Drop three stone in five months and people notice. Friends admit they didn’t recognise you when you entered the room, astonished colleagues drop the professionalism to flap their jaws in amazement and men, previously unable to notice if you’d shaved your head will nervously try to find the right words to acknowledge it without implying they thought you were a massive fatty. After that, there is just one question: “how did you do it?”.
Men and women across the land, sick of their lumpy bits and with more failed diets than they’ve had nights crying into an extra large double pepperoni, all desperate for one thing; your secret, your magic wand, this one weird trick that melts belly fat with zero effort. “Was it carbs? You cut out carbs, didn’t you. I bet you only ate foods that end with a vowel on Tuesdays.” Well, here’s how I did it.
Firstly, a disclaimer: I’m no doctor, I have no formal training in nutrition or exercise other than reading credible info and not being a gullible plum. I’m also not some ‘clean eating’ advocate like that Deliciously Ella charlatan twat. ‘Clean eating’ is utter piffle – it’s sodding food, not witchcraft.
I reached the point where I hated myself. None of my clothes fitted and I couldn’t bear to look at my reflection. Summer had arrived and I couldn’t contemplate any of the ‘revealing’ clothing that might be comfortable in the hot weather (y’know, skirts, shorts, anything not the sofa) so I decided I just wasn’t going to go outside. Genuinely, that was my answer. Apparently that’s not really viable when you have a job and friends, so I waddled to Westfield, thighs sticking together with sweat and embarrassment. It didn’t end well. It ended in a fitting room, in shapeless size 14 trousers, in tears. Size 14 is perfectly fine for people who are happy being size 14 – I’m not one of them. Breaking point had been reached and a change needed to be made.
Did I cut anything out? No. Not a thing. Bread is just bread and it’s delicious. There’s nothing in bread that will do you any harm unless your doctor has diagnosed you with a gluten intolerance. I didn’t cut our sugar either, because Jesus titty fucking Christ, it’s just energy. There are sugars in almost everything we eat, from fruit to milk. Sugar in honey is no more virtuous than sugar lemonade. It’s. Just. Sugar. Fat isn’t evil, dairy isn’t dire, kale is merely a leafy green, not the Holy Grail of higher living.
I ate crisps, I drank booze, I ate pizza, I ate chocolate – I just did one really boringly simple thing. I ate them in moderation. In fact, I ate bread almost every single day, because bread is delicious and toast can cure all the world’s ills. The key to my weight loss was merely this: burning more calories than I consumed.
There’s a myth when attempting to shift a bunch of weight and boosting your fitness that you need to throw lots of money at a gym and a personal trainer and the purveyors of hi-tech sporting apparel and floppy-haired pillocks who lob spinach at frying pans while shouting “BOSH”. I’d rather spend my money on nights out with friends and shoes, personally. My exercise regime started out with just my phone and nothing else.
These are the apps I used – all free:
iPhone Health app – It’s already counting your steps right now, as well as being useful for logging your weight each week.
PaceDJ – Just download it and let it connect to the music on your phone. Pick which BPM matches your walking or running pace and it plays a constant stream to keep you pumping those chubby feet.
Seven – This evil little app gets you to do a circuit of HIIT (high impact interval training) including the likes of planking, jumping jacks and wall-sit, in just seven minutes. It’s painful, but only seven minutes of painful, then you get to lie on the floor weeping.
MyFitnessPal – The most useful. Enter everything you eat and let it work out your nutrition and how many calories you’ve burned/still got left to eat (connecting to your iPhone Health app or Fitbit/whatever else you’re using to torture yourself). It may seem a pain in the arse to weigh literally everything you eat but it lets you scan barcodes, enter recipes for portion specific info and hell, you can plain ol’ guess to make it easier. Anyway, if you can’t be bothered to weigh your carrot sticks, did you ever really cry in the Topshop fitting room while struggling with a pair of size 14 jeans?
MapMyRun – Builds stats on your runs/walks, tells MyFitnessPal how much blubber you’ve burned.
YouTube – Not strictly a phone thing, but still. Instead of jiggling my lard in a crowded class of lyrca-clad gym bunnies, I leapt about my living room for the amusement of passing neighbours. It’s the least I could do. I found a nauseatingly perky American woman who told me we were “burning butter” and reminded to “smile” lots because we were “having fun”, apparently *terribly British eye roll*. Whatever, she does various 10 or 20 minute aerobic workout videos that gave me abs, so she can sugarcoat it however she likes. There are less bouncy options out there.
After a few months of all this free stuff working perfectly well, I decided to get a Fitbit because I’m one of those people. You don’t need it, it can be helpful, it’s like an overbearing mother – no matter how hard you try, nothing ever seems good enough. I love it.
I also went cheap on sporting clothing because hello, you’re only going to sweat on it!
Running leggings – £9, Matalan.
Trainers – £29, Nike from Sports Direct
Sweat-wicking t-shirt – £6, Matalan
iPhone armband – £2.99, Amazon
Sports bra – £25, Rigby & Peller (I have big boobs, those £5 crop top thingies aint gonna cut it)
I have since splashed out on some special gear for winter instead of just wearing a hoodie, because, like I said, I’m one of those people.
Wear what you like but don’t let money put you off moving. You can go for a walk in your pyjamas like a scummy mummy taking the kids to school or get a charity shop swimsuit to wallow in the human soup that is the local pool.
What I ate
I have never lost weight sensibly or healthily before. In fact, when I started out this time I was constantly hungry and stopped losing weight (after the initial half a stone gone in the first week). That’s when someone suggested MyFitnessPal to me and lo and behold, I was UNDER-eating [cue angelic chorus].
