Welcome back folks. Todays interview is a bit different. Instead of someone in the fitness industry I contacted John Burton who had an amazing weight loss journey. Below are the questions and answers that were sent which provides us with a first hand look at the struggle and reasoning behind such tremendous weight loss. The pictures also speak for themselves!
What made you decide that you wanted to be make a change?
I was sat in my local doctor’s office waiting to be seen for something and (to steal a line from one of my favourite movies), I had what alcoholics refer to as a ‘moment of clarity’. I was thinking about my weight (which at that stage was just over 420 pounds), and I realised that unless I changed, I’d be sitting in the doctors waiting room a lot more often with all the health problems I’d start to have. So from then onwards, my mind was made up to become healthier and more active – which of course meant losing a lot of weight.
How long did it take for you to achieve your current size, from beginning of your transformation until the end?
I started my weight loss in April 2008, and reached my current weight in November 2011, so 3 and a half years in total.
What is your most gratifying aspect of transforming your body?
The fact that I’m no longer limited by my size is incredible. I used to get tired and out-of-breath just by walking the really short distance from my bedroom to the kitchen. Now however, I’m active, I play sports, I walk for miles at a time, and I can travel. Travelling is definitely the thing I’ve discovered a passion for more than anything else, and I would never have been able to do it without transforming my body.
What is your favourite feature now?
I’m not sure I can answer that actually. Everything’s just so … different. My brain’s still not quite caught up with just how different my body (and personality) is that I’m still surprised when I look in the mirror and see my collar bones.
Briefly take us through a typical day in your life. A few sentences is all I need.
I’m currently studying for a PhD, so during the week, I spend most of the day in the office doing research. I work at a computer pretty much all the time, so I have to find different ways to introduce exercise into my routine. I walk from home to work (that’s about a mile or so), I walk longer routes on my way home, and of course, I play sports whenever I can, usually during lunchtime. I try to play football a couple of times a week, or failing that, I’ll go for a hike around the suburbs near where I live.
What foods should I really focus on if my goal is fat loss?
I found that purely counting calories was what worked for me, so in my case, I steered clear of high-fat, high-sugar foods when I was losing weight. I found eating a good balance of protein, carbs and a load of fresh fruit and vegetables gave me the best balance between filling me up and becoming healthier. Things like noodles, stir-fry, salads, beans, all kept me feeling full and made me feel great at the same time.
What foods should I avoid if my goal is fat loss?
As I said, high-fat, high-sugar containing foods were what I avoided. Takeaways and fast foods were something I rarely ate once I started losing weight, since the calorie content compared to a home-cooked meal is really high. To be honest though, it’s much more about moderation – at least that’s what I found. If I forbade myself some food, I’d find myself craving it more.
In your opinion what are your top 5 fitness tips that you can recommend that worked for you?
- Monitor calories. This is the biggest one for me. When I started losing weight, I did it just as I would do a maths problem. Calories I take in minus calories I expend equals weight loss or gain. I think it’s because I’m scientifically inclined anyway, I just found this the easiest way to think about what I ate.
- Start off small. If you start off cutting down to 1200 calories a day and attempt to run 5 miles every evening, you’ll find it so difficult to maintain that. I started off by cutting out certain foods, increasing the amount of walking I did by just a small amount. Once I was used to that, I could increase my exercise levels and slightly reduce my calorie intake. Doing that lets your body adjust to the change.
- Have days off. Everyone needs a break from a strict regime, so having what people call a ‘cheat day’ really does help. It keeps you sane, and there’s something to look forward to. For example, I rarely go out to restaurants to eat, but when I do, I’ll have a full three courses, and not worry about the calories at all.
- Ask for help. There’s always a support network available for you, be it your local GP, your friends, family, work colleges. One of my main sources of help during weight loss was the reddit community loseit. With people to give advice and support when it was needed was amazing, and those guys helped me more than they’ll ever know.
- Have a rough goal weight, but make it flexible. I never really had a ‘goal’ weight in mind, I was always told by the doctor to start maintaining my weight when I felt happy. Your weight will always fluctuate by some amount, plus if you’re building muscle, that’ll also increase your mass. Just make sure that whatever weight you are, you feel comfortable and healthy.
What did you do to stay motivated and not slip up, dealing with cravings, sweets, etc..? If you did slip up how did you manage to bounce back and continue on your journey?
I took every day as it’s own challenge. So, for example, if I slipped up and ate 4000 calories one day, I wouldn’t punish myself the next by eating nothing. Conversely, if I ate a relatively small amount one day, I wouldn’t think “Well, since I was good yesterday, I can eat whatever I want today.” I just got back into my routine the following day and resolved to move on and not dwell on any slip-ups.
How has your life changed?
It’s changed in so many ways, I can’t begin to describe. Not only is my health improved dramatically, I’ve discovered a love for sports, travelling with friends, wear clothes that I don’t have to go into a speciality store to buy. It’s amazing. Plus, now that I’m not spending loads on money on junk food, I’ve re-discovered my love for comic books. Yes, I am a geek. And proud of it.
What are you able to do now that you couldn’t before?
One of the first things I did when I hit my goal weight was to go to a theme park I’d been to about six years prior. Back then, I wasn’t able to ride on a lot of the rollercoasters because of how big I was. When I went back though, I rode every single thing I could. That was, without a doubt, one of the best days of my life. It was such a cathartic experience, going back and thinking ‘I did it, now I’m not limited by my size’. That was a really awesome day.
What was the hardest part of your journey?
Getting over the first three weeks or so. During that time, my body was still craving junk food, and it was a case of mind over matter. That initial period of strictly sticking to a new routine was without a doubt the hardest part of becoming healthier.
How has this change improved our confidence and general outlook on life?
I’ve become so much more confident now, I don’t think I’d recognise the person that I was, both physically and emotionally. There’s still a lot of time to go before I get used to how different a person I am now, but I’m looking forward to the journey, and I know that every day as my confidence grows, I’ll grab the bull by the horns and take every opportunity life throws my way.