Guest Post: How I Lost 2 Stone (30lbs) & Started Running

Jo and Charlie Pretty Muddy

I am so excited to have one of my best friends, Jo, guest posting on the blog today. She just completed her first ever 5K lastt Saturday. She has an amazing weight loss/transformation story and I am so thrilled that she agreed to share it on my blog. Also if you’re interested in nail art, go check out her amazing nail blog (she’s the one that paints my nails before each of my marathons!)

I’ve written a guest post for Charlie before, but this time it’s a little different. This time Charlie asked me to write about something very personal…my weight. Well, not specifically my weight, more the journey I’ve been on over the past year to change my diet and lifestyle, but what that comes down to for me is my weight.

Around this time last year I had been avoiding the scales for months. As my size crept up I was too scared to look so I just ignored the problem. I love food, especially junk food. As all my friends moved towards more healthy and active lifestyles I continued my bad eating habits and became even more sedentary than ever. The year before I had overturned my lifestyle quite successfully, went to the gym regularly and ate better than I ever had. Unfortunately as I got more comfortable in a long term relationship the drive to maintain this fell and combined with a new job I just started to slowly slip back into my old ways.

The event that highlighted the situation to me was an 8 mile training walk for the Three Peaks Challenge that I had agreed to participate in with Charlie and some of our other friends. I knew I would need to up my fitness before completing it but didn’t realise quite how pathetic I was until our training walk. It was a boiling hot day, and very hilly, and I struggled immensely. It shocked me how unfit and unhealthy I was. I had to pull out of the Three Peaks as I knew I couldn’t participate safely and would put the rest of the group in a difficult position. It was shortly after this that I decided things had to change. I look so unhappy in this photo!

Jo Three Peaks Challenge

The Diet:

My boyfriend (now fiancé!) Tom was always trying different diet plans and tried to get me involved but I continually resisted. Eventually he found the 4 Hour Body (Slow Carb) and it seemed to really work. It wasn’t until I found a friend’s blog (Ash Cooks Slow Carb) which provided tons of yummy Slow Carb recipes that I decided enough was enough and I would have to join him.

The 4 Hour Body is a plan designed by Tim Ferriss and features in his book, which I must admit I’ve never actually read. I relied on Tom to educate me on the key points of the diet plan, which meant that I might not have been doing it 100% ‘accurately’ but I was doing what worked for me.

Key Points:

  • 6 days a week on diet, 1 day off (Cheat Day!)
  • On diet:
    • 30 grams of protein within 30 mins of waking up – preferably via something like eggs or chicken, but I can’t eat that much in the morning so have always relied on protein shakes
    • No sugar, carbs or dairy. At all.
    • Tons of water – at least 2 litres a day
    • You’re allowed 2 glasses of red wine a day but I don’t like red wine so didn’t have any alcohol on diet days
  • Cheat Day:
    • 30 grams of protein within 30 mins of waking up
    • Tons of water
    • Grapefruit juice before a meal helps to control insulin spikes (I found it also prevented me getting horrible sugar headaches)
    • Eat whatever you want!

I decided to try to go Slow Carb for a month, and see how I got on. The diet is pretty restrictive but the thing I found was that mostly it’s just boring! There are tons of meals you can have, and you’re encouraged to eat as much as you like, so you don’t tend to feel hungry, it’s just dull. At first the sugar cravings are horrid, but you soon get used to it. What surprised me most was that I almost immediately started sleeping better as there was no sugar keeping me awake. I also stopped getting the post lunch slump which meant my afternoon productivity increased. All in all I was feeling pretty good.

The Food:

I surprised myself by missing fruit the most. Some people do have fruit while on the diet but it’s so high in sugar that it makes it harder to cut out other sugars. My guilty pleasures are Diet Coke (you’re allowed one a day, although again, does make you crave more sugar), mayo (one tablespoon a day) and peanuts. Nuts are allowed in moderation and I definitely go over the line but they’re like crack to me!

We eat a lot of meat and roasted vegetables, my favourite is a nice rump steak with tons of different veg. I’m obsessed with aubergine at the moment as it feels more bulky than some other veg and seems to just fill that hole better. We also have a lot of chilli with cauliflower rice, curry with lentils, fajitas with lettuce wraps and stir fry with courgetti. The diet plan recommends repeating the same few meals but we have to introduce variety to keep our sanity! It’s forced us to become a lot more creative and we make all our spice mixes, guacamole, salsa etc from scratch now – so much nicer!

For lunch I usually have tuna with crudités. Things like cucumber are full of sugar so you’re not meant to have them but I do, they’re vegetables for god’s sake! I’ve found quite a few options for Slow Carb friendly lunches around work too – burrito salad box (yum!), Vietnamese salad, Pret Chipotle salad, hot roast chicken from Sainsburys with a microwave veg pack (Tom has this most days but I find it a bit dull!) I seriously miss my crispy bacon baguette with a bag of Doritos some days, but I don’t miss the post lunch slump!!

My Weight:

I am a bit OCD and wanted to keep track of my progress so started a spreadsheet to keep track of my weight and goals. This really helped me as in the first few weeks you can’t see much difference in your body, but the weight was dropping off on the scales at a rapid rate. By the end of the first month I was 12lbs down, which is almost a stone! I was so buoyed by this progress that I decided to carry on indefinitely.

