Dr Xand Van Tulleken
Monday morning of the first week and I stare at the Wellness Journal with self-loathing and regret.
I have to change my life so much. The biggest source of shame is my weight — visible evidence of my lack of self-control. I pile on fat inside my abdomen: as I’m 6 ft tall, even quite a bit of weight gain didn’t show much once (though it does now), but the fat packed around your internal organs is the most dangerous: most likely to make me diabetic, push up my blood pressure and cholesterol, give me a heart attack or stroke.
As I contemplate the Wellness Journal, I think of my first job in medicine: vascular surgery. We had one operating list per week, where we removed the legs of people whose arteries were so clogged they no longer supplied blood below their knees.
Dr Xand Van Tulleken: My fitness goal is to run a marathon in a year’s time, in under four hours.
I remember thinking that if chopping off human legs wasn’t going to be enough incentive to look after myself, perhaps nothing would.
What happened? The same kind of things that happened to anyone who’s interested in the Wellness Journal: family life, work commitments, convenience foods and stress got in my way. So the main battle for me really is positive thinking: it should feel good to take charge of my health again.
My fitness goal is to run a marathon in a year’s time, in under four hours. My aim is to do strength exercises twice a week and cardio three times a week, and I’ve done that so far.
But if my diet and exercise regimens were in obvious need of an overhaul, filling out the journal’s goals section highlighted a hidden gap: my personal growth — or lack of it — really surprises me.
I think of myself as a well-rounded person with hobbies and plenty of friends. This is simply no longer true — and the lack of both is harming me in terms of stress and psychological health. So I’ve started a pub quiz team (OK, it’s just two people but it was an enjoyable evening that reminded me how little I go out) and I plan to book some guitar lessons. Or painting or language lessons.
I’ve already started reforming my bedtime — pledging to keep my phone in the kitchen overnight, not by my bed, was the first step and it really helped.
The temptation to endlessly refresh my emails and social media accounts meant I stayed up hours later than I should, and often fell asleep with my phone on my face. I haven’t done that for ten days.
So far, so good, then: my exercise regimen has begun and is not nearly as bad as I feared. My weight hasn’t shifted much (it may be down a pound) — I started with healthy eating rather than a calorie reduction — and I feel better. Perhaps the clothes are a little looser, but I know this will take time.
I have at least given some serious thought to personal growth and written a plan for the next six months. It’s a glorified to-do list but for the first time in years I have questioned where my life is headed and decided what needs to change.
Dr Chris Van Tulleken
I’m the kind of person who never gets anything done without writing it down, so I started my Wellness Journal with the goals page.
I think my goals are fairly typical for a 41-year-old man, starting with losing weight — at 6ft1in, I’m 13st 6lb (85kg) — not a disaster but heading in the wrong direction, so my weight goal is to lose about half a stone. I also want to get fit, use my phone less, sleep more and address my niggling back and hip pain.
Dr Chris Van Tulleken: My fitness aim includes doing a formal 5km run before Christmas. Just setting this goal provided the motivation I need.
So, ten days into the journal, how am I doing? My action plan on the weight front is to let my wife (who is marginally less of a glutton than me) decide what’s for dinner. I’ve gone from 85.3kg (13st 6lb) to 84.4kg (13st 3lb).
Some of this will be water (you lose water first) but I feel good.
My fitness aim includes doing a formal 5km run before Christmas. Just setting this goal provided the motivation I need.
I’ve written a training schedule that includes ten minutes of strength-building exercises each morning — I haven’t managed this every morning but that doesn’t mean I have to give up completely. We all let plans slip sometimes.
Anyway, I have done three sessions this week — some press-ups, sit-ups and some old physio exercises for my hips and knees. I’ve also booked a physiotherapy appointment for next week. It will cost me £70 but I’ll just skip two takeaways.
My stress goal is doing five minutes of meditation each day, and so far I’ve failed. No real excuse. I’ll recommit. I have a two-year-old and a busy job, so sleep is a priority. I’ve managed to get to bed by 10.30pm every night this week.
The bad habit I’m trying to break is constantly checking my phone: I’m trying to leave it behind when I go for walks and charge it downstairs overnight, then read in bed instead.
How to sum up my progress? More hit than miss!