20 January 2014

Through his eyes: losing and finding himself

Many of you only know my dashing, slim Markie as he is now. He often gets comments from people that he could pass for Dan Carter, and I know sometimes he struggles to hear this because he can't see it. Because when he looks in the mirror, it's an entirely different face he sees staring back. Six years ago, in January 2007, Mark had the opportunity to tell his life-changing story to the Herald on Sunday magazine. This is his journey to both losing and finding himself:


I'd always been big. I remember at school never wanting to take off my top in the showers or at the swimming pool. Often people would make rude remarks. "Get the fat guy out" they'd say while we were playing cricket. I don't think they realised how hurtful it was.
More weight piled on when I went to university and was introduced to beer and convenience food. There was a really good cafe nearby where we'd go and have a big fry-up at least once a week. I loved sport and was active so I didn't think it was a problem. I thought I'd burn it off. And I didn't realise quite how big I was. I dressed in baggy clothes, and that seemed to disguise it.

When I left university I was 115kg, and very self-conscious, especially about wearing T-shirts. My man breasts were large, and I felt as though people were staring. That was the first time I tried to diet. I lost about 6kg and then gave up. Part of the problem was that my girlfriend Meghan (now my wife) was putting pressure on me every time she saw me eating anything bad. She thought she was coaching me, but it just turned me against the diet.

I moved to NZ from the UK in 2002 and two years later tired again to lose weight because we were getting married. This time I lost about 5kg. Later that year, I went to China on a work trip. When I got the photos back, I looked at myself standing on the Great Wall of China and thought "you must be kidding". It's the most beautiful place, but I couldn't bear to look at the photos because there I was, spoiling the view.

So I signed onto Weight Watchers with a couple of the girls from work. They only lasted two weeks, but I kept going. It wasn't easy. I'm not generally a shy person, but I felt completely out of my depth. There were hardly any guys there, and I didn't feel I belonged. I started in November and had lost 5kg before Christmas and joked to Meghan it was the weight of the Christmas turkey we ate that year. So that was my first milestone.

I continued to lose 500 grams a week. The exercise helped. I'd joined an indoor netball team and bought a mountain bike. It was great. I loved burning fat, and I could just feel it coming off me. I lost 30kg in total and along the way there were other milestones. In 2005, I climbed Mt Egmont, which was awesome. I've ridden the 50km Karapoti Classic Mountain bike race, and I ran the Wellington half marathon in 2006.

I love my exercise now. I walk to and from work and go out running 10km three times a week. I'd never have done that before. I used to think exercise was going down to the park with my mates to kick a football around. And of course, I've changed my diet. Before I thought I was eating really well, but I wasn't. I was snacking on sausage rolls or cookies and chocolate bars from the dairy. If I made spaghetti bolognaise, I'd never pour the fat off the mince. I didn't realise how much rubbish I was putting into myself.

Before: September 2004                                                          After: November 2005

I rely on my wife Meghan for a lot of things. I'll call her and ask stuff like, "What are we doing on Friday night?". I'm a bloke, and that's what we do. But I realised I had to take some responsibility for what I ate. So I do all the cooking now, and I love it. We eat heaps of vegetables, and stir fries are our staple meal. I'm careful about portion size and about how much oil I use.

Last year I went back to the UK for a friend's wedding and when I walked into the pub for the stag night, no one recognised me. I got compliments the entire time. I have all the motivation I need not to put the weight back on. Our son Noah is six months old now, and when he's bigger I want to be able to be go out and play sport with him. It's so much fun being a dad. I love putting him in his buggy and heading up and down the hills exploring Wellington. I'll probably be a real bad-ass about diet when he's older because I don't want him to go through what I did at school.


What the article doesn't go on to tell you is that not only did Mark lose 30kg but he also won the Male Slimmer of the Year in 2006 for his achievement, flying to Auckland the day after Noah was born to receive his award at the Weight Watchers national ceremony. He wasn't going to go (as Noah had arrived a week early) but I insisted he fly up for the day to receive recognition for his life-changing experience.

Most people don't believe it when I tell them that Mark used to be 30kg heavier than he is now, especially if they've only ever known him this way. But I know what it took for him, and so I will continue to shout his praises from the hilltops at every opportunity - and why not it's not only a great story - it's his life!

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