A woman has unveiled her incredible transformation after dropping three dress sizes in eight weeks – and puts it down to a vegan diet and ditching coffee and booze.
At the end of last year journalist Ellie Phillips, 32, who lives in London, was a size 14-16 and aghast to discover she was bordering on ‘obese’ (over 39 per cent body fat).
In an effort to get fit, she took on the F45 Fulham challenge, which saw her attend fitness training five times a week, banish coffee and alcohol and switch her regular vegetarian diet for a weekly vegan delivery service.
And Ellie was astonished when, after eight weeks, she went down three dresses sizes and lost a stone.
Here she tells FEMAIL how she achieved her remarkable transformation.
Ellie Phillips, 32, who lives in London, lost over one stone and dropped three dress sizes after taking on an eight week fitness challenge (pictured left before at a size 14/16 and right, well on her way to being a size 8)
What’s the catch? No coffee and no booze
I’ve always hated treadmills and running in general – the thought of doing a marathon fills me with horror.
I’ve worked with personal trainers in the past but always felt incredibly intimidated and ended up dreading sessions because I’d feel so ashamed for needing to rest for ‘just a minute’.
And, I love carbs. I’m my father’s daughter and I genuinely believe it runs in the Phillips’ genes.
So, when a PR friend of mine approached me about trying an eight week challenge with F45 Fulham without any of the former ‘no-nos’, I was intrigued.
Ellie had food delivered to her home each and every week packed full of everything she would need for the next seven days
F45 Fulham provides meal plans for all dietary requirements and preferences. Ellie opted for the vegan By Ruby Food meals
She revealed there ‘wasn’t a catch’ – all I had to do was train at least four times per week in group sessions and stick to the meal plan.
‘But there’s no caffeine allowed for the first two weeks and you’re not really supposed to drink alcohol,’ she added.
‘NO COFFEE!?’ I gasped – first world problems at their finest. But I soon decided that, considering I’d been hoping to get back down to a size 8 for over three years, ditching my morning beverage wasn’t worthy of being a deal-breaker.
Managing injury with the help of an in-house osteopath
Unfortunately, like many women my age, I’m plagued with ailments, which I swear began in earnest when I turned the big 3-0. Specifically, I have painful impingement in my right shoulder rotator cuff thanks to a flat back, and I suffer with chronic headaches thanks to a tight neck.
Thus I’m unable to place bars on my shoulders, lift weights above my head, do press-ups or even sit-ups without tensing my neck, which can cause agonising trapped nerves down my back and debilitating migraines.
Thankfully there is an in-house osteopath at F45 Fulham to treat you alongside the training, and they can tailor exercises for you.
F45 Fulham offered Ellie an in-house osteopath to help her with ailments that may have affected her ability to work out
Ellie revealed she suffers with painful impingement in her right shoulder rotator cuff thanks to a flat back
She also suffers with chronic headaches thanks to a tight neck, but Jodie Doyle (pictured) was able to ensure she wasn’t in pain
Outside of training, she worked one-on-one with Jodie on strengthening her shoulders and relieving pressure from her neck
F45 is a franchise, so while all gyms have the same core set-up, each is slightly different, and F45 Fulham couldn’t have been a more perfect fit for me.
Jodie Doyle, one of F45 Fulham’s co-owners, is also the in-house osteopath. Having her on-hand to ensure I wasn’t in pain or causing myself further damage, really gave me the confidence to push myself during workouts.
Having injuries meant my base-level training took longer than for someone in perfect health. And so, I could either swap shoulder exercises for hard-core lower body alternatives (and burn more calories) or do lighter shoulder exercises to build up the strength in my upper body. I opted for the latter.
Outside of group training, I worked one-on-one with Jodie on strengthening my shoulders and relieving pressure from my neck, meaning my headaches drastically reduced in frequency and I was able to lift heavier weights, and in turn build more fat-burning, lean muscle.
Before starting the challenge, a full in-body analysis at F45 Fulham takes place, which measures body composition, muscle mass, percentage of body fat, BMI and obesity degree.
After stepping on a specialist machine, owner and head trainer Nev took me through the breakdown of my results and informed me that my target weight loss was 14kg (2st 2lb) – I laughed, thinking he was joking, but soon realised that he was deadly serious.
With my body fat percentage at 38.8 per cent I was firmly in the ‘overweight’ category, and I was shocked to learn that I was bordering on ‘obese’ (over 39 per cent body fat).
The training sessions last 45 minutes and consist of high intensity circuit training and HIIT techniques
They include lifting, squatting, jumping, rowing, lunging, biking, ropes, kettle bells and giant hammers
I had been telling myself that I was a size 12 because I could ‘get into them’, when in fact they didn’t really fit. I was uncomfortably bursting out of my size 12 clothes while in complete denial about needing to size-up.
