With stars such as Millie Mackintosh and Miranda Kerr promoting the ‘strong is the new skinny’ mantra, a new breed of green juice-sipping, dumbbell-lifting female fitness fanatics has sprung up.
Gym membership is booming according to a new survey – mostly thanks to the so-called ‘protein princesses’ desperate to emulate the toned and lean bodies of their favourite female stars and shape up for summer in the process.
But is getting the perfect beach body really as simple as our favourite social media stars would have us believe? FEMAIL UK asked three average women to see if they could shape up in just eight weeks, despite having busy lives.
All three had had access to a personal trainer three days a week, a bespoke nutritional plan and PhD protein supplements delivered to their front door, as well as Virgin Active membership.
Here’s how they got on.
Speaking ahead of her challenge, Emily, who was a keen athlete before moving to London for a full-time job in events, said: ‘I was sick of always saying I wanted to look good for summer then never achieving it.
‘I used to have a lean body when I was younger as I was very sporty but having got a bit too comfy with London life, drinking and eating out a lot meant the pounds were starting to pile on and I really needed someone to push me to change my routines.’
Emily was keen to emulate her favourite stars, who she says are promoting the toned look.
‘This look is healthy and means your body is strong, you will have a higher immune system and it shows how much hard work and dedication you have put in,’ she said.
A typical day in Emily’s diet before starting the challenge would include a sugar-laded cereal bar for breakfast, a couple of biscuits mid-morning, pitta bread and humous, followed by a chicken salad with avocado and a creamy dressing for lunch.
Mid-afternoon, she would reach for ‘anything that was lying around the office like cake and biscuits’, as well as a can of Diet Coke.
Dinner would consist of chicken or salmon with a jacket potato, butter and salad, followed by a fat-free yoghurt. But that was on Monday – Wednesday.
‘A LOT of wine would be consumed between Thursday and the weekend, as well as pizza,’ admits party girl Emily.
‘I would work out 2-3 times a week but realistically, I would be good Monday-Wednesday and then it would get to Thursday I would go for drinks and it would be downhill with alcohol/food/pizza from then.’
Emily, who cited her motivations for participating in the challenge as ‘to start enjoying the gym again and seeing progress in what I am doing’, was keen to see a shift in her lifestyle to a healthier balance one like all those girls she ‘dreamt of being on Instagram.’
‘I am hoping that I will feel more positive and happier overall and have improved energy levels.’
Emily worked with Virgin Active trainer, Amanda Lau, who, speaking on their first meeting, said: ‘Emily’s fitness levels were not great. I started her with a basic circuit and although she managed to complete everything, she struggled and felt DOMS (delayed onset muscle strain) afterwards.
‘But she quickly got into her new training and nutrition regimen and her body started to respond; especially as we cut out unnecessary sugars, including alcohol.
‘She was one of my most disciplined clients and earned every pound of muscle and those abs. This girl worked HARD.’
Emily and Amanda worked out for an hour-long session three times a week, which consisted of different exercises and weights each week.
As a result of her regime, Emily lost 1st 5lbs and says she’s the happiest she’s been in years.
‘I loved every minute of the challenge,’ she said. ‘Amanda was amazing and supportive, which really helped keep me motivated; constantly monitoring my progress was really important as well and taking weekly photos to see how far I’ve come.
‘The hardest part at the beginning was saying no to nights out and resisting the odd bottle of wine here and there but as soon as I started seeing results, this was easy to resist as I was starting to see how quickly my body was changing and I didn’t want to do anything to hinder it.
‘My mood increased dramatically; I suddenly had a new zest for everything and seemed to get so much more done with my time, purely just from being more active. My skin improved a lot and my general wellbeing felt great.
‘This is the happiest I’ve been in ages. Now I’ve started, I just want to keep going to getting my dream body.
‘For me this has completely changed my lifestyle and has really made me realise that if you are determined and disciplined you will get results.
‘I always thought I was just one of those girls that now my body was out of shape, there was no way I could change it, but anyone can; you just have to change your ways. The stricter you are, the quicker you will see results. And once you get there, trust me, you won’t look back.
‘Stop wishing and start doing, you will have to make sacrifices but it will be completely worth it.’
HANNA FLINT, 26, LONDON
Muscle mass: 27 per cent
Body fat: 28.5 per cent
Muscle mass: 31.6 per cent
Body fat: 23.4 per cent
Like Emily, Hanna Flint, 26, a journalist from London, enjoyed a party.
Speaking about why she took on the challenge, she said: ‘I hadn’t gone to the gym in forever and was going out a lot so wasn’t feeling healthy.’
Hanna’s diet before commencing the challenge included a ‘big breakfast’ of hash browns, eggs and beans, a salad or soup for lunch and in the evening, she’d go to an event and have drinks and canapes followed by a sandwich and pack of crisps for dinner.
Hanna says she was always sporty, until she finished university and let the age old excuse of being ‘too busy to work out’ get in the way.
Speaking ahead of the challenge, she said: ‘I don’t want to lose my curves too much but I want to feel stronger and be slimmer for sure. I also want my boobs to shrink in size because they are truly annoying.
‘I think because of my sporty background I can do well and hopefully lose more than half a stone. I also hope it will help me to sleep better.’
Hanna worked out with a trainer called Roxy Danae at Virgin Active. Speaking on meeting Hanna, Roxy said: ‘Hanna came to me with moderate to low fitness levels and she wasn’t particularly strong at the time. She had a good frame but was carrying excess body fat and therefore had little muscle tone. She did previously play basketball to a high level so I knew there would be muscle memory and she would respond well to my regime.
