I am what someone would probably kindly describe as a fad dieter. At school, I actually did the Special K diet, a diet that works purely on the basis that if you have to eat tasteless cereal twice a day, you probably would rather eat nothing at all.
I’ve tried the Dukan diet, which is a diet basically consisting of meat and yoghurt, and when you don’t eat meat, it’s an issue. And for the last year, I’ve been on the 5:2 diet, which means two days of eating only 500 calories, and eating healthily but normally the rest of the week.
Then I got engaged, and I found myself contemplating for the first time if there was a diet that could actually make me not only slimmer, but improve my skin, my hair, and give me that glow, rather than that wretched grey you get from too many years on the tube in London without exercising.
My fiancé had recently completely overhauled his diet and exercise, cycling every day, running several times a week and doing stretches and exercises every morning. From a year on the 5:2, my weight loss had plateaued for a good three months and, to use a technical term, I needed a kick up the ass.
I am, it seems, pretty textbook stuff to Christianne Wolff, celebrity fitness coach, author of The Body Rescue Plan, and my new personal trainer for the next 12 weeks. Her detox plan of clean living, mindfulness, diet and exercise has seen clients lose 2.5 stone in three months.
“I have been in this fitness and health industry for nearly 20 years and I see a new craze coming out every few months that everyone swears by, only to quash what we all lived by before,” she said.
“If you panic diet before the big day, you will pile the weight back on - which many people do. You also will need a lot of good energy in the lead up to organising your wedding, there are many new pressures that can lead to a new unhealthy lifestyle. Look after yourself and you will have the energy to deal with everything thrown at you.”
Her regime includes a detox of no gluten, dairy, sugar, caffeine or alcohol, three personal training sessions or stretches at home, three additional half-hour sessions of cardio, one hour of yoga, abs exercises every night.
Until this point, I had done a little light yoga and a half hour swim once a week. Suddenly, I realised that lying in shavasana probably wasn’t going to cut it. Already, I doubted I could follow through.
“If looking after yourself is not your priority and you don’t make substantial changes in your lifestyle to support that, you will go back to the old you a million times over,” Christianne said. “As Einstein put it, if you repeat the same mistakes over and over again, why would you expect a different result?
“If things are not working for you, what needs changing? The ego is a big part of us and is not comfortable with change, so when we create a new environment, a new purpose, we need all the building blocks to get their so self sabotage doesn't set in.”
My personal goal was to lose half a stone, the last bit I’ve struggled to shift after a year on the 5:2, as well as tone my abs, legs and arms.
“What can you actually eat?” is the question I get asked most in the first two weeks. Not much, and quite a lot, is the answer.
The detox allows:
• As white meat as you want. (If you are vegetarian you can have pulses instead of meat.)
• Eat as much fish as you want (including shellfish).
• Eat as much vegetables, sprouted foods and fruit as you want (except bananas). This includes sweet potato, but not white potato.
• One fistful of nuts and seeds and one fistful of dried fruit a day.
• Eggs are allowed.
• Vinegar. (Nothing else added.)
• No oil - so dry fry or roast
• 2-3 litres of water a day.
And that’s it. Nothing processed, no packaging, no sugar, basically no carbohydrates, and worst of all, no caffeine or alcohol. The headaches for the first few mornings without a wake-up coffee, especially with newsdesk shifts that start at 7am, are pretty horrendous.
This was my first meal on the plan.
Eggs become a staple in most meals, and Shakshouka, one of my favourite dishes of eggs poached in spicy tomato with herbs, onions and peppers thankfully still work without oil.
Christianne insists we couldn’t “spot reduce fat” and that my problem areas (arms and saddlebags) would be the ones most likely to cling to fat the longest. So we devised this plan out of the exercises in The Body Rescue Plan.
Best for toned arms
Downward dog press ups
Best for love handles
Best for a toned tummy
Within two weeks, I’ve lost three pounds, but the most noticeable result is how much stronger and more alert I feel. My waist is several inches smaller, I have doubled the amount of time that I can bear to stay in plank position, and I have the first groove of muscle appearing on my upper arms.
Exercise, who knew it actually works?
Over the next two weeks I’m adding in:
- One matchbox size piece of cheese, or two matchbox size pieces of goats' cheese a day.
- One tablespoon of carob or cocoa a day
- One tablespoon a day of either Xylitol, Stevia, honey, maple syrup, Yacon, date sugar, coconut sugar, agave nectar
- One fistful of buckwheat, polenta, coconut flour or rice flour a week, for making pancakes and baking
I’ve never been much of a baker. But this was my first attempt at gluten and sugar-free baking. It's carrot, coconut and ginger muffins, made with coconut flour. And cocoa and zucchini bread. And it's much nicer than it sounds, especially when you’ve been sugar deprived for almost a month.
