From Obese to Beast: How I lost 20% of my body weight in 9 months — and kept it off!
David Debono tells us his story, how he went from 103 kilos to 82 kilos in just 9 months — and how he’s keeping his weight off!
Coming from a very typical Maltese family that loves food, it’s no surprise that I was always a chubby kid. The fact that unlike other boys my age, I had no interest in football or sports didn’t help.
When I went to study in England it didn’t help — I was under massive amounts of stress and turned to all kinds of unhealthy options to help me cope with the demands of completing my masters — I drank too much alcohol, ate too many take outs and didn’t move enough.
I came back to Malta the heaviest I’ve ever been — I was weighing in at a whopping 103 kilos — but I still wasn’t too worried about my health.
The real shocker came when I went back to England for my graduation.
My dad is also overweight, and his weight lead to other health issues for him — blood pressure problems, joint issues in his knees, stomach conditions. The result was that he just could not walk around and keep up with me as we explored London & Birmingham.
It was exactly the eye opener I needed — this was my future.
In March 2015, I made the decision to lose the weight. I didn’t want to do it just for myself — I wanted to inspire my father. I wanted to show him that if I could do it, he could do.
From obese to beast
Fast forward to 2016 — I went from 103 kilos down to 82. It was the most intense, difficult, but rewarding experience of my life.
What I found is that it’s not simply about losing the weight — it is about changing your lifestyle, integrating healthy habits, to keep the weight off.
All I want out of this article is to get one person inspired by this article, to make changes in their lifestyle and be healthier.
How did I do it?
The first, and possibly most important, thing that I did was to reflect and understand one thing: I cannot do it alone. Losing weight and completely overhauling your lifestyle is extremely demanding, and I knew I would need support to do it.
My friends weren’t an option — none of them would push me in the ways I needed to be pushed. So I started sourcing a personal trainer.
It is essential that the person you pick to be your trainer is someone you gel with.
They are going to be so much more than the person telling you to do squats or to run 5K — they are going to become your support system. They are going to go through the whole weight loss journey with you. Your failures and successes are theirs. They are going to guide you to change — and it is going to be difficult.
My trainer yells at me if I go out and party too much.
She gets angry at me if I eat too many pizzas.
She messages me constantly to see when the last time I went to the gym was.
I also made the best investment of my life — I bought a FitBit and started counting my steps. Having a way of tracking your activity is a real eye opener as to how inactive you can be throughout the day.
I started obsessing over the amount of steps I was making. Each day I would try to beat my record — I went from 400 steps a day to over 30,000 — no joke!
But training alone isn’t enough. You can burn 5,000 calories a day — it’s useless if your lifestyle doesn’t change to adapt to this.
Finding the balance
The hardest part about my journey wasn’t going to the gym or becoming more active — it was changing the way I eat.
I love food. Give me cheese and a bottle of wine any day of the week.
Pizza? Pasta? Fried chicken? Love, love, love.
The reason I failed at dieting so spectacularly in the past was because I would try to eliminate the foods I loved from my diet — which doesn’t work. You go hard for a week, you feel good, you want to reward yourself — and you just end up binging.
I found a way that works for me — I would substitute unhealthy options for similar healthy options.
Deep pan Pizza Hut pizzas became cauliflower-based pizzas.
A 500g bowl of Pasta carbonara became a 100g bowl of kamut pasta with 250g of grilled chicken, mushrooms and avocado.
If I got a craving for chocolate, I would swap out with Oh So Yummy’s chocolate and hazelnut granola bars.
My diet started to change to reflect my weight loss, and the results were almost instantaneous.
I went from losing half a kilo in a week whilst eating junk food, to losing between 1–2 kilos a week by eating the right mixture of the right foods.
A day in the life
So what does a typical day in my life look like?
07:00 — Breakfast: Something light but high energy to keep me going. Think mashed avocado on rye bread with chilli flakes & sunflower seeds.
10:00 — Snack #1: It’s something to look forward to, to break your morning routine. I stop whatever I’m working on, and have half an Oh So Yummy granola bar — it’s enough to fill me up and keep me going until lunch time.
12:30 — Lunch: I try to take my main calories during the day when my metabolism is at its highest. It’s usually a mixture of the right carbs (think: kamut, bulgur wheat or quinoa) and proteins (grilled chicken or salmon) and lots of vegetables to fill up.
15:00 — Snack #2: As the day goes on I find myself getting hungry again, so I would go for either some fruit or a handful of nuts. If I’m feeling really lethargic I’ll have the second half of my granola bar, since it releases energy slowly and keeps me going.
17:30 — To the gym! I make it a point to go to the gym everyday — sometimes it’s cardio. Sometimes it’s weight training. Sometimes, I just use the sauna or pool — either way I go, not to break habit. If I haven’t already done so, I’ll eat the second half of my bar before my work out, to give me the energy burst I need!
19:00 — Dinner: I make it a point to exclude carbs from my diet after 18:00, as my metabolism starts to slow down. Dinner is usually vegetable based — either a thick soup or a nice salad — with some kind of protein thrown in to help build muscle. An omelette after an intense workout is the best way to go!
21:30 — Snack #3: I end my day with something light, maybe a yoghurt or a piece of fruit.
I do get the occasional craving for junk food — which is why I make it a point to include a cheat day. Sundays are my rest days — I won’t exercise, and I do the things that make me happy — and if that includes eating a burger or a piece of chocolate cake, so be it!
Do what’s right for you
I’ve found that the best way for me to lose weight is to move away from three big meals a day to six-seven smaller meals throughout the day. I break my meals into smaller portions, so I’m eating the same amount but more frequently throughout the day — keeping my metabolism going. I also make sure to keep hydrated — I drink at least two litres of water a day.
Everyone’s body reacts differently though — just because this plan works for me, doesn’t mean it will necessarily work for you. You need to experiment, and try different things.
As long as you’re eating right and mixing in a healthy balance of exercise, you’re going to live a healthier lifestyle. But that’s the key — it’s not a short-term fix. It’s a shift in mentality, to live healthier and happier. The minute you go back to your old, unhealthy habits — all your progress is lost.
One last piece of advice
My last piece of advice is this: don’t despair if you fail. I went through an extremely stressful period last November, with my mum being in and out of hospital, having many relationship issues and not being too happy at work.
I turned back to my comfort food, and have gained around 7 kilos — but I’m not worried. I’ve done it in the past and I’ll do it again — living a healthy lifestyle becomes addictive; especially when it’s inspiring those around you. After my transformation, my dad was so inspired that he went to a trainer and started eating healthy — and he ended up losing 13 kilos in two months.
I’m aiming to go back down to 82 kilos in the next three months — I’ve just set myself a realistic, achievable goal that I’m working towards every day.