Twelve fitful months later, time for Damian Cullen’s health tips

As I finish my column at the end of a year-long fitness and health drive here is what I learned

Damian Cullen, one year and 2st  5lb down. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Damian Cullen, one year and 2st 5lb down. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

 

One year ago, I decided – for the 453rd time – to embark on a fitness and health drive. Losing weight was a secondary (though much-needed) goal – improving my general health was the primary focus.

I then foolishly resolved to record my progress fortnightly here – quickly turning it into a forum where I could document everything from frustration about how some people can eat anything and remain skinny (bit.ly/1TntG75) to suspicion that my youngest daughters was trying to murder me (bit.ly/1TntG75).

There were two catches. One, I had to stick with it. I’m nothing if not consistent at giving up soon after beginning anything related to my general wellbeing. And, second, I was determined to improve my health without actually doing much that would improve my health. There was to be no radical life-altering plan entertained.

Twelve months later, in my final column, I feel sufficiently smug to offer up some of the random lessons I learned along the way.

1. People who don’t exercise find people who exercise annoying

However, people who don’t exercise, who then decide to begin regular exercise, quickly forget that they once found people who exercise annoying, and begin to talk incessantly about exercising to people who don’t exercise. (Editor’s note: talk to our (wonderful) swimmers ...)

This is a warning from a victim and a perpetrator. We’re going to call this the “New Parents” rule.

2. Worrying about weight loss

There has always been a weighing scales in the bathroom of any house I’ve lived in. For almost 40 years I barely noticed its existence. And then, suddenly, for 12 months I stood on it constantly – somewhere between several times a day, and once a week. It was not a useful exercise.

Weighing scales are mood-altering devices, and need to be treated with suspicion. They are also lying, jealous b*****ds.

3. Hidden world of fun-runners

Hidden, at least, for a long time to me. It seems there is an organised 5km or 10km run within yards of your house each weekend – particularly during the summer. You can blissfully go through your life hardly noticing them – or you can join in the fun.

It is much more enjoyable than it looks from the outside.

4. If you don’t enjoy it, you won’t stick with it

There is no getting around the fact that, no matter how many times someone tells you jogging on a country road is great craic altogether, you simply will not do it regularly if you hate it.

It is easy to avoid exercise; there are always excuses within easy reach.

However, there are also, thankfully, a million ways to exercise – the trick is finding one that you love, or at least don’t despise. Easier said than done.

5. Slowly does it

This was not the first time I’ve tried to improve my health – or the second, or 22nd. But it is the first time I’ve stuck with it for longer than a few weeks.

In previous attempts, I’ve lost half a stone each week for a fortnight, then gained a stone the following week. This time, while losing less than a pound a week sounds fairly miserable, maintaining that trend over six weeks, then six months, then a year, adds up (or down).

6. I will never hit my “ideal” weight

Half the internet is, apparently, made up of websites dedicated to calculating a person’s “ideal weight” – generally by using only their age, height and gender.

It is nonsense, of course – though it really did take a long time to realise that my ideal weight was not possible to express numerically. It is the one that you are most comfortable wearing.

For the record, my ideal weight, according to these websites, is 12½ stone. Boo to that.

7. Everything in moderation

The easiest way to figure out how little notice anyone serious about getting healthier should take of my experience is that I gave up nothing. Not chips, not chocolate, not alcohol – nothing that, truth be told, I should have. But I knew I wouldn’t stick with any cold turkey. Or cold turkey.

The ambition was to visit a gym more often than the local chipper – not to swap one for the other. What you do regularly matters far more than what you do once in a while.

Damian’s stats

Age: 40
Height: 1.83m or 6ft 
Weight: 91kg or 14st 2lb (-2st 5lb)
BMI: 26.9 (-3.5)
Fat: 26.2% (-3.4)
Figures in brackets indicate change since March 2015, when Damian started to change his diet and exercise habits. It’s also when he started to write this column.

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