Tim Belton, a 52 year old chef from Aviemore, Scotland, didn’t realise the extent to which our lifestyles impact on our “body age”. That was until participating in a 12-week study for BBC1’s How to Stay Young showed him that how old we are isn’t only defined by our birth certificate.
Along with a group of 10 other people, Tim used Changing Health’s service over the course of the study to adopt better lifestyle habits, keep track of what he was eating and ultimately, improve his health for good.
Before the study began, Tim, at the time aged 51, wasn’t expecting there to be a significant difference between his body age and his actual age. There was. A series of 23 comprehensive tests, measuring variables from body fat and BMI to cognition and mental wellbeing, revealed he in fact had the body of a 90 year old!
“I didn’t consider my body age at all until then,” he says. “I had nothing to compare it to – you know how much a kilo weighs and you know how far a mile is, but you’ve got no idea how the age scale works in real life – so when they told me my body was 90, I was surprised. I knew it was going to be bad but I didn’t think it would be that bad.”
The need for change was clear. So Tim was assigned a Changing Health behavioural coach to help him out with dietary advice and exercise tips and set about making it happen. He’s full of praise for his coach:
"My coach was absolutely superb"
“My coach was absolutely superb, he couldn’t have been more supportive. The advice I got from him was fantastic; he was my biggest positive from Changing Health. If I had any questions for him about nutrition and so on, he was always able to get the information.”
As expected, Tim's journey was far from smooth, “I had a lot of issues with stretching and trying to keep my muscles relaxed overnight. Before I started the programme I did very little exercise; I felt good if I went for a 40 minute walk once a month, and that was me thinking I was on top of the game. My coach provided stretching videos, high-intensity workout tips, and he was able to find me good alternatives when something wasn’t working for me.”
But the Changing Health service isn’t just about coaching; of equal importance is the programme of digital education delivered through short videos, articles and interactive activities on diet and exercise.
“What I really liked was that at the very beginning, [the app] said ‘read all of this information before you go any further. Being a chef of 30 years, I thought I knew everything about food, but I really didn’t. It changed my perceptions and as soon as I got a better idea of the food I should be eating, I made my own diet. There’s no way I would’ve been able to do that if it hadn’t been for the Changing Health programme”
Tim felt the results almost immediately. “Within 2 weeks, I felt fitter. I walked for 2 weeks and then I got a bike and started cycling to and from work. After 4 weeks I was starting to see a difference, after 8 weeks I could see a big difference, and after 12 weeks I could feel my ribcage – I realised I had bones!"
"After 12 weeks I could feel my ribcage – I realised I had bones!"
The final round of tests, conducted at the end of the study, showed what Tim had really achieved. Just 12 weeks of his new lifestyle had taken 15 years off his body age, which had dropped to a somewhat sprightlier 75. He had lost 16kg in weight. His blood pressure had dropped significantly, his cognitive function had improved rapidly and his risk of diabetes had lowered. Now, a month later, he’s lost a total of 22kg since the beginning of the study!
And he’s not looking back. “I’m keeping up the healthy eating; I enjoy what I’m eating now more than what I was eating before, which really is the key to it – it’s not a pain in the backside. I’ve maintained all the walking and cycling and started running as well; I try to run twice a week if not three times.
"If you get up half an earlier to go and do exercise, you’ll feel better the whole day."
“If you get up half an earlier to go and do exercise, you’ll feel better the whole day. The positives you get from it far, far, far outweigh the negativity of not doing it. Once you’ve got your head round it, even running in the pouring rain, it isn’t as bad as you think it’s going to be. It just isn’t.”
Changing Health helps people with or at risk of Type 2 diabetes to look better, feel better and have more energy. It's currently being used by the NHS across the UK for patients via referral To see if you're eligible for the programme please visit: www.changinghealth.com
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