Columnist Emma Bartley has reached the halfway point in her Project Bikini journey and despite suffering from a small case of quinoa fatigue is feeling better than ever
An extraordinary thing happened to me the other day, approximately five weeks into Project Bikini : somebody mistook me for a model.
There I was outside a railway station, strapping my toddler into my mother-in-law’s car, when an acquaintance of my M-I-L’s started calling to us from across the car park. “Is that your daughter? Are you a model? You’re so fresh and beautiful, girl!”
Set aside, for a moment, the fact that my mother-in-law’s response was to guffaw so hard that she nearly lost consciousness. And the strong possibility that this woman had cataracts, or mental health issues, or both. SOMEBODY THOUGHT I WAS A MODEL.
Here at the halfway line of Project Bikini - six weeks down, six more to go - I am going to make that my new motivational mantra. Because, while I haven’t actually transformed from a “well built” 33-year-old mother of one into a waif-like teenager, I reckon I do look pretty healthy right now.
My weight is still hovering around 67 kg, but people have told me that I look toned, so who knows, it could be muscle (Get the Gloss don’t advise going by weight, for this reason). My too-snug jeans suddenly need a belt. My wrists look slimmer, my cheekbones are more pronounced and I can feel my ribcage (good to know it’s still there after all these years). I bought a size 10 skirt in the sale the other day and can actually do it up.
Undeniably, I also feel better: lighter and healthier. After speaking to Zoe Stirling, the nutritionist behind Project Bikini who gave me pretty short shrift with the whole, “A little bit of chocolate is OK, right?” line of questioning, I bucked my ideas up a bit and stopped indulging every night. I’m still drinking too frequently, and an unfortunate number of birthday cakes have crossed my path in recent weeks, but my sugar addiction feels more manageable. I’m also proud of myself for seeking out healthy options when eating out (surprisingly easy to do these days in London, everybody seems to have a bit of fish or a quinoa salad, which probably just goes to show how late I am to the clean-living party)
On the workout side, something just clicked with the exercises for weeks 5-6 - I think it’s a combination of getting fitter, and the routine changing to be slightly more resistance-based, which naturally suits me better - and I’m even kind of enjoying them.
After six weeks, I find it impossible not to compare with how I felt after Six Weeks to OMG, a diet that focuses on black coffee, cold baths and low carbs. I lost a similar amount of weight, though at the time I had more to lose (going from 72 kg to 70kg), but it was just so much effort. Project Bikini doesn’t feel so consuming, somehow - it’s a bit of a drag at times having to think about what you eat and drink, or make time for exercise, but it’s pretty manageable. Increasingly I find myself thinking beyond the 12-week mark, to permanent lifestyle changes I can make. Why wouldn’t I carry on adding thermogenic spices like cayenne pepper and cinnamon to my food? What’s to stop me doing a home workout every now and then if my thighs start to feel a bit squishy?
I know: I don’t even sound like my normal, fat, cynical self, do I. WHAT IS HAPPENING TO ME?
MY PROJECT BIKINI DIARY: WEEKS 5-6
Sneak out of work to gym at lunchtime to try week 5-6 exercises. They are weirdly much easier, including step-ups, reverse lunges and single-legged deadlifts. Towards the end of my circuit I start to be a bit wobbly on the deadliest but there’s certainly no push-ups or renegade rows #win
Stiff. So very stiff. Turns out those exercises were doing something. Push through it and go for a run.
Full English breakfast, ie red meat, ie bad, but no toast, ie no carbs, ie better than I would normally do. Rest from exercise.
Make it to the gym again, starting to feel quite professional on my circuit: only fell over during three or four of the deadlifts. Food - porridge with blueberries, M&S mini salads for lunch (beans, quinoa), salmon with brown rice and green veg. Almonds to snack. I AM BASICALLY GWYNETH.
1pm Consider starting own healthy living brand. I could do a cookbook of recipes like today’s lunch, Leftover Salmon With Some Salad and Then Because I’m Still Hungry Rye Oatcakes That I Don’t Know If They Are Allowed But Let’s Say They Are.
11pm Consider asking friends to sign non-disclosure agreement about the bread, cheese and wine they saw me eat tonight at dinner. (But at least I found a healthy main of quinoa salad.)
Child’s second birthday. Make and ice cake. Eat significant quantity of cake mixture, icing and, later, iced cake. But also manage to find healthy lunch at London Zoo and not get trashed like last year “because of all those months when I couldn’t”
Rye toast with almond butter, soup, chicken and roasted veg (in coconut oil with cayenne pepper). Also more birthday cake. Go for a guilty run.
No time for breakfast so get muesli at work (suspect Zoe Stirling will say this is full of sugar but what she doesn’t know…). Circuits at the gym. Salads and chicken pieces for lunch. Healthy BBQ dinner at in-laws’, which I ruin with wine. And fro-yo. And finally a scoop of ice cream SORRY BUT IT WAS HOME-MADE.
Weekend with friends. More fried foods at brunch, possibly a pain au chocolat but I looked on the Starbucks menu thing and it’s way better than a pain aux raisin! (I know, right? You’d think with the fruit…) Nice run in the countryside. Home-made curry (cumin?), brown rice, only one lager which is not bad going with this crowd.
Children’s party. More birthday cake. No exercise.
Horrific work deadline. Would normally eat brownies. Buy salad and sandals in lunch hour instead. No exercise, unless shopping counts.
Rattle through circuit at gym. Yoghurt, berries and chia seeds for breakfast. Soup for lunch. Weird dinner made by husband based on his understanding of Project Bikini foods: ratatouille with butternut squash and beetroot in it (also cumin, cayenne, coconut oil). Well done, husband.
Quick run. Porridge, chicken and salad, leftover weird dinner. Offered birthday cake at work. Rude not to.
Is it too soon to have another rest day? I actually want to exercise now but between work, childcare and 1 million urgent admin tasks, it is not easy. Eat well (though getting a tiny bit of quinoa fatigue, it may be time to revisit the Project Bikini recipes for some new ideas). Drinking a ton of green tea at the moment by the way. Weigh self: 66.7kg. I may be under 67kg only by a bag of sugar but this is the lightest I’ve been in my adult life.