‘For instance, we started off doing shoulder presses with 4kg dumbbells and accelerated very rapidly to the extent that we were lifting 12kg on her final week.
‘Hanna was incredibly dedicated and willing to do everything I asked of her; mental commitment to both nutrition and fitness are half the battle and she had that in spades.
‘I knew it was going to be tough to get her to build lean muscle in such a short space of time but because of her commitment to her goals, it was an enjoyable and rewarding journey for us both.’
A TYPICAL DAY IN THE WOMEN’S DIET
1 glass of water with lemon
3 egg whites + 2 whole eggs, scrambled
PhD CLA Capsule
4 homemade oat snacks
PhD CLA Capsule
PhD Lean Greens
1 Chicken breast
2 heaped tbsp. of brown rice or quinoa
1 cup of broccoli and half red pepper
PhD CLA capsule
2/3 Scoop of PhD Diet Whey Protein Shake
PhD x2 Lean Degree Tablets
1 chicken breast, 1 salmon fillet or 1 small lean steak
1 medium sweet potato
½ avocado with 2 tbsp cottage cheese or 40g 85% Cocoa Green and Blacks Dark Chocolate
PhD CLA capsule
After working out at least three times a week, Hanna lost a stone and loved every minute of her challenge.
‘I had the best time,’ she said. ‘Committing to working out wasn’t the tough part, it was towards the end when my diet was starting to bore me. I think after having a few days off for my birthday it got a little tougher to stick to it but thanks to Roxy I managed to get all the way through.
‘Everyone said how much my skin had improved. I don’t wear make-up during the day and it was nice to know my face had a little glow without it.
‘I am super impressed with the results and I don’t actually think these photos do me justice as I reckon my muscles look more defined in real life.
‘My golden piece of advice? Get a good trainer who not only matches your motivation, but also improves to keep you pushing harder than you thought possible. I honestly couldn’t have done it without Roxy.’
NOLA OJOMU, 24, FROM LONDON
Weight: 7st 9lb
Muscle mass: 15kg
Body fat: (unavailable due to an error with the machine)
Weight: 7st 9lb
Muscle mass: 24.2 kg
Body fat percentage: 13.2 per cent
The third and final fitness challenger was Nola Ojomu, 24, a journalist from London.
Unlike the other two women, Nola was already very petite but she was the first to admit that her exercise regime was non-existent. In fact, she’d never stepped foot in a gym before in her life.
‘I have always stayed away from the gym because I thought I didn’t need to go,’ she admits. ‘I’ve been lucky enough to be born naturally slim and with a fast metabolism but I’d read enough articles to know that my lifestyle and poor diet was going to come back to bite me when I’m older.
‘I’d been saying that I would start making changes in my diet and join a gym for the past few years but never got round to it. I chose to take on this challenge so I could get into shape, learn how to work out properly and learn to include fitness into my life.’
Thanks to her fast metabolism, Nola says she managed to get away with a ‘pretty poor diet’ for most of her life.
A TYPICAL WORK-OUT
10-15 mins intense warm up (uphill walking/spinning bike). Then complete each circuit below four times, by exercising for 30 seconds, having 10 seconds rest, and 1 minute rest in between circuits.
– Air Squats
– Jump Lunges
– Mountain Climbers
– Step Ups
– Pull ups on TRX
– 10-15kg Bicep Curls
– Bench Dips
– Press Ups
– Abs crunch on Bosu Ball
– Seated abs twist with med ball
– Ball crunch with swiss ball
– Farmers walk (12kg)
– 2 walking lunges, 1 squat
She would start the day with muesli and milk before buying bacon, eggs and baked beans at work. Lunch would be mac and cheese from Pret, a Wasabi rice pot or a McDonalds ‘cheese burger and chicken burger’ duo.
Dinner was usually pasta, pizza or eating out. ‘I was very much the “skinny fat” girl who didn’t do anything to help my body but I was aware that I needed to change that. Fitness seemed like something I could put off for a few more years,’ she said.
She added: ‘I want to kick start a change in my attitude towards the gym and working out. I want to be able to get past my inexperience in the gym and get to the point where I enjoy working out and can happily fit it into my life because I genuinely want to.’
Nola worked with Jay Kownscacki at Virgin Active who helped her overhaul her diet. Her first breakfast would be berries and yoghurt followed by two boiled eggs with smoked salmon and spinach.
For lunch, she would have a crayfish and avocado salad and snack on nuts and fruit throughout the day.
She would end the day with chicken breast or fish served with broccoli and sweetcorn. On the days she was heading to the gym – three times a week – she would drink a protein shake an hour before her workout and immediately after her session.
‘It certainly was a challenge,’ she admits. ‘Because my job is based on a shift pattern, which includes a mixture of day, night and weekend shifts, I found the first few weeks pretty draining.
‘The hardest part was trying to stick to my diet and maintain my exercise plan while on holiday in New York halfway through the challenge.
‘I also struggled with the diet because I often get bored of eating the same thing. But it was fun to try and find out new recipes and different ways to get protein into my daily diet.’
Nola noticed her mood improved and her skin was glowing, and says she can feel her muscle and ‘proper abs’ for the first time ever.
‘I will definitely continue to work out and I am going to use all the tips I learnt about weight training as I do so,’ she said after the challenge.
‘I might still enjoy a KFC every now and then but I will be trying to eat more balanced meals and trying to stick to the same amount of vegetable intake as I have been doing over the past few months.’
Her best advice? Work out with a trainer who knows what areas to target, grab a friend to motivate you and remember that food preparation is key.