OPINION: I’ve always had a passion for the outdoors but after I swapped an active lifestyle in the army for a job as a truck driver, my health went downhill and I fell into a bit of a hole.
I grew up hunting and fishing, which I still enjoy. I spent six years in the army, straight out of school ,before becoming a truck driver. Over the next 10 years, I piled on the weight.
When my lifestyle changed to a sedentary one, I didn’t change other parts of my life – I kept up bad habits of binge drinking and eating anything I wanted and as much as I wanted. I also did a stint working in the United States, the land of super-sized fast food. In 2012, I became quite sick and was eventually diagnosed with a underactive thyroid.
By January 2018, I was at my heaviest, weighing in at 147 kilograms. It was at this point I decided I needed to make some big changes and set myself the goal of losing 20kg in 12 months.
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I started off small, trying to create healthier life habits such as smaller meal portions, packing my own lunch for work instead of buying it, eating less processed foods and eating more fresh vegetables from my garden.
I used the “Couch to 5K” app and started doing park runs. In the beginning I could barely run 100 metres before having to walk, so I just took it slowly. Now, I run 17 kilometres in the weekend just for fun.
When I first started on this journey, it was really difficult to find the time to fit in exercise around my long workday; as truck driver I usually work 10-13 hours. I found the best way was to write down a plan and try to get into a routine to keep it going. This meant a lot of running in the dark, and I invested in a good headlamp very quickly. Even now I have periods were I get out of routine and it takes me a week it get back into it.
I’ve discovered a real love for running and challenging myself to go further. I entered a weight loss competition at my partner’s gym and actually won it by losing 11kg in seven weeks. I managed to achieve my goal of shedding 20kg by January, dropping down to 126kg.
I’ve lost a total of 30kg, now weighing in at 117kg.
My normal exercise regime involves three to four runs a week, ranging from 5 to 15km, and I’ve recently started doing two to three gym classes to mix things up a bit – so I’m exercising five to six times a week.
This year, I decided to change things up and, rather than setting another weight loss goal, I stepped right of my comfort zone and signed up to run the Rakiura Challenge on Stewart Island in October. It’s a 34km trail run around the Rakiura track. I also decided to use this event as a way to raise awareness and some funds for LandSAR, as I have been a member of the South Island LandSAR group for the past three years.
My advice for anyone contemplating a change in lifestyle would be to start out small. Try changing one thing at a time such as a small diet change or going for a 10-minute walk a couple of times a week. If you try to go big straight out of the gate, you’re just setting yourself up to fail – I should know, I failed many times before I got to where I am now, and I still fail from time to time.
You just have to pick yourself up and start again. I also found it really helpful to have someone there for support. My partner was great, she helped me a lot by keeping me going, keeping me honest with myself and picking me up when I failed.