‘Dad, dad, come to the end of the beach so we can catch a wave?’.
‘Na mate, maybe tomorrow?’
There I was. On a stunning beach, with awesome waves and I didn’t have the energy to walk 200m to get rolled around in some white water with my son. Sure I was jet lagged. Our baby daughter had been up in the night. I’d just eaten an ice cream and was lying comfortably, but…………. it wasn’t good enough!
The truth is I was just plain out of shape. I didn’t have the energy to play with my son and I didn’t like myself because of it.
Just tens years earlier I had been a professional soccer player whose weight hadn’t changed for a decade. Then I stopped playing, went back to school to get a degree, got a series of jobs that involved staring at a computer, got married, had a couple of kids and slowly but surely gained 50 pounds that wasn’t muscle.
Sitting on that beach, watching my son skulking down to the shore line by himself something happened. I decided I would arrest this slide into the middle aged spread before it did me some serious damage. And then . . . in the general tumult that is parenting with young children I forgot about that resolution.
Luckily for me, my wife is a rather cunning one! During the course of our holiday she had taken a series of pictures of me with my top off bending, slumping and lying.
A few weeks after the trip I was sitting on the couch flicking through the holiday photos and I thought, ok, this time for real. It was my birthday the next day, I’d have a last day of gorging then get to work.
Losing my spare tyre
Over the course of the next year I ground my weight down from 104kg (230lbs) to 80kg (175lbs). This was a journey from my heaviest ever back down to my old playing weight.
Here’s what that type of change looked like on me.
In the photo on the left I was +30% body fat. Just before the photo on the right a dexa scan put me at 13%. I’d guess at least 90% of what I lost was fat, because I got stronger and gained size in a few places. But I can’t be sure. I wish I’d done a dexa scan at the start.
By fitness industry standards 13% isn’t lean, and at a FFMI of 20 I have plenty of potential to gain muscle if I want to. But to be honest I’m really not that focused on aesthetics. For a 37 year old guy 13% bodyfat is in the first percentile of leanness, and I think staying anywhere around 15% will be super healthy for me.
With 20/20 hindsight I’d say there are four main ways losing fat has genuinely improved my life.
- I have more energy
- I can move better
- I’ve improved my health
- I’m more fun as a dad
The last one is the kicker. I often find my kids mimicking me. Silly stuff like doing a handstand against a wall, skinning the cat on a pullup bar or sprinting along a field.
I want to keep up with my kids for as long as I can. Looking back I think it was the realisation that I was being a poor role model for my kids that gave me the real push to apply myself to the problem.
How did I lose weight?
To be honest I think I was very lucky. Back in my earlier footballing career I did some classes in sports nutrition. They were pretty basic but I knew to start my journey in the right place, by thinking about ‘energy balance’.
In terms of the actual weight loss, I lost weight in the same way every other person loses weight. I created a caloric deficit, and worked hard to preserve it as my body fought back.
I like to think of my journey in three steps:
Knowledge: The thing that I did best was the thing that comes most naturally to me. I started researching. I quickly realised there is an ‘evidenced based fitness’ community who seem to know more about weight loss than the whole weight loss industry combined. So I studied them, extensively. I found this engrossing because it’s a mix of my two careers to date (sport and data).
Nutrition: I think I did pretty well on calorie control, and ok in terms of macros and food quality. If you’re curious, almost all the weight I lost happened in the range between 2,400 and 1,800 kcal/day (bear in mind I sit at a desk most of the day). In terms of nutrition I’m most proud of the fact that I learned to sustain a deficit without becoming too worried about specific macros or food choices.
Exercise: My biggest disappointments were in terms of exercise. This is probably natural given I tried to limit exercise to two hours a week (to make it sustainable). I did get quite a bit stronger, but I didn’t find a type of strength training that excited me. I tried powerlifting, olympic lifting, bodyweight work and even some basic gymnastics, but nothing really stuck. I think having loved soccer so much during my career I have unrealistic expectations in terms of how much I expect to enjoy exercise
So that was my journey: knowledge, nutrition and exercise. I know that is a bit of a cerebral explanation of what happened, but fat loss is actually kind of like that. You need to out-think your body’s homeostatic defences.
During the process of losing weight I learnt so much about the science of fat loss that I decided to write it all down. Then I got to work building a video resource to help busy, time poor parents shift some flab.
FitFolk has a simple mission. To help busy parents lose fat and gain energy for things that matter. To begin with we want to help parents improve their fat loss knowledge, starting with two resources.
The Fat Loss Framework is a rigorous template for how to think about weight loss. At beyond 25,000 words it’s best read like a reference book. Just make sure you begin with the energy section, then you’ll have the perspective to understand the rest.
Smart Weight Loss is our ten minute video series. It’s an animated journey through the basics of weight loss, plus a simple tool to get you started.
You can also grab our free Five Simple Strategies PDF when you join our weekly newsletter.
Meet the team
Lindsay Wilson – Founder
Lindsay founded FitFolk in the first week of 2017, after a couple of years immersed in nutritional data. In his first career he spent ten years playing professional soccer in Australia, the Netherlands and Scotland. His main interest in nutrition has its roots in some courses he took at the Australian Institute of Sport back in the ’90s. He is a data lover at heart with a degree in economics from UCL. Professionally he’s worked as a freelance strategy consultant, as a researcher for Bloomberg New Energy Finance and OVO Energy, as well as blogging extensively about climate change.
Tom Barnett – Designer / Animator
Tom is central to all the creative work at Fitfolk, from the digital animation to the design aesthetic. He is a professional freelance artist specialising in animation and motion graphics. His background is in visual art and education.