1200 calories (check what MyFitnessPal recommends for you) spread across three meals plus snacks a day is actually more than you’d think. I also, for my sanity, had one day a week where I didn’t count anything and ate and drank whatever I liked – whether that was a night out with friends on a Thursday or a Sunday on the sofa pizza-ing my way through the entirety of Netflix. Attempting 100% solid perfection is merely setting yourself up for a huge fall from grace – it’s impossible. Live a little and cut yourself some slack; one day indulging that desire for roast dinner isn’t going to undo the rest of your work and may just keep you on track the rest of the week.
As for that 1200 calorie target, remember what I said about burning off more than you consume. If you move more, you can eat more. If you’ve “burnt your butter” with some nauseatingly perky workout, MFP will tell you that you have more calories available to eat (or drink). If you want to spend your life on the sofa, then 1200 is your lot. Fancy a couple of glasses of wine after a stressful day? You’ll need to spend a bit longer working your tubby trotters.
It’s important to remember that you won’t be doing this forever. Once you’ve hit goal weight you’ll shift your calorie intake up to maintain your weight. I actually found that shift hard because it seemed like TOO MUCH FOOD. Christmas soon saw to that problem.
Here’s an average day from my food diary:
2 slices of toast (wholemeal or white), one with peanut butter, one with a boiled egg – or half tub of Skyr yoghurt with handful of granola
Cup of tea
M&S Hot Smoked Lochmuir Salmon & Potato Salad – or homemade chicken pasta salad
Homemade chilli con carne with baked sweet potato – or chicken and vegetable stir fry with rice
Fruit, carrot sticks, crisps
I have no time for food snobbery, so if you want to feel morally superior to all the plebs go ahead, shop organic, shop local, grow your own, forage in bins, whatever. If, like the rest of us, you have other things going on then pop to your local globally damaging supermarket and make your life easier with a weekly shop of convenient options. I bought packets of ready cooked chicken breasts and plastic sliced bread. Sue me. Yeah, I ate crisps, drank wine and went for processed convenience products, but overall I hugely increased the lean protein and vegetables in my diet and that was good enough. Also, cooking huge vats of bolognese/curry/chilli, banging the recipe in MFP and the portions in the freezer saves those days when you can’t be arsed.
N.b. Lots of people extol the virtue of the vodka and soda for its low calorie content (50 kcal per single). Sure, but a flute of prosecco is more fun (80 kcal) or just have a large glass of wine (200 kcal) and move your arse more.
Through eating this way I experienced a couple of side effects that I didn’t see coming. First of all my problematic menstrual cycle has gone from living a Saw film (boobs so sore I had to hold them when walking, cramps that forced me to take time off work, suicidal PMT etc), to something almost resembling normality. The other is that I’M RICH!
One day I looked at my bank balance and thought there had been a terrible mistake, that my rent standing order had failed. Nope, apparently getting sozzled several times a week, being on first name terms with the office canteen staff, spending weekends face down in takeaways and generally indulging a hedonistic existence of poor life choices all adds up. Who knew?!
I started off so incredibly unfit that walking a mile was a huge achievement. I would get tired waiting at the bar for a drink, so this wasn’t going to be easy, but I did it anyway. I walked. I walked a mile every other day after work, then two miles, then before I knew it I was off bothering pavements and parks to the tune of 10k steps. I also banned myself from standing on escalators, which is a big deal in London, trust me.
On days I wasn’t walking, I put myself through 10-20 minutes of aerobics or that evil HIIT app after dinner. If I was meeting friends after work, I walked instead of jumping on the tube – yes, in heels. I was moving and the weight was falling off. Standing at the bar no longer made me out of breath.
I’m lucky enough to live near some playing fields/parks but felt really self-conscious doing my wobbly-bottomed power strut round the perimeter, until I noticed that as well as the uber-fit, super-lean runners were every shape of people doing every form of workout to the very best – or worst – of their ability. You will not be the most ridiculous looking person there and everyone else is too busy trying not to fall on their cake-stuffing face to notice you falling on yours.
Don’t be tempted to push it too far though. I got caught up in a particularly sassy power strut to Lady Gaga, rode the endorphins for seven miles and ended up with bursitis in my hips. It hurt and worse, scuppered my workout regime for a fortnight. Not to be deterred, I bought some cheap weights and worked on the bingo wings while I recovered.
One day I struck upon the ridiculous notion that I wanted to try running. It was bound to happen because I’m an arsehole and running is what arseholes do, so they can tell people that they run. I run now, it’s who I am. I was rubbish at first and could only do half a mile before nearly soiling myself and wishing for the swift embrace of death, but now I can do about four before reaching that point. It’s free, it’s pretty boring, it works.
For me, including several ways of “burning the butter” has helped keep me motivated. On a day when I don’t feel like running, a walk along the river seems more fun. On days it’s too cold out, 20 minutes leaping about the living room like an electrocuted Jane Fonda before settling down with the cat to watch CSI is just fine, thanks. And most importantly, at least one day per week doing nothing at all, not moving an inch save for rolling out of bed to wallow on the sofa. If you can be bothered to get that far.
Again, remember that this isn’t forever. I kept this up for five months, then scaled it back a bit so I’m still running/walking/leaping about the living room, but only around 3 times a week, not every day.
Don’t lose hope if you slip up or gain weight one week. Life gets in the way and social plans happen. A cold will throw a spanner in your well planned works and sometimes just urgh, but that doesn’t mean it’s all over, it just means you pick right back up where you left off, limiting the damage and making better choices. I found this some of the hardest self-advice to take, but I did and that’s how I went from a size 14 to a size 8.