On a quest for the ‘perfect’ body.

Once upon a time, I was a very, very active young girl. I danced four times a week, participating in competitions and exams; I was a part of Rothwell ‘E’ Group swimming club, training four times a week; I attended ice skating lessons; and I was also part of local tennis, badminton, netball, football and athletics clubs. I honestly don’t know how I had time to sleep, what slave drivers my parents  were (only joking mum and dad, you know I love you for it).

However, I think everyone faces that block when they get to their mid-teens: grumpy, lazy fifteen and sixteen year olds, who can’t help losing the passion and drive that made them enjoy previous activities as much as when they were younger. And so, long gone were the hectic days of my active life. I swapped dance for the drink (which I’m pretty sure 80% of British teenagers do anyway)- particularly cider. Ahh, cider… my one true love, my nemesis. As a consequence of stopping all physical activity (aside from perhaps walking) and finding a new found interest in house parties and boozing, my fitness level and health started to decrease rapidly. And when I say rapidly, I mean it was virtually rock bottom. I put on a LOT of weight, and went from being the once happy, slim teenager I was, to… well, let’s just say I was very body conscious.

I then proceeded to do everything in my power to shift said weight. Well, actually, that’s a bit of a fib- I tried every cheat method to shift my weight: starving myself, fad diets, WeightWatchers, diet pills, late night sit-ups.. you name it, I’ve probably tried it. I found that SlimFast was most effective for me: after losing over a stone in around a month at the beginning of last year, I felt more confident than ever. HOWEVER, I was also doing this alongside Lent (where I gave up potatoes and alcohol), and found that once I gave the plan up, I quickly piled on all my lost weight, plus even more. At the start of august last year, I weighed an incredibly unhealthy 13 stones and 4 pounds (186lbs), and was incredibly miserable.

It was time to do something about it- and what better way to start than with a small, effective change? I quickly realised that drinking cider- however much I loved it- was my biggest downfall, and so swapped my disgustingly calorific Bulmers no.17 for gin and slimline tonic (each only 52 calories for a single measure). I then started at university, where I was living in catered halls. At home, the pub I was working in has an Indian restaurant attached to it, meaning I would often get a takeaway after a late shift- even if I’d had my tea before I’d gone to work. At university, the meals are at set times of the day, and are often healthy options: there’s always salad available, and on monday’s no ‘meat’ is served, meaning we have either a fish or vegetarian choice. Although at first this didn’t feel like a big change, I was pleased to discover that in january of this year, my weight had changed to 12 stones and 4 pounds (172lbs)- a stone lighter than I had been five months earlier. I largely attribute this weight loss to my new healthy diet and the fact I was living in catered halls: although it’s sometimes difficult to avoid the full cooked breakfasts (especially on a weekend!), it is useful to have fresh, home cooked meals prepared for you, and stops you buying rubbish all the time- which is good for your health and your purse. My boyfriend is at Liverpool John Moore’s University, living in self catered halls: he’s currently living on an inconsistent diet of alcohol, chicken kievs, takeaways or just nothing at all, and only eats vegetables on the rare occasions he goes home! For anybody looking to lose weight when joining university, I wholly suggest choosing catered halls if they are available to you (unless you have the willpower to say NO every time your already-skinny flatmates suggest ordering a Dominos pizza).

I had also bought a university gym membership in Fresher’s week, promising myself that I would start swimming again- never for one moment did I think about stepping foot inside the actual gym. My new-found friend Sam and I started attending ‘Aqua Zumba’ classes every wednesday (which are sooooo fun and, contrary to popular belief, are actually a really good work out), and then one week she suggested that we should do half an hour in the gym before we went to the class. I didn’t want to let her down and so agreed to do so- not realising that i’d actually really enjoy myself!  Since february, we’ve been going around four times a week, varying our workout to suit both our needs: Sam’s naturally very slim, so she likes to tone, whereas I like to do 40-50 minutes of cardio before anything else. So I would also definitely recommend a gym membership- but also, most importantly, supportive friends.

