My Health & Fitness Journey: 10 Things I've Learnt and How I've Lost Weight (No Crash Diets!)

Monday, 18 February 2019

My Health & Fitness Journey: 10 Things I've Learnt
For those of you that follow me on Instagram, you may have seen me post a couple of health and fitness updates throughout the past year. Many of you have been asking me what exercise I do, how often, how I've lost weight etc, so I thought I'd compile a special feature on here to share what I've been doing.

A Little Background Info
Last year I turned 31, and a month or so before, I witnessed a relative spend some time in hospital. It triggered something in me - it was time to start thinking about the future properly and addressing some ongoing health concerns which had been progressively getting worse. Throughout my 20s, I've been battling an autoimmune illness which has meant that I'm prone to getting regular bouts of cold and flu, and has at times, left me thoroughly exhausted and bedridden with my whole body aching. My migraines and eczema flare-ups were becoming more severe and frequent, I was having lots of stomach pains and was eventually diagnosed with IBS, and my mental health was suffering due to Stress, Depression and Anxiety. On top of all that, my weight was continuing to go up and up which only added to all of the above problems and my self-esteem and confidence was at an all-time low.

How I Got Started
I've always followed a lot of fitness people on Instagram and one day, I decided to try out a Joe Wicks HIIT workout on YouTube. It lasted 10 minutes and I could barely get through 5, that's how unfit I was. However, I was determined not to buy the next size up of jeans and started doing 10 minutes of HIIT here and there throughout the week. I gave up a lot of times, especially during the first three months, but when I started to see the physical changes, I stuck with it. The progress was a lot slower than I wanted it to be due to these constant stops and starts, so don't worry if you're the same and struggle to motivate yourself. Just treat each day as it comes and if you didn't manage to do a workout today, make sure that you do one tomorrow.

Getting Into Healthy Eating
Much of my diet throughout my 20s was mainly based on convenience foods - anything that was ready in 10 minutes was a good thing! I picked up a lot of bad habits from my family who have never been into healthy cooking, as well as from housemates (being a student doesn't help!). I watched a lot of cooking programmes on YouTube and started to mess around in the kitchen trying to recreate some of the meals. I had a 50/50 success rate in the beginning, but I'm now a much more confident cook and when I'm in the right mood, I actually enjoy it! I've tried a lot of new foods and I'm currently focusing on improving my gut health to lessen the symptoms of my IBS.

How Much Weight I've Lost
I started this about a year and a half ago and I've managed to lose just over two and a half stone, going down from a UK size 12/14 to a size 6/8 on top and size 8 on the bottom. I no longer weigh myself and now stick to taking measurements around my waist and bum every so often, but I'm pretty happy at this maintaining stage.

The Exercise I Do Now
Doing HIIT and spinning is amazing for blasting away excess fat, but I didn't feel all that stronger in myself. To remedy this, I've added in some weight training and also do Pilates and Yoga for additional strength and a healthy mind. I get bored very easily though, so I like to switch things up throughout the week to keep it interesting. I generally workout 3-4 times a week, but this does vary depending on my energy levels and overall motivation. I try not to get too stressed about it if I miss a workout as I'll try again the next day. Side note: I do all of my exercises at home as the very idea of setting foot in a gym gives me a panic attack - that's not for me! Plus it's cheaper this way anyhow ;)

My Health & Fitness Journey: 10 Things I've Learnt
10 Things I've Learnt

1. Doing 10 minutes of exercise every day is better than doing an hour-long session at the gym once a fortnight.
You don't need to spend hours in the gym to lose weight, tone up or feel physically stronger. When I started, I only did around 10 minutes of HIIT 2-3 times a week for about a month before I started getting into it and the pounds were beginning to slowly come off just by doing that. Check out Joe Wicks on YouTube and Davina McCall's Toned In 10 to get you in the right mindset.

