Monday 14 October 2019

'I'm losing weight, but I'm never going to lose flavour' - Meet the young chef who lost 100 pounds in just one year

Trisha Lewis was just days to her 30th birthday when she set herself a goal to lose over half her body weight, starting with 100 pounds in the first year

'I used to offer to take all the photos so I wouldn't be in them' - Limerick woman Trisha Lewis has achieved her goal of a 100 pound weight loss in one year (Photo: Provision)
'I used to offer to take all the photos so I wouldn't be in them' - Limerick woman Trisha Lewis has achieved her goal of a 100 pound weight loss in one year (Photo: Provision)
Denise Calnan

Denise Calnan

"Euphoria" is the exact word to describe losing 100 pounds in one year, according to Limerick chef Trisha Lewis.

Logging onto Instagram last March with a 30th birthday looming, Trisha began her "open diary" with a weight of 26 stone.

Her goal was to lose over seven stone in just 12 months and use her social media profile 'Trisha's Transformation' as a tool to "keep her on the right track".

Now, 100 Instagram posts, some 50,000 followers and a whopping amount of weight loss later, Trisha says; "I'm just really happy. It's liberating.

"My mindset is so positive. I'm excited about the next morning before I go to sleep each night. It's like Christmas Eve every night.

"I know it sounds childish, but that's the truth."

Chef Trisha Lewis, who lost 100 pounds in just one year pictured in Cork city.
Pic Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision
Chef Trisha Lewis, who lost 100 pounds in just one year pictured in Cork city. Pic Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

Trisha's end goal is to lose 13 stone and one pound, just over half her initial body weight.

As head chef with the renowned Jacobs on the Mall in Cork, Trisha has always loved food and she was determined not to let that change. Her Instagram feed is dotted with colourful images of stuffed roasted red peppers, meatball and butterbean tomato stew and chicken cous cous with beetroot and feta cheese.

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This is probaly one of the most accurate photos of old Trisha I have. I took this selfie one day to see did I look as awful as I felt. I’ve no idea why I kept it. Obesity in a nutshell is lonely. It’s a road that is full of thorns and branch’s and it’s very dark.I spent more time panicking about being fat & being ugly than I did combing my hair . A lot of people aren’t obese I know that but I want to explain how I felt 99% of the time. I was exhausted. I was tired, I didn’t even have the energy to comb my hair. Every waking thought I had was that I was a big fat pig. That I was useless. That I was never gonna get married or have children. That I deserved to feel like crap because I was an animal. That I was the only single sister. That I was the only ugly sister. These thoughts were on repeat in my head . Looking at the photo on the left, all those thoughts came flooding back. My heart is broken for old Trisha because she didn’t deserve the negative life I designed. If you would have told me back then what I am able to do now I would have cried or got angry at you for mocking me . I couldn’t see the light at the end of the Tunnel because I had my hand over the switch. I now sit here making plans for my weeks ahead, I’m going for the stars I ain’t stopping , I have 48 thousand followers who boost me on every day, I put fake tan on, I get my nails done, I feel like the most beautiful woman in the land. I’m 18 stone 13 and for the first time in my life I see a future,I have goals. I got them by simply copping on. I’ve stopped comparing myself to my sisters as Ive now passed them out and I’m the hottest albeit in my head and thats all that matters. That my thoughts are happy. I did this by simply getting up and sweating. Is the gym / exercise hard? Yes but its only 30 minutes ,the rest of the day I feel alive! I am so proud of me lately. I walk around with the biggest happiest lovely feelings. I’m terrified it will go wrong on me and my dream gets crushed. But it would want to be a fairly strong demon to take me down now. Do it! What is the worst that can happen ? You have felt what failing feels like.... why not try happiness 😊Fight back. Beat the bulge x

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"The main thing I said to my family is I'm losing weight, but I'm never going to lose flavour," she told

"No way, flavour is imprinted in my brain. That's why I don't think those diets work for me, why can't you throw the broccoli on with some cheese and sacrifice a few calories for taste?

"If your diet is boring you will crave cheat days. Recipes don't need to cost the world to be healthy either, " she added. 

Trisha dismissed a gastric bypass she had previously booked and said her weight loss mantra was to move more and put more structure on her eating habits.

Chef Trisha Lewis, who lost 100 pounds in just one year pictured in Cork city.
Pic Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision
Chef Trisha Lewis, who lost 100 pounds in just one year pictured in Cork city. Pic Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

"I'm working the very same hours I've always had, but I'm using my mornings a lot better," she said.

"I now have breakfast and organise my food for the day. I hit the gym and utilise those hours before work, which I didn't do before.

"Before, I would have stayed in bed until one o'clock. I would have stopped at a garage on the way to work and picked up a roll or a wrap. I didn't have any structure or rhythm to my day."

