I don’t know why, but when it comes to advice about eating healthy and exercising, if it’s a doctor, dietitian or nutrition expert, I tend to zone out and accept the fact that I’m not going to eat seeds or start training for a triathlon any time soon.
However, when I physically see the transformation in someone I know and ask them what their secret is, I pay attention.
Such was the case when I recently spoke to Ray Nesbitt.
I’d known for a while that Ray was shedding the pounds as I’d often spotted him out walking around town but it was more than the loss of 5 stone I began to notice and much more to do with his attitude and confidence.
In 2005, Ray admits he got a ‘shock to his system’ when he saw a photo of himself after a wedding he attended in France. He was then 19 stone.
He said: “Outwardly I was the funny guy and always joking around with friends but on the inside I was not felling good about myself at all. Plus, I had started getting very tired in the evenings after work and often had to go up to bed and have a lie down for an hour or two around 6 or 7pm- I knew this was not good.”
It was then that Ray decided something had to be done; it wasn’t just a physical thing for him but it also seemed to be affecting his social life.
“While on holiday, I spoke at length to a school friend of mine, Sean Collum, about the whole weight loss thing; exercising and eating less etc. He definitely gave me a boost and some great advice, ie if you are hungry between meals then drink a glass of water and after a few minutes the hunger will be gone. I still do that actually. Sean seemed so genuine in his advice and his enthusiasm spurred me on, too,” says Ray.
In August 2005, Ray started walking and slowly building up from 3 miles to 4 miles per day, 6 evenings a week. He made small alterations to his diet, like cutting out the amounts of bread he ate, at work especially.
“I started taking cereal to work and a yogurt for morning break and a sandwich for lunch and a small chocolate bar.Then I would have a regular dinner at 6pm and walk at 7pm. It was becoming a ritual of sorts. I reduced down my food intake to this diet gradually over a couple of months,” he adds.
Not one to deny himself of the good things in life, when it comes to weekends, Ray still treats himself to a full Irish and a few pints on a Saturday night.
“After six months I had lost two stone and the compliments started coming from all angles, it was great. People who I didn’t expect it from were praising me. From that boost of confidence, I decided to up the ante a little. I remember deciding I’ll see how many consecutive days I could walk the 4 miles without missing a day. I got to 32 days in a row and then there was a wedding or a holiday or something that meant I had to miss a day, but I didn’t mind at all. From then on I went back to six days each week and if I missed two days this week, then I walked 7 days next week - simple as that!” said Mr Nesbitt.
Continuing in this routine Ray lost half a stone weight in each 6 month period after that for the next year and a half, which meant he was down three and a half stone in two years.
Ray adds: “I felt brilliant. I had to buy new clothes, nice new clothes, and felt very good about myself. With my new found energy and as a reward for my efforts, I started travelling a lot. I used to fly somewhere in Europe once every month for four years. I remember one weekend going to a wedding afters in Nenagh on a Friday night after my walk. I wasn’t drinking and I arrived home at 2 am. I left home again at 7am the next morning and drove to Dublin airport and flew to Paris and walked the streets of Paris at length, browsing and sightseeing. On Sunday I returned home to Templemore at around 3pm, watched the Sunday game live, went for dinner and then walked Cloone again that evening. I met some friends after and they innocently asked me, ‘Did you stir over the weekend?’. They couldn’t believe my answer and how I had the energy to do so much but I was on a roll at this stage.”
Ray reflects that women started to pay more attention to him, his confidence and energy were on the up as he continued to lose weight.
He recalls: “I started ringing in to the Gerry Ryan show, offering my opinion about different topics, nothing to do with the weight loss or anything and I got a great boost out of that also. I definitely attributed my new lifestyle to the confidence and feel good factor gained by walking and weight loss.”
The initial weight loss began to slow down and Ray was focused on keeping off what weight he had lost.
“I remember just over two years ago, I had reached a crossroads as such with the weight loss. I stepped on the scales one Sunday evening and had gained half a stone. That was a shock cause I was still walking and watching what I eat but obviously I had taken my eye off the ball a little. I had four and a half stone lost but this setback meant I was back to four stone down. I upped the walking again and followed my diet strictly and stabilised the weight gain.”
Around that time, Ray got talking to Aine Hennessy, who asked him would he be interested in jogging. He dismissed this suggestion initially as he had suffered with inflamed muscles in his lower back and thought jogging would only cause a recurrence of that injury.
Then one day, Aine arrived with a programme written out for Ray which would gradually get him up to the 20 minutes continuous jogging mark.
“I looked at it and said to her ‘not a chance will I manage that’, it was a 10 week programme so I said to her, ‘I’ll give it a go and see how far I get, but I expect I’ll be done after five weeks’. I had a lot of respect for Aine and for going to the trouble of writing out the jogging programme for me and for taking an interest in me at all. I hadn’t run in 25 years.”
The first few weeks was easy enough but that soon changed on the first night of week 5 training when Ray thought he was going to be physically sick after the training session.
Despite this hurdle, he persevered with the 10 week programme and says: “The last night when I ran 20 minutes without stopping, I thought to myself I was going to collapse. But I didn’t and I stayed going until the end. Mind over matter!”
Aine approached Ray again as she was starting a running club in Templemore, Fit4Life. “I agreed to help out as I was grateful for Aine’s faith in me and getting me running again. So we started the Templemore Fit4Life in May 2012 with a handful of people walking/running/jogging around the woods every Thursday night. The numbers began to increase and by the following February, it was approximately 70. Last winter, we had more than 100 people in 6 different groups; each group catering for people who are just starting off and various standards up to the top group who are serious runners. It’s all about trying to get people out and doing a bit of exercise and if you improve, you can move up a group or if you are finding it tough, you can move back a group for a while and see how you go. There is no medals given out in Fit4Life and the only person you are competing with is yourself.”
After six months jogging, running and some walking, Ray lost the half stone he put on and another half stone along with it. He says: “So I had reached the magic 14 stone weight-a massive five stone drop from where I started. I am so happy with this weight and by walking twice a week and running twice a week, I am able to keep off the weight and keep reasonably fit. Life was never as good.”
Ray Nesbitt’s success with his weight loss is a true inspiration, reminding us couch potatoes that it only takes small changes to make a big difference. Ray doesn’t pay to go to the gym, doesn’t follow any fad diets or refuse himself of a pint or a bar of chocolate. The results speak for themselves.
Templemore Fit4Life takes a break for the month of August and will resume on Thursday September 6th. All are welcome.
Story by Tricia Purcell