Trisha Lewis is making us laugh and we have only just begun our conversation. As lockdown persists we cannot do our usual face-to-face cha so we are talking from the comfort of our home, while she, Trisha, is in the midst of a rather noisy car wash. “Of all times to do decide to do this,” she exclaims while we chuckle in amusement.
Warm and funny, Trisha is one of those people we feel we could be friends with in real life. At the age of just 32, she is now a published author of Trisha’s Transformation: Beat the Bulge and Still Indulge thanks to her decision to share her weight loss journey on Instagram back in 2018. At her heaviest she was 27 stone, but since then she has smashed her 100lb weight loss target and what started out as a weight loss journey has now become a way of life. We chat to the Limerick woman about the day she had a lightbulb moment that changed her life, about exacting discipline and about life in the midst of a global pandemic as she, like all of us navigates new challenges in this strange reality. Read on to find out more about her extraordinary story that has led her to be the positive person she is today as she fills us in on her brand new cookbook.
Trisha thank you for chatting with VIP. Tell us a little bit about how Trisha Lewis came to be Trisha’s Transformation.
Two years ago I started a weight loss journey. The highest that was ever recorded on my scales was 27 stone and I could easily describe it as rock bottom. I had lost all love for who I was. I was kind of going day-to-day – just for the sake of it as opposed to actually enjoying it.
Was there a moment where your relationship with food started to take an unhealthy turn?
There wasn’t a specific trigger moment in my childhood when it came to food, but I suppose over the years I over-ate and weight was continuously gained. It was always on my mind that I was bigger than most people in a room, but it never really got to me or stopped me having fun. It was always something that I thought I could fix tomorrow. 2017 was easily the worst year of my life because it was the first year I felt helpless to change anything. I was just a shell of who I was and I had no energy. I didn’t value myself or want to look good. I didn’t shower. I ghosted my friends and I let weight completely take any joy that I had in my life.
And that was when you experienced what you describe as a lightbulb moment?
Yes. It was December 2017 and I got stuck behind the steering wheel of my dads car. I could not get out and my sister Annie who was pregnant at the time had to help pull me out. This was on Christmas Day and it was awful for both of us. Then in January, I had the wonderful opportunity to join Annie at her pregnancy scan. I had a moment, another lightbulb moment, that life was continuing on without me. I couldn’t see past that month. “Was I going to make it to meeting the baby, or was I going to die of a stroke?” I left the room and I was really upset in the waiting area and Annie came out to me and said, “I am scared my sister is going to die on me. This baby needs you just Trisha, as much as I do.”
But it took you a while to begin your journey, didn’t it?
Yes; what I really hope to get across in the book in that those lightbulb moments can hit, but then it can go dark again. For two weeks I ignored my sister. But then I woke up on the first Monday in February with a text that said, “I am not asking you to lose weight, I just want you to try.” Initially I told her “No” that I couldn’t do it anymore, that I was turning 30 the next month and the only thing I had ever achieved was getting fatter. I was completely honest with her and I said the words, “I have done this to myself”. That was a big moment for me. For the first time I took ownership. Within an hour I was in Cork city and I had joined the gym. And by the time my nephew and godson Danny arrived 19 weeks later I had lost 47 pounds. It was incredible.
And so you set up your Instagram account?
Yes. My goal was that I was going to show the good, the bad and the ugly. I didn’t want it to be one of those things where you show yourself when all the weight was gone. I wanted to document it exactly as it happened to my followers and most of all for myself.
Are many of your followers, or “transformers” as you call them, also on their own weight loss journeys, Trisha?
I would say so. They have become a really supportive community. I think weight loss in the past had this sort of stigma attached to it, whereas for me I see weight loss as the biggest gift that I get every single day. I can get up, feel great, and have fun exercising and if I can share what I am learning along the way with others – that’s a bonus.
And you are sure to share the lows as well as the highs. There was an incident on an aeroplane, for example that you told your followers about…
Yes the aeroplane incident; when two people moved that had been seated beside me. It was awful and it was embarrassing. But I do understand that they were entitled to their comfort as well. And in hindsight should I have booked two seats? Probably, because I didn’t fit in one. But I am not made of stone and that really hurt me. A great moment for me was when the standard seat belt finally clicked on a trip to Spain. That was the first time in 17 years it had clicked for me. It was amazing.
Let’s talk about your new book. Is there a recipe in it that is particularly precious to you?
I love the chicken and tarragon stew because my Nana used to make it years ago. It is just so comforting and you know whenever I look at the ingredients I just think, “Wow this was so nutritious.” I love the turnip soup my mother used to make, too. It is the real hearty recipes that I love.
