It is 18 months since I slipped into a size 12 dress for the first time. And that feeling was so amazing that I am 100% sure I will never go back to the old, obese me.
But the No1 question I am asked on a daily basis is this: How have you managed to keep the weight off?
The answer is simple: I changed my lifestyle for good.
I didn’t embark on a diet, I changed the way I thought.
I knew I was on a dangerous, slippery slope to an unhealthy future. I was drastically overweight, I ate too much, I drank too much, I didn’t feel good about myself.
But I knew I was the only person who could take control of my life, turn those negatives into positives and create a whole new me.
Not only am I 12 stone lighter but I am fitter, healthier and, most importantly, happier than I ever was when I was stuffing my face full of crisps, crumpets and wine.
I didn’t set out to lose that amount of weight, I set out to lose a little bit and live a longer, healthier life. But once the pounds then stones started to drop off, it spurred me on to keep going.
That is the beauty of this party dress plan. If you give yourself the aim of losing a dress size by Christmas, who knows where it might lead?
If you feel as good as I did in the dress of my dreams, it could push you on to become even fitter, healthier and slimmer in the New Year.
Once you have completed my eight-day kick-start from yesterday’s paper, don’t see that as the end. See it as the beginning of
If you stick to the plan and exercise, you should lose some weight, those jeans should feel a little looser.
Then is the time to build on that success. Carry on eating three healthy meals a day, make lunch your main meal of the day, and snack on healthy options.
If you are making chicken and veg for dinner one evening, chop up some extra carrots and some cucumber and throw them in a pot to take to work the next day.
A small handful of nuts is full of protein and healthy fats, which will assist you to stay fuller for longer.
Try to cut down on the booze. And if you fall off the wagon and have a little cheat around Christmas, don’t see that as a failure. Draw a line under it and move on.
Here are some of my favourite recipes from my book Lose Weight for Life to give you
inspiration and help you get party frock-ready.
Veggie Noodle Stir-Fry (serves 2)
ngredients: 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil; 2 garlic cloves, finely grated; 2cm piece of ginger, finely grated; 1 sweet potato, peeled and spiralized; 1 courgette, spiralized; 1 yellow pepper, 1 orange pepper and 1 green pepper, deseeded and spiralized; 1 tbsp sriracha (more if you like the heat); 1 tbsp runny honey
10g fresh coriander, roughly chopped; 20g toasted sesame seeds, for topping; 1 lime, cut into wedges, to serve
Method: Heat the oil in a large wok over a medium-high heat. Add the garlic and ginger. Stir quickly for 30 seconds before adding all the spiralized vegetables. Toss the vegetables in the garlic, ginger and oil to coat them, and keep them moving for three to four minutes.
Mix the sriracha and honey together in a small bowl and add to the pan. Stir the noodles until they are all coated.
Turn off the heat and add the coriander, giving the pan one last shake to incorporate.
Divide the noodles between two bowls and top each with half of the toasted sesame seeds. Serve with a lime wedge.
Spicy bean chili (serves 4-6)
Ingredients: 1 tsp olive oil; 1 red onion, diced; 1 green chilli, chopped;
2 garlic cloves, finely grated; 1 tbsp tomato puree; 1 x 400g tin kidney beans, drained; 1 x 400g tin borlotti beans, drained; 1 x 400g tin black-eyed beans, drained; 1 tbsp chilli flakes; 1 tbsp dried oregano; 1 tsp ground cinnamon; 2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes; 1 espresso shot
Method: Heat the olive oil in a large casserole pot over a medium-high heat. Add the onion and chilli. Cook for 5 minutes until the onion has started to soften and turn golden brown.
Add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds.
Add the tomato purée and cook for 30 seconds, then add all the beans and mix well. Sprinkle over the chilli flakes, oregano and cinnamon, and stir to incorporate.
Add the chopped tomatoes and coffee.
Mix everything together and bring up to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for around 20–25 minutes until the chilli has reduced and thickened up.
