by Thomas Leamy
Creamy French onion soup, succulent pan-fried duck à l’orange, topped off with a vanilla mille-feuille that was so good, it could wake Napoleon. It was food heaven! My lovely fiancée, who is now my lovely wife, had just treated me to a showstopper meal in the quaint L’Abreuvoir restaurant, for my 29th birthday. I thought several times that night as we walked home under the mellow Athenian street light, that that meal may be unbeatable. A delightful culinary milestone – unsurpassed in my life to that point!
On the very same night in question, that wasn’t the only milestone achieved. The next was significantly less romantic, much harder to talk about, and yet has been far more impactful on the course of my life. As we walked home past the orange trees that line Xenokratous Street like a battalion of soldiers, I moved to loosen my belt as one sometimes does after gorging on a deluge of food. Very quickly I realised that my loyal brown belt, a gift from my friend Giuseppe that had served me so well over my past two projects in Malta and Cyprus, had reached the full tether of its potential. There was no belt hole left!!
The ensuing wake-up call came to pass the next morning, as I stared in disbelief at scales that read 113 kg. I vividly remember hurriedly rushing (… as fast as one could at that weight) to a nearby 7/11 store to purchase AA batteries, convinced that the scales were malfunctioning. They weren’t. It was a tough wake-up call. One hundred and thirteen kilograms is almost 18 stone or 250 pounds for my American friends. Hard for even a tall fellow to ‘carry well’…
I have had the most incredible life to date, and I’m also thankful for the gift of gratitude, in order to be able to truly realise that. It’s not everyone who gets to professionally travel the world with the love of their life, and sit down with c-suite executives and foreign diplomats on a regular basis. It has been so very rewarding and professionally speaking, there is precious little over the past few years that I would change. (Actually, scratch that. Contracting blood parasites while working in Malawi is something I would 100% change!) I had life by the handlebars. What I hadn’t realised though, is that the trade-off seemed to be my health. Or more aptly, my lack of health.
Christmas was fast approaching, and those first few weeks of attempting to come up with a health strategy were challenging. Ketogenic this, Intermittent Fasting that, What The Health here, The Plant Paradox there – it was difficult to gather any meaningful traction in between the pressures of work. The internet felt like a dumping ground for aspiring publishers pushing the next food fad. A place where Instagrammers promoted their ‘change the world’ smoothie recipes and people sold ‘Lectin Shields’ to protect you from the dangers of cooked beans. My primary feeling at the time as I recall was that nutritional contradictions were so commonplace online that it was stifling. I felt anything could be proven by anyone with a determination to prove it and that facts were subjective at best.
We are, they say, the sum of our experiences to date. Bearing this in mind and given that this journey has been and continues to be, so full of meaningful experiences, I want to share 10 personal discoveries I feel may be of genuine service to someone who might be in need of a health reset.
By embracing these pointers, I have been able to lose 27 kilograms, that’s 60 pounds. More importantly, I have been able to maintain a healthy weight of around 86 kilograms by focusing on what I believe really matters, through trial, error, and self discovery. I am not a doctor, nutritionist or a sports scientist, nor do I make promises in relation to these pointers working for you. Perhaps most importantly, I am not selling you anything! I simply feel that what I have learned could be useful to you if you are struggling with your own health goals as I was.
Here are my 10 pointers, based on the sum of my own experiences:
1. TAKE THE FIRST STEP. Little by little, a little becomes a lot. Take that first step. It could be joining a pilates class, choosing a kale salad over a beef burger at lunch one day or simply taking the stairs at work. It does sound simple and that’s because it is. Multiple small steps amount to a lot of ground covered in the right direction if you think about it. For me, my first step was paying to join a good health centre in Athens.
2. DIETS DON’T WORK. They just don’t. I once tried a potato only diet for 5 days, lost a few pounds and then put it back on almost immediately by eating normally again. It was a complete waste of time, energy and… potatoes! A typical cycle of dieting results in initial short-term weight loss, followed by weight regain, followed by emotional distress, followed by… another diet! Mindful eating is what matters. I worked with a brilliant nutritionist in Greece called Mike Kavdas. Mike helped me establish a healthy relationship with food.
3. A BUDDY SYSTEM. I consider myself incredibly lucky that my wife is equally engaged in becoming as healthy as possible. Having someone to share the wins with, and more importantly, the losses with too makes all the difference. We report to each other and support each other. In doing so, we make each other stronger and we grow together in happiness and health.
4. YOU CANNOT OUTRUN A BAD DIET. I feel that for weight loss, it is 85% nutrition and 15% movement at first, gradually becoming more balanced around 70% – 30% respectively, when good routines are established. That is just for weight loss and that is just my estimate. For overall wellbeing, I truly believe Dr Chatterjee’s advice and that the four pillars of good health, namely nutrition, movement, stillness, and sleep, are absolutely essential.
