Sunday 18 March 2018

Shape Up: The 'X Factor' honest route to a new life

Damien Maher

GOVERNMENTS citing weight gain as a reason for rising medical costs makes perfect sense. Recent news revealed that obesity is costing billions of euro throughout the EU.

Fat stores toxins and research shows that excess weight, especially visceral fat around the organs, increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes and certain forms of cancer.

Its costs extend further to areas like public transport -buses have to have shock absorbers replaced regularly with all the excess weight they carry.


The promotion of gastric banding by medical experts as a solution to obesity merely targets a symptom as opposed to providing a cure. It is like looking at a plant at home. If the leaves were to turn brown, we would not spray paint the leaves green. We would check if the tree is getting adequate nutrition so that it can blossom. So why do we not approach fat loss in the same way?

When I started in the fitness industry more than 10 years ago, a heavy guy was considered to be a man weighing 90-95kg. Now, it is common to conduct consultations with men and women weighing 120-130 kg. That is why there are so many weight loss centres around Ireland and why shows like Operation Transformation and The Biggest Loser are so popular.

Support is critical and it takes courage to approach a coach to take the first steps to change your life.

I had a conversation with a great guy who weighs 152kg and is currently at very high risk of a heart attack. I admired his courage to look for help. He mentioned that 13 years ago he weighed 90kg and showed me photographs of him looking buff from training in the gym. I asked why none of his friends had given him a wake-up call as his health and confidence declined. He gained 63kg yet only one friend mentioned it to him.

Now, I am not one to project "ought to" and "should have" but if it was my friend, I would have let him know his health was on the line. We are so afraid of upsetting people we are afraid to tell them the truth. The return of The X Factor saw some disasters perform while their friends and families cheered them on. I am all for supporting someone's dreams but would someone in their house not tell them the truth?

It is a tough conversation but you need to say what needs to be said. That is the role of a true coach.

During his journey, he lost focus on his health as his priority was on his business life and his relationships. As a businessman he was willing to work the long hours, but he found it hard to motivate himself to train.

There is a difference between inspiration and motivation. You have to be motivated to do what you care less about. My goal is to coach clients to be inspired to push themselves because they can see a benefit.

My friend decided to start an exercise programme and we enquired about his finances. He said financially, he is not where he was five years ago so we started working on solutions.

As I reviewed his food diary, I totted up €75 in crisps, soft drinks and beer. If I continued I could have added in take-away food, coffee, future medical bills ...


People won't change their lifestyle until it affects their health. There are many centres that promote shakes and bars, in the absence of exercise and nutritious food. It will attract the people afflicted with the quick-fix disease and the something for nothing disease. It won't work but hope springs eternal.

Hard work and healthy food is a hard sell, but in an era where everyone seeks a quick fix, deep down, you know there is only one solution and one person that can change it, and he or she looks at you every morning in the mirror wondering when you are going to start.

And if I have to be Simon Cowell and tell you what everyone is thinking and not saying, it might provide the spark to give that X Factor.

Irish Independent

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