Project 50

Menu Close

Month: May 2019

Then it happened

Weight loss is a strange thing in that you don’t really notice it happening. Yes, you see numbers change in front of you (hopefully) every day you stand on the scales, but what does it really mean ? What does 5Kg of weight loss really look like ? Changes in your body do, however, get noticed by other people, particularly those you don’t see everyday. On the Friday of the second week of my journey I was at almost 7Kg down, over a stone, and I met up with two friends I hadn’t seen for a couple of weeks and to protect their identities we will call them Bominick and Bolin. Both Bom and Bol instantly commented on the weight loss, how obvious it looked. I said it was just the clothes I was wearing etc., but no, they were adamant it looked like I had lost some serious weight. So there you had it, in 10 days I had made a change that was externally obvious, and I couldn’t of been happier.

I had heard before that 1 stone is the magical figure to hit before people notice the difference. As much as watching the reading on your scales drop is motivating, there is no better feeling than hearing ‘have you lost weight’, or ‘you look good, the weight loss suits you’.

I also noticed a few other changes happening, and some of them weren’t subtle. Back to Bom and Bol – I was wearing a T shirt I hadn’t been able to wear comfortably for some time and I didn’t feel self conscious that it was pulling on my big belly and accentuating and already significant problem. I was also wearing jeans. I haven’t wore jeans for 3 or 4 years now as it was more comfortable to wear jogging bottoms or a pair of utility trousers I got when working on an event a few years before. But this day I decided to put on jeans and the button did up, and not only that, it didn’t feel as if I was getting cut in half with them being so tight. The other not subtle change came a few days later when getting ready for work and I was putting on my suit. I picked up a white shirt that normally presents a problem as it is an 18 inch collar and I need 18 1/2 or 19 to be comfortable. Not only did the collar button do up without issue, but I could also put two fingers down the collar without cutting off circulation to my fingers and my neck. Dramatic change come with just a small loss of weight, it was the sign I was looking for that I was doing the right thing.

There is a trade off to all of the above, and a few months ago I did something really stupid. I threw away all my old clothes in a fit of despair as I spat, ‘why bother keeping them, I’m never going to fit into the fucking things’. Ooooops

Weak One

No, that’s not a spelling mistake, that was my concern once this all got started on week one, that I would end up being a weak one. To consume just 800 calories was going to leave me exhausted and unable to function. When I haul my lard-laden ass up the stairs at work to my office I probably expend 800 calories. I have a Garmin watch and it’s online presence tells me that everyday for a man of my stature I should be consuming nearly 4000 calories to survive. On a side note I think that ‘smart’ watches are themselves contributing to some health issues – they tell you to consume 4000 calories, so you consume 4000 calories. They tell you to walk 10,000 steps, and you do 10,000 steps. But what if 4000 calories for your particular days efforts are too many, what if you could easily do 20,000 steps but the watch says you have hit the target. Common sense needs to prevail. Don’t get me wrong, I think they are a fantastic tool in the modern life, but like all tools, there is an appropriate way of using them.

Anyway, back to my concerns of not being able to lift a pen off the desk by Friday. It is true that during the first week I did feel a little tired, in fact for the first few days I found myself ‘having a little lie down’ around 9:30pm and then not waking up again until the following morning. Good thing was this stopped me from feeling hungry, and boy was I feeling hungry. My concerns of tiredness were really starting to bother me as I knew that I had a busy weekend coming up and it was going to be quite physical. On similar weekends I would easily burn 3000-4000 calories (according to Mr Garmin) and I was only replacing a fifth of that. However, this was the big challenge, I had probably picked the wrong time of year to start this due to all my athletics officiating and timing duties around the country, but if you are going to do something, do it extreme. The weekend came and went, energy levels didn’t seem to be affected, pleasantly surprised really. Stuck to my 800 calories a day and drank plenty of water. Perhaps this is manageable after all.

Monday morning weigh-in: 120.4Kg. In just 5 days I have lost 5Kg, closing in on 5% of my bodyweight. This is the first figure that Dr Mosley says is critical as has been shown to correlate with a correction in blood sugar levels and the start of correcting any insulin resistance issues. I also seem to have dropped 1% of my body fat – although I am still currently nearly a third fat !!

