After over-indulgent December it’s no surprise that ‘to lose weight’ is one of the most common New Year’s resolutions. Most of us tackle the goal with a new gym membership, however a new study by Fitness First showed that one in ten has given up their New Year fitness plan within two weeks and the average Brit has stopped by the beginning of February.
Does that mean that those extra couple of pounds you put on over Christmas will still be hugging your hips come Valentine’s Day? According to nutritional therapist Petronella Ravenshear, no: “Contrary to the popular notion that we need to exercise to lose weight it’s simply not true.”
Plenty of studies have backed up Ravenshear’s opinion. Last year, a study published in Current Biology found that while exercise is important for your overall health, it shouldn’t be the only focus for weight loss. In fact, tweaking your diet can be more beneficial to not only losing the weight, but keeping it off. Generally, weight loss is 75 per cent diet and 25 percent exercise.
That’s not to say you have to radically switch up what you eat overnight. “Cutting down on carbohydrates and drinking lots of water, which will take the edge off hunger and speed up your metabolic rate (how quickly your body burns calories), can really make a difference,” says Ravenshear.
Here are five tweaks to make to your diet that will actually make a difference:
- Eat 2-3 times a day and avoid snacking
- Drink at least ½ litre of water first thing in the morning and another 1.5 litres before lunch
- Eat fewer grains and more vegetables
- Cut out sugar. It not only makes us fat and wrinkly, but it also makes us hungrier too
- Get slimmer while you sleep – aim for eight hours a night as we actually burn more fat when we’re sleeping.
If you’re still not convinced that it is possible to lose weight without exercising, read Kimberly Davis’ story. After a succession of tragic events her weight had ballooned, and to top it all off, she was in recovery from breaking both her ankles in 2014, so was unable to do high-impact cardio. Here she details her diet diary as she followed the Metabolic Balance programme over 12 weeks, with the guidance of Ravenshear.
Kimberly Davis, 39
Height: 5ft 6in
Weight: 102.6 kg
Upper arm: 36cm
Weight loss this week: 2.5kg
Upper arm: 35cm
When Gwyneth Paltrow was filming Shallow Hal she put on her fat suit and walked through the lobby of the hotel to measure people’s reactions. She said in an interview, “It was so sad; disturbing. No one would make eye contact with me because I was obese. I felt humiliated because people were really dismissive.” Being a slim woman at the time, I remember reading this article and thinking about how sad that must be for those who suffer from obesity. Now I know first hand.
Up until three years ago, I could walk down the street and people would notice me: men would smile and everyone seemed helpful. But then, thanks to a long list of tragic events and stress, I gained 75 pounds in 12 months and the world became a very different place. It started with a break up and then a loss of a loved one. I laid in bed crying for months while the weight piled on. People look at me now with pity or judgment. I can feel them thinking, “she needs to stop eating so much.”
The problem is I haven’t been eating a lot. In fact, for the past three years I’ve eaten a lot less than I did before. It doesn’t matter what I do, or how much I work out, nothing is shifting the weight. I’ve tried dieting, calorie counting, personal trainers, blood tests. Nothing has worked.
It didn’t help that every time I tried to get my exercise routine back on track I injured myself: knee injuries, foot injuries, you name it. I even broke both of my feet at the same time last April, which left me bed-bound for almost six months. I am only now just getting back on my feet. Literally.
I was scared to weigh myself after that, but when I finally did I found I had spiraled to 16st. How did that happen? I eat two meals a day with one snack. Surely that’s not enough calories to make me this fat.
But within five minutes of speaking with Petronella Ravenshear (the Metabolic Balance nutritionist advising me on my #StellaShapeUp plan) she was able to assess the problem: my metabolism doesn’t work.
Luckily, she has a plan to “reset it”. I’ll save the details for next week’s blog, but I can tell you that I am finally losing weight.
Weight loss this week: 0.4kg
Total weight loss: 2.9kg
Upper arm: 34cm
Last week Petronella diagnosed that I have killed my metabolism, which means that anything I eat is going to stick to my body. On a print-out from her special machine the bar that represents metabolism on a scale from 0-100 per cent showed that my metabolism is only at five per cent. I broke down crying when I saw it.
Petronella explained the top three causes of slow metabolism are stress, antibiotics and dehydration. In 2012 I was put on strong antibiotics for a year, which apparently kills all the good bacteria in your system.
