Permanent Fat Loss Coach Vera Baker
Vera Baker, Nutrition expert, Lifestyle Coach, Author and Adventurer
Vera is a lifestyle coach with over 15 years’ experience in the weight loss industry. She struggled with her own weight from teens to late twenties, before realising that dieting was elevating her weight problem rather than alleviating it. She stopped dieting and started living a healthy, active life, and lost 45lbs. Since then Vera has dedicated her career to helping others to change their lives for the better. She has helped hundreds of men and woman, of all ages, from all walks of life, to successfully achieve weight loss. She has put her expertise, experience and passion into her program which promotes sustainable fat loss.
Vera successfully coaches hundreds of people both in person and online, to change their lives for the better by achieving permanent fat loss, improving fitness, building strength of body and mind, improving well-being and taking control of their own happiness. Vera says ‘Don’t diet, Live It!’
My Early Days
I began life as a bonny baby, the youngest of three children. My childhood was pretty ideal with parents who spent time with me, a sister who to this day is my best friend and an older brother to watch over me. My time was divided between my home in Dublin and Ballyjamesduff in Co Cavan where my grandparents lived. In Dublin I had friends on my doorstep; we played outdoors summer and winter. I walked to and from school and from an early age traveled by bus into Dublin, to shop or go to the cinema.
At weekends we enjoyed long walks in the Dublin or Wicklow Mountains. Or we paddled and skimmed pebbles in Bray and Greystones. In Cavan we enjoyed trekking over fields and wading across streams, hiking up hills and even scrambling up rock faces. This will all become more relevant as my story progresses. You could have described me as a city girl with a country heart, and I still am to this day. My dad is a lover of all sports and he taught us to play most of them, including tennis, rounders, football and cricket. Mum took us shopping every Saturday and instilled in me a love for fashion and a desire to always take time and thought in my appearance. She passed on her love for literature, art and archaeology. She also knew how to enjoy herself, the party only began when mum arrived. During the 70’s my mum was the exception to the rule. As a working mother, she drove her own car, earned her own money while most of her friends were more traditional stay-at-home mums. She always had a goal, something she worked towards. As my mother she inspired me and continues to.
Our childhood was certainly active but we ate well, probably too well. Treats and fizzy drinks may have been limited; we rarely ate fast food, never owned a deep fat fryer, but dessert was a daily occurrence and varied between milk puddings and apple or rhubarb tarts with custard, ice-cream or whipped cream. The biscuit tin was always at our disposal. Dairy was full fat, and as well as breakfast, dinner and tea we never missed supper. Looking back with an adult’s perspective I wasn’t over weight as a child, but my friends were incredibly skinny. Being the biggest in the group lead me to believe I was fat.
At the age of 13 I went on my first ‘diet’. Something I picked up in a gossip magazine, all the celebs were doing with amazing results. I don’t remember what the diet involved, although I do remember feeling really excited and believing that I had found a way to become thin, like my friends. Of course there were some problems with following the diet. I was a finicky eater. I wasn’t a lover of vegetables or salad or fish and consequently there was very little on the plan that appealed to me. Also I was 13. I wasn’t in charge of the grocery shopping, which made it impossible to adhere to the plan. Therefore, and with the logic of a 13 year old, I took the bits I liked from the plan, substituted the bits I didn’t, and ate biscuits in between to relieve the hunger. By age 15 through yo-yo dieting, I’d managed to gain about 10/12 lbs. I was working part time in a local family run corner shop, with a girl who was some years older than me. She was in college, had a boyfriend who was in a rock band and wore amazing clothes. Her advice to lose weight was simple. All I had to do was to smoke. She told me that when you smoke you lose weight. How fantastic, and such an easy solution, one that didn’t involve dieting. If I’d had any sense I’d have noticed the overweight smokers who came into the little shop on a daily basis to buy their cigarettes and chocolate bars. The meagre initial weight loss was a result of the process of lighting up and inhaling making me rather ill. Regretfully I continued to smoke for the next ten years. Unsurprisingly, I continued to gain weight. Another friend shared some diet pills her older sister had acquired from someplace. They claimed to speed up metabolism. They certainly speeded something up; they made our hearts race, caused palpations and basically terrified us. Thankfully we had the sense to stop taking them. The next diet I embarked on was recommended to me by my hairdresser. She sold me packets of dried food, not sure what it was but the idea was to add either water or milk and use the concoction as meal replacements. They cost a fortune, tasted like liquid chalk and to get them down, I felt compelled to use biscuits or bread or whatever other food-stuff was readily available. Needless to say, the result was non-existent.
