FITNESS instructor Julie McCann prepared to launch her Zumba class into their lively routine. The music was pumping, the class was warmed up and ready to work out, the only thing that was not quite ready to roll was Julie.
“I felt like some kind of fraud,” she recalls. “I felt terrible, bloated and flabby. I thought, here’s me trying to be the picture of health, but I’m worse than they are, flabby and stuffing my face with Chinese takeaways. I knew something had to change.”
Julie had comfort eaten her way through her grief at losing her dad Charlie to prostate cancer. As she puffed her way through the exercise class, she realised that her own health could be at stake if she didn’t dramatically rethink her lifestyle.
“I was out of shape and unhappy,” she adds. “Losing my dad was pivotal. It changed everything for me. I realised that life is about being happy, I wanted to be that person who lived a healthy lifestyle, who didn’t feel like they were depriving themselves all the time but who could still feel good in her clothes.”
It was a moment of clarity for Julie that could well have benefits for anyone who’s attempted – and regularly failed – to lose weight, tone up and get healthy.
For in the weeks that followed, she tore up every calorie-counting diet she’d encountered, plumbed her years of fitness regime experience and delved deep into her own suppressed feelings of low self-esteem to draw up a strikingly simple yet impressive health programme which has already achieved astounding results for those who’ve tried it.
And now, struck by the early results of her no-diet, easy exercise plan, she has launched it as a rival to slimming club giants WeightWatchers, Scottish Slimmers and Slimming World, with the notion that we can all now throw away the calorie counters for good.
“Dad’s death was totally life changing,” she adds. “I was in a bad place. For weeks I just stuffed myself with junk. I had about 100 people at my Zumba class and I realised I had to work on my own self image before I could put myself up in front of other people.”
Julie, 43, had already tried to shape up at slimming clubs and even attempted the Cambridge diet without great success. And she’d watched in frustration as her own clients worked out, pushing themselves to the limit, yet still failed to achieve the body they craved.
Confused and desperate to find a solution, she decided it was time to tear up everything she knew about dieting and write her own ground-breaking plan. She spent months reading books and attending seminars that explored nutrition, fitness, self-esteem and – vital to her new programme – how the food industry operates.
Eventually she tried out her Reveal Method programme with ten clients in May. “It was outstanding,” she adds. “I realised it was just a six-week programme at the time and that there’s work still to be done, but they all said their clothes fitted better, their energy levels were up, they were eating healthier and felt much better.”
It does almost sound too good to be a true – a healthy lifestyle programme that doesn’t involve dieting, which suggests just 20 minutes of exercise a few times a week in return for fast and impressive results. But if Julie has found the secret to slimming success, she could be in for a slice of the multi-billion pound weight-loss industry.
At the core of her new programme – and unlike many slimming clubs – is a drive to educate consumers confused by the food industry’s tricks which, says the mum of two, simply keep them on a never-ending diet, destined to fail.
“People go to slimming clubs and are told to eat their chocolate biscuits because they’re only 70 calories but when you read the ingredients list, it’s as long as your arm. No wonder people are confused. Sometimes people are scared to eat. They think they have to starve and count every single thing. Or they believe something like pasta is a really healthy option but they’re not aware it’s full of starchy carbohydrate. Seeing the food and diet industry from a different perspective is just one element of the programme.”
Another suggests breaking meals into metabolism-boosting hits to be eaten up to six times a day. Also forget sweating half to death for hours in the gym, Julie believes many people are exercising the wrong way and better results could be achieved with brief 20-minute bursts of activity.
For anyone living in fear of the bathroom scales, she simply suggests chucking them away. “I’m actually heavier now than I was before but in better shape because I’ve traded flab for muscle. How you look, feel and your clothes’ size is far more important than what you weigh.”
Julie, from Bathgate, began working as a fitness instructor in 2005. At 5ft 7ins and weighing around 11 stones, she wasn’t fat but her battle to achieve the body shape she craved had failed – despite joining a weekly slimming club and dieting.
“I felt I was in a constant battle. I was depriving myself, I wasn’t happy with my body and I felt a fraud.
“I looked at naturally thin people and saw how many seemed to have a good relationship with food. They never went on a diet, they’d go on holiday or out to dinner and not have this terrible guilt. I wanted to get to a place where I no longer had to battle with myself all the time.
“I realised the first place to start was looking at why I’d got into this diet cycle in the first place.”
She drew on her own experiences of life as a busy mum – taking into account everything from the challenges of preparing healthy meals from scratch to building treats and nights out into her plan.
So far those who have tried it say it works. “I was eating rubbish,” recalls businesswoman Ann Newman, 52, who has lost a stone and a half and dropped two dress sizes after just a few months on the plan. “A lot of the time I was eating on the run and I had substituted smoking with eating mints.
“Julie explained what was in the food I was eating and how it was affecting me. I was having too much carbohydrate and not enough protein. So now I eat my eggs in the morning, chicken at lunch and steak for dinner with plenty of vegetables. Instead of the mints, I’m having nuts or berries and cutting out the fizzy drinks. Even flavoured water is a no-no because of what’s in it.”
She adds: “I never felt like I was being deprived of anything I wanted but the weight came off.
“I’d always had a bit of a tummy, despite exercising but now that’s pretty much gone.
“I don’t see this as dieting because I can have a bar of chocolate if I want to. The difference is that because I’m feeling better and eating well, I don’t really want it any more.”
Julie says she wrote her programme to help women like her beat the diet merry-go-round. “We don’t need another diet – what we need is a change of lifestyle. I had got to the point where I knew I had to make myself happy. Losing my dad made me realise that this is the only life I will have and it goes by pretty quickly.
“Now I look better, I eat healthier and I still have treats when I want. I’m a different person – I didn’t feel ‘good enough’ before.
“But until people get off that merry-go-round of diet, they’ll never get there.”
n For more details about The Reveal Method, go to www.therevealmethod.com or call 07716 722574