How to go from never working out to losing two stone in two months

March 17, 2017

I used to scoff at the saying ‘nothing tastes as good as skinny feels’. Because NOTHING tastes as good as fried fowl, sweating in grease, gently twirled in a tub of chicken gravy. But, as my Teflon 20s turned into my tubby 30s, I knew the price paid for nuking veg in cheese and drinking two liters of coke a day was going to be far more costly if I didn’t get off my deluxe derriere to combat it.

Looking at me you wouldn’t think I’d weight to lose. Baggy clothes and my previous skinny frame cast my new robust physique in a more appealing light. But a topless session in the doctors exposed the rolls of flab that were usually saved for my beloved. “Your metabolism is slowing down and you’re doing nothing to combat it.”

A picky eater, I was skin and bone throughout my teens. MSGs, my sole sustenance was sweated out clubbing. But, I lost my heart at the same time I left the dance-floor, and my waistline bore the brunt.

Journalism involves irregular hours and a need for fatty treats to fight off the mean reds. So soon I was having Breakfast at Take-Aways, mainlining energy drinks to meet deadlines, and giving doe-eyes over massive portions of meat and potatoes.

Then, my fella- put out by his own excessive weight gain, abandoned our cabal of carbohydrates and slightly seared flesh, to smugly go vegetarian. Instead of wracking
up a few episodes of the West Wing each evening, he was pounding the pavement and dropping the pounds.

Whereas I went from waist size 28 to 34, from 8 ½ stone to almost 13, gaining three stone in three chicken-fried months alone.

Love handles need love goggles to thrive, and my mot had a new prescription.

Whispered sweet nothings turned to words of encouragement, exasperation and finally aberration. “I don’t think I will find you as attractive if you keep piling on the pounds,” he said, after years of false starts, broken promises and lies.

I’d have plucked my engagement ring from my finger to fling at him… if it hadn’t become vacuum packed onto my fattening finger. Pinching my skin it emitted a faint, constant throb, like the knowledge I no longer fit into my clothes. I avoided dwelling on it, like I avoided mirrors, cameras and reflective surfaces.

“We have no problem telling people who smoke that what they are doing is damaging,” says Kathy Maher, former President of the Irish Pharmacy Union. “Carrying excess weight can increase your risk of developing a number of chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and certain cancers. People are told they are a healthy size and are shocked to learn that medically, they’re overweight. It’s the new normal.”

Magazines are inundated with triumphant stories of pounds dropped, of chiseled chests sculpted from rolls of flab. I didn’t want a new body. I wanted my old one back. Unlike Dorian Grey, though, there was no picture forthcoming in my attic, so I decided to make a lot of minor changes to my life, ones that were likely to make a sustainable, rather than make a rapid, difference.

They say that 90% of weight loss comes from diet, so I went along to Weight Watcher’s to help me keep a track of what I ate. The idea of not depriving myself appealed to me. Everything in moderation is their motto. A tablespoon of salt has become a teaspoon; ½ a pound of butter has become a smidgen. Instead of the full pack of Pasta, which would feed two, I have but ½.

I’m allowed 34 points per day, toting them up on my WW app. While nothing is verboten, I notice that my brain starts ignoring its old cravings for bread, melted cheese and sausages. Most meat and fish are zero points, which means I can splash out on pasta, spuds and desert or just eat more regularly throughout the day. And keeping track of what I eat in the diary alerts me to how excessive my portions once were. I get pangs. But I know I can have anything I want, so they don’t overwhelm.

My previous attempts at moving beyond a brisk walk resulted in me passing out and spitting up blood. The Couch to 5k app guides me through a series of short runs (1 minute) alternated with longer walks (2 minutes), incrementally increasing one while decreasing the other, so as to build up my stamina and my confidence.

Within a month I was able to run for 20 minutes straight. After two I could do 30.

The app can’t answer the particulars of running, like how to combat a stitch? What and when should you eat before a run? And how do you combat stigmata of the tit?

So I turned to Steven Macklin, National Junior Endurance Coach for Athletics Ireland who organise free fun runs around the country as a way of introducing people to exercise, in a fun non-competitive environment.

He suggests something light like a banana before starting, and breathing deeply to push through a stitch –though to stop if it gets to painful.

As for the gushing nipples, “or bleeding thigh’s or under-arms, this happens because of chaffing between your wet clothes and your body. Smear Vaseline over these areas before you start and don’t wear those clothes again.”

A trainer will show you the ropes and make sure that you are pushing- not kidding, yourself, when it comes to the gym. I was paired with Janusz Halys, at the Iveagh Fitness Club. Once a week he guided me through a mixture of cardio and resistance training.

