20 Oct How to Lose weight by Walking the Francigena di San Francesco
I can strongly recommend walking The St Francis Way from Florence to Rome to lose weight and get fit. However, this recommendation comes with a very serious warning: You could kill yourself in the process. This is especially true if you’re very overweight and don’t have a minimal level of fitness.
The Origin of My Weight Problem
Nearly a year before I set off on the Francigena di San Francesco, I had a number of problems. One of them was an addiction to OTC codeine. I was popping pills to the point where I thought I had contracted liver damage. I rationalized my abuse of codeine on the basis that I had chronic headaches. I was informed that my headaches were a form of codeine withdrawal.
The second was possibly just as serious, but far more insidious: an addiction to sugar. My sugar consumption easily exceeded 50 heaped teaspoons per day. In addition, I would also eat and drink anything sweet.
My favourite fix was codeine, followed by an ultra-sweet hot mug of cocoa – the sweet to wash down the bitter.
Gradually my body weight increased. Where I once was under-weight for my height, I was now well overweight. I weighed myself once only, and I was well over 90 Kg (±200 lbs). Not good, considering the ideal weight for me, a male, 1.8 meters tall, and 63 years old, is around 75 Kg (±165 lbs).
My Initial Solution and Partial Failure
It reached a point where I decided to completely quit my addictions. My intention was not to lose weight, but to cleanse myself. I went on a seventeen day fast. It was sheer hell during the first couple of days. All I could do was lie in a heap, be sick, and feel sorry for myself.
Cleansing certainly happened. Losing weight did too. My weight dropped to about 80 Kg (±176 lbs)
However, my fondness for that famous dark brown soft drink, crisps, chocolate, and anything sweet, meant I gradually put on weight again. All this was supported by a very sedentary lifestyle.
Doing The St Francis Way and Losing Weight
In spite of my efforts to get fit before walking the 550 Km between Florence and Rome, I was still overweight at 84 Kg (±185 lbs).
We started our pilgrimage in the tail-end of an Italian heat wave. For the first ten days of hiking, I went through hell. I sweated like never before. My water intake was unbelievable – on certain days over five litres (±10 pints). In the process, I became truly fit.
After a week I’d lost a lot of weight. Niels, my hiking partner, loved quipping about how I was a mere shadow of my former self. What I thought to be liver damage, had also disappeared miraculously. He thought this was hysterical. “Overweight masquerading as liver damage,” he laughed.
Staying with the Programme
When I got back home, I weighed myself again: 72.2 Kg or ±159 lbs! I thought the scale was faulty, but no, it wasn’t.
I cannot begin to describe how good it feels to be fit and healthy. I’ve decided to do a few simple things to stay this way:
Walking, not strolling: I walk four days per week, at the fastest pace I can manage. As a result of hiking the St Francis Way, I do ±9 Km (±5.6 miles) in under 90 minutes.
No more sugar: On The St Francis Way, I cut my sugar intake to practically zero. I did not deny myself the occasional delights of Italian ice cream, and I won’t do so now either.
Output must justify intake: Use what you eat. I ate very well in Italy – lots of pasta. That’s OK if you’re walking an average distance of over 20 Km (±12.5 miles) per day at full pace. Since then I’m eating less. My diet is not perfect, but hopefully, I’m getting there.
Stick to it! Now that I know how good it feels, I absolutely never want to go back to what I was. I sweated blood to get where I am, and I’m not going to give it up.
Every person is different. We need to treat our weight as part of our approach to healthy living. Few people are in a position to take the time off to do a Camino, in order to lose weight. Yet a few simple changes can go a long way to improving our health.