How I did it ‘As an obese A&E nurse, I was terrified of Covid – so I took medication and lost almost six stone’
Corinne Pownall-Smith 41 is an NHS nurse working in A&E. She lives in Prescott, Liverpool with her two children Millie, 13 and Poppy, eight
This time two years ago, I was size 20. I felt so fat and unfit. I was prioritising the children and the house and doing a lot of overtime. I was sleep-deprived from my shift work, and for comfort I would overeat things like chocolate and crisps, especially at night. At work I was struggling to push the trolley around. My portion sizes at mealtimes were huge too, and I often ate when I wasn’t hungry, just because it was a family mealtime.
In January 2020, news of Covid was coming in and I heard quickly about the increased risks from being obese and overweight. We were all frightened in A&E, but I felt the added pressure because of my size — I was 17 stone 4 with a BMI of 34.4, so morbidly obese. I remember going to the A&E sister in tears saying, “I’ve got to protect my family, I’ve got to protect me.” The PPE mask and extra layers would get hot and uncomfortable because I was so big.
I was on the medication for six months until I got down to 11 stone 11, and a BMI of 25, by August last year. It comes with side effects such as palpitations, so it’s not for everyone and you need to be medically supervised, but it worked for me in controlling my appetite.
I then focused on exercise and that’s what has helped me maintain the weight loss.
My workout week
I bought a treadmill on Gumtree for £50 and started running at the beginning of lockdown. Now, I try and exercise at least four mornings a week. As soon as I wake up, I put on my sports clothes so I am ready for exercise. I will work out for an hour in the garage, usually running on the treadmill for 20 to 60 minutes with all my favourite 80s dance tunes on. I’ll always include resistance work like press-ups off the treadmill, squats and planks and add more cardio such as boxing and burpees. Any worries I have evaporate after that work out and that’s what keeps me coming back.
How I eat
I started cutting my portions down and making small changes, aiming to eat 1,200 calories a day. I swapped crisps for tangerines and chocolate for sliced apple with a bit of nut butter. I cook high protein and low-carb recipes, and aim for lots of colour in all my meals with plenty of fruits and vegetables and to have at last 2-3 litres of fluid every day. I prioritise protein because it keeps me full especially pork, chicken and fish and also have steak once a week.
What I eat in a typical day
Breakfast — Natural yoghurt and frozen fruit or scrambled eggs and spinach or porridge with skimmed milk.
Snacks — Fresh fruit, small yoghurt or slimline tonic water.
Lunch — handful of ham, tomato, cucumber and piccalilli or a bowl of salad and tuna.
Dinner — typical family cooked meal such as roast chicken, peas and carrots (without the carbs).
9.30pm — Slimline tonic or a chocolate.
Carbs — I used to be the sandwich queen — now I stay away from most bread, potatoes, rice and pasta.
Caffeine — 2-4 cups of tea or coffee a day.
Alcohol — I am a gin-lover now. If I’m doing the ironing, I’ll have a large gin and slimline tonic.
Guilty pleasure — I don’t want to completely deprive myself so, if there are chocolates on offer at work, I will have one.
Sleep — not great, thanks to the shift work. When I am on the start of a 3 day nightshift I can go for 24 hours without sleep for the first one and then live off six hours for the next couple of nights. Exercising always helps me sleep better.