Before I left for college, I’d always been skinny. Size 8 was sometimes a little bit loose, and I had arms and legs like matchsticks. I didn’t realise it then, but I was extremely thin, probably too thin at times. When college rolled around, so did excessive amounts of alcohol and noodles. I’m pretty sure my metabolism did a U-turn, because in just four months I’d managed to gain two and a half stone. I was only coming home every three weeks, and every time I’d step on the weighing scale I’d gained another half a stone. It only hit me that I needed to make a change when I realised that I was scarily close to becoming an unhealthy weight for my height, not to mention being seriously unhappy with my body.
I started changing the way that I was eating when I came home for Christmas, and I lost over a stone almost instantly. I think my body went into shock over lack of pizza if I’m honest. When I got back to college, my eating habits went back to being rubbish, but I managed to stay at the weight that I was. Since I started to eat healthier, I’ve lost 21lbs (a stone and a half) and I’m now only 6lbs off my goal weight (which is just a little over what I weighed to start with – I don’t want to go back to being that thin). Anyways, here’s how I slowly but surely lost a stone and a half through healthy eating.
What’s helped me the most is learning how weight loss works. To keep weight off, you need to do it gradually, and my weight loss worked out at losing around 1lb per week. 1lb is equal to 3,500 kilocalories, which may seem like a lot but when you break it down it’s not that much. 3,500 divided by 7 days a week is 500 calories. You need to cut your calorie intake by 500 calories per day to lose 1lb a week. This can easily be done by changes as simple as cutting out fizzy drinks, replacing sugary cereal with porridge and asking for a side of salad instead of chips.
Another thing that you need is patience. You need to realise that this won’t happen overnight, and be prepared for a long journey if you need to lose as much weight as I did. If you fall off the wagon, just get back up again. It happens to the best of us but what’s important is to never give up.
This may seem obvious, but cutting out takeaways made weight literally fall off me. Even if my family buy one, I never eat them at home as opposed to having maybe two a week while in college. A Chinese meal can have over 1,500 calories in it, which is even more than what I aim to eat in the whole day. Not to mention the fact that they’re pretty damn addictive, it’s easier to just avoid them altogether.
I’m a big snacker, and tend to eat when I’m bored which is an awful habit. However I’ve turned this into something beneficial by replacing crisps, cereal bars and peanuts with fruit. Raspberries, blueberries and oranges are all full of antioxidants and contain properties that will help you lose weight. This is also a great way of getting your five a day in.
Balance is key when trying to lose weight, but I do try to limit the amount of carbs that I eat. I don’t let myself have more than two slices of bread per day, and if I’m making a pasta dish for dinner I bulk it up with vegetables so that I feel full without overindulging in carbs. As well as this, I make sure that any carbs I do eat are wholegrain. Brown pasta, brown rice, brown bread – it’s all a little better for you than the over-processed white stuff.
I drink a crazy amount of tea, but not the kind that you’re thinking of. I’m a big fan of Bootea, I lost 5lbs doing their 14 day detox with it over Christmas. But at €32 for a two weeks supply, it’s pretty hefty for any broke student but there are alternatives out there. Dr Stuart does a great range of teas to aid weight loss, and my favourites are Detox, Slim Plus and Lax Plus. They all contain herbs that help clear out your system, and at only €3 for a box of 15 it’s a lot cheaper than Bootea. I’m also a green tea drinker, but it took me a long time to find one that was drinkable. I’d recommend Tulsi Green Tea for people who aren’t keen on the taste, it’s a lot more bearable than other brands. I try to drink three or four cups of “weird tea” as my Mum calls it, every day.
One of the main culprits for my weight gain was alcohol, so now I drink on very rare occasions. I didn’t drink at all last semester until the week we were leaving college, and since coming home I’ve only drank on one occasion, when I went to Life festival. Alcohol is crazily high in calories, and although for any teenager it can be hard to cut it out, it’s necessary if you want to lose weight. Don’t be fooled by people who tell you that there’s no calories in vodka either, there’s over 400 in a naggin. That’s without a sugary mixer, and a lot of people require more than 200ml of the stuff to get into a happy state.
Something that’s essential in any weight loss journey is drinking more water. Not only does it help you to flush all the bad stuff out of your system, it also keeps you full. The next time you’re hungry, drink a glass of water – hunger is often just dehydration in disguise. I drink about 12 glasses of water a day, and it’s easy to add to your diet once you know the tricks. I gulp down a glass before my meal, have one during my meal, and another afterwards. When I do this with all three of my meals, that’s nine glasses already down and I just need to fit another three into my day.
Another thing that’s really important is eating three meals per day. Making sure these are filled with fruit, vegetables, protein and some healthy carbs will keep you full, therefore reducing snacking. If I don’t eat a proper meal I find myself snacking on something that has around the same number of calories, like a 400 calorie bag of popcorn. But this is unhealthy and full of fat, and won’t do anything to help me lose weight.
My last tip is for self-confessed chocoholics like myself. It might sound disgusting, but switch from milk chocolate to dark chocolate. And before you make the same mistake that I did, Cadbury’s dark chocolate (Bourneville for example) doesn’t count – it’s got almost as much sugar as the good stuff. If you’re getting proper dark chocolate, it should have a percentage on it. The higher the percentage, the less sugar in it, and believe me you can taste the difference. Start from 60% and work your way up, I’m on the bitter 90% stuff now. Dark chocolate not only contains some antioxidants, but it gets rid of your chocolate cravings and doesn’t leave you wanting more because it’s so sickening and bitter. I thought it would put me off chocolate altogether, but it just made me appreciate milk chocolate even more!
Let me know if these tips work for you guys and good luck on your weight loss journey, you’ll eventually reach your goal if you work hard enough. If you’re not a lazy lump like me, try to include some exercise into your daily routine and you’ll probably lose weight twice as quick.
Here’s a before and after picture, the one on the left is from the beginning of January and the one on the right was taken today. I still feel horrible even looking at the first picture and was very reluctant to post it, but it’s made me realise that there’ actually quite a big difference between then and now.