When it comes to weight, Phil Reeves has a rule: when the scales creep into three figures, it's time to take action.
As a mechanical engineer and spreadsheet geek, he says the NHS weight loss plan was easy to follow, sensible and appealed to his sense of logic.
The Liverpudlian did the 12-week programme twice in seven months, losing 15kg (2.3st) from a peak of 107kg, in his bid to achieve a healthy weight.
Phil, who has a young daughter, says the plan has left him feeling healthier, fitter and ready to deal with whatever fatherhood throws at him.
How did you hear about the plan?
Christmas was not kind. By the end of all the feasting, I weighed 107kg (16.8st). I have a rule that whenever my weight goes into three figures, it's time to go on a health kick. The NHS weight loss plan teaches you the skills to prevent putting the weight back on. The plan is structured, based on common sense, and it's free – it ticked a lot of boxes. I'm an engineer and it appealed to my logical mind.
How much did you lose?
I followed the weight loss plan twice – once in January and again in May. I lost 7.5kg each time, so it's worked well for me. I'm down to 91kg – just within my healthy weight range. I'm now applying the skills learned on the plan to continue losing weight to drop further within my healthy weight range.
Why did you decide to lose weight?
I like running but the extra weight I was carrying around was hurting my knees, so I wanted to lose weight. There were other reasons – you look better and feel more confident. The problem is, I like my food. I know I overeat.
Did you find the weight loss community helpful?
There's a strong community built around the NHS plan. There are so many people either following it or who have completed the plan, making the forum a great place to go for support and motivation. You can share tips, ask questions or just open up when you've had a bad week. When you're feeling down and not losing weight, the forum can help you get back on track.
What exercise did you do on the plan?
The plan is integrated with Couch to 5K and Strength and Flex, but as I'm already quite active, I planned my own regime and just stepped it up a gear. I cycled 30% of my journey to work instead of 10%, meaning I was cycling 12 miles a day. I continued with my lunchtime and evening runs. Evening runs were difficult because of parental duties!
Did following the plan impact on family life?
Not really, because I still ate the same food – just less of it. I was broadly eating half of what I was eating before. I weighed food and noted the calories as accurately as possible. I also had an up-to-date calorie checklist of favourite foods, to save time. I think that's why the plan works; it doesn't involve dramatic changes.
How did you track your progress?
I used the food and exercise chart (PDF, 544kb) for two weeks, but I got really into the tracking stuff, so I turned to what I do best. I designed a spreadsheet, which logged my calorie intake, exercise and BMI in different tables and graphs. It was a fun way to see your progress over time.
How did you manage eating out?
If I was going out for dinner there was a good chance I'd go over my calorie allowance. I tried to stay sensible and limit portion size as much as I could, though. If I went over, I'd compensate on other days by upping the exercise.
How did you deal with snacking?
I've always got fruit and veg in the house if I'm peckish. Once a week, I buy fruit and veg in bulk from a wholesale produce market to keep costs down. At work, I would graze on fruit and veg throughout the day instead of having breakfast and lunch. Getting 5 A Day wasn't a problem.
How did you keep yourself motivated?
I was losing weight and feeling fitter – that's motivation enough. My BMI was coming down, and my cycle times were improving from week to week. My body shape was changing. The love handles were disappearing and the six-pack was coming back.
Seeing all the graphs pointing in the right direction on the spreadsheet gave me a real boost. As a parent, I'm also a role model, so I want to set a good example to my daughter when it comes to healthy living.
How has following the plan changed you?
I'm more active and more energetic. I also feel better about myself and more confident. The plan is designed to help you form new healthier habits, and because of it I now routinely cycle to work. Bringing fruit and veg to work is now second nature. I'm now more aware of the calorie content in food and eat smaller portions.