Healthista’s Vanessa Chalmers did an eight week weight loss transformation with Ben Camara at No1 Fitness to boost her confidence. She lost over stone and a staggering five inches around her waist and shares her results in the first of an eight-week diary
People always say to me, ‘you are so healthy’. But they never finish the sentence with ‘and fit, too!’ I enjoy exercise, but not nearly as much as food. Bored, fed up and disappointed with my lack of progress in the past three years of my fitness career (if you can call it that), I decided it was definitely time for a challenge. A much bigger one than the long list of them before.
Nothing was giving me ‘wow’ results. I needed help
It was the feeling of hitting a brick wall that first spurred me on to do something extreme. Or better defined, more advanced. I’ve rinsed home HIIT workouts, racking up miles of running or following the mind numbing ‘bikini body’ plans in the gym – all alone. Nothing was giving me ‘wow’ results. I needed help.
I set my eyes upon one of London’s top personal trainers, Ben Camara. Interviewing him for Healthista’s Celebrity Trainer Secrets feature, I was gobsmacked at a transformation (below), which landed him with a Men’s Health Champion Trainer Award.
Turns out his gym, No1 Fitness, specialises in body transformations and getting you to ‘look good naked’, which certainly sounds appealing. Not only is Ben a PT, but a health coach – kinda like an upgrade. His job is to oversee a whole lifestyle and put strategies in place to improve things like sleep and stress, an approach that makes No1 Fitness unique. It also meant replying to my moany ‘I want mince pies and a large glass of wine, now’ texts with words of encouragement, a daily occurence.
This made all the difference and, eight extremely tough weeks later, the results were worth all the sacrifices. Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing my diary every Tuesday with you including exactly what I ate, got told off for eating and my workouts (not to mention my tantrums and low points).
Skip to read day one of my weight loss transformation here. For now, here are my results in numbers:
|Body fat percentage||25.1%||19.7%||5.4%|
|Body fat mass||16.5kg||11.6kg||4.9kg|
|Waist below belly button||91cm/35.8inch||77.3cm/30.4inch||13.7cm/5.3inch|
|Umbilicus (belly fat)||33mm*||16.2mm*||16.8mm*|
|Tricep (back of the arm fat)||32.2mm*||19.8mm*||12.4mm*|
*mm = millimetres. Umbilical and tricep readings are taken using a caliper to pinch the skin folds.
It wasn’t a completely smooth ride – in week 5 I was still self-doubting my abilities, having treats and prodding my chub in front of the mirror. Normally, at this point, I would give up. Persistence paid off. My clothes started to hang loose, and I was digging out old skirts I had hoped to fit in again. People began complimenting a slimmer face and asking, ‘what workouts are you doing?’ With fresh motivation, I smashed the last three weeks with sheer determination – if I say so myself. To my surprise, I lost over a stone and reached under 20 per cent body fat, and I gained self belief.
Why I did the weight loss transformation
Admittedly, the sexy-hot-bod wasn’t the top of my agenda. After losing 12lbs on the Healthista Lean Energy Programme at the beginning of the year (something that actually worked in which I lost 12 pounds), it had been a summer of pure chill. Beer gardens, boozy BBQs and holidays. It wasn’t just my gym attendance that plummeted, but my mental health, too.
I wallowed in self-pity. It was a vicious cycle
Although my jeans became snugger, my weight was the last thing I cared about. Clearly – because I continued to make misguided choices, like bingeing on thousands of calories at 3am after a ‘de-stress’ drinking sesh. This also made my eczema the worst it had been since I was a child. I scratched, ate and wallowed in self-pity. It was a vicious cycle.
In a rut, my lowest point came one morning when I had forced myself to get up and go the gym. I was trying helplessly to fight back tears through the burpees (enough to make you cry anyway, if you ask me). After ten minutes on the gym floor I ran to the changing rooms and cried for an hour. Desperate for change, to boost my confidence and outlook on life, I soon got in contact with No1 Fitness.
What is involved in a weight loss transformation?
