When Julie Bell gained 10 kilos in 12 months, she decided no excuse was good enough for sacrificing her health and fitness. She signed up to the 12-week BodyBlitz challenge and found renewed motivation to seize the life she wanted.

Julie Bell - February 2014 BodyBlitz winner

Flicking through WH&F, I came across pictures of the 12-week BodyBlitz challenge and thought, ‘Why can’t I do that?’ I went to the BodyBlitz website and started filling out the form, then stripped down and got my partner to take the before pictures. Seeing those sealed the deal that I needed a change. I was mortified that my partner had seen them. My gym was also starting an eight-week challenge, so I joined that also for double the motivation.

I have always considered myself a health-conscious person; however, I am guilty of following fads and always seemed to fall off the wagon. By doing this challenge, I decided it’s more about long-term health and what I want to put into my body for it to function well rather than looking good for particular events. I decided it’s about trying to be consistent and healthy in balance with your life. Sometimes I don’t do as well and make the wrong decision, but I have a better way of getting back on track and moving on.

Cutting out processed foods

The challenge at the gym was based on clean, healthy eating; so cutting back on processed foods and replacing them with lots of vegies and lean meats. I then paired this with group fitness classes at the gym.

My main method for my weight loss was a strict meal plan. I decided I wanted to get away from processed foods and try eating more natural and real foods. By doing that, my diet was built up of meats/proteins, vegetables, salads and nuts. I decided I would eat when hungry, but a smaller portion than I previously would have. I also did a mix of weight training, interval training and walking. Since the challenge, I have decided I would like more muscle tone and strength, so I have started doing extra weight training.

My daily weight loss diet aimed for a target intake 600 grams of protein sources and 600 grams of leafy green vegetables. I found this a great way to be able to switch up my meals. I also drank plenty of water and tried to use herbs and spices to flavour my food. Coconut oil and natural peanut butter on celery sticks became my ‘naughty’ treat. I limited alcohol intake to special occasions and even then only had a couple of glasses of red wine.

I mix up my exercise regularly and, during my challenge, I enjoyed going to group fitness classes as they helped with motivation and being productive at the gym. I also have a puppy that loves the beach, so on my days off we spend an hour walking/running on the beach. I work in a busy café on weekends, so I count running around there as my exercise.

I would say I had two main obstacles for succeeding. The first would be my job; I work in a café, so there was always temptation around. Working in hospitality means you need to be organised in preparing meals prior to work, but also meals that you can eat on the go, as there isn’t always time to stop. The second would be my boyfriend, who loves snacks after dinner, mainly chips and ice-creams. I find this time of day the hardest to resist temptation, especially when it is readily available. My secret weapon was celery and natural peanut butter, but on occasion when I just couldn’t resist, I would allow myself one handful of his after-dinner snack.

I used a couple of methods to stay motivated during the challenge; one was joining a shorter challenge at my local gym. The gym had a private Facebook group where we could motivate or ask questions of other competitors, plus group fitness classes and a weekly weigh-in. I also joined and liked a lot of fitness- and health-related Facebook pages, which meant my news feed always had some motivation, information or interesting new idea to try in the gym or kitchen. My sister, who lives interstate, was also working on living healthier, so we would text each other with our progress and how we were feeling.

My biggest supporters would firstly have been my boyfriend, even though he loves snacks, as he would always check in on how I was going and tell me I was looking great. He would also make me amazing meals from scratch using nothing processed at all – he even made zucchini pasta one day! Secondly, the people at the gym who were also doing a challenge, as they knew what I was going through and were always there for ideas and motivation. Everyone involved was very positive.

After the challenge, I found I had to dig a bit deeper for motivation and I did let a few old habits come back briefly. I know that I want to be a healthy person and that it is really about making healthy choices consistently.

The challenge taught me that I really don’t enjoy high sugar and processed foods and that my body and mind work so much better when I’m eating clean foods. As a result, I feel brighter, happier and less bogged down.

Over the last 12 weeks, I have managed to not only lose weight, but also incorporate new healthy habits into my life while kicking out some bad ones. I no longer spike my food and/or drinks with artificial sweeteners, I say no to the cake fridge at work, I drink less alcohol and even manage to drink green smoothies, which I surprisingly quite like!

I love the results I have achieved and am now motivated to keep going by building my strength and fitness to lower my body fat percentage a bit more with the help of a PT. It’s an ongoing process I’m working into daily life alongside healthy eating.

The 12-week BodyBlitz challenge has been the perfect kick-starter to a healthier life for me. Even though I’m not a fitness model, I loved my partner taking my after photo and being impressed with my changes.

I’d certainly recommend the 12-week BodyBlitz challenge to others. My advice would be to have someone to hold you accountable, as this was my best motivator. At the end of 12 weeks, when you realise what you have achieved, you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.

Meal plan
BREAKFAST: 2 to 3 poached eggs and fresh vegie juice with ginger, beetroot, lemon, carrot and celery
SNACK: Small handful of almonds
LUNCH: 150 to 200g protein with 200 to 300g green leafy vegies
SNACK: Green smoothie with celery, cucumber, spinach, chilli, ginger, greens powder and water
DINNER: 150 to 200g protein with steamed or stir-fried vegies
SUPPER: Celery sticks with natural peanut butter or dip

Monday: Pump class (1 hour), walk (1 hour)
Tuesday: Walk (1 hour)
Wednesday: Pump class (1 hour), walk (1 hour)
Thursday: RPM class (1 hour)
Friday: Interval training (3 mins walking, 45 secs sprinting)
Saturday: Rest
Sunday: Rest