Armed with Lycra leggings, leotard and leg warmers (it was the 80’s) I took up aerobics. Pleased with ourselves for withstanding the gruelling workout, my friends and I rewarded ourselves with a Chinese takeaway on the journey home. Things changed at age 19. Now a college student and working part-time I had a new circle of friends and new interests that included cycling and joining a gym. The influence of a health conscious friend and her encouragement meant I lost some weight and was feeling a little happier with my figure. Shortly after my 21st birthday I left Ireland to live and work in Jersey, the largest of the Channel Islands. Weight loss happened quickly for a few reasons. Living away from home, my fridge and cupboards were often bare. Low income and high rent, socialising took priority over food. Friday was pay day, so I partied all weekend, was broke by Monday, and lived on pot noodles and beans on toast. It wasn’t a healthy way to lose weight, but with my year round tan and smallest ever frame I was feeling fantastic.
I returned to Ireland a few years later, engaged and in love I was back living at home while saving to get married and very quickly began to gain weight. The sad experience of losing my honeymoon baby at eight weeks encouraged me to begin eating a healthy diet and take regular exercise. No gimmicks, no frills, just healthy lifestyle. In three months I’d lost 15 pounds, was feeling fit, healthy and found myself 6 weeks pregnant. Evan arrived safe and healthy and soon after I became determined to make every effort to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight. Andy (my husband) bought Cher’s step aerobics video and constructed a step for me. It was easy to fit into my day because I didn’t have to leave the house to do my work out, plus I enjoyed it. Soon I was fitting back into my size 12’s. However, gradually over the next few years my weight began creeping up again. My sister and I took up running. I trained for a year, lost 21 lbs., and ran the women’s mini marathon. Once the race was complete so was my training, and all of the weight I’d lost, returned. I was two stone over-weight when I became pregnant with my second son. My eating habits were appalling. Fried sausages with toast and butter had become a breakfast regular, followed by cake midmorning. I tended to skip lunch opting for coffee and biscuits to keep me going until dinner, which, of course, consisted of heavily processed food, pre-packed, deep fried or ordered in. I did try to improve when I first found out I was pregnant. In fact a good friend called to my home and when she saw that I was peeling carrots and potatoes she remarked ‘you must be pregnant!’
My pregnancy was difficult because of high blood pressure. There was no doubt that my weight contributed greatly to this.Kade was born, small, but healthy and beautiful. I was so thrilled to have a second son and really felt that my family was complete. Four months after the birth of Kade, I hadn’t lost any baby weight. My 30th birthday was looming and I felt fat and frumpy. I didn’t want to celebrate with a party. Feeling unfit, I was often quite breathless following exertion. My cholesterol was high and my doctor suggested medication to bring it down. My energy was zapped and I suffered from too many colds and infections. But more distressing than any of these things was the awful sadness I experienced. I woke up unhappy in the morning and I went to bed feeling the same way. This should have been the happiest time in my life. I had two wonderful sons, a loving and supportive husband, a host of friends who enjoyed my company, a family who loved me unconditionally and a new business that was bringing in a nice profit in the first six months of opening. To the outside world it must have looked like I had it all. Inside I was aching, not just from the pain of carrying around the extra weight, but aching with disappointment and guilt. After all, this was my own fault; all I had to do was to stop eating so much. Easy! But of course, nothing is that easy.
