Founder of BARE guide Leah Itsines, reveals the simple diet and exercise tricks that helped her lose weight in a healthy and sustainable way, while improving her mental health, too.
At the beginning of 2020, Leah Itsines was stuck in a rut.
Recovering from an injury, she turned to food to work through pain and avoided all exercise.
“The weight gain wasn’t sudden and it was overtime. It was due to overeating – yes, you can eat absolutely healthy, but for weight loss, gain or maintenance, your portions matter,” the 25-year-old tells Body+Soul. “It was lack of activity and mindless eating.”
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It wasn’t until one day back in May when she saw her reflection in the mirror and decided she needed to take action.
“One day I looked in the mirror and just said to myself, ‘I’m not happy, but I don’t hate myself. I want better for myself, I want to feel good again’”.
Leah then took to her Instagram stories to tell her 570k followers that she wanted to seek healthy change “because I loved myself, not because I hated myself.”
“I really struggled to get my words out because I was nervous people would jump down my throat or convince me to think otherwise,” she recalls. “But the response I got from hundreds of women who were in the same boat made me feel normal and made me even more determined to seek healthy change and show everything along the way.”
Now, less than seven months into her weight loss journey and Leah has lost 5kg and 30cm of body fat. While 5kg might not seem like a lot, Leah says weight isn’t her primary focus; instead, it’s the confidence she’s gained along the way that’s most valuable.
“I’m doing things like wearing shorts in the gym, tight gym singlets and even wearing dresses, which is huge for me because I’ve never felt comfortable or confident in them.”
Here’s exactly how Leah mentally and physically transformed her life.
Leah’s approach to ‘dieting’ involved decreasing her soft drink intake, stopping her mindless snacking habit and becoming more aware of her food intake.
Working with her company’s dietitian, she worked out a guide on how to ensure her intake of energy was in a deficit, without the need for calorie counting.
Here’s what a typical day on a plate looks like to Leah:
Breakfast: Peanut butter, strawberries, coconut flakes and honey on toast
Snack: A healthy birthday cake slice from her BARE Lean guide OR protein balls
Lunch: Pasta salad OR a chicken/tuna wrap loaded with vegetables
Dinner: Chicken pesto pizza OR home-made burgers OR Yiros (a recipe Leah is famous for)
Dessert: Hot chocolate
“The snacking was the hardest habit to kick, but it got easier over time,” Leah admits. “I made a point to ensure I had prepped healthy snacks, so I wasn’t grabbing anything in reach.”
She also points out that her partner Mitch, played a huge role in helping her stay on track and made it “easier to get through those small changes”.
“Having someone in the same house as you helping you along your journey can make a world of difference, too.”
Leah’s exercise routine
If you follow Leah on Instagram, you’ll know she’s up early every morning to go for a walk and in the gym working out whenever she finds the time in her busy schedule.
“Now that I’m able to exercise, I’m doing anything and everything I can to find a rhythm. I am currently walking 45-minutes a day and doing Pilates twice a week, and strength training three times a week.”
Leah on the biggest lesson she learnt
She wants everyone to know that “your journey is yours, and you should never let anyone’s opinions, thoughts or comments affect you.”
Moreover, she adds that weight and the number you see on the scales is just a small piece of the entire puzzle.
“I think that it’s important to note to always strive to progress in more areas than just weight. For example, aim for personal bests in the gym, clothing sizes, mindset wins.
“All of that is so important and so undervalued when it comes to a healthy eating or weight loss journey.”
Leah’s biggest advice for others trying to lose weight
Leah cannot stress enough the importance of educating yourself on how to lose weight in a healthy and sustainable manner.
“If a program, guide or ad is claiming big results in a short period of time – for example, 10kg in 10 weeks – turn and walk, or run!”
She also admits she had her ups and downs over the past couple of months, where life got in the way and distracted her from her goals, but she’s learnt to change the way she reacts to those bumps in the road.
“Have a balanced and realistic goal in mind and work towards it. I know It isn’t the ‘sexiest’ way to do it, but I promise you, it’ll be sustainable for life and you’ll never have to feel like you failed a ‘diet’ ever again.
After all, “knowledge is power!”