5. MOVE IN THE MORNING. Morning movement, before breakfast, works best for me. I feel that it stands to reason that the body draws on your reserves for energy after a natural period of fasting. This way, optimum weight loss results were achieved in my own case. I remember struggling to jog in temperatures of -10 degrees Celsius in Cișmigiu Park in Bucharest earlier this year. It was tough and most mornings I barely made it to 5 kilometres between walking and jogging. Yet the ROI was worth it and it truly set me up for the day, each day. Of course, it’s about what works for you and moving at any time is excellent. I find I don’t like to sit longer than one hour anymore, including on flights, without moving in some way. What is the best type of movement? Dr Michael Greger answers that question with…
“The type that you do.”
6. MIND YOUR GUT. Your microbiome is the sum of all your living gut bacteria or flora. The health of your microbiome is directly related to your overall health. Eating good quality food, promotes and feeds friendly bacteria. The same is true of processed junk food and bad bacteria. Feed the good ones and watch how your cravings for junk vanish over time! Also, certain antibiotics wipe out not just the bad, but also the good bacteria. After a dose, good quality probiotics are excellent at re-establishing a healthy gut ecosystem. Further, the relationship between gut health and mood is now being studied in great detail. Astoundingly, it’s estimated by some researchers that 90% of the body’s serotonin, the happiness chemical, is made in the digestive tract and not the brain! Food for (happy) thought?
7. EAT PLANTS. A LOT OF THEM. We humans have the same anatomical make-up as the great apes. We are apes. I believe we are supposed to be eating a mainly plant-based diet. Does that mean we shouldn’t eat meat? That is totally up to you. What it does mean from my point of view is that we should be eating many, many more plants, every single day for optimum health. It is your day-to-day food choices that count and if we eat healthy more often than not, we are on a great track.
8. CONTROL YOUR TECHNOLOGY. Don’t let tech control you! The cell phone in your hand or the laptop in front of you was designed to be useful. It’s hard to imagine life without Google Maps or instant news notifications. Yet there are many studies pointing out that our brains have not been able to evolve fast enough to meet the constant overload of information that we receive. It can truly be overwhelming and dwelling on that, it is unsurprising that digital detox camps are skyrocketing in popularity. My wife and I try to have a ‘No-Tech 90’ before bed these days. If you don’t practice this, I urge you to give it a go. The sleep quality is literally next level stuff. Similarly, in the morning, the moment that I turn my phone off airplane mode is the moment I get notified about President Trump’s latest political howler, Apple’s trillion-dollar valuation and how Pope Francis prefers to travel in a Skoda. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love being informed and actively absorb information in the morning. The difference is, I now do it on my own terms. AFTER moving a little and stepping outside to absorb a bit of sunlight with my cup of coffee. Not first thing. It’s nice to wake up naturally.
9. MAN IS BY NATURE…WATER! About 60% of an adult male’s body at my age is apparently made up of water. Water is required and used in every single cell in our bodies. It is essential for flushing out toxins and for organ health. A great practice that works for me is to drink one litre of water almost immediately in the morning, to jumpstart my metabolism into action. Then a further two litres spaced out through the day. The noticeable difference it makes on your skin in astonishing.
10. BE KIND TO YOURSELF. In order to be the best person you can be for your friends, family, kids or colleagues, you must first be the best you can be to yourself. Look after your mental and physical health. Think of yourself as a car. If you don’t fill yourself with clean fuel, change your oil and water, check your brakes etc., you will not be able to perform well for long. Treat yourself with the kindness you treat your car! Take time out, play tennis, work towards a 5k, write a book, meditate… It doesn’t matter how you do it as long as you respect and recharge yourself.
The top picture of this article is from our recent wedding eight weeks ago, 60 pounds lighter than the start of my journey, infinitely healthier and incredibly happy! The journey was not easy and took around 14 months from that belt-hole milestone in Athens.
I must tell you, that I have fallen off the health horse more times than I care to mention. It can be very challenging. In fact, I often joked over the course of those 14 months that I was back on the horse – it just wasn’t moving yet! At the end of the day, our health is what matters the most and it should be given the attention it deserves.
While my health journey is far from over, I am proud of the progress made. Please feel free to share this article, as the purpose of writing it, is to hopefully be of genuine service to someone who might be in need of a health reboot. If any part of it is useful to someone out there, it was worth writing!
All the very best,
Reproduced with permission. Original article here:- https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/last-belt-hole-60lb-journey-thomas-leamy/