2. Stop Making Excuses. Seriously. Just Stop It.
The one thing that I love the most about anything do to with fitness and losing weight, is that you simply can't buy the perfect body. If you want to lose weight properly and keep it off, you have to work hard at it and anyone can do it, regardless of how much money you do or don't have; whether you have kids or not. Stop making excuses and get on with it.

3. If you can spend 3 hours a day on social media, you can do 10 minutes of exercise.
If I had a £1 for every person that I see on social media complain (constantly) that they haven't got any time to do any exercise, to meal prep or to cook a proper meal at least once a week, I'd be a multi-millionaire! You do have time - stop wasting it scrolling through mindless memes and reading the comment sections - get off your phone and go and workout instead!

4. Crash Diets & Detox Teas - They Don't Work In The Long Term So Please Stop Buying Them
Sure, only drinking laxative teas for two weeks will show you a lower number on the scales, but the minute that you start eating solid food again, that figure is going to go up and you will end up putting on any weight that you temporarily lost (and usually more). They're a stupid fad and aren't a sustainable way to keep weight off, so please stop wasting your money.

5. Look After Your Gut
You may have heard about Gut Health in the news as it's been a huge wellness highlight over the past two years and when you stop to think about it, it's actually just common sense. For a good starting point, Liz Earle's The Good Gut Guide is very useful for beginners, and both Lee Holmes and Dale Pinnock have some excellent books for more in-depth guidance. I would also recommend looking into Ayurveda which has Gut Health (or 'Agni / Digestive Fire') as one of its core concepts.

One of my Foodie Friday posts - Quinoa Pizza!

6. Learn To Cook From Scratch
This time last year I barely knew how to boil an egg, but if you're serious about losing weight and improving your health, you really need to learn how to cook your own wholesome, healthy meals from scratch so that you have full control over the ingredients and portion sizes. Cooking tutorials on YouTube are brilliant and I have a stack of cookbooks from popular foodies such as Deliciously Ella and the Hemsley sisters. I also post regular Foodie Friday features on here so keep an eye out for those.

7. A Cheat Meal Is OK - A Cheat Day Is Not
If you've been sticking to your exercise routine, indulging in one cheat meal a week is not going to completely derail your fitness goals. In fact, I find that they're a good way to stay on track because it helps keep you sane mentally and combats certain cravings. However! A whole 24-hour binge day, when you haven't reached your target weight yet, will definitely cancel out any calorie deficit that you've built up over the week so just stick with the one cheat meal. 

8. Meal Prep Sunday
I've gotten into the habit of planning my meals in advance by doing some kind of meal prep on a Sunday so that I know what I'm going to be eating that following week. It stops you from wasting food and is a great way to stick to a weekly food budget. Visit your nearest charity shop to look for cheap cookbooks or check some out for free from your local library to get meal ideas. The internet is full of inspiration as well of course!

9. Ditch The Scales
I'll be the first to admit that it's easy to become fixated on what your weight is when you can see it so clearly in plain numbers on your scales, but honestly, one of the best things that I did was to throw them away. Your weight will fluctuate throughout the month (more so with women who typically carry more water weight than men, especially when you're on your period) and let's not forget that muscle weighs more than fat anyway. I found that keeping track using a tape measure around your waist, bum etc, was much more useful for my own personal goals.

10. It's Not A Diet, It's A Lifestyle
I hate the word 'diet' because it has so many negative connotations within our society and is often associated with misery and starvation. Instead, for successful weight loss where you keep it off for good, you should think of it as a lifestyle and not something temporary. I know it sounds cliched, but you want to strive to be the best version of yourself and not a yo-yo dieter who cycles between binges and deprivation. Being healthy, for body and mind, is a long-term game plan.


Going forwards: Whilst I love the fact that I've lost the extra weight and feel physically stronger, I'm still struggling with the mental health side of things and exercise alone hasn't improved my migraines as much as I'd hoped, so there's a lot I have to continue working on. It's definitely a journey but at least I've made a start!

Are you into health and fitness?

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