I have always been relatively active, as a child playing football and spending all day out on my bike, then from my late teens onwards going to the gym regularly. I was always a fairly fussy eater and routinely chose the highest fat and/or sugar foods, but at least from an aesthetic perspective I got away with it to a large degree because of an active lifestyle.
However, upon reaching my 20s and working unsociable hours in the music industry around takeaways and booze, not to mention my social life being in a similar crowd, looking back my weight gain began then. I met my wife (Mrs C – the other half of SharedGains!) as part of that crowd, and we began our relationship around 2007. Once the “honeymoon period” at the beginning of any new relationship is fading, often couples settle down and begin to put on weight – we may blame it on all sorts of things, but the truth is that this just happens..
By 2010 we had both gained a considerable amount of weight. I still regularly exercised, but poor diet and my slowing late-20s metabolism meant I simply wasn’t getting away with it any more! I “peaked” at 15 stone at this point, and looking back I now realise I was struggling with lower physical capabilities as well as constant injuries to my back and legs, mostly because I was pushing myself to exercise through it to keep off the weight.
Around this time, Mrs C was becoming very difficult to live with due to her low confidence, a large part of which was down to the weight gain. She had tried all the shake diets and extreme plans, and each time lost a lot of weight but gave up and put it all back on, and more. My confidence was also very low, but I tend to internalise these things a lot more – I think this subject is much more of a taboo for guys, for some reason. So I reached a point where I had to have a stern word with Mrs C and said that if this was so much of a daily problem to her it needed addressing – we would lose weight together, as long as it was done with a healthy eating plan.
We chose to sign up to Slimming World, since it is about controlling your intake of “real food”, and began our journey. We found that doing it together enabled us to help each other plan and prepare things, and also it brought in an element of healthy competition. At each weigh in, we would be secretly trying to beat each other – if she weighed in and lost 3 pounds, I would be aiming for 3.5. Then for the whole of the next week, we’d both be sticking to it fully so that we could top the other one next time. I honestly believe that combination of support, encouragement and competition is what did it for us.
Once we had reached a stable, “normal” weight for our frames, we left Slimming World behind and maintained that weight, give or take, for a couple of years. While I had exercised right through all of this, I had never really taken it that seriously, but being a more active person at heart I think I always wanted to push myself further. I reckon the only reason I didn’t is that I didn’t really know where to start or what to actually aim for.
Mrs C had finally caught the gym bug a year or 2 earlier, begun to enjoy exercise, and was setting her goals higher and higher. Before our wedding, she had worked with a personal trainer in the local gym we had joined, to get in top shape for the dress. After the wedding, she came across a body transformation challenge as part of the Body Power expo, and convinced me that we should enter. While I had been looking for a goal and some direction with fitness, this was way out of my comfort zone as I tend not to be so public about things. However, I gave in and signed up.
So, in January 2015 we started working with Genna Loskutnikov, our personal trainer at DW Fitness, to spend 17 weeks getting into the best shape possible. I originally told him my goal was to be as physically “capable” as possible, and that I wanted to focus on functional fitness, but very rapidly realised that was a mistake. I just wasn’t comfortable expressing my goal as aesthetics – maybe I’m just too reserved and British about it all.. After doing a quick spot of soul-searching, I decided to leave the comfort zone far behind and set a more aesthetic goal. I did say, though, that I didn’t want to build too much mass or size, as that look wasn’t something I was comfortable with.
Genna’s plan gave exact meals and exercise routines for every day, which all changed every couple of weeks. Those 17 weeks were very tough and took real commitment, but it was rewarding, and in many ways not as hard as I’d expected. Again, the competition and support between both Mrs C and I was key to us sticking with it, and doing as well as we possibly could have. While I am generally very modest, even I have to admit, the results speak for themselves:
Following the transformation, Mrs C’s story was picked up by the press and received quite a lot of coverage. Unfortunately the bias was on weight loss and just Mrs C – the press know that women love weight loss stories about other women I guess. It was quite odd to us because this whole thing has been about our journey as a couple, and also our focus had been on the more recent “normal to toned” part of the transformation, so it felt almost as though most of the story was missing! Some stories were better than others though, and either way it was fantastic for both of us to hear how many people had been inspired.
During the fallout from the press coverage it became very obvious that people wanted to know a lot of the specifics about how we have done what we’ve done. Huge numbers of people contacted us to ask questions about diet, exercise, surgery, supplements and a lot more. I have enjoyed sharing my meal ideas and gym sessions as I’ve gone along, and people seem to get a lot from that. So, Mrs C and I decided we should begin to share every element of our journeys properly by way of this blog.
In 2006, we decided to enter some fitness model competitions, having found Pure Elite and UK Ultimate Physiques in the April and May. While initially unsure as to whether this was the right thing for me, I put 100% in and reached even better shape than my original transformation. We used Audrey Kaipio’s posing and stage presence coaching to give us the best result possible, and that was definitely worth it as it made the stage experience much easier to deal with. We both did very well on stage, and Mrs C ended up with some good places and her Pro card. Sadly, I didn’t place in either show because the categories I entered were aimed at a larger, wider shouldered physique than I’m comfortable with – the feedback from both shows was that I would need to add more size to place in those categories.
I was very disappointed to put so much work in and not place in anything, but realise that I was in the wrong categories (Pure Elite didn’t run Beach Body at that show, which is more for my physique). However, I got some fantastic pictures and experiences out of it, and even used my stagewear again when we did some work for La Diva stagewear at the Bodypower expo in the NEC soon after. It was a worthwhile experience, but I felt like I didn’t have my shot at the correct category, so I have entered Pure Elite again in October 2016, this time in the Beach Body category. It meant a very short and intensive bulking programme to regain muscle and add a little extra, then quite a short cut. At the time of writing, I am 8 weeks away from hitting the stage and quite concerned about not reaching a lean enough physique in time, but time will tell! I’m hoping I can finish this season with a placing and a Pro card, and am going to do everything I can to get there.
After this season is over, we plan to have an extended off-season and work out where we’re headed in life and fitness. I am still not totally sure fitness model competitions are right for me as I tend to see achievement in more functional ways than aesthetic, so I may head more towards photographic work and some sort of functional discipline, but may well still compete too. We’ll see!
Outside of fitness I’m an independent IT consultant, working on contracts throughout the UK and mostly staying away from home Monday to Friday. I am a guitarist and sound engineer, woodworker and woodturner, and am in the middle of a restoration project on a 1950 series one Land Rover. I figure you may as well have too much to fill your time than look back and feel you wasted life!