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Being a healthy software engineer

This post is a little off topic today, but after a few tweets of mine a few people have suggested a write up on what changes I’ve made and how they’ve affected me.

From the top, a little less than a year ago I was a little overweight, weighing 15stone 3lbs (96.6kg), today I’m 11stone 12lbs (75kg) and feeling the best I’ve felt in years.

Before we start, a little before and after:

When I first started out as a developer, I stayed up for hours and hours every single night learning as much as I could about HTML/CSS and JavaScript. I created open source projects, blog articles and much more. And to do all this and have a day job, you need some extra power. That power came down to Red Bull, energy drinks, coffee, a lot of caffeine!

You might have noticed lately I’m not as active in speaking engagements, blogging or open source contributing - and that’s okay.

When something valuable comes up I’ll always try to put something out there, be it as small as a jsFiddle or a full on blog article. For the last year my focus has been on my health and getting myself into a good routine. I wasn’t in any sort of trouble with my health, I just hated being a bit fat and knew my diet would end up killing me one day.

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I was smoking 20 cigarettes a day, drinking tonnes of coffee and energy drinks, eating takeaways all the time. Why? Because it’s EASY to. When you’re working flat out it’s just too easy to grab something bad to eat, or at least it was because you know that junk food gives you a burst of energy over something smaller such as a lightweight chicken sandwich.


I used to probably consume around 3000-4000 calories worth of food and drink a day, and this was all through wrong choices and being stuck in a routine of working all hours trying to get to where I wanted to be. Now things have changed! I’ve tried diet changes once before, and they’ve worked for short periods but I’ve always gone backwards. Since December last year my diet’s been pretty good, and I’ve taken it to the next level recently by monitoring what I eat. I highly recommend the “My Fitness Pal” app which you can scan your food and it calculates your daily consumption. Some daily insight into those who are stuck in a similar situation or need a little inspiration…

Typical breakfast

I’ve started eating whole grain cereal, namely Shredded Wheat, this stuff is packed full of fibre and iron and very low on sugars and other bad stuff. Semi-skimmed milk seals the deal on a good low calorie start to the day.

Typical lunch

Lunch now involves a simple sandwich, preferably brown bread or white if I fancy something a little different. Around 500-600 calories for lunch, watching the fat intake for each one. I’ll grab a fruit pot as well from the local shop. Previously I’d eat a sandwich, and probably a chocolate bar/crisps and a sausage roll if I was particularly hungry that day.

Typical dinner

I’ve always been all about pasta, so I regularly make pasta and sauces, good for decent carb intake and pretty good across the board on calories/fats etc. Besides that, I have tried digging into new foods, cooking a fresh fillet steak or making some kind of chicken and higher protein meal.


NO! No snacks, nothing. Haven’t eaten chocolate in weeks, and the only “snack” I have is an apple or banana, or other fruit.


I’ve never really been a drinker in terms of alcohol, so alcohol consumption I don’t need to watch, I probably have a drink every few months. Daily intake used to consist of coffee in the morning, diet coke all day, maybe another drink if I got bored, and a water before I’d sleep - terrible regime.

Now I purely drink water, I’ve cut out all caffeine due to the negative impacts coffee and caffeine have on your internals. I’d be super bloated, and actually never sleep. I buy sugar free/no added sugar juice if water gets a little boring. My insides feel 100 times less bloated and I feel great on a daily basis knowing I’m avoiding what caused me to feel so bad.


I mentioned above I used to smoke 20 cigarettes a day, I quit a few times but it’s a hard struggle. Nicotine patches work wonders for those wondering what methods of quitting work best. I have an electronic cigarette (vape) which I use still as (hey I’m allowed ONE vice) I still enjoy a good nicotine buzz. I’ll drop this in the near future but I’ve been smoke free for a while now. I’ve coughed up a lot of tar (and still am clearing out my lungs), can breathe a lot better when exercising.


I lost the majority of my weight through changing my diet and cycling at the same time last year - I believe the diet would’ve slowly got me to where I am today weight-wise, but you definitely need a good exercise plan to get you there to begin with, then it’s all about maintaining that weight. I’m still a few kilograms off my ideal weight, but that’s a work in progress. I’ve started to convert a spare bedroom in my house to a gym, where I regularly workout, have an indoor exercise bike that I hammer on those cold/rainy days (this is England remember) and do a lot of core strengthening exercise. Exercise bikes with programme modes to switch to difficult inclines/hills are best, short bursts of higher impact activity seem to work really well for losing weight instead of hours of moderately light activity.


I’ve never been great at sleeping, always wide awake for at least 1-2 hours before I finally get off to sleep, after dropping caffeine 100%, I can sleep within 30 minutes at an absolute maximum. I wake up not feeling horrendous and craving more caffeine to see me through the day. If you’re feeling the same, then drop the caffeine as it’s the best choice in my entire diet I’ve made. Drink plenty of water, I find using bottles helps you monitor the intake, plus for some reason having a bottle next to me instead of a glass makes me drink more. For a few weeks/months you’ll be hitting the toilet a lot more after drinking so much water, but your body gets used to it and feeling hydrated is far better than a caffeine buzz.

Over and out!

Hopefully that’s provided some good insight/inspiration to anyone looking to do the same and need a little push to be a healthier person :)

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Todd Motto

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