Before and after

“I wasn’t in the best of health. A consultation with a specialist revealed my body was warning me to change my ways,” explains Rowland, 61, originally from Liverpool, now living in Middlesex.

“When you get bad news about your health, immediately your thoughts turn to your loved ones. I was upset, thinking of my family and friends – particularly my late dad and my two sons. The one person I hadn’t been thinking about all that time was myself.”

Rowland wasn’t your typical ‘couch potato’, though. A keen footballer all his life, he was still playing regularly in his 50s, as well as taking part in the occasional run for charity.

“I realised that I could do so much better if I didn’t have this weight I was carrying around. I wanted to be healthier and I wanted everyone to be proud of me, particularly my boys.”

Bring on the substitutes

To begin with, Rowland overhauled his diet, which involved identifying the key areas for concern. “The main ones were to cut out the fatty foods and reduce the portions. Just listing what I ate was a useful exercise. I would eat snacks (and really unhealthy ones): pies, chips and spam, in-between some pretty unhealthy, fatty meals.”

Rowland’s wife helped him out, too, when she started a Weight Watchers programme at the same time. “I joined too, and we worked together on improving our diet and reducing our calorie intake. I looked more closely at the labels on food – especially the fat content and went for the lower fat options every time.

“I switched to snacks that were much healthier as well: smaller portions of fresh fruit, vegetables, salads and low-fat foods. My appetite has changed and my desire for large quantities has subsided.

“Comfort eating was the hardest aspect to overcome, but as I changed habits I got into a better routine. I now have a breakfast every morning of muesli and toast. I spent 30 years not having breakfast, because I thought it made you put on weight. The reality is, that’s actually what leads to the unhealthy snacking between meals!”

Join the club

Alongside changes to the make-up and timing of meals, Rowland took his running to a new level in a bid to improve his fitness.

“As I started losing weight through dieting, I found myself less fatigued. Just going up escalators, and walking further, I noticed the difference. The Bearcat Running Club encouraged me to run further and more regularly, to enter events and get more fulfilment from training.”

Rowland admits his health warning meant he wasn’t struggling for motivation. “I was scared. I did not find it difficult to lose weight. When I was at my heaviest, I ran a 5K for charity in honour of my dad.

I followed that with a popular local charity event, the Turks Head 10K, to raise money for Age UK as a contribution for those caring for my mum.”

Striding forward

Once bitten by the running bug, Rowland continued to enter and complete competitive events. “After the first 10K, I entered Kingston 10K, then the Cabbage Patch 10, with over 150 miles of training over 13 weeks.”

Despite carrying a recent hip injury, he’s kept up the running as part of his lifestyle change and aims to continue the football, too. “I’m planning on playing the occasional 11-a-side game, and to keep up the running.”

Beyond the almost five stone of weight lost, Rowland says he’s also benefitted from a number of physical and mental boosts since running off the weight. “I’m not as tired anymore; I have a spring in my step. I no longer snore, my breathing is better and overall I feel good about myself.

“I think I look good for my age, and my outlook is extremely youthful. I’ve gone from a 42” waist to a 38” while, mentally, my self-esteem has improved, and I can see how my weight-loss journey has proved an inspiration to others. On Sunday I ran five miles with the Bearcats – two years ago, with my weight and lifestyle, I could hardly run 50 metres without being out of breath.”

Rowland’s Rules

  • Look at yourself in the mirror and don’t wait to be told you need to change.
  • Set small targets and changes will happen.
  • Join a running club – your motivation will soar.
  • Enjoy indulgences once in a while and appreciate them. Chocolate, occasionally, is a treat. Beer is the one thing that I have kept and seems to balance well with my diet and running.
  • I’d weigh myself every day. If I was a pound or two over, I’d go for a run.