Lisa Fitzpatrick, Ireland’s favourite style guru, wasn’t always the slim, confident person she is today. Having battled obesity, low self-esteem and zero confidence, Lisa came out the other side happier, healthier and immeasurably wiser for the many challenges her weight-loss journey threw at her. Lisa offers some of the life-changing tips that helped her shed the pounds and go from a size 20 to a perfect 10.
Can you really be fat and happy?
Sometimes, you hear people refer to a woman who is overweight as having a bubbly personality. I suppose this has become a term that, rightly or wrongly, we now associate with larger ladies. But does the word “bubbly” really describe how some of these women feel? Are they good at putting on an act, or are they genuinely happy? It’s a tough one, because only they can answer that question.
Maybe you genuinely are the happiest person in the world, but, having walked in those shoes, so to speak, I find it hard to believe that being overweight actually does make all women completely content. My memories of the years when I piled on the pounds are definitely filled with mixed emotions.
Certain things in my life did seem perfect, but, deep down, I did feel like I was carrying a burden when it came to my size. It was only when I made the decision to take control of my weight that I could see things clearly. Being bigger did, indeed, make me feel unhappy, but I found that out only when I began to lose weight and grow in confidence. Once the weight was off, I loved the feeling of being content with everything, and knowing I was giving myself the best chance possible of living life to the full.
It had a massive impact on the way I viewed things and, in many ways, it was like a new way of feeling. Looking back, my bubbly personality probably masked my weight issue. It became my ‘front’ when I met people. It’s much easier to tell yourself you are happy being the size you are, rather than admitting to yourself that your weight might be an issue. I found ways to hide behind what I wore. But that can be so draining and, for some, it can take its toll. Behind closed doors, the reality of being overweight can have a huge impact on your confidence and self-esteem.
This is often when people find comfort in food, which is probably the worst thing they can do. I think that if you are one of those people who have learned how to put on a good show for others, you should never use that as a safety net to stay the way you are. It could become a habit, and then you’ll end up trying to convince yourself that being overweight makes you happy. You owe it to yourself to be truly happy, and to live the best possible life that you can.
It may not be intentional, but, sometimes, those closest to us can be the worst supporters of change, because they are used to us being a certain way. They may not fully understand our motives for wanting to lose weight in the first place. If this is the case in your relationship, remind yourself that this decision is all about doing what is right for you. If you’re not sure how you feel, ask yourself the following questions:
1) Do you like how you look?
2) Does your weight make you feel good about yourself?
3) Are you happy being fat?
I suppose the last question is the most important one of all: are you happy being fat? If the answer is “no”, there has never been a better time to change your life. Don’t put it off until tomorrow. Grab the opportunity with both hands and make the decision to improve your situation now.
If you feel insecure in yourself on a daily basis, you are not alone. A survey carried out in the United States showed that 80 per cent of obese people who were questioned, believed the following: that others perceive them to be physically unattractive, that others comment on their weight, that they are uncomfortable about being seen in public, and so on. I’d say, having been in that position, that this survey is pretty accurate.
Through my work, I meet women all the time who talk to me, confide in me and look for answers about what suits their body shape and size. Often, they approach me to talk about style, but very often they ask for advice on how they can cover up parts of
their body they don’t like. Now, as I’ve said before, covering up your bad bits is fine — we all do it. However, when it gets to a point where we are hiding from ourselves, we need to address the problem.
Of course, it’s fine to cover up short-term, until you are in a position where you no longer have to. But I don’t want you to spend countless years trying to cover up everything, constantly worried about who is looking at you and what they are thinking.
I did that for six years and it wasn’t a nice feeling. I want you to get to a point in your life where you can stand proud, be the weight you want to be and be unaffected by what others think. Start by working on |your good areas and then learn to hide |the bad. We all have different goals — it’s up to you to plan yours now.
My pregnancy and pre-eclampsia
If I have yet to convince you that weight loss is vital when trying to conceive, please try to take this next piece of information on board. Being overweight can increase your risk of diabetes, pre-eclampsia and also your chance of needing to have a Caesarean section. I’m going to tell you a little about my own experience as, unfortunately, I did get pre-eclampsia with Sophie.
Even thinking about that now is quite upsetting, because I know that it was something I could have prevented. I found being pregnant with Sophie very tough because I was overweight.
I certainly didn’t feel like a poster mum-to-be! I was incredibly uncomfortable, and I can vividly remember the feeling of my thighs rubbing together and the rash I got on my legs. On the second-last visit to my gynaecologist, he broke the news to me that I had pre-eclampsia.
Deep down, I had known something was wrong, but I didn’t want to let myself believe it. This was my first pregnancy, Paul and I were becoming parents for the first time, and I wanted everything to be just right. I’m hoping that this story resonates with some of you, so that you never end up in the situation I was in.
