It’s a familiar story – joining a gym, feeling intimidated and never going again.
Having put on weight during the pandemic, Paul Carpenter, a 57 year proposals writer from Manchester, thought some new bigger clothes would be the solution. But, after a chance interaction with a changing room mirror, and some sobering insights from his doctor, he realised serious action was required.
A natural introvert, Paul had felt too shy to visit the gym - particularly when overweight. Below, he explains the steps he took to get over this fear, lose weight and live a life he never dreamed possible.
It all started when I went to buy some new clothes. I knew I’d put on weight - I hadn’t done any training for years as I just didn’t like going to the gym. I felt dead conscious of being overweight and unfit. I’d try going, but normally ended paying a joining fee, going a couple of times, and struggling to know what to do. When you are shy and introverted like me, the normal gym environment isn’t welcoming. I knew I needed some bigger clothes and I thought a shopping trip might cheer me up. But while I was in the changing room I happened to catch sight of my back in a full-length mirror. I was absolutely mortified. I obviously knew that I’d put on weight during the lockdowns, but I wasn’t prepared for what I saw. Quite honestly, I was disgusted.
I was the heaviest I’ve ever been – 86.4kg. I’m only 5’8’’ tall and my waist was 42 inches. My body fat was over 33 per cent, my BMI stood at 29 and my blood pressure was too high; as were my “bad” cholesterol levels. I also had no energy and was struggling to complete simple tasks or even get out of bed.
I visited the doctor and was told my height-to-waist ratio was not only very high, but indicative of obesity. I was in a high-risk category for developing a number of conditions such as type 2 diabetes and other cardiovascular problems, my blood tests indicated I was developing liver disease, and was told I was told I also had a one-in-five chance of having a heart attack or stroke in the next decade. That was pretty sobering.
I had absolutely no choice but to take action - it was a life or death decision. I knew I needed professional help, so I signed up with Ultimate Performance’s Manchester gym. The programme really appealed because of how well I was supported. I was very open that I wasn’t great at preparing meals – so I chose to have nutritionally balanced meals delivered in Tupperware boxes. That really helped. And the gym experience was fantastic as it’s all one-on-one training. There’s no queuing for equipment or time spent hanging around feeling self-conscious.
We started with nutrition – I needed meals that were high in protein, with plenty of vegetables and moderate fats. I also stopped drinking for the first 12 weeks. Turns out it wasn’t as hard as I thought. Friends and family were dead supportive, once the initial jokes were out of the way.
I noticed results within days. I weighed myself every day, which showed me that as I put the effort in with my diet and my exercise, the weight was dropping and I was making great progress. It really spurred me on.
I was only training in the gym for three, one-hour sessions every week as so much of the focus was on what I was eating. Then in the final month, we increased this to five sessions a week with two rest days. Workouts consisted mainly of full-body workouts and included a lot of compound exercises to improve my strength. I would also do cardio two or three times a week to speed up the fat loss and build up my general levels of fitness.
While I was in the gym, it was hard work, I had to push through what I thought was my limit. My trainer watched every rep and every set very closely, and if they weren’t executed to his satisfaction or I did it wrong, I had to do them again! At no point did it become comfortable. But it wasn’t designed to be. However, I felt great after every session. Knackered, yes! But also euphoric because I knew I had given it 100 per cent.
Never, in my wildest dreams, did I think it was possible to look and feel as good as I do now. My weight has dropped from 86.4kg to 66kg. My body fat percentage has dropped from 33 per cent to 14 per cent and I’ve reduced my BMI by seven points, to 22. I’ve lost about 12 inches from my waist. My height-to-waist ratio is now a healthy 0.44. For the first time in my adult life, I have had to buy jeans with a smaller waist than the inside leg. And it makes me smile being able to tell people that!
I really believe the programme saved my life - genuinely. Feeling stronger and fitter is great – but it’s more than that. I now understand the science behind food and exercise and have the tools I need to sustain a healthy lifestyle. I’ve even volunteered to be a mentor at work. I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing that before. Who wants someone that looked like me mentoring them? But I now feel more confident and passionate about everything so I want to do it.
I’m now off all my prescribed medication. Before my transformation I was told I had visceral fat wrapped around my liver. A recent ultrasound scan of my liver shows that has now gone, which is a massive relief. My self-esteem has improved. I’m more focused in work and just generally I feel happier in life.
My number one piece of advice for anyone looking to change is to just go for it! Don’t overthink it, or give yourself reasons why you can’t do it. And be inspired by what other people – and by that I mean real, everyday people – have achieved.
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