COMMENT:

The old me would not like the new me. I had long believed that a healthy diet was a balanced diet and vegans were deficient in important food groups (and fun). Yoga was for stick insects with no boobs and what's the point of dry January if you get smashed for the other 11 months of the year?

But my secret food behaviours were far from balanced.

I rarely ate a proper meal and was constantly tired, hungry and in a mad rush. I would pick at the kids' food while preparing meals for the rest of the family, keeping no real track of what I was consuming.

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I lurched between intentionally starving myself and grazing for energy. I was malnourished, my metabolism was rock bottom and then it dawned on me: at 40, three lots of baby weight had now just become weight.

At the start of the year, I did something out of desperation and out of character, I cancelled my gym membership and hired wellbeing coach Anna Anderson, based in my home town of Haslemere in Surrey in the UK.

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The first time she called me I cried and then she made me weigh myself. I cried again. I was more than 12kg heavier than I had imagined and 25kg heavier than my ideal weight.

For years I had avoided full-length photographs, videos and applied make-up in a hand-held mirror. As a result, the real me was very different from the image I held in my mind. A long hard look at myself, and into myself, was overdue.

At the end of January, I embarked on an entirely plant-based 12-week food plan with different recipes every day and weekly modules to study. Topics ranged from eating habits to belief systems. It required focus and concentration and made me prioritise planning, shopping and cooking for myself.

The programme challenged my food myths - I now eat carbohydrates such as potatoes and wholemeal rice and my favourite recipes are the simple ones: vegetable stir-fry, spicy black bean stew and squash and lentil curry. As the programme progresses it introduces more raw meals and reduces gluten, and I finally feel nourished.

New habits include eating until I am 80 per cent full, drinking copious amounts of water, making smoothies and taking supplements such as flaxseed oil and vitamin D.

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I eat my supper at 5pm with the kids and then give my body a break from food until 7am. Alcohol, coffee and processed ingredients are all off-limits.

I (aim) to get up every morning at 5.30am ahead of the kids to complete a 25-minute HIIT-Yoga fusion session - my go-to instructor is Sadie Narden who has workouts on YouTube and via her Fit & Fierce App. Before the lockdown, I was also attending Yoga flow classes at Cafe Mila in nearby God al ming. I started running for the first time in five years without getting injured thanks to the Yoga and strength work.

Two months in and I was losing 2lb a week, on average, and then came the lockdown.

Initially, it was difficult to get the right ingredients so I fell back upon the more straightforward recipes. I lacked variation but stuck to the principles of the plan.

I still have to fight hard to stave off old habits such as picking and skipping dinner due to time constraints - homeschooling, running the house and working - so I am keeping a tally chart of absent-minded grazing to dissuade myself.

I have felt a social pressure to drink over the last two months, although I haven't succumbed.

There has been an online camaraderie since the restrictions were imposed: "We're in this together and we're drinking gin together."

Mum-humour on WhatsApp groups and social media revolves around home schooling and home boozing. My favourite is a video clip of a women explaining fractions by downing a quarter of her wine glass, followed by a half, three quarters, and so on.

Although my friends have been fully supportive (albeit surprised) I do feel on the outside of an in-joke. Zoom calls continue after I have gone to bed and digital dinners are all about who is drinking what.

Overall, however, the lockdown has given me the freedom to push myself. I'm not commuting to London so have more time for Yoga practice and food preparation.

I'm a social drinker. It's not the booze I love but the craic and it's far easier to abstain on Zoom than it is in person. With no parties, dinners or work events in the diary, my willpower has not, as yet, been fully tested.

Spending more time with the children has been a motivating factor. I knew being hungover while incarcerated would, in the words of Roald Dahl, make me a "stodgy parent". I am relishing this time and I have new-found energy just for them.

I've lost 12kg now and plan to follow a plant-based diet indefinitely.

As for my future relationship with alcohol, I'm soul searching again. In the juggle of life, it's far easier to catch balls sober.

Just don't tell old me yet, I'm going to break it to her gently.

Plant-based food plan by wellbeing coach Anna Anderson

A typical day

1. HIIT Yoga session 25 minutes.
2. Breakfast of overnight oats with oat milk and fruit and flaxseed.
3. Green vegetable smoothie (using frozen spinach and frozen broccoli, blueberries, banana, oat milk and spirulina).
4. Kidney bean salad.
5. Edamame beans as a snack, fruit or carrots.
6. Mushroom and spinach risotto made with vegan stock, pearl barley and nutritional yeast instead of cheese.