Deconstructed burrito bowl
(Makes 4 portions)
250g pre-cooked quinoa; 1 x 400g tin black beans, drained and rinsed; 1 x 185g tin sweetcorn, drained; 1 red pepper, de-seeded and diced; 1 banana shallot, finely diced; 1 tsp sweet smoked paprika; half tsp cumin; half tsp garlic powder; juice of 1 lime; 1 tbsp olive oil. Per person, to serve: 50g iceberg lettuce, shredded; 20g low-fat cheddar cheese, grated; quarter of an avocado, sliced; 75g cooked chicken, shredded; sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Put the pre-cooked quinoa into a mixing bowl, along with the black beans, sweetcorn, red pepper and banana shallot.
Add the spices, garlic, lime juice and olive oil, and mix together until it is all evenly coated. This will keep in the fridge for three to four days.
For each serving, place the iceberg lettuce in the base of a bowl/jar or airtight container.
Top with some of the quinoa mix, cheddar, avocado, shredded chicken.
Italian-style chicken tray bake
4 chicken thighs on the bone, skinless; 3 tomatoes, quartered;
1 aubergine, cubed;
1 courgette, cut into chunks; 1 yellow pepper, deseeded and cut into chunks; 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced; 1 tbsp olive oil; 1 tbsp dried oregano; 50g mixed olives, pitted; 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar; sea salt and freshly ground black pepper; 5g fresh basil leaves, to garnish.
Method: Preheat the oven to 190°C/Fan 170°C/Gas 5.
Line a roasting tin with non-stick baking paper and place the chicken thighs in it.
Add the tomatoes, aubergine, courgette, pepper and garlic.
Drizzle over the olive oil and sprinkle over the oregano.
Season with salt and black pepper. Shake the roasting tin to coat everything in the oil and seasoning. Place the roasting tin in the hot oven for 15 minutes.
Remove the tin, turn the vegetables and add the olives.
Return to the oven for another eight to 10 minutes (or until the chicken thighs are cooked through).
Remove the tray from the oven and drizzle over the balsamic vinegar.
Garnish with the basil leaves before serving.
Butternut squash and goats’ cheese filo pastry tart
Ingredients: 400g butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1cm cubes; 1 tsp olive oil; 1 small onion, diced; 2 garlic cloves, finely grated;
10 sage leaves, roughly chopped; knob of butter; 125g filo pastry; 5 large eggs; pinch of freshly ground nutmeg; 120g soft goat’s cheese; sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Method: Preheat the oven to 190°C/Fan 170°C/Gas 5. Fill a saucepan with 5cm of water and bring to the boil with a steamer basket and lid on top. Once the water is boiling, add the butternut squash to the steamer basket. Steam the squash for 10–12 minutes until tender all the way through, but not soft, then remove from the heat and allow the squash to steam-dry.
While the squash steams, heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium-high heat and add the onion. Cook for 5 minutes to soften before adding the garlic and sage.
Add the squash and continue to cook for another minute, then remove from the heat and allow to cool a little.
To make the tart case, take a 23cm loose-bottomed tart tin and use the knob of butter to very lightly grease the base and sides so the pastry won’t stick.
Take a sheet of pastry and lay it in the tin, pressing it very carefully into the crease round the base. Leave some of the pastry hanging over the edge so you have a nice crispy crust.
Separate one of the eggs; place the white in a small cup and the yolk in a large jug. Brush the pastry with a little egg white and then layer on another sheet of pastry. Repeat until you have used all the pastry. Make sure there are no holes in the base and that you have at least four good layers.
Crack the remaining eggs into the large jug containing the yolk, and beat well. Add the squash and onion mixture along with a little freshly ground nutmeg and some seasoning. Pour the filling into the pastry case.
Break the goats’ cheese into bite-size pieces and drop them into the filling, pushing them slightly into the egg. Place the tart tin on a baking sheet and pop it into the oven for 12 minutes.
Remove the tart tin from the oven. Carefully lift the tart out of the tin and place it on a wire rack.
Pop the rack back on the baking sheet and return it to the oven for 10 minutes so the base can cook through. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes before slicing. You can freeze any leftovers in individual portions.
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