After just 16 weeks of training and eating healthily, bride-to-be Joanna Kiernan has totally transformed her physique
Until recently, I had always read stories about fitness transformations with one eye open if I am truly honest: both enthralled and appalled by the notion of spending any great amount of this precious life 'going to extremes'.
Instead, I choose to not go anywhere at all for a very long time - the comfortable option, where it was perfectly acceptable for me to have a Twix for breakfast, drink coffee all day and spend my evenings eating toast.
If you had asked me at the start of all of this what my diet was like, I would have told you that I was pretty healthy - aside from the odd pizza, McDonalds, Chinese or fancy meal out, followed by one or two (okay, more like five) glasses of wine.
The truth is, I ate like a hungover student most days of the week. I loathed exercise so much that I had reached the age of 29 without ever buying a proper tracksuit and I drank to excess whenever I indulged.
My attitude to my health was as immature as my sense of humour, but thankfully, it seems that at least one of those things can be remedied.
Sixteen weeks into my new healthy lifestyle, I am eating more than ever before, with three square meals a day and healthy snacks. In cutting out most carbs (bread, pasta, rice, potatoes) and sugar (from two spoons in each coffee, generally accompanied by a biscuit, to zilch) and training regularly, I have lost over three kilograms and decreased my body-fat percentage by 5.7pc - from 24.9pc at the beginning to a lean 19.2pc.
I am now the strongest, fittest and the most confident I have ever been in my body.
Has it been difficult? Of course, but not half as difficult as I anticipated it would be.
Once the sugar cravings abated, my head became genuinely clearer than it has ever been. A few weeks in, I even noticed my attitude to food changing to a point where I could treat myself without splurging completely - finally finding a happy medium.
It has been a slow and steady process under the watchful and expert guidance of Niall Munnelly and his team at the Performance and Fitness Academy in Naas, Co Kildare - no gimmicks, no fancy fads, just eating and training well, with a huge emphasis from Niall on making sure that the mental side of the process was not ignored.
I had previously tried to get fit and healthy on my own many times, spurred on more by spasms of motivation than any sort of sustained or decisive effort. I would try the latest fitness craze (as long as it didn't look too scary) and I regularly attempted any new celebrity diet I heard of (at least until lunchtime).
The messages out there about fitness and nutrition, particularly in this internet age, are fast, furious and confusing. They can be so overwhelming, in fact, that they can put a lot of us off the entire area.
We begin to see fitness and healthy eating as extreme, as beyond our reach. Instead of taking action, we sit around berating ourselves for not having the willpower to get fit, when all we are really lacking is a little focus and calm. As Niall says: "It is not rocket science - your body is a very efficient machine, if you just treat it properly."
Perhaps, the best lesson I have learned throughout this process has been this: it doesn't have to be complicated, you simply ignore all of the white noise and put one foot in front of the other.
For years, I sat on the fence, aware of what I could or should do, but unable or unwilling to drag myself up and actually do it. I wasn't majorly bothered about the prospect of being a waif and by pure luck, I was not overweight, so I slipped through the cracks. I had an easy enough ride with a few minor body-images woes en route.
However, shopping for a wedding dress soon cured my apathy. By the time I decided upon my dress in the ninth shop we visited (there was generally an entourage), I had spent so much time looking at myself critically in those giant mirrors, it felt like there was very little about my body left that I actually liked.
There were no happy tears when I found the dress, just blank relief accompanied by a feverish desire to tone up.
Thankfully, rather than finding my way into one of those gyms where they get you in, burn you out and make you feel inadequate in the process by screaming in your face, I found my way to a place which turned out to be the very opposite.
It has certainly not been easy, but unlike anything else I have ever tried - from yoga and guided meditation to jogging and run of the mill machine-based gyms - at the Performance and Fitness Academy, there is no room for wandering thoughts, no space for fear or bad moods. My body leads and my mind follows on, unable to think of anything really during that sacred little hour, apart from getting through it. And in that, there is amazing peace.
Of course, there are minor moments of panic from time to time in which I worry about silly things like sweat marks, whether or not my leggings are transparent or if my post-session jelly legs will get me to my car, but the majority of the time, my mind is quiet and my body dutifully works away.
Two weeks ago, I turned 30. I woke up at 5.30am, drove to the Performance and Fitness Academy, and did my third body-fat test before joining the 6.30am bootcamp class. It is not how I would have ever pictured spending my 30th birthday before I started this, but the results were possibly the best present I could have asked for: progress.
Follow Joanna's fitness journey at Fit4aBride.wordpress.com Check out The Performance and Fitness Academy on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/The-Performance-and-Fitness-Academy-257985114224163 And Twitter: @TPFacademy