I lost four stone in six months – even though I always hated exercise

After almost a year of deliberation, Fiona Dawson quit her senior role at a luxury fashion retailer to focus on her health

I worked in marketing for decades. I loved my job, but the long hours and a very stressful environment made me lose sight of all my priorities, especially my health. The kilos had crept in. Suddenly I weighed 13 pounds, was a size 18, and my self-confidence was at an all-time low. I felt self-conscious when I had to give presentations in front of colleagues. So after almost a year of umming and ahhing, I left my senior role at a luxury fashion retailer.

During my time off, my partner and I decided to get married. When we were on our honeymoon in Canada, I asked him to take some “before” pictures of me in my underwear. I knew I was a bit big, but it wasn’t until I saw the pictures that it really dawned on me. When I got back to the UK I decided that I was really going to spend my time working out with a personal trainer and getting my eating in order. track.

In six months I lost the 4th. That sounds like a lot, but I was so in the zone and completely focused on getting healthy.

Dawson pictured before her four stone weight lossDawson pictured before her four stone weight loss

Dawson pictured before her four stone weight loss

It started with sports. I learned some very simple home strength exercises using dumbbells and barbells. I also started walking more, which gradually turned into running 5km three times a week. I couldn’t believe I started to love sports.

Exercise had never been something I enjoyed or found fulfilling. Even at school I hated gym and would do anything to get out.

I was able to find this place where I was free and my mind became clear. Then I started to see the changes in my shape. I had dropped a few sizes and was able to fit into some of my old clothes again.

Fiona Dawson says exercise has become her most valuable support mechanism for managing her health and mental healthFiona Dawson says exercise has become her most valuable support mechanism for managing her health and mental health

“Exercise has become the most valuable support mechanism for managing my health and mental health,” says Dawson

Unfortunately, I can no longer run because I had to have a hip replacement due to arthritis. That took some getting used to when I had a hip replacement at the age of 50, but at 53 I still walk between 12,000 and 14,000 steps a day and usually do three strength training sessions a week.

In terms of food, I have never had a bad meal. My refrigerator has always been stocked with healthy food and ‘low-fat’ alternatives such as semi-skimmed milk. My problem was portion control. I ate the same dinner as my husband every night, but he is much fitter and bigger than me, so he can eat a lot more.

My success was due to Weight Watchers. It has educated me about nutrition and how to stay fit. Simple things, like what foods keep you full the longest. I was counting calories and keeping track of what I ate during the day, and I weighed myself at home. I started eating meals that were protein-based and high in fiber, for example, meals that had chicken instead of lamb.

Fiona DawsonFiona Dawson

Post-weight loss journey: Fiona has lost two dress sizes and is fitting back into some of her old clothes – Fiona Dawson

The best part was that at no point did they encourage me to deprive myself of treats. A lot of people have the mentality that you can’t get takeaways or ice cream and chocolate, but that’s so wrong. It’s about having a little more self-control and not always going for all the beige food. It’s also about planning. I’ve always been an organized person and when I know exactly what I’m eating, it’s so much easier to maintain that calorie deficit. So wherever I go, nine times out of ten I take a packed lunch with me, even if it’s to the hairdresser. Of course I occasionally buy a ready-made pizza because they are so convenient, or they get in the way of your social plans.

This enthusiasm for healthy food and nutrition has actually translated into what I do for work. I now work part-time at a supermarket as a healthy food specialist. It couldn’t be further from the corporate grind I once knew, and while the pay may not match, I couldn’t be happier. I have more time to exercise and prioritize myself.

One of Fiona's new healthy lunches, a multi-seed bagel with avocadoOne of Fiona's new healthy lunches, a multi-seed bagel with avocado

One of Fiona’s new healthy lunches, a multi-seed bagel with avocado

Just as menopause hit, my mother died and life became very challenging. I suffered from anxiety and muscle and joint pain, but also from the grief of losing my mother. I started hormone replacement therapy and slowly started seeing improvements. After a small weight gain of one stone I managed to get back on track with the help of my personal trainer and calorie counting. I have now managed to lose the gains and am managing my menopause symptoms through HRT, healthy eating and strength training. Exercise has become my most valuable support mechanism, not only for my physical health, but for my mental health as well.

The lifestyle changes I made to lose four stone

What I used to eat

Breakfast: Bowl of Crunchy Nut cereal and semi-skimmed milk.

Snacks: bacon and egg croissant, banana and large skinny latte.

Lunch: baguette with brie, bacon and cranberry, chips and chocolate.

Snack: Victoria sponge cake and chocolate raisins.

Dinner: Ready-made lasagna.

Pudding: ice cream.

Snack: hot chocolate with cream and marshmallows and lots of cookies.

What I eat now

Breakfast: Omelette of three eggs with three bacon medallions, 25 g feta cheese, two sun-dried tomatoes and a handful of spinach.

Fiona usually enjoys a healthy breakfast with an omeletFiona usually enjoys a healthy breakfast with an omelet

Fiona usually enjoys a healthy breakfast of omelette – Fiona Dawson

Snacks: Chocolate protein bar, one banana, measured portion of nuts, homemade small almond milk latte.

Lunch: Multi-seed bagel with chicken fillet slices, 30 g avocado and lettuce leaves, lentil chips, Babybel light, handful of cherry tomatoes.

Snacks: Satsuma, apple.

Dinner: Peanut butter chicken and whole wheat rice with mini chocolate ice cream stick for pudding.

Snacks: Party rings in a single serving mini bag or a pack of four mini yum dodgers.

Practice beforehand

Almost nothing. I would walk from the parking lot to work and back and then sit at my desk all day. Socializing with friends meant a lot of walking around the shops – if that counts.

Exercise after

Strength training workout routine, four times a week

12,000-14,000 steps every day in the countryside or sometimes by following indoor steps – motivational videos on YouTube.

Three top tips

1. Plan your weekly meals. One Sunday morning I spent an hour thinking about what is in the fridge, freezer and cupboards and what I can make from it and what else I need to buy.

2. Plan your workouts. I keep a journal and set reminders for my daily steps and workout routines in my calendar.

3. Track your body measurements. Instead of relying solely on the scale, take regular body measurements. Anyone who has started strength training will tell you that a scale never tells the full story.

As told to Delphi Hayes


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