When speaking at conferences over the last few years I have always leant on weight loss as an example to emphasise the difference between leading and lagging indicators. To show how weight loss, the lagging indicator cannot be used in isolation to achieve ones goals. Getting on the scales at the end of the week to review our weight may or may not end positively and its actually about leading indicators such as diet and exercise that will ‘lead’ to achieve the lagging measures of success.
With that in mind imagine my shock when after a festive season filled with mince pies, cakes, caramel hot chocolates and lots of sitting down I discovered I was 11 stone. The heaviest I had been ‘since records began’. The heaviest I had been in my life. 11 stone felt like a lot for someone 5ft 5.5 inches (the .5 is important) and nearing 40.
More importantly it was how I felt, slow and unfit, heavy and not happy walking around in just my pants, which is an ancient past time of the Leach clan. So something had to be done. Like a lot of people in early January my instinct was to join the gym or buy lots of exercise equipment. Sadly I have previous for this.
So I decided to think through what I had been banging on about at the conferences. Using data to set goals, defining outcomes, creating something which is sustainable, using leading and lagging indicators.
I would start with doing some research into ways to lose weight and common approaches and methods, one of my heroes Mark Ridley practices fasting so this was also an area of interest.
My plan led me to 3 logical steps:
1. Reduce calorie intake – going from lots of cakes to no cakes would be bad. More generally slightly decreasing meal sizes
2. Cut down drastically on sugar – I have a very sweet tooth so this would be no mean feat
3. Start exercising more than not exercising at all
4. Needed a fourth step for actually sticking to it, discipline and intestinal fortitude are not strong traits in me, so would need some work .
My research led me to a decision to set myself 3 goals all of which would be timeboxed to 4 weeks and undertaken in order to give focus and to ensure there wasn’t too many variables in my experiment 😉
Drop calorie intake by 50%, Online tools helped me understand that I needed about 2000 calories, however I was currently at nearly double that. Crisps had become the norm at lunch, I had 4-5 cups of tea with 2 heaped teaspoons of sugar. A sugary dessert after dinner has also become mandatory. Plus breakfast was typically jam or peanut butter on toast.
So I set about cutting down, as I mentioned things need to be sustainable. It’s my belief that drastic changes are not sustainable so fad diets that make you unhappy will not be stuck to.
So day on day I cut back. No jam on the toast. Deserts every other day and 2 cups of tea not 4-5. Swapping the bag of crisps for a banana (this one hurt the most) damn fruit, my natural enemy.
It was working though, even after a few weeks I had lost a few pounds so those lagging indicators were giving me confidence that my leading indicators (behavioural) were correct.
I reached the end of month one and had lost half a stone (7lbs or 3kgs). I felt better and in other stages of my life this would be where I would stop. This time was different. I wanted to explore goals 2 and 3.
Cut down drastically on sugar. This one would ensure me and my best friend, my go to guy ‘the cup of tea’ would either part ways or have a very different relationship. I wanted to experiment with less sugar (manky) or different tea bags (weird). After 2 weeks of experimenting I actually settled on coffee. Working in central London I am spoilt for choice with coffee shops and ground coffee sourced from all over the world.
I always knew I liked coffee but now I absolutely love it. Often black and always without sugar. I had said goodbye to Tea and bye for now to jam, peanut butter and caramel.
So I’m lighter, happier, eating smaller portions and consuming far less sugar.
Burning calories of course, this puzzled me though as how to approach it, as I’ve joined a gym twice before and never stuck to it, swimming more than a few lengths makes me feel sick, running long distances makes my knees feel sick and exercise classes are just weird. Being nearly 40 and stood at the back of a room full of girls in short shorts makes me feel bad.
So I googled something far more masculine and something I now enjoyed watching, Boxing. I am lucky there is a boxing training class camply named ‘Boxercise’ based just a few miles down the road. I anxiously signed up and went along for the first class. It nearly killed me but was so much fun.
What I have discovered is that when you are padded and sparring with a partner you need to focus, need concentration and need to put 100% effort in else you impact the level of workout that the other person gets. Getting the motivation for weeks 2 and 3 was difficult but I’m now 15 sessions in and loving it.
My goals for the 3 months had been met:
Reduce calories, cut down sugar (related to goal 1 but specific), start and maintain exercise. Whilst I have been on the scales on and off, those lagging indicators were going to be slightly irrelevant as I was confident in the leading indicators and had met or exceeded them.
My daily calorie intake was now 2000-2200 which was balanced against the weekly boxing class and average daily steps of 8,000, I was enjoying coffee without sugar and really enjoying the occasional chocolate brownie. When you have treats less often they really do taste amazing. The nut and chocolate brownie from the Kiosk in Kings cross station is amazing.
As of July 2018 I had dropped the lagging indicator of weight from 11stone (69kgs) to 9 stone 9lbs (62kgs). My previous weight actually had me at a BMI of 25.4 (not good) now I’m down to a happier 22.
Whilst this is all very positive and I feel more comfortable walking around in my pants it does question what next. I’m happier, fitter and thinner. I’m exercising regularly and enjoying what I eat. Maybe my goal is one of sustainability now.
The other thing I haven’t mentioned again is that of fasting. As part of the calorie reduction once I had cut out Jam on toast for breakfast and cut down the size of my dinner and cut out regular afters I then decided the conditions were right to introduce intermittent fasting.
Eating for 6 hours a day only. This by now wasn’t a difficult thing to cut out breakfast and just enjoy lunch and dinner. Avoiding beer after 7pm and milk in coffee before lunch were the only hardships.
The most important thing for me was that all this felt sustainable. My annoying craving for sugar before bed and something at 11am between breakfast and lunch were now a thing of the past.
My body feels stronger and I liked myself again.
I had lived the theory, set goals, used leading and lagging indicators, used data and research to drive decision making. Life is good.
I lost 17lbs in 20 weeks
My BMI went from 25+ (overweight) to 22 (middle of healthy)
I love coffee and chocolate brownies more than ever
My love for freshly cooked bread has increased
I was never going to give up or reduce my intake of wheat as i wouldnt have stuck to anything else (I love wheat beers and bread)
Most of my jeans no longer fit
I now consume far less sugar – 2 1kg bags per month less.
There is no picture of me holding out small trousers
I do actually have some discipline
I lost 2 inches off my waistline and am now happier in shorts
Suns out guns out