‘Buying a size 20 dress I thought, no more... I can’t continue like this’

Aine pictured left in 2007 before she attended University in Leeds, and right, October 2017 taking the 'Bike Bus' in Boston.
Aine pictured left in 2007 before she attended University in Leeds, and right, October 2017 taking the 'Bike Bus' in Boston.

New Year, New Me. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

It’s January once again, which for a lot of people means resolutions, vows to start exercising or eat just a little bit healthier.

Aine, pictured in September 2007, and right in September 2017.

Aine, pictured in September 2007, and right in September 2017.

I’ve been in that position myself many times before, but this year I’m going to put myself in the spotlight for 12 weeks and let readers monitor my progress.

From Monday, I will be undertaking my programme at ‘U-Turn Fitness’ as part of the Transformation Academy under the watchful eye of Danny Glenn and the programme will finish just ahead of my 30th birthday in April,

It isn’t my first foray into the world of exercise and healthy eating, as in 2007 I tipped the scales at 16 stone and 7 lbs.

Before I embark on this 12-weeks “transformation,” I thought it was important to share my journey to date, to show that even the smallest change can make a huge difference as there really isn’t any quick fix.

I repeated my A-Levels in 2006 and that year I also discovered the wonder of the ‘chicken ball special.’

Most of my friends had ventured off to pastures new bound for university, so I mainly kept myself to myself, and relied heavily on food.

Slowly but surely, the weight crept on and when I achieved the grades required to get into my course at Leeds University, I was tipping the scale at 16 st. 7 lbs.

I always remember my mammy telling me that I ‘wouldn’t be going to university heavy.’

Well, I did more than that, I was extremely overweight. I barely moved and had no intention of making any sort of change in my life.

However, moving to Leeds proved to be a key moment. I went from being close to a recluse, to trying to get back to my outgoing self with different nights out such as themed events. But this brought my weight into the limelight.

Everyone I lived with, studied with, even saw at these parties, were able to wear beautiful outfits, go and pick up a costume in a shop with ease. Whereas I had to squeeze into something I had thrown together from a sale rail in Primark.

In fact, the moment I decided to make a change came when I had to return a Size 18 dress to that very shop in the Summer of 2008.

Although I had been a lot more active throughout my first year at university, I counteracted this with endless takeaways and cheap alcopops.

Back to that day I had to change the dress to a Size 20. I thought no more. I can’t continue like this.

That said, I didn’t immediately alter my eating habits or join a gym, it took me a while to process how I had let myself get to this stage, never mind how I was going to remedy it.

Second year started and my house mate, Max, decided to join the gym in the students’ union. I thought I’d give it a go as well and found myself the biggest, baggiest items of clothing I owned to wear on that first day.

To be honest, it was extremely daunting even though I had a friend by my side. I’d only ever been in a gym briefly as part of a PE class in school, and even then I didn’t actually use any equipment.

After an induction I decided to give the cross trainer a go. It looked like the least threatening piece of equipment in there,and 20 minutes later I was absolutely puffed out.

But I had done it. Baby steps I thought.

We were full of great intentions to go every day after that, but the following day when I met Max after class, he said he was going to give it a miss.

Knowing that it was a case of now or never, I opted to go it alone and I got back on that crosstrainer and I never looked back.

I started to walk to my part time job in the evenings after uni, and became a regular gym goer, just focusing on getting on that crosstrainer and trying my best. Using music as my motivator and blocking everyone and everything else out during that time.

Weight started to come off a little, but I hadn’t really noticed much of a difference.

I made some small changes to my eating habits, but nothing extraordinary at that stage. I still enjoyed takeaways and nights out, but just tried to make some better options.

I spent Christmas at home, and friends commented that I had lost weight. That was a massive confidence boost and spurred me on even more.

I moved back to Derry in 2009 and finished my studies at Queen’s University, where I also joined the gym and remained active.

Over the following two years I kept a closer eye on my diet. I still enjoyed myself, but I was a lot more conscious of what I was eating and tried to cook everything from scratch where possible.

I graduated in 2011, six stone and eight pounds lighter than when I moved to Leeds.

I’d found a new passion for jogging and any sort of exercising. It had become part of my life.

I started taking part in spin classes, kettlebell classes; I was willing to try anything new, I’d really caught the exercise bug.

From that second day in the gym I had really done it all alone, but it was great to finally experience the more social side of exercise by joining classes.

Between knee injuries from running and a nut allergy diagnosis in 2014, I wasn’t able to stay as active as I had previously liked, which resulted in gaining back around three stone.

Speaking to friends, they still tell me it wasn’t noticeable, or even that they didn’t realise I was as heavy as I was 10 years ago, but I felt every single additional pound.

Although my health had improved, my confidence had taken a hit and it took a lot to step back into a gym again in January, 2015.

I had done it once and knew that it could be done again. Due to injury, I had to adjust my training habits and focused on building strength to try and prevent any further damage to my knee.

I have lost almost all of the weight I gained again over the last two years but due to my change in training I’m actually a smaller dress size and in better shape.

I have also changed my relationship with food and have transitioned from “cardio bunny” to a girl who understands and loves weight training.

Starting this 12-week programme is quite daunting, but I hope it will help to show that slow and steady does actually win the race!

Keep an eye on my progress every week, and also follow Twitter @aineodoherty and Instagram @aine_od