Monday morning and a strange thing happened. Alarm went off at 6:30 and I bounded out of bed. Breakfast, shower, prep for work and drive into work. Mental focus was through the roof. Sat at my desk and looked at the tasks in front of me and I just tore into them, no slacking, get it done. For past few months have been procrastinator #1 when comes to work (I suppose quite ironic that I am now typing this at work) but now I just wanted to get shit done. This was strange, what was happening to me, was there something extra in my coffee this morning ? No, I just had a renewed sense of wanting to do my work. People in the office must have wondered what was happening. Meetings were set up, calls were had, documents written and probably for the first time since I started this job 3 years ago my to-do list was empty at the end of the day. This was scary.

Not only was mental focus improved but I seemed to have more energy, not less. Jobs were being done that I had been putting off, and I started to do something that I had not really done for years, I started to cook again.

I love cooking, for years I did all the cooking at home and made some good food, for the past 5 or 6 years I have had no interest, and night-time commitments have made it difficult. That has put most of the cooking duties on Georgina and that wasn’t fair. Now, I just wanted to cook, I wanted to make nice food. Dr Mosley has included several recipes in his Fast800 book, they look scrummy, and they are. A lot are based on Mediterranean food, which I love and all come in around the 200-300 calories. The fridge was transformed, for the first time ever, it looked a healthy fridge, the type of fridge you see on TV shows – full of green things and food that teenagers hate.

End of week one, I am full of beans (figuratively and physically), and I now have a fantastic tasty diet and the office doesn’t know what has hit it. Scares around 800 calories were completely unfounded, they were fueling me well and by the end of the week the hunger pangs had started to go away and the original two week plan to stay on this diet seemed like an easy goal – perhaps it should be pushed to four weeks.

Week 1 stats:

Weight – 119.9Kg (5.5kg loss)

Body fat – 30.7% (1.1% loss)

BMI – 35.8 (1.5 unit loss)

Resting HR – 63 (9bpm improvement)

False Start

OK, one false start for me, yellow and black card, one more and I will get disqualified.  Won’t let this happen, too much at stake.

Probably a good idea here to lay down the baselines, how does my body currently measure up, just how bad is this.

  • Body Weight: 125.4Kg, 19stone 11lbs
  • Body Fat : 31.8%
  • BMI: 37.3
  • Blood Pressure: 146/105
  • Resting Heart Rate: 72
  • Waist: 40 inches, well that is the waist size of the trousers I can just get into
  • Fasting blood glucose: 5.7mmol/l
  • Cholesterol: 4.5 (probably the only thing that was in some way normal)

Below is the standard BMI chart based on weight and height.  The circle represents where I am at – right on the border of obese and extremely obese, that is a long long way to move to the left to get into the overweight, let alone the normal category.


There are some other worrying numbers on that list.  BP 146/105, should probably be medicated for that.  Tried that a few years ago – tablets made me feel horrible, would prefer not to medicate and attempt to control through diet.  Waist 40 inches (and stretching even that) – this one is a major concern, waist size is now increasingly associated with heart disease and type II diabetes and 40 inches is the danger limit.  The blood sugar was an interesting one, 5.7mmol/l is regarded as the ‘entry point’ for pre-diabetes, with 5.6mmol/l being considered normal.  This figure I really wanted to attack and get into the normal range.  I will talk about my specific targets in another post, except to say, I want to lose the 10% body weight as fast as possible to be in line with the findings of the Fast800 philosophy and the association with improved insulin effectiveness that that seems to bring about.

Anyway, back to the first day of the rest of my life.

  • Breakfast: 1 Hard boiled egg, wholemeal bread, tablespoon of low fat mayo: 205 calories
  • Lunch: USN Dietfuel Ultralean Chocolate Protein Shake: 198 calories
  • Dinner: Brown pasta with a beef bolognese sauce: 174 calories
  • TOTAL for the day: 751 calories

I did it, no snacks, no midnight cheese sandwiches, no chocolate, no biscuits.  Boy did I feel hungry in the evening, temptation was all around me, biscuits, bread, nice things in the fridge, nice things in the cupboards but I didn’t give in.  Just because I am on this eating plan, no need for the boys to be, I don’t mind them eating a bit of junk, just please do it out of eyesight of me please.

10pm – had to go to bed, if I sleep I won’t be hungry….it worked.

Here is an interesting nugget from the Fast800 book.  I had always thought that if you weigh yourself everyday then you may not see big changes and that you would lose motivation.  Best to hold off for a week and take weekly readings and see big losses.  Apparently not, in studies carried out on behaviour and weight loss, those who weigh themselves everyday have a greater weight loss than those who are weekly weighers.  Daily weighers are also more motivated to keep going, and can accept that small ups are likely to be due to hydration fluctuations.  If you are up in weight after a week as a weekly weigher then you will probably think that a whole week was wasted and motivation drops.  Another benefit of daily weighing is that you can respond to an increasing trend quickly rather than take you 2 or 3 weeks to notice the issue and then respond.  I was going to be a daily weigher.

