'I'm not exaggerating when I say that my time with Laura was life-changing. Her gentle approach, kind encouragement and vast nutrition knowledge taught me, a lazy procrastinator with a sweet tooth, how to get fit and lose weight without even turning into a diet bore. I can't recommend her more!

When you’re out of shape, it’s the little things you notice: the flab above your knicker line, the marks left on your thighs by the seams of your jeans, the extra burst of selfies before you find one you’re happy with, or least that you don’t hate. You know you’re meant to do something about it, but when you’re tired or sad or vulnerable - as you so often are – getting out your rut seems like too much effort, so ‘tomorrow,’ you think, tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow. I put on two stone while I was pregnant, and I actually didn’t mind. The bump itself was ‘neat’, everyone said, and it took attention away from the areas I’d always been self-conscious about: the lower stomach, the thighs and the upper arms, even though they – thanks to my incessant cravings for potatoes – had been supersized. But just days after my baby was born, for some reason, I got on the scales. The birth of my beautiful, healthy boy had hardly dented the weight gain and, though I was very active for a pregnant woman (swimming seemed to take away the nausea), as a new mother I was anything but. I had had a c-section and found even bending down to pick up my phone excruciating. I also had breastfeeding issues and, after being up for two hours in the night, watching the Lifestyle Channel and wincing in pain while my poor tongue-tied baby tried to feed, the least I felt I deserved was a caramel shortcake. Cakes were in ample supply. It’s what people take to new mothers and there’s an old wives’ tale circulating in my family that it’s good for milk production. Fat chance. Neither am I convinced that breastfeeding burns as many calories as they say. Or, if it does, it’s balanced out by fact most of us can barely reach the end of the road before the stitches hurt or the baby cries. To make matters worse, I had a family holiday booked for just nine weeks after d-day. That gives me three weeks after my six-week check, I calculated, to get back into shape. I don’t know why I was expecting a miracle: I was exhausted. When my baby slept, I wanted to sleep. When someone else had him, I wanted to have a shower. Or finish the laundry, or write thank-you letters. I bought two DVDs: a gentle post-natal pilates and a Tracey Anderson post-natal workout. The former warned of the dangers of exercising before allowing your abs to knit back together so insisted on several weeks of extremely gentle movements, the latter – I was shocked to discover – said nothing of the kind, and included ab exercises so hard, I couldn’t even have done them pre-pregnancy. The buggy fit class I travelled to on an overcrowded commuter bus was cancelled, it turned out, while the teacher was away. I went on holiday with a suitcase full of maternity-wear, as a result, but also a cute baby who turned out to be an excellent beach cover-up. And, as the season changed from summer to autumn, my urgency to lose weight petered out. Unfortunately, my need for cake did not. So, six months after my baby was born, I still had plenty of flesh above my knickerline to grab, red lines on my thighs from where my jeans dug in, and a phone that was constantly running out of memory space while I attempted to take good selfies. I googled personal trainers and found Laura. Sometimes a decision can bring relief. For me, even though I hadn’t so much as lifted a dumbbell or skipped a pudding, just having my first appointment with Laura booked in felt like an achievement. That night I spelt a little sounder and the next morning I woke up a little easier. Meeting Laura was the other big step: she wasn’t a bootcamp-style militant, but rather a gentle, softly-spoken young mother similar to the ones I hung out with all day. And, when I saw the menu plans, I was practically jumping for joy. It was strict (protein with every meal, no carbs in the evening, no wheat), but it made sense. This wasn’t a go-hungry-or-go-home diet plan, but an easy way of incorporating Laura’s nutritional know-how into everyday life. I found my days at home with a baby enjoyable, but long and tiring. So knowing, for example, that I would be having three good meals a day, and a mid-morning and afternoon snack, was a comfort. Plan ahead, she advises, so the good snacks (ricecakes and hummous, Bounce balls, fruit) are to hand before you get hungry. It actually all worked beautifully with my baby’s routine, meaning we often ate together and snacked together, and though I’m not sure he’ll remember sitting in his highchair while I chopped up fruit and veg, I like to think I’ve helped to lay the foundations of a healthy appetite in him too. As for the exercise, Laura’s approach is so common-sense I’m amazed I’ve never come across it before. You can jog, jump and jive till the cows come home, she says, but without resistance work too, you’ll never change your body shape. For someone who would literally rather run a mile than lift a weight, this could have presented a bit of a hurdle, but Laura gauged my fitness level immediately, and worked with that, so my ability to hold planks and stretch bands grew so stealthily I hardly noticed I was being pushed. As a fragile new mother, I was so grateful for her gently-does-it approach that I could have wept with gratitude (and often did, although I blame that partly on residual oxytocin). 12 weeks on and I’ve changed. I’ve lost weight, I’ve evened up (my first measurements showed the left side of my body was woefully out of sync with the right), and I’m fit. Fitter, in fact, than I ever have been, which is the most unbelievable post-baby confidence boost. But once again, it’s the little things I notice the most: the toned bicep muscle which comes to meet me every time I put on body lotion, how strange it feels to have a rare day without exercise, and the occasional reminder that I’m back to who I was before the baby, but better.'*


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