IT'S two months since broadcaster Laura Woods gave birth to a bouncing baby boy and she is now looking forward to taking the first steps towards getting back in shape.
Laura (33) recently teamed up with another well-known television presenter Baz Ashmawy to launch the Aviva Get Fit Action Plan, which is a national health campaign. Over the coming weeks -- up until St Valentine's Day -- the two celebrities will be following an action plan devised by experts. They will be assessed and monitored weekly, and their progress will be posted on the avivahealth.ie website where people can follow it.
"What we are doing is following a six-week plan. We have a nutritionist and a fitness consultant," says Laura.
She said of devising her own personal action plan with the experts, "I said that I didn't want to put any particular pressure on myself, or be seen to be putting pressure on new mums that you have to get back to a size zero, because I was never a size zero.
"And I think it's unrealistic because your body goes through so many changes when you're pregnant and when you give birth, that it's not feasible to lose a huge amount of weight over a short period of time. So for me, it was really just about increasing my strength, my stamina, and kicking bad habits," says Laura.
The TV presenter says that she put on a "good amount" of weight when she was pregnant, although she was trying to eat healthily.
"I had quite bad morning sickness for the first three months -- but it would hit me at five in the evening," says Laura. She says that she put on a lot of weight in the first trimester which normally wouldn't happen. "I had hit a stone by the time I was 12 weeks pregnant."
Laura says that while pregnant she enjoyed going for dinner with her husband, Mark. "Myself and my husband ate in every restaurant in Dublin by the time the baby came along," she says. "So I did put on a good amount of weight. I would say about three stone." But she points out that every woman is so different. "I have friends who put on four stone in their first pregnancy and two in their second.
"It was a lot for me because I am quite small. I am only five foot two.
"I had oedema, which is swelling, and a lot of women are affected by this. So in the final months I wasn't even able to get out walking. It was very uncomfortable," she recalls. Thankfully, a lot of that swelling went down and she lost the bulk of it after the birth.
Now Laura says that she still has about a stone-and-a-half to go in terms of baby weight. “I have heard the final stone is probably the most difficult,” she says.
Laura says that she's realistic about her goals. "I am not expecting miracles. The stone-and-a-half will probably take a few months to come off. My overall goal for the next few months is to get into my pre-pregnancy jeans."
She says that she is hoping that the programme will help her lose inches. "It's not particularly about pounds on the scales. It's more about inches. I got quite wide in pregnancy as most women do.
"So, I am looking to get a little bit narrower, to be a bit more toned and streamlined and to build up some muscle definition again," she says.
Her beautiful son, Ben Arigho, was six pounds two ounces when he arrived in November at the Coombe Women's Hospital in Dublin and is doing great, according to his proud mum.
Laura says that her action plan has exercises that
she can do while bringing her baby with her. "I will be doing power-walking with the pram, and mat work and floor work at home. So if he is sleeping, I will be able to grab half an hour's exercise. I like that because I feel I can work it into my day," she says. Laura says that whether the weight comes off weekly, or maybe takes a bit longer, that's fine.
Meanwhile, well-known television and radio presenter Baz Ashmawy is also doing the get fit action plan in a bid to get this year off to a very healthy start.
"Working out is a major uphill battle for me. I don't work out because I love it, I work out because I love lasagne!" he says.
However, he has already got the year off to a healthier start by quitting smoking -- although he admitted he was finding the first week hard.
He says that his partner doesn't smoke, and he didn't smoke in the house anyway because of the kids.
"I just had enough of it, and the price of them and everything else. I am at that age now (I'm 35), and I swore to myself I would have given up by the time I was 25. This is 10 years on now. So this time I thought I am going to give it a go again."
Last year, he managed to quit the dreaded weed for three months and then went back on them. "So this time I am determined to kick them completely," he says.
Baz says that he likes to feel healthy. "It's easier to give up smoking when you feel fit and healthy," he says.
He has already begun following the action plan devised by the experts for him, and said that he aims to go for a jog three time a week. And he is already following the tips from the nutritionist.
The Aviva Health Insurance campaign challenges the nation to take their online health check and tackle their own personal fitness goals, as well as arming them with the tools and advice to be healthier in 2011. They can sign up for their weekly newsletter where they can follow Laura and Baz's progress at www.avivahealth.ie or on Facebook up until Valentine's Day.
The Experts' Advice
Also, she advises people to balance their food properly. "We tend to be very heavy on the carbohydrates in Ireland, a lot of potatoes, a lot of pasta. Carbs should only be about a third of your plate. One third would be meat or chicken or fish, so that's your protein and one third should be your vegetables or salad. You can think of it like a pie-chart you did at school," she says.
There are very easy first steps that people can take, according to Sarah, who is one of the experts who is assisting Laura and Baz during the course of their six-week challenge. She will be putting up tips everyone can follow on the website.
Another thing that Sarah advises people to do, particularly in between meals, is to get into the habit of asking themselves if they are hungry before they eat anything.
"Very often we snack because it's the regular break and everybody is going down to the canteen. It is worth just stopping and saying for a moment 'am I really hungry?' If you are not hungry you might just go to be sociable, or for a rest. You don't have to eat every time you get a chance."
Another tip is when you are eating "don't feel you have to clear the plate", says Sarah. "If you start to feel full, listen to your body. You do need to have breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. But in between meals, more often you will be looking for a drink rather than food," she points out.
Fitness guru Kate Ryan advises people embarking on a new keep-fit regime to start slowly. So many people start out and they go to a gym five or six times a week. "By the middle of January they are exhausted and then they say it's too difficult. So start slower, and have a specific goal -- whether it is to lose a stone, run a marathon, or to get into size 10 jeans -- and write it down," she says.
She advises that bad weather should not put people off getting out and exercising; just wear appropriate clothing. And she says that the best way to stay interested is to enjoy a range of activities.
According to GP Dr Stephen Murphy: "People need to start looking at the health benefits of exercise, from improved energy levels and sleep patterns to reduced risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and stress."