I don’t eat yoghurt, which is a counteractive probiotic, so the bad bacteria has been ruling my body for two years. Also, I am a Coca-Cola addict (Coca-Cola is caffeinated and dehydrating) and I have been drinking only one or two glasses of water a day. My body has been freaking out.
Diet Diary: My diet started in Petronella’s office with a tablespoon of Epsom salt, which is a natural laxative. I’ll save you the details but let’s just say I felt like I had lost 10 pounds by midday. I tried to make a veggie soup this week and failed miserably: it was really watery and weirdly spicy. I also attempted to cook brown rice and ended up burning the pan. I can’t believe how bad I am at cooking!
The Highs: All my blood tests show I am 100 pre cent healthy. I broke down crying in Petronella’s office and I think part of it was down to the confirmation that I am not crazy: I knew something was wrong with my ballooning weight and her slip of paper was the proof.
The Lows: Detoxing from sugar and caffeine. Like a drug addict I have found myself going through serious withdrawal symptoms. I have had migraines and severe cravings (I would have done anything for a chicken burger this week) and I have felt exhausted and freezing cold. I am starting to hate this diet and I honestly didn’t think I would make it through the week.
Weight loss this week: 0.3kg
Total weight loss: 3.4kg
Upper arm: 25cm
Rule one of The Metabolic Balance diet is you don’t talk about the Metobolic Balance diet. You may think I’m joking, or that I’m a really big fan of Fight Club (which I am), but it’s the truth. It’s all top secret because this diet is different for everyone. What works for me, may not work for you. It’s all based on a combination of factors including my family history, blood work, age, and more. But I will spill the beans.. .
Diet Diary: Phase two of the MB plan involves a highly restrictive diet that lasts for 14 days. In order to reset my metabolism and prepare my body for this diet to come I had to endure a two day fast and only eat approved foods from a small list I was given, which are based on my blood results. I was mortified when I saw the list: there was nothing sweet on it. Not even a red onion or pepper. Apparently my body needs a complete detox of anything sweet. My palette doesn’t do savory. The list included oysters, goat’s cheese and sauerkraut (who actually eats sauerkraut?!)
After my two day fast came the diet, which comprises of exactly the same foods for 14 days. It’s not just what you eat, but when you eat it: I’m only allowed eggs or chicken during my lunch and dinner always has to be fish.
The food plan looks like this:
Breakfast: rye bread (the kind with no gluten or other additives. Just rye, salt, and water), one small tomato, avocado and Linwood’s Sunflower and Pumpkin seeds
Lunch: chicken, or two eggs, steamed vegetables and an apple.
Dinner: salmon and steamed vegetables
And the rules are:
1. I am only allowed to eat the items above. I can’t use any oil, butter, or other kind of lubricant to make it tasty. Needless to say, my non-stick pans were definitely being put to the test.
2. I must leave five hours in between meals. This may sound easy, but when you’re starving and just want a little snack, even a healthy one, you’re not allowed.
3. I must drink four litres of water a day. The amount is so much because I am so dehydrated. I have to admit this is actually the hardest part of the diet. Four litres is a lot of water.
It’s not very exciting but after two days of fasting these meals are like a feast and I am grateful for them. I am convinced that the fast is intended to make you appreciate the little bit of food you are finally allowed. I’ve never been so happy to eat a plain piece of chicken in my life.
Weight loss this week: 1.7kg
Total weight loss: 5.1kg
Upper arm: 35cm
I’ve finally hit phase three of the Metabolic Balance diet, which is not that different from phase two apart from now I have a bigger list of food to choose from. It’s like Christmas! I’m free to add oil, broccoli, asparagus and pork to my repertoire and I’m allowed one “cheat” meal once a week of whatever food I want. Seriously, it’s crazy how satisfying a tablespoon of oil can be.
Diet diary: I quarantined myself for the last two weeks so that I could stick to my restrictive diet, but this week the reality of life is starting to sneak back in. It doesn’t matter what time I wake up, I find it nearly impossible to prepare my food for the day before I leave the house.
Phase three is a blessing because it allows me to eat in restaurants, as long as I stay within the limits of my food list. I did some research and chose Nando’s as my go-to restaurant, as I can eat the lemon and herb or plain chicken main courses with a side salad (no dressing) and the total calories is just over 300.
