Weight loss: Man shed 4st in 3 months by ditching calorie counting ‘New version of myself’

This Morning: Dr Mark discusses weight loss device

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Weighing in at a whopping 25-and-a-half stone, James Jenkins had tried calorie counting four times over the past 10 years. But instead of losing weight, he piled on more pounds when he returned to ‘normal eating’ and was left feeling “horribly hopeless”. Last year, after reaching his heaviest, Second Nature was suggested to James; an NHS-backed low-carb healthy eating programme on which no food is banned. While he was initially sceptical about the programme, after three months, James lost more than four stone while eating “genuinely nice food”, taking him to 20st 2lbs – without counting a single calorie.

Speaking about his life when he was 25-and-a-half stone, James, who is a teacher and lives in East London said he was living an unhealthy lifestyle and drinking “too much beer”, which would result in him snoring throughout the night, and waking up with a hangover at the weekend.

James said: “My weight ballooned at secondary school. I grew to 5ft 11ins, but went up and outwards at the same time.   

“In 2011, aged 26, I weighed 20 stone, so I decided to count calories. I have an obsessive all-or-nothing nature, so it suited me at the time.

“I would log everything on an app, restricting myself to 2,000 calories in the beginning, then down to 1,500 over six months.

“When my weight hit 15 stone, I was happy, so I started eating normally again for about a year to 18 months, and, of course, the weight piled on. 

“That was the first big attempt to lose weight. And every attempt since there have been four over the past 10 years, has involved calorie counting, losing a couple of stone, and then putting on all the weight I’d lost and more.

“I have a graph that I’ve tracked my weight on over the years, which shows the worst upward trending graphic, down then up higher, down then up higher – and that’s how my weight has been.”

After his first diet in 2011, James tried calorie counting again in 2013, 2015 and 2017.

However, he skipped a year between September 2020 and 2021, weighing his heaviest at 25st 7lbs. He was wearing XXXL clothes on top with a 44-inch waist.

While calorie counting, James would skip breakfast, have a small sandwich for lunch, then eat spaghetti bolognese for dinner.

On nights he was going out drinking, James would only eat a small meal to keep down his calorie intake.

When he wasn’t tracking his weight by counting calories, James would tuck into a cooked breakfast in the morning, eat sandwiches for lunch, with pizza and chips for dinner – along with six bags of crisps and five cans of Diet Coke.

He would also drink “way too much beer” and had tried 6,000 different craft varieties over the past five years.

But the weight gain left James unhappy with his lifestyle. 

When Covid lockdown restrictions were lifted in 2020, James was 25.5 stone and “everything was uncomfortable”.  

He explained: “I didn’t want to confront myself about my weight, I made a lot of excuses. Because I knew if I went back to calorie counting, I would feel exhausted, obsessing over everything I ate, and knowing that even if I lost weight, I would start putting it on again after I stopped.”

In September 2021, James signed up for Second Nature’s programme, which is based on nutritional science, behaviour change techniques, and the latest health tech, and it also focuses on thought patterns, sleep, and stress levels, alongside nutrition and exercise. 

All users are sent a recipe book and have access to a dedicated qualified nutritionist or dietitian health coach on the app, too.

And James noticed a difference very quickly. 

He said: “After just three days I thought ‘wow I feel full up on what I’m eating’. 

“It felt as though I wasn’t on a diet, it just feels like I’m eating normally and I know it’s cheesy to say but it’s like the eating habits were becoming second nature. 

“The recipes are the big win because I’ve never had a diet when I feel as though I’m trying new foods all the time. And it’s not like they’re a second best alternative trying to pretend they’re the real thing, they’re genuinely really nice food. 

“It doesn’t feel like I’m being restricted. It just feels like I’m gaining lots of food, new tastes and recipes.

“Cream, butter, and olive oil have all been off limits before with calorie counting, but they make the food taste so nice. And while calorie counting in the past, I wouldn’t have snacked on nuts, but I can now.

“In just three months I’ve lost more than four stone in weight. I no longer get heartburn, I’ve stopped snoring, much to the pleasure of my wife, who has also lost more than a stone and a half just through eating the recipes with me.” 

He continued: “I’ve loved reading the articles on the app about food science and which foods fill you up, and I’m sleeping much better too thanks to their advice.

“I’ve also reevaluated my drinking and have stopped for now.

“The best part is that my kids have a new version of their dad. I no longer wake up with a hangover at the weekend, so we spend more time together, and I now walk them to their swimming class. My losing weight has had such a positive effect on my relationship with them. 

“They’ve got a new version of their dad that they’ve never really seen before. My four year old who isn’t good at filtering himself has said ‘daddy, your tummy isn’t as fat as it was’. And my older son is now interested in what foods are healthy.”

Now James eats Greek yoghurt with hazelnuts and fresh fruit for breakfast, homemade coconut dahl batched for lunch, and chorizo and butter bean stew for dinner.

“I will 100 percent never go back to calorie counting,” James added.

“I can’t stress enough how different this programme is. I used to be exhausted from the constant need to be thinking about calories and what I was eating all of the time when I was counting calories.

“I felt lethargic all the time – and guilty too if I ate the ‘wrong’ thing. Now all I think about is the simple process of meal planning and setting out the week. That’s the only time I have to think about what I’m eating for the week. 

“It’s made us a happier family. I wish I could have started Second Nature 10 years ago,” he concluded. 

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