Page last updated at 23:05 GMT, Saturday, 11 April 2009 00:05 UK

Confessions of a weight-loss cyclist

By Jane Elliott
Health reporter, BBC News

Frank Kinlan
Frank lost more than seven stone, having weighed 21.

For 10 years Frank Kinlan's bike remained unused and gathering dust in his attic.

He piled on the pounds and did no exercise, but refused help to lose weight.

Then one morning, weighing 21 stones (133kg) Frank decided he had to do something.

"One morning I looked in the mirror and thought that I had got to do something, so I picked the phone up and got an assessment with my local health trust."

Frank was morbidly obese, with a BMI (body mass index) of 42.

I would be out of breath going up the stairs because I was winded carrying the extra weight
Frank Kinlan

"I was massive, with a 46-48 inch waist, and I found it difficult to get clothes to fit," he said.

Assessors told Frank, aged 49 who is from the Wirral, that he needed to lose weight and exercise more. They signed him up for their initial 12-week course, which used British Heart Foundation guidelines.

But the idea of exercise was an anathema to Frank, who was so worried about the effect of his weight on his health and his extremely high blood pressure, that he was doing nothing.

"I had slowed my life down to an absolute nothing and did nothing. The diet was bad and I was probably on the verge of diabetes and some other problems," he said

"I would be out of breath going up the stairs because I was winded carrying the extra weight.

"I turned up at the first class and they told me to do 30 minutes of exercise a day, five days a week."

Got on bike

So Frank decided to get on his bike and do something about it.

"Welcome to the world of overweight cycling," he says.

At first he was just doing short runs, but gradually he started to drop the pounds and set up a blog to record his progress, initially just for the others on his course

"I had done what they said and it worked for me, but some could not adapt and were not doing the exercise and by the end of the 12 weeks half those on the course had dropped out.

Frnk Kinlan
Frank, on the right, before the diet and cycling

"By the follow-up class a month later only four turned up.

"Then there were three and then there were just two of us. After a year I was the only one.

"I used to go to the new groups and talk about how the exercise had helped me, but I could see their eyes glaze over despite the before picture."

Popular blog

Frank has become an inspiration for both slimmers and cyclists alike, not just for his weight loss, but for the way he has gone from being completely inactive to competing in races.

Today his site gets nearly 5,000 hits a month.

In the initial 12 weeks Frank says he lost two stone (17kg).

And as he lost weight he got more active.

"Each time I went back I improved a bit more. My riding got better and better and I started going out with the CTC cycle touring club and then I did club riding," he said.

To treat himself for getting down to 15 stone (100kg) Frank bought a carbon fibre bike and then there was no stopping him.

Calculated by dividing weight in kilograms by height in metres squared
Normal: 18.5 - 24.9
Overweight: 25 - 29.9
Obese: Above 30

"I had lost down about a third of my body weight and was losing about a kilo a week, and once I got a new bike things took off in a big way.

"I rode the best I had ever ridden and started doing 125-mile rides. I had started with just two to three."

He is now determined to keep up the good work, calculating how much exercise he has done before treating himself to calorific food.

Victoria Taylor, a dietician for the British Heart Foundation (BHF), said Frank's slow weight loss - sustained over four years - is the best way to lose weight.

"The combination of diet and exercise is an important one. If you are just trying to do the one it is quite difficult.

"If you do them together it is a more sensible and the changes are easier to keep up.

"Obviously being obese or massively overweight has risk factors for heart disease and diabetes and high blood pressure.

"If there is less of you to carry around it is more easy to move around, so that makes it easier makes you more willing to move around you enjoy it more and it is not so effortful."

But she said even simple changes such as walking, rather than taking the bus, or climbing the stairs rather than taking the escalator, can make a big difference.

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