as having a healthy and loving relationship, being able to spend time with family and friends, being physically active and ultimately enjoy the life I was working so hard for.
Time to get real.
As a regular international traveller I longed for the added comfort that came with flying business class, but like a lot of large organisations this perceived “luxury” was reserved for a very few. On a sunday in mid 2007 I was off on my regular flight to San Francisco. I used to head off to San Fran about every 6 weeks. I was used to the flight and it was just like any other commute to work. On this one Sunday I arrived at Sydney airport, proceeded to the check in counter and was greeted by a familiar face. This particular sunday turned out to be my lucky day! I was given a free up grade to business class, I think with my frequent flyer status and regularity of my trips the check in staff thought I was worthy of such an upgrade. I remember thinking to myself “Woo hoo” look out world I’m someone important, I’m flying business class! It came with more perks that just the bigger comfier seats, I also got access to the Business Class lounge, express lane access in customs, pyjamas on board and the list went on! I couldn’t wait to get on board this flight. I thought I had made it! So onboard I go, I’m grinning from ear to ear like a Cheshire cat. I find my seat pretty quickly and step in front of my seat. My carry on is sitting on the seat next to me and I take a seat. The only problem is it feels kinda strange like I don’t quite fit. Oh wait that’s probably because I have sat on the blanket and pillow that the airline provide. I quickly stand up and turn around to discover the issue is the not the blanket and the pillow. Its my big fat butt! I honestly remember this moment like it was yesterday. My butt was so large and wide that it was a tight fit in a business class seat. OH my God! What the hell has happened to me? When did i get this big. This moment really sticks with me as the moment when my world came to a screeching halt and I realised I was fat! I think like most people who have had or are having issues with your weight you have moments when you think you’ve put on weight but mostly you adapt your life to work around your ever-expanding waist line. I remember in the house I owned I had no full length mirrors, even when I had new built-in wardrobes installed I specifically ordered white glass doors rather than the full length mirrors. In fact the only mirrors I had were in the bathroom and one hanging up in the lounge room both mirrors only showed from the chest up. One way of ensuring I didn’t have to look at my stomach that was getting bigger and my ever-expanding butt. Another reality check that I noticed on this flight to San Francisco was that my shoes were slip on. No longer did I wear lace up shoes. I remember struggling big time just to reach my feet. Gosh that was a time where I thought my life was over. I was a fat middle-aged man. What was to become of me. The rest of my trip to San Fran was relatively subdued. I got the work I needed done and spent what down time I had sitting in my hotel room quite depressed. I remember getting out of the shower and looking at myself in the mirror and boy did I not like the man who was looking back at me. I was utterly ashamed of the condition I now found myself in. I went into my room and dressed, proceeded to order room service and try to eat myself better.
Arriving home in Sydney after this trip my whole world seemed a lot darker. I continued to dwell on my weight issues and how it was making me feel. It seemed the only way to make things better was to eat more. I began to pull out of a lot of things I was invited too because I felt so ashamed of myself but when I did attend events such as a night out at the pub I would get so drunk to try to block out the emotions that were going on in my head. I would often drink to the point I wouldn’t remember the night out and this in turn made the next day rather hard because I was so hung over and then I would have to apologise to my friends for my poor behaviour or inappropriateness of the night before. Life was quickly spiralling downwards, suffering from depression was a daily occurrence and everything in my life began to suffer. Something had to change. Otherwise the outcome would be tragic.
I think one of the reason that I found being overweight so difficult to handle was that I had been a very active child playing sport year round and I had enlisted the services of a personal trainer previously and had worked hard to be in great shape. Finding myself back in poor health was not only a physical challenge, emotionally I found it very hard. Who the hell was going to want to be with a guy my size? Who would want to love me in this state? Now that I had come to the realisation that I was unfit, unhealthy and ultimately very unhappy I need to make a change and it had to start now.
In my previous search for a trainer I had kind of being handed a trainer on a platter. I didn’t really have much choice as I was given a selection of trainers to choose from at the gym where I was a member and I suppose I picked the guy who I thought I would gel with the best. Turned out he was a good guy, pretty good trainer and I did achieve some ok results with him. This time though it was going to be different. I was no longer a member of a large gym, I couldn’t think of anything worse now than dragging myself into a gym in the condition I was in. Not only would I find it intimidating I was thoroughly ashamed and there was no way in the world was I going to put myself in that position. I happened to visit a local cafe one day and came across a flyer for a personal trainer. This bloke looked fit, had the qualifications and I thought I should give him a call, but as I used to do a lot in those days I thought! I didn’t DO much else. I left the flyer and went about my business. Some days later a friend and I were having a coffee at this same cafe. My friend handed me the same flyer and said in a less than subtle way “you should give this guy a call. you really need to do something about your weight” Angrily I grab the flyer out of his hand and said yes I would call him. I realise now I wasn’t angry at my friend, I was angry at myself for finding myself in that position. Often anger and frustration would be directed at others when in actual fact it was me who I was angry at. Only now though can I see it.
