Newspaper editor Clint Aiken shares his weight loss journey and some tips on healthy eating
‘Look at the belly hanging under the shirt’, the carelessly insulting words of a teenager to a friend as I stood covering a story in Lurgan some years ago.
I knew she was referring to me - standing as I was at close to 23 stone in a shirt that in all honesty was a size too small at XXL.
They were words that stung, and I’d heard similar said on more than one occasion.
That ‘careless whisper’ has stuck with me since and was one of a number of motivating factors for a journey I began last year to shed at least some of that excess weight.
Another major contribution came from the health problems I found developing - notably back and knee pain. Visits to my GP only brought the same advice - my problems stemmed from my weight and I needed to shed the pounds or face worse to come.
One year on and I am standing a leaner, fitter, happier six and a half stone lighter after finally getting my act together - thanks in no small measure to my darling wife Paula who signed us both up to visit personal trainer John Niblock whose advice and encouragement has changed - if not saved - our lives.
John’s patience and encouragement has driven both of us on, with Paula shedding three stone in the year - I’m not allowed to reveal her weight before or after (with divorce the least painful of my alternatives should I transgress).
With six stone off, my life has been transformed - my health has definitely improved as has my physical fitness (thanks to two workout sessions a week with John in sadist mode).
The scale of that transformation came home to me - and all of those around me - only recently with a couple of photographs putting that transformation in stark terms.
The first of those pictures came from my weekend passion - airsoft, before you jump to any other conclusions.
Airsoft is a fast growing sport/hobby in which you have a bunch of mainly grown-up men running about a field with toy guns, shooting at each other.
Obviously the guns in question are non-lethal, firing 6mm plastic ball bearings at low velocity.
The game - which originated in Japan - relies heavily on the honesty of players declaring their hits as they compete to achieve their objectives in a variety of gameplay scenarios.
Think paintball for honest people!
Anyway, I digress, the point of all this was a picture taken by a good friend of mine - Colin Gibson - at Blackskull Tactical Airsoft at Ballygawley that showed my transformed figure.
He’d taken a similar picture of me a year before and when I saw the two on my Facebook timeline I couldn’t believe my eyes. Nor could my friends.
Then just a couple of weeks ago I was representing Johnston Press at the launch of the Mid-Ulster Mail/Tyrone Times Mid-Ulster Business Awards - something I’ve done over the past couple of years. Again it provided me with before and after pictures taken by the absolute legend that is Tony Hendron.
The difference was even more stark as I wasn’t hidden by two stone of ‘tactical’ gear - and more than a few of my friends were moved to ask: “What’s your secret?”
My response: “John Niblock.”
John has been a rock through some tough times in the past year - and not just in my battle of the bulge.
His advice, encouragement and, dare I say, compassion has guided me to a place I never thought I would reach as I fast approach what can be described as a healthy weight but, more vitally, a healthy lifestyle.
Now I am not about to give anyone health or diet advice, I am simply not qualified, that I will leave to John.
John runs his business from Seapatrick just outside Banbridge and has a wealth of experience.
He has been involved with personal training and fitness for many years having owned health clubs in Lisburn and Banbridge, County Down, since 1996
As well has holding a BA Hons in sports science, John is a IHBC sports therapist. Having trained in hypnotherapy and psychotherapy John has also studied Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. All these qualifications contribute to creating bespoke personal training routines for client’s specific needs.
He has 22 years experience within these fields: including personal training and preparing Olympic rowers, swimmers and hockey players. World champion boxers, elite level martial artists, footballers and rugby players are all among the professions he has worked to refine and build for their respective sports and challenges.
He caters for all manner of abilities of people from MS, ME cardiac rehab, heart transplant and lung transplant to road traffic accident rehab plus more
Alongside his personal fitness regime he also offers specialist services for clients who want to focus on weight loss, so far his heaviest client started at just over 32 stones!
He can also provide bespoke 10 week lifestyle changing courses for weight control which has been taught to Trusts in Belfast and Lisburn, as well as being used in the gym.
He’s also a talented musician - as I can testify having heard him on the piano a time or two as I arrive early for our bi-weekly appointments.
I asked John what he feels are the essentials for a healthy lifestyle and what he feels are the most crucial elements not just for weight loss but maintaining a healthy weight.
He said: “Moderation.”
Elaborating he said: “It’s about being 80-85 per cent ‘good’. I don’t talk about dieting, it’s about your diet, the food going in. It needs to be healthy but also needs to be sustainable and allow room for the occasional treat - but not a nightly treat.
“You can have a little bit of something you fancy occasionally, and that makes it easier to keep to a healthy eating plan.”
It’s a point well made and one which Paula and I took to heart, with John suggesting a compromise that we have both been able to stick to.
Our habit for many years has been, in common with a lot of people, to have a Saturday night take-away - usually from the chippy just down the road.
Generally we would have a fish supper each, supplemented with a portion of onion rings.
It was such a regular thing that the staff had got to know our order.
Well, we gave them a bit of a shock last year when we modified that order to a portion of fish each and one portion of chips to share.
I have to confess I was sceptical at first about the whole notion - ‘That wouldn’t fill my tooth’ may have been my first words on the matter!
However, and here’s a section John will probably frame - Mr Niblock was right.
That small change has meant we can still have our Saturday night treat without undoing all the good work of the previous week.
I also have to confess to the occasional slice of cake, but again working in moderation.
John was also keen to point out that while exercise is important for a healthy lifestyle it is only 30 per cent of the story for losing weight: “You will not out-exercise a bad diet.
“However, getting active is important for a healthy lifestyle, but make it something you enjoy. My aim with gym sessions is to have people leave here feeling they could do a little bit more. Indeed I want them to go away feeling better than when they came in.”
John runs his business from his home with a purpose built gym area nestled in his immaculately kept gardens (compared to mine anyway).
It’s a peaceful, soothing spot, not so peaceful when I get started grunting and groaning on the rowing machine but that exercise helps blow away the stresses of a week spent in a busy newspaper office.
To find out more about the services John can offer see his website www.niblockpt.com or call him on 0789 993 5706. It will change your life for the better.
And the benefit for me - I’m only half the man I used to be, my darling wife can get her arms all the way around me and I’m a faster moving, smaller target at airsoft. That’s a gain, gain, gain for me being a big loser!