As well having an in-body analysis at F45 Fulham, at the start of the challenge, I measured key areas of my body (chest, waist, hips) and was forced to accept that I was in fact – according to official charts – verging on a size 16. And at just 5’2′ this wasn’t a healthy way to be.
The training sessions last 45 minutes and consist of high intensity circuit training and HIIT techniques, with lifting, squatting, jumping, rowing, lunging, biking, ropes, kettle bells, giant hammers and everything in-between.
Ellie revealed while working out she rarely did the same exercise for more than 60 seconds before moving on to something else
Many of the workouts are weights-based, offering muscle pumping resistance training, without a treadmill insight
Some sessions are packed with high energy cardio (Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays) and others are weights-based, offering muscle pumping resistance training (Tuesdays and Thursdays). Either way, one thing is guaranteed: You’re going to sweat. A lot.
With names like Tokyo Disco, Athletica, Wingman, Renegade and the hour-long Saturday special Hollywood (which combines cardio and resistance) each class is very different.
You’re rarely doing the same exercise for more than 60 seconds before moving on to something else; and since no session is the same, you never get bored.
What’s it really like?
I can remember my first F45 Fulham class painfully clearly. With a heart rate monitor strapped to my chest, clutching a water bottle in my hand, I scraped my hair up into a Mrs Trunchbull style bun and prepared for the worst.
Despite being over 30 and having chronic neck and shoulder injuries, Ellie was able to undergo five weekly workouts and ate a vegan diet
After minimal exercise for many months, it was a brutal shock to the system and I did think I’d pass out or throw up several times – but I survived, and felt seriously good about it! The endorphin rush was incredible, and despite needing a lie down I was actually excited for the next session.
At the beginning of each class, the trainers give an introduction, explaining the format of the session before demonstrating each individual exercise and giving lower-impact alternatives.
A cartoon man on large screens then takes you through a simple warm up. When the workout begins in earnest, the cartoon man constantly reminds you what exercise to undertake at each station, while trainers provide motivating words and ensure technique is maintained.
Some sessions are packed with high energy cardio including circuit training in stations around the room
Ellie was surprised at how quickly the classes went by, adding: ‘Even five short sets in a station seem to fly by’
The workout stations around the room are clearly numbered which helps to avoid confusion within the circuit-style training. Additionally, as five seconds remain in an exercise set, instructions helpfully flash up on screen to tell you what to do next.
You’ll often work through the circuit with one or two other people (depending on how busy the class is) but there’s no competitive element involved, more a shared ‘survival’ attitude.
Finally, once the fat-burning sweat fest is over, everyone high-fives each other before breaking into chats during a thorough a stretch and cool-down as heart rates start to drop.
What surprised me most is how quickly the classes seem to go. Even five short sets in a station seem to fly by, and before you know it, the whole session is over and endorphins are pumping through your body.
Despite how challenging Ellie found the work-outs, she said they would often fly by in a second
She ended up enjoying the time in the gym, and would often work-out with others who all had the same ‘survival mode’ attitude
Before taking on the challenge, I was seriously worried that I would be the most unfit and the most overweight person in each class. But what I found was a huge range of fitness levels as well as different ages, body shapes and sizes.
Not once did I ‘dread’ going to a session. Endless Pounding on a treadmill is swapped for short, ever-changing weight bearing exercises. Lonely grind in a gym is replaced. By sociable sessions with welcoming and encouraging, like-minded people and instructors. Team training really is life changing.
The eight-week diet changes as the weeks go on, with three phases: Spring Training (an alkaline) diet in the first two weeks to detox the body, Regular Sessions (high protein plan) for the next four weeks, and finally World Series (high fat, low carb) for the last two weeks.
I’ve been vegetarian on-and-off since I was six years old, so making the jump to vegan (or plant-based, to be accurate) was something I was keen to attempt, but F45 Fulham provides meal plans for all dietary requirements and preferences.
Alongside the F45 Fitness classes, the Challenge app outlines the meal plan: the recipes and cooking instructions along with handy weekly shopping list, so you can prepare food, should you be up for doing everything yourself.
Ellie’s vegan diet
5 A DAY NOODLES
Stir fried teriyaki udon noodles with soy mushrooms & lots of fresh vegetables. Finished with roasted cashew nuts, sesame seeds and a handful of fresh coriander. The most delicious way to get your 5 a day in, packed with natural goodness, protein and fibre.
A rich slow cooked spicy tagine spiked with harissa. Packed with roasted vegetables & finished with fresh mint, coriander, roasted cashew nuts and preserved lemon, this tagine really packs a punch.
Chargrilled aubergine and courgettes then layer with a rich plant based lentil ragout. Topped with a creamy almond milk béchamel sauce and a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg this dish is a great source of natural plant protein, fibre and all important vitamins
A rich & savoury broth, poured over noodles, mushrooms & tofu. This dish is finished with a sprinkling of sesame seeds & some chopped coriander. Packed with Plant powered protein & fibre
Layered chargrilled aubergine, roasted butternut squash & baby spinach leaves with rich tomato sauce & luxurious plant based bechamel. This vegan lasagne is a nourishing & fulfilling vegan triumph.
