Hannah O'Brien was unhappy with her weight and decided to do something about it.
During the height of the pandemic, she committed herself to her fitness, and thanks largely to a straightforward online programme run through her local gym, The Body Barn, Newport, achieved a weight loss of over three-and-a-half stone.
"I went from 13 stone when I joined The Body Barn, and I got down to 9 stone 6 lbs," said Hannah. "I lost the most within 2020 during the pandemic, training at home and doing online coaching with Danny Robb, my gym trainer. I went from about 12 stone 7 lbs to about 9 stone 6 lbs then, having lost the other half a stone before from doing one or two classes a week and just getting into some form of exercise."
Though not a complete stranger to exercise, Hannah, now 32, had been unable to achieve the results she was looking for, and decided a new approach was needed.
"I was never happy with the way I looked, and I'd always kind of trained and done bits and pieces, but nothing that had actually really worked," she said. "Danny does a 'transformation photo-shoot' once a year and had mentioned to me about doing it. That's only a 12-week programme, and I thought it would be the kick I needed, so I started the online coaching with him."
With Danny as her guide, Hannah embraced the programme, which taught her a lot about nutrition and how to exercise effectively.
"At the start of the programme we looked at my calories and my macros, and worked out what I should be eating. You then follow that and track everything via the MyFitnessPal app, and that's uploaded to a portal that your trainer has.
"They then look at that, your weight, and the exercise you're doing once a week, and then adjust it as you go on. When I started I was over 12 stone and towards the end I was getting nearer nine stone, and at each end what you're eating and how you train is very different. It was all done through online zoom classes, so the 'I haven't got time to get out to the gym' excuse doesn't really wash with me anymore!"
Happily for Hannah, the programme did not involve her having to completely cut out any of the food she enjoys.
"I was eating exactly the same stuff, it's just how you fit it in to your daily calories and macros," she said. "Ultimately it was about portion control, so rather than tipping a pasta bag into the pan and being like 'that looks enough to fill me up' (and that's probably about 300 grams), you think 'no, I only need 100 grams of that'. I'd still have a fish finger sandwich on a Saturday for my lunch.
"You eat the same things, it's just about the amount and understanding exactly what your body needs. Protein fills you up, so you may need a bit more protein rather than loads of fat. You still eat what you want to eat, just in moderation. I'm still having my Chinese on a Friday night! And rather than a two-finger Twirl after tea, I have a one-finger one, but I still have that every night."
Along with adjusting her food intake, Hannah used a variety of exercises during the programme to achieve her goal.
"It was a mixture of weights and cardio," she said. "I was doing things like burpees and dumbbell shoulder presses. Obviously when at you're home you have to be a bit more innovative, unless you have weights, so a lot of stuff you do is done using your own body weight – like press-ups and that kind of stuff. As we went back into the gym, and now, I do a lot of weights and probably not that much cardio. People think that you have to 'run 10 miles' to lose the weight, but actually you can burn a lot of calories doing a weights session for an hour."
Since reaching her target Hannah has embraced fitness as part of her lifestyle, and this has led to a sustained weight loss. Happily for her, this has not interfered with the enjoyment of treats.
"I actually fell in love with exercise, and on a Saturday now, I'll go for a walk with my friends, but then we'll still go out for breakfast afterwards. It's a lifestyle change more than just doing it for a couple of months and then going back to your old habits, but that way you can keep the weight off and still enjoy yourself."
As well as the physical change she sought, Hannah has noticed some mental health benefits. "Especially after a full day at work, exercise really helps me to switch off," she said. I now actually find that if I've not exercised for a few days, I'm sometimes a bit more agitated than when I have."
Having coached her towards her target, trainer and owner of The Body Barn, Danny Robb, is proud of what she has achieved. "Hannah came to us quite new to training, perhaps a bit scared of weights and maybe a little naive in terms of nutrition," he said. "But in the end she lost around 3-and-a-half stone in quite a short period of time, and she made the weight loss sustainable. For someone to be able to do that is an incredible feat."
For Hannah now, the next goal is very simple. "Now it's just really about continuing to get into better shape and maintaining what I've done," she said. "I had a lot of weight to lose – now it's about keeping it off more than anything."