Name: Amy O'Dowd
Occupation: Primary School Teacher
Starting weight: 87.6kg
Current weight: 68kg
What prompted you to start your fitness journey, was there a particular moment or realisation?
I was simply sick of feeling sluggish and uncomfortable with how I looked. I had returned from a holiday to Sri Lanka and after seeing the photos I was horrified with what I saw.
What was the first change you made to your lifestyle?
I signed up to Weight Watchers as an online member. I started planning ahead what I was going to eat before I ate it!
What other changes did you initially make to your eating habits?
I have always had a real sweet tooth. Always loyal to my skinny lattes, I always wanted ‘something sweet’ to go with it. A cookie, some slice, a muffin, you name it. The bigger and more full of chocolate, the better. I started to make having the coffee itself a treat, as I really needed to kick my sweet tooth. After I would have a treat with my coffee, I used to say ‘that’s it for the day/week/month, I’ll start again on Monday/next week/month, etc.’ I stopped that thinking pretty early on.
What other changes did you initially make to your exercise habits?
I’ve been going to different gyms for years, but I think I tended to reward myself with food if I managed to go. I started to train with a personal trainer and that really opened my eyes to different exercises I could be doing at the gym. I used to plod along not knowing how to use much of the equipment, but having that one on one time was worth every penny, as it was a great education into how far I could really push my body. And I didn’t require food to celebrate going anymore.
How did your weight loss/fitness progress?
I managed to lose 20kgs in approximately 12 months. There were certainly gains along the way, but I didn’t let that derail the whole process. I became stronger and fitter and actually grew to enjoy going to the gym.
What changes made the most difference?
As someone with diagnosed anxiety, I have come to realise that eating well, moving daily, and sleeping enough are the three things that make me function the best, and keep me calm and content. I still have a sweet tooth but I can now satisfy a craving with a couple of bites. Tracking what I ate was an enormous change, but an extremely productive one.
How did you feel during the process?
At first I was a bit embarrassed that I needed external help to assist me in losing weight. Realising that I wasn’t happy with the size I was, was a big step. That didn’t last long though as I really embraced my weight loss goal and basically told everyone around me that I had joined Weight Watchers. I realised it was nothing to be ashamed of, and it was actually easier with people knowing – it was easier when they stopped offering me pizza, wine and cake (there are a lot of birthdays in the teaching world) as I didn’t have to say a polite ‘no thank you’ as often!
What helped to keep you motivated?
For every 100g I lost, I would move a stone from one jar to another jar. I had one jar labelled ‘lost’ and one jar labelled ‘still to go’. The visual was a terrific motivator to me. In addition I was feeling more energised with each kilo disappearing, so that in itself made me feel better and kept me going. My parents and my partner Alistair were my cheer squad too, encouraging me to stick to it and celebrating my successes with me.
Do you have any favourite motivational quotes?
I think one of the biggest discoveries of my weight loss journey has been about the importance of being organised. I like ‘fail to plan, plan to fail’.
What are your current short and long term goals?
Long term I want to maintain my weight loss – physically I have never felt better and I don’t want to go back to the way I was. I’ve always wanted to be able to run as well, and keep my knees together! I’d love to be able to participate in a ‘fun run’ of some sort.
What would a day on a plate look like for you now?
For breakfast I like to have eggs with smoked salmon or some avocado. I’ve gotten right into putting mason jars together lately, filling them with filling foods like chickpeas, tuna/chicken/salmon, vegetables, quinoa or rice. I love doing them on a weekend and having them ready for work throughout the week. Dinner can really vary but as long as there is some protein involved and some salad or vegetables, I’m pretty happy.
What is your current exercise routine?
I’m a Fernwood gym member so I head there approximately 3 – 4 times a week. I like to go in the mornings before work as it really sets me up for the day. I do a combination of cardio and weight training and on Thursday mornings I do a ‘Functional Fit’ class which I love – maybe not at the time but always afterwards!
What achievement are you most proud of?
Achieving a 20kg weight loss. I never expected to reach that amount and I was surprised at how easy it was to follow the Weight Watchers program. It really is a lifestyle, not a diet. To be able to continue to eat the foods I love – including chocolate – and still lose weight was pretty great.
What advice would you give to others wanting to do the same?
Start small. Everyone has to start somewhere – make small mini goals and celebrate every success along the way. If you’re not someone that likes to exercise, start with walking to the end of the street and slowly build up.
This article originally appeared on Women's Health.