BUTTERNUT SQUASH & OKRA DHAL
A magical blend of spices makes this dhal stand out: Roasted butternut squash, okra and baby spinach leaves make this a wholesome feast
KERALAN VEGETABLE CURRY
This dish won a Women’s Health food award! Toasted Indian spices to add warmth and aroma to this sensational recipe. This curry brings back memories or an Indian adventure. A great source of antioxidants, fibre and plant protein.
But for me, By Ruby Foods provided the ultimate lifeline: delivering calorie controlled, nutritious and seriously tasty vegan meals made the entire process manageable – and enjoyable.
I cannot overstate how crucial By Ruby Foods were to my weight loss journey. As a presenter and showbiz journalist working crazy hours, trekking across London each day and yoyo-ing up and down the country, it would have been too big an ask to find the time to commit to training at F45 Fulham as well as cooking from scratch.
Ensuring the right macros were in my diet (and no, ‘macros’ isn’t short for macaroni and cheese, unfortunately) the genius Leith-trained chef Ruby and her talented co-founder Milly also kept my protein levels high with vegan alternatives.
My favourite frozen meals are the aubergine mousakka, the bean polpette with ratatouille and the veggie noodles, but they are all genuinely delicious.
The food includes a variety of breakfast shakes, filling lunches, hearty dinners and yummy protein balls
The genius Leith-trained chef Ruby and her talented By Ruby Foods co-founder Milly also kept my protein levels high with vegan alternatives. My favourite frozen meals are the aubergine mousakka, the bean polpette with ratatouille and the veggie noodles
Every Friday a By Ruby Foods delivery would arrive packed with everything I needed for the week: a variety of breakfast shakes, filling lunches, hearty dinners and yummy protein balls.
Plus, because I wasn’t going into supermarkets or picking out food for an online shop, I drastically reduced the number of encounters with sweet temptations to resist.
The only extra thing needed was vegan protein powder and bananas. By Ruby Foods also included the sweetest hand written notes, wishing me luck for the week ahead and praising my achievements – the little things really do make a difference.
Difficulty of the diet
Ellie gave up alcohol and coffee in order to undergo her transformation, switching to caffeine free fruit teas
Ellie used training sessions last 45 minutes and consist of high intensity circuit training and HIIT techniques to tone up
I can’t lie, giving up booze and caffeine wasn’t easy – The latter being the most difficult for me. As a regular ‘oat milk cappuccino’ gal, the withdrawals were very, very real.
Although initially fatigue was an issue, after 10 days the headaches subsided and I realised that I didn’t actually need coffee. My sleep drastically improved and my energy levels were higher than ever. In order to not become a social recluse, I swapped my drink of habitual choice to caffeine fruit teas, and haven’t looked back.
Did I stray? Not on the booze and caffeine front. I even managed to remain teetotal at several super fancy black tie events without much fuss (no one really cares whether or not you’re drinking). As an unexpected bonus, waking up hangover free for two months has seen my productivity soar!
For my ‘one meal off-plan’ (cheat meal) each week, I stuck to vegan options at restaurants in the knowledge that they would give me the best chance of having a nutritionally sound meal, and wouldn’t fill me with regret the following day (having your photos taken in granny pants is the ultimate motivator to keep you on track).
Results and feelings
F45 is addictive, it’s as simple as that. The changes you experience physically and mentally kick in really quickly, and the muscle aches soon become oddly satisfying.
Within just two weeks my clothes became more comfortable – loose even – and I actually found myself looking forward to training, and seriously questioning who I’d become.
Elie says her sleep has drastically improved and insisted she is more motivated and productive than ever
Ellie says that carrying less fat has day to day life so much easier, adding that her skin is the best it’s ever been
Carrying less fat makes day to day life so much easier, my skin is the best it’s ever been. My sleep has drastically improved, and I’m more motivated and productive than ever.
Aside from the initial exhaustion and caffeine withdrawals, which soon subside – the only other negative to the challenge are the bruises I got from kettle bells (alas, like Ross from friends, I bruise like a peach).
‘But you weren’t that fat to begin with!’ I hear some of you cry. Well, technically I was overweight, or heavier than my BMI should be for my height. In fact, despite my 7kg weight loss, I’m still ‘overweight’ according to my BMI (I’m at 25.6 – healthy is between 18.5 and 24.9).
I’m now carrying 35.4 per cent body fat, meaning I still have 2.4 per cent body fat to shed in order to be in the ‘healthy’ category (21 per cent – 33 per cent).
I still have a long way to go, but my ‘transformation’ pictures make me extremely proud of myself and determined not to go back to how I was before. Bring on the next eight week challenge!