How to Change your Life without Changing your Life
After realising I weighed 160kg (352lbs), had dangerously high blood pressure and was on pills to treat anxiety and panic attacks I figured it was time to make some changes.
It was 2015 and I had lived through some traumatic months looking after my anorexic, suicidal 15 year old niece for the better part of 12 months and while that particular part of the story had a relatively happy ending (she went home a lot healthier and happier than when she arrived at our apartment) the resulting personal trauma of that year had a soul stirring effect. When you go from making every moment of your day about keeping someone else alive to not having that responsibility, the sense of loss runs deep.
Over the course of the year I had neglected and lost my friends, my work and my hobbies. I couldn’t really write anymore, I didn’t care about anything really. I described it at the time as feeling like a shell that lost its snail. Something had to change.
Change is scary, however. I don’t do change. Certainly, I wanted to change my weight, but not my food. I didn’t want to be “one of those people” who live at the gym (and as a fat guy, I wasn’t really welcomed there anyway). So I did what any gamer does and turned to video games. Specifically, Wii Fit U on Wii U.
This was a game I received for “free” during its launch period promotion. Those who bought the Wii Fit Meter were able to download the full game for free. Problem was that while I had purchased the meter, I was too heavy to use Wii Fit U thanks to the Wii Balance Board’s built-in weight limit. So my first goal was to get under 150kg.
So I started getting up at 4am and going for a walk around the local football fields. I took it slow, first walking for 20 minutes a day for the first two weeks, then upping it to 30 minutes and so on.
I made some small food changes. Soft drink was out and I committed to eating three times a day. That was significant as I never really ate breakfast, but since I was awake before the sun I had a lot of time to kill anyway. Breakfast was usually simple: two slices of toast with peanut butter, drowned down with a big glass of water and a coffee.
Water played a big role here too. I figured it was probably easier to digest food if it was “drowning” in water while sitting in my stomach so I made sure to constantly sip water throughout the day and during each meal. Having read about the dangers of salt to ones’ blood pressure I also wanted to cut out as much salt as possible.
For lunch I decided I wanted something exciting. I like eating out but when you go to a restaurant the food — regardless of the marketing — is always full of salt, sugar, butter or other fats. And hell, I love to cook so why not use my skills to make my own lunches?
I bought a huge box of microwavable takeaway containers and once a week I would cook two weeks of meals and pop them in the freezer. Teriyaki chicken with brown rice, spaghetti bolognese, pumpkin soup, beef stew, satay beef, and even low fat quiches. The sky is really the limit and the goal is to keep the meals at around 500 calories each, a number I decided sounded good enough. I approximated those with the help of the MyFitnessPal app which allows you to build recipes that count up the calories based on crowd-sourced packaging information. I’m not sure how accurate it is, but it gives you a general idea.
9 times out of 10 I eat homemade cheese pizza for dinner.
These changes lead to immediate results. The 10kg I needed to shed to be allowed to use Wii Fit U happened within weeks, probably thanks to the amount of water your body retains when you eat a lot of salt, sugar and ironically don’t drink enough water. The great thing about Wii Fit U is that it will set you a calorie-to-burn goal for each day which can be tracked with the Wii Fit Meter which sits on my belt every day.
I found this was much better than counting calories. I figured as long as I hit Wii Fit U’s calorie burn goal every day and drank a lot of water, I didn’t need to stress too much about what I was eating, as long as it was sensible. For a while I didn’t mind eating fast food once a week or so, as long as I just had a burger and a water instead of a meal with fries and a soft drink. In short, it was about eating smaller portions.
Quickly, though, you learn that this kind of food isn’t really all that exciting. If you have the choice between eating a McDonald’s cheeseburger, or a bowl of warm homemade stew and a homemade vanilla panna cotta dessert, you eat at home a lot more often.
You also realise that you eat a lot more than you otherwise would. Before I would eat twice a day and have some snacks here and there. Now I eat three times a day and the food is far more substantial.
The weight continued to fall off and I soon discovered another upside to this lifestyle: I was saving a crap load of money. My weekly food budget for two people went from “probably over $200” to $40. By cooking as they do in restaurants (making good, basic ingredients stretch over a high volume and not wasting a thing), you can really cover a lot of meals without spending much at all.
Buying “bakers’ flour” allows you to make restaurant quality pizza and chemical free bread. Buying takeaway containers lets you cook once a week instead of every day. You end up with more time and money to spend on all your newfound extra energy.
Wii Fit U’s cute Balance Board character kept an eye on my progress every single day. Each day you weigh in using the Balance Board and your BMI is calculated. Your calorie burn goal is also tracked and you can even use the game to work out with fun mini games like Yoga or Jogging. These are enjoyable but I don’t rely on them and use them seldom, to me Wii Fit U is more about checking in and having an app monitor my activity without that data being sent to be used in nefarious ways.
Did I lose weight every day? No. Did I hit my goals every week? No. But more often than not, I did. It was a journey in consistency and discipline, for sure, but I never felt it was overly difficult because I didn’t need to force myself to eat anything I didn’t like, or subscribe to any costly fitness routine. It was all about making small alterations to my daily life: getting up earlier to go for a walk, playing Wii Fit U for a while instead of Mario Kart 8, and cooking more food I actually like eating instead of eating out.
In fact, the hardest part was — as is always the case for me — dealing with other people. I still die inside every time I hear someone yell at the top of their lungs, “Gee! You’ve lost weight!”. People aren’t bothered by your petty feelings and often puff out their cheeks and waddle around, impersonating my “old self”. I still struggle to find the humour in it, but I guess it could be taken as a compliment.
While I have certainly lost a lot of weight and now live a healthier life, I can’t say I am magically cured of my anxiety. I feel better about buying clothes (I was 5XL t-shirt, I am now a size Small) and my blood pressure is, if anything, a little on the low side (I’m prone to occasional dizzy spells) which I prefer to it being described as “a ticking time bomb”.
It’s also more fun dealing with police at random breath test sites. I was almost arrested when the photo on my licence didn’t exactly match my face, which was apparently hilarious to the boys and girls in blue once I passed the “identity test”.
So there’s my story about eating pizza and playing Wii U to lose 80kg in less than a year. I don’t recommend anyone do what I did, this isn’t that kind of post. Consult a doctor and take your time if you’re wanting to lose weight. But I hope my story can at least inspire the idea that you don’t have to subscribe to fad diets, expensive shakes or stupid reality TV shows to slim down.
Time nor for what you’re all undoubtedly here to see: before and after photos!