'Awareness Is Power' - This Is Mark's Transformation Story
A couple of weeks ago, I was the feature of a LADbible article which showed the final few weeks of an incredible transformation which I had been working on.
Having been overweight and bullied for most of my life, I'm now working as a PT and life coach.
The original article only scratches the surface though, this is my story and I hope it can influence others who may have suffered similarly (or, currently are suffering) and show that their difficulties can be overcome.
Credit: Mark Ludlow / Facebook
The problems and issues were always there. It started with my language learning difficulties I had while growing up. I grew up in the eighties. Nowadays there are an umbrella of terms for various learning difficulties among children, which they didn't understand back then like they do now. I was in special education needs until I was seven years old.
I went to a special school as I wasn't able to communicate with people like I should have. Communication is something you take for granted, but when you can't do it, it's frustrating. Especially for a child.
There were also weight issues. I was classified overweight from the age of about three or four. I used food as comfort. Even as a baby I was always hungry, my mum says. Because of my frustration with growing up with a difficulty, I used food as a crux for my frustration.
The bullying was a problem from an early age. I stopped going to a language school and started at a 'normal' school, but by that point I was big for my age, as well as overweight - something common in my life right through to the age of 18. I was twice the size of everyone else, and that meant I got noticed.
From six or seven I got called names in the playground, and obviously, I already had low self-esteem anyway. I never got the help I needed, that combined with being called fat had a knock-on effect. As a child, your brain is like a sponge, what happens in those years conditions you. Unless you work very hard to change it, like I did.
When I was 13, for the first few months of high school, I got a lot of older kids picking on me. They saw me as a threat and had something to prove. I was six-foot tall and 18 stone. I didn't do anything at first, but then I thought if I don't do something then I'll up taking this from people for the rest of my life.
I adopted this 'hard nut' persona. I stood up to kids, got into fights, beat them up - all for the wrong reasons. But I liked the attention. I didn't like being picked on, but I liked getting noticed. Kids used to wait for me outside the school gates with baseball bats and crowbars. Guys who were much older than me.
I had friends, but often felt alone in these situations. I was so big that I guess they thought I was hard enough to deal with it. These things chip away at you and your self-esteem. If you get told things enough times, you start to believe it.
My family didn't really get involved, I didn't really tell them. When I was 14, one kid hit me around the head with a bar and I had to go to hospital. My mum became aware but not to full extent. If my parents knew now, they'd be really upset. I suffered in silence, I wasn't happy with my size, but almost never faced up to it.
I'd go into a food coma as a coping strategy. I'd eat things that would give you that sugar highs: chocolate, cake, crisps, and junk food. That stuff that makes you feel crappy but docile, then I'd sit in front of the TV. It just helped me to block everything out.
Then, at 19, I went to Uni for the second time (the first time didn't work out too well and I left the course after two months because I didn't like it). By now I was suffering from social paranoia and anxiety.
I had a few close friends, but when I was required to interact with anyone else, I would look down at the floor and couldn't make eye contact. I had a strong feeling people didn't like me (which I guess stems from the name calling), and I got to the point a couple of months in, again, where I was struggling with the work. I felt so stupid. I had no home comforts, it was a foreign place, I felt so terribly unhappy.
I couldn't see a way out. It got to a point when I considered the only way to get out of this was to commit suicide. This happened a few times. The thoughts were there, although it never got to the point where I considered how to do it, but I just felt so helpless. I'd have to draw myself out.
I lost a lot of weight twice. The first time, when I was in my early 20s, I was in Ireland for a mate's birthday. People told me that a girl liked me. When I asked her, she rejected me and I just went outside on the kerb and burst into tears.
At this point, the early 00s, the Atkins diet was very popular. I went on that for 10 months and lost eight stone. It was a very unhealthy way to lose weight but it worked. But I'd not dealt with all the things that had happened in my past.
I hadn't dealt psychologically with the anxiety and suicidal thoughts. I just lost a load of weight. I transferred to another University to do a top-up degree, but found that the weight had started to creep back on, again. I struggled to hold down a job and it put pressure on my five-year relationship. If I went for an interview, I'd be a muttering wreck, if I did get the job I'd leave after six months. Not through lack of ability, but due to self-depreciation.
I was 28 when I'd lost another job, put all the weight back on, and me and the girlfriend had split up. I went back home to my parents, moped around, and felt sorry for myself. It was at this point when I said I'm going to make a change.
Rather than just diet, I was going to get to the root of the problem. A more holistic approach. I got to understand myself, what's making me feel like this? What can I do to make myself feel good and better?
I got into self-development, using techniques to get rid of negative thoughts. There were different exercises to help me: neurolinguistic programming, making more eye contact, varying the tone, remembering things better. Mind maps helped me to retain information more effectively. I'd do things to increase my confidence. When I went on an eating plan and exercise I was in a better place to stick to it mentally.
Over two years I lost eight stone. Then between April and July last year I did my transformation from fit to ripped using a crazy diet and exercise. I've always had an addictive personality, and wanted to see if I could channel, what had previously been negative processes, into positive ones. I guess being a PT you should be in decent shape anyway.
For once in my life I'm happy. I joined Facebook late because I didn't like my photo taken, or didn't like looking in the mirror. Even after losing weight I didn't like the way I look, as the mind takes longer than the body. But now I have got to the point where I don't think I'm Mr Beautiful but I can look in the mirror and say I like the way I look.
Credit: Mark Ludlow / YouTube
My advice would be that weight loss is a psychological journey as well as a physical one. To change themselves, people should be in good place mentally. Fundamental changes should be made to keep the weight off over the long term.
Increase your self-awareness. If I wanted to change something, I'd write it down. Men don't like to talk about feelings, but by writing them down you can refer back to them.
Try writing two columns. One list of everything you're happy with about yourself, and a list of things you're not. Of all the ones that are negative, which one would you change first? Once you've tackled that one, move onto the next. It helps to understand yourself a little bit more.
People in Britain have this 'stiff upper lip' attitude. Americans will talk about their problems - whether there is one or not. As a society, we'd be better to get it down, or speak to someone, and just have a better understanding inside our own heads. Awareness is power.
'U OK M8?' is an initiative from TheLADbible in partnership with a range of mental health charities which will feature a series of films and stories to raise awareness of mental health.
Samaritans: 116 123.
CALM: Outside London 0808 802 5858, inside London 0800 58 58 58.
Featured Image Credit: Mark Ludlow / Facebook