Waking the next day I was both eager and afraid to approach the scales, but I had decided to be a daily weigher, and now was 24 hours since I started this plan.


Who stole my will power ?

flakeTuesday 7th May, 2019.  This is it, I’m going for it.  In some ways I felt excited, like first day at school, first date with a new girlfriend, starting a new job.  Not sure what to expect, not sure what was going to happen.

I took this day as annual leave as I was involved in a Schools athletics competition, carrying out my duties as electronic timing and photofinish operator.  I don’t normally eat too much on those days as they can be busy, and if I eat and drink I often need to go to the bathroom and this day was not going to give me many opportunities for any of this.  I had prepped myself well, two hard boiled eggs for breakfast (156 Calories) – this was my usual breakfast anyway.  I had taken a diet protein shake with me, 200 calories, and I was planning on a regular meal when I returned home.  The day was going well, at lunchtime the diet shake was consumed – absolutely disgusting, and thick and creamy, but it was going to do me some good, right ?  Then it happened – I got offered a sandwich, cheese and ham on white bread.  Looked yummy, and I am sure I saw that sandwich stick a tongue out at my empty protein shake bottle.  Without any hesitation I took it, and before I had even had a chance to fully appreciate I was eating something it had gone from existence – there was another 300 calories gone.  So far, 656 calories consumed, just 144 left to go today, and I hadn’t even had my dinner !!

What happened next I think typifies my life for the past few years, and is one of the reasons I am at where I am today, I got offered a chocolate bar – and I took it.  I didn’t even question that I was about to eat it, the thoughts of Fast 800 were nowhere to be seen, I just took off the wrapper, chewed a few times and swallowed it, an instant hit – I am a drug dealers wet dream, except that drug dealer was a member of a Quaker family from my home town of Birmingham, Mr Cadbury.

My food diary for that day states: Mini Flake, 4x bars, 300 Calories.  I know that is a lie, I know I consumed at least 8 that day, I had the wrappers to prove it, I just couldn’t write down the true amount.  I went home, I had dinner.


On Wednesday May 8th 2019 I started The Fast 800 diet

Say that again ? How many calories per day ?



So, just what is the Fast 800 diet, and how was it going to help me ?

First of all, I want to go back a few years to a TV programme I watched on BBC on a ‘new’ method for weight control that had positive health benefits – intermittent fasting (IF).  The documentary was entitled, “Eat, Fast and Live Longer” and featured a medical doctor I had seen on a few other TV programmes, Michael Mosley.  He had a very engaging way of presentation, and his ideas all seemed to be backed up with strong peer-reviewed evidence (important for me), but most important is what he said made sense.  The documentary showed that one of the issues we have is that we eat way too much, our diets have changed over the past 20 to 30 years, and this change is quite literally killing us slowly.  The modern diet, and I am speaking generalities here, is causing issues with insulin resistance, ie the ability of insulin to do its job in the regulation of blood sugar after eating.  The consequence of this is that you get fat, and this isn’t, ‘does my bum look big in this’ fat, this is bad fat, known as visceral fat, that infiltrates some key organs and sets up an enemy camp that fires off a nasty campaign of chemical warfare against your body.  To use an analogy from Dr Mosleys book, think of how the French make fois gras – goose liver paté – they force feed a very high carbohydrate diet into geese and exceed their capability to utilise it and the result is a very fatty liver, not a fat goose.

Insulin resistance then is the key to this story (and ultimately mine) – if your body produces insulin but doesn’t get the benefit from it then you have a problem.  Dr Mosley utilised an idea, based on ancient eating habits of periods of fasting, along with normal eating.  He proposed that if you eat normally for 5 days and then fast for 2 days then your body starts to show changes in insulin resistance and as a result you can now utilise the sugar you are consuming better and less gets stored as visceral fat, the enemy outposts are then defeated and a more healthy state resumes.  It does work, a lot of people have switched to an IF approach to their diet, and it is used in clinical practice of treating obesity.  However I found it had one major drawback, it can be very difficult to do.  If you do not have a serious amount of will power, IF will break you.  Not eating for 24 hours is tough, how you structure those 24 hours can be a help – fasting from night time after your evening meal to the next evening is probably easier, breakfast to breakfast is somewhat harder.  I got some results, then I had to give it up, I just couldn’t maintain it, for me it was not a change in habits, it was just not eating, simple as that.

