WE all know how horrible a year 2020 was.

All of our lives changed more dramatically than we could ever have imagined.

One week, it’s business as usual, the next, we’re told by the Prime Minister we must stay home, and a new virus with no vaccine is sweeping across the world.

For many, the lockdown and subsequent restrictions and working from home have taken a huge toll on our mental and physical health. Understandably, some will have been extremely demotivated; people were dying, losing their jobs, and the situation looked bleak.

You wouldn’t blame anyone for putting on a few pounds during the lockdown.

However, with the dawn of 2021, I hope by sharing what was possible during the pandemic, others could be inspired to see what can be achieved if you put your mind to it.

By Christmas 2019, I had really let myself go with my weight. I have always struggled with it in my life, food has been my biggest weakness. If the going was tough, I would eat. If I was upset, I would eat. If I was bored, snacks helped get me along.

I always knew I was overweight, and the thought of doing something was always there, but I could never muster the resolve to properly commit.

How attractive I looked, how healthy I felt, how fit I was, it all fell below my love for food and drink.

I had done a few stints at the gym during university days, and previously swam miles for charity, but I would always go back to unhealthy, comfort food afterwards, so the impact was never seen.

But at the age of 25, I was 19 stone, the heaviest I’ve ever been. Something inside my head clicked the extent of this when I saw the photo on the left [above], taken as I happily built my new Lego set on Christmas Day (you’re never too old for Lego).

I was not proud of that photo. I was almost repulsed by it. I knew something just had to change.

My mother knew it too, though of course, she would never want to bring me down. But on my 26th birthday in January, she gave me a lifeline. A birthday present in the form of a book; How to Lose Weight Well, by Dr Xand van Tulleken.

It was accessible, down to earth, and above all - simple. Dr Xand told me if I made these recipes, and walked a whole lot more, things would change.

A direct, easy and clear instruction, so I followed it.

The first stone dropped off in two weeks. I think it was the sheer shock change to my diet - which went from three meals and plenty of snacks a day - to one big meal, and a small, healthier snack, plus around 10,000 steps per day. Ish.

By the time we were in lockdown, I was approaching losing two stone. The world was looking horrendous, so I knew I couldn’t let the work I’d done go to waste. I had to latch on to weight loss as something to strive for and achieve despite everything else.

As of just before Christmas, I weighed just under 15 stone, which I’m pretty sure is the lightest I’ve been for years.

The best thing about it was when people began to notice. Not wishing to be vain, but having people say how different I look without any prompts is such a wonderful feeling.

On Christmas Day, with another new Lego set to build, I decided to recreate the photo that I hated, and saw the extent of the change myself.

All of this was achieved by just sticking to a group of recipes, and putting one foot in front of the other many, many times.

But I still had (and have) occasions where I eat takeaways, or have the snacks I crave, just ensuring they were in moderation and a reward for a positive weight loss period, so I didn’t go completely stir crazy with cravings.

Walking did wonders; I would encourage everyone who can to walk every day. It clears your head, lets you escape from everything and lets you accomplish something.

I can honestly say I’ve never enjoyed exercise, it’s always felt more of a chore. But walking just feels like a nice hobby.

I achieved this while working through a lockdown in a busy reporting job.

Do not limit yourself because of what’s going on around you. Change is possible, you just need to find the right route.