I write this full of excitement and anticipation as the launch of the new series of the “real” Strictly is on tonight.  Timing wise it has been great, we can totally identify with the nerves of the celebrities – although of course, we don’t have a dancing pro to help us! We will however benefit from lessons at the Wollaton School of Dance, and the massive help of having a personalised fitness plan by Alex West from Boost your Body has already shown itself.

This post is really about nutrition and willpower.  I looked ok with my clothes on at the start of this – not great, but ok.  Without my outer layers the picture wasn’t as pretty.  We (by “we” I mean Alex) have taken “before” photos which will be published in due course when the time is right, and measurements.  One measurement that we did not take was the number on the scales.  Weight is actually a pretty poor indicator of the changes which go on if you are following a proper fitness regime for reasons that I’ll address another time, although there was a really interesting article in the Sunday Times Style magazine today (7th September 2014) which talks about “skinny fat” people, something which I was for many years.

The first two weeks in the plan devised by Alex is essentially tackling fat loss head on.  My target is to lose 2.5cms of fat (about an inch in old money) from my navel measurement in two weeks.  Why?  Because there is little point having strong muscle tone, necessary for a dancer’s physique, if it is covered by a layer of fat.  I can work out and strengthen my core until I’m blue in the face – but the fat loss is necessary as well.  Just as people who crash or yo-yo diet generally don’t look good through lack of muscle tone – it is the combination of good nutrition combined with the right type of exercise which is key.

I have therefore been given an eating plan by Alex for two weeks, and am sticking to it.  Healthy real food, everything made from scratch, nothing processed or “low fat”, and nothing which will cause insulin surges.  This means no refined sugars or carbohydrates, no grains, but plenty of fresh vegetables, certain types of fruit in moderation, and plenty of protein together with healthy fats.  No alcohol at all, and no snacking between meals, but 3.5 litres of water a day.  I have learned first-hand that not all calories are equal and that food choice and quality, as well as quantity is vital.  Now I’m not going to lie – it has been a challenge.  I’m on day seven.  I enjoy my job, but it can be stressful at times, and I work next to an empty desk where everyone puts their post holiday / birthday / “insert whatever excuse you can think of” treats.

Even harder is responding to people who say “but you can afford to have one” without sounding rude, or going into detail about nutrition – something which I have no desire to do in my busy day job.  I have found that simply saying “no” politely is the best option.  Alcohol is the most difficult with regard to peer pressure.  People feel uncomfortable if you are not drinking.  It is also totally destructive to my aims however.  In the next three months I will be attending two weddings, a hen night, and a 50th birthday party at which there will be unlimited cocktails.  I will be on the strong stuff though – water.  It is what will help my body to become stronger anyway.

I think having an eating plan makes things easier.   This is because in addition to knowing that you are accountable for your own decisions, by ignoring advice that you’ve been given or thinking “it doesn’t count because it is the weekend” you are also actually letting down the person who has devised the plan for you!  This is after all a team effort.  We did go out on Friday evening and it was easy to choose my meal within the parameters – I had a delicious Nicoise Salad and simply asked them to hold the croutons.  Phil had a pizza and beer, which is what I would usually have chosen.  I have to say, mine looked prettier and was very tasty.

The days of going out and eating so much that I could explode are gone for the next three months, none of the delicious looking puddings were allowed – but I left happy in the knowledge that I am on track – and this is all for a good cause.  Seven days in I can already see a visible difference in my shape – and whilst I’ve been training hard as well – 80% of the change is likely to be down to the good nutrition.

I’ll leave you with another YouTube clip….. Thanks for reading!

PS Please put the 28th November in your diary – we will be selling tickets at the bargain sum of £12 in due course, and if you can’t make it in person you can sponsor us by visiting www.justgiving.com/arwenandphil