Janusz insured I didn’t injure myself, by starting off slow, adding more and more weight after each visit, boosting my confidence. One of my biggest fears before joining was Muscle Marys staring at me and mocking me for not being able to bench press a sliced-pan, but the only bitchface unleashed was at people who didn’t use a towel to wipe their sweat of the equipment.

Having designed my program based on my stated goals and the taking of my body fat and measurements, Janusz kept an eye on me, coming over to me to comment on my technique if it was off and changing tack as my body changed. He looked over my new Weight Watchers approved diet, not banning anything, but urging I insure to eat breakfast, not eat certain foods at certain times and get my kip in order as being tired would have me turning to the convenient option over the healthy one.

Best of all, Weight Watchers give you fit points, so on the days I would run or gym it, I could have a meal that was heavy in protein afterwards. One week I wolfed down four steaks.

My weight gain wasn’t genetic. It wasn’t brought on by medication. I was lazy. And comfortable! My boyfriend had been there as I watched people close to me succumb to illness attributed to their lifestyle. He’d seen me flinch as buttons popped – or my arse came through the seat of my pants. And he’d seen me do feck all about it, despite the fact it was likely adding to the fits of melancholy that were prone to overcome me.

I’m not advocating we start going up to strangers on the street to give them our thoughts on their appearance. But I’ve made a lifelong commitment to someone, and my relationship with food for my age was bordering on ‘risky behavior’- the fall out of which would become his concern. Just like someone whose partner was in an abusive relationship with drugs or booze, he needed to shock me into the reality about what the future might have in store.

In two months I managed to shift about a stone and a half. I cut nothing out, just down. But while dropping the weight is one thing, keeping it off is another. A shift in my working hours meant that I was no longer working from home. My attempts of transferring my usual lunch of zero fat yogurt with berries, lemon juice and honey ended after I got discouraged by multiple curdles.

Back to eating ham and cheese toasties, donuts filled the time between that and a late dinner –something cheesy, processed and quick, which meant I couldn’t find the energy to go out for an evening jog.

Nor could I fit in a pre-work workout, as I was kept awake by a body breaking down all my complex carbohydrates. Thirteen wedding invites meant every weekend of the summer was spent mimicking an Ortalan, gorging on rich food and cocktail sausages before drowning myself in Armagnac – or any other liquor to hand.

Halfway through my 27 Dresses shtick, I wanted to throw a napkin over my own face when faced with the fact that only one suit fit me.

Frankly, I needed to grow up and stop making excuses. If Anna Wintour can get up at 5am and fit in a game of tennis and still contour Conde Naste , I could surely get out of bed before 8am and go for a jog along the canal. If I pre-made my dinners, they would become the easy option and could be heated up in work.

Combined with my no caffeine after midday rule, it insured by body wasn’t keeping me up at night by trying to convert my grub to energy so I could get up with the lark- or avoid the sugar and carb slump in the afternoon that was keeping me out of the gym.

Aside from looking better, I felt better in myself. Changing my diet has insured I’m not up all night and thus unable to get up and exercise in the morning. Getting that out of the way in the AM also means it’s not sacrificed for a Gilmore Girls binge later in the evening-nor are my weekends lost in the leaba.

There’s absolutely a diet and exercise industry out there, taking advantage of people’s rising insecurities. But it’s just as dangerous to stick your fingers in your ears to the truth that your weight gain may be a sign of ill health.

Sharp words might sting like a wet towel on a bare ass, but you can tell when they are motivated by love, as opposed to cruelty. While unpleasant to hear, they helped me make the small changes that may prevent me succumbing to even more painful conditions later in life.


Eat a carb heavy meal before you go to the gym. Just not right before you go. I had my first Burrito before my first Spin class. It ended, as you’d imagine, losing my lunch as well as the intended 6lbs.

Don’t go through the whole sackcloth and ashes routine if you fall of the wagon. A holiday away in a house armed with a deep fat fryer left me with the option of leaning in or opting out. Frankly, I would have deep-fried the wine if I could.

While the runner’s high does exist, your mind quickly forgets how much you enjoy exercise. Have an audio carrot to combat the physical stick. My addiction to TV contributed to my weight gain, but now a podcast dedicated to The West Wing has me actually looking forward to lacing up.

Look in the mirror, not at the scales. Three weeks into my new regime, having hit the gym five nights in one week, I gained weight, as muscle weighs more than fat. But your clothes still fit better, which, for all my talk of health and fitness, was my real goal.

Objectifying the male form being a relatively new phenomenon, we’ve been spared the fat-shaming rod, resulting in spoiled bodies and, more problematically, an inability to speak about our weight issues, beyond taking the piss. Most pharmacies across the country have a private consultation room, where you can have your pharmacist track your weight and provide nutritional advice, if you can’t face a public meeting.



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