Jo weight loss

Over time as your body gets used to the diet your progress does slow. This graph shows my first 6 months, the downward trend is fairly steep and I lost a total of 30lbs! You can see the step up each week after Cheat Day. Tom assures me that Cheat Day is essential to spike your calories and trick your body to keep burning energy at a higher rate rather than going into ‘starvation mode’ (bad word really as at no point did I feel starved in any way, this is definitely not a fasting type diet). You can also see where we went on holiday for a week in September, I put on about half a stone, but dropped it again within a couple of weeks.

The best way to track your changing body is to take measurements and photos. I didn’t take measurements (I wish I had!) but did take photos each week along the way. These still amaze me and I look at them regularly for inspiration. The comparison below shows me at the start, and also around the end of the first 6 months. I’m like a different person! I sometimes wear these shorts around the house now and they almost slip off, crazy that just over a year ago I could barely fit into them!

Jo weight loss pictures

I lost all this weight without changing my exercise schedule at all. I say schedule, all I was doing was playing one game of netball each week – hardly intensive cardio!

After Christmas I did lose my way a little, I was getting fed up of the strict regime, and very very bored. Since then I have dipped in and out of dieting, mostly sticking to it during the week but having the weekends off. One of the reasons I was getting fed up was that my weight loss had plateaued, I seemed to have reached the limit I could achieve through the diet alone.

Jo comparison photo

The Exercise:

It was at this point that I decided to pick up the exercise a little. I had started working from home so wasn’t even getting a walk to the tube station daily. I had lost a lot of weight but was still not really toned at all. I wanted to see if mixing some exercise into my regime could help me past the plateau and improve my body shape.

I have always been awful at running, I’ve tried different plans to turn myself into a runner but it’s never worked. As it’s something that’s so easy to do during lunchtime, and free, I knew it would be perfect if only I could teach myself how, and get over my fears! I bought the Kiqplan app and started from nothing, increasing the distance little by little following the plan. I had never run outside before and was terrified but I was determined to give it a try.

My first run was great, I ran 1.12 miles very very slowly, but the sense of achievement was huge. I didn’t realise how much easier it would be with 2 stone less weight to carry along with me! I set about running a little every day and continued to build up my strength and confidence. I built up my distance steadily and within just a few weeks I reached my first big goal of 5k, I couldn’t believe it. I even completed a 5k race with Charlie recently, which I never ever thought would happen! Unfortunately I had a stomach bug during the week so was so low on energy that I couldn’t run it all, but that’s just made me more determined to try again in September at the next Pretty Muddy event!

Pretty Muddy 5K

I had mainly kept to the diet through this period and was frustrated as my weight was still plateaued, however, my body shape had started to change as I dropped fat and built up muscle. I weighed more than I did at Christmas but relatives who hadn’t seen me since then were all commenting that I’d lost more weight and was looking much smaller. All this from just running 2-3 miles three times a week, every little really does count!

For the first time in my life I felt strong and lean, and was starting to notice new muscle definition. It was a shock to see how quickly my body changed – I must remember how quickly it can go back too! When I looked back at how I struggled on the Three Peaks training walk I was amazed to see how my body has changed, not just in size but in strength too. My fitness is still not great and I need to work on my stamina, but the improvement already is huge.

The Future:

After lots of celebrations following getting engaged recently and life just getting in the way I have let the running and dieting drop and have already noticed my shape changing. I’ve managed to consistently stay within half a stone of my lowest weight throughout all my ups and downs recently, which is a limit I set myself, so I’m not too worried, but it is time to step it up again!

Jo and Charlie Wedding

Back in my gym-bunny days I enjoyed weights sessions, and found that they really helped tone me up. I think the next step is to re-introduce a weights plan or something like Pilates into my exercise regime. That and keep building up my running distance. I’ve promised to try a 10k with my sister next year so I’ve got that to aim for. She’s just given birth to twins so if she can do it so can I!

I’ve worked so hard that I’m determined never to let my weight slip again. I have set myself an upper weight limit, if I breach this it’s back on the diet straight away! I’m not weighing myself obsessively every day anymore but am making sure I step on the scales at least once a week, just to keep me honest! As I mentioned at the start, this journey began as an attempt to reduce my weight. Looking back, it’s about so much more than that. 

I’ve always wanted to walk down the aisle as a size 10, and I’m confident now that that dream will come true!

5 Comments

  1. 30th July 2015 / 6:23 pm

    this is an incredible story. What amazing resolve and dedication you have Jo! You look fabulous. Congrats on your engagement 🙂

  2. 30th July 2015 / 7:14 pm

    I am so hugely impressed, especially by the before/after photos. You have the most amazing little waist. I’m going to cut down my carbs and see if I can find mine again too!

  3. Becky
    3rd August 2015 / 4:13 am

    Thank you for posting your story & pictures! I’ve recently upped my activity, mostly mountain biking, but need to get my weight down & endurance up to be able to keep up with groups & enjoy myself more, and fit into cute clothes! Your story is inspiring.

  4. Tommy Martin
    12th January 2017 / 4:20 pm

    Awesome. I hope to be as successful. I’m on Day 4 of 4HB, and have been trying for years other ways. I feel it this time though.