herald

Friday 22 September 2017

That's the right attitude...

IS THERE a thin man waiting to break out of this fat man's body? Or is this me, a chubster, destined to be the fat one in the group, helping everyone else feel better about their weight?

I'm nearly 16 stone, the weight crept on because of all the travelling I do for Newstalk. This leads to eating at petrol stations, coming home late and ordering takeaways instead of cooking.

At one point I was about 14 stone, and then I started to eat as much as I liked, all day long, every day. Which is why, aged 33, I'm in the gym desperately trying to get some exercise. It's 8pm in the evening, I'm tired after a wonderfully indulgent Christmas break and I'm not really in the mood.

I stop 13 minutes in, it's just too much. I leave with the words my friend David Brock once said as I stood in my Speedos on the beach ringing in my ears -- that I looked like a beached whale and I would be harpooned any moment by some Norwegians.

Thankfully, no Norwegians I've met have tried it, but it was humiliating. For a man to talk about his weight isn't very macho or cool, but we are becoming an obese nation and are kidding ourselves that wearing XL clothes is normal. This nation has one of the highest childhood obesity rates in the world, with 10pc of children aged 5-12 now considered obese.

According to a recent Aviva Health Insurance survey more than 80pc of Irish people admit to putting on weight over Christmas. I know I'm one of them. I'm ashamed to admit it, but I'm Henry the Hoover. At Dublin airport recently I got two large portions of fries and poured them down my throat as if I hadn't eaten for a month. Even worse, when visiting friends at Christmas, my mum texted me to say: "Have a lovely time and don't gobble your food."

So, with a life of bingeing and failed fitness attempts behind me, I have signed up to the Aviva Get Fit Action Plan 2012, which is encouraging people across Ireland to become more pro-active about their health. It's a six-week programme finishing up on Valentine's week.

My girlfriend, Lizzy, didn't browbeat me into this, it's something I want to do for myself. I hope that by losing weight it will give me more confidence and make me feel happier within myself.

My plan encompasses a fitness drive with the aim of losing a couple of stone and, hopefully, bringing about a change in my lifestyle and attitude towards food. A doctor, a fitness instructor and a nutritionist will advise me and keep me on the straight and narrow. They have a heavy task ahead of them. For years I have tried to get healthy but each time, after a few weeks, it has all gone horribly wrong and I eat more than ever.

My nutritionist Emma Buckley has asked me to write a food diary with a view to changing my habits. When I started to scribble it all down I was shocked by what I discovered.

I sleep for about seven hours or less a night. Sleeping, it turns out, helps you lose weight. Emma says: "Sleep reduces stress and the stress hormone cortisol, which is directly responsible for belly fat. Get your sleep and you will see your stomach go down."

I feel optimistic, I love sleeping!

For breakfast I might have a muffin, or a sausage and egg bagel and maybe a fry-up on the weekend. If I'm on the road, I would often snatch a sandwich or a burger for lunch. Dinner could be an Indian or takeaway pizza if I get back late. I drink fizzy drinks, orange juice, tea, coffee and a beer in the evening. Exercise has been low on my list of priorities when a pile of work faces me in the evenings.

This, of course, has all changed. I now have a special diet plan which doesn't include junk food, takeaways or alcohol. Even milk is taboo. Do people really live this way?

On top of the shock my body is enduring through junk-food deprivation, Alan Murphy my fitness expert is working me hard. There are no short cuts. Celebrities such as Katy Perry and George Clooney have personal trainers but for the majority of us it's down to our own determination. Alan told me that it's 80pc diet and just 20pc exercise, which suits me because boot camp is hard work.

Sometimes I wonder how I got so large so quickly. It's more acceptable for a man to be overweight than a woman but, even so...I don't want to be remembered as the 'fat bloke'. Neither do I want to face the dangers of diabetes or heart disease.

I've a goal in sight, an old Hugo Boss suit I bought in 2003 which currently won't do up, I'm going to wear it on Valentine's Day!

You can follow Henry's progress on Twitter @HenryMcKean or www.facebook.com/aviva ireland. Henry McKean presents Under the Covers, 8am Saturdays and is a reporter on Moncrieff week

days 1.30-4.30pm, Newstalk 106-108fm

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