My Fitness Journey: Instagrammer Nathalie Lennon Talks to Us About Becoming A Fitspiration To Thousands Of Girls
Nathalie's transformation pics amassed nearly 50,000 likes online. We chat to her about why she decided to make a change and how far she's come since beginning her fitness journey.
Name: Nathalie Lennon
When did you decide to make a change?
Back in March I decided that I really wanted to progress in my fitness and find out what my body was capable of. Summer was around the corner, and my final year in college was stressful, but the new workout regime helped clear my mind of assignment stress, and eating healthier definitely prevented me getting flus and colds – I haven’t had a bad cold since I changed my lifestyle.
What were your reasons?
I’ve always had an interest in fitness, and I would’ve worked out a little before. But I never noticed any progress and I felt like I was only getting fluffier, especially after Christmas time. Seeing the various transformation photos that I found on Instagram, it frustrated me that I wasn’t seeing results like those.
When I began to follow the workout guides by Kayla Itsines, I posted about it on my Instagram from the very beginning. That motivated me a lot to keep it going, I wanted to show that I could stick to it and (hopefully) see results! Not everyone in my life was as supportive about my lifestyle change as I had hoped, but it genuinely acted as a motivator for me.
I gave up caring about the opinions of others, and focused on myself.
What did you give up?
That’s a tough one. I gave up caring about the opinions of others, and focused on myself. When it comes to lifestyle, I changed a lot of things but didn’t necessarily eliminate anything from my life. I eat far less chocolate and baked goodies for example. I did give up the sugary cereals I used to think were healthy, and substituted oats instead. I also gave up those cereal bars which brainwash you into thinking they’re healthy but are actually full of sugar, and now I go for Nakd bars or homemade clean banana and date cookies when I get a case of the munchies.
What did you take up?
I began the exercise regime in Kayla’s Bikini Body Guide, and did more running than usual. This involved a great mix between cardio and weights in my workouts, as well as a lot of moves that used my own body weight, which allowed me to do a lot of workouts from home! I also changed my eating habits a lot. I don’t eat much less than I would’ve before, I just make much better choices.
How long before you started noticing a difference?
Progress pictures were so important! I began to notice a small difference from week three, by weeks seven and eight I could really see the change and I felt incredibly better in myself. Those sluggish, sleepy, snuffley evenings were no more. My energy levels are so much better than they used to be.
What differences did you start noticing?
Physically, I noticed my arms and waist becoming more toned over time. I could feel myself becoming so much stronger as the weeks went on. At the beginning, I’m pretty sure I fell flat on my face trying to do 10 push ups. Now? I can knock out 20, no problem. I was able to increase the weights I used, as I found it was becoming too easy with the lighter ones. That was motivation in itself, to know that even if the physical progress changes may appear to be slow to the eye, I knew it was happening none the less.
When I started seeing changes in my body, making the healthier choices became a lot easier – I knew I was doing something right.
What was the hardest change you had to make?
Most certainly my eating habits! One biscuit couldn’t hurt, could it? As the weeks passed I became much better at making healthy choices, and I was becoming more educated about what choices to make. Living in a house where there is always home baking and a drawer full of chocolate and biscuits, it’s always a struggle to restrain.
But when I started seeing changes in my body, making the healthier choices became a lot easier – I knew I was doing something right. I still allow myself some treats, a cheat meal a week gives me something to work towards and then a good reason to work hard afterwards.
Ever since the day I found Kayla’s Instagram page I found the progress pictures of all the other girls so inspiring. The fact that you could then go onto all these girl’s pages and look at their pictures from the beginning of their fitness journeys gave me hope that it was most certainly doable, whether you were a student, a mother, or in full-time employment. There is also such a supportive group of girls around the world doing the Bikini Body Guide which track it all on Instagram, it provided me with a little #bbgfamily (as the Instagram tag goes) to continue to motivate me.
How did it feel when Kayla recognised you and put you on her Instagram?!
AHHHHHHHH. I was gobsmacked. I was with my two friends at the time and gave them a fright I screamed so much! It was such an amazing feeling; it was like winning the lotto. After working so hard, despite any negativity I faced along the way, to be acknowledged by the woman herself, was such a reward.
