Back at work after a six-month break, Martin Sheppard found himself falling back into a familiar pattern of long hours, meals on the run, and catch-ups over drinks.
The executive director at KPMG was slipping into the kind of unhealthy lifestyle trap that corporates know all too well, so when the chance came up to try out the Six Week Shred program, it was the chance to create a “model that was more sustainable”.
Initially, his partner, Suzanne, was more driven to do it, he explains: “And, for me, it became a competition.”
The program involves six weeks without dairy or bread, a maximum of one glass of alcohol a week, smaller portions, 12,000 steps a day and a structured fitness program.
“Avoiding gluten and dairy encourages people to try new whole food options,” explains nutritionist, Teresa Boyce. “We are not saying you need to give up gluten and dairy forever; it is just a good idea to give the body a break from the typical processed western diet.”
She adds: “Having the option of one glass of wine per week gives participants something to look forward to whilst practicing restraint. One glass of wine will not impact results, drinking a bottle will.”
As someone who “lives on” bread, pasta, rice and sandwiches, Sheppard found “that transition was really tough.”
“I spent two weeks just walking around in a fog,” he says, adding they decided not to drink for the whole six weeks, with the exception of a beer for his son’s birthday.
Travelling to the United States for a week of work was also a challenge. “It’s not the easiest place to eat that sort of food,” he says.
He got by asking for vegan or gluten-free options in restaurants and, when he returned, found he was in the swing of it.
For breakfast, he ate chia bowls, eggs and spinach, or protein smoothies “as opposed to going for a couple of slices of toast”. At restaurants, he discovered a universe of foods outside his ordinary choices. “We learned an amazing amount about how much good food is out there,” he says, adding they swapped sides of fries for “delicious” cauliflower dishes, ramped up their intake of seafood and found themselves enjoying beetroot salads, zucchini and eggplant-based dishes.
“6WS also taught me the importance of wearable technology for measurement. I learnt a lot about steps, sleep patterns, resting heart rate and it helped optimising training to ensure that I stayed in the fat burning zone”.
“One interesting thing was the contagion effect of us doing it that came from people observing us,” he says. “There was a little bit of mocking but a little bit of envy.”
More than a month after they finished the plan, Martin and Suzanne are sticking with it “pretty well”.
Both of them lost over four kilograms of body fat over the course of six weeks and Sheppard who is “just over” six-foot tall and weighed 81.5 kilograms, dropped down to his “fighting weight” of 73.5 kg.
Since then, he has put less than a kilogram back on, eats toast “as a treat, not a staple”, has cut back on dairy and has “wiped out” incidental drinking, choosing to drink only when out socially instead of also having a glass when at home.
“These three things have really made a big difference,” he says, adding that the blood work and DEXA scans helped keep him accountable and that he hopes to maintain his base and do a six-week top-up challenge once a year. We’ll be smarter about what we eat all the time,” he says as a result of the program, “but there are learnings from having a six-week period where you think about wellness.”
By Sarah Berry, Lifestyle Health Editor.