Welcome back to this three-part blog series on why fitness is so important for the over 40’s.
Let’s start with a case study from one of our clients. Tori Edwards. Tori runs of the most successful model agencies in London, but when we met her less than 2 years ago, she was 110kgs and had several red flags going on in the Six Signals™, areas that we think are strong indicators of health.
What Tori has achieved since then is incredible. She now exercises 2-3 times a week, has been able to avoid a complicated knee surgery and has lost 30kg of body fat.
This is her story.
I’d come to a crossroads in my life where I knew that I was going to be diabetic within the next 10 years if I didn’t change my diet and fitness. I hadn’t done any exercise for most of my life, except for a bit of yoga and swimming here and there. But, generally, I never thought that I’d be into it.
Faced with the fact that I had a very arthritic knee, and at a weight of 110kgs, I felt like I had no other choice than to find someone to help me. I was pre-diabetic, and went to see an endocrinologist for tests as I felt so sluggish. He confirmed I was insulin resistant and that there were things I could do to change that – including diet and cutting out certain things like sugar. I knew I had to grow up and look after myself and that no-one else could do it for me. I wanted to be around long enough to be a mum and enjoy life. Also, I wanted to let go of old habits and past feelings around food. Food was so emotional for me and a replacement for things I didn’t have as a kid.
My knee was agony and I couldn’t walk very far. It was very painful. I had a lot of lower back pain. I’d had one bout of bad back pain which lasted for about seven months and I was on Tramadol, which is a strong pain killer. I had lots of pain. I had pain in my feet. I had pain in my hips. I wasn’t sleeping properly. I wasn’t resting properly. I was agitated; an amalgamation of just not being content or happy.
I was a bit apprehensive about the exercise. I was scared because I’d always been quite embarrassed about my body and doing exercise in front of anyone. I would never go to the gym because I could never bear anyone looking at me, thinking, “Oh, poor fat cow in the corner over there trying to lose some weight.” I was scared that it would just be a fad and that I’d be wasting my money again on another mad weight loss program.
I’ve tried lots of things over the years including different types of hypnosis and therapy. I’d never tried a personal trainer though. That was clearly the thing that I needed all along. I tried these crazy diets – the cabbage soup diet, and eliminating everything and saying, “I can’t eat bread. I don’t eat wheat anymore. I’m not having dairy anymore. I’m not having this.” Whatever the fad was, I was always trying it. I never looked at the actual causes; that I wasn’t exercising and eating the wrong kind of foods.
The DNA test helped me form a healthy eating plan, and identify what the right kind of foods were for me. Because of the balanced nature of the diet, I could get through two weeks without sugar by eating foods that stopped me having blood sugar spikes. I think the meal plans were the thing that aided me alongside being ready. You’ve got to be so organised in those first few months. I knew that if I didn’t reduce salt for example, I would be in danger of having a massive stroke like my dad did at 62. If I continued with my diet the way it was, I would have problems with high blood pressure which runs in our family. The DNA test results showed me that I would respond much better to short bursts of high intensity exercise e.g. tabata. I’d never be a distance runner or anything like that because of my knee, but that was useful to understand. Learning to do boxing was also very empowering.
I started in October 2015, and I’ve now lost a total of 30 kilos. I lost all that weight within a year.
I have no knee pain at all now. I have no back pain in the way that I had before, which could last up to two weeks. I know the moment that I exercise, it all fixes itself pretty much straight away and it’s nothing compared to how it used to be. That’s a complete change of mindset. When I had blood tests done recently with the endocrinologist he said that I was his star pupil!
Having someone to support me was integral. There were times in the beginning when I used to think, “Oh, I don’t want to do it today.” Nine times out of 10 I would do it because there’s something about someone being there to support me and the financial commitment.
There’s also nothing that feels better than having lost the weight. There’s no food that can replace the way that I feel right now. It used to be that food really made me feel nurtured and I’ve replaced that with exercise, diet and health. Nothing feels better than being this fit. One of the things I remember was the metaphor of the 7kg medicine ball. When I lost my first few kilos and then got to seven kilos, knowing I’d lost the equivalent of one of those medicine balls was just huge to me.
Exercise has helped me with resilience and managing stress. The boxing feels really good. With the charity boxing event (Tori did 12 rounds of boxing in a charity match with Bodyshot to raise money for a local charity), once I decided that it would be something I would do, I then got terrified and the fear started creeping in because I just didn’t think I would be able to do that amount of exercise non-stop. I felt quite fearful and it was a massive hurdle to overcome. I had a few sleepless nights worrying that I wasn’t going to be able to do it…but I did it…it was amazing. It was a great feeling having achieved it and to have raised money through this and my weight loss for a community project I was working on. I feel like I could probably do other stuff like that now.
I can’t imagine life without exercise now. There’s no going back. I’ve gone through painful hurdles and things that I never thought I’d be able to get over. Sometimes I feel like I can’t believe this is me, even now. I know that it felt so unachievable before. Something has completely changed in my mind. There’s no way that I will ever stop exercising. I love it now. I live for it, almost. I walk everywhere with a purpose now. Everything’s changed. If I can do it, anyone can do it.
The big thing has been my little girl… I think that’s been the most amazing because I was always very conscious that she could be leading a life that could end up the way that I had with my relationship to food and exercise. Her little face when she’d see me exercising and watching me lose the weight I think that’s been the most amazing thing ever. When she saw me in the boxing ring she wanted to get in. She was shadow boxing in the ring because she’d seen me do it.
I know the mother/daughter relationship is a massive thing, especially with my relationship with food and exercise. I’m happier as well – my family’s admiration of what I’d done and have achieved has been brilliant and a real driving force. It’s important that we set examples for our kids. I had trouble with my mum when I was growing up and her relationship to indulgence and stuff was learnt behaviour that I adopted too. I really feel like I’ve broken that cycle and that feels like a massive achievement.
Three words to describe how I feel now after exercising? Happy. Awake. Energised.
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Leanne Spencer is an entrepreneur, coach, TEDx Speaker, author of Remove the Guesswork, and founder of Bodyshot Performance Limited. Bodyshot is a health and fitness consultancy that helps busy professionals get more energy by removing the guesswork around their health, fitness and nutrition. Visit www.bodyshotperformance.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org to register your interest in our services and connect with us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.