You speak in the book about your relationship with your mum and how she instilled your love of cooking.
My love for cooking definitely came from my mum. She would have taught all of us from a very young age how to cook well and cook fresh food. So my level of weight didn’t come from bad food, it came from too much good food.
Can you believe the amount of people you have connected to since you began?
It is amazing. I never thought I would be friends with some of the people I have connected with. You get such love from people. Everybody knows somebody who has been mocked or shamed or cried because they felt sad about their body so I think that’s why it works. My story resonates with people and I hope it helps them too.
It is a semi-biographical cookbook – it must have been very cathartic to put it down on paper like that?
Definitely. I have always adored writing. Some parts were hard to admit, like the fact that I would have been down enough to have to call the Samaritans. Those kind of things were hard to write because they are not something you want your mum and sisters to have to read. So I obviously had to contact them and say “Look this is going in – is that okay?” And they would say, “Trisha we don’t care as long as we have our Trish back.” So writing the book nearly kind of reaffirmed why I was doing this. But one good thing is, I don’t have is hatred for my old self. I am sad for my old self and what I put her through. But I now say, “Okay, we’re okay now. I didn’t mind myself then but I do mind myself now.”
Another big achievement of yours was giving up smoking, but you refreshingly admit that you can have momentary relapses.
I think you expect these things to be linear and then when it doesn’t happen the way you want it, you’re kind of like, “Why is this so difficult?” But you know that’s all part of it. With smoking that was something that I had done from a very young age, but giving them up was the second best thing I ever did. The first was joining the gym and the second was quitting. It changes your whole life. You just feel better.
Life has thrown us all the biggest curveball in the form of Covid-19, and like all of us Trisha, you were affected. Your job is temporarily on hold and you made the decision to move back in with your parents. How did this impact your drive to keep striving like you have been?
The first three weeks, it knocked me for six. I was so angry and upset. Everything had been going so well and then this happened and I had a lot of pity for myself and it was really difficult. And I found myself slipping back into that negative self-talk. I couldn’t get into the home workouts. I missed my gym. But then a saying my old principal used to say to me came into my head:“If it is to be, it is up to me.”I just got up that morning and got to work. Now I am beginning to love it. It is the first time in my life that I have properly slowed down. Don’t get me wrong I am definitely looking forward to going back to work, but
I am not wishing this time away. I got into the home workouts because it’s either do the workouts and feel good, or don’t do them and feel terrible. So what I have decided in the last few weeks is I am just gong to control the controllable: my sleep, my nutrition and my exercise.
We admire the dedication, Trisha. It’s not easy to find the motivation for working out right now.
Before this I had never done a session without a personal trainer standing beside me, so you can either let it ruin you or you can decide to try it. I would encourage people to obviously make sure they are doing it safely, but to do something that elevates the heart and get the sweat going. I am not a qualified personal trainer, I just go on YouTube and look at different videos, I try incorporate that into a 25 minute workout and away I go. You always feel better having given it a go.
What is a real ‘pandemic pick-me- up’ recipe that you would suggest people should cook?
I love my recipe for turkey mince. I think it’s fabulous with just a simple rice. I think the best thing you can do is have a delicious healthy dinner. I would either go with that or my Mexican pancakes.
To those who are feeling overwhelmed by all that is going on in the world right now what would you say?
I would tell them to stop searching for motivation because it does not exist. What does exist is discipline and if they want to change their life, they have to implement a disciplined routine. The next thing I would say is stop worrying… you truly can pull yourself out of this. Keep it simple, contact a friend for support or an online personal trainer and get going. And remember it’s only weight, the only person you are hurting is yourself and everyone still adores you – they just want you to be happy.
With making better choices you have literally transformed your future… and as we speak your book is days from release. You must look back on the past two years and not be able to believe it?
I never dreamed of this. I thought I would never get a chance at life, that I had made my bed and it was time to lie in it but, now, when I look to the future I know there are dreams I haven’t even thought of, and notions I haven’t even entertained. And I think if anyone is reading this I would love for them to try. Because if I hadn’t taken the chance two years ago, I wouldn’t have written a book. I wouldn’t have been a brand ambassador for the Cork mini- marathon, or for Aldi and other brands like that. So for the person reading this I would say, “Imagine who you can be if you just got out of your own way.” The future is there for all of us as long as we are alive and breathing, and I really feel in my scenario that I chose happiness. I don’t want to be mediocre or play it small anymore. I want to be the best version of me.
INTERVIEW: Elle Gordon
Trisha’s Transformation by Trisha Lewis published by Gill Books is €19.99 and is available online from all good booksellers.