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Isabel Vickers, 54, an elderly care matron at an NHS practice in Leeds turned to Ultimate Performance to help her transform her body. She originally weighed 11.5 stone (73.2kg) but dropped to 8.9 stone (57kg) with the help of a personal trainer and meal plan. She told Express.co.uk all about her weight loss journey.
Speaking about her life before weight loss, Isabel explained: “I love fashion. I love clothes. But I’d stopped shopping because whenever I’d try clothes on, I would feel rubbish squeezing into size 14 clothes or getting size 16 clothes because they’d be more comfortable. So, I just stopped shopping because it was pretty depressing.”
But now, Isabel experiences “pleasure” when “going into shops and trying on size eight and size 10 clothes”.
She added: “I can pull on a pair of jeans and they feel comfortable. In fact, it’s been really lovely buying a whole new wardrobe of size eight and size 10 clothes. I’m even pinching my daughter’s clothes!”
But it wasn’t an easy journey to lose 2.6 stone. Here’s how she did it.
Isabel revealed her motivation for wanting to transform her body: “My motivation was my experiences of Covid, and working on the frontline with elderly patients as a matron throughout the two lockdowns.
“I was very focused on keeping them safe, and I’d put myself on the back burner. I was working very long hours, I was very stressed, and I felt totally frazzled, burnt out and exhausted. I turned to comfort eating to help me get through those very difficult months while we were in lockdown and I was working really long hours – 60/70-hour weeks.
“I was exhausted from the extra hours I was working, and as a result, I was eating too much fat, drinking too much alcohol, and just not moving my body.
“Things came to a head after Christmas 2021, I was the heaviest I’d ever been at 12 stone. I felt terrible. I was in a really bad place, my mood was low and I felt really unfit and really unhealthy. So I knew I needed to do something major.
“I’ve always believed in healthy eating, in looking after yourself and exercising. When I was younger, I went to the gym and I’ve also been a dancer. I love feeling active. But my experience of Covid and the weight gain you experience as a middle-aged woman was very dramatic,” she added.
“I’ve always been intrigued by weight training. I’ve always loved the idea of lean, strong women – of being able to lift weights. But I just didn’t have the confidence. I didn’t know what to do, I have always wanted to do lunges and deadlifts, and have muscle and definition, but I thought ‘I’m probably past it at my age.’ I was wrong!”
The NHS worker revealed it took her five months to reach her initial target weight of nine stone, and she then sent another target of eight stone 10lbs, which she “achieved after a further month”.
“I initially signed up for three months, but I was enjoying the programme at U.P. so much and getting amazing results, I decided to do a further three months and encouraged my husband Wayne to do his own transformation programme as well,” she said.
“I worked with my trainer Liam, three times a week, and he set me a target of 12,000 steps a day.
“My gym programme consisted of working on form and engaging my core in all movements, in particular, perfecting lunges and deadlifts and increasing weights as my strength increased.
“I did upper body work with machines and free weights. Doing a barbell squat was a real high moment for me – I had always wanted to have a go at this in the gym, but never had the confidence or any idea how to do it safely and with good form, but with expert coaching, this particular exercise was one I enjoyed and felt a real sense of accomplishment.
“The pendulum machine was a real challenge, but the results were definitely worth it.
“Pushing the prowler along the red carpet was always tough, but again the encouragement from Liam always helped me to dig in deep and give it my best effort.”
As for her diet, Isabel said: “I planned my meals using the Ultimate Performance app which helped keep me on track and my calorie intake for the day was set in deficit, and the main focus was hitting protein, fats and carbohydrate goals.
“I made healthy meals with lean protein and plenty of vegetables and healthy fats the staple of my diet, and this is a habit I continue to do.
“It is now my lifestyle to be lean and clean healthy eating. I no longer feel the need to comfort eat, but choose foods which keep me feeling full and energised, which are fresh and easy to prepare and full of good nutrition. Planning my food and prep for the week is just something I do now. It’s part of my life.
