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Couch to Camino: 7lbs down on Atkins as Andrea Smith continues her journey to the Camino


Andrea Smith is embarking on a healthy eating and walking programme.

Andrea Smith is embarking on a healthy eating and walking programme.

Andrea Smith is embarking on a healthy eating and walking programme.

After losing 7lbs last week on the Atkins diet, I decided to keep it going for another week, while I was on a roll, like. Mind you, if you saw a knickerbocker glory sliding down the throat of someone who looked suspiciously like me in Roly's Bistro on Thursday evening, well that was just a delicious coincidence.

So given that I'm walking the last leg of the Camino Way for The Rise Foundation charity in nine weeks, I decided to pull on my sparkly runners and head out the door one fine evening last week.

I walk my six dogs every morning anyway, but that's more of a little saunter around the field for me at 6am, while the mutts zip around the place like Zola Budd on speed. So I took one of them with me for the unprecedented evening walk, much to her surprise, and we trotted off with the other five howling in protest at being left behind. I plan to take a different one each time, but they don't understand that...

Two hours later, Poppy and I fell in the door and onto the sofa having walked three miles, and as I surveyed my purple face in the mirror, I realised that there's a lot of work to do if I'm going to cover 20km per day on the Camino.

I also concluded as I surveyed the blisters forming on the backs of my heels, that glittery pumps from my local cheap and cheerful store may look great, but definitely aren't built for actual exercise.

With that in mind, I took myself off to the local sports shop, a completely alien environment to find myself in, given that I was born completely lacking the sports gene.

Well, that's a lie because I won the long jump at sports day in school when I was 13, much to the astonishment of my pals. Maybe someone was holding a jam doughnut at the end of the sandpit that day, in the manner of the donkey and the carrot on a stick, because a few months later, I was sent to represent the school at some big interschool sports thing in Santry. I limbered up, made a run at the thing, and came in Paddy last, having jumped about six feet shorter than everyone else.

That was the beginning and end of my sporting career!

Anyway, back in the sports shop, I explained what I was after to the fella behind the counter, and he started suggesting all manner of things that he thought might help me. I think he thought I was scaling Kilimanjaro with all the high-tech stuff he was recommending, and I had to prop my eyes open with matchsticks as the poor sod went through the delights of crampons, protein balls and FitBits.

Actually, since I started doing this so publically, I've been absolutely inundated with people offering advice, which is really very nice of them. I've been invited to join classes, have personal training sessions, and go on organised hikes, and people have been most generous in reaching out to me.

The thing is, while I don't mean to sound ungrateful, I have a weird mindset around this subject, so I'm much better off doing it all in my own daft way.

I find it hard to explain myself to people sometimes, because now I'm doing this programme, some seem to think I've seen the error of my slothful ways and am finally getting myself sorted. Others want us to become fat friends, and discuss points, 'syns' (foods you can eat, but are limited), calories and whatever else till the cows come home, while sharing self-loathing tales about the lardiness of our thighs.

I know I'm unusual among women, or indeed humans in general, but beyond making myself fairly presentable every day, I really give very little headspace to worrying about how I look. People definitely think you're a bit slow on the uptake when you're fat, and presume you're secretly miserable and tortured inside over your rolls of flab, but I swear on my parents' lives that it doesn't trouble me in the slightest.

I'm not thrilled about the lack of clothes available to me, but aside from that, I couldn't care less.

The reality is that the only reason I'm doing this is to make that 115km walk easier and nothing else. It's for charity and it's a challenge I'd like to succeed in, and as a practical gal, I know that it will be more comfortable if I'm a bit lighter and fitter. Aside from that, I still am, and will always be, queen of the fatty brigade.

And speaking of charity, I'm gobsmacked at how generous people have already been in sponsoring me through my MyCharity page. The Rise Foundation was founded by singer Frances Black to help families who have a loved one in addiction. Its services are aimed at helping the family members, not the addict, and as practically everyone in Ireland will know of families who need some help on that front, it's a very worthy cause that I'm delighted to be supporting.

For all my protesting, I also agree that being fitter is no burden, and while you're unlikely to see me signing up for reformer Pilates or TRX any day soon, I would definitely like to be stronger and a bit more flexible in general.

With that in mind, I left the sports shop clutching my new trainers that will apparently make me feel like I'm walking on air. I have tried them on my walks this week and they seem to be just the ticket. I also succumbed to the FitBit, because I'm a sucker for gadgets and everyone swears that this is the biz. I shall report back next week about it.

On the diet front, I've gotten into the groove with the old Atkins malarkey, although it's definitely a bit boring. I'm living on omelettes, smoked salmon, tuna, chicken and nuts, and I have Caesar salad coming out of my ears. I lost another seven pounds this week so that's the first stone gone, and I can confirm that while the no carbs thing is absolutely zero craic, it's highly effective.

I've decided to try out the baby food diet for next week, simply because it sounds so stupid, and I want to see for myself what it's like. I know some of you will say that I'm messing up my metabolism by doing these mad diets, but let's face it, it was hardly a shining beacon of efficiency to begin with. And if the needle on the scales keeps going down, sure it'll be worth having taken a punt on it.

Check in next week to see how I survived on my jars of baby cauliflower cheese and banana custard, and think of me when you're all enjoying your Friday night takeaway.

See therisefoundation.ie.

Health & Living