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Losing 13kg has been transformative not only for my body – but for my mind

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 03/04/2023 Mark Pitcher
mark pitcher - Rii Schroer © Provided by The Telegraph mark pitcher - Rii Schroer

In 2016 the worst thing possible happened to my family: we lost our eldest son, Charlie, to suicide when he was 18. 

The impact of the grief on us all was obviously enormous – everything changed. I quit my corporate job and retrained as a life coach and threw myself into this new world of work. But then in 2020, when the world stopped, I realised that I was still very much in the grips of grief. I hadn’t dealt with it properly.

I had been neglecting myself physically and emotionally; I was eating badly and not exercising and I wasn’t really there for my family, my wife, 46, and our three younger children. I had a very unhealthy relationship with my phone – always on it – and I was battling depression, though I was never officially diagnosed. I was in a bad place. 

It took me a while longer to work out what to do. The first step was accepting that I had a problem, and figuring out what it was that I needed in life. I wanted more energy and to spend more time with my family, but also to lose weight and be proud of my body. I realised that I needed to change if I wanted to be around for my other kids, who are 21, 19 and 10, when they’re older. 

mark pitcher - Rii Schroer © Rii Schroer mark pitcher - Rii Schroer

So in January 2022 I hired a fitness coach called Martin Sharp. I weighed 84kg (over 13 stone), which wasn’t healthy for me at my 5ft 10ins height, and my blood pressure was above normal. I had been doing a bit of exercise – an hour or two a week, but Martin helped me really ramp that up and I started a fitness plan that included resistance training, core exercises and cardio, for around two hours a day in the first phase of my programme, along with 15,000 to 20,000 steps a day. 

Martin also helped me look at my diet. I am by nature an emotional eater. I tend to crave sweet things – at home I’d raid the biscuit tin; if someone brought cake, I’d have three pieces instead of just one – which means I have to watch my triggers.

Martin put me on a meal plan that focused not only on what I eat – I needed more protein and lots more veg, and to cut carbs except on training days – but also when I eat, which means refuelling properly after workouts. I try not to eat after 7pm and control my portion sizes – so often we pile too much on our plates, but I started to weigh it out, so now I aim for a 220g steak and 330g of potatoes on a workout day.

mark pitcher - Rii Schroer © Provided by The Telegraph mark pitcher - Rii Schroer

By December I had dropped 13kg (2 stone), and I’ve kept it off. I’ve yoyo-dieted before, jumping on the latest trend, like seeing someone on Instagram saying he only eats fruit before midday – I went through a phase of that, but it didn’t work – or then I spoke to someone who only ate raw vegetables, so I did that for a week. 

The key to sticking with it has been accountability. I realised that I just couldn’t do this on my own. So answering to Martin made all the difference. 

I live on this plan about 90 per cent of the time, and do have the odd takeaway or dessert here and there, but I don’t beat myself up about it – I just enjoy it and get back on track the next day. It’s been transformative not only to my body, but to my mind. I have so much more energy now that whenever my 10-year-old asks me to kick a football with him in the garden, which is all the time, I’m able to jump up and do it. That, for me, is what it’s all about.

My workout week

I do resistance training in the gym four or five days a week, working on a separate area of the body each day. I also run about three times a week – a short, medium and long run – as I’m training for a half-marathon.

What I eat in a day

I eat differently on training days and rest days, but generally speaking I have five small meals a day and lots of protein and green vegetables – I eat around 2,000 calories daily. On training days, I eat carbs; on rest days, I avoid them. I also try not to eat after 7pm.

Breakfast: Oats with blueberries and some protein powder.

Snack after my workout at 11am: Small portion of steak (about the size of a clenched fist), jacket potato or white rice and lots of green vegetables.

Lunch: Salmon with vegetables.

Supper: Vegetable omelette with prawns.

Snack: Protein shake, if I need it.

Lifestyle aids

Carbs: Yes, on training days.

Caffeine: Four cups of coffee a day; I have the last around 2.30pm.

Alcohol: I used to drink a lot more – I had a fast-paced job – but I don’t drink much at all now. I don’t drink beer, but I have a glass of red wine now and again.

Sleep: It has absolutely improved thanks to my regime; I get about seven hours a night.

Follow Mark on Instagram for more midlife fitness tips @markpitcher_fitafter50 

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