“I enjoy treats and eating out and the occasional cocktail, but using a food app helps to keep me on track and maintain my goal weight which I have worked hard to achieve.”
As for whether there was a specific area of the body she wanted to target, Isabel commented: “I particularly wanted to get a strong and lean core as this was an area I was very unhappy with, and I carried a lot of body fat on my abdomen due to high fat and high carb foods I over indulged in.
“I was amazed at how the body fat melted away week after week. I did not think it was possible in my 50s to achieve this, and now I have my waistline back, which feels lovely.”
As for why Isabel chose Ultimate Performance to help her lose weight, she explained: “I was flicking through Instagram one day and I came across someone who was a similar age to myself. She was from Mayfair, and she looked amazing. Her story was pretty much like mine.
“She looks incredible now! She said the experience was transformational, and that she felt really nurtured, and for her confidence it was amazing. So, when I saw there was a U.P. in Leeds, I spoke to the gym manager, Owen, and was then partnered with my trainer, Liam, and I haven’t looked back since.
“The environment U.P. fosters is one very focused on the client’s needs and supports. My trainer, Liam, was very much focused on being safe, not suffering any injuries, and form. But it’s a partnership, you feel like you’re working in partnership with your trainer and that builds your confidence. It’s a centre of excellence – everyone supports each other, and everyone is so professional,” she added.
Isabel also shared her biggest challenge and proudest achievement.
“Initially, the first two weeks were challenging, in terms of a new diet, prepping your food, being organised and juggling a full-time job,” she said. “But I spoke to my trainer, Liam, got my head down, got on with it, did my shopping, and prepped my meals.
“I was pretty exhausted for the first couple of weeks, but then I started to see the results, which gave me the motivation to continue. After a month to six weeks, I knew this was the lifestyle I wanted to continue with.
“When I compare my lifestyle now to when I first walked through the doors at U.P., it really has been transformational. It’s not just one or two things – it’s my whole well-being, my mental health, my motivation. I feel like I’ve got my mojo back. I’m energised. I feel strong. I’m Isabel again,” she remarked.
“Day-to-day activities are more enjoyable. I’m really excited about future holidays because I’m fitter and healthier. I’ve got a gorgeous dog, Ziggy, I got during lockdown, and I love going out with him. Physically, mentally, and spiritually, I feel in such a good place.
“Looking back, I think I was quite depressed. I didn’t realise it until I started to feel better. Eating healthy, exercising, moving, and learning something new like weightlifting was very motivational. The changes I’ve seen in the last six months have been dramatic. It has been so empowering.”
But losing weight has not only impacted her life, weight training has given her “confidence and strength”.
“When I’m out walking and getting my steps in, I can power up hills. Before, that would have been pretty hard work and I wouldn’t have enjoyed it. Now, I’ve got the strength to push through and I see steps as a challenge to run up rather than go at a leisurely pace,” she said.
“I was pretty conditioned to things like WeightWatchers and Slimming World, as that’s what I’d done in the past. Things like avocados, nuts, protein bars, whey protein and supplements were frowned upon and not encouraged. I’ve now learnt about macronutrients and good fats, the balance of food, how to energise myself and what to eat before and after a workout.”
Isabel also had some advice for anyone else in her situation: “I think for women of my age, and for women in general, the media are all about accepting the middle-aged spread post-menopausal. The message is that should accept high body fat around your middle.
“One of the major things I’ve discovered and learned at U.P. is that you don’t have to accept it. You can achieve the shape and the condition of the body that you want. You do the graft, do what’s asked of you, keep focused on your goals and you get the results.
“The words that come to mind are ‘empowering’ and ‘liberating’. It’s about the individual and what your goals are. I would definitely encourage women to start lifting weights. I have gotten far more from weight-lifting than any HIIT session I’ve ever done.
“In terms of strength, and fitness, I feel in the best shape of my life at 54. I feel good. I feel very strong. I never thought my abdomen would get firm again. I thought it was something I’d have to accept. But my core strength and core stability is strong – it’s all about the core!”
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