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The Project Bikini diary: a lesson in self discipline for weeks 1-2

May 23rd 2015 / Emma Bartley / 4 comments


Columnist Emma Bartley reports back on the highs and lows of her first two weeks following Project Bikini

Before I tell you all about my first two weeks on Project Bikini, I’d like to address the elephant in the room. No, it isn’t me - since I ruined my drinking career by having a baby, I only sometimes fall out of my size 12 swimsuit - I’m talking about Protein World.

In case you missed the story, this is the company that tried to sell its meal replacement drinks by plastering London with big yellow pictures of a woman in a tiny yellow bikini, alongside the words ARE YOU BEACH BODY READY?

I must admit, the only thing that struck me when I first saw this ad was the weird grammar. But when the true feminists of London saw it they immediately decided to Rise Up and challenge its assumptions about what our bodies should be. They defaced the ad. They posed with it looking a bit fat in their own bikinis. They tweeted awkward questions to Protein World. And in the process they created a ton of free publicity for PW’s stupid diet.

I get their point, of course. Everybody should feel free to enjoy the beach, and it’s slogans like this that lead to women sitting there on the sand wondering whether if they hug their knees right into their chests, you can still see the fat rolls. (Answer: Yes. Source: My holiday photos, 2014.) So when Get The Gloss asked me to join Project Bikini, their 12-week healthy eating and exercise plan that would get me ready for the beach, I was a bit… dubious.

On the one hand, I don’t believe that anyone needs 12 weeks of preparation to be able to wear a bikini. On the other, given that I know plenty of men who talk about getting beach ready, I think the pang I feel before I put on my swimsuit for the first time each year is less about sexism than the knowledge that I eat too much, drink too much and do no formal exercise, and my lack of self-discipline is about to be on full, dimpled display.

Plus, it sounded easy. “The workouts can all be done at home in 30 mins and the meal plan isn't super strict - just about having a healthy, balanced diet,” said Kiran, Get The Gloss’s health and beauty editor. Oh, FFS, I said. Alright.

The thing is, the GTG team are just about the loveliest, most supportive group of women you could ever come across. If you want to look good in fewer clothes - and I’m sorry if this is weak, but I do - I reckon it’s far better to do it their way, with short, varied workouts and a healthy, tasty meal plan than by drinking ridiculous meal-replacement shakes and lining the pockets of the company that coined the word “fitshaming”. So here’s my diary of the first two weeks.


I’m not starting on a Wednesday. Who starts a diet on a Wednesday?


OK, so it says here I’ll need coconut oil and chia seeds. Clearly, I can’t start until I’ve done an online shopping order. (I suppose it’s possible that Tesco’s Tottenham stocks chia seeds, but I’m certainly not going to be the one to ask.)


Woohoo! Got my coconut oil, chia seeds, almond milk… and a friend’s leaving dinner in a tapas bar. Start tomorrow?




OMG so behind. Breakfast on porridge with oat bran and sprinkling of chia - these are surprisingly fine to eat, just like poppy seeds. Lunch of home-made houmous (already off the meal plan but figure this OK). Dinner of roasted veg. Go to spinning class, because I like spinning, and secretly fear I will be shit at the exercises in the booklet. I’m always shit at new exercises. Feel good.


Do first Project Bikini workout after getting back from work, putting child to bed and despatching husband to make dinner. According to Project Bikini, it’s important to start with the warm-up and cooldown. Do not bother with warm-up or cooldown. Go straight to exercises, which are actually fairly straightforward - lunges, bridges, squats, planks - except for something called a renegade row. Things I have done in my life that I have found more difficult than the renegade row: childbirth. Things I have found easier: everything else, ever.

Food OK. More porridge. Almonds. Chicken pieces. Accidentally-bought creamy soup. Oops. Quinoa salad for dinner. Thanks, husband.


Porridge, chia and blueberries, leftover quinoa, 25-minute run, totally off-plan dinner out with friends involving two large glasses of wine, two G&Ts and falling out of new drapey Seventies dress despite having reinforced same with safety pin. Recommit to weight loss.