Being overweight at that time had a negative effect on my pregnancy and it’s something I could have prevented, which is why I made sure it did not happen again when I became pregnant for the second time. All the things you need to do to look after yourself are common sense. And, yes, it comes down to you being a healthy weight and eating sensibly, so please don’t ignore this important advice.
I know only too well that feeling of being a mum for the first time. Of course you will have worries and insecurities. You’re not normal if you don’t.
But give yourself the best possible chance you can and, if you need to make changes, start today, before it’s too late.
Lisa’s tips for living life to the full
Aside from all the things you are already doing to keep the weight off, what else can you do to improve your life and, hopefully, live longer? The good news is that there are lots of options. Here are my top seven tips:
1) Take up a new hobby or learn a new skill. It’s all about getting your brain active, and pushing yourself in as many ways as you can. As we get older, it’s even more important to keep the mind active. It helps to stimulate our brain and allows it to function better. Choose something that you will enjoy, or have always wanted to try. This will ensure that you get the most out of whatever it is.
2) Have more sex! Being intimate with your partner is good for your health, and is well known to keep stress levels at bay. People who enjoy an active sex life are said to get a much better night’s sleep and are, generally, happier. You heard it here first: what a fun way to add extra years to your life!
3) Take plenty of tea breaks. Tea offers a number of benefits. It has an amazing ability to provide a source of comfort for people when they need it. In many cases, a cup of tea has even been known to solve problems! Tea is also rich in antioxidants, which we need to keep us healthy.
4) Get a pet. As well as giving you lots of love and attention, a pet is a brilliant way of encouraging you to get outdoors and become more active. Having a pet gives you another focus, which can be very important at certain stages in life.
5) Develop meaningful relationships. Getting on well with people and developing special bonds is said to make us happy. Happier people are generally healthier, and they have a more positive outlook on life — research even suggests that optimistic people tend to outlive those who are pessimistic.
6) Laugh as much as you can. The old saying, “laughter is the best medicine” is so true. A good dose of laughter is great for the soul and can also be a great stress-reliever.
7) Get married! Research has shown that married people are, for the most part, happier than those who are unmarried. However crazy it may sound, divorced and single people have an increased risk of dying at an earlier age.
So what is Lisa’s daily regime?
7am: Cup of coffee and a wholegrain biscuit. (I try to avoid eating breakfast immediately I get up.)
10am: Breakfast. For me, this is the most important meal of the day, so I try to have something substantial that will see me through to lunch, such as poached eggs on toast, or a bowl of porridge with fresh fruit. I cut out bread completely Monday to Friday.
1pm: Lunch. If I’m at home, I have salad for lunch or home-made soup. Otherwise, I take a packed lunch so I’m less tempted by unhealthy choices.
3pm: I like to have a cup of refreshing green tea. If I’m feeling a little hungry, I’ll snack on raw vegetables or a small granola bar. If I’m out, I always go prepared, with a little bag |of tricks!
6pm: If I’m hungry around this time, I’ll just have some water and a handful of nuts or dried fruit. It’s so important not to spoil your main meal.
7pm: At home, during the week, I love doing chicken or beef stir-fries. They are quick and easy, but also nutritious. If I’m out for dinner, I’ll usually opt for the fish and make sure to ask for any sauces to be served on the side.
Enjoying the summer holidays
Your bags are all packed and you are ready to go on your summer holidays with your family, or you have simply taken a week off to rest. It’s the time of year when rules seem to fly out the window. The kids go to bed a little later and your wine glass is a little fuller than usual! Food is everywhere and, to make matters worse, everything comes in huge portions. How could you possibly resist? It would be rude to say no.
We all know the pattern: when that tiny bit of guilt starts to creep in, we casually brush it off, reminding ourselves that we are on holiday; we deserve it. Of course, you have worked hard and you do need to let your hair down once in a while — that’s only normal — but it doesn’t mean you have to throw the rule book out of the window and make no attempt to retrieve it.
I try my best to be as true to my healthy lifestyle as I can while I’m on holiday, but, of course, I also have some fun along the way. Here are my top tips for surviving that |all-important summer break, staying sane and still having a glass or two of vino!
1) Eat a good breakfast. It’s easy to be tempted by a greasy fry-up, or buttery croissants and pastries, but eating those every day will, inevitably, have consequences. Try to start your day with some poached eggs, or fresh fruit and yoghurt. If you eat well first thing in the morning, you are less likely to pick at food throughout the day.
2) Don’t forget the exercise. Wherever you are, my advice would be to keep that body working. If you have access to a gym, swimming pool or even the sea, make use of it first thing in the morning. Alternatively, take yourself out for a walk. It doesn’t really matter what you do — just don’t let your muscles go into hibernation!
3) Remember to check in on your body. You can still ask yourself the question, “Am I hungry?” This will stop you from eating mindlessly and just for the sake of it. It’s easy to forget this when you’re out of your routine.