Blood, sweat and tears. Just kidding, sort of. But what became apparent in my first chat with Ben, was that compared to normal weight loss journeys, there was no room for ‘treats’ or days off in the eight weeks. (But typical me, I did sneak in a few here and there, sometimes, with big consequences). Instead, it was consistency, sacrifices and sheer determination from day one. And that was just the mental test.
For the diet, I was on a calorie deficit – just that word makes my toes curl – (see below for details). I was also intermittent fasting, a popular weight loss method which means not eating for 15-16 hours a day (8 of which I was sleeping). The weekend before my transformation I had a binge on (most) of the things I wouldn’t be allowed – alcohol, sugar, white processed carbs like pasta and bread, ‘anything out of a packet’, did I mention all things yummy?
From there on, every meal focused on protein first. This helps with muscle recovery, but most of all it helps with the feeling of being full. I had Healthista Lean Vegan protein powder in my breakfast smoothie (raspberries, kefir milk and spinach) every day, which has ingredients scientifically proven to keep appetite at bay and encourage fat loss – inulin, glutamine, konjac root and matcha green tea. It also tastes delicious – I can’t decide between vanilla and chocolate so I alternated the two. It really worked to keep me full between meals more than any other breakfasts I have had – even, when I experimented with having other alternative breakfasts, I always felt hungrier than I would after I’d had our protein )I know I am bias, but it’s true). An example of lunch would be a green leafy salad with spicy chicken and quinoa, and dinner a fillet of salmon with sweet potato and, you guessed it, more veg!
I really felt part of the #fitfam club hitting the gym 5-6 days a week getting up at 5.45am each day, with a mix of one hour PT sessions with Ben and half hour No1 Fitness Slots (these were circuit classes at either studio). I was doing high intensity sessions – lifting weights in circuits, heavier and heavier as the weeks went on, with short cardio intervals. Always full body, because apparently, split training (doing arms one day, and legs the next) is for a body-builder look. There wasn’t a burpee in sight, hallelujah. Instead, top-notch equipment such as the prowler sled, a cage-like apparatus that you push across the floor, ViPR, a weighted tube, TRX bands, ropes with handles that hang from the ceiling and only use bodyweight exercises, and the Skillmill, a more advanced version of a running machine. I look forward to telling you much more about these in my detailed diary entries in the next few weeks.
How to lose weight in the new year
Hands up if you are on the ‘new year, new me’ wagon. There is no shame in wanting to lose weight in the new year with fresh motivation. For optimum results, Ben shares his do’s and don’ts of weight loss.
Have a goal: People stay on track much more when they have an end date such as a wedding or a holiday, knowing they must sacrifice until that time at least. Don’t just do a ‘detox’ in the first week of January. Set a proper plan in place till the end of March at least.
Give it time: Substantial change can take anything from 8-12 weeks. If you aren’t seeing any difference after three weeks, it means your calories aren’t right or you aren’t recovering enough. You will also slip up at times, but don’t let it stop you. Don’t think that having a chocolate bar has ruined your whole day – you can still make good choices moving forward.
Train at least three times a week: Put sessions in your diary at the beginning of the week and commit to it like an appointment.
Create a calorie deficit: Work out what your baseline calories (what you need to survive) are by using the Harris Benedict equation. This is called your BMR (basic metabolic rate). Then create a deficit of 10 per cent to start which will work alongside calories burnt during exercise. If you are seeing no results (and definitely not lying to yourself), lower the deficit more. It’s a rough guide. I started my transformation on 1650 calories a day, but this was lowered to 1500 in week two when results were slow, and then 1350 when my BMR would have decreased.
If you’re serious, get a personal trainer: The benefit of a PT is someone to push you in your sessions and hold you accountable. They will make sure you are exercising correctly with the best form and rest time, which will make a big difference. When you’re trying to find a good PT, interview them. Tell them exactly what you want – whether that be to be fitter, healthier or stronger – and ask them if they are able to do that and show you results from work with previous clients. With some PTs, you’re just paying someone to make you sweaty for an hour. You have to tell them you want more guidance.
Learn the correct form: Even if you have a one of session with a PT, correcting your form will achieve maximum muscle activation and prevent injury or worthless workouts. Throughout the next eight weeks, we shall show you how to correctly perform several exercises. You can also find Healthista’s Move of the Day playlist on YouTube.