She continued; "It's amazing now. I'm burning more energy but I have more energy.

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I DID IT! 100lbs GONE!I’m so happy! I cannot believe it! Look at my Zara dress! Look at me. I can’t believe that today is here. The 8th of March 2019 I sit here 100.5 pounds down. I walked into that gym with only weight to lose. I had nothing left in me. A stranger took me into a room and with tears in my eyes and a heart that was broke I told her what I wanted. I wanted to be happy. I wanted to be healthy. I was tired. I wanted to change. I hated who I was and I missed laughing. I missed smiling. I missed feeling like a woman. I missed feeling like a human. I was broken from emotional abuse from myself and the physical pain of having 26 stone. That stranger is Emma. Who has pulled me out of the darkest place. Who believed in me when I didn’t. Who pulled me along when I was weak. She isn’t a personal trainer to me any more. She’s my friend. I want to thank so many people but I really wanna thank Trisha . After my first week I decided I wasn’t going back. I couldn’t do it. No one understood what it was like. Somewhere that weekend the encouraging words of “ well done , you can do this, don’t give up this will eventually be easy to you in the future” started echoing in my head so I decided I would give it another chance. Again I had nothing to lose. Giving up was the easier option. I stopped looking ahead. I started taking it day by day. I started giving myself a chance. I stopped listening to my negativity and decided that it hasn’t worked in the past maybe I need to change it up. I’m so glad I kept going. I’m so glad I pushed past all my hurdles. I’m turning 31 on the 21st of March. I can safely say that 30 was the best year of my life. It was a year I was terrified of. I was so sad at how my 20’s went. Exercise is hard. Being fat is a lot harder. I know the battle that I wanna choose. I’ve been on television, I’ve told my story, I’ve an Instagram account with 46 thousand incredibly lovely humans. I look at my mam and she is the happiest woman around the relief on her face as she knows I’m ok. I’ve a smile on my face that refuses to leave. I’ve sisters who are my best friends . I took back my life. Beat the bulge transformers 😊

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"I sleep better now too."

Trisha credits her sister with the quirky idea to mark each milestone with a photograph of her posing with her weight loss equivalent in pounds of butter.

"I remember I told her I'd lost three pounds and she was delighted. She said; 'you know that's three pounds of butter? Why don't you do a photo of what those pounds look like?'

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I know peppers aren’t everyone’s thing but the broccoli rice alone is SAVAGE! At the end of the week are we all still as motivated! Im ready for this week back to the gym properly 😂 I’m so excited to beat this bulge it’s been a small bit slow lately but I know I’m not giving it 100% so it’s my fault😂 Spread the word and tag your friends for tonights dinner 🥬 Roasted red peppers with a broccoli rice & mixed vegetable stuffing , hummus & feta cheese . I like this dinner as its filling but not stodgy, calories aren’t too mental & it is vegetarian & gluten free 😊 ( remove the feta & it’s vegan! ) Estimated :477 calories Cost : €5 You could add some chopped chicken or lean beef if you wanted more protein ! 🥬Ingredients : I x red pepper 4 x button mushrooms 3x tbsp sweetcorn 160g of broccoli rice ( I got in @tescofood ) 2 tsp reduced salt soy sauce @kikkomanusa 1 tbsp @rebelchilli chillionaire 1/3 courgette diced 1x onion diced 6x cloves garlic chopped 1x tbsp frozen basil (@aldi_ireland ) 1 tsp sesame oil 1/2 x tsp coconut oil 30g x feta cheese 🥢Method: 1. In a wok , lightly fry in coconut oil, onions, garlic , mushrooms, courgette & sweetcorn. When the veg is softened add in the bag of frozen broccoli rice for 2 minutes. After this add your soy sauce , sesame oil & black pepper for seasoning & frozen basil. Chop the pepper in half, pull out seeds. Fill the empty pepper with your broccoli rice mix and pop in the oven @ 200*c for 20 minutes. At the end crumble feta cheese on top! Serve with 25g of reduced fat hummus . Healthy food shouldn’t be a hassle. This is simple & fun to make ! You can make a few at a time and use them for lunch also! I don’t add much salt to my food but the cheese is salty so there is no need of adding more! I use a lot of pre cut onions & garlic. If you can cut the hassle in anyway do it! Thank you all for the support and let’s beat the bulge! #foodporn #healthylifestyle #trishastransformation #healthyfood #vegan #vegetarian #happy #fitnessmotivation #nomnom #love #fitness

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"It is amazing to see it. And what's funny now is I've lost so much weight I can't physically carry all that butter to the table for the photograph, I have to do two runs. How did I ever carry all that weight on me?"

