Over the next 12 weeks, Healthista’s Marie Pan will undergo a lean body transformation. In the first week of her diary, she talks about the importance of getting your mind ready
Winter’s coming. Now that summer’s over, it’s natural to go back into hibernation under layers of snuggly jumpers and reaching for a mug of hot chocolate. In the past, this seasonal change has also meant that I would have no motivation to go to the gym (unless running down to the kitchen counts as a form of exercise).
But this year, I’m going from one extreme to the other. With the help of Mindset gym, based in Waterloo, I’m undergoing a 12 week transformation, where I’ll be developing my physical, mental, emotional, social and nutritional fitness.
As you can tell from my photos, I love to travel and eat out; I know my way around London not by area, but restaurants and coffee shops.
So the next 12 weeks will definitely be a challenge for me, but this travel-loving, snacking monster is determined to give it a go.
Why am I doing this?
Before I began my transformation, I went in to the Mindset gym to speak to my personal trainer, Darren Sealy.
At a first glance, towering at an impression height of 6’10, Darren might seem like your typical scary PT who’ll scream at you to do 100 burpees.
But I soon found that under all that muscle lies a big, kind heart – which was a relief, because I don’t think I could physically manage 100 burpees.
I want three things: fat loss, learning to use weights in my workouts and less snacking
‘So, what three things would you like to achieve over the next twelve weeks? I mean, why do you want to do this transformation?’ asked Darren.
To be honest, I was pretty stumped by his questions. After reflecting for a few minutes, I decided on these three things: fat loss, learning to use weights in my workouts and less snacking.
Darren and I had this conversation a few weeks ago but, even now, it’s still hanging in my brain – the importance of questioning why you want to achieve your fitness goals.
In the past, my goal was always just to lose weight. I would meticulously weigh everything I consumed, count calories and force myself to do endless hours of cardio in the gym every week.
I weighed myself religiously every morning and would beat myself up if the little number on the scales went up.
For a while, I was too scared to eat rice or pasta and couldn’t imagine ever ordering a pizza or burger in a restaurant.
There were many occasions when I would avoid social situations because I feared I would eat or drink too much, which would set me back in terms of my progress.
It’s no surprise that this mentality led me to develop an eating disorder and to suffer from depression and anxiety.
I isolated myself from my friends. My family didn’t know what to do when I would refuse to eat dinner with them, instead cooking my own food.
Even despite my efforts to lose weight, my weight has yoyo-ed so much over the past few years. My lowest point was the start of this year; I was going through a bad break up, but didn’t have time to process it because I was in my last semester of university.
I was juggling writing my dissertation, studying for my exams and a part time job. With my self-esteem at an all time low, I started to binge eat again.
‘It’s fine to stress eat. Don’t worry, exams will be all over soon. You’re not even fat, it’s fine,’ my friends told me. Comments like these really frustrate me.
I want to get leaner and lose fat. But I want to achieve this while maintaining a healthy state of mind
It shouldn’t have mattered that I looked ‘normal’ on the outside. During that period of a few months, my mental state completely deteriorated.
I would eat any and every food I was (and wasn’t) craving, until I felt physically sick. I felt ashamed and embarrassed to leave my flat – I had never felt like this. I just didn’t want anyone to see me.
Since I graduated in July and was freed of any more exams and dissertations, my stress levels have been reduced significantly.
This summer, I took the time to prioritise my needs and mental health over anything else. Now, I don’t count calories, weigh or measure myself anymore.
So, why am I doing a transformation? Well, I want to get leaner and lose fat, especially around my stomach and thigh areas. But I want to achieve this while maintaining a healthy state of mind, which is why I joined Mindset’s programme – their motto is ‘Build your mindset’.
Mentally preparing myself for a lifestyle change
Taking into consideration my mental health history and broken relationship with food and exercise, I knew I had to be in the right mental state before starting a transformation.
