A heart attack is one of the scariest things that can happen to someone you love—but unfortunately an unhealthy heart kills more men each year than all types of cancer combined.
Two years ago, Patrick Delaney faced that reality after his father—who was overweight his whole life—suffered a fatal heart attack in his early 60s. At the time of the funeral in 2015, Delaney was 30 years old and 154kg—the heaviest he’d ever been. He feared that if he didn’t make a change soon, the exact same thing would happen to him.
Delaney, a 32-year-old computer engineer, was always a big teen. He spent his high school and uni years working at a chicken shop, where he regularly ate a fried chicken sandwich with a soft drink and fries five to six days a week. After work, he’d usually make a stop at another fast-food joint for a post-work feed. His fast food diet coupled with social drinking—he would easily polish off 10 beers in a night—and lack of exercise put Delaney close to 135kg by the time he was 21 years old.
“I never ate breakfast, so I was only eating two meals a day, which I thought was healthier than eating a lot of times throughout the day,” Delaney says. “I knew nothing about nutrition, so I didn’t put two and two together. I didn’t realise how many calories I was consuming.”
He was downing nearly 4,000 calories a day, which is 1,000 more calories than the average man should be consuming. Delaney was anything but active, though. While he had a gym membership back in his uni days—where he would walk two to three days a week on the treadmill—he stopped exercising when he wasn’t seeing any results, not realising that his eating habits were stopping him from shedding weight.
“I always thought I was just a big guy due to genetics or a slow metabolism. I never thought there were other factors,” he explains.
But as Delaney planned his dad’s funeral in 2015, everything finally clicked, and he realised the life he was living couldn’t continue on as it was. “It was the first time I realised I had to switch up my diet,” he explains. “The first big thing was cutting out soft drinks cold turkey, which easily cut about 600 calories a day. I started seeing results almost instantly.”
Even though eliminating soft drinks from his diet was the easiest change for him to make, Delaney was still eating a lot, so he turned to the help of the MyFitnessPal app to help him track his calories. Seeing the amount of food he was packing in daily helped keep him accountable, he says.
Fast food and restaurant meals were also the first to go. Instead, Delaney started cooking at home. He even started to prep his weekly meals by baking six chicken breasts with a side of vegetables on Sunday nights, so he would stay on track for the week. And instead of eating two giant meals like he used to, he transitioned to eating five to six smaller portions, which included snacking on foods like grapes, almonds or Greek yogurt.
On top of that, Delaney finally gave the gym another shot. He started by walking on the treadmill for 30 minutes at a time, gradually gaining the stamina to run with the help of a personal trainer. Before he knew it, he was losing a kilo-plus per week. Within the first six months, Delaney was down over 20kg, and by the end of 2016 he was 45 kilos lighter. Coupled with a boost in energy and self confidence, he had never felt better.
Now, he relies on a combination of cardio—like running—and strength training to maintain his weight loss while building muscle. He lifts weights five days a week to work his legs, arms, abs, and back.
His favourite piece of equipment? The rowing machine. While it works his entire body, Delaney’s arms, back and chest have become so strong that he can even out-row his trainer.
“Now, I want to get out and move instead of sitting around all day,” says Delaney. “And I crave healthy foods, not junk. I had a soft drink recently for the first time in two years, and it just didn’t taste good anymore—I didn’t want it.”
Towards the end of July 2017, Delaney stepped on the scale and was shocked when he saw the number 90.5kg. He was back at his middle-school weight.
“It’s a bit shallow, but the attention from women has been mind blowing to me,” he said. “I remember a girl staring at me at the store, and for like, five minutes, I thought there was something on my shirt before it hit me that I got checked out.”
Delaney’s goal weight is 80kg, and his motivation hasn’t stalled yet. In fact, seeing just how far he has come using the progress graph on his MyFitnessPal app only encourages him to keep going.
You can get started yourself if you want to do the same, says Delaney. His advice? You need to know how much food you’re eating. If you’re constantly gorging on huge portions, start taking note of your calories. “Before you even start making changes to your diet, track all the food you’re currently eating,” he says. “That way, you’ll have a baseline and know what you need to do going forward.”
And while past two years have opened his eyes to the importance of taking care of your health, he’s also realised that challenging yourself—in and beyond the gym—can only help you grow into the best version of yourself.
“It could be taking the art class you always wanted to, or trying strength training to build muscle,” he said. “Doing something for yourself and sharing it with people you care about will leave you with a feeling of fulfillment and confidence that you can’t get from anyone else. Only you can give it to yourself.”
This story originally appeared in Menshealth.com
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