So I made the call, I arranged for my first session with the trainer, Matt. We seemed to gel almost instantly. Something that made me very comfortable and confident that Matt was the right guy for me. The first session was probably the worst of my life. For more reasons than what you would think, obviously I couldn’t move the way I wanted to, I became breathless almost instantly and more than a few times I thought I was going to vomit. But I held it together and got through it. A few days later I remember thinking “oh god, what have I done” I could hardly move – this is to be expected though especially given the lack of exercise I had done previous to this session. I decided to book in for two sessions a week. Early morning sessions for me and they had to be outdoors. In the early days, the thought of being inside and exercising was almost claustrophobic. Those two sessions quickly became three sessions a week. Usually a 6am start, done by 7 and I was home working by 730am. The best way to start the day. The training sessions in the early days became highly addictive, I was loving the endorphin rush that I was getting after every session was amazing. The weight started to come off and I thought that I was doing very well. Little did I know what was ahead of me and the challenges that I would have to face.
Getting my house in order
Unfortunately I didn’t realise that there was so much more to losing weight and being healthy than just the exercise. I had to get a handle on my emotional health and also address issues I had with alcohol and emotional eating. Matt and I worked had at each session and when the results started to slow it was clear that I had other things I had to address. First one being emotional health. I can distinctly remember four sessions where I “lost it” during my session. This was due to nothing else than my head not being right for training. I had other issues going on outside of training that were clouding my mind and not enabling me to concentrate on the job at hand. Often those sessions would end in tears (me not Matt although I think he could have cried to given how difficult it was for him too) The tears came from frustration at not being able to perform at the best of my ability. Especially given that at the previous session I was able to execute the task without any issues. I remember this one day when all I had to do was a plank for a minute. Seems easy enough but no, not on this day. I couldn’t even manage 15 seconds before I dropped. At first it was a little funny. Then as I repeated the same result a few times, Matt became frustrated and started to really push me, and push me and push me. Before I knew it I was yelling at him, telling him to “f” off. He just stood there calmly and told me to try again. And again, until I gave up and that’s when the tears happened. Matt knew there was so much more going on in my world than I was willing to share but he knew I had to address those things before I could progress any further with my training. There is another session that I will never forget. It was a Friday morning and the session involved soft sand running. From Narrabeen to Collaroy and back. Sounds hard but on this day this task was almost impossible. We ran south to Collaroy along the water’s edge which wasn’t too difficult, I was a little breathless but nothing out of the ordinary. On the return trip Matt wanted to up the ante. And boy did we. No longer were we running on the hard sand at the water’s edge now it was soft sand all the way back. I started off ok but quickly faded. If you’ve ever run in soft sand it drains your energy very quickly. I think I lasted about 20 metres before I stopped. I think my first excuse was my feet hurt, the second excuse was I couldn’t breath and these repeated a few times over. Matt became very frustrated with me very quickly. He used as much motivation as he could. He asked me if I was ok and of course my answer was yes. But clearly something was up. Nearly at the end of his tether matt resorted to pushing me in the back to make me run. As you can imagine this was like waving a red rag to a bull. It angered me no end. Rightly so though all matt wanted to do was for me to complete the task. He knew how important for my overall development completing this task was. So he kept pushing me and pushing me. He even ended up rubbing his knuckle into my spine to get me to move. By this stage I had enough and yet again I lashed out at him. Again I was not angry at him, it was things away from training that were holding me back. We got through the rest of the session and when we were finished I undoubtedly felt disappointed that this had happened again but at least this time I recognised it and could move on. One thing Matt constantly did was stood by me during every session, making sure I progressed at every opportunity and he never gave up on me. Even when I called him every four letter word under the sun or told him I was done with training he calmly agreed with what ever I was saying and just let me have my moment and he was back again for another session the next day. One very important lesson I learnt with Matt was finishing the job. Sounds weird I know but in exercising it is even more important to ensure that you finish the job. What does this mean? Well its as simple as doing all the exercises set out for you, if you’re on a run and the finish line is at a certain point, you finish at that certain point. It’s not a metre short or you do 10/12 reps because that close enough. That is not good enough. It’s a metaphor for life, if you finish short in something you will never succeed. I distinctly remember one day coming back from a run from the car park where we regularly trained to the stairs at North Narrabeen. I remember feeling less than great on the way home but I had done a mental deal with myself and said if I got all the way back to the start I could stop just as we approached the end. Well obviously I didn’t let Matt in on the deal I had done with myself and when we approached the end, I stopped maybe 5 metres from where he had told me we could stop. He turned to me and yelled “What are you doing? That’s not the finish. The finish is up here. Keep going!” My response was pretty swift, “Heres fine, it doesn’t really matter!” You can only imagine his response. Its one of the very few times were Matt was not only angry at me for giving up, he was very disappointed. He threw my towel and keys at me and said “We are done!” He immediately left and drove off. Never in our time training together did he do that. I stood there thinking, what have I done? Have I offended him? There was a subsequent flurry of text messages to and from each of us. Matt was very clear in his point of view and I got it. The issue was dealt with swiftly and we never spoke of it again. It was indeed one of the lessons that does stick in my mind and a story I use with my clients all the time.
