When Richard Smith was in his late 20s he could barely walk up the stairs without taking a break.
Labeled as “clinically obese” Richard, from Neath, suffered from daily debilitating headaches and chronic fatigue and had been diagnosed with diabetes as a result of his unhealthy lifestyle and lack of exercise.
Working full-time in a bland office job Richard was desperate to try something different – and desperate to lose his excess weight.
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So Richard tried a diet. And another diet. And another diet. But unfortunately none worked for him.
He actually found that the harder he tried the more difficult it was to stay on plan and the more difficult it was to lose weight.
And as he battled to lose weight Richard struggled to manage his anxiety and depression too, often struggling with low self-esteem and not feeling worthy, he said.
“In my mid to late 20s I was clinically obese. I had diabetes, debilitating migraines, anxiety, and depression,” Richard said. “I put a lot of it down to my genetics and getting older. I thought [putting on weight] was just part of life but I couldn’t have been further from the truth.
“Apart from work I just wouldn’t leave the house. I struggled with not being worthy. I didn’t know what to do about it.”
Richard kept trying different diets and eventually something clicked. He heard about the “keto diet,” which a decade ago was not well-known. It is a high-fat, adequate-protein, low-carbohydrate diet so it saw Richard completely cut out bread.
This was the magic trick that worked for Richard and he began to notice he was losing weight. Within a month of changing his diet Richard had lost two stone and when a friend barely recognized him he felt motivated to take his health seriously and keep working hard to lose further weight.
“Food I thought was healthy, like granola and fruit, I found out that it wasn’t,” he added. “Following keto reversed my diabetes and I no longer had the migraines. I learned about how to have a healthy lifestyle and I learned about the food I was eating. In 12 months, I lost 107 lb (more than seven stone) in fat. “
Feeling healthier physically and mentally Richard left his job and decided to retrain as a nutritionist, aiming to help other people lose weight if they wanted to. But he wasn’t finished with his own weight loss and body transformation journey.
Interested in bodybuilding, Richard signed up to a local competition in 2019 and told all his friends about it, so he wouldn’t be tempted to back down.
He stuck to his keto regime and spent hours in his local gym and subsequently placed second, which spurred him on to get even fitter – and he soon qualified for British championships of men’s physique bodybuilding. He kept training and monitoring his diet and was crowned champion in his category in the 2019 championship. “It was a staggering transformation,” he said.
Since the pandemic Richard, now 38, hasn’t competed in competitions but plans to return to them in the near future.
But for the moment he’s focused on helping other people in Neath and further afield look after their bodies and mind through an active lifestyle.
He said: “I do presentations, sharing about nutrition and general health and wellbeing, and I work to re-educate people in basic nutrition – understanding what food is doing to your body and why you should think twice about the food you’re having .”
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