During an eight week weight loss transformation with No1 Fitness, Vanessa Chalmers lost a stone and 7.8 inches. Here are 16 weight loss diet lessons she learnt about health and fitness along the way
In November 2017, I started an eight week transformation with celebrity personal trainer Ben Camara at his gym, No1 Fitness. I’ve shared my weekly diary on Healthista, giving the ins and outs of my diet, training programme and the challenges thrown up (there were lots).
This video shows a little how it played out:
My results are:
Weight lost: 6.9kg/15lbs
Body fat percentage lost: 5.4%
Body fat mass lost: 4.9kg
Inches lost: 7.8 inches/20cm
16 weight loss, diet and fitness lessons I learnt
I didn’t start the weight loss transformation a total novice. I’d been into health and fitness for three years, and of course, I work at Healthista – a bustling office of fitness freaks, vegans and experts in the know.
But I wanted to do a weight loss transformation to push my own limits, get real results and prove to myself I could do it, too.
My personal trainer was Ben Camara, a health coach and celebrity personal trainer at London gym No1 Fitness – which he co-founded. Whilst he taught me a lot along the way, at the same time telling me to squat lower, I learnt a lot about myself through the grueling process.
Looking back, these are the most priceless things I since doing a weight loss transformation:
1. There is no ‘secret’ other than commitment
Honestly. People could spend their whole entire lives asking, ‘why can’t I be healthier/fitter?’ If anything I have learnt from this weight loss transformation, is that it all comes down to how committed you are. If you can do the right things every day for a long period of time you will see results. There’s no real secret other than that. And it really is that simple.
2. There is no right or wrong way to do it
When I told a nutritionist in conversation that I was fasting till 11am every day, she gave me a concerned frown. It wouldn’t be her choice of method to help me lose weight, and for a second, I worried I was doing it ‘wrong’. But there is no right or wrong way. When it comes to fitness and weight loss, every PT, Instagram star or nutritionist will have their own opinions on what is the ‘best’ way. There isn’t one – it simply comes down to personal preference and what works for you.
3. Exercise needs to be enjoyable
There is so much choice of exercise – swimming, boxing, running, cycling, CrossFit and lifting to name a few. The best advice I ever heard was, ‘find something you enjoy and stick to it’. I like the feeling of lifting weights in circuits. It makes me feel strong and I like the mental challenge of getting myself through one more rep. If you like variety, a subscription to something like MoveGB allows you to do a different class every day – and that will never get boring! Anything that gets you moving more and burning calories is going to work. So long as you can turn up and get it done regularly.
4. Exercise is the easiest part
Sometimes it can feel like my heart is going to fall into my stomach and my legs are going to collapse. But once I’ve had my shower and grabbed a coffee, I’ve completely forgotten what I’ve just done and the day is ahead of me. The workout is over and only required a maximum of 60 minutes from my 960 minute day. If you want the truth – the diet was the hardest. 960 minutes of my day are spent thinking about food I couldn’t eat and that was torture. (Ok, exaggeration. But there is a lot more energy needed in willpower than motivation to work out).
5. Fasting really does work
Intermittent fasting, which you can read about here, really worked for my weight loss. It involved having my first meal at noon and my last at eight, shortening my eating window to reduce the calories I was eating. Because I eat later at night, I should be able to go longer without breakfast. It’s something I wish I had figured out a long time before because it really reduced my snacking and cravings.
6. Calorie counting is not bad
I think we could all benefit from knowing just how many excess calories we are consuming without realising
I used to think calorie counting (and the scales) were a bad way to measure your progress because it can become obsessive. But by doing exactly that, I have finally got results. Yes, it may be damaging for your happiness to rely on the number on the scales. But I think we could all benefit from knowing just how many excess calories we are consuming without realising (50 per cent too many, according to a new study last week). Learning how many calories are in a serving of avocado, a packet of crisps or peanut butter has been instrumental to controlling portions and understanding how excess calories are just stored as fat.
7. You will fall in love with your PT
Not literally… But real talk – my PT Ben Camara became my life coach and best bud, even if he didn’t realise it. It’s something I’ve heard personal trainers discuss before – why do their clients turn to them as though they are therapists? One theory is that exercise makes you feel good with the release of endorphins, and so you’re going to leave the gym associating feeling good with that person.
Ben was also the only person who really knew what I was going through every day – because he was the one implementing it! As well as this, every other aspect of my life such as work, relationships and stress, were going to affect how well I could stick to the transformation, and so lucky him, he became an emotional support in many ways to keep me focused.
8. Your gym may be failing you
Are there too many creepy old man staring at your butt?
