Many of us have put on a few pounds after comfort eating and drinking to our hearts’ content since the first lockdown last March. It’s a rare woman who doesn’t bemoan the ‘lockdown lard’ that’s gathered in all the places we least want it — bottom, belly and thighs — over the past ten months.
A determined few, however, are now using the extra time away from the office to pound the streets, or cook healthy meals, eager to get rid of the surplus stone they gained in those surreal early months of the pandemic.
Some have been on an extraordinary journey, mapped out in their wardrobes, notching up no fewer than four or more different dress sizes in less than a year. And it’s been far from linear for a frustrated few who have yo-yoed up, down and back up again, in a fashion familiar to so many, albeit usually over a longer period than a mere ten months. Here, four women tell their stories …
Over-the-fence G&Ts with the neighbours were my downfall
Sophie Lee, 28, an education admin assistant, lives in Plymouth with husband Paul, 36, a sports coach. She has been eight diferent sizes in lockdown — a size 10 at the start of the pandemic, up to a 12 and a 14 and then she worked her way down to a size 6. Sophie says:
Four women reveal how their weight has fluctuated throughout the pandemic – including Sophie Lee, 28, who lives in Plymouth. Pictured: Now, size 6
My mum died from cancer in December 2019. After three months of intense grief, I was ready to see friends again just as lockdown began in March.
My husband was a huge support, but not being able to get hugs from anyone else meant I sought comfort in food and drink.
I’ve always been slim. Last February, I weighed 9st 4lb and was a size 10. I’m only 5ft 2in and have a painful connective tissue disorder, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) so carrying excess weight isn’t advisable.
But working from home, shut away from the world, I couldn’t resist sudden urges — burgers smothered in cheese with fried onion rings and chips, followed by a tub of Ben & Jerry’s chocolate fudge brownie ice cream.
While watching the daily briefings, I’d polish off a 300g bar of Dairy Milk chocolate, and our lovely neighbours, also working from home, would deliver homemade banana bread and brownies.
Within a month, I’d gained a stone and could no longer do up the zip on my size 10 trousers. Reluctantly, I went online and ordered some jeans and a couple of shirts in size 12, determined this was just a temporary blip.
But it wasn’t. On top of the food, I was also drinking way more wine — a full bottle most evenings, and often a gin and tonic, too. We would take part in quizzes in the garden with the neighbours, over the fence, and I would be knocking back G&Ts, convincing myself it was OK because it was less calorific than wine.
By June, I weighed 11st 6lb. I remember catching sight of myself in the mirror and thinking, ‘Oh my gosh! Who’s that?!’ I was literally bursting out of my size 12 tops!
Sophie said she would polish off a 300g bar of Dairy Milk chocolate while watching the daily briefings. Pictured: Size 10/12 in March
Sophie said she followed a Slimfast plan for six weeks to go from a size 14 (pictured left) to a size 12 (pictured right)
I was clearly now a size 14, something I’d never been in my life before. I raided my husband’s wardrobe and wore his baggy T-shirts and hoodies. For six weeks, until late July, I followed the Slimfast plan and lost 6lb, taking me back to a size 12.
But within two weeks of stopping, taking full advantage of Rishi Sunak’s Eat Out To Help Out Scheme, enjoying meals in Mexican, Spanish and steak restaurants throughout August, I was back to size 14.
I was also in a lot of pain, due to the extra pressure on my joints. Joint pain is one of many symptoms of EDS — and, seeing my despair when we met for a socially distanced walk, a friend suggested the Juice Plus diet, which I started in late August.
A combination of shakes and fruit, berry and vegetable capsules coupled with healthy meals — sweet potato salad, chicken stuffed with goats’ cheese and tomatoes, and boiled eggs for snacks — plus giving up alcohol, meant I lost 8lb within a month.
Sophie was advised by her specialist EDS doctor in October, to lose weight to ease the pressure on her joints. Pictured: Size 8 in November
I stuck to it and, by the time I saw my specialist EDS doctor in October, I weighed 10st 2lb and was a size 10. Even so, he advised me to lose more weight to ease the pressure on my joints.
By Christmas, having only drunk alcohol on three occasions since August, I was down to 9st 2lb and was a size 8.
Due to the restrictions on gatherings, it was just my husband and me at New Year’s Eve. We decided to dress up, and I was ecstatic when I managed to slip into a cobalt blue size 8 fitted midi dress. I am now a size 6 and however long this lockdown lasts, I’m determined not to turn to food and drink for comfort again.
I blame government briefings
Amy Alexander, 34, a broadcast operations manager from Ravenshead, Notts, was size 22 at the start of the first lockdown and is now a size 16.
After a stressful and exhausting couple of years, at the start of the pandemic I was the heaviest I’ve ever been and weighed 22st 3lb.
Three years ago, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, so knowing I would otherwise have to shield alone at home, I upped sticks and moved in with my parents in Nottinghamshire.
Amy Alexander, 34, (pictured) who lives in Ravenshead, Nottinghamshire, was a size 22 at the beginning of the pandemic and is now a UK size 16
Glued to the daily briefings on TV, guzzling wine and snacking on crisps, I heard the medics warn about the extra risks of Covid-19 to those who are overweight and became even more panicked.
But that fear gave me a huge kick up the backside, and over the past ten months I’ve revolutionised my health, losing more than 8st in the process. Although I was still working full-time from home, without a commute I was able to focus on my diet and exercise.
