Over the course of my adult life my weight has fluctuated by 43kg – so what have I been doing wrong? More importantly, what have I been doing right to get back to a more healthy and sustainable weight?
I count the start of my adult life when I left school and started working as a printer for the Waikato Times – that was 1976. From that you can probably work out I'm now 64.
I had been at my present height of 186cm since before I was 16 and as a nearly 18-year-old about to enter the workforce, I weighed in at 80kg – my weight for the previous couple of years.
As a teen I was pretty active, but I was also not very motivated to train for sports and I loved food (and beer).
The diet for a 70s teen was pretty basic: cornflakes and toast with peanut butter for breakfast; sandwiches and biscuits or cake for lunch; meat, potatoes and peas for dinner.
Drink of choice with meals was milk, an after-school snack could be more cereal or maybe a cheese toastie. The latter was the snack of choice after sport trainings.
Friday night was fish 'n' chip night from Hazelmere Takeaways and when we used to go out with mates and have a few beers I dealt with the munchies with a cheese and bacon toasted sandwich and caramel malted thickshake from the Texacana Burger Bar.
Other places for a food fix in Te Awamutu were Eddies Kebab or The Pie Cart.
Until I left school I played water polo, at representative level, rugby and basketball and had after-school and holiday jobs such as delivering newspapers, milk or groceries (running or cycling), haymaking, beekeeping, farming or labouring for tradies.
These were all physical activities and helped keep a young man fit and lean.
The first change started when I left school and took on a job as a printer at the Waikato Times that was basically shift work. The drinking culture didn't help either.
For three years I didn't play any sport, ate pub lunches and had a beer or two just about every day after work. When we shifted from the city to the Te Rapa site the lunchtime pub visits stopped – but they had an on-site cafeteria, so it was sausage rolls for morning tea and pies for lunch.
When I left the Waikato Times and shifted to Thames to work at the Toyota car factory, I weighed 92kg.
This story is about me and my journey – but I need to bring in my wife Robyn as well as we have been together since school.
It is fair to say Robyn struggles with her weight also, but she is far more disciplined than me and was an active Weight Watcher for many years – beginning when she was first at Hamilton Teacher Training College.
But in 1979, Robyn and I lived in Thames and working regular hours meant I was able to join some of my workmates in the Hui Mai Sports Club and I was once again playing rugby and basketball.
Over the course of the year the weight fell off and when we shifted back to Te Awamutu in 1980, I was closer to 80kg than 90kg.
I had won a place at Teachers College, and with my new younger mates kept pretty active.
I played rugby for Te Awamutu United, formed a new basketball club with my good mate Wayne and got back into water polo – once again gaining Waikato rep status.
Down times at Teachers College were often spent in the gym with a basketball, in the pool, on the tennis court or at a nearby golf course.
As a young married couple our diet was what would have been considered healthy: cereals, breads, fruit, meat, vegetables, salads, home baking, preserves and tins of baked beans and spaghetti.
We weren't big takeaway eaters – fish 'n' chips was still the main go-to.
Parenthood didn't change our diet much, and we were still pretty active as our kids grew up.
But weight gain is a sneaky beast. A little bit here and there; that's natural, right, as we get older?
Then I was fat.
It had been two decades and I was 110kg. That was the year 2000 and the first and only time I joined a gym and had a serious go at getting into shape.
The fad in Te Awamutu at the time was Body For Life through Marty's Gym. I signed up for the 12-week programme and saw it through.
Every morning I was up in the dark and doing a weights programme at the gym. Several times a week there were aerobic classes and the diet was a mixture of protein replacements (lunch) and diet meals containing one portion of protein, one portion of carbohydrate and one of vegetable.
A portion was described as the size of your fist. The plan also required drinking a lot of water.
After 12 weeks I weighed 100kg and was sure I would carry on and lose more weight.
Robyn and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary that year with a trip to Melbourne.
That break from the gym was all the excuse I needed, and soon I was off the training.
My only real exercise was weekly basketball, which continued until 2013, each game followed by a few beers and a couple of sausages on our portable BBQ as mates of 20-plus years caught up each week.
The weight started to creep up again and of course, I did nothing about it.
Meanwhile Robyn had given Jenny Craig a go, and then she, so we, took to the Atkins Diet.
To be fair I can't remember if it had much effect for me – my basketball mates were all pretty big guys, and not just tall.
We told everyone our starting five weighed more than the All Blacks tight five – and we did. But they were in shape and some of us weren't. Especially me.
It was around 2010 that we last had a pair of bathroom scales in our house, and that wasn't by choice – my team broke them at a weigh-in at a team BBQ – although we did make the choice not to replace them. On that day I weighed 115kg – but worse was to come.
As I said before, weight gain is sneaky, so both of us continued the same eating-and-drinking regime, which we basically believed was healthy, and both continued to put on weight.
The real change for us came in March 2019. Robyn and I had planned a major trip to South Africa, and as often before an overseas trip, we would look to get in shape a bit to handle the travel, disrupted sleep and lots of walking.
