Friday 19 January 2018

'I'm not quite Gisele, but I am 25lbs lighter and absolutely loving it'

Having shed two stone, weight loss, tastes almost as delicious as Bailey's cheesecake, discovers Tanya Sweeney


By now, Christmas has long faded into the past, and that can only mean one thing; we are officially taking our tentative first few steps into the spring season.

Yet Mother Nature has somehow failed to get the memo; so far, 'spring' has been wet, windy, stormy, blizzardy and a whole universe of unpleasant. Getting on a bike, going for a run or walking to the gym almost seems foolhardy.

It's a rather cruel irony that this time of year -- with its New Year resolutions and widespread calls to kickstart your fitness -- happens pretty much in the dead of winter for Irish people.

And it's been a gloomy month by anyone's yardstick. There are no twinkly Christmas lights to soften the glumness, no fancy party frock to help keep your eye on the prize. And, as I've found out, it's precisely these small incentives that keep a person focused on staying healthy.

Before Christmas, you'll no doubt recall that I lost 20lbs in a feverish bid to drop a dress size in time for office party season.

That meant nine weeks of training, squats, lunges, wheatgrass, porridge and lusting after cake I couldn't have. And, after an initial period of resistance, I began to enjoy the new regime.

After that, things were only going to go one of two ways. Either I would gorge myself into oblivion on Christmas Day, and continue my calorie-laden downward spiral after that . . . or I would be buoyed by my initial weight loss and keep going.

And, a month after that momentous 20lb weight loss, I'm happy to report that it has been the latter. At a time when the average Irish person gains 8lbs over the festive season, I somehow lost four.

Now, before you berate me for smugly polishing my halo, I should add a footnote: come New Year, I was positively bowled over by pneumonia and unable to speak, much less eat.

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While the country partied and socialised, I stayed in bed and babbled to myself in a fever dream about cabbages (I think). It was a wretched time, but the weight loss was a small payoff.

By the time mid-January had rolled around, however, I was back on solid food and those four pounds were back on board, too.

Watching the dial on the scales move up the other way is quite the nasty shock, and the week after that, I temporarily gave up on the whole fitness lark. My reasoning seemed simple enough at the time; if it's going to be this hard to keep the weight off, why bother?

I didn't so much fall off the wagon as neatly swan dive off it: I went out drinking with friends, and they were very glad to have the 'old' Tanya back. I went for cake and coffee with colleagues, and found any excuse not to go to the gym ("well, it looks like it might rain . . . "). I was back to my old ways, and within a week I was fed-up and irritated that I'd relinquished my healthy new habits so readily. It took a stern talking to, not to mention some spartan willpower, to get me back atop the wagon again. As of last week, I am finally back on track.

Now that I'm back in Pat Henry's gym, I have yet to formulate a new objective. 'Merely keeping the weight off' clearly isn't working as a tangible goal. Being publicly shamed into weight loss in a newspaper turned out to be quite the incentive . . . but now that I'm working on my own steam, I'm a little rudderless, and a lot lazy.

"Let's try dropping two pounds in a week and see how we get on," suggests Maeve. Hopefully, from small acorns, a bigger goal will materialise. Or, at the very least, a few 'two pound' goals might just amount to dropping another dress size.

In a way, the fact that January is unofficial Get Your Act Together Month has been a huge help. Many of my friends have got caught up in the countrywide fitness fever and put their own fitness goals out on the table.

If anything, this means they're not bugging me about not having dessert or that third glass of wine.

Sure, I missed out on some of the great pleasures of the Irish winter while everyone else was filling their festive boots; mulled wine and Irish coffees by a roaring turf fire.

Mounds of comfort food, like mashed potatoes, apple tarts, mince pies. But now, we're all in this fitness/weight loss lark together. And sure enough, there is solidarity in numbers. It easier with a buddy or two also watching their waistlines.


To this day, I have no idea why some people, me included, are so resistant to exercise.

The benefits are plentiful: a few feel-good chemicals whizzing around your body, thus thwarting depression and anxiety.

Exercise also safeguards people from serious illness . . . and yet, despite the myriad advantages, it always seems to feel like a penance, or a duty. I've yet to crack the code in my brain that lets me think of exercise as a positive addition to my life. I'm blaming all those sour-faced PE teachers from school who punished us with endless laps of the hockey pitch.

As of this week, I am 25lbs lighter than I was at the beginning of November. For now, that horrible feeling of helplessness and self-hatred appears to be behind me, in the dust. I'm not quite Gisele, but at least I don't reflexively hide behind someone else the moment someone whips out a cameraphone (by November, I'd gotten quite skilful at it).

I still have 'bad hips days', but there's nothing like knowing that you're at least trying to improve yourself to quieten that inner critic.

Now, I would never agree with Kate Moss, who famously intoned that nothing ever taste as good as skinny feels (has the woman never heard of Bailey's cheesecake?).

Yet, there's a kernel of truth in her infamous quote. Pulling out an old dress from the darkest recesses of the wardrobe and finding that it actually fits, was fairly high up there in terms of feelgood factor. Not quite as delicious as Bailey's cheesecake . . . but a very, very close second.

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