Trisha said she "doesn't really have a story" about how her weight crept up or being bullied at school, saying; "I had a great life. I was spoilt rotten. My mam cooked us all healthy dinners.

"But I do remember running up to my nana's house and having another dinner there and not telling mam about it. So there was a lot of secret eating.

"I think I was eight or nine when I first heard the word 'fat' thrown at me. I never would have believed it. I had eight sisters at home and they never used that word.

"I was very lucky at school. I was great craic and nobody ever really called me fat, I would have just got all my army of friends after them. 

"But I went to 14, 15, 16 stone. In college I went from 16 to 20 stone. And then after college, I went from 20 stone to 26 stone as quick as hell. I had stopped drinking alcohol and I wasn't eating in McDonald's everyday or anything, I was just dormant."

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2 years in a difference 2017 versus last night . I gained 3 stone after the photo on the left. It’s scary how even when I was sent this photo it didn’t make me start. I just ignored it and buried my head in the sand. I just hoped that one day it would become my before. My wish came through. This is the last weekend before my one year anniversary of starting my life. In many ways I’m sad it’s over and I am sick with excitement for the future . I’ve honestly had the best year of my life. It’s the first year I’ve ever been consistent at minding myself. Every day I try and make sure I do my best. Some days I mess up and just restart . It’s the first year where I fell in love with someone. That someone is me. It’s cringe but I do not care. I wake up with joy in my belly that another day has dawned. I got back my sleep. It’s a horrible thing when you don’t have it. The nights are a lot longer than the days. For years I wished I was one of my sisters. I was so sad and angry that I pulled the short straw. Why was I the obese sister? Why couldn’t I just be thin & happy? It’s gas now I’m not thin but I’m the happiest person in most rooms. I was searching for something and I had the power all along to just grab it. All I had to do was cop on and get over myself 😂Mam recently told me that her heart broke when I came home from a wedding all upset . Normally I never told her if I was sad I kept it in . I said “ I spent €200 on a new outfit and not one person commented on it when all I could hear around me was “where did you get your dress”The crazy thing is now when I look back it was the same outfit I always wore I just got a bigger size each time. Today I am wearing jeans that are normal and not elasticated. They have a button and a zip like anyone would wear. It’s the smallest of details but I sat on my bed and smiled and I thanked all my lucky stars. I made my sister take a photo 😂So on Tuesday my one year anniversary is on and I can’t wait. Yes I was alive before but I wasn’t living. We did it Trisha. Even though you were scared we got there. You were a lot stronger than I thought. Don’t wait for rock bottom to hit. Do it now . Beat the bulge . #happy #fitness #gym

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The young chef's "driving force" is her mother and sisters and, while most people's weight-loss 'trigger' moments are a photograph of themselves at a wedding or on a holiday, family-focused Trisha's was seeing her sister's baby scan.

"My motivation is my family. I never had to act around them. I had obviously just given up.

"I'd wake up in the morning and the first thing that would come into my head would be, 'oh no'.

"My mam and sisters are phenomenal. They're crazy fanatical about me. But they were suffering and they'd see me struggling," she continued.

"When I finally told them I was going to lose weight and change my life they all told me they'd lost sleep over me.

"My trigger moment was when I saw my sister's pregnancy scan. I remember looking at the scan with her in the hospital and it was so beautiful and I was so lucky, but it hit me like a ton of bricks.

"I thought I'm not going to see that baby grow up. We went out to the waiting room and I was crying and panicking, and we were all crying.

"The nurses were probably thinking, 'oh my god, what is wrong with those people'.

"My sister told me she couldn't sleep worrying about me and she said she was so scared about me."

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Guess who’s on the telly again! MEEEE! 😂 tomorrow night Friday I’m so happy to tell you guys I will be joining @rayfoleyinsta and @muireann.o on the @sixoclockshow couch. I’m so nervous and scared but it will be brilliant. I’m so honored to be asked and grateful. Tune in and pray to god I don’t curse or slip 😂It’s gas if I can overcome the issues I had on the left I can have a chat on the telly. I’m in Marbella Spain in 37degree heat and I’m wearing so many layers to stop my belly from being shown. I’ve a string top under a string top in case it rolls up. I’ve blisters under my armpits as I had to secretly go to the chemist the next day . I was sweating and my feet are so swollen they feel like they are gonna crack. My neck is buried and it’s hard to breathe sometimes. My hair is barely combed. I’m trying my hardest to be normal . I am smoking heavily and just waiting for when we can go home and I don’t have to worry about strangers staring at me. I remember this day so well walking along the port out of breath and wishing I was anywhere but there. I was trying my hardest to be normal.Staring at the happy people with jealously. I remember seeing this photo and being so disgusted. Why couldn’t I just cop on?On the right is Berlin😊With a bold head on me. Wearing my new Zara clothes and ready for a day of walking and laughing. I spent 3 days actually on a holiday. I couldn’t get enough of the time I was having. I now understand what a holiday is. Its for fun and Craic 😂It’s amazing looking back at how terrible it all was. Here I am today and the only stress I had was finding an outfit for the show tomorrow. When I got cross in Debehams today I stopped and reminded myself of my “ stress” it’s nothing.I am so grateful the size 18 didn’t fit and I had to get the 16. Don’t ever give up. I’m like a car in a weird way . Sometimes my head is like the brakes and my heart is the accelerator. I’m driving it on and I’m only looking back to smile. To smile and tell my old self to not worry, I’ve got this now and I’ll mind me. Cause me is pretty damn class 😊Beat the bulge ! #beforeandafter #happy #gym #love #transformation #beforeandafter #fitness #fitfam