The first time I went my meal tasted like heaven but left me feeling seriously guilty. Maybe the guilt was because of my prior restrictions, or maybe because my meals have so far tasted awful due to my bad cooking skills. Either way, something about eating a satisfying, flavoursome meal felt really wrong and shameful.
Then I started freaking out about the rules. I went to a concert and had a decision to make: eat at 5:30pm, which would break my wait-five-hours-in-between-meals-rule, or wait to eat after the concert at 10pm, which would then break the don’t-eat-after-9pm-rule.
The guilt and confusion is stressing me out so I’ve generally been eating far less, or not at all, to ensure I’m not messing everything up. I know it’s not the right choice but I can’t bear the thought of eating those Epsom salts again. Petronella has helped me prioritise the rules and we have come up with a safe and acceptable plan B for emergency situations.
I’ve now got the biggest challenge ahead of me: a three-week trip home to New York.
Dun, dun, duuuun..! Will I really be able to stick to this strict diet whilst I’m surrounded by all my favourite foods that I can’t get in the UK?
Weight loss this week: + 0.9kg
Total weight loss: 4.2kg
Upper arm: 35cm
This week I flew to New York, my hometown, for a three-and-a-half week stay. This might sound lovely but from a diet perspective it’s a nightmare – like walking into Willy Wonka’s Factory with an empty stomach. In New York I am surrounded by all of the foods I love most, plus everything there revolves around going out to eat.
Diet diary: On the Metabolic Balance diet I am allowed one cheat peal per week. Before I left Petronella begged me not to eat white bread or pasta on that cheat meal, as she feared it would kick-start my sugar cravings again.
When I arrived at the airport I tried to find a breakfast that resembled my diet. I had a Pret salad with chicken, which came with a dressing that tasted divine.
I was overwhelmed with guilt, even though I was only eating 300 calories. The flight attendant on my flight was lovely. I told him about my diet and he snuck me a big bottle of water. The lunch was grilled chicken and vegetables: perfect.
But then my best buddy steward brought me a packet of pretzels. I caved and had a few. Next he brought me a Green and Black’s chocolate bar. I took two bites of the chocolate before gaining control. I threw the bar away and only drank water for the rest of the flight.
My mum and sister demanded to see my approved foods list before I arrived and made sure the fridge was well prepared. I went straight home instead of to the pizzeria, which has been a tradition for the past ten years, and had grilled chicken and salad. Resisting pizza was so hard, but I did it. I wasn’t proud of my day, but at least I didn’t let it spiral out of control.
High point: Having my first taste of food that I really enjoyed again. That salad was bliss.
Low point: Cheating for the first time – the guilt was overwhelming. I really should have planned better and taken more healthy snacks with me on the plane.
Top Tip : Be prepared. Cook in advance so that you don’t get caught out.
Weight loss this week: +0.9kg
Total weight loss: 3.3kg
Upper arm: 35cm
Thigh: 68 cm
For the past three years my friends and family in New York have told me that I need to “do something” about my weight. So before I got to New York I passed around my approved list of foods to all of them via Facebook, and gave them full permission to do whatever necessary to stop me from cheating.
Diet diary: Despite looking in five food shops, I couldn’t find the particular rye bread that Petronella recommended I eat for breakfast. Not knowing what to do meant I quickly I fell into old habits and started skipping breakfast all together.
Due to meetings and seeing friends, this week I have eaten out a lot. It’s not been so bad because I have been choosing to eat salads – the only naughty bit is the dressings. I haven’t found any apple cider vinegar dressing in restaurants so I have been opting for honey and mustard (this is a compromise because what I really want is ranch sauce).
I emailed Petronella, who replied with the warning that dressings contain sugar and that I should stay far away. But still I’m thinking, I’m being good because I’m eating a salad instead of the pizza or burger that I really want, how bad can a dressing actually be?
Another challenge this week was going to my friend Dave’s wedding. I ate grilled vegetables for the appetizer, risotto for mains (okay, that was really bad) with a plate of chicken salad. And NO cake. I was proud.
I haven’t been perfect, but I haven’t been bad. This is still a diet, it’s just not THE diet I was assigned.
High point: Realising some of my favourite foods were all well within this diet. I’m just really bad at cooking them.
Low point: Feeling that I was losing control. I know that I’m cheating and I am really worried that I’m killing my metabolism.
