There’s always a new fitness fad making headlines as the ‘best way to burn calories’ but, as these three women prove, the secret to weight loss is to find an activity you love!
Two years ago, Peggy Pullen, 47, weighed over 14 stone and was ready to shape up. Balancing being a full-time mum with working for 20 hours a week, Peggy had little time for exercise. Even the latest weight-loss plans didn’t help. But a negative comment about her size gave Peggy the determination she needed to succeed.
“I exercised on and off before I got married, doing cardio or weights here and there. But, after having four C-sections, I was disgusted with myself when I looked in the mirror. We mums sacrifice our bodies, endure sleep deprivation and have no time for ourselves. I was so desperate to change but, with looking after children and scheduling everything else, it was overwhelming. I’d tried every possible diet on the planet – every miracle pill and every magical 30-minute workout that promised to transform my life – but nothing worked. I was left with a sense of failure.
“Eventually, I decided to lose weight because a kid at the swimming pool called me a ‘hippopotamus’ in front of everyone. It was a very hard wake up call to be humiliated in front of so many people, including my children. I was fed up with being bullied about my size and was determined to lose weight to set an example to my children. I wanted to teach my kids to never allow bullies to determine who you are, and that made me take steps towards my transformation.
“I knew I needed to be made accountable for losing weight, and that’s where BodySpace [an online community at bodyspace. bodybuilding.com] helped. My ‘before’ picture was right there online and it forced me to open my eyes. I used the Bodyspace community for support and kept moving forward. Through the weekly emails, I learned about Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Blueprint program. Arnold is obviously one of the greatest bodybuilders, and I was hooked immediately. Strength training made all the difference in the world! I learned the importance of building muscle and burning fat. The more muscle I had, the more calories and fat I burnt. For me, the real key to fat loss was high-intensity exercise, especially weight lifting. It helped me shape and transform my body dramatically.
“And, when I started feeling good about what I was accomplishing, my whole perception changed because reaching goals made me feel I could accomplish anything! I now weigh 7.7 stone and work out each body part once or twice a week. If I am at the gym working out, I train as hard as I can. Life is full of surprises and hectic schedules, so I make a decision to exercise no matter what. That has been my attitude since the beginning. I use whatever time I can and make it count.”
Monday: Legs (squats, leg extensions, leg curls, hamstring curls)
Tuesday: Chest (20-minute HIIT and chest press exercises)
Wednesday: Shoulders (Arnold press, shoulder press, rear deltoid machine)
Thursday: Arms (kickbacks, curls, pushdowns, overhead extensions)
Friday: Cardio (one hour of cardio and 20 minutes of abs)
Saturday: Cardio (one hour of cardio and 20 minutes of abs)
Despite being athletic at school, Natalie Cadman, 30, saw her weight creep up to 20.5 stone in her twenties. And not even the gym could help, as she feared being laughed at if she joined one. In 2013, Natalie decided to set a good example for her kids by doing something about her weight once and for all
“I used to exercise. In fact, I was a sprinter at high school and the fastest person in my class for five years. That all stopped when I went to college – keeping fit was replaced with gaining qualifications, and I slowly gained weight.
“I never went out, and I hid behind the camera rather than posing in front of it. I would cancel all of my plans to avoid having to find clothes that would make me feel pretty. I wouldn’t even join a gym for fear of being laughed at. I became quite quiet and my kids could see that I wasn’t confident. A comment from my six-year-old daughter sparked a change. She made me realise that she saw me very differently from the way I saw myself – she didn’t think I could run because I was too heavy. Enough was enough and I had to get fit for my kids!
“At first, I wasn’t even thinking about losing weight. Then a friend told me to try a women’s Piloxing class organised by I Will If You Will (a women’s activity initiative funded by Sport England at iwillifyouwill.co.uk). She was a good friend and a local instructor, and she encouraged to me to give it a go. I tried a few classes and fell in love with exercise. I am now completely hooked.
“I do fitness classes most nights when the kids are in bed. I have so much support from my husband. I do HIIT training, LBT (legs, bums and tums) workouts and tabata classes. I also go to Anytime Fitness gym four to five times a week, where I’ll do a mix of cardio and heavy weight lifting. It’s a 24/7 centre, so I get to go at 5.30am and still have the rest of the day to work and see my family. I also walk the dog every day.
“I’ve lost five and a half stone, going from a size 20-22 to a size 14. I look at old photos now and can’t believe it’s me! I maintain my weight loss with healthy eating – I no longer eat junk food. I don’t count calories; I just make sure that I eat what is best for my body by consuming lots of natural foods and plenty of protein. And I’m always working out!”
Fay Roberts (pictured now, far right), 46, used to be an exercise-phobe. She wasn’t sporty at school and when she did try working out in her twenties, exercise aggravated existing back pain. Above all else, she didn’t enjoy keeping fit. But in 2011, Fay discovered ballet barre, dropped three dress sizes and cured her back troubles for good.
“Back in 2011, I was a chubby, unfit, 41-year-old with a worsening back problem. I was advised by an osteopath to strengthen my core through exercise, and it was at exactly this time that I saw an advert for Xtend Barre (xtendbarre.com; a mix of Pilates, ballet and dance). I decided to give it a go. The first class was very hard but I loved it – it made me feel strong and graceful. Even better, I’d worked out really hard and my back didn’t hurt.
“Initially, exercise became a part of my weekly routine – enjoyable but just something that I did. But, as I continued on my fitness journey, ballet barre became a huge part of my life. I started by doing three Xtend Barre classes a week and noticed that I improved with every session, which was very motivating. After six months, I was free from back pain, which made me a much happier person. Within 12 months, I had lost 10kg and dropped three dress sizes [from a size 12 to a size 8].
“Since then, I have continued to get fitter and stronger, particularly in my core. I adore the fact that I can wear clothes without worrying about hiding a fat tummy. Barre has become a huge part of my life – I work at the new Xtend Barre studio in Marylebone and am training to become a Pilates teacher. I love being a fit person – I can run for a bus, play football and basketball in the garden with my teenage boys, and generally feel comfortable with my body.
“I do two to three Xtend Barre classes per week and two to three Pilates sessions. Five years ago, I didn’t do any exercise at all! Increasing my activity levels has kept everything in balance. I feel that if I stopped moving but carried on eating the same I would put weight on. Barre classes have had the most impact because I enjoy them. Thanks to ballet barre, exercise is now a pleasure and not a chore.”