Angelika Szmit, 23, a part-time waitress, lives in Walthamstow and moved to the UK from Poland in 2015. “I fell in love with London and learning English!” she explains. A combination of a party lifestyle and junk food saw her weight creep up to 95 kilos (approximately 15st) and it was only when she took a long hard look at herself in the mirror one day, that she realised that she had to do something.
“I looked at my reflection and was shocked. I thought ‘What has happened to me, this isn’t who I am!’ My problems started when I left my family home back in Poland. I met new people, started partying, eating junk food and drinking alcohol. I started dieting and lost 10 kilos in one month, then after I had been in this country for a while, I joined the gym at YMCA Walthamstow to firm up and tone up,” she explains.
When Angelika joined the gym, she took up the personal training offer of three sessions for the price of four and her personal trainer Marcello introduced her to kick boxing – which she loved. “Marcello was great, and all the staff were friendly and happy to help. I started to work out regularly and became addicted! I work out most days now,” she says.
One of the key benefits of having a personal trainer is that they show you how to work out correctly, so that you’re always gaining the most out of every exercise you do. And of course they can pinpoint what works for you and what doesn’t. “I think the weights were my favourite at the start. My personal trainer showed me how to train properly, so that I completely understood what I was doing. I started to lift weights and really got into it. It was easier than I thought it would be. My favourite group exercise class is Spinning Class. But I hate the treadmill! Running is not great for me. You have to do some cardio but I hate that!” says Angelika.
“My personal trainer left not long after I started but because he was so clear with his instruction I worked out by myself with confidence, and I would occasionally ask the staff to help me. I was so interested in fitness that I was always keen to try new things,” says Angelika.
In fact Angelika loves fitness so much, she has just completed a course to become a personal trainer herself! But it hasn’t all been plain sailing, Angelika did struggle with the language at first. “The most difficult part at the beginning was my lack of English. I couldn’t participate in the classes, because I didn’t understand the instructors and I wasn’t always sure what my personal trainer was explaining to me. I found it stressful. It was so hard to remember the words and to understand. I was embarrassed!” she explains.
“Now I’ve reached my goal, I’ve lost 23 kilos in total (around 4st), I feel comfortable with my training and I like to work out with personal trainer Abi. You can get lazy, so it’s good to have a push from a trainer every now and then!” laughs Angelika.
The diet wasn’t too difficult. “My diet meant I cut out all sweets and alcohol. I ate salads! And I worked hard at cutting out all the rubbish,” she says.
So what are Angelika’s top tips for someone who is looking to lose weight like her? “Don’t eat carbs after 4pm – a low carb diet works – and drink lots of water. Visit the gym three or four times a week, and make sure you get a personal trainer so that you’re confident about working out because you’re clear on the technique,” she explains. “What I love about the YMCA gym is that it’s comfortable, no-one else working out around you is posing or there to judge you. You can relax and work out confidently.”
Left: Angelika in 2015 at her heaviest – she has come so far!