Fitspiration: How one man used unwanted fat to send kids to school

Losing weight. A perennial item on everyone's New Year's resolution, albeit most bids are usually unsuccessful. Many dieters try a myriad of fitness routines and fad diets only to throw their arms up in frustration later on.


James Deakin flanked by World Vision staff during the turnover of his donation. 

With his efforts, Deakin was named one of World Vision's ambassadors for children (Taken May 22,2015)



However difficult, achieving a fit physique is necessary if one is to keep a healthy and active lifestyle. TV host and motoring journalist James Deakin wanted to lose weight. But he knew it wasn't going to be easy. That is why he devised a simple, yet out-of-the-box idea to reach his goal -- by asking his friends to donate to World Vision with every pound he lost.


And it worked!


"I know I've let myself go. So, I made a pact to shed off weight. No excuses," Deakin wrote in his blog in January. He was particularly concerned about the bulge around his belly that he did not immediately notice until friends started hinting about losing weight. 


A fitness buff, Deakin has lost considerable weight rather quickly in the past. But at 42, he knew he needed more motivation this time -- inspiration, even. 


"That's where I had this crazy idea to turn my loss into someone else's gain. Just to make it interesting, I posted the challenge on my Facebook page and asked if anyone would be willing to sweeten the pot and sponsor each pound I lose, with that condition that all of it goes to charity," he shares.


At the onset, Deakin called it his "crazy plan" to use his "spare tire" or belly fat to help a certain charity.  


Fittingly, Deakin called it the #SpareTireChallenge. His initial weigh in was on January 26 where he weighed 200 pounds (his ideal weight is 175 lb). He targeted to lose at least 20 pounds by the end of April.


"All it really took me to help is to come up with an out-of-the-box concept and rally the community. I don't think anybody has done it before, so it captured people's imagination and their interest and eventually, everyone pitched in to help. Donations started pouring in from friends, from companies. Even I was surprised by response." 


Two months after and Deakin is happily back to his ideal weight and with it, gained back his confidence and so much more:


"I am overwhelmed. There are no words. I didn't imagine leaving a legacy from something I was just really getting rid of!"


At the end of the challenge, Deakin successfully lost 23 pounds in 2 months. Recently, he turned over donations collectively amounting to PhP 196,000 (approximately PhP 8,500 per pound lost) -- an amount more than enough to sponsor five children for a year. 


"My loss became their gain -- so ultimately everybody wins! I feel great to be in shape and to be able to help send five kids to school. 


What this shows is that anyone can help. Sometimes we may not have anything to give, and that is usually the number one reason why people can't give to charity. They might say, 'I don't have anything to give, I'm also struggling day to day' or 'I have my own family to take care of', but hey, I gave fat! That's what I gave," he adds. 


"I don't need it, I don't even want it. If you think about it, there is always something that you can do. Think outside of the box. Everyone has something to give, you just have to find it. It might be a talent, or like me, it might be something you don't want for yourself that others can benefit from. Be creative. 


How he did it


Deakin admits that losing weight entails a lot of discipline, especially on one's diet. And while he is grateful to a number of people for supporting his campaign, to one person he credits most of this success.


"Erwan Heusaff was my diet coach. And he was really mean!" he says in jest. 


Deakin explains, "It was his program. He guided me with the nutrition and taught me how to do it properly. When I would travel, I'd ask him just about any hour of the day, even when we were in different time zones, 'Can I eat this? Can I eat that?' I'd send him what I ate on WhatsApp. then he would say 'yes' or 'no', if I could eat them -- even snack! He was so strict, but it worked, apparently."


Incidentally, Heusaff, a celebrity chef-turned-commercial model, is also a World Vision child sponsor, along with girlfriend, actress Anne Curtis. 


"Even Erwan didn't know which charity it would go to. Turns out, it ends up here -- World Vision, which he also supports! How cool is that?" Deakin, amazed by the turn of events, agrees that it is by no means an accident. 


Deakin shares some tips that worked for him:


"Few things that really stuck with me that Erwan said: if you can remove sugar, and processed food from your diet, I guarantee you're going to lose weight. It's a no-brainer. Those are the two biggest killers. 


Take a lot of water, remove soda. And again, I stress, take away sugar. Even the artificial ones. Because even if they're not fattening, they will create a dependency on sugar. Thus make you crave sugar more. Exercise and zero alcohol," Deakin advices.


Deakin vows to stick to his now healthier lifestyle. "Now the real challenge is to maintain my weight... or my friends might ask for their money back!"


Other advocacies


As a car enthusiast, Deakin is also a staunch advocate of responsible driving and has spearheaded many campaigns against drunk driving. In 2013, he launched "Drivers on Call", a hotline number that drivers who have had a few drinks too many can call to have trained emergency medical technicians drive them home safely. 


Last year, Deakin helped fund a baby's heart surgery by auctioning off his services as a chauffeur for celebrities and touring them around the metro onboard the luxury car, Maserati. 


*'FitSpiration', a portmanteau of the words "fit" and "inspiration", is now being used widely in social media to refer to someone's peg for losing weight. The word accompanies photos of fit and toned people, mostly models, with enviable bodies that everyone aspires to have. 



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