Let Me Tell You A Story… James’ Story
Know what it feels like to put forward your best efforts but not quite get the result you’re hoping for?
Feel like you’ve tried a bunch of strategies but not quite getting to where you want to go?
Ever been confronted with having to make some fundamental change to your beliefs?
Some of us don’t have to work hard to stay in shape or even have sporting genius but for the vast majority of us, we do. Today I’d like to tell you about James’ story which delves into changing beliefs, what it takes to spring into action, staying motivated in pursuit of your goals and how maintaining new behaviours can be a challenge. James has always considered himself a “bigger lad” who also likes to “take the path of least resistance” which normally led to success falling into his lap. Struggling with his weight since being young, a 6-week bout of exercising led to a cascade of events which would see him trialling for Manchester United years later. But now as James has seen his 40th birthday pass by, his easy successes don’t come so easy anymore which has led to him evaluating how he approaches his health.
“I was raised with that typical Asian mentality of you don’t leave the table until the plate was clean, and typically that plate was carb heavy” begins James with his unique and infectious belly laugh when talking about why he thinks he has always found it easy to put on weight. James grew up in London with a brother and a sister with his hard working Malaysian parents working hard to provide for their kids. Good intentions with diet and exercise would often get disrupted by the work schedule and hard work and high weights would eventually result in James’ father succumbing to a stroke at the young age of 38 which James says he never fully recovered from.
After James was left disappointed when failing to make his high school football team his father decided to put all his kids through a 6-week exercise bootcamp over the school holidays. “Lucky for me, this coincided with a growth spurt as well so by the end of the holidays I had gone from 5’5″ to 5’10″ and completed shredded down”, James recalls. It also meant that he went from not making any school football side to captaining the A-team, representing his county and trialling for multiple professional and representative sides. This 6-week family bootcamp had started a juggernaut that rolled on for years where James continued to climb the representative ladders and catch the eye of a number of professional clubs. “I was playing 3 games a week and training 5 days too without a proper training regime like I now know”, James says. This lack of a “proper training regime” as James puts it would result in him picking up a lot of injuries. At an athletics meet at 16 years old he tore his hamstring and it took 7 months to repair and his goals of playing high level football took a large blow.
James says, “I wasn’t worried. I was one of those kids who’s annoying because things would just always seem to work out for me” as he belly laughs again. “But when you don’t have your diet under control and your missing games the weight comes in pretty quickly.”
After falling into a degree in Exercise and Sports science James’ quickly found the social scene in London. He had come to realise his dreams of playing football professionals weren’t going to become a reality so once he was finished his degree he was left with the decision of a coaching job in the college system in the US or a graduate position at the local supermarket he had been working for during university. In typical James fashion, he was confident he was going to be the successful candidate for each so decided he would wait for which offer got sent first. The supermarket came first, the coaching gig come the next day.
From this graduate position James quickly worked his way up into the head office and then off on a transfer to Australia as a Category Manager at a leading supermarket.
Despite his success in his career his health wasn’t following the same pattern of quick wins leading to a snowball of success. “Getting fit to me always meant sports fit but when I realised I wanted to get healthy was when my dad had a stroke, got diabetes and high blood pressure in a very short space of time. I could see a very short, straight path to that,” he says.
Diet plans never considered his lifestyle and personal trainers always pushed the athlete in him but again never could offer a complete solution. “I came to realise the difference between being fit and being healthy. I could always get fit easily but I couldn’t maintain a healthy lifestyle”, says James about this time of trying different gyms and personal trainers. James’ weight would jump up and down and get as high as 144 kgs. James was training the house down and following hugely strict diet regimes but a trip back home for a wedding would change how we was approaching this. “The best part of 14 months training had disappeared in 5 weeks,” James says before adding “I knew I needed something that was going to integrate more with my lifestyle”. Like this 5-week trip, each time he would take a break from his gruelling routine his weight would spring back up and his partner was telling him that the way he was training and eating was unsustainable and whilst he would argue that he needed to do it, he too knew it was unsustainable. “I came to Australia to work to live and I was feeling like I was living to train,” James says of how his effort was always there but the results just weren’t matching these efforts.
The perennially lucky man wound up entering an integrated health clinic when needing some physiotherapy care as his body began to break down from this relentless training. James describes this as a “proper” physio because they would integrate with his trainer so they would manage his injury whilst also helping him on his way to his training goals.
Present Day Successes and The Future
From our conversation James’ key contributing factors to him being healthy boiled down to having an exercise and diet plan that integrated with his lifestyle and a way to prevent injuries.
“The program that I’m on now is set around cause and effect which makes me take ownership. I know that if I don’t eat a meal with good nutritional value that I will feel it in my training session the next day. There’s accountability but it’s not driven by fear, it’s because I want to do it. Before it was too strict to the point that there was no accountability or it would be too loose that I wouldn’t know what to do,” it how James describes the difference of integrated care.
He continues his insights with, “the integration piece for me is that unless you’re that elite sports person where you’re doing it for a living, your lifestyle is always going to have an impact. No matter how virtuous we claim to live we’re never not going to have a drink or bad food so you have to come up with a program that works with your lifestyle so that you have a balance- the right balance. The other part for me was that I didn’t have to worry that if I saw a physio that the PT wasn’t going to be aware of what to do or that both of them didn’t know the diet plan that I was on- it’s all under one roof. You come in and they know what you’ve done so you don’t have to explain it. When they do ask me questions about what I have done I think it is only for my self-awareness. There’s always an education piece going on”.
From this approach James now is able to self manage and monitor his health for the first time in his adult life. He will still use health professionals but he is now in the driver’s seat and much more aware of his needs that require attention. His weight no longer jumps up and down and he is control of his diet and exercise regimes. He also hasn’t seen a physiotherapist with an injury for quite some time, instead he will have a monthly massage that keeps him on top of any issues.
“For one of the first times in my life I’ve set New Year’s goals that are mentally and physically based on how I want to be when I am older. And now I have the confidence to do it!” James says.