Several new variations of the 5:2 IF diet have been bandied about, and Dr Mosley himself has tinkered with it.  He has also come up with some other ideas around improving insulin resistance which I find interesting.  For those, like myself, who struggle with 24 hour fasts, the idea of ‘time restricted eating’ or TRE may well help.  I have always had a bad habit of snacking late at night.  When I used to drink I would always end up seeking out snacks, lots of snacks, and a cheese sandwich at midnight or 1am would be the norm.  The idea of TRE says that you should stop eating at an earlier time in the day to allow your body to utilise what it has eaten, and allow your body to enter a fasted state.  That fasted state often changes the fuel your body uses as once the glucose and glycogen are used up, the body turns to fat for fuel use, and the first storage used is visceral fat.  This switching to burning fat is called ketosis, and is pretty much the basis of another diet, the Keto Diet.

A 12 hour fast is good, a 14 hour one better and a 16 hour one looks to be optimum.  Have your main meal at 6pm, don’t eat ANYTHING that contains any level of calories until the following morning and you have done TRE.  If you go to bed for 8 hours, then not only are you getting the benefits associated with a good nights sleep, but you also sleep through most of your TRE period.  As TRE is not even so much of a diet, it is a lifestyle change – eat earlier, it is often easy to adopt, and just this step alone has been shown to have dramatic weight changes and a great increase in insulin resistance issues.  But Dr Mosley decided to take it further, much further. He developed ideas around calorie restriction, and how this can be brought into a lifestyle change.

Calore restricted eating, CRE, is not a new idea.  Roy Walford, the founding father of calorie restriction penned a book entitled ‘120-year Diet Book’ where he advocated eating a maximum of 1600 calories a day, about 2/3rd the amount that a man would normally eat.  He thesis was that if you eat a calorie restricted diet you will live longer.  This was based on research done on laboratory animals, where CRE extended the life of laboratory mice.  However one thing that has become evident in scientific research is that what happens in a mouse can be far from what happens in a human and they are often unreliable models.  Walford had claimed that if you follow a CRE diet that you could potentially live to 120 (based on the animal studies).  Roy Walford – born 29/06/1924 – died 27/04/2004 – aged 79 years !!!!!

Step forward another scientist, Professor Roy Taylor, a diabetes specialist, he had shown that if you lose 10% of your body weight fast that there was dramatic health changes including literal draining of the fat from your liver and pancreas – that nasty forward operating base of invading visceral fat was knocked out of existence and quickly too.  Patients who were diagnosed with Type-II diabetes, that lost greater than 10% of their body weight quickly came off all medication and blood sugars were restored to normal healthy levels.  Prof. Taylor conducted a study where an 800-calories a day rapid weight loss programme was followed and all the usual biochemical and physiological parameters were monitored.  In a majority of patients these patients showed dramatic body changes and a total reversal of their type-2 diabetes – revolutionary stuff and an approach now used in clinical practice.

So taking all of these ideas, Dr Mosley published ‘The Fast 800’ – a period of CRE, for anywhere between a 2-16 week period, consuming just 800 calories a day with reduced carbohydrate intake, and also combine with TRE – 12 hour fast to start with, but try to get to 16 hours.  Two major clinical trials supported this work, and gave an evidence-based approach to the diet.  However most importantly it was more than a diet, it was a lifestyle change, eat less, eat earlier, break the cycle of modern eating habits and get healthy.  The book also has some fantastic recipes.

On Tuesday 7th May 2019 I started the Fast 800 diet.


Holy Shit !! and the Fast 800



Today is the first day of the rest of my life.  Probably a bit of a cliche, but also hopefully the truth, and my aim is for that life to be as long as I can possibly make it.  The date is May 7th, one day after the Holy Shit moment and a really important day, it is the day when things change.  But how are they going to change, what single thing can I do that will make a difference, that will bring about a meaningful change, what is my most pressing issue.  As a an ‘Operations Director’ I often have to look at the array of projects in front of me and try to pick the critical issues in the projects, the one thing waiting for a Holy Shit moment to move it forward, or to point it in a new direction.  The answer came relatively easy for me, as it was something I have been telling myself to change for many years now, my weight.  If I lose weight I will feel better, I will take the pressure of my knee that has been hurting for 2 years now, I will be able to get up stairs without having to stop at the top to get a breath, I can maybe dig a flowerbed without giving up after 5 minutes because it is too difficult.  So what is my weight, and where do I want to get it to.

