This article is part of a series of articles on food and fitness for February 2021 on Scoreline.ie. You can find the full list of articles here. KCLR Live presenter Eimear Ní Bhraonáin shares her food and fitness journey over the past few weeks as she shakes off 2020 and embraces 2021 with a fresh outlook.
You can’t out-train a bad diet.
These words often echo in my ears as I’m reaching for the chocolate press. They’ve been roared in my direction by Paul Ward when back in the good old days we were able to sweat in the Carlow town hurling club during boot camp classes.
For those of us with desk jobs who are less physically active during the day, that advice is bang on. A 5km run here, and a 10km walk there, is a great mood booster but it’s not going to do much to help you shed the pandemic pounds unless you’re addressing what you’re putting into your body first.
I’m not a qualified nutritionist or a health guru. I’m just an ordinary punter, like you, who has been on a few diets over the years and I’ve picked up some wisdom along the way.
Back in 2017, I did a six-week boot camp with Paul Ward which involved a mix of following a low-carb diet and exercising four or five times a week. The classes were 45 minutes and a mix of high-intensity cardio (the burpees got easier as the weight fell off) and floor exercises using weights.
At that time, the results were dramatic and fast. I lost 19 pounds in the six weeks as I eliminated heavy carbs like bread, spuds, pasta and rice. My body was shocked as I suddenly stopped eating starchy foods and instead opted for fresh vegetables and protein to keep me going. I completely ditched chocolate, snacking (apart from an odd handful of nuts or fruit) and alcohol.
Low-carb is different from “carb-free” so I was still eating porridge in the mornings and vegetables that contained carbohydrate.
Time for a change
Fast forward three years and add in covering a pandemic in a busy news environment, and I noticed the pounds creeping up again.
Like many of us, I overindulged at Christmas and had gained the pounds from eating crisps and drinking wine on the sofa. I didn’t beat myself up too much but decided not to let the weight “settle” and to tackle it as early as possible in 2021.
Firstly, I started weighing myself again. I don’t do this more than once weekly as it’s too much of a rollercoaster. At the same time, weighing myself on Monday mornings helps me face up to how the weekend went and means there is some accountability i.e. if I have a Chinese on a Friday night and a bad weekend of eating junk, I know I have to work harder Monday to Thursday to get back on track.
I undertook the low-carb regime again this January, while also cutting back on but not completely eliminating alcohol (I have enjoyed a few sneaky G&Ts on the sofa without the crisps on Friday nights). I combined this with virtual boot camp classes – there are some brilliant options out there for people, and not just with Paul. Donna Dunne Fitness in Kilkenny has been superb, Joe Wicks has got everybody moving too and I’m also a fan of Googling random kettlebell workouts which are free.
As well as doing a few classes a week, I try to ensure I’m walking most days if I can, with an odd run thrown in. In four weeks, I’ve shifted all the pandemic and Christmas pounds… and I’m back to my ideal weight.
There was no magic formula to the weight loss. Following a good food plan and moving more did the trick.
Eimear’s typical daily food plan
Breakfast: Porridge and blueberries or low-fat yogurt and fruit
Lunch: Reheated smaller portion of dinner like a stir fry, curry or stew. Or a bowl of soup.
Dinner: Freshly prepared homemade dinners like salmon in cajun spices with lots of veg, a chicken curry with lots of veg. (Initially I missed rice so added sides like green beans or cauliflower rice).
Snacks: if absolutely necessary are a small piece of fruit or handful of nuts. I try not to eat more three pieces of fruit a day on the plan. I drink lots of water and coffee (that was non negotiable for me).
Evenings are the hardest as my bad habits stemmed from snacking after dark. It’s an ongoing battle to social distance from the fridge after dinner time.
What comes next?
I’m hoping maintaining the weight loss will be easier than dieting as I think we all need to enjoy the odd indulgent treat whether that’s your takeaway on Friday nights or your bag of pick and mix on a Saturday watching Netflix.
Times are tough enough so I understand the comfort we all get from food. The benefits of eating well and exercising are so much more than just losing the pounds. The brain fog clears, your energy levels rocket to the point where you want to go from a walk or run, and you’re more productive.
I know we won’t be rushing to book a sun holiday anytime soon to show off our bikini bodies but taking some time to invest in yourself is so important. Self-care is a buzz word these days but nobody else is going to lose weight for you, or make you feel better, the drive has to come from within.