A demanding lifestyle caught up with Paget Dare Bryan 10 years ago. Working hard and starting a family, he had no time for himself and was carrying almost 100kg on his 168cm frame. Outrun by his toddler, he realised it was time to change.
"I looked at myself in a video and thought, 'That's bad. If my own son can outrun me I'm in trouble … I don't want to be a fat man,'" says the 45-year-old partner at Magic Circle law firm, Clifford Chance. Before his second child, he vowed to shift the stubborn weight that he had gathered in his 30s.
"I hadn't noticed the weight gain as much as others. It was just a couple of kilograms a year over 10 years. Hong Kong does that to you, if you're not careful."
Surprisingly for an age of extremes and quick fixes, the path he took to lose weight was not radical.
"I was working on a life regime," says Dare Bryan, who is originally from Britain. "I wanted something that was sustainable for the way I live, not to have six months of weight loss then put it all back on again."
He started exercising moderately and, more importantly, overhauled the way he lived. Within a few months he'd dropped most of the weight and lost 24kg over five years.
Another five years on, he's kept the weight off and is fitter than when he played hockey at university. Despite work demands, he swims, runs and does Pilates five times a week.
"[Exercise] gives me time to zone out and think about things. Two hours later things feel settled, and I've come up with a new approach," he says.
"It's not about vanity, I feel responsible as a parent. I want my kids to have the balance of a healthy lifestyle; and they do, they don't see exercise as odd, they just see it as a normal part of our lives."
How did you lose weight?
I did it in three batches: first, I lost about 15kg quite quickly over a year. I needed to stabilise my metabolism and find something I could stick with. Over the next 18 months, I built up my exercise regime and started running, eventually signing up for 10km races.
That was a springboard to do more, taking me down to around 76kg. Five years ago, I decided to get down to my ideal weight. I increased my exercise, and was more careful about what I ate. My approach was all about breaking it down to bite-sized pieces and achievable goals, and then working out the steps I had to take to get there.
What made the biggest difference to your transformation?
Diet. When you're really heavy, exercise helps you get the weight off, but you put it straight back on if you don't change your diet. I analysed what I ate, and made better decisions - all simple stuff like cutting down on breads, processed foods and so forth. I cut down on snacks and ate smaller portions.
I also think it's easier now than it was 15 or 20 years ago, when going to the gym was just pumping iron with big guys. Nowadays, we have proper shoes and music, my knees don't get hurt and I've got motivation. Working out and eating healthily are more acceptable.
Did you take any professional advice before starting?
No, I just read a few running magazines and thought maybe I'd get a trainer. But I never did. When I looked at trainers at the gym, they seemed to spend most of their time chatting to their clients. They couldn't know what I was thinking. I had to work out what I wanted and what I needed to do to get there.
Is it easy?
It's not hard. Many professional people in Hong Kong have help to prepare healthy food. It's about having the discipline. To me, the most important thing is not to over-snack. Just because you exercise, doesn't mean you can say, "Well done you, now you can have this". There's no reward, except the outcome.
What keeps you motivated?
I exercise for different reasons on different days. Sometimes I just feel the need for a moment; sometimes I'm exercising with my children and sometimes I'm training for a race. If I didn't have different reasons, I'd get very stale.
What does your new lifestyle bring to your work?
I've got more energy, and it gives me discipline. It's also another focal point for friendships.