Heading into 2016 thinking you’d like to lose a few kilos or run a marathon or just have someone tell you what to eat so that’s one less thing for you to think about? I’d still recommend 12wbt, read on!
When the time came to lose my last five kilos of baby weight after Emma, I did a round of 12wbt (stands for “12 week body transformation”) and wrote about it here. I started when Emma was five months old; not only did I lose the kilos but I used the program to train for a 10km run which I did in the ninth week. I followed the program pretty closely, both diet and exercise. It didn’t exactly lead to long-term habit changes, but that wasn’t really the goal – I’m already a good exerciser and I will always eat just that bit too much (something I have come to accept about myself now that I’m in my MID THIRTIES). I’m fairly savvy when it comes to nutrition and cooking and all that jazz – I didn’t need to be introduced to chick peas or the concept of empty calories. So the goal was just to lose the weight and learn to run 10km, and I did that.
When I reached a point a few months ago where I was feeling a bit like “Okay, I’ve got this second baby thing kind of figured out, I miss being at work, what am I going to do with myself?” I decided I might as well jump on the 12wbt bandwagon. Finn was only 10 weeks old when I started, so I had more weight to lose this time – seven kilos. Because he was so young and I didn’t have clearance from my physio to do much exercise I didn’t have any fitness goals this time.
The program has, as I predicted last time, evolved and become more user friendly in the past few years. It can be tailored even more to different goals and circumstances – there is now a specific “post baby” program that encompasses the diet and fitness aspects, which is what I did. There’s an online tracker with a calorie database, so if you’re not using the menu plan you can still track calories easily. (I didn’t realise this until later, so I was using the My Fitness Pal app, which has lots of 12wbt recipes loaded into it.) There is still a fairly active online community, plus videos from Michelle and lots of extra bits and pieces, most of which I didn’t use this time.
Some of the recipes are great. They hadn’t changed much from last time – still lots of salads, stir-fries, curries, pastas, which is basically how we eat anyway. Most days I ate sandwiches for lunch and granola for breakfast. The granola was probably my favourite recipe of everything we tried, I’m still eating it most days.
The calorie count for breastfeeding women was 1800; for the first few days, after nearly a year of eating whatever I wanted I was a bit freaked out about that but it only took a few days and then I realised in fact 1800 was plenty of calories, and I never felt deprived or hungry.
My birthday fell during the 12 weeks and I got sent a happy birthday email including a tiramisu recipe. I didn’t use it, but I thought that was a sweet touch and an acknowledgement that life happens and celebrating a birthday is worthy of a treat.
One disappointment I had was when I tried to look for recipes for muffins. I did want to lose weight but I also wanted to be able to have a little something with a cup of tea, or to offer to visitors. But the only recipes available were ones that made just two enormous muffins – basically intended to be a whole meal. And they used ingredients I try not to use too much in my baking, like white flour and white sugar. With so many options these days with great baking ingredients that are better for you – and Michelle’s personal opinions regarding sugar – I was annoyed they weren’t available, nor were there options to make say a whole bunch of tiny muffins so you could freeze them. I know it’s a diet, but still. (This is where the My Fitness Pal app really helps as you can import recipes and it will calculate the calories for you.)
Some of the recipes are still really strange, like they were just put together by someone who had random ingredients in their fridge and was just focused on using them in a certain calorie limit. One in particular comes to mind that involved boiled cauliflower and carrot. It was meant to be a salad. For the most part I made my own modifications to make things edible, but really I shouldn’t have to and it made me think if you are trying to get people to eat healthily, using rubbish recipes that make no sense and actually involve boiled cauliflower is not the way to do it. Not everyone will know to roast the cauliflower instead.
Exercise-wise, I really never quite got the hang of fitting it in. Emma’s in child care three days a week and I still struggle to find time on those days, and the days when I have the two of them well there’s just no way. Logistics combined with the lack of physio clearance meant the exercise just wasn’t a priority. They had videos available specifically for post-baby exercise which I did do occasionally, and they were great – lots of focus on core and pelvic floor work. I did walk a bit, but basically I lost all the weight without much exercise at all (this is not really a disappointment).
Speaking of fitting in exercise, Michelle’s personal preference is a morning workout so it’s done and dusted. She recommends this a lot, especially to busy mums, and it has definitely worked for me in the past. She does acknowledge it’s not easy but it’s sort of a “you’re going to be tired anyway, you might as well be tired and have exercised” acknowledgement. But I do think there needs to be more focus on the importance of sleep and how in fact sometimes, sleep is what you need, more than anything. I’m sure I’ve read it’s easier to lose weight if you’re getting enough sleep, and I know the days I’m really tired are the days it’s much harder to avoid overeating because my instinct is to fuel myself with food. One day I even saw a post on the online forum from a woman who was getting up at 3am to exercise!!! I couldn’t form the words to reply to her and say “Seriously woman that’s ridiculous” and when I went back later – having formulated the words – I couldn’t find the post. Michelle’s tune might change once she becomes a mum herself – she might realise that when a new mum says “I’m tired,” what she means is not “I could go a nap” but more “I could sleep for a year, and also I probably shouldn’t be allowed to drive like this.”
There is still a focus on calories over nutrition sometimes. I did the nutrition quiz for funsies and got everything right except “what’s a better snack – skim milk with chocolate powder, or two squares of dark chocolate?” I chose the dark chocolate but because it had more calories and less calcium it was deemed the worse snack. Obviously that’s wrong and it partly depends on what the purpose of your snack is – something small and sweet after dinner vs something to keep you going until dinner after you’ve been at the gym, but seriously. I thought that was pretty dumb.
It took eight weeks and I lost eight kilos just by focusing on 1800 calories a day, although there were obviously some days where it was a lot more (like my birthday). I have probably put back on two of those kilos for various reasons, but I factored in a buffer zone when deciding what I wanted to lose. So my jeans still fit, which is the main thing.
I’d still recommend 12wbt for someone who is keen for short-term help in losing a specific amount of weight. I agree with the general “don’t diet, be healthy” mantra but I get the feeling that works best for people who have developed poor habits for whatever