What was wrong was that I was fat
MY HEALTH EXPERIENCE:I set myself a target of losing two stone, five pounds, writes MALACHI O'DOHERTY
WHEN MY wife suggested organising a party to celebrate my 60th birthday, I could see nothing worth celebrating. Unfit, overweight and recently diagnosed with diabetes, I wondered what there was to celebrate about getting older and inching closer to decrepitude and death?
I realised I had to take back control of my life by losing the weight and getting fit again. I decided to get back on my bike and set myself a mission to prove myself equal to the man I had been at 30 when I was a keen touring cyclist in the prime of my health.
Although I was in reasonably good health coming up to my 60th, I was overweight and had been having successive spells of discomfort around my stomach and digestion and heartburn. I had a sense that something was wrong, I just did not grasp the obvious – what was wrong was that I was fat.
After a weekend of very disruptive diarrhoea and vomiting caused by God knows what, I went to my GP. While I was there, I asked him to test me for diabetes so he did a glucose assimilation test and I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. It was just a technical way of saying I was fat, I think.
When I got the diagnosis, I was advised to lose weight. I set myself a target of losing two stone, five pounds and getting to 10 stone by Christmas of 2010. I achieved that goal gradually by eating less and exercising.
Whereas I had been under the illusion that rising from a meal stuffed and bloated meant I had had a good feed, I started to eat less and appreciate a certain level of peckishness.
The body keeps asking for food way beyond the point where it’s had enough, so I trained myself to rise from the table with some measure of appetite still left.
If you’re losing weight in a gradual way, you tend to plateau at a certain point and it becomes harder to shift the pounds.
I wanted to break this plateau and a friend gave me a tip (which my doctor would probably not recommend) of how to do this through short bouts of very vigorous exercise before breakfast in the morning. I started to skip for five minutes before breakfast until I was breathless and sure enough, I broke the plateau.
I was also aware that I should be walking so I started a regular three- mile walk around the River Lagan. I reached my target goal of 10 stone through reduced consumption of food, occasional vigorous exercise and regular three-mile walks.
Losing the weight and getting fit was as hard as giving up smoking. It’s a similar category of discipline. But it was so rewarding. I felt wonderful and my body was more comfortable. I was fitter, nimbler and had much more energy.
When I lost the weight, people saw it in my face first because I had been disguising it with waistcoats and woolly jumpers. People who had not seen me in a year thought I was dying of cancer and not telling them.