Step on the scales – 125.4Kg, nearly 277lb, 19 stone 11lbs.  That is bad, that is very very very very very very bad.

Project manager conundrum #2 – you have identified the problem, now find the solution.  OK, easy – lose weight.  Been trying that on and off for 3 years.  Best I did was to drop to 118kg and then it was straight on again within a few months.  Need another solution.  This is going to need some drastic response, I don’t need to just change my diet, I need to change my life.  I have a target weight of 99.9Kg, 15st 10Lb – I want to lose 4 stone.

Fortunately, the answer was only a few feet away from me.  There, sitting on the bed was a book, by an author and scientist I have a lot of time for, Michael Mosley.  The book was called the Fast 800 and it described a way to lose weight – fast – and to correct a lot of health problems quickly.  Was it a fad, possibly.  Was it for me, maybe.  Was it producing results, definitely if the author was to be believed.  However most importantly there appeared to be some serious science backing this up, and that caught my attention.  Now, although the answer was staring me in the face, I needed the answer quickly, and I didn’t have time in my life to read another book at the moment.  Quick load up of Audible, and using some of the free credits I have racked up, I now possessed a copy of a 3 hour audio book – The Fast 800.

May 6th 2019



May 6th, my birthday.  The realisation that this is the last year in my 40s.  I talked about this with a co-worker and we decided that this is just the worst year.  Your 40s are a great decade, relatively care-free, often the first decade where you can start to shake of the debt burden of your 20s and 30s, but 49 represents a full-stop on that.  It is officially the last year when you can still call yourself ‘young’.  Next year is 50, an exciting year, the start of a new decade with new challenges, and at 50 you are the youngest of all the 50-somethings.  However 49 has you stuck in the middle, end of a good era, the next one a year away.

For me 49 was also an age of reflection.  When I first met Georgina, one of the first interactions I had with her family was her fathers 50th birthday party.  I suppose one of my main recollections of meeting her father was that he was quite overweight, and that, with a combination of working as a spray painter seemed to make for some quite laboured breathing (or so it seemed).  Now, at 49 I look at myself in the mirror and I probably have the same physical attributes as Sean did on his 50th party, and I also often have laboured breathing, although I am not a spray painter,  My job has me sitting on my arse for hours on end, often many hours without moving, which is apparently more dangerous to my health than smoking and drinking (neither of which I partake in).  On my 49th birthday I had a realisation that my job is quite literally killing me, and that I have a real chance of dropping down dead at my desk.  I also didn’t want to look like Sean when my own 50th birthday came around.

Change can often be dramatic and very sudden, I am just reading a book on the very subject – The Holy Shit Moment – How Lasting Change Can Happen in an Instant by James Fell, and for me 6th May 2019 was, I hope, my Holy Shit !! moment.

Where did it all go wrong ?



Well it is a good question, where did it all go wrong ?

In 2007 I ran the Cork Marathon, and ran other road races that year  totaling over 100 miles with well over a 1000 miles training under my belt.  That same belt also went around a 32-inch waist.  In 2019 I tried to run 300m and had to lie down for 20 minutes with the effort, and that belt, was now at 40 inches and even that was starting to get tight.

The irony is that apart from my job (more on that later) my life is all about athletics, training kids to be as fit as they can, to make them athletic, to stress the importance of nutrition and all the other things that makes an athlete.  They look back on a 49-year old, balding, severely overweight/obese man – how can I be taken seriously.  Its not that I have given up ‘competing’ as an athlete completely, I still do, on occasions, waddle into the circle and throw a shot put – although not with the same vigour as I did 10 years ago.

So, why has this happened, why have I turned into a nearly 20 stone lump, that is nearly one-third fat ? Why is my blood pressure currently running at dangerous levels, why is my blood glucose hovering on the pre-diabetes level, why is my BMI so far in the red that a doctor will probably tell me its best if I sit down for a while or I might do myself some damage, why do I feel like shit ?

I don’t really have an answer.

I do have observations on how it got in this state – mostly around what would appear to be total idleness on my behalf and a lack of self control when it came to sugar, but the underlying cause remains elusive.  I often think that it must be some form of depression – I just don’t care, some form of nihilistic delusion has gripped me, and whatever I do just doesn’t matter, I am fucked, I may as well just give in to it.

Except that all changed, on 6th May 2019.

© 2023 Project 50. All rights reserved.

Theme by Anders Norén.