Like many, many people, my fitness and health ‘journey’, if that’s what we want to call it, began with aesthetics and body shape, a lot of insecurity and desperately wanting to change. So how did I get from an unhealthy body and unhealthy mindset, into loving fitness and nutrition for how they make me FEEL (the aesthetic improvements are basically a bonus!) and what they do for me long term?
The girl (life jacket picture) back then, and the one before her (jungle bikini shots) – an underweight teen with eating disorders – they were both doing the best they could with the tools they had. This site aims to give you BETTER TOOLS so you can do and be and FEEL BETTER and know that you are not defined by a number on the scale, but yes your health is important as is body confidence.
It’s a tough balance to strike – loving your body at all times, but still having aesthetic goals (which is totally okay!) and behaving healthily, and taking good care of yourself from a holistic health perspective that will help you prevent disease and live a long and happy life. Here’s how to get your tools…
Lets go back to this one time in Mexico…
Guess in which of these pictures I was obsessed with calorie counting in (still!) despite being bulimia recovered?
The LEFT, by the pool… I feared carbs. I did lots of cardio. I didn’t eat that many calories per day (but drank a lot of alcohol!) Surprised?! Oh, I was also a qualified fitness instructor and not unfit in a cardio sense – I taught body combat and zumba classes and did a decent amount of running!
On the right, I’m eating more than ever (yes, including CARBS!)enjoying the workouts I do which now include resistance, not just pure cardio, and feeling stronger with a balanced approach to health and fitness.
Don’t let celebrities, magazines, January, guilt or anything else for that matter fool you into crazy detoxes and diets. They’re bad for you mentally and physically.
The diet industry is alive and thriving because they know that fundamentally, diets and quick fixes don’t work – they get your business once, and they get repeat business, all the while feeding your insecurities and making YOU feel rubbish.
How did I make this transformation?
Well, winding back the clocks… as a teen I was bulimic. I also had body dysmorphia (I didn’t see anyone about it at the time but in recent years in therapy, with a nutritionist and private doctors, unpacking my past history, this is the opinion). I loved seeing my BMI be considered ‘underweight’, but I was convinced I looked fat and disgusting. I looked at my reflection constantly with anxiety and hatred and panic.
I’d try to go as long as possible without eating, maybe eating 1 chocolate cookie at school breaktime, or 1 apple, but feeling horrific. But I tried not to eat as hard as I could, then, inevitably I’d eat – I’d ask mum for a pizza or I’d eat a chocolate bar after Karate… and feel absolutely horrified and panicked. I must have been about 12 years old when I read in a book you could make yourself sick, so I did it. And kept doing it. I was thin, technically underweight BMI-wise, but I never saw doctors or therapists, I managed to keep my parents off my back mostly by lying and saying I ate at the other one’s house, and I was never skeletal or so skinny you’d look at me and know there was a problem. Often the true damage is invisible.
I not only thought being thin was desirable (hello 90s heroin chic and dodgy Kate Moss quotes that nothing tastes as good as skinny feels!) but not eating was a way to articulate my mental health struggles which we’ll save for another time, and messed up family issues.
I started my period extremely late, but then it disappeared entirely. Fast forward to ages 16-18 and I start drinking alcohol in increasing quantities… then at university, as for many, drinking culture takes over and I’m binge drinking all over the shop.
I piled weight on due to a damaged metabolism and ridiculously unhealthy consumption of alcohol. I then yo-yo dieted it off (I did diets where I’d only eat a muller light yoghurt per day, and drink 15 cups of black coffee, or protein only diets…), threw up some more… but inevitably gained it all back because I hadn’t addressed the emotional or lifestyle causes. With diets, as soon as you go back to your old ways, the weight WILL pile back on. I was doing SO MUCH CARDIO and not eating that much (drinking lots though!) and I hated myself and my body crazy amounts. It felt like the harder I tried, the more my body clung to extra weight, probably from the years of starving and purging and being underweight. Ironically, I’d so feared being fat when I was actually really slim, but that had done me so much damage I was now gaining and holding on to fat… and I kept drinking alcohol as the only way to numb myself.
Seeing this left hand photo (above) of me in Mexico was the last straw. I swam with dolphins and abseiled into ceynotes with my dad on that trip, but I was so HORRIFIED by this picture of myself when I saw it that I made him swear to hide the photos.
I had just started playing with instagram and saw #bbg everywhere with amazing transformation pictures and wanted to start my own transformation, but I knew mine had to be more than just physical.
I started Kayla Itsines BBG programme and stuck to it for the whole 12 weeks. It was so tough at first, but it quickly taught me not to just do cardio, to include resistance (and also that getting stronger was cool and you CAN enjoy the process!) Every week, the trophy I got on the app felt like an achievement. All it took was 28 minutes a day, three times a week! Plus a little bit of walking, and the odd optional HIIT workout. I also went into therapy for 9 months because of the mental health and familial issues that had fed my EDs as a teen, so that while I was addressing the outside, I was also addressing fixing my unhealthy mindset.