However, this time Robyn went next level and announced she had been to see Marty Eyre who had Body Buzz, and I could join too if I wanted.
To be fair I thought I was going to get on the machines and shake the fat away – so if it was that easy I was in.
But it wasn't about "buzzing" at all.
We went and weighed in and got measured so we could track our progress, and started learning about carbohydrates and sugar.
I thought I would be about 120kg. I was 122.7kg, and based on the pinch tests 43kg of that was fat and muscle was about 80kg. My body fat was over 35 per cent.
The process was to change to a very low carbohydrate and sugar diet, effective immediately, and fast in the morning as Marty said that made the weight loss more effective.
Robyn and I liked our breakfasts, and thought the world would probably come to an end without them, but were prepared to give it a try.
Over three years on and we haven't regretted it – and we don't miss breakfast. We also like how it streamlines our work day mornings and makes the whole "getting ready for work and out the door" much less stressful.
Like most people, we had bought into the "breakfast is the most important meal of the day" concept – but now, for most adults, we generally disagree. It is obviously a different story for growing children and teenagers, but Marty's explanation for us was that if we needed food, we would feel hungry, and we don't.
In the early days we had snacks on hand in case we felt we needed them – hard-boiled eggs, low-carb nuts, cheese – they are all part of the food plan, but we found we can usually easily make it until lunchtime.
We still love our weekend bacon and eggs – now it is our brunch treat instead of breakfast.
Every fortnight or so, when I am donating plasma (blood) I get to have breakfast for a treat and, of course, some sweet biscuits with my cuppa at the donor centre.
I actually found out the hard way that you can't go without food and donate blood on the same day – you are inclined to collapse, especially after a spa.
But the low-carb, or keto, or sugar-free way of eating isn't hard to get to like and it is now how we live.
In fact this story isn't really about losing weight – it is about finding a lifestyle that allows it to stay off, and that's what we have done.
Our initial goal was to look and feel good to go to South Africa.
We joined Body Buzz in mid-March and left for Africa in July.
In those four months my weight came down 2-3kg each fortnight as we got weighed and measured to track progress.
I left weighing 109kg, with 21kg of fat and 88kg of muscle – body fat was 20.6 per cent.
My main sacrifice for that first four months was my beloved beer – I drank none. I did, however, drink more bourbon and diet coke, and luckily for Robyn wine is carb and sugar free.
Travelling meant a change of rules. When we travel we want to sample the local food and beverages – and that is what we did. We weren't over the top, but we enjoyed our meals and tried the beers and wines.
Amazingly, I lost another 2kg while we were away.
I'm not going into detail about our "diet" these days, but it is fair to say Robyn is a great cook and likes to find things to try, so we have a good range of carb and sugar-free dishes that complement the basics, which is meat or fish and salad. She has also found recipes for treats and desserts – so we don't feel we are missing out.
Marty has videos that explain his thinking – and the weigh-ins meant we could talk about what we had been trying and measure the result.
The good thing for me is Marty had a pretty simple formula even I could understand.
Basically, 10g of carbohydrate (or sugar) equals one lifestyle point. Fewer than 5 points a day is fat burning mode, 5-10 points a day is maintaining and over 15 points a day is fat storing (weight gain) mode.
He explained that humans are designed to store fat on purpose for the lean times, but we don't really have lean times like our hunting-gathering ancestors did.
The good thing about food labelling is that you can see exactly how many carbs you consume in a day. Food to avoid from the start were underground vegetables, especially potatoes and kumara, also beer, bread, pasta, pizza, most fruits (high in sugar) and anything sweet.
If that sounds miserable, I can tell you for us it isn't. We don't feel deprived and we enjoy good, tasty food.
More than two years down the track and the lifestyle is serving us well.
I finally got under 100kg and can maintain that without having to be too strict.
By that I mean we still eat sensibly for us most of the time, but when we go out to eat, we can choose what we want and know it won't have a detrimental effect so long as we follow up by sticking to the plan.
For me that means I can get my burger, or bread, or chips fix and indulge in some tasty craft beer or two from the tap.
There are low-carb beers, and that's what I stick to the rest of the time. I even had a go at making my own with a mate, and it was a success that needs repeating.
Compared with where I started, my body fat is now around 15-16 per cent and fat weight about 15kg, while muscle weight is in the mid-80kg range.
Health-wise we are both in good shape – neither takes any prescribed medications and we are not often ill. In fact my previous regular medication for high cholesterol was no longer required just nine months after I changed eating habits and lost weight.
Shopping for clothes for both of us is much easier when off the rack fits and we just generally feel better in ourselves.
We've stopped the weigh-ins – we know where we are at – but we still "buzz" for the muscle tone and low-stress workout it provides.
There are a range of workouts and I tend to choose the ones that target the back and shoulders, my sore bits from sports, plus circulation and fat-burning programmes for variety.
There's no way we want to go back. As I said, Robyn is the disciplined one in this relationship, but what we have found is a lifestyle that is basically easy to maintain, that still allows for the enjoyment of great food and a more healthy body.