My Life-Long Battle with Diet and Exercise

One of my clients told me she never exercised before she came to me. She has always been tall and thin and never felt the need to. Luckily she now understands the benefits of weight training and realises exercising isn't just about being skinny! But, it made me think back about why I had ever started exercising. I thought I should give a history about my own journey. Exercise and diet has played a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember. I am going to give a rough explanation about it.

As far as food is concerned, I think I've always had an unhealthy relationship with food. My parents have always had a healthy diet and so I ate quite well in my childhood. Snacks were limited to a small bar in our lunch every day and we never really had fizzy drinks. I think I felt slightly restricted though and in my early teens, if I ever had any money, I would buy myself treats in the shop.

I remember one day I went into the shop after Easter and they didn't have the drink I wanted so I bought a chocolate bar. When I got back to the car my mam told me I "didn't need that after all the chocolate over the weekend". Something clicked in my head. I was only about 12 or 13 and I just stopped eating. It's weird, I don't remember that period at all. I just remember a while later that my mam was at the end of my bed really upset and begging me to eat an apple and yoghurt. I think I went back to "normal" after that. 

My parents both enjoyed running and my mam used to do aerobics a few mornings a week. I was dying to be 16 so I could use the gym. I was playing camogie and gaelic football with the local club and really enjoyed it. The next thing I remember, I was doing my leaving cert and I wanted to lose weight. I knew nothing about nutrition except for what I was seeing on the television so I started the Special K diet. I loved cereal so I ate that for two meals a day and I think I had another small meal. My family and friends tried to convince me to eat but I wouldn't eat when I was in school. I would have cereal before and after school and nothing at lunch time -  I would just watch my friends eat. The weight fell off me and I was really skinny by the time I finished school.

Blondes have more fun?

Blondes have more fun?

17 and trying not to eat anything except cereal!

17 and trying not to eat anything except cereal!

Then college started. I went to DCU and my new favourite meal was chicken goujons, wedges and garlic mayo. Plus a lot of alcohol! I was pretty fit as I was playing football with the club and with college, as well as going to the gym (treadmill/bike!) during the week. I think I was oblivious to the weight piling on. I spent the first two years of college going wild. I worked in retail during the summer and my favourite cheap lunch was a crisp roll and a bottle of fanta!

Summer 2007 - One year of college done.  Channeling Anastasia with the glasses!

Summer 2007 - One year of college done.  Channeling Anastasia with the glasses!

In the summer of 2008, a good friend of mine had been making great progress with Weight Watchers. She suggested I joined her. I didn't think I had any weight to lose but looking back I had two years of college weight to shift. I found it so easy at the start. They were trying to encourage people to start walking to 'earn' activity points. This was easy for me because I was fit so I could run 10k and earn lots of points for extra food. I tried to save as many 'points' for the weekend. I started eating chicken salads and stir frys but I also squeezed as many treats into my day as possible. I was having crazy amounts of Curly Wurlys and Walkers Baked. Then at the weekend I would end up having pizza etc but still be down on the scales on the Monday. Which meant the following week I wouldn't be as strict seeing as I 'got away' with the pizza the week before. 

Overall I lost about a stone and half in a year doing Weight Watchers. My frustration was that the goal weight they had given me was almost another stone away. I was tall and skinny (purely from a lot cardio) and I was wearing a size 8 dress for my 21st in August 2009. I didn't want to get any skinnier but I didn't know what to do next.

Luckily my friends convinced me to go back to my natural colour - red heads have more fun!

Luckily my friends convinced me to go back to my natural colour - red heads have more fun!

I went to one of the PTs in DCU gym and he gave me a weight training program. I loved it. I was in the 'big boy's weight area'! He also gave me a really strict diet to stick to. It was aiming for Ketosis as far as I remember. I got some really good results. I remember I started seeing definition on my stomach and I felt fantastic.

Another night out in college but I felt good by now!

Another night out in college but I felt good by now!

It all went to ruins when I moved to Portugal for the summer in 2010. I returned back to work full-time and I worked late nights in The Wright Venue which just resulted in a messed up schedule. I then booked another flight and went to Portugal for another 7 months in 2011. 

November 2011 - the end of 7 months in the Algarve as maid of honour for my aunt's wedding

November 2011 - the end of 7 months in the Algarve as maid of honour for my aunt's wedding

2012 was the year of jogging and I did the Fingal 10k. I counted calories and tried to eat a healthy diet but I was never strict enough. I knew I needed to go back to lifting weights but I didn't know where to begin. I read a lot online and couldn't remember what I had been doing before. I also tried the 5:2 diet. I would eat 500 calories in one day and binge the next. Again, with any yo-yo diet,  I got results initially but they levelled off. 