Rest, rest, rest: Some people are shocked to hear ‘don’t train’. But it’s a huge part of getting results. The body transforms whilst you are sleeping, and so not getting enough will not only hinder your weight loss, but make you knackered and underperforming in your gym sessions. To get the best results, you need to have eight hours sleep a night and making sure they have at least one full day off training a week.
Keep a food diary: For the first two weeks, at least. This will educate you on your eating habits, portion size and how calorific, or not, your foods are if you use an app like MyFitnessPal. After two weeks, if you are still needing help, seek a coach. They will be able to show you how you can tweak things to suit your needs.
Weigh yourself: Some say ‘screw the scales’. But you need to weigh yourself once a week for a time period, to see your progress. It’s easy to say ‘weighing yourself will mess with your head’. But so will looking in the mirror and not seeing any change. If your goal is to lose body fat, it may be better to take photo or measurements. Understand your weight will fluctuate naturally, especially if you are a female. Do it the same time every day, in the same clothes.
Work on time under tension: On linear movements, things like lunges, squats, deadlifts, push ups, or anything in a straight line that pushes or pulls, focus on the eccentric phase, that means the ‘going down’ phase. If you are squatting, make sure you are going down for four seconds, and up for one. This is called time under tension, and recruits all the muscles. Incorporate multidirectional moves, such as curtsy squat into lateral lunge, tranverse lunge or lunge matrix, for your tissue health and to help with toning.
Have alcohol: It’s worth bearing in mind alcohol isn’t great not only because of the calories, but the after-effect on the body. The body wants to remove it straight away as it is poison, so it comes out in our pores, hence why breathalysers are possible. The day after drinking, the person is no doubt inactive and overeat foods that are really calorific. Look at the type of alcohol you are having – mojitos are full of sugar. Try neat vodka!
Go mad on treats: A given. But, if you do want to have a treat such as a few drinks on a Saturday night, just make sure you are super strict on yourself for the week leading up to it. This will make room for a little time off track.
Have ‘cheat days’: People go mad thinking they only have 24 hours to eat as much as they can. You can mess up a whole weeks work. If you decide you can’t sacrifice traditions or adjust your way of living, such as a takeaway on a Friday night, you can still lose weight, but you won’t get an extreme transformation with an aesthetic look. I wasn’t even allowed a cheat meal (though I did have them, stay tuned).
Remove a macronutrient: Don’t go low carb or low fat for weight loss because you always need a balanced diet to perform mentally. Don’t forget this needs to be consistent, so you don’t want to fall into a trap of crashing and binging. If you must, only lower the quantity of a macronutrient.
Try a fad diet: Just eat natural, healthy and unprocessed foods. There are a lot of fad diets in the media, including the alkaline diet, Hollywood, juice diets or low carb.
Don’t do HIIT every day: HIIT exercise is great for weight loss and everybody’s workout plan will be different depending on their goals. But factor HIIT into your whole programme, as opposed to just doing that every day. Strength training should be the corner stone of a programme, with other protocols fitting in accordingly. HIIT can stress the body if done too much and it’s important to rest and recover properly during and after sessions. What people don’t understand is it should be interval training, meaning if you work to your max for 20 seconds doing jump squats, you are supposed to wait until your heart rate comes back down.
An outline of a basic programme by week would look a bit like this: 3 X strength training, 2 X HIIT, 2 X cardio as a possible extra with strength training.
READ WEEK ONE OF VANESSA’S 8-WEEK TRANSFORMATION HERE… And come back every week to read her week by week diary with Ben Camara at No1 Fitness, with tips and advice from the experts.
Ben Camara has worked with some of the most famous faces in the world with training and health coaching clients including Madonna, Kate Moss and Vogue photographers Mert & Marcus. Having carved out a career in professional football, Ben Camara wanted his next career step to allow him to continue working in the field that he was passionate about, that of health, fitness and nutrition. He and Harry Thomas co-founded No1 Fitness seven years ago, offering bespoke personal training in two locations in London.