Overweight, unhappy and mired in a middle-age slump, Graeme Valentine promised himself – and his father – that he would weigh under 90kg by the time he turned 50 and his Dad turned 70 in 2013.
At 49, Graeme tipped the scales at 102.5kg and was on a vicious cycle.
As the service manager for a fire company he’d often speed through fast food drive-throughs to get a quick fix. Sweets and beer were his fond companions. Exercise comprised a weekly walk around the golf course.
Diets came and went but Graeme inevitably put weight back on. Then a workmate mentioned that the University of Newcastle was recruiting for a blokes-only weight-loss research program called SHED-IT (Self-Help, Exercise, Diet and Information Technology).
It included a short DVD, weight-loss handbook and logbook, kilojoule (kj) counting resources and a pedometer. Cost-effective, simple, free of gimmicks.
“Reading the labels of the food you’re sticking in your mouth was the first thing I learned,” Graeme says. “It was quickly brought to my attention that favourite things like beer have a kilojoule rating, and I realised I could no longer have 10 schooners because I’d wipe out half my allowed food intake.
“SHED-IT gave me the daily metabolic burn rate for my body type and lifestyle (8700kj) and, as a manager used to dealing with numbers, it was easy to determine where I was at.”
Using the Calorie King website Graeme was able to stay at 2000 kilojoules beneath his limit. At the same time, he was motivated by his pedometer to take the extra step.
“I was struggling to get 6000 steps a day and a little push early on was to achieve 10,000 steps,” Graeme says. “Over a couple of weekends I did up to 23,000 steps a day. Now, I’m walking four or five times a week for at least an hour.”
Graeme’s fear of being famished soon proved unfounded as he turned to cereal or raisin toast for breakfast, a handful of nuts and piece of fruit for mid-morning snack, a six-inch Subway sandwich for lunch, another piece of fruit in the afternoon, then small portions of steak or stir-fry for dinner.
From his 102.5kg weigh-in figure, Graeme shed 10kg in the first three months of the program. Unsatisfied, he has now lost 16 kilos in total and has set 82kg as his goal weight.
According to lead researcher Professor Phil Morgan, Graeme’s overall health outlook has vastly improved as a result.
“A 5% weight loss is considered clinically important, bringing a 60% reduction in his Type 2 Diabetes risk as one example, so to lose around 16% is fantastic,” Professor Morgan said. “Motivation can burn out if you go too hard but Graeme lost his weight at around one kilogram per week and as has shown it’s sustainable.”
The key to SHED-IT’s success, Professor Morgan added, was that it was a men-only program with no face-to-face contact. “It talks in blokes’ language and shows typical scenarios they can relate to, and at the same time they don’t have to come into the University once a week to chat about it.
“We often joke that the program materials will self-destruct in the hands of a woman.”
That said, Graeme’s wife Myree rode on the back of the program because she’s the main cook at their home. Inspired by her husband, she started counting steps as well.
“I feel 10 years younger in myself,” Graeme says. “I was a horrific snorer and that’s stopped, which has appeased a few issues at home. It’s also a lot easier to walk around a golf course now.
“SHED-IT is beyond a fad. After I got into it, I realised it was a lifestyle change … I was blaming the stress from work or tiredness, but now there’s no tiredness.”
The SHED-IT Program was kick started by a grant from the Thompson Family to HMRI.