Weighed down by a lack of motivation
With 53% of the population not getting enough exercise, many believe that starting gently is the key issue
Greg Kenny at Fit4less in Tallaght, Co Dublin. Photograph: Eric Luke
There’s a bunch of bananas ripening on the countertop, pristine Wicklow walkways just outside the front door and a home gym in the converted garden shed, but Eric Dempsey still can’t get motivated.
Sitting at his kitchen table in Glenealy, Eric (43) makes no excuses for ignoring the doctor’s advice that he exercise. Diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2006, he should have dropped weight from his 18-stone frame long ago.
“There’s no point in beating around the bush, I hate exercising.” He reels off the thoughts that barge around his mind when he tries. “Why am I doing this? Wouldn’t it be easier to drive? Why am I putting myself through this? I’m going to be sore at the end of this. I’m sweating.” Most of his associations with exercise are negative.
His wife, Delores, couldn’t be more different. She and the couple’s daughter (17) are very health conscious. Most days there are three different dinners cooked in the house to cater for everyone’s taste, with Eric needing heartier meals than the women.
Delores regularly sets out for three-hour hikes and admits that her husband’s fondness for the couch exasperates her. “It is extremely frustrating. I don’t ask him to come anymore. Rather than have a row I just go out and relieve the frustration through my own walking. If he lost the weight, it would be the best present he could ever give me.”
For a man so honest about his hatred of exercise, it is surprising to hear that he represented Ireland internationally in Taekwondo in his heyday. It was a huge passion from childhood. His father brought all four sons to a local club and he was the only one who stuck with it. The training stopped in his mid-20s while the couple worked long hours to save for their wedding.
By the time things settled down enough for him to return to training, he had put on weight and found it rough going.
He can see the funny side of the lengths he will go to to avoid exercise but as he opens up, his tone becomes more serious. He badly wants to lose the weight – to get his life back and be able to shop for normal clothes – but there is a mental block that mystifies him.
He is attending a weight-loss clinic in Loughlinstown and even though he comes out of sessions fired up, the motivation leeches from him in about two weeks. “I wish I could find the switch. When I’m with the shrink up in Loughlinstown he tries and tries. He asks me questions like ‘what’s stopping you getting motivated’ and I can’t answer him. I just can’t answer him.”
He isn’t alone. Some 53 per cent of the population don’t get the recommended 30 minutes of daily activity. People seem to fall into one of two categories. There is a minority who relish exercise – the more muscle ache and projectile sweating involved the better – and a much larger group who regard it as a necessary evil undertaken to stay in shape, or avoid it altogether.