Addressing some of the issues that I had away from training was so very important in improving my life. Getting rid of toxic relationships, getting out of a job that I hated, overcoming emotional issues, addressing emotional eating, learning self-respect and giving my all to everything I did were just some of the things that I learnt whilst training with Matt. I can’t thank him enough for coming into my life at a more crucial time. I can only imagine what may have happened if I hadn’t enlisted his help to get my life back. I know this may sound melodramatic but he did have a major impact on my life and I am forever thankful. I don’t underestimate the amount of work that I have had to put in and continue to but I am not sure I would have come so far without him.
Not all our training resulted in me “losing it” there have been a hell of a lot of laughs. I remember this one time we were trying something different in our training and we borrowed two kayaks to go for a paddle on Narrabeen lake. The paddle from the bridge to the beach seemed easy enough. It was quite enjoyable. The return trip was not so enjoyable. I didn’t realise that on the way out we were travelling with the tide. Making it very easy , the return trip was against the tide. A lot harder. To make things every harder, matt decided to tie his kayak to mine and I had to tow him back, not only did i have the tide and his weight to deal with, Matt would occasionally put his oar in to slow things down. I remember yelling at him not to do it and again he just laughed. What was funny about this session was when we nearly reached shore and it was the end of the session, Matt had begun to notice that the back of my kayak was sitting very low in the water. It was clear that I was sinking but rather than say anything he thought he would leave me to paddle as far as I could. Which I did, the funny part was about 10m from shore and the kayak sank, with me in it. I can still hear his laughter now. He thought it was hilarious! Yeah funny guy huh!
Working with a trainer who was more than just about the number of push ups I could do or how good they look at the beach was what worked so well for me. Matt had a better understanding than most of what it takes to be the best version of yourself. He prides himself on doing everything to the best of his ability and in turn instilled those attributes in me. Being fit and healthy for me is more than just having your body in peak shape, it’s about addressing all those things in your life that are disabling you from being the best you can be. I remember having a conversation with Matt over a coffee about how bitterly unhappy I was with my job. Yes sure it paid extremely well, but i felt that I had no emotional connection to my job anymore and I really didn’t want to do it any longer. He suggested I leave and become a personal trainer. Given what I had gone through to get to where I was he thought that experience would enable me to be a great personal trainer. At first I laughed at the idea and was a little embarrassed to entertain the idea. But over time the idea stuck with me.
It took until about December 2009 for me to work up the courage and quit my corporate job. I had improved so much in my health and fitness and this seemed to be one of the last hurdles I overcame. You can imagine the inner turmoil i went through in making this decision but I did it and didn’t look back (well not really look back).
My world has changed forever
After spending the best part of 20 years working in a corporate job, the thought of going out on my own not only filled me with fear it also excited me at the same time. Starting any business is hard enough but when you’re starting one that you believe in from the ground up having gone through the journey your clients do I think there is added pressure especially because my clients are placing their trust in me that I will take them on that journey and help them achieve their goals. For me this company is more than a business, it’s a privilege and an honour to be able to help my clients reach their goals. Looking at this picture where you see me in November 2007 at my sister’s wedding and then a picture from June 2015, I honestly cannot believe that I am the same person. The one on the left looks tired, sick and very unwell but above all very sad. I remember when this photo was taken. It was of all the family. I deliberately chose a position at the side of the image so as to not be the focus. I still feel sad when I see it. That feeling though serves as a reminder of what I don’t want the rest of my life to be. The guy on the right well what can I say. I am extremely proud of what I have achieved. I now like the guy I see looking back at me. Some questions you might be thinking :
- Was it easy? NO!
- Did it happen overnight? NO!
- Did I get frustrated and angry? YES!
- Did I have set backs? YES!
- Did I fail or make mistakes? Yes but I learnt from them!
- Was it worth it? Well you can be the judge of that. Remember the only person you have to please in this world is you. If you’re happy then those around you will inevitably be happier too.
The reason behind my business and I why I chose to become a personal trainer was I felt with the life experience I have had, I am better placed than most personal trainers. I understand what it feels like when your life is a struggle everyday, how hard it can be getting out of bed, not liking the person who is looking back at you in the mirror, feeling alone and isolated as you don’t want your family and friends to see how much weight you have gained, how removed from the world you feel because you think your weight is stopping you from being active, how weight gain causes anxiety and depression. This experience has made me not only the best personal trainer but it has also made me a better man. If you or someone you know would benefit from having a chat with me about your/their situation please get in contact. It could be the conversation that changes a life forever!