Then to see all the kind comments on the picture from hundreds of girls using me as their motivation was such a heart-warming, rewarding feeling. I was that girl only 19 weeks ago on Kayla’s page, looking for those to inspire me, and now I was the one inspiring other girls. It’s definitely going to be a moment I’ll cherish forever. For once, I was actually proud of myself. At the beginning, I never thought I would come so far.
What has been the best part about your lifestyle change?
To be told that I am an inspiration or a ‘fitspiration’ as they say, has to be the best outcome of my lifestyle change. It makes me so happy to know that to someone somewhere, I’m helping them change their lives step by step. Today, this keeps me motivated; I want to continue to show these girls how much they’re capable of.
What’s the most difficult?
The most difficult part has been trying to find healthy choices when you are out for dinner, or a night with the girls, or a family celebration. Sometimes it has been difficult to find a good balance work, friends, family, exercise and clean eating. You just have to think ahead, and organise your meals and workouts to fit in around your life. Instead of sitting into a three hour Netflix marathon, go do your workout and prep some lunch for tomorrow, and you’ll feel so much better about your day going to bed at night.
What’s in your diet?
I still have a great deal of variation in my diet. I’m not extremely strict with myself, I guess this is why I don’t have that six-pack yet! I try to have greater complexity/servings of grains and carbs in the first half of the day as they are a great energy source, in the evenings then I try to stick to just meats, nuts, fruits and veggies.
Usually porridge is my go to breakfast, I love changing it up with different fruits and powders or the odd scoop of peanut butter, and I probably Instagram my oats a little too much. I don’t really eat potatoes or white pasta/breads/rice. I choose the wholegrain breads or sweet potatoes instead; I actually like them so much more.
I have cut out a lot of the sauces and spreads I used to scoop on without thinking twice, such as ketchup, sweet and sour, relish, butters, sweet chilli, and creamy salad dressings. I use a lot more herbs and spices, and a lot of fresh lemon juice. I have almost given up chocolate and biscuits, but the Nutella jar is attacked for a cheat meal from time to time. We’re only human after all! I eat a lot of boiled chicken breasts, tuna and eggs too.
What are your top workout meals?
My absolute favourite snack at the moment is wholegrain toast with peanut butter and banana, sprinkled with cinnamon. I think its great pre-workout fuel. You have to make sure you are using a clean peanut butter though. A lot have added sugar and salt.
What are your favourite exercises?
If I had to pick a top three, I would say jump lunges, commandos and raised leg sit up and twists.
Best leg exercises?
The jump lunges are great, as are X hops and 180 degree jump squats. I find them so hard to do, but feel a great accomplishment when I get a set done.
Best tummy exercises?
I have found that it is really important to do a great variety of ab exercises to tone up those abs. Some of my favourite would be weighted bent/straight leg jack-knifes; snap jumps, spider push ups (also working them arms!) and straight leg raises.
How many times do you work out a week?
Doing the Bikini Body Guide, I do resistance workouts which work a certain part of the body Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Then I do a cardio session Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
Sunday is usually rest day but most weeks I try workout abs a little bit more.
How beneficial is protein powder? Tell us what that does?
I only began using protein powder a few weeks into to my new workout regime. The recovery period after working a certain part of the body, especially legs, just seemed to take forever. I came to realise how important it was to ensure you are getting enough protein to allow your muscles to recover from such workouts. I knew I wasn’t getting enough protein from my diet alone, and I invested in whey protein powder. I definitely found that it helped revive me a little after a tough workout. It can also be fun to use when baking healthy treats.
Any motivational tips?
Be patient, progress takes time, and don’t compare your chapter one to somebody else’s chapter 40. Everyone has to start off somewhere. It’s important to remember that change doesn’t happen overnight.
Give us three reasons why we should make a change ourself?
Number one, being able to exercise is a blessing!.There are hundreds of people out there that would give anything to be able to make such a lifestyle change, and you are blessed with a body that is capable of doing so.
Number two, has anyone ever been in a bad mood after working out? Exercise releases happy chemicals into your brain.
Finally, exercise has proven to boost your confidence and ease anxiety, how could anyone argue with that?
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