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Trisha said she continued to "bury her head in the sand", but received a text from her sister a couple of weeks later.

"It read, 'it's the first Monday of February... is there any way you can make this month your month?'

"She pleaded with me to try. The baby was due in June and I then made a promise to the bump that I would be there.

"I'm so happy that I'm out of that place, I'm now 18 stone. I know I've broken the back off it."

And there's no chance of failing now, with almost 50,000 people watching her progress online.

"I've an army now [on Instagram] so I need to keep going for them, I don't want them to turn on me," Trisha joked.

"Eighteen months ago I would have thought social media was a negative place for anybody with extra weight, but my followers are carrying me around the city. I haven't had any negativity, it's been positivity the whole way.

"People have been reaching out to me everyday. And sadly, I've so many messages I can't get to them all.

"I can't spend three hours a day on Instagram - I've weight to lose and I've a gym to go to!"

Buying clothes is now "great craic" and Trisha said it's still "surreal" to walk into H&M and buy a colourful top.

"Before, I used to go into shops and just buy 'big and black'. I didn't even look at the style. If it had a v-neck, it was a plus," she said.

"I've dumped a lot of my old clothes but I've kept a few significant pieces that I felt crap in. I know I'll have a story about them in time to come," she added.

Trisha does have stories about the life of 'old Trisha' and some of them are tough to recall.

She does regret not going to her friend's wedding in Croatia, but knew it was the right decision at the time for her.

"If it was me now, I'd be on that flight and I'd be the life and soul of the party. But I was at that stage just really sick of being the fattest person in the room. My friends are amazing. They have stuck with me the whole time."

Holidays abroad with her friends are also difficult to remember, but the 31-year-old is confident she will never have to experience those feelings again.

"I was drying my hair and I was a ball of sweat in seconds," Trisha said, describing one memory.

"We went out to the balcony and I was straight away getting into a chair.

"The girls were taking the typical holiday photos in their holiday outfits, the white sandals and the nails painted.

"I was wearing a really long maxi. I offered to take all the photos so I wouldn't be in them," she continued.

"Everyone was admiring each other's clothes and I just remember thinking, 'nobody has asked me about my clothes'.

"It was that moment of sheer realisation. But of course the girls weren't going to ask me, they knew I was conscious.

"I didn't go to the pool on that last holiday, I didn't go to the beach, I just felt like an old lump."

Trisha recalled one morning having breakfast with her friends and being approached by a woman who handed her a business card advertising gastric bypasses in Marbella.

"I remember that holiday was so hard. You think it's going to be a break because you're feeling so shit at home.

"I was eating eggs benedict and chilling out and a woman was staring at me, I was thinking, 'why are you doing this to me on my holidays'?

"She dropped the business card at the table on her way out. It was horrendous. She was obviously trying to help."

Proud aunt to 11 nieces and nephews, Trisha said she "adores kids" and never wants to see a child go down the life path towards obesity.

"I would love to work in schools and tell kids about healthy food and exercise, I don't want any child to be afraid of being called fat everyday," she said, adding that she thinks 'Operation Transformation' should be a year-round TV show.

"There's always going to be moments when I see a girl in a crop top in the gym and I think, 'I'm so embarrassed, oh god, poor Trish'.

"But now my advice is to drive on, jump into the middle of them and sweat it out. If they judge you at the gym, they shouldn't be there."

Trisha has a holiday to Bali planned during the summer, but said what she is most looking forward to is spending quality time with her family.

"I'm so happy with who I am now. I can't wait to go to the beach this year.

"Last summer, I was down to 22 stone and we went into the ocean and I swam with my nieces and nephews. They were just screaming with happiness.

"I've a long road ahead of me. But what I want people to know is you're never too far gone that you can't change yourself if you try."

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