This is really important. You shouldn’t undergo a transformation or try to achieve your fitness goals because you hate who you are right now, but because you’re ultimately happy with your current state but want to be the best version of yourself.
Changing your perspective like this can make such a huge difference. I’ve stopped seeing exercise as a form of punishment; I’ve stopped giving myself unrealistic deadlines to lose weight; I’ve started to listen to my body in regards of hunger and cravings.
Why I won’t be weighing myself each week
Ahead of my transformation, I was aware that I had to let Darren and my editor Anna know that my transformation wouldn’t follow the steps of a conventional one.
When I discussed the details of my transformation with Darren, I told him from the start that I didn’t want to count calories or stick too strictly to a particular meal plan.
Anna said she wanted me to publish my weight each week so our readers could see how much I was losing. After some hesitation, I admitted to her that I would feel too much pressure doing this and I was scared it would trigger my old obsessive habits.
Anna agreed and although I won’t be publishing my weekly weigh ins, Darren will weigh and measure me every week – he just won’t reveal the figures to me.
At the end of the 12 weeks, I’ll publish these in my last article, together with all the progress pictures as well.
So…what can I eat for the next 12 weeks?
Since I didn’t want to count calories or stick to a very strict meal plan, Darren created a flexible, vegan nutritional plan for me (I’ve been vegan for a few months now). He sent me a long list of foods and told me that I could pick and choose what I wanted to eat for each meal.
‘You do not have a set number of meals, food timings, portion sizes however I would like you to make decisions based on hunger levels and your daily availability,’ explained Darren. ‘Whole foods will be first and foremost in your planning.’
In addition, Darren told me to focus on getting enough protein in every meal. Find out the best vegan protein sources here.
Darren advised me to clean out my cupboards of all processed and food containing saturated fats. I was told to avoid alcohol, caffeine, processed foods (that meant ready meals or takeaways), foods high in saturated and trans fats – goodbye doughnuts and Hula Hoops.
How often do I need to hit the gym?
Prior to my transformation, I do cardio around 5 or 6 times a week. Normally, I wake up at 5:30 in the morning to prep my lunch and hit the gym – it’s just part of my routine. I like to stay active and because work at Healthista means sitting at a desk every day, it’s a way for me to get some exercise in every day.
However, I wouldn’t classify myself as a gym freak. Actually, I have a confession to make.
So, I’m a big fan of multi-tasking. And what better way to pass by time than to watch Netflix while you’re on the treadmill? Right now, my guilty pleasure is ‘Ru Paul’s Drag Race’.
As part of my 12 week Lean Body transformation, I need to attend two PT sessions a week; the exercises will be tailored around my fat loss and strength training goals.
He also recommended I go to at least one fitness class a week, preferably the ‘Asset’, which is a female body sculpting class.
My first PT session lasted one hour, but the pain I felt after lasted four days
My Ru Paul gym sessions did not prepare me for the pain of week one
After attending my first PT session, I realised that Darren was playing no games. The structure of the class included supersets. A superset (S/S) is two exercises back to back with no rest.
These were the supersets we did: prowler S/S weighted ball slams, pronated back row S/S bodyweight lunges, stairmaster S/S leg raises, cable pulldowns S/S incline leg raises. We finished off with rack pulls and deadlifts.
My first PT session lasted one hour, but the pain I felt after lasted four days (I think I just about felt fully recovered on Sunday). During those four days, I felt muscles in my body which I wasn’t even aware I had.
The worst pain came when I would sneeze. Whenever I sneezed, my ‘abs’ (well, my ab muscles under all the fat) hurt. One time, I think I actually cried a little.
On the nutrition side of the challenge, I fared quite well in my first week. I admit, giving up crisps has been no easy affair but generally, I try to eat healthy anyway so it hasn’t been too steep a lifestyle change yet. But hey, watch me have a breakdown from being too hangry next week.
September 26th is World Fitness Day