4) Keep an eye on portions. It’s OK to be a bit more relaxed about the food you’re eating, but be careful of the amount. Do your best to practice portion control and, if you can, eat from a smaller plate. It’s a great trick, and it works well.
5) Don’t go overboard on the alcohol. Make the wine a spritzer by mixing it with soda or sparkling water. It will help to keep your calories at bay and you’ll also drink less.
6) Treat yourself, but don’t lose control. You are allowed to let go a little, but keep it at bay. It’s easy to forget about your willpower and self-control when you’re away; however, limit yourself to one treat and not three!
7) Don’t skip meals to ‘store up’ calories. You know by now that it doesn’t work that way. Eat your three meals a day, and do your best to maintain a healthy balance of fruit, vegetables and protein.
Enjoying a night out
Most of us love a good night out in our favourite restaurant, with a big glass of wine and great company. I know I do, anyway! When I began my journey, I was definitely a bit apprehensive about eating out and feared I wouldn’t enjoy it in the same way. For a start, there’s always the confusion about what you should be avoiding and what you should be choosing.
While I do relax a little at the weekends, I still try to go for the healthy option when I’m in a restaurant. When you are not cooking the food yourself, you have very little control over what actually goes into it. However, you can educate yourself about what the healthy choices are.
Life doesn’t stop just because you are trying to be healthy. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. The best advice I can give you is to get out there, keep living and don’t stop eating out! Here are my top tips for your restaurant visits:
1) Before eating out, go on the restaurant’s website and have a quick look at the menu. If you are prepared, you are less likely to make the wrong food choices.
2) Most restaurants have caught up with the ever-increasing demand for nutritious food and, as a result, are offering more variety in this area. Scan the menu for what you think are the healthy options. Don’t always go for the same thing. To keep enjoying your food, you must have variety in your diet.
Feel free to ask the waiter questions. They are obliged to give you information about the food you are ordering. How is it cooked, for example? You know yourself that you would rather it was grilled than fried. Don’t be afraid to get what you want — you are the paying customer, after all!
3) Instead of potatoes or fries on the side, ask for salad or vegetables. Many restaurants provide very small portions of veg, so, if you’d like more, go ahead and ask. The good thing about vegetables is that they really fill you up, so you won’t be desperate for carbs!
4) Choose the fish. I usually do this when I’m out for a meal because I know it’s good for me. It also works well with a side salad or vegetables, so you can’t go wrong.
5) Don’t forget the water. There’s nothing to say that you can’t maintain your good habits when you’re eating out. Water fills you up and stops you from going overboard on |the wine!
6) You don’t have to finish everything on your plate. There is nobody standing over you, forcing you to eat everything. If you feel full, put down your knife and fork and take a break. People are far more likely to overeat when they are in a restaurant, because they feel it’s wrong to leave food. In future, ask the restaurant to put any leftovers in a box for you to take home.
7) If you have a sweet tooth that needs to be satisfied, share a pudding with somebody else. You’ll get the same great taste, but with half the calories, so it’s a win, win, win! Sorbets are a great low-fat dessert and still taste good. Otherwise, go for a coffee to round off your meal.
Drinking tips for people trying to lose weight
1) Time your food carefully. A good tip is to have your meal a few hours before you plan to have a drink. That way, you’re giving the food plenty of time to digest, which means the alcohol won’t have as much of an effect.
2) Don’t skip meals. Alcohol has no nutritional value and should not be substituted for a meal. Forget the idea of trying to save on calories if you are going out for the night. All that will happen is that, when you do eat again, your body will immediately store the food as fat.
3) Everything in moderation. In the same way that you practice portion control |when it comes to food, try to become more aware of drink measurements when it comes to alcohol.
4) Drink plenty of water. Alcohol is a diuretic, which means that it can cause dehydration — a fact that many of you are probably aware of, having woken up feeling thirsty |the morning-after-the-night-before. To avoid dehydration, try to get into the habit of sipping water when you are drinking alcohol — that way, you will tend not to drink as much of the latter. If you do suffer from a hangover the following morning, stick to water. It’s the best thing for rehydrating your body and it has no calories!
5) Don’t reach for the fast food. The reason you often feel hungry after having a few drinks is that alcohol lowers your bloodsugar levels. So what happens is, you end up eating a lot more than you normally would, and possibly making the wrong food choices. Alcohol provides you with nothing but empty calories. If you reach for fast food at the end of a night out, there will be only one outcome! Everything you eat will be stored immediately as fat.
‘Diet SOS: Life Changing Tips For Long-Term Weight Loss Success’, by Lisa Fitzpatrick, is published on May 29 by Kyle Books, €14.99
Photography by Kip Carroll
Styling by Liadan Hynes
Assisted by Siying Huang
Hair by Christian Shannon
Make-up by Cara Macken, both at Brown Sugar, 50 South William St, D2, tel: (01) 616-9967
Photographed at The Morgan Hotel, 10 Fleet St, D2, tel: (01) 679-3939, or see www.the morgan.com