Weight loss this week: 0kg
Total weight loss: 3.3kg
Upper arm: 35cm
Thigh: 68 cm
Being on a diet when surrounded by temptation in New York is tough, but so far it’s going well thanks to the support of my amazing friends. My friend Patricia gave me a beautiful new business suit that is a size smaller than my size right now. She said that she wants me to use it as a transition piece and then donate it to someone who needed it when I was too thin for it. It was such a sweet gesture and I can’t wait to wear it!
When my childhood friend Janine saw the before photo she exclaimed, “Oh My God! That is the worst picture of you ever!” I replied, “I know.”
She said, “No that is a really, really bad picture of you.” I said, “I know, Janine.”
But she kept yelling, “No it’s, like, the most horrible picture ever!” “Thank you Janine!” It was actually quite funny and I’m so happy to have friends that can be that honest with me.
When we discussed lunch she said, “I’m not letting you eat badly. I’m going to help you fix that horrible picture!” And I appreciated it.
But perhaps the funniest support came from David who, at to a poker night with 35 people that I only just met for the first time a few days prior at his wedding, announced to the room, “Do NOT let Kim Davis eat any junk food tonight!”
While I did manage to avoid most of the junk food, I did allow myself a slice of pizza that night (normally when I am in New York I have a slice every other day).
A photo of David, me and the pizza is now the screensaver on my phone to remind me to stay on track. NO MORE PIZZA!
Top Tip: Tell friends and others about your aims. People, even strangers, will help you if you let them. You don’t need to struggle to lose weight on your own.
Weight loss this week: +0.1kg
Total weight loss: 3.4kg
Upper arm: 34cm
Thigh: 69 cm
My final week in New York and my diet was really starting to take a hit. My prescribed diet of chicken, fish, pork with veggies and a tiny bit of olive oil can get really boring really fast, especially when you’re not a great cook, like me.
Diet diary: I have tried hard to stay on track but, bit by bit, sugar has started making it’s way back into my diet. At first it was just in the honey mustard dressing and balsamic vinegar I put on my salads. Then it was just a few pieces of bread. On my one cheat day per week I have been having Oreo milkshakes and pizza.
Once you have a little bit of sugar, your body wants more. Now, my diet has disappeared completely and I have turned back to my favourite food: New York bagels, Reese’s Pieces, pizza, ranch dressing, chicken and chips.
My need for sugar is out of control again. I have been craving an ice cream Sunday all week and would have done anything to eat one. The sundae was consuming my thoughts.
To my great shame, on my last day in New York, I used the excuse of needing to fill up the petrol tank on my rental car to get away from everyone. Then I drove to Carvel Ice Cream parlour and bought myself an ice cream sundae. My behaviour can only be explained as something like Gollum from Lord of the Rings. I ran back to my car with “my precious” sundae and felt so happy to devour it.
When I was finished I came to my senses and realised I have a sugar addiction – and it’s much more serious than just a love of Oreos and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. When I return to the UK I need to start the Metabolic Balance diet from scratch to get the sugar out of my body.
Top tip: Eliminate sugar from your diet. It’s evil – pure evil – and replacements are even worse. If you get it out of our system you’ll never crave it. The minute it creeps back in, you’re a goner.
Weight loss this week: 3.2kg
Total weight loss: 6.6kg
Upper arm: 33cm
Diet diary: I was naughty in New York so as punishment I’ve decided to start from the beginning of the diet. Let the fasting begin again! So I had a day of eating nothing but a handful of veggies. Whilst it was nothing like the withdrawal that experienced when I first started the plan, it was still tough. But I knew I had to do it in order to get rid of that horrible sugar addiction.
I spoke to Petronella about my embarrassing ice-cream incident and she explained how sugar is extremely addictive. She told me about a study where lab rats were given a choice of cocaine or sugar. They always chose the sugar and would do anything for it.
But there was a glimmer of light. For all my sins, I hardly gained any weight in New York and with all the temptation, I have to say, that was a victory in itself.
Now I can feel that my jeans are getting loose. I wore a red dress out one day this week and people stopped me on the street to tell me how good I looked. It’s been years since that happened and it the best feeling in the world. I am starting to feel like myself, and feminine, again….finally.
I can assure you, there is no greater motivation that seeing a diet work. For the first time in years, I am starting to feel like I can get back to normal.
Top tip: Don’t beat yourself up if you fall off the wagon. Just start again and commit to being stronger this time around.