Team, these have been dark days. Or maybe even dark weeks and months. Something happened to me that until recently I couldn’t put my finger on. Feelings of lethargy, disinterest, stress. Reaching for the cupboard at every opportunity and grabbing 1, 2, 3 biscuits. Knowing that my muffin top was getting a little bit squidgier, that clothes weren’t fitting but not really feeling like I could stop it from getting out of control.
That all sounds totally melodramatic and I don’t mean it to. But as someone who used to be much bigger and super unhappy with it, I worked very hard years ago to get myself to a place of happiness and self-confidence and I really don’t want to lose it. When we went on holiday to Malaysia back in March I felt unassailable. So healthy and confident in whatever I wore. Since then though, the last few months have wreaked havoc on not just how I look and feel but affecting everything else. How productive I am is directly linked to how happy I feel. And if I’m not in shape (my version) then it all quickly spirals downwards.
If you know what’s caused all this, then you know. I’m not going to go into it here but needless to say the last few months have been amongst the most challenging and sad I’ve ever experienced. And that’s saying some as I’ve been through a fair amount of crap times. Thankfully though, I’m not letting it get to me anymore and have REGAINED CONTROL. Although I quit the gym at work because circumstances meant it wasn’t viable anymore, I’m a woman with a plan and that plan is a New Zealand fitness and nutrition coach called Aaron, aka The Vegan Coach.
It’s pretty much the only time I’ve ever been grateful for those stupid Facebook ads. You know, the ones that are super perky and promise you the moon. But something about Aaron’s ad caught my interest. He was looking for women leading a vegan lifestyle who were struggling to find their way with fitness and nutrition. His promise was to put together a 4-6 week programme of meal plans, exercise routines and 3 personal training sessions, all for a special offer. There is also an app which reminds you to check in for your exercise sessions and update stats if you want to, as well as a private Facebook group with everyone who he’s working with to encourage each other along the way.
So I booked it. I repeat, this is NOT AN AD. I paid for his guidance with my own pennies and I’m so glad I did. It started with an introductory phone call so that Aaron could understand what I wanted his help with. I said I wanted to lose weight (half a stone less is my happy place), learn how to eat better and be accountable to someone.
Within a couple of days, my first week’s meal plan was ready and a PT session booked at a quirky small studio in Old Street. What I LOVE about the programme is it’s tailored. I’m on 1700 calories a day which is quite a lot all things considered. But also with a plan that works for me. I work full-time so am a typical breakfast, lunch and dinner person. Eating little and often doesn’t work because that’s not my lifestyle.
Breakfast included things like overnight oats with chia seeds, peanut butter and banana, or toasted rye with mashed avocado and hummus. I quickly adapted that to toasted rye with mashed avocado, chopped tomatoes and sunflower seeds and it’s literally my new favourite breakfast in the world. For lunches I prepped a sweet potato, black bean and tahini salad and for dinners, we had marinaded tofu, broccoli and brown rice. Of course there are many more choices but these are just some examples.
Key to it all at the end of the day is the age old simple equation of move more, eat less. If you maintain a slight calorie deficit you’ll never gain weight (of course ensuring you’re not just eating 6 Mars Bars a day). I’ll be honest, the first week I struggled. My weight didn’t shift, I still felt slow and heavy. But now I realise that I also didn’t gain any extra weight and in the second week I’ve lost 3lbs. Here are all the ways that it works, for me:
- I’m cooking again. Leading a vegan lifestyle IS NOT NECESSARILY HEALTHY if you reach for all the things you can actually eat. Like Oreo Cookies, Kettle Chips, normal chips, vegan burgers, hot chocolates with soya milk, booze, vegan cheese, pasta etc etc. I found that because of how life has been, it’s processed food after processed food. I missed cooking, and now I’ve got my mojo back.
- I’m using my scales again. I know, I know. Women the nation over will be screaming at me “THROW AWAY THE SCALES”. But for me, personally, weighing myself once a day in the morning is the key to maintenance. It’s how I lost 4 stone in the first place. When I’m unhappy I go into ostrich mode, stop weighing myself and live in denial, even though I’m well aware that half my clothes don’t fit. Daily weighing also helps me to understand my monthly cycles too, since I’m the classic water retainer at times of the month.
- I’m exercising again. What Aaron helps you to understand is that you don’t need to run a marathon every day, you just need to move more. So whilst you may not want to run 5k, a walk in the park with the dog is better than nothing. I’ve ventured into the garage where we have a rowing machine, I’ve now had 2 personal training sessions with Aaron at the studio and am generally enjoying getting back into shape, which is also invaluable for mental health. I’ve even joined a new gym right opposite my local station which is a quarter of the price of my old work gym, opens in two weeks and will be perfect for visits either before or after work.
- It’s not restrictive. A couple of years ago, Pete embarked on a Men’s Health 3 month transform programme. It was AMAZING in terms of the weight he lost and the shape he was in, but it was 100% unsustainable. He couldn’t drink, at all. It was very samey, very bland and definitely not a long-term way to live. Aaron makes it clear – in my case it’s 1700 a calories a day. If I want to have a glass of wine I can, but that has to be factored in to what else I eat that day, or I need to exercise extra. At least this way I don’t feel like I’m missing anything.
So where am I now? Well, it’s now just over two weeks since I started. I’ve gone from 64.4kg down to 62kg and lost 2cm from my waist. Clothes are fitting better, I’m happier and well on the way to where I want to be. Having someone kickstart this journey for me has been invaluable. He’s such a supportive, informed trainer and nutrionist, really working out what each individual client needs.
I have one more PT session next week, and my new gym will have opened to. I’ll check in again on this journey, either just before or just after we go on holiday to the Cotswolds to let you know how it’s going. So much of life has felt out of control this year, it’s high time I fought back and rediscovered me.