April 2013 - Pre 5:2 diet

April 2013 - Pre 5:2 diet

May 2013 - Post 5:2 Diet (and a haircut!)

May 2013 - Post 5:2 Diet (and a haircut!)

2013 was the year I started lifting again. I went to an excellent PT in Raw gym and just did one session where he taught me about the Squat, Deadlift and Bench. I loved it! I didn't think I could afford to do more sessions so I found the Stronglifts 5x5 program online. It was a good starting point and I progressed quickly but the problem was that I didn't have anybody watching my form. I also heard a lot about the paleo diet and thought it was the answer to all my problems. I ate really clean and unprocessed. I ate whatever I wanted as long as it fit the 'paleo rules'. I was going way over the amount of calories I needed, my fats were very high and carbs were very low. I also cheated on the diet a lot. There were always pizzas and cans at the weekend!

The day before I started following the Paleo diet - my brother's debs. 

The day before I started following the Paleo diet - my brother's debs. 

Fats, fats, fats

Fats, fats, fats

Christmas 2013

Christmas 2013

January 2014 - determined to change

January 2014 - determined to change

In January 2014 I mixed up my program a bit with the help of a PT but never really spoke about diet. I initially shed some weight after a break up. I was training hard on my own throughout the year. I was eating "clean" Monday to Thursday as much as I could and then usually ended up eating and drinking all weekend. I was wrecked on Mondays so found it hard to get back on track. I was working in recruitment which involved long stressful days,  I didn't like my job, I lived for the weekend to go out drinking again. My thoughts were "What's the point in sitting in and being in shape?'.

Another work night out before Leah left me for Oz :(

Another work night out before Leah left me for Oz :(

Fastforward to October 2014 which is when my most recent and most successful journey began. I had so much muscle built up but I didn't know what I was doing and my form was all wrong. I was trying to do cardio in the morning and weights in the evening. I was exhausted so there was no food prepared. I hated my job and didn't know what else I could do with my Maths degree. I was looking at starting two-year masters in Software Engineering as my previous job had been in financial software and I liked it. I had toyed with the idea of studying personal training. But it seemed ludicrous - who would want to be trained by me?! How could I possibly make a career out of it?!

My friends decided to do Sober-November in the run up to Christmas. I decided to use the extra money and hire a PT 3 times a week. It was the best decision I ever made. I worked with a PT called Paul Morgan in FlyeFit. I picked him because I wanted the biggest guy in the gym. He told me I wasn't eating enough when I thought I was eating 'clean'. He gave me a diet and told me to go eat it all, even when I'm not hungry and promised I would come back starving. Which I did. I had kicked off my metabolism again. He showed me how to train efficiently and luckily I had the strength so we were able to work really hard. More importantly, he also told me about how he had quit the bank to become a PT. I told him it was my dream to just be able to stay in the gym all day. He said it was the best decision he ever made.

About 5 weeks of training hard and strict diet in the difference

About 5 weeks of training hard and strict diet in the difference

I looked into doing a course but I didn't have time with the hours I was working in recruitment. But they say if you want something bad enough, you make time for it. It seemed mad at the time but I left my permanent job to go back to my old job with the small software company on a 6 month contract as the hours were just 9-5pm. I felt like a bit of a failure going back with my tail between my legs telling them that the big international company I left them for wasn't all it was cracked up to be. I was so lucky to be given another opportunity. This seemed like the biggest risk I took. One step back in the hope of two steps forward?!

This was finally the motivation I needed to stop cheating on my diet. I knew I needed to be my own advertisement. I had so many mental battles when I wanted treats but I just told myself to decide what I wanted more and I usually made the right decision. The weight started falling off me even though I was spending less time in the gym and more time in the kitchen. I was training efficiently, and because I had so much muscle under all the fat, my body fat reduced quickly. I was so surprised. I had no goal in mind. I just kept taking progress photos every Saturday morning and I kept surprising myself with the results. 

Then I started a separate Instagram account to start sharing these results.... 20,000 followers later... The dream has come true. I am working in a job I love, I love my body, I love my life and I am finally happy. It was hard work but it was SO worth it. Let's see what is next...

Siobhan x

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22 years old vs 26 years old

22 years old vs 26 years old