The prospect of being a middle-aged bridesmaid saw Helen Van Berkel determined to lose weight. She kept a diary of her efforts.

"I'm convinced that in a week or two I could be svelte once more," writes Helen Van Berkel. Photo / Supplied

October, 2017

Tracey is getting married. I am her bridesmaid. I'm going to have to stand up in front of everyone, fat rolls on display. I can imagine the smiles of delight, as the beautiful bride glides up the aisle, fading to disgust as the blob humps by. So this is going to be the year of Healthy Me: I just know it.

As soon as I finish this glass of wine, I'm going to draw up a plan to lose about 10kg. I once lost 5kg in a week and one child later, cigarettes swapped for chardonnay, exercise for Netflix, I'm convinced that in a week or two I could be svelte once more. FYI, it hasn't worked. I've tried everything - sometimes for a month at a time. So now I have nine months to lose this food baby that nestles cosily on to my lap. How hard can it be?

• Day 2: (Day 1 was making the plan).


Weight: 87kg. Where did 2kg ooze from?

Workout: Walk up the hill and around the block. At least 10km. But, wait, what? Mapmywalk tells me it's only 2.78km!

Breakfast: Eggs and toast
Lunch: Home-made vege soup with toast and cheese.
Dinner: We had curry plans: wine, poppadums, more wine, a chocolate icecream sundae and wine. I stayed home and had soup and toast, proud of all the kilos I've lost by not eating curry.

• Day 3
Weight: 87kg
Workout: Walk up the hill and around the block. Still only 2.78km.

Breakfast: Cheese toasties.
Lunch: I make a horrifying back-to-school discovery: the three-week-old lunchbox. The lid opens with a squelch, revealing glistening, green-black grossness. Appetite lost. A win.
Dinner: Guests meant chicken, parmesan potatoes, broccoli, peas and corn with gravy and cheese sauce. Wine.

• Day 4


87kg. How?



Walk up the hill and around the block.

Breakfast: Skipped.
Lunch: Grapes and tomatoes.
Dinner: Leftovers.

• Day 5
Weight: 87kg
Workout: The stress of being the fattest mother in the school carpark
counts as a walk.

Breakfast: Egg and toast.
Lunch: Two Cruskits, grapes and tomatoes.
Dinner: Two wines and dinner at one of the city's top eateries – plus two wines. It got worse: the youngster had baked biscuits but not dinner. I picked up a pizza and shared it with her. (I also ate a cookie, but baking by your kids is made with love, not calories.)

• Day 6
Workout: A five-minute walk to the bus and a five-minute walk to the office.
Weight: 84kg. So all it took to budge a few kilos was no walk and two dinners!

Breakfast: One egg. One toast.
Lunch: Sushi.
Dinner: Spag bog.

• Day 7, on a work trip in Samoa
Work trip: Swimming plus hauling myself out of the pool, which counts as 10 minutes of weightlifting. An hour of kayaking.
Weight: 84kg.

Breakfast: Poached eggs, bacon and fruit.
Lunch: Chicken and vegetables.
Dinner: Oka, or diced raw tuna with coconut cream, capsicum and tomato.

• Day 8
Workout: A hike. But "So, it's 45 minutes return?" was 45 minutes ONE WAY. I lost a kilo in sweat. I deserved a can of Coke. I couldn't wait to pour that sweet, fizzy, chilled refreshingness down my throat. Belatedly, I thought my driver might like a cold drink too. I learned that self righteousness is a poor slaker of thirst.

Breakfast: Bacon, eggs and bananas.
Lunch: BLT and chips.
Dinner: Barbecue fish and salad.

• Day 9
Breakfast: Poached eggs, grilled tomato and fried banana.
Lunch: BLT and chips.
Dinner: Fish cooked in coconut; vegetables.

Workout: Yoga. It looks easy, even graceful. When others do it. I was a sweating, heaving, gasping mess.

• Day 10

Breakfast: Fruit and cereal.
Lunch: Skipped
Dinner: Toasted sandwiches. Knowing they're bad for me makes them taste worse.

• Day 11

I jump eagerly on the scales. Nothing lost. Nothing gained. I give up.

• Day 12, 13 and 14. Nope.

Tracey gets married. I am fat.

October 2018:

My goal is to lose 20kg by Christmas. A personal trainer says all I have to do is train three times a day. Three times a week? No. Three times a day.

Week 1 workout: Twice-weekly training begins with arms: bicep curls, lifting weights. Crunches, swiss ball sit ups, reverse crunches. I keep a food diary around which she will base our eating regime. She is appalled.

Week 2 workout: Lunges, resistance band lunges, step lunges. Sit ups, crunches, medicine ball slams. Weights and curls.

Diet advice: The PT says to stick with egg and toast for breakfast, salad for lunch, then a dinner of a protein and salad. I learn to make enough dinner salad for it to become lunch salad.

Week 3 workout: 5kg down. I am so convinced the result is wrong I ask the PT to check the scales. They are right. Two days later and mid Christmas celebrations, my home scales show I'm back up again.

Week 4 workout: I'm beginning to hate my PT. Did you stick to your eating plan? Did you exercise at home? No and no. But it's Christmas and it's hot. I suggest we try yoga: I could do shavasana all day. She throws a medicine ball at me. We do bicep curls; we do swiss ball crunches.

January 2019:

I am back at the gym, doing side lunges and frog jumps. This is going to be my year. I know it.