I've always been rather conscious of my weight. I was never really bothered about having abs or muscles, as long as I remained slender, I was happy.
Then my mid-20s hit, and I could no longer easily metabolize four boxes of chicken nuggets.
There's nothing wrong with gaining weight, but I'd totally lost the concept of moderation. Instead, I entered a toxic relationship with food because it became a source of comfort to me.
My diet was atrocious, I was at my worst mentally, and I was desperate to do something about it. So by my late-20s, I embarked on a two-year weight-loss pilgrimage.
Yes, two years sounds like an eternity, and my weight fluctuated a lot during that time. But losing belly fat wasn't my main goal, restoring my mental health was.
Eventually, I found that overeating wasn't my problem, self-deprecation was. It was time for me to sort myself out on my own terms. That meant no diets, no time frames, and absolutely no feeling sorry for myself.
Read on for the eight things that helped me lose 70 pounds in two years.
I travel a lot for work, and I still want to enjoy good food in the places I visit. Luke Abrahams for Insider
I've always been anti-diet.
In the past, I've tried things like keto, Atkins, and even "Veganuary" (eating vegan through the month of January) to try and shed a few pounds, but I failed abysmally every single time.
For some people, dieting works, but I saw diets as a cause for bouts of extreme binge eating. Just saying no to a bar of chocolate for a few days would result in a midnight snack-a-thon of double chocolate-chip cookies.
Instead, I listened to my body and its needs, and I made space for my favorite things, like cake, chocolate, and gelato. In the long run, that worked much better for me than constantly restricting and bingeing those treats.
As I grew older and my metabolism shifted, it failed me. The more I looked down at my growing belly bulge in the shower, the more depressed I became.
As part of my job as a luxury travel journalist, I had the privilege to attend a detox program that normally costs thousands of dollars a week. It involved massages, cryotherapy, and a strict vegan diet but the biggest takeaway I got out of it was information about nutrition that helped me create a strong foundation for everything to come.
Of course, you don't need a luxury program to learn about nutrition. Everything you need to know about the benefits and drawbacks of the different food groups can be found online or in books.
The mantra "you are what you eat" also really stuck with me as my consultant took me through the major food groups and explained all the benefits that promote healthy weight loss.
Eggs and peanut butter keep you full, leafy greens like kale and spinach increase the volume of your meals without increasing the calories, salmon keeps your metabolism running smoothly with protein and iodine, and avocados introduce healthy fats that can reduce your waistline.
Eventually, Uber Eats nights gradually became salad nights, carbs were consumed only at lunch (followed by a brisk walk), and my morning green juice became a sacred routine.
I never used to believe in exercise. I toured gyms in all the corners of the world for work, but I could never muster up the courage to jump on a machine.
Then lockdown hit London during the coronavirus pandemic, and I was bored. Eventually, I caved and started doing Joe Wicks' workout sessions on his YouTube channel, The Body Coach.
Sweat challenge after sweat challenge the pounds gruelingly began to shed.
What made it easy, especially for someone with slight confidence issues, is that I could work out and make mistakes in the comfort of my own home without fear of judgment or being watched.
As England came out of lockdown, I pushed myself to get comfortable working out in public and got into electrical muscle stimulation (EMS) training at a local studio.
EMS is a workout technique where a machine is strapped to your body (think Lara Croft's bodysuit) and delivers electrical pulses that stimulate muscle contractions, which intensify your workout.
A simple 20-minute EMS workout is the equivalent of a 90-minute regular workout with all the same basic exercises: squats, planks, punches, press-ups, and sit-ups.
I've completed well over 20 sessions now, and my balance has improved and my muscles are more toned.
But if EMS isn't in your budget, my advice is to invest in some weights and find a fitness YouTube channel you like. There are so many great videos out there that are just a search away.
The easy 20-minute videos from Wicks were my go-tos for months. They're suited for all levels, cover all the basic workouts, and provide instructions for safe and proper weight training.
I was never a big meat eater. I'd reserve the luxury for whenever I was at a swanky restaurant and then pay for it later. For some reason, my gut hated the stuff, and I would spend hours feeling sick after eating a burger.
Needless to say, introducing more protein into my diet which mostly consisted of carbs and sugar was a real struggle.
I started by drinking protein shakes after every workout, which helped massively. A few weeks in, I slowly began eating steaks, eggs, venison (all things I previously hated and now crave), and peanut butter.
Peanut butter in my porridge combined with a post-workout protein shake kept my hunger at bay all morning. Come snack time, things like nuts and apples diminished my cravings until I indulged in carbs, a large bag of cooked spinach, and cold meats at lunch.
The best part is that I felt fuller for longer, which meant I could consume fewer calories and in a healthy way.
Whenever you're changing things up with your diet, just be sure to listen to your body and know its limits.
Looking it the mirror was much more helpful than stepping on the scale for me. Luke Abrahams for Insider
Like dieting, keeping track of numbers works for some people when they're trying to lose weight .
But I think scales are counterproductive. For me, they come with expectations and goals, and it's disheartening when you don't achieve them.
It may not be a perfect strategy for everyone, but taking mirror selfies and being hyped up by friends helped me track my progress and feel confident.
I smoked and drank (socially) for well over 15 years.
But before I began my weight-loss journey, I quit smoking. I grabbed all my favorite things from the supermarket, locked myself in my flat for three days, and went completely cold turkey.
Though it was hard, I got over the cravings within six months and have never looked back. And quitting before I embarked on my weight-loss journey definitely helped me get stronger and fitter faster.
I knew that working out or running while smoking between 15 and 20 cigarettes a day wasn't going to work. Even walking long distances became a real struggle after a while. According to the NHS website, the perks of quitting include everything from increased energy to reduced risks of developing cancers.
Then there was the booze.
London is full of bars and excellent restaurants. On some nights, I could easily down a bottle or two of Chablis wine, a calorific nightmare.
After doing more research, I completely cut alcohol out for eight months. Though I was never a big drinker, the benefits surfaced quite quickly. I was much less bloated and my skin looked fantastic, too.
I didn't care about getting my body ready for summer.Time frames add unnecessary pressure, and when my lifestyle was already largely dictated by my job, simply finding the time to work out was a feat of its own.
Over the last two years, I've learned that weight loss should be on your terms. Instead of obsessing over strict time frames or seasons, find a schedule that suits you. At the very least, it'll be a more sustainable practice in the long run.
I preach doing things in stages. If you give yourself too many goals, ambitions, or tasks at the same time, the likelihood of caving in is much higher.
Start as you mean to go on, patiently and productively.
I've not only reached my weight-loss goals, but I've also developed a better relationship with fitness. Luke Abrahams for Insider
Throughout this journey, I've figured out that the best thing for squashing all of life's stressors is endorphins.
I became slightly addicted to the boost that comes after working out. Running, even if it's just for 20 minutes, not only made me feel great, but it also helped my mind function a little bit better.
The only way you'll succeed in your weight-loss goals and make lasting change is if you enjoy your new lifestyle, and craving that post-workout high made that possible for me.
Eating well, in moderation, and exercising for a healthy heart and mind made me a happier person the fit body was just a bonus.