Jamie Lawrence

The biggest changes

Over the past 9 months I’ve made quite a few diet- and health-related changes which I’ve talked about previously. My trainer* asked me the other day what was the biggest change that I’d made, and that got me thinking because there’s been quite a few so it’s hard to pick one.

Absolutely none of this has been easy, and none of it has been as black or white as I make out, but the concepts are relatively straightforward. There is more nuance and details behind these ideas but I’m keeping this TL;DR. I’m also just summarising my experience and I’m absolutely not preaching anything here as a solution for anyone else; it just worked for me and I wanted to document it.

These are the two biggest dietary changes:

  1. No carbs: that’s no rice, pasta, bread, potatoes or fruit (except v. occasional treats or tastes). This is simple but not easy. Removing carbs stabilises your blood sugar and makes everything else possible. Limbo made that possible for me.
  2. Intermittent fasting, typically 16-18 hrs. I was inspired by some discussions on this podcast and it sounded like it was something worth trying. Fasting has honestly been pretty easy now because my blood glucose is stable and doesn’t feel like I’m depriving myself. I don’t much like the word “fasting” though because it carries with it too many connotations of self-deprivation. It sounds impossible and hard, and Jamie of a year ago would have agreed, but I now do it without even realising it. Like, “Oh, its 3pm, I really should have breakfast”

Packed in there are many smaller “big” changes like…

  • Breakfast: out went the yogurt and granola; in came eggs and meat (chorizo/pork) with spinach/avocado.
  • Lunch: gone are the hot chicken rolls, fresh bread sandwiches or bagels; now it’s a large salad with at least a chicken breast and other protein.
  • 1-2 eggs/day, from never eating any eggs.
  • No caffeine. The heart arrhythmia meant I had to cut this out so gone is the Berocca Boost in the mornings, the caffeine pre-workout before swims, and the Diet Coke pick-me-up in the afternoons. I never drank coffee thankfully.
  • No alcohol (on a regular basis). Genuinely don’t miss it but there was no grand scheme behind it and I’ll still enjoy a drink occasionally.
  • No more packets of biscuits or bars of chocolate in the evening. It goes without much explaination but this was a habit for me
  • Strength training. I intensely dislike everything about gym culture, even though I know people who don’t fit that stereotype, so this was a huge mental block for me to overcome. It has been great to discover a personal trainer that would work with such lofty goals as “I’m only here to protect myself from getting injured so I can continue swimming” and “I’d like to confidently walk up stairs without pain”. I’m working hard twice a week but it’s always focused on functional strength and not sculpting an Instagram-able body.

Biggest mindset shifts

  • Don’t eat to fuel exercise; you eat after exercise (“fasted cardio”). I have tried lots of ways to “fuel” my swims with meals, energy drinks, gels, and pre-workout supplements but genuinely none of them have been as effective as just not eating. I’m regularly swimming hard >3km swims on a ~15hr fast and it’s a beautiful thing to watch my blood glucose rise as my body finds all the energy it needs from my own reserves.
  • The supermarkets are barren wastelands of foods I chose not to eat. Maybe 90% of the floorspace just doesn’t apply to me any more. Not the fruit aisle, or the bread section, or the snacks aisle, or the crackers, or the sausages, or the jam, or the “health food”, or the fruit juices, or the ice cream, or basically any freezer section. It’s eye-opening. We’re being sold on all sorts of food we just don’t need but which are cheap and economical to produce. I’m basically just there for veg, meat, cheese, nuts, and (protein) yogurts.
  • Weight is lost in the kitchen, not the gym/pool. A decade of regular and fairly intense cardio meant I was pretty fit but it had zero effect on my weight. If anything, all that cardio meant I ate more—the ravenous hunger after a swim is well-known and I’d regularly satisfy it with a hot chicken roll or bacon & cream cheese bagel.
  • “N of 1”. I’ve discovered that I’m a data-driven guy and having detailed stats about my blood glucose, weight, fasting times, heart rate, and swim performance has fuelled my changes. I view my body with curiosity now, as an experimental vehicle that I alone can play with. What can this thing do? I’m a study with an N of 1.
  • Surround yourself with people who are genuinely interested in your journey and helping you to achieve your goals without judgement. The Limbo community were always ready to celebrate wins and share ideas. My doctor was encouraging about the diet and my cardiologist was supportive about continuing both the diet and swimming despite the heart arrhythmia. My physio was immediately focused on “how can I help you get back swimming in the pool?” after my ankle injury and he has been an incredible source of information and motivation since. It’s early days but my trainer is also interested in me and my goals. There will be people in your life who question “why are you doing this to yourself?” or “maybe you should take it easy?” or “perhaps don’t swim today in case you aggravate the problem”. Don’t listen to them. Find the people who will enable you to achieve your goals.
  • The nature of how I treat myself has changed. I can’t say I’ve completely stopped rewarding myself with food but it’s no longer a bar of chocolate (though I miss those Ritter bars!), or a cake, or a sugary drink. I bought another Lamy pen for myself one day and it brings me joy every time I’m at my desk.


  • From ~119kg to ~98kg.
  • From wearing 2XL t-shirts last year to digging out old L sizes. I’ve dropped 2 sizes in most brands I typically wore.
  • From 38” jeans to a 36”, and I’m honestly thinking they might be a bit big already
  • My old belt was too big in October so I bought a new one; this new belt is already on the smallest hole.
  • My resting heart rate (even with arrhythmia!) has dropped from 70bpm to 55bpm
  • So much more energy, particularly in the mornings. I was regularly a zombie until at least 11am, and often until the early afternoon. I can now pop out of bed and work.
  • Knocked >30 secs off my 400m time 🏊‍♂️ and I’m regularly setting new PRs for every distance from 100-3000, on records which I haven’t hit in >5 years. Swimming is pretty forgiving for us larger folk but the effect of shedding that 20kg weight vest can’t be ignored.
  • I feel really strong and powerful in the water.

Not sure where I go from here but I’m excited to continue experimenting on this old meat sack and seeing what it can do. I have a big swim week in June with SwimSmooth and I’m eyeing a few open water swim events for the summer. I’ll probably continue to lose a bit more weight but I don’t have a numerical goal in mind and will instead be guided by how I feel and my performance in the water.

* actually having a trainer is a clue to one of them!