Eggs and avocado for breakfast. Almonds, lots of almonds. Salad for lunch, Project Bikini ratatouille and brown rice for dinner. Rest day from exercise because this is another of my full days in the office and I am just too bloody tired.


Chia porridge again. Going to stop writing about porridge because it’s basically all I ever have. Chicken, chickpea and butternut squash for dinner. Butternut done in coconut oil with cinnamon surprisingly good, like a pudding. Follow this with actual pudding of dark chocolate (sorry). Run again. Really I am fit enough to do sprint intervals but I hate running so I just do one sprint at the end.


Take laptop to Caffe Nero to work, fall spectacularly off wagon with falafel wrap thing and brownie. Then more cake at mother-in-law’s. Then get (guilt-induced?) migraine and cannot exercise.


More spinning. This must be OK, right? Eat Project Bikini meals plus child’s leftover toast. I am struggling to leave toast behind.


Somehow do not find time to exercise before going to pub for friend’s birthday. Drink vodka and slimline (GTG’s preferred option over wine). Exercise HUGE willpower and order a quinoa salad while everyone else has hamburgers. Quinoa salad arrives; it contains no quinoa. Argue with waitress about whether couscous is the same thing as quinoa. Realise am possibly having most middle-class argument in history of world. Shamefacedly accept refund. No dinner.


I’m thin! Scales say 67kg instead of my usual 68kg. Not supposed to be weighing self as it’s measurements that count but I never really trust measurements. How do you know you’re measuring the same place? (As discussed, am idiot.) Porridge. Salad. Remember have date at world’s best pizza place, Pizza East, with two old friends. Many carb, many fat.


I’m fat! Scales say 70.5kg. How is this possible in 24 hours? Check scales not broken. Porridge breakfast. Butternut squash soup lunch. Lots of green tea. Actual quinoa salad for dinner, made with broccoli, courgette, broad beans, peas. Bit more chocolate.


Weight back to 68. Weird. Porridge, green soup, salmon with cauliflower mash, roasted tomatoes, spinach and samphire. Go to Wholefoods and buy rye bread and almond butter.

And… Thursday’s my deadline. Cannot believe anyone is still reading this because diets are TEDIOUS but maybe if you’re doing Project Bikini as well it will give you heart to know that I am doing way worse than you are. Am I beach body ready? Not according to Protein World’s definition, but I certainly feel healthier and more summery for having a plan.

Stay tuned for the next instalment...

Follow Emma on Twitter @Barters and Get The Gloss @GetTheGloss



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  • Emma Bartley
  • May 24th 2015

@Debbie and @Fiona - thanks for this! I think my slow start was partly down to my ambivalence about the whole thing - clearly, I will always choose having a good time over looking good in my chuds. It'll be interesting to see whether these half-hearted efforts do yield any results, some of it is really easy stuff like cooking with coconut oil or drinking a ton of water.

@Donna you put me to shame!

  • Donna Welsh
  • May 24th 2015

I absolutely love love love this eating plan and can honestly say I've managed to stick to it pretty good. My only problem is I hurt my back while exercising, (entirely my own stupidity) so that put a spanner in the works and disheartened me a little, however two weeks on and ready to get back into my fitness tomorrow. The food is amazing and totally doesn't feel like I'm missing out anything. I'm definitely converted!

  • Debbie Berne
  • May 24th 2015

Brilliant. All the emotions that we're all experiencing in daily life. Loved reading it and can relate 100%

  • Fiona Knight
  • May 24th 2015

Loved this! Very entertaining - all the way to the end and I'm not even on a diet!
Glad the 'elephant' was addressed - to an extent. I will admit to feeling some unease about the project's bikini focus from its launch. Just feels a bit old-fashioned and 'wrong'. There I've said it. *puts poster defacing crayons down... But good luck with it, whatever your motivation. A great read.

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