My parents have a static bike in the conservatory. Initially, I could only manage ten minutes on low resistance, but as I got fitter, both my time and effort went up.
Mum and Dad then introduced me to road cycling, and by May, I was doing a combination of cardio and weight training for two hours a day.
Sticking closely to the diet I’d devised for myself, the weight fell off. At the end of July, when the shielding restrictions were lifted, I met up with my old schoolfriend, Sian, who was astonished to see I was now a size 16. I was thrilled when she said: ‘Woah! How have you done that when everyone else has been piling on weight in lockdown?
By October I weighed 13st 4lb and was delighted to discover I could comfortably fit into size 14 workout gear. I felt incredibly proud of what I’d achieved.
Then, later that month, my mum, a learning support worker in a school, caught Covid and had to self-isolate in her bedroom to avoid infecting me — and inevitably, I turned to food for comfort. Within weeks, I was back up to a size 16.
Mum’s symptoms dragged on for nine weeks, and then, of course, it was Christmas. Unsurprisingly, by January 4, when I decided it was time to resume my diet and exercise programme, I was a size 18.
Since then, I’ve worked out for two hours most days and have resumed the diet I started last March. I’m proud to say I’m back down to a size 16 and below 14st once more.
I feel so much better and am determined to keep the weight off. There will be plenty of time in the future for showing off my new figure.
When tragedy struck I turned to comfort food
Kerry Carter, 35, from Canvey Island, Essex is a full-time mum to Erika, 15, and Devon, nine. A size 22 at the start of the first lockdown, she got down to size 16 and is now size 18.
Kerry Carter, 35, (pictured) from Canvey Island, Essex, went from a size 22 to 16 and now is a size 18
In the three years before lockdown, I’d gained a lot of weight while studying for a degree. When the pandemic struck, I was a size 22 and 18st 3lb, the heaviest I’d ever been.
When Boris Johnson announced we all had to stay at home, I decided to see it as the perfect opportunity to pay attention to my body.
In April, I signed up for the Viking Fit Challenge, an online exercise and healthy eating programme, and committed to doing a daily online Zumba or kickbox class.
It was challenging. Indoors with two children around the clock, it felt like Groundhog Day. However, while they did their schoolwork, I stuck determinedly to my exercise plan.
By August, when I was finally able to see family, I’d lost 2st 2lb. When I saw my mum for the first time, she said: ‘Wow! What have you done with the rest of you?’
By October, I’d lost another stone. It felt wonderful being able to do up the zip on a size 16 dress that had hung unworn in my wardrobe for years.
Kerry (pictured) revealed she’s determined to reach 13st and size 14, after making a New Year’s resolution to follow a diet and exercise plan
But then, tragically, one of my best friends, a mother-of-two young children, died from bowel cancer, leaving me grief-stricken. I couldn’t face exercise and all my good eating habits went by the wayside. By December, I was a size 18, and after Christmas back up to a size 20 and heading towards 17st.
So my New Year’s resolution was to get back on my diet and exercise plan and I’m happy to say I’ve stuck to it. I’m already down to a size 18, and am determined to keep going until I reach 13st and a size 14.
Focusing on getting fit has proved a great distraction from all the grim news.’
Pandemic made me panic diet
Felicity Bucknall-Hart, 33, is a full-time mum to Ayva, ten, and Jesse, one. She lives in Cambridge with her partner David, 38, a chef. She was a size 16 last March and is now size 10.
Felicity Bucknall-Hart, 33, (pictured) from Cambridge, who was a size 16 last March, is now a size 10
Our son, Jesse, was two months old at the start of the first lockdown. Having been very overweight at the start of my pregnancy, I was struggling to shift it and weighed 17st 6lb.
Hearing that coronavirus is especially dangerous for people who are morbidly obese was so scary. I feared I’d end up on a ventilator.
The thought of leaving my children without a mum was a huge motivator, so I committed to exercising every single day until I reached a healthy weight. Just to add extra pressure, and ensure I’d stick to the plan, I decided to post my journey to those who follow me on Instagram. The result was @cambridgemummyblogs.
I worked out, tracked my steps on my Fitbit and downloaded an app where I recorded everything I ate. I was initially allowed 1,750 calories a day, but as my weight decreased that dropped to 1,500 calories. It was a struggle finding time to fit in the workouts between looking after Jesse and home schooling Ayva, but I made sure I did something active whenever Jesse napped.
Just by eating healthily and moving more, which, of course, boosted my metabolism, the weight fell off. By June, I’d lost over two stone and my size 16 clothes were hanging off me.
Felicity (pictured) said she enjoyed delicious food over the festive period, however her stomach had shrunk enough to lose her urge to over-indulge
Sharing my experience on Instagram helped spur me on to lose even more. So many people sent messages of support, telling me they couldn’t believe the transformation.
By August, when lockdown rules were relaxed and I was able to see friends outdoors, those who hadn’t followed my progress online were shocked by how comparatively svelte I looked. I’d lost another two stone and was comfortably into pretty, size 12 summer dresses.
After that the weight loss slowed down a bit, as it tends to do, but come Christmas I proudly slipped into a pair of size 10 jeans and was down to 11st 4lb — a total loss of 6st 2lb and four dress sizes in just nine months.
Of course I enjoyed delicious food over the festive period, but my stomach had shrunk so much I’d lost my urge to over-indulge. I’m happy with the weight I’m at now, but I’ll keep exercising and weighing my portions so it doesn’t creep back on.