Shedding for a wedding, after a decade of drinking too much

Dominique McMullan is getting married on July 29th. Follow her as she gets fit for the big day

 “For the next three months I will be focusing not on what I fancy but on what I need: healthy food, regular exercise and pushing my body a little bit more in the right direction.” Photograph: Dave Meehan

“For the next three months I will be focusing not on what I fancy but on what I need: healthy food, regular exercise and pushing my body a little bit more in the right direction.” Photograph: Dave Meehan

 

I turned 30 this year and I’m getting married in three months. If you can think of a better reason to get fit, I’ll eat my . . . hummus and carrots. My mission is this; learn how to start taking better care of my mind and body.

After a decade of drinking too much, doing very little exercise and unhealthy dieting, I want to learn a regime that I will actually stick to. I also want to look and feel good in my wedding dress, which I bought in a size that is just a little bit snug.

I know, you’ve heard it all before. But this will not be a #fitfam journey. This will not be pretty and filtered. This will not involve cute photos of smoothies and kale arranged artfully on marble slabs. I will not be wearing tiny bras bought from Pretty Little Thing. I will be wearing three sports bras and retching in the corner.

I met my trainer, John Belton, for the first time four days ago and (sorry, John) he is scary. His gym, located in the Vault off Hatch Street, has all sorts of unusual-looking instruments hanging from the walls, and very closely resembles a dungeon or some sort of torture chamber. He has warned me that this will be difficult and ugly.

After taking my measurements, John tells me that my body fat is 36 per cent. That means that 36 per cent of my body is fat. It should be about 25 per cent. John warns me that if this continues, I will have health problems in the next 10 years as a direct result. This is a real shock, and is probably having the desired effect. I will be taking this very seriously.

It’s complicated

Like many women, my relationship with my weight has been complicated. The first time I compared my body to others, I was 12 and was told by an adult that I shouldn’t wear a crop top, when the rest of the girls could.

I remember looking down at my soft stomach like I had never seen it before. I pulled it out, studied it and pinched it and rolled it, and for the first time I disliked the flesh that sat on my bones. I was only about three or four pounds overweight, but I suddenly felt like a 12-year-old alien. I obsessively compared every one of my bumps and rolls to the girls around me. Unfortunately, this was to continue.

All throughout my teens, I fought myself. I didn’t want to be one of those vain girls who cared only about their appearance. I pitied the girls who sat at lunch gnawing on an apple for 45 minutes. I wanted to grab life by the horns and eat the chocolate. I didn’t fully grasp the concept of moderation. I have always been an all-or-nothing type of person.

There was an unhealthy attitude towards food that seemed to spread around the girls in school the older we got, resulting in so many of them denying their growing bodies. While no one was diagnosed with an eating disorder, there was a lot of disordered eating.

Looking back, I can see how all-girls schools are dangerous breeding grounds for this type of behaviour, and how losing weight can quickly become competitive. And this was before social media and the age of the selfie.

I am not sure how I would cope with school now, but I reacted then by sometimes eating crisps in the loo. As my body – which was still only a few pounds overweight – grew, I made up for what I thought I lacked in size with “personality”. I avoided PE with a vehemence usually reserved for torture.

In saying all this, I was also a reasonably happy teenager (as teenagers go). I had lots of great friends, friends I still have to this day. But when it came to my weight, there was always an issue.

Unhealthy dieting

In my 20s very little changed, except I learned how to lose weight. I went on very extreme diets, and yo-yoed up and down nearly three stone. I was always rewarded for losing the pounds, no matter how unhealthily. “God you look so great – tell me the secret?” Try living on rice cakes and Cup-a-Soup. Despite having boyfriends who loved the way I looked, I very rarely loved myself. The really sad thing is that none of this is particularly unusual.

Thankfully, the older I get, the kinder I am learning to be to myself. “A little of what you fancy” and “everything in moderation” have become my go-to phrases. The only problem is that now I am getting married and I am probably having a little (too much) of what I fancy, and moderation is relative.

Engaged

Getting engaged turned out to be one big long month of quaffing prosecco, and then my birthday month (yes, month, what of it?) turned out the same.

I saw my personal trainer for the first time three days ago, and I have the world’s worst hangover today after attending my best friend’s hen do.

A little of what you fancy, right? Well, for me, I have had quite a lot of that lately, so for the next three months I will be focusing not on what I fancy but on what I need: healthy food, regular exercise and pushing my body a little bit more in the right direction.

I will be writing here about my journey. Wish me luck.

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