I didn’t follow her nutrition plan exactly, but I read her tips and recipes, and anyway I’d been reading more about eating cleaner, unprocessed whole foods myself, so I started doing this. ‘Clean eating’ was becoming a thing, so before it had gotten a bit sinister as now arguably it has, it was a great thing for me in getting me to shift to more natural foods! I made sure my carbohydrate sources were complex carbs like grains and legumes. I ensured I ate lots of veggies and lean protein. And I fell in love with avocado.
I still had a toxic relationship with myself, but food and exercise were starting to heal it. I was slowly beginning to see food as nourishment, not the enemy.
Through Kayla, I found the online fitness community. That was where I met soooo many likeminded girls, saw women lifting weights, discovered a Harley Street Nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert who massively changed my outlook… and I fell in love with wellness. I know some people hate that word, but I’d been ‘unwell’ my entire life, so finally getting to a state of ‘wellness’ felt like a miracle for me.
Slowly, but surely, I beat the EDs. I lost the excess weight healthily because I was eating nourishing foods and fixing my metabolism, I’d addressed my alcohol intake and reduced it hugely. I was starting to get over my crippling insecurity and develop a sense of self-worth. I fell in love with fitness (I’m now obsessed with boxing, plyometrics and yoga – they’re perfect for health, fitness, de-stressing and empowering all in one!) and use it to manage my mental health, currently without any medication whatsoever but we can talk about that more later.
I even felt strong enough to quit alcohol entirely for 6 months, not even drinking any in Vienna on mine and my boyfriend’s 11 year anniversary!
I developed a routine of regular movement (workouts which I love!) and eating well by the 80/20% or 90/10% rule… And my body shape and composition kept improving, I got to a place where I could eat intuitively without tracking, still have the odd glass of wine an eat mindful treats like gorgeous chocolate cake, or pizza, and not hate myself for it… and now, in 2018 at my time of updating this piece with more detail, I am completely cured, happy and healthy.
Those non-existent periods I mentioned due to my terrible eating and bodyweight issues? Not only are they back, but around 26 they came back irregularly and just recently at 27 I got them back not only regularly but LIKE CLOCKWORK AND PAIN FREE. As in, super light, barely last 3 days, no pain, I can continue to live life, workout and all that jazz as normal, no painkillers or hotwater bottles required.
I now have an incredibly balanced diet, I am the healthiest I’ve ever been, I’ve mended my mindset… and barely recognise the person I used to be.
My top tips? Find something that works for you – for example I really changed my fitness with Kayla’s bbg programme as it fit neatly into my work day (just 28 mins!) even while I worked full time and studied law part time. Pick something that you enjoy and stick at it.
While I was studying my legal practice course before I joined my firm, I created my own workouts at the gym and had a PT who did boxing padwork with me.
I’m now at my firm and so love going to KOBOX in City on weekdays and Chelsea near home at weekends.
If I’ve learned anything, it’s that consistency and sustainability are key! You can still drink champagne or wine and eat pizza! Food isn’t “bad” or “good”.
Take a holistic approach to your health and think about your mental health as much as the physical. I’d really recommend #ReNourish by @rhitrition, a Harley Street nutritionist, to overhaul your attitude. No more fads. And no more self loathing. No more binge cycles. No more blaming one food group (carbs cop a lot of unfair flak in the media!)
Nutrients not numbers, people.
And as cheesy as it sounds, self confidence, self acceptance, self love do NOT come from the number on a scale or a reflection in a mirror.
You got this.
How do YOU want to feel in your body? (I’m betting feeling lethargic, obsessed by food, faint from hunger and feeling unhappy in your skin don’t feature!) This video interview I did with Mel Wells, actress, author, ED survivor, founder of The Goddess Academy and TEDX speaker may help you get started!
Make small, sustainable changes. Pick exercise you enjoy. Work out with process driven goals rather than aesthetic. And for gods sake don’t go on some stupid juice cleanse. YOUR LIVER AND SKIN DETOX THE BODY FOR YOU GUYS! Just ask The Food Medic 😂
You may also find my find your sparkle: resources section of this site useful!
If you do suffer with any of the issues mentioned, do speak to your GP and ideally also a therapist, and check out:
Now enough of my story… here’s another one!
To show just how much you can do if you set your mind to it at any age, male or female, this is my dad’s journey from Dad Bod to Badass!
I am so proud of the transformation below that I’m about to share with you. My dad has not had an easy time of things, and despite that, in the face of huge challenges, he was able to rediscover a love of cycling and eating well.
The weight fell away, without entirely giving up treats, or missing out on those beloved martinis, European-style weekend feasts or a cold beer once in a while. He looks so much slimmer, but more importantly – happier. And he will be the first to tell you that exercise is the best therapy for working out the knots in your life and relieving stress.
The after pic is in Mexico after we’d been for a run along the beach – and I could barely keep up!
So proud of you, Dad!