Newbie diet tips from a newbie

Being a newbie I’ve had to learn some lessons the hard way. I’ve put together some tips that hopefully you’ll find useful as you start your journey too.

Working in an office environment can be particularly tricky; you have to navigate bacon butty Fridays, endless birthdays, leaving do’s, retirements, cake and coffee mornings, and all the related sugary delicious treats that come with them.

You have to deal with the bargaining; “you’re being silly, take one”, “come on, one won’t hurt” and “you don’t need to lose weight, have a slice of cake!”.

This is where you really need to dig in your heels and show restraint. Eventually friends, family and co-workers will see you’re dedicated. Just the same as they wouldn’t offer a peanut to a nut allergy sufferer, they’ll stop offering you those all too alluring indulgences…

  1. Trust your PT; Pete in finance may well have won the 100m sprint at school but that doesn’t make him qualified to offer you nutrition advice. Your PT has designed your diet plan for your body and your goals. If you want to avoid shooting people down in flames try responding with “that’s a great tip thanks, I’m going to see how I get on with this first though”.
  2. Swap in an “on plan” item; OK so everyone’s having bacon buttys and you’re not, you feel really left out right? Take this opportunity to order yourself a coffee or a hot/cold drink that is on your plan. Half of the enjoyment is just the ritual of doing something together. Soon you’ll feel a sense of pride that you’re choosing to have something healthy while everyone else is on their second breakfast of the day!
  3. Tupperware, it’s important; When you’re out and about or at work for the day you need to prepare your food and take it with you. I can’t stress enough how important good quality plastic storage containers are; vaccum sealed (click and lock) tupperware will keep your food fresh for a good few hours even out of the fridge. Invest in some decent boxes and a cool bag. (I never thought there would come a time in my life that I got excited over tupperware; quarter-life crisis maybe!). I made the mistake of using cheap boxes once and found that when I came to eat my meal it smelt like a thousand dead fish, I then had to scrabble around to find something to fit my plan.
  4. Eating out; Staying on your diet can be difficult if you are trying to maintain a social life. Avoiding situations so you aren’t tempted to slip on your diet can mean you end up isolated. I meet with my friends and just have a coffee while they eat. You might think that would be awkward but eventually it just feels entirely normal. Eating out every once in a while isn’t going to hurt your diet, check out menus and find somewhere that offers something like your scheduled meal. Remember restaurants nearly always tailor to your requirements, don’t be too shy to ask them to keep the sauce and butters off for you.
  5. Eating in; If you’re going to be eating in with friends or family make sure you have your food either prepped or ready to prep. I often take my meals uncooked round to a friend’s house and cook it while they cook theirs, it makes me feel more included.
  6. Seasoning is your ally; If, like me, your cooking skills originally featured culinary delights such as potato wedges with grated cheese, then cooking healthy is a learning curve in itself. Stock yourself up on a plethora of spices and herbs to season your foods. Try to spend some time discovering what you like and your diet will stop being a chore. I have to give props here for this to Rob “The Chef” Lynch; he has been training for over 11 years and has spent an inordinate amount of time showing me how to prep my meals properly. Do you know someone who is a good cook? Get them to help you too!
  7. Kill the cash; Working near to a vending machine or shops is the death knell of all diets. Mitigate this risk; leave your card and cash at home or somewhere else out of the way. This way you can’t enable yourself to buy and eat something off that you perhaps shouldn’t be.
  8. Set reminders; I am hideously forgetful, and live a very busy life which has me often on the go from 5:45am to 22:00pm. To make sure I’m getting enough water and don’t miss meals I have reminders on my phone to help me keep on track. It’s a great way of being accountable and keeping to a schedule.
  9. Gross yourself out; Chocolate is my weakness, cheesecake too. But have you ever looked at the ingredients in packaged foods? Take some time to educate yourself on what exactly those ridiculously long named ingredients are. Mostly they’re preservatives, fillers, cheap syrups and oils. Glucose syrup in prepackaged ham, for example. The food industry is a machine, geared towards cheap ingredients for maximum profit, which is pretty icky when you start researching.
  10. Be proud; What you’re doing is a good thing, it takes resilience, strength and determination. Be pleased with yourself for sticking to your plan and making a positive change and don’t let anyone tell you different!


How I finally found the motivation to start

I was the kind of girl at school that would forge notes to get out of PE (sorry mum). I hated it. I’ve got asthma and I ran like a pigeon (I probably still do), so for me anything involving sport was just a means of me hideously embarrassing myself.

Taking that through to adulthood I still had a phobia of anything that was going to push my body too far, because it was uncomfortable and a horrifically pointless waste of energy to me. I have dipped in and out of going to the gym on occasion. And by that I mean sitting on a treadmill for two minutes and rewarding myself with some congratulatory chocolate immediately afterwards.

Alongside my irrational fear of anything heartbeat inducing, I’ve always had quite an unhealthy relationship with food. If I felt down some days I would eat nothing at all, or worst case I would eat 7 chocolate bars and an onion ring sandwich. I knew nothing about nutrition and little about cooking. Baking on the other hand, well, I can whip you up a batch of cookies in 15 minutes flat!

I’ve never been very big but I’ve yoyo’d from my smallest at a size 4-6 (7st 6lbs), to my biggest at a size 10-12 (8st 9lbs). The weights don’t sound that different I know, but I am short and a small weight gain is a big difference on me!

The most important thing, though, is I was not healthy or physically fit…

That defining moment

The turning point for me was on a holiday a couple of years ago. I noticed a mum playing with her child in the swimming pool and she had an incredible figure, slim but muscular. She was probably ten years older than me and I was in awe of her.

I looked back on the photos of myself in a bikini from that holiday and I was suddenly very ashamed of myself. There was no excuse for me, I was young, I had few responsibilities and yet here I was looking like an absolute blob in comparison. And yes maybe you shouldn’t compare… but I did, and I’m glad for it.

I had a really tough year last year, it’s not something that I am going to go in too much detail with just yet (we lost a close family member to cancer). But personal challenges left me having to reconfigure my life, find a new home and start a new chapter in my life. At this point I was very contemplative and my health and fitness was one thing I thought I could drive all that negative energy in to.

After that I read hundreds of articles. Hundreds. I confused myself, went round in circles, and then finally settled on Paleo and yep I lost a stone in weight. But… I looked bad for it. I looked skinny and flat… nothing like slim-muscular-goddess-swimming-pool lady. Not only that but I suffer with Oral Allergy Syndrome (also known as Seasonal Allergy Syndrome) and the paleo diet was leaving me with very few options.

Now I needed some guidance, I didn’t know what to do in a gym or what I should be eating to get where I wanted to be… so I chose a local PT and approached them for a nutrition and training plan.

Armed with more knowledge and direction I gained the confidence to go to the gym by myself. I was no longer bumbling around looking lost meagrely picking up a dumbbell and holding it like it might give me rabies. I went with purpose, knowing what I was doing and I got my training done.

If you’re struggling to find the motivation, I strongly suggest you find a coach or PT to get you started!