I think that who with and where you work out can largely affect your enthusiasm for a workout. First of all, you have to like your gym. Is it too hot? Are there not enough windows? Is it dirty? Is the music a headache? Are the people stuck up? Is there a community feel? Are there too many creepy old men staring at your butt? Is it always so busy you’re spending more time waiting for a machine than exercising? All these things have the opportunity to make you say ‘I don’t want to go there’. No1 Fitness was an environment I liked being in. I felt comfortable, motivated, and surrounded by helpful people who wanted me to succeed.
9. You need to like your personal trainer
It goes for your personal trainer too – does he or she care about you? Do you want the same things for your body? Do you even like them? No one wants to work out with someone they find irritating or on another page. I think it’s important to be friends with your PT and enjoy their company. It could even come down to the language they use around you. Some people may benefit from being shouted at mid push-up army-style. I do not. I need TLC with some tough love on the side when I’ve eaten too many cookies. I wanted to look forward to working out with a friend. Not a bully.
10. Nothing works without sleep
I learnt in week four that sleep is as important as diet and exercise, but not taken as seriously. If I don’t get enough sleep, I find it harder to get out of bed, perform exercises well in the gym, make good food choices and feel motivated. If you are constantly tired (or stressed, for that matter), it will be difficult for you to focus on something with a clear head. I still struggle to get enough sleep, though.
11. Everything is easier when you are fit
Soon enough, those ten burpees will feel like a breeze
There was a lightbulb type moment when I realised what we were doing was working because I felt so much more physically able. And that felt amazing. I was able to reach my goal of 5K in 30 minutes in week six, and slowly we were able to add more weight or reps and therefore progress my strength. If you are new to exercise and feel like it is the hardest thing in the world (and trust me, I have been there), just stick with it. Soon enough, those ten burpees will feel like a breeze and you’ll be in awe at your body’s abilities.
12. It’s not about looks
There is a lot of focus on aesthetics out there, especially on social media. How toned your abs are, how peachy your bum is, how good your boobs look in that new and expensive branded sports bra, how glowing your skin is, and how perfect your hair is post-workout. People don’t aspire to look like Kate Moss anymore (sorry, Kate). They look at fitness models with boss-ass muscles. It’s quite revolutionary.
But don’t get caught up in it and don’t compare yourself. I learned that the happiness from how I felt physically was far greater than the happiness looking at my changing shape in the mirror – that was just an added bonus. Ben is also a big believer in exercising for long-term health, too, implementing exercises into our workouts that are good for joint and tissue health and not just popping muscles.
13. You need to be realistic
Your best weight is whatever weight you reach when you’re living the healthiest life you actually enjoy
That brings me onto my next point. Around the six week mark, I asked Ben, ‘will I ever have a washboard stomach and abs?’ He told me to look like ‘those girls on Instagram’, I’d need to sacrifice even more. I’ve come to accept that unless I wanted to say goodbye to things I regularly enjoy (a drunken night out, a takeaway with my best friend or a coffee and slice of cake with my mum), I won’t progress to that point. Over a long period of time, perhaps. But these people work hard in the gym, up to hours a day, with a super super clean diet. Something I learnt and will always remember, ‘your best weight is whatever weight you reach when you’re living the healthiest life you actually enjoy’. It can take time to figure that balance out.
14. Your tribe makes a difference
I reckon the weight loss transformation would have been a different game had I been in one of those cliche office settings where a box of brownies is handed around every five minutes, my colleagues got McDonalds every day or ‘the gym’ is seen as a club for freaks. I realised Healthista is an incredibly inspiring place to work – we dissect each other’s workouts and debate food and pop psychology all day – and I was lucky to not have my sanity (or willpower) tested to breaking point. It goes for friends too. I made sure I surrounded myself with supportive friends who cheered me on at every step.
15. I want to learn more hobbies
Life had got repetitive and the weight loss transformation was like a new hobby I could pour all my energy into with huge rewards. It’s opened my eyes to the benefit of learning new skills as an adult and shown me I can do it. Joining a CrossFit club, running a marathon and even learning a new language feel a little more achievable with the self-confidence I gained.
16. I haven’t got it all figured out
After all that, I can confirm I do NOT have this all figured out! I learnt a lot in a small amount of time, but I know there is a lot more to understand about health and fitness which can be very confusing. I still text Ben or Google random things such as, ‘how to properly do a kettle bell swing’, or ‘should I have a protein shake straight after a workout’. And I still want to improve my self confidence and intuition about food and exercise. It’s a long journey, but exciting to see how far I have come rather than how far I have to go.
We’ve given you a Workout of the Week for eight weeks from Ben, and here is the last:
Read Vanessa’s full weight loss transformation diary:
8 week weight loss transformation – the full results