Client Success Story – 50 shades of hay (or not)

You’ll notice a theme to these client success stories coming out – they are always COMBINED fitness and nutrition. Granted, not all my clients have fitness goals but when it comes to do with anything about weight and body fat, you betcha it’s part of the battle. You should read this amazing and inspirational story from my client Alex who went from the daily fast food diet to a daily whole food diet and as a result…lost 13% of his body fat and changed his life around! So proud of him!



How I cut my body fat in half last summer

By Alex James

I didn’t really subsist on a diet of Bermuda grass and alfalfa sprouts all through the summer of 2012. All I did was turn away – permanently, I hope – from my much-loved cheeseburgers, fries and caramel sundaes, and exercise regularly. The bathroom scales had told me that I was gaining weight, and I was still this side of 30. If I didn’t change my eating habits now, I would be chubby at 40, and the mountain of weight-loss would be harder to climb. I resolved, therefore, to lose weight or more importantly, to reduce my body-fat percentage. Visually, I was still quite trim, weighing 160 pounds at six-feet-two, but a trip to the Bod Pod indicated that I had excess fat lurking inside. I was on my way to becoming a well-rounded person, but not in the way I would like.

I began my new life with one considerable advantage: my mother is a health nut. Recently retired from teaching, she takes daily walks, attends a twice-weekly dance class, keeps a food journal, eats whole wheat everything, drinks almond milk, buys probiotic yogurt, records her blood pressure in Excel, and even powers down her iPad at night so that the wireless waves won’t affect her brain – a case, my father says, of locking the barn door after the horse has bolted.

But she was my initial go-to person and, last May, taking her advice, I started exercising and carefully watching my diet. With the help of some cooking lessons, I also started to cook for myself, and I hired a personal trainer to keep me going back to the gym. This would be a three-month project, beginning May 24 and ending September 1: 101 days of healthy living or “energetic hay-eating,” as a friend of mine dubbed it.

To begin, I signed up with Totum Life Science in Toronto. Until then, I knew nothing about Totum, but I liked their website, and totum means ‘whole’ in Latin, which promised just the kind of holistic approach to health that I wanted. After discussing my goals with Sarah Maughan, a nutritionist affiliated with Totum, I agreed to follow a balanced food plan. There were certainly no burgers or fries on the list, but I was pleased to see that neither was hay. Sarah explained how to read the nutrition labels on the back of products, and told me to shop for myself, following her recommended guidelines.

My first stop, then, was a grocery store, where I loaded up on nuts, Greek yogurt, lean meats, and nine-grain bread. Buying healthy groceries was one thing, but I badly needed some kitchen skills, so I enrolled at Calphalon Culinary Centre next door to Totum. Calphalon offers courses in basic to advanced food preparation and cuisine, but I was realistic to know that I needed something really basic, so I began by learning to chop, slice, and dice vegetables, and to make such things as soup stock from scratch.

I was certainly nervous about cooking for myself. Since leaving home, more than a decade ago, I’ve lived entirely on fast food, and I mean entirely. I never cooked for myself, not once. Fast food may be cheap and convenient, but it is often loaded with unnecessary calories and additives, particularly salt, as my mother warned, and if I was going to take better care of myself, I would need to prepare my own meals – without a side order of salmonella.

This was a more ambitious task than I expected. We’re talking here of somebody who barely knew how to turn on a stove, much less cook a soufflé. I didn’t even know that a garlic clove is one part of the bulb and not the whole thing – something worth knowing when you entertain friends in the evening. I also discovered, not unreasonably, that while food preparation can be fun, cleaning up afterwards is a chore – and the two inevitably go together.

Stu Goldie was my personal trainer at Totum, and for 13 weeks, three times a week, he made sure that I exercised regularly and safely. In every respect, Stu was a professional, and under his guidance I learned a lot about pacing myself at the gym.

Before I began with Stu, however, I went to see Dr. Shannon Noel, a fitness and lifestyle specialist at Totum’s Rosedale location. To measure my body fat percentage, Dr. Noel used a Bod Pod, a cutting edge machine out of Ridley Scott’s Alien and shaped exactly as its name implies. Using air dispersion technology, the Bod Pod separates your weight into two components – fat and the rest of you (that is, your lean body mass) – and is considered the most accurate way to measure body fat, to within +/- 2%. After a few minutes with me inside, the machine printed out my stats, and Shannon’s right eyebrow rose quizzically. I weigh 160 pounds, of which, apparently, 49 were fat – that is, I was 30% body fat or ‘skinny fat’ as Jane Lynch would say, not the worst result by any means but not a good one, either. Inside, my arteries were narrowing and some of my organs had worrying deposits of fat. It was indeed time to change my eating habits before my eating habits changed me.

My goal, then, was simple: to erase 10 years of fast food consumption in thirteen weeks. I was lucky I had Stu for an instructor, because the exercise regime was no walk in the park. I needed every word of encouragement Stu gave me: crunches, push-ups, twists, squats, weights – you name it, I did it, and not always willingly.

Stu is a master of his craft, and he gave me just the right mix of encouragement and exertion to see me through my 13 weeks. Training, Stu told me, is all about addressing the bottleneck, or weakest part, of the body. If we focus on increasing body strength there, we can move on to the next weakest link, gradually improving our overall condition over time.

Despite a lifelong allergy to exercise, I made it through my 13 weeks without missing a single session, thanks largely to Stu’s encouragement. Midway into those weeks, however, I went back to Shannon and the Bod Pod. Stripped to my boxers and wearing a head cap to keep my hair from influencing the measurements, I waited for the machine to do its thing. “You’re gonna be happy with this,” Shannon said, showing me the results. I’d lost 9 pounds of fat but gained 9 pounds of muscle. I looked and felt the same, but my body fat had decreased by 5 percent within six weeks!

Encouraged by this result, I was determined to finish what I had started. By this point, I was consuming more food in a week than before and was always hungry, so Sarah tweaked my food plan, adding just enough to sate my appetite but not enough that I would squirrel away fat.

Stu had warned me that there would be a point of diminishing returns – that is, I shouldn’t expect ever-better results. But my final test in the Bod Pod was even better than I expected. By the beginning of the thirteenth week, I had lost another 13 pounds of fat and gained 11 pounds of muscle. Overall, I had lost two pounds. The really important figure, though, was 17, the percentage of body fat. I had dropped from 30 to 17, almost halving my body fat.

The hardest part of weight loss is finding the motivation to see it through. I needed Stu, Shannon and Sarah not just for their expertise but for the encouragement and discipline they provided. Because I experienced almost no weight loss, I would never have known the progress I was making by stepping on the scales or looking in the mirror. The changes in my body were hidden but they were important nonetheless. What is more, I learned that a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise and sensible eating doesn’t have to be dull or boring. It was – and, I’m sure, will continue to be – enjoyable and challenging, and not at all like living on fifty shades of hay.

My thanks to:

Sarah Maughan, Registered Holistic Nutritionist

Stu Goldie, Personal Trainer, Totum Life Science, 445 King Street West, Suite 101, Toronto Street West, Suite 101

Dr. Shannon Lee – Totum Performance Director / Chiropractor / Personal Trainer

Laura White, my boss – for giving me the flexibility at work to pursue the new me

And my mother – who uses her iPad, sensibly

A congratulations to YOU Alex! Your hard work and dedication will pay off now, tomorrow, and 100 years from now

About Sarah Maughan

Sarah Maughan is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist based in Toronto, ON and has been consulting since 2009. Her website aims to educate you, make you laugh, help you live and inspire you to eat whole food! To stay up to date sign up for free blog and recipe updates! In the meantime, empower your body with food!
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