I’m finding it much easier to find the time for exercise when I thought, fitting in a dance aerobics class before work, yoga on a Saturday morning, and ‘Abs Blast’ one evening a week.
Doing half-hour sessions with Christianne at lunch time actually means I still have three or four evenings a week free to socialise or relax. If I had kids, however, or a job that didn't work shifts and allow me a mix of early and late starts, I'm not sure it would have been as easy.
On top of all the exercise, Christianne insists the plan makes time for reflection and mindfulness practice, to prepare you for when you lose the first flush of enthusiasm.
“Your mindset is an important factor, which is why I go through understanding your limiting beliefs, and trigger points,” she said. “We also look at other negative factors like friends or partners who may create a negative environment to allowing you to lose weight and get fit.
“This is really important as its very easy to give up on any diet, but when you really understand why you make rash decisions, self sabotage and have low self worth it changes your whole perspective into creating the new beautiful body.”
Resistance training with Christianne can only go so far without weights, something I'd assumed would be too expensive to get for home use. Doing ab exercises every night also can get pretty boring and repetitive unless you switch it up, and I’d neglected it in favour of wedding planning.
To try to counter that boredom, she advised investing in 5kg hand weights, a 4kg kettlebell and a 8kg kettlebell, which I bought in fetching shades of pink and blue from Argos.
Despite losing some momentum with the exercise, mid-way through the plan I’d already lost the seven pounds I set out to lose. Trying on my wedding dress, it nipped in at the waist noticeably more.
I also got far more experimental with cooking, making this cauliflower pizza with vegetables and small squares of halloumi for me and my fiancé. It tasted like the real thing. At least, that's what I told myself. It tasted nice at any rate.
The plan now allows some extras including coconut milk, soya sauce, and crucially, one small glass of wine a week.
This, it turns out, is my downfall. At a friend’s wedding, I lose it completely and swig down several glasses of champagne. By the end of the night, I’m on gin-and-tonics.
I was shame-faced when I next met with Christianne. But she said the important thing was to remember you shouldn’t self-sabotage after falling off the wagon. “Have a detox day- find out what caused you to do this, what was your trigger point and then have something in measure to cover that trigger point,” she advised. “So if it was stress then have something in place that makes you feel good with stress, rather than food.
“You will always have friends that will not be happy with you changing your habits, as it can make them feel bad about themselves, or they feel like they have no-one to play with anymore,” she added. “I have clients that get nervous about going to meetings, work lunches or parties, but if friends, family, colleagues suddenly see how much energy you have without alcohol, see how good you look and feel they will be inspired by you.”
Having enjoyed the extra additions of cheese, a glass of wine, olive oil and gluten-free baking, the plan now suggests going back on the two-week detox.
In a weird way, I’d sort of been looking forward to it. Although the plan allows for quite strict amounts of fattening foods, like a fistful of nuts and a tablespoon of olive oil, in practice it’s easy to let it slip, using a big glug of olive oil over roasted vegetables, eating a packet of almonds instead of the required fistful. Going back to the limitations of the detox week means you suddenly need to be far more careful, and gives you an injection of momentum. I’ve also plateaued at a weight loss of eight pounds.
This time, I was far more experimental with the food I was making, instead of sticking to plain fish, salad and omlettes.
Christianne’s book also gives recipes for detox juices, which my fiancé and I made to perk up a particularly sluggish rainy Sunday morning when the last thing we wanted to do is head for the gym.
Instead of picking up the big bags of cashew nuts, I made celeriac and kale crisps in the oven with apple cider vinegar from the Body Rescue plan recipes.
The last few weeks are in many ways the hardest. In the back of my mind, I know the last weekend is my hen do, and I was pretty sure that during that, the Body Rescue Plan would be furthest from my mind. We’re staying up late writing order of ceremony plans and seeing friends who are visiting, and that means ordering takeaways.
“If you go to the pub have a glass of fizzy water with a lemon slice in a wine glass, it will make you feel accepted in the crowd and wont make you feel so peer pressured,” Christianne advised.
If you want a treat always seek alternatives- I love Nakd bars instead of chocolate, or nori strips instead of crisps.”
The diet now includes everything allowed until week 8, with dairy, oils and natural sweeteners allowed. When we do cave in to ordering food in, I’m choosing tandoori prawns, okra in olive oil and spinach bhaji, instead of heavy curries, naans and poppadums.
I’ve lost 11 pounds since the plan began, and am the skinniest I’ve been since I was 18.
In reality, I can’t promise I’ll keep within the confines of the Body Rescue plan forever, but pushing away the bread basket at restaurants, basing my meals mainly around protein and vegetables, and exercising three to four times a week has become almost second nature in just under three months. And those are good habits for life.
Or at least, for after we come back from the Italian honeymoon’s pizza and pasta extravaganza. Can you blame me?
The Body Rescue Plan is by Christianne Wolff, available at www.bodyrescue.net for £19.99 plus p&p