Drinking water has been another challenge for me. I know what you’re thinking, it’s water, how can that be challenging?! But I’ve never really liked the taste of water- although most pretend that it’s tasteless, it still has something distinct about it, even when it’s ice-cold. I’ve always been a lover of fruit juice, milk, and, most recently, diet coke. I think I started drinking this because it has ‘no calories’ in it. This may be true, but this does not mean it is healthy for you! I used to drink so much that on the rare occasions I tried to go a day or two without it, I began to have withdrawal symptoms such as headaches and dizziness. Having finally weened myself off the stuff, I’ve begun to see a much better change in myself: everyone knows that fizzy drinks are bad for your teeth, but they also make you feel bloated, and are incredibly bad for your hair and skin. I started drinking water properly in a bid to try and grow my non-growing hair; and, although I can’t see a difference yet, my stomach feels flatter and my skin feels much better than it did when I was drowning it in diet coke every day.

A few other tools to help me lose weight have been a some apps and websites. I started off by downloading the NHS BMI tracker onto my phone, to see just how unhealthy I was, and that came as a big shock. However, as you lose weight and your BMI becomes healthier, this gives you a real boost: not only are you losing weight to become aesthetically pleasing and body confident, your health and fitness levels are also getting much better, which is an amaaaaaazing feeling. Similarly to this, I have been using a website called www.ilostwhat.com. You enter your name and how many pounds you have currently lost, and it gives you the same weight in all kinds of weird and wonderful things. For example, I have lost 8lbs since january, and the website has told me that this is the equivalent to a human head (!). It’s so interesting to see your weight in comparison to other things, especially if you thought they were heavier than what you’ve lost! The myfitnesspal app is another aid I’ve been using: I’ve read a lot of mixed reviews on this, and it seems that you either love it or hate it. I have attempted to use it a few times in the past, but have always become frustrated as I seem to have eaten what I wanted before checking the calorie count- which defeats the whole object of the app and losing weight in general. However, lots of people I know have used it to lose weight recently, so I thought I’d give it another go. I’ve been using it for around ten days now, and it seems to be working. I have set my ‘limit’ at a total of 1200 calories, which is under the GDA, so that if I do fancy a drink or a slice of pizza, I’m more than likely to be under anyway. I also never enter the exercise I have done that day until I have worked out my total food calories: the app adds any exercise you’ve done onto your ‘calories left to consume’ total, which I (again) think defeats the object of losing weight! Although exercise is essential and a massive plus, using the app this way has been working for me personally.

Finally, it’s good to be inspired and motivated, but everyone has their ups and downs! Yesterday it was an absolutely gorgeous day, so I went with my friends Ryan and Michael (not forgetting Archie, Ryan’s dog) to Roundhay park. I treated myself to an ice cream with a flake because the weather was nice, and immediately felt guilty afterwards- even though we hadn’t stopped walking for about 1.5 hours. It’s stupid to punish yourself: at the end of the day, it’s your body and everyone goes at their own pace. Sure, it’s nice when you lose a few pounds, but if you put them on then so be it, try harder next week. It was my birthday a few weeks ago and over the course of the week and Mother’s Day the following week, I definitely pigged out and put on weight! I was so annoyed with myself, but you just have to let it go and push through to success. I have also learnt that your definition of perfection is not necessarily another persons. My little sister is a tiny size 6-8, and I feel like crying every time we go shopping together, because she looks gorgeous in everything (and you ARE gorgeous, Olivia). However, she recently told me that she hates being ‘so bony’ and that she’d like to have a bit more meat on her! it goes to show that just because I think her size and shape is perfect doesn’t mean that she does, and it is wrong of us to compare ourselves to others, because everyone is completely different- in shape and in mindset.

I am in no way a dietician or nutritionist, but this has been working for me so far. I hope to lose another 1.5stones before I go on holiday mid-june, so I’ll keep you posted with how that goes!

Thanks for reading,

Soph x




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