In what seems to be a lifetime ago now, the ideal meal for 44-year-old Peter Crawford looked like a slightly abridged version of the entire McDonald's menu: a large order of Chicken McNuggets, followed up by at least one Quarter Pounder, large fries, and yet another cheeseburger for dessert. Oh, and don't forget the beer. Lots and lots of beer.
"I would drink beers excessively, then eat junk food to try and make myself feel better while nursing a hangover," Peter remembers.
Then, three years ago, he attended a friend's funeral that ended with Peter spiraling down yet another bender. The next morning, woozy and hung over, his mental light bulb suddenly pierced the haze.
He realized he could no longer afford to keep up with this toxic lifestyle. It was time to reclaim the reins of his own health.
Amazing transformation, Peter! What went through your head when you started?
It doesn't take a dietitian to figure out that my lifestyle before my transformation was seriously unhealthy. For me, beer was as important a food group as Chinese takeout and McDonalds. I ate those foods in large portions at least 3-4 times a week—who knows, I lost count, but it was darn frequent. My McDonalds' meals were chicken nuggets, quarter-pounder cheeseburgers, fries, and of course, to make sure I watched my figure, a Diet Coke.
The cherry on top of my poor eating habits was that I did zero exercise.
When I went to a friend's funeral three years ago, I told myself I wasn't going to stay long at the wake. Well, I ended up drinking with friends most of the night—to mourn, but mostly just to drink. When I woke the next day, something had come over me. I just said, "That's it, no more drinking. I'm going to lose weight, and I'm going to get fit!"
I think I'd always wanted this. But this time, I realized that if I didn't do something about my weight and unhealthy habits, the only thing that was coming my way was death! It was a harsh but true reality. After all, I weighed 392 pounds then, and if I had carried on, I could have been over 400 pounds easily.
Many people have been in that spot. How did you get over the first block?
The first thing I did was stop drinking. I used to kid myself that it wasn't the drink but just the vicious cycle that surrounded it: drink, eat junk food, drink more, and repeat. Looking back now, it was probably both. The drinking triggered that cycle, but it certainly didn't help my waistline or health on its own.
Weight: 392 lbs.
Body Fat: 40+%
Weight: 205 lbs.
Body Fat: 15%
Next, I focused on exercise. Nothing drastic: just walking to start with, because I was so big that I couldn't do much else without lots of joint pain. Gradually, as the weight started coming off, I increased my exercise to cycling and swimming. To be honest, the first 112 pounds came off fairly easily, so seeing this success kept my motivation high.
Once I started to see results in my body, I quickly became hooked on the gym! I can still remember seeing the first sign of some abs. That was such a pivotal moment for me. I loved it!
Weight-loss plateaus inevitably happen to everyone. What did you do to overcome stalls in your progress?
When it became much harder to lose weight, I had to get really strict about diet and ramp up the exercise. Diet was far and away the most challenging thing to stick with. Having meals prepared in advance really helped. I found that if I hadn't prepared anything, I'd ended up eating rubbish and losing track! It turns out everyone is right: Good nutrition is really crucial.
Eventually, when I got to 224 pounds, I just couldn't budge the scales, and I ended up back at 264 pounds. How'd I get past this? I started cycling. I really enjoyed my time on the bike, as cycling was a huge part of my weight-loss success.
I also kept myself going by drawing a lot of inspiration from photos. I looked back at how big I used to be and the changes I'd made month by month. When I saw the tremendous progress I'd made and knew I had done this through my own hard work and determination, it was a great tug at my heartstrings—and the right motivation to keep me from giving up.
What are some of the most important lessons you've learned from your journey?
My mindset is so different now. I'm so focused on improving my body and mind through achieving results in the gym. I just love seeing new muscles and gains. It's awesome!
I'd lost several dozen pounds on my own, and when I joined a club called Slimming World, I lost yet a few dozen more. They promote eating lots of fruits and vegetables, but not depriving yourself totally of treats. That was a great mindset and really helped me get back on track with improving my life.
All of it together helped drill into me that it's not just a diet change; it's a lifestyle change.
That was probably the most important lesson that I have learned from my journey. It's all about getting away from the crash diets and looking at this whole journey as changing your lifestyle. This really stuck, as I'd tried—and failed—many of the fad diets in the past because I never saw them as a long-term lifestyle change.
Plus, I never understood the virtue of patience either. I wanted results fast. Who doesn't?
Great advice! Any particular nuggets of wisdom for someone who has been inspired by your story to go on their own?
If you eat healthy and exercise, the weight will come off—eventually. Be patient. What does it matter if it takes two years? Getting away from the pressure of telling myself "I need to lose X amount of weight before some imaginary deadline" was hugely important to me.
Also remember that success is all about making small changes to your lifestyle. It's not easy, and it's going to hurt along the way, but I didn't lose all this weight and say, "Well, that's it, I'm done!" It's an unending journey.
But no matter how difficult it gets, the journey is so worth it! My life is so different now. I'm full of energy. I love going into any shop to buy clothing that's not a size 4XL. Everything that I've learned on this journey has totally transferred not only to my body but to my entire life!
Any exciting fitness-related plans in your future?
I've started a 12-week training plan with a local bodybuilder and trainer named Max O'Connor. Competition is a blip on my radar, but I'll see what progress I make. Diet and motivational coaching is also something I would like to get into. I want to inspire others to achieve their weight loss goals.
What supplements do you take?
Throughout my journey, I have tried various supplements, but have found real progress with these.