I had broken my sohulder and it was agony. My spirit was almost crushed. The doctor said, ” I amnot sure because of your size that I can fix that. But if I do, What will you do woth your body in the future?” I told him that I would join the army and dedicate my time to improving the world. He had a laugh and said. ” Ok, let’s keep realistic.”
MVF: You’ve had a traumatic time with your weight – can you give us some history of how you came to be nearly 23 stone (146.1kg)?
CH: Back in 1996, I was 16 and my parents were divorcing. they said ” You are almost an adult so we can treat you as an adult.” So they used me to offload to and share their experiences with the divorce, It left me with no one to talk to. At the time I was using training as my escape and I was spending four to six hours every day in the gym seven days a week. That had a devastating result on my school work and so my parents took away the gym pass to punish me – I was left with food as comfort. Between 1996 to 2002 I gained about seven stone twelve pounds (49.9kg).
My poison of choice was always the amounts, It didn’t matter what kind of food. the tradition in my family was that the parents put the food on the plate and the children couldn’t leave the table until it was all eaten. That left me with a big appetite. I could be eating every hour to every second hour. It was very stressful. It felt like everyone else around me was getting love from their family and I was too damaged in my mind to have any kind of productive relationship. The food was the only thing I could count on to be there.
SO HOW DID YOU START TO CREATE A CHANGE WHEN THINGS WERE SO TOUGH?
My father died and when I got back from the funeral it was 2006 just before Christmas. When I came back I decided to complete university as fast as possible.
The very first day when I was walking to school I broke my shoulder and needed an operation, the doctor asked what I would do with my body if he helped to fix me, I told the doctor that I would join the army. He did the operation and it only took me three years. It only took me three years after leaving hospital to do my basic training and join the army.
I thought if I’m going to apply to the army I’d better choose something really ridiculous and crawling up to a live mine is about as ridiculous as it gets. I sent an application and it took them two days to get back to me and say, fantastic. I rolled the dice and went to become a soldier.
WHAT SORT OF DIET DID YOU DO – HOW DID YOU ACTUALLY LOS THE WEIGHT?
After the surgery you’re required to do physical training to regain your mobility. I took that as my springboard to start exercising regularly. And since I was training a lot as a teenager, I remembered that slow and steady wins the race. So I just tried to do something every day. Around 2009 I was searching on the internet and I saw New You Boot Camp which looked really interesting and I decided to give it a go – at this stage I was aroung 22 stone (140kg). The first one a very heavy programme of exercise. It was the first time they did an all -male bootcamp.
“Between 1996 and 2002 I gained about 110lb. My poison of choice was always the amounts. It didn’t matter what kind of food.”
It made me realise that I may not be the fastest or the strongest but I don’t quit. The trainers tol me that they had set up guesses on roughly how quick people would break. And they said I’d be done in four hours and it actually took me a day and a half!
By then I was so tired I tried to pick up a single green bean at lunch but I couldn’t move my arm. So I started crying and one of the coaches Jacqui sat with me for an hour to motivate me to lift my arm and put the food in my mouth! That was my turning point.
WHAT ELSE DID THE BOOT CAMPS TEACH YOU?
The biggest thing for me learning that I could survive on less food. The boot camps taught me what a proper portion looks like. I got home and I taught myself to cook properly. After that I stick to avoiding half-made foods. I had things that I could identify from animals and farms. I stayed away from anything that had the word “light” in it.
” I was tired to pick up a single green bean at lunch but I couldn’t move my arm.”
“What I think people need to know is that they are not alone.”
YOU’VE DONE SEVERAL BOOT CAMPS SINCE THEN – WHAT KEEPS YOU GOING?
The motivation I started with was that on the first boot camp on the first fitness test I was second to last. The second year I was in the middle. And the last one I was first. That gave me the perspective that you can progress. Two years is a very short period of time but you can change so much in that time.
YOU’VE IDENTIFIED THAT YOU ARE AN EMOTIONAL EATER – HOW WOULD YOU ADVISE OTHER PEOPLE IN THAT SITUATION TO BEAT THAT?
In 2009, I started attending a group for people who had lost close relatives and that group taught me to talk me about my emotions. As part of it we had to see one of the psychologists at the university. It started out as a trial for me to see if I could make myself talk about emotions and after a few sessions I realised it was something I needed to do to save myself.
I stayed for two years with one session I realised it was something I needed to do to save myself.
I stayed for two years with one session a week. We talked about emotions and how in my mind there was a lot of guilt and blame attached to food. I would hugely recommend going to psychologist and getting professional helo if you’ve got a similar issue. A fresh pair of eyes on the situation is what you need and you need it from a person who doesn’t know you. Quite simply it helps you to understand why you are eating the way you do.
DO YOU THINK THE MENTAL SIDE OF WEIGHT LOSS IS OVERLOOKED?
What I think people need to know is that you are nor alone. There are more people who feel hurt that ended up in your situation. They have found the strength and courage to go and talk to someone. Start talking. See if together you can find out what the core issue is. If you are going through the process of making your mind tougher as well. Explore your dark things – if you don’t deal with those then you will fail.
SO ARE YOU ALL DONE WITH YOUR WEIGHT LOSS NOW?
Nearly. In the first year the weight came off easily. At the first two boot camps I attended I was shedding between 15 and 17 lbs (7 to 8kgs) each time. Easily. The last years it’s been slower. I think I’ve done the majority of the weight loss. Now it’s just fine tuning. To get the results it’s always going to be small variables to change. It’s important that people know that weight loss is not a short term goal, it’s a way of life, it shouldn’t be about reaching a body fat percentage or a weight – it should be about living healthily. For me it’s about being able to work out, to work, to have fun and appreciate that the emotion of life is joy and not fear.
” For me it’s about being able to work out and appreciate that the emotion of life is joy and not fear”.
Christoffer probably isn’t the guy to play a game of “who has the more stressful job?” with. When you working day consists of crawling up to live mines and poking them with a stick (NB: it may be more technical than this I’m not an explosives technician) then you’ve probably got reason to claim you’re stressed. And yet, Christoffer isn’t the man to eat to deal with his emotions any more. After nearly two decades of falling into that trap he’s figured out how to get around it.
It’s refreshing to hear someone talking openly about the value of working with a trained mental health professional – whether that’s a counsellor or psychologist. There’s still a pointlessly negative attitude to men dealing with emotional issues by talking about it with someone who can make them feel better. What’sinfuriating is that these are the people who are trained to help solve these problems. If you throw your knee out you see a physio, if you get a rash you see your GP (or go to the clinic), so why is it still so out-there to get a brain cruncher to sort you out if you’re not happy, you’re stressed or you have an emotional issue?
Christoffer -you’re a Grade A mine-botherer, a fantastic role model for weight loss and we salute your leadership in getting the emotional side of weight loss sorted.