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Case study: Keeping active and healthy post lockdown

Danielle took on our Active April challenge – read her inspiring story.

When lockdown broke in 2020, Danielle Gough, a customer success manager from Nottinghamshire, embarked on an inspirational health journey – kickstarted by the pandemic. 

Danielle, now 27, found her fitness mojo and saw improvements in her mental wellbeing, resulting in an impressive eight-stone weight loss. However, with life reopening and temptation at social events back on the scene, read how Active April helped Danielle re-focus on keeping active and how this impacted her mental and physical health.

Here’s what Danielle said: 

“I began exercising and changing my diet during the first UK lockdown. I saw this as an opportunity to lose some weight and embark on a healthier lifestyle. The extra time saved from commuting to and from work meant I had more time in my day to spend exercising and preparing nutritious meals.

"Initially, I lost eight stone in 2020. However, since coming out of lockdown, I found it increasingly hard to stay active and make healthy choices. 

“All the usual temptations you get at social events (like party food and alcohol) were removed during the lockdown. But I'm now making up for the lost time by attending at least two-three events a month. The parties and occasions seem surrounded by food and alcohol, which means I had put on just under two stone in the last two years. 

“I knew I needed to get back on it, and Medichecks' Active April campaign came at exactly the right time. Committing to getting active every day has given me the drive to kick start my health journey. Having a challenge helps with setting a routine and keeps me on track.”

How do you keep active?

“I use a mix of free YouTube workout videos and attend the gym. The weather is still slightly too cold for me to enjoy running, so I often run on the treadmill. I work out five-six times a week for 45 minutes a day. This is usually cardio as I enjoy this the most and it shows me the most effective progress. 

“Working from home on a hybrid contract has enabled me to visit the gym in the morning and also on lunch breaks. I also enjoy going for walks with my partner and friends, I try to meet my 10,000 steps a day as this is an easy way to exercise without feeling like I’m exerting myself.” 

Danielle exercising.

Has diet played a role in reaching your goals?

“When I was 17, I was diagnosed with PCOS [polycystic ovary syndrome] - a hormone disorder that affects women of childbearing age. One side effect of PCOS is that my body struggles to use insulin effectively. 

“After years of struggles with my weight, I spoke with a PCOS specialist. They advised that some research shows low carb diets work well in reducing symptoms and boosting weight loss for women with PCOS. When I first lost the bulk of the weight, I was on a keto diet which meant I didn't eat carbohydrates. I now eat carbs, but I keep my macros for this below 100g a day.”

How are you monitoring your progress?

“This is now week three for me, and I've lost 12 pounds - I'll weigh myself again in a week to see my total weight loss. 

“Non-scale victories are also super important. I tried on a skirt that didn’t fit in March, which it now does - this made me extremely happy. I also visited Italy this month, the plane seat felt much more comfortable, and the seatbelt had lots more room than when I last travelled. I find that noticing these things helps keep me determined to carry on.

“I am super pleased with the results so far. I have a little more to go to be where I’d like. I want to lose around another three stone in total as this will sit me comfortably within my healthy BMI range. 

“One of the biggest benefits I have found is the impact on my mental health. I have been diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder [GAD]. This affects my daily life in so many aspects. Exercising and keeping active have a huge advantage. I feel calmer, it also helps with my concentration and productivity at work. Exercise pumps out my brain's feel-good neurotransmitters – endorphins!” 

How do you stay focused and motivated?

“My motivator is my mental health. When I’m feeling like I can’t get up and go to the gym, I tell myself how good I feel after. I am only human, and staying motivated is extremely hard at times. 

“Setting myself reachable targets based on my mood that day is imperative. One day I may wake up and feel like going to the gym and smashing out 45 minutes of intense cardio, whereas on other days, I may want to sleep the whole day. If I'm feeling on the go-slow, I get up and go for a slow 45-minute walk instead. If it's cold inside or I’m feeling anxious, I will do two 20-minute YouTube videos in my kitchen, where I know I’m comfortable and safe.” 

How has Active April helped you achieve your fitness goals?

Active April has given me the well-needed kick up the bum to get back on my fitness journey! I am still attending social events, holidays, and parties – I’m just making sure that I still work out for 45 minutes a day. I’ll be continuing throughout May and challenging myself to one hour a day instead. 

What’s your advice for anyone embarking on a fitness challenge?

  1. Firstly, find an exercise you enjoy, this will make your workouts much more fun, and you may even start to, dare I say it, look forward to exercising! 
  1. Set yourself realistic goals - this doesn’t always have to be on the scale, it could be to drop a dress size, fit in an old pair of jeans - just do whatever motivates you the most. 
  1. Lastly, don’t be too hard on yourself, it shouldn’t ever feel like a chore. Exercising has so many amazing benefits for your body and mind so try and remember to have fun while doing it.