Chris Oliver on his weight loss journey, his advice to others in his position today and his upcoming 3500 mile challenge

  • Country : Scotland

    Currently riding : Specialized Tricross, Giant MTB Hardtail, Giant Advanced XTC Road Bike, Brompton S Type, Spin Bike
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    Bio :

    Mr Chris Oliver, Consultant Trauma Orthopaedic Surgeon, Chairman CTC Cyclists’ Touring Club Scotland. I realise that every single day that I now have is pretty incredible but you’ve got to want to lose weight. You’ve got to want to get the motivation. Every day is now a bonus. As a consultant orthopaedic trauma surgeon I made a career out of saving other people, but put my own life in danger when my weight ballooned and I became ‘super-obese’. At my heaviest I topped the scales at 27½ stone with both my chest and waist measurements at 56 inches. I would be out of breath just trying to climb a few steps. Like many successful career people, so much of my time was dedicated to work that I lost sight of what I was doing to myself. If I hadn’t managed to lose 12½ stone I’d probably be dead! In 2007 I had an adjustable laparoscopic gastric band but now five years later I have really managed to turn my life around and I am a walking example of what a difference shedding 12½ stone can make. Apart from walking I also cycle, kayak, dive and compete in triathlons. I have recently completed the Pedal for Scotland Sportive 112 mile cycle ride in nine hours and next year I am planning to cycle over 3,500 miles from Los Angeles to Boston. Initially I started getting fit again by short walks and cycles, then aquafit and going to the gym. Every day I do some form of exercise and keep an exercise diary. As I got fitter I progressed to vigorous spin-cycling and long swims. I feel like I wasted 25 years of my life being obese. I don’t think I ever had an eating disorder, been a binge eater or a substance abuser – I have just worked very hard over the years for my career and patients. I don’t think I have ever really overeaten, it’s just been normal eating but without enough physical exercise. If you don’t exercise and maintain a normal food intake you will put on weight, it’s not that you’ve been putting too much food in your mouth. I know that surgery isn’t for everyone; I’d rather have never put the weight on in the first place and never needed to have the surgery. My patients no longer recognise me! Motivation throughout was imagining the activities and sports I had done as a youth and wished to do again. Although the clock is ticking fast through life, it’s never too late to turn your life around. Cycling has significantly changed my life. Since March of 2012 I have been chairman of CTC Scotland. I have been involved with a fair bit of media but in addition:

    - Road Safety Operational Partnership Group (RSOPG) led the cyclists’ organisations debate with MSPs and Scottish Transport Minister at Cycle Safety Summit.
    - Assisted formation Cross-Party Parliamentary Cycling Group at Holyrood. MSPs, government officers and cycle stakeholders.
    - Pedal on Parliament 3,000 cyclists, cycle on Holyrood. Social media and publicity support

    - Building bridges with: Transport Scotland, Bike Club, Scottish Cycling, Cycling Scotland, Sustrans Scotland, Spokes, Pedal-on-Parliament, Scottish National Cycling Interests Group, Active Alliance
    - Chief Medical Officer Scotland – Sir Harry Burns & Scottish Government Fitness Champion – Dr Andrew Murray. Scottish Government cycling support.

    - Senior editor of CTC campaign briefing “Cycling and Health”

    Website :

    At local level, CTC members form Member Groups to organise rides, tours, events and training, as well as sometimes get involved in local campaigning. CTC in Scotland brings together representatives of these Member Groups, and other organisations, to discuss and deal with matters relating to cycling in Scotland.There are many local cycling clubs and several cycle campaigning groups in Scotland and the rest of the UK. CTC is the one body which embraces all kinds of cycle use and interests.

    Think back to when you were a kid; tell me about your earliest memories of cycling?

    Falling off a tricycle and splitting my lower lip

    What’s the story that led up to you changing your life, getting surgery and embracing cycling?

    Being so unfit I could not climb up the Great Wall of China, rather would have died. So had bariatric surgery. Laparoscopic Gastric Band in 2007. Was 27.5 stone now lost 12.5 stone.

    Was cycling your savour or was it other sports/changing your diet?

    I have always been a kayaker and have paddled expedition whitewater all over the world. I lost about 15 years kayaking as I was too fat to fit in a kayak. The Laparoscopic Gastric Band is just a tool to change your life.

    How do you keep the motivation up in those dark moments when weight loss is not going to plan?

    With a laparoscopic Gastric Band you will inevitably lose weight if you do not cheat. Chocolate milk and Black Pudding have been my salvation on long endurance rides. The biggest motivator has been patients and colleagues who do a double take when they see me and often fail to recognise me being half the man I used to be.

    What’s your cycling and eating regime today? Run us through a typical day of your new work life balance.

    At present I am training to ride from Los Angeles to Boston, 3,500 Miles in the summer of 2013. I am doing one hour interval turbo sessions over the winter to work on increasing cadence and leg speeds. I have been using the 3LCTV videos. My lapband is still very tight and I will have to get it released to do the endurance ride. I’m still losing weight but putting on muscle. My relationship with food has completely changed; the lapband is a tool to change your life. The band is not the answer to everyone that is obese.

    What single piece of advice would you give someone who is in the position you were in and wants to change his or her life?

    If you want to lose weight you must do something radical to motivate yourself to change behaviour. Don’t leave it too late waiting for a heart attack or stroke to occur. Go for it.

    Why did you decide to chair the cyclists touring club for Scotland?

    I wanted to try and pay something back to cycling by giving some leadership.

    What events have you taken part in since losing the weight?

    Six sprint triathlons, The Caledonia Etape (three times – coming nearly last the first year but now progressing to half way up the field), LEJOG in 2009. In Feb 2013 I’m competing in the Scottish CycloCross Championships, looking forward to the mud.

    What is your next cycling challenge?

    Cycling Los Angeles to Boston 3,500 miles with my 22 year daughter in summer 2013. I’m on a supported tour with Crossroads.

    Finally, if the world were completely cycle friendly, where would you go?

    I have travelled a lot. Think I’d go back and ride in Bhutan again for the wilderness.

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