You never know where a day out of the office is going to take you. Last week, it took me to Creggan and to the Old Library Trust building to look at the work they do there.
I wasn’t expecting to come away signed up for a ten week exercise and fitness programme - under the Biggest Loser banner. I definitely wasn’t expecting to have agreed to write about it.
We’ve all seen the television programme of the same name, right? Very fat people get weighed in their underwear (their saggiest, baggiest, greyest underwear) and then get shouted at by instructors who wouldn’t look out of place in a Vietnam era movie.
The programme on TV was enough to strike fear into me - so I tended to watch it from behind a cushion while guzzling a glass of wine, and maybe a (large) bag of Kettle Crisps and think: “Poor, poor, poor souls”.
So, how have I come to be facing my very own Biggest Loser Challenge? Well - the truth of the matter is, I’ve been writing in my column ‘Skirting the Issue’ for years about my struggles with my weight. Despite attempts here and there I remain overweight - in fact I remain, profoundly, obese. And that word does not sit well with me.
I also remain exceptionally unfit. I’m ashamed to say it must be at least seven years since I did any form of regular, strenuous exercise. These days my workouts are limited to hauling the hoover around the house or the quick walk into the off-licence for a bottle of Pinot Grigio.
I am not healthy - and I’ve come to realise that makes me actually quite selfish. As a mother to two children, I have reached an age where not only do I want to be a good example to them and teach them healthy habits to bring with them through life - I also want to physically be there for them for as long as possible.
Being obese quite dramatically reduces your life expectancy - and after a number of health issues and health scares I have realised that I would quite like a decent life expectancy, thank you very much.
I also want to be able to do more. It has been more than a year since I’ve taken my children swimming because I’m too embarrassed to be seen in a swimsuit. I had to give up on teaching my son to ride his bike without stabilisers because I quite simply could not run after him far enough or fast enough to give him the momentum he needed to keep going.
On a more vain level, I want - and I know this is a cliche - to walk into a shop and choose clothes which I like rather than clothes which merely fit.
So, signing up for Creggan’s Biggest Loser - daunting as it is - will hopefully set me on that road. Writing about it each week in the ‘Derry Journal’ will hopefully give me an extra motivator as well. The programme runs over ten weeks - and is open to people with a BMI over 30.
It will involve taking part in two exercise sessions a week - incorporating a wide variety of activities, including spinning, kettlebells, running and circuits. (I have not done circuits since PE back in Thornhill, and I ended up with a sprained ankle for my trouble).
It also involves a weekly weigh in, nutritional advice and a competitive element. Participants compete in teams of 4 or 5. The team with the biggest loss wins a cash prize. The scheme offers before and after photos so you can track your own progress and you even get a free T-shirt. All in, the 10 week programme costs just £50.
Am I scared? Truth is I’m terrified. But I realise this time, it really is a case of feel the fear and do it anyway - because the alternative, getting bigger and damaging my health more, is simply no longer an option.
In the interest of fairness, I must reveal I’m also currently attending Slimming World classes at the Waterfoot Hotel, where, in the last seven weeks, I have managed to shed 10lbs through changing my eating habits with the support of a wonderful class. I intend to continue to follow this programme throughout.
So, here we go. I have myself set up. I have my team in place - one of whom has completed two Biggest Loser programmes before and swears they are the “best thing she has ever done” for herself.
I have purchased shiny new trainers, a sports bra (obese people tend to also be big chested people) and I’ve been told - as a larger lady who has had two children via natural deliveries - I may also want to invest in some Tena Lady.
I am ready to do this - Monday is registration night. Tuesday marks my first class and next week (if my joints haven’t completely seized up) I’ll update you on how it is has gone - and whether or not I really can be the Journal’s Biggest Loser.