Sunday 21 April 2019

I'm going flat out to get the figure I'm craving

I've tried all the diets and I'm addicted to exercise - so why is it that I still can't lose those extra few pounds?

Thrilled skinny: Victoria Mary Clarke working out with personal trainer Laura Gibson Photo: Mark Condren
Thrilled skinny: Victoria Mary Clarke working out with personal trainer Laura Gibson Photo: Mark Condren

Victoria Mary Clarke

There is a picture of a woman's stomach on my wall. To be precise, it is of her abdominal region - and it is a thing of such breathtaking beauty that, as I pass it by on my way to the kitchen, I often pause to marvel at it.

You may be ignoring all the articles about the latest diet and exercise regimes that proliferate at this time of year. You may be one of the ones who has the diet and exercise thing totally nailed and it is your own abdomen that you gaze at in admiration.

Or you may be one of those people so overwhelmed by the idea of diets and exercise that it forces you to fry a plum pudding - just to block out the thoughts.

At certain times in my life I have been smug about my physique and I have also been overwhelmed. But mostly I like to embrace the zeitgeist and join in the enthusiasm for getting ridiculously fit. And because I like to try new things, I am willing always to try a new approach that is different to last year's and to previous years'.

This year I have engaged a brand new and very shiny personal trainer called Laura Gibson who has awesome abs. Laura has devised a programme for me and to really give the endeavour welly, I also got a Fitbit for Christmas and put up a picture of the abs I intend to have.

I realise that to many people this quest will seem pointless and possibly frivolous when there are serious problems in the world. And I freely admit that I have been on this same quest for at least 30 years without actually arriving at an end point.

Over the years I have tried many, many, many things. In my late teens, a person (who shall remain anonymous) told me that he would dump me if I got cellulite.

Not having much self-esteem, I joined a gym and began working out every evening after work.

Soon, I also started to run for an hour in the mornings, and I added in 100 sit-ups before the run.

It only took three days before I was totally addicted, The buzz from the endorphins is better than any drug I have come across - and we won't say any more about that.

Until you have experienced it, words cannot describe the thrill of seeing biceps and triceps and quadriceps and all the other amazing muscles that you didn't know you had. Added to the mix is the astonishing amount of extra energy that appears out of nowhere.

Admittedly, I was still in my teens when I did this, but I used to stay out all night drinking, go straight to work and stay there all day - and still manage to go for a run in the evenings.

Trying out new kinds of exercise has turned into a life-long passion. Swimming, roller-blading, cycling, tennis, pilates, yoga, boxing, aerobics, rowing, hiking, flamenco, tap dancing, salsa - they all have different effects on the body, and I love them all. What is wonderful about it is that no matter how many things I try, they are constantly inventing new things - so I'll never run out.

But there's a glitch. If you are a person who likes sweet things, and fried things, and especially likes red wine and chocolate and crisps, you will have noticed that no matter how much you exercise, you won't necessarily burn more calories than you consume.

I noticed this after exercising three times a day and still being a size 14. So I had to think about dieting. And that has not been thrilling. Not so far, at any rate.

The first diet I tried was the melon and grapefruit one. You could eat as much of those two fruits as you liked, and the weight dropped off. It was like magic, but it couldn't last. You inevitably got bored and went back to fish and chips.

The brown rice diet was hideously depressing, as was the water fasting and also the green juice fasting. Any kind of fasting, really. The low carb made me suicidal, as did the meal replacement bars and shakes. Even Weight Watchers - which was the most user friendly and manageable - was still dreary. Basically, I always looked forward to being able to eat anything I wanted, in any quantity. Which is often a large quantity.

I truly envy people who don't have a sweet tooth, and who can live happily on boiled chicken and greens. I envy Kate Moss who eats perfectly normal food - including Indian takeaways and pasta, and never seems to deprive herself. I also envy my Breatharian friend who claims that she never eats anything at all and seems absolutely delighted with herself.

After all the exercising I've done, and all the dieting, I am still five kilos heavier than I would like to be.

And the times that I have felt smug and admired my physique have been wonderful - but short-lived. So you may be thinking I am mental to still be doing this, just with a different trainer.

Laura suspects I am addicted to sugar. She says eating sugar causes spikes in insulin, which not only makes my body store more fat, it also prevents it from using fat for energy. I think she's right.

She says I need to give up sugar in all its forms - including red wine - and I will see what she means.

I have no idea whether I can give up sugar. Laura seems entirely convinced I can.

She says that when my body adapts, the cravings will go away and I will feel amazing. I feel like I can trust her.

Besides, if it doesn't work, there will be plenty more stuff to try.

Sunday Independent

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