Yes I am fat and this is my action plan

Following on from my post about the programme – ‘who are you calling fat’ I thought I would share how I intend to deal with my own weight problem. I am now 52 and am 18 stone, give or take. I am healthy but I do struggle with my self-esteem and confidence and so tackling my weight is for the benefit of both body and mind. I have had many attempts at diets over the years but always end up back at the trough – eating too much and certainly too much sugar (especially of the refined kind). My relationship with exercise was certainly on the back burner well into my 40s until I started at the Gym Group when they opened in Norwich in September 2012. Since then I have been a regular gym-goer until earlier this year when I sort of gave up (mostly due to being unhappy at work). Through exercise I was able to reduce my weight and at worst keep it under control. However I never quite cracked both diet and exercise. So here I am again , restarting with the aim of achieving long term results. This is how I am going to do it, and it revolves around the help of others.

Me – coming up for 50 and a couple of stones lighter than now

I believe you should start with the mind. This is because all my previous attempts have failed due to lack of willpower or rather allowing other things taking control of my emotions and therefore my choices around food and latterly exercising. My solution is I have started working with a therapist – Jason Edwards. We have been working together for a few months and originally this was going to be focused on my weight but due to the difficulties I was having around my job and my confidence we have focused more on my self esteem and with dealing with many of the emotions I carry from some of the things that have happened in the past. Each session consists of talking followed by some hypnotism. I cannot recommend it enough. If nothing else it has given me an inner calm and a way of dealing with having three jobs in three months. It has made me question how I deal with things and also to try and be braver – to trust myself. Jason has empathy but has a canny knack of getting to the root of my issues and challenging them. I am excited to carry on working with Jason as his help will undoubtedly help with my motivation to succeed.

Jason Edwards – therapist

Body next and this really revolves on me finding somewhere I am comfortable to do exercise. As confidence is such a bit issue for me with regard to making progress it was vital to find the right place for me. I have been to four different gyms in Norwich and the place I was happiest was Style Health and Fitness which was on Ber Street – this was because of the facilities but also the staff. My longtime PT and friend Xavier Gomez worked there but the other staff and members were welcoming and friendly and the right mix of people for a 50 year old gay man with low self esteem. Sadly, Style closed and the most recent place I have been to is Pure Gym but I have found this soulless and corporate, overly full and a very low average age of clientele. This was not for me. So after some thought and research I decided to join my new gym – BodyFit Health and Fitness in Norwich which is part-owned and managed by Dom Hills PT. The gym is light and airy, not too big, enough equipment for what I need but most important it is welcoming and just has the right vibe for me. Dom has also agreed to do some PT sessions with me. The second of these was today and was legs based – it was murder but this is what I like. I need to be pushed. Dom works with several older clients like me, especially those interested in powerlifting (he has two ladies who have taken part in World Champs). I like weight based training and I like the fact Dom does not make the common mistake of underestimating what us older guys/ladies are capable of. He has set me a training and nutrition plan – so watch this space.

From Dom’s latest post

Lastly I have recently joined an online community of gay men who are into fitness and exercise and who want to make an improvement in their wellbeing – not just physical. This is called Fitter Confident You and this is the brainchild of trainer – Matt Boyles who runs an online personal training business aimed at gay men. This I have found to be inspiring. As a gay man the gym can be an intimidating place, sometimes with classes but mostly around weight training – there can be an assumption that the weights area belongs to the alpha males and this can be true in some places. And the showers are another area which many gay men struggle with. By Matt expanding his business into a wider online community he and other members of the group give us both inspiration and tips but also support. We all have bad patches and its about getting through those. Matt has agreed to be interviewed for my series on the Modern Gay Man and so there will be more details when this is published but in the meantime I am enjoying being part of a community.

Matt Boyles of Fitter Confident You
Twitter @fitteryouglobal


My husband Jon Cook – without his support I couldn’t even attempt to do all this.

My friends Lee who trains with me and Ken Barcham-Bool (see his interview on the blog) who has become a friend and inspiration – I will join him at a race one day!

My friend and long term PT Xavi Gomez who I will do some training with at some point and whose friendship and guidance I can always rely on. He is a great trainer and also does Electro Muscular Stimulation (EMS) which I highly recommend especially for strengthening your core –

Who you calling fat? – the verdict

Last week the BBC had a programme on ‘Who are you calling fat?’ which took a group of overweight/fat/larger people and put them in a house for a week getting them to explore their ideas and attitudes towards their weight, both their own and others. It was a diverse group of people with a couple of ladies who were evangelical about being proud of their larger bodies, owning their fat and promoting that they felt their size was at the core of their beauty. Some of the views made for uncomfortable viewing with the same ladies denying a link between obesity and diabetes and ill health. The arguments were strongly made and focused heavily on the effect that ‘fat shaming’ has on people who are carrying more weight.

I personally disagree strongly with denying the effects of obesity on health. I know from my own experience of being an 18 stone man, I am far more uncomfortable in my general health than when I have been lighter. This is easily shown when doing tasks like climbing stairs or just the amount I sweat in just walking to work every day. I would suggest to anyone who wants proof of this to put 5 bags of sugar in a rucksack and to do a task and compare it to the same task with no extra weight. I could never argue that I am as healthy as a lighter version of myself. So I agree with the contributors to the programme who were positive about making changes to their lifestyle, as they appreciated the risks they had put their health under and were taking steps to address them. However, where I do agree with the fat evangelists is how your weight can affect your mental health, in particular how other people respond to it.

As a fat man I do not need to be told I am bigger than I could be or should be. I have gained weight since my early twenties and have never really got on top of it. So I have had 30 years of snide comments and facing the general attitudes of society that judge overweight people as being either lazy or greedy or both and sometimes even worth less. My worst personal experience was at a job interview at a law firm where I was challenged about my CV which said I liked running – ‘well you clearly don’t do much of that’ was the comment I got and what was worse was the mocking tone it was delivered in. Then there are the small things like always being given chocolates for Christmas – the last thing you really want. One birthday I got five packets of biscuits from work. In these situations your heart sinks as you are being labelled and judged – no matter how subtle it is – it still hurts – for me it was more of a sigh – people seeing the fat before the person.

For me I am working to reduce my weight for once and for all and I am using a comprehensive plan to achieve this (I will be blogging about this separately). This does not mean I am ashamed of being a fat person, I am ashamed that I haven’t tackled it earlier and more consistently. Being fat doesn’t make me a bad person or a lesser person. Similarly when a slimmer version of me emerges I will not be a better person I will simply have taken more control of how I look after my body and my longer term health. It is important that people find their own way to be as healthy as they can both physically and mentally without the rest of us imposing our prejudices on them.