I realise now I wasn’t merely sad, I was depressed. Remember the boy in the Charlie Brown cartoon, who went around with a rain cloud over his head, well that’s a good visual. It felt like a constant dark cloud looming above me. Knowing that I should have been happy and content only made my sadness deeper My thirtieth birthday came and went. I felt fat and frumpy. I couldn’t dress the way I wanted to, I was unfit and unhealthy and supressing my emotion with a truck load of comfort food. My fear was, were I to allow my sadness to surface, I would lose control entirely.
A good friend asked me to join a local slimming group with her, something I hadn’t tried before but she was experiencing good results in her own weight battle so I agreed. Not having a clue what to expect, I was nervous. I registered, was weighed and advised that my goal weight loss was 2st 7lb. The leader was welcoming, made me feel comfortable and told the large, hopeful and motivated group that she had lost 3 stone, 3 times. I decided there and then I was going to lose my 2 stone 7lbs one time only. The plan was easy to follow and certainly provided results. My motivation came from losing weight. Aside from the slimming club, I began to realise there were three lifestyle choices that were contributing to my weight gain. They were bad eating habits, choosing processed and convenience foods over cooking with fresh ingredients, and lack of regular exercise. The cloud began to dissipate. The sadness surrounding being 3 stone overweight began to fade also, to be replaced with dogged determination to do something about it. I wanted change. All I had needed was someone to point me in the right direction. At first, bringing about these new changes proved to be a challenge. Early morning exercise meant having to go to bed earlier, planning meals, shopping ahead of time, being prepared for eventualities. Soon these things became almost habitual and began to work. I started to lose weight consistently. My body shape began changing too. The more I exercised the more I wanted to exercise. My energy levels were increased by 100%, my sleep pattern had greatly improved and so had my mood. I started to feel genuinely happy. Six months after my doctor had first tested my cholesterol I returned to the surgery for a recheck. My surprised G.P. advised that I should keep doing whatever I was doing and it suddenly struck me how much power I could have over my health.
A Day To Remember
Seven months after joining the slimming group I had reached the target weight that had been set for me, to lose 2st 7lbs. I went straight to the shopping centre and bought myself a pair of white jeans. That had been my personal goal, to look good in white jeans. Eating healthily, cooking nice meals and exercising regularly had become my lifestyle as opposed to my diet. On the 17th of October 1997, I was shopping for clothes. I brought a size 12 skirt into the fitting room. I tried it on, and it felt loose. After checking the size, and confirming that it definitely said 12, I removed it and with shaking hands opened a crack in the curtain and handed it to the assistant. With a quiver in my voice I asked, ‘can you please get me a size 10’. Of course she could have had no idea what a major moment this was in my life as she casually handed over the size 10. It slid over my hips and hardly daring to breathe I pulled up the zip. It was a perfect fit. I smiled through the tears, admiring myself in the mirror, twisting and turning to see every angle. I was a size 10 for the first time in my adult life.
My Weight Stability Began
My weight finally stabilized when I achieved a 3 stone weight loss. My neighbour told me she’d heard some friends talking about ‘the girl who had lost all the weight’. It was me they were talking about. I couldn’t believe that’s how people were describing ME! Early that December I found myself in a shopping centre. It suddenly struck me, the way it does sometimes, that Christmas was on the way. I realised that every Christmas since I was a child, that thought had been accompanied with s feelings of guilt, disappointment and sadness. Another year drawing to an end and I’d yet again failed in my resolution to lose weight. Not that year. I had done it! I had lost the weight; I was a slender size 10. With the biggest, stupidest grin on my face I wandered around the shops for an hour. Without a doubt, no food had ever given me that feeling of self-confidence, excitement and happiness.
New Year New Challenges
The New Year brought a new challenge. I became a leader for the organisation that had set me on the way to losing my weight. I had learned so much from my leader and others in the group and had being re-educated about food, portions and exercise. I knew this was something I could do well and I relished the thought of helping others achieve what I had achieved. I spent the next 15 years running weekly meetings, helping hundreds of people make changes in their lives, to gain back control and to reach their goals. My meetings were always crowded and people were achieving great results. I realised early on that I had a natural ability to motivate and inspire others. I continued my education on food and fitness over the entire fifteen years. My knowledge is not limited to what I have read in books, or heard during lectures, it also comes from the hundreds of people I have successfully coached over fifteen years. Through working with and motivating all ages, male and female, from all walks of life, living with many difficult and different challenges, I have gained an extensive knowledge on human behaviour.
My Experience And Knowledge Has Inspired Me To Develop Vera’s 5.
Losing weight, getting fit is not just about food. Eating the right food is a simple solution to a complicated problem. In order to permanently change one area of our lives we must look at all aspects of lifestyle. Therefore Vera’s 5 does not just focus on fat loss and fitness, but also on strength, well-being and happiness. There are so many individual and wonderful stories from the people I coached over fifteen years, too many to write about, so I have selected three women who have been a huge inspiration to me.
Some of My Many Success Stories With Wonderful People
Mary’s Success Story
Mary Mokdad joined my meeting at 18 stone & 5’ in height. Her mantra was ‘I don’t want to be fat, fifty and forgotten’. Initially she failed to follow my advice and arrived at the scales on a wing and a prayer, sulking when it didn’t tilt in her favour. She blamed me, the programme, her family, the weather, in fact, anything but herself. I knew deep down Mary wanted to succeed and I refused to give up on her. Finally she started to believe in herself and more importantly she started to do what I asked. Mary lost 9 stone. People say she’s half the woman she was, but to me she became twice the woman. She has participated in activities in her 50’s that she couldn’t consider doing in the 20’s or 30’s. February 2013 I asked Mary to climb Sliebh Donard with me; it is the highest peak in Ulster, part of the beautiful Mourne mountain range and stands at 850 metres from sea level, (2,790ft). She asked ‘Do you think I will be able for it?’ I told her she would if she put in the training. That weekend she headed to Spink Mountain in Glendalough, with her buddy Jackie and they haven’t missed a weekend on the hills since. She reached the summit of Sliebh Donard in May, Lugnaquilla, the highest peak in Leinster at 925 metres (3,035ft) in June and the beautiful and challenging Carrantouthill, highest peak in Ireland, 1,038m (3,406ft) in July. Along with trekking on the hills Mary dances every Monday, spins twice a week and has recently started TRX classes. She is fit and healthy and runs rings around her three grandsons. Whether I ask her to come kayaking, or to model in a fashion show, or to tell her story on stage in front of a large audience her answer is always ‘yes’. She has a fantastic attitude to life and her new mantra is ‘I have a lot of living to do yet!’
Teena’s Success Story.
When I first met Teena Gates she weighed 23 stone. At our first meeting she said to me ‘Vera I will follow the food plan, but I won’t walk’. Eighteen months later, eleven stone lighter she walked to Base Camp, Mount Everest, and beyond to Island Peak!! Teena’s reluctance to walk changed when the HOPE Foundation asked her to go to Everest Base Camp to raise funds for street children in Calcutta, inspiring her with a love for mountains that remains her passion today.
Of course her journey wasn’t simple. She began losing weight through healthy eating, and having lost a few stone she made the choice to become active. Teena joined a gym, found a personal trainer, and began walking on the treadmill. To begin she could only walk for a minute at a time. After a minute she would rest, catch her breath and then walk for another minute. Because she chose to walk for one minute, when that was all she was fit to do, her fitness improved. The more she was capable of doing, the more she did. Teena is now my adventure buddy. We climb mountains together, cycle together, kayak together and take part in 5k runs and Adventure racing. She is one of the strongest women I know, not just physically, but mentally too. Teena has written a biography about her remarkable journey called ‘One Foot in Front of the Other’.
Áine Success Story
Áine O’Donnell inspires me every time I speak to her. But I’m going to quote her words because no one could tell Áine’s story like Áine.
To think I just popped into your meeting last April to get out of the house & maybe just maybe lose a pound or two, as a bonus, what else was I doing, my life was on pause, while I recuperated from multiple MS attacks. It was something to do, whilst I wasn’t working! So that Tuesday morning I limped into your meeting & shock (sill do …unintentionally!) & you put out your hand to help steady me on the scales, I took a deep breath & heard you say a number that kind of shocked me & then it suddenly clicked with me…..I can’t make my legs walk faster/longer or stop shaking but there’s a lady standing here right now steadying my arm that is willing to help me change that number & isn’t judging my lack of physical ability but can educate me & support me weekly & help me achieve something I never thought possible, especially now…..definitely not now. So every week I listened & learned from you & changed what was not looking back, a heart attack diet waiting to happen, than I introduced the waddling cos that’s what it was at first, now its proper walking, I go to the further bench in the Phoenix park each week, before my legs became like jelly & covered in pins & needles, that’s when I stop & take a break, so I know it’s no Everest or Spink but I suppose it’s now my Everest & because of you I’m walking it, not waddling it at a snails pace!!
I had a big neurology assessment a couple of weeks back & my doctors were beyond stunned with my progress & they said it’s not all down to my new drugs, the weight loss & going walking has improved my balance, co-ordination & gait BEYOND any of their expectations, they thought I’d always need one or two sticks/canes after being stuck in the wheelchair but turns out they were wrong, you said it in one meeting, let the doctors do all the medical stuff but we can help ourselves in many other ways, take control over the things we can control. Vera without realising it, you’ve turned my life around, I’d ZERO confidence the day I met you, physically yeah people can see the change, it’s the ginger they’re all used to, but mentally I’m also stronger, for that thank you. You have made me want to go out & create lots of WOW moments cos that’s what life is for, living not existing!! Also I’m broke from buying a whole new wardrobe, that’s not in the small print!! But that in itself are wow moments cos I wear dresses now, never since my debs 10 years ago so WOW right there!!
I hope you know that your new business is gonna be awesome because you are fab every week with the emails so I can only imagine when you’re let loose with your own website etc how amazing it’ll all be! You should just call the business Inspiring Wonder Woman.com!! Ha ha!! Best of luck with each and every step honey, remember when some day or week doesn’t go your way, what you said to us, no regrets!! Vera, thank you from the bottom of my less fatty heart for changing my life for the better. I owe ya on! (Understatement of the century!!) Áine xx
Me and My Charity Work
Over the years I have had the great pleasure of fundraising for some amazing charities. My favourite way to fund raise is to organise fashion shows. My models were the women and men whom I had helped to lose weight. Observing people who may have joined my meeting lacking in confidence, shoulders slumped, eyes down, wanting to melt into the group, suddenly strutting their stuff on the catwalk, shoulders back, head held high, confident and proud of themselves, is truly inspiring.
WEIGHT LOST ADVENTURES BECKON
I suppose the adventure began with weight loss and in the past few years my fat loss, my healthy lifestyle and understanding of food and exercise have allowed me to find myself and explore the world.
I enjoy mountain climbing and rock climbing, kayaking and have returned to cycling after a gap of 20 years. I take part in competitive running, distance cycling and Adventuring Racing. I have had two African adventures. In Uganda I climbed Mount Elgon 4,321m (14,177f), cycled off road for 3 days covering 210km, and kayaked on the White Nile. In Kenya, I climbed Mount Kenya, Africa’s second highest mountain 4,985m (16,355f) spent two days cycling though Kenya’s beautiful countryside, and finished with white water rafting on Tana River. I think that awards me ‘Adventurer’ status.
I have come full circle, remember Vera the child, trekking the Dublin Mountains, hiking the Cavan hills, climbing rock faces, wading through streams, nothing held back the child that I was. Then the years in between when my weight impeded me, becoming a cloud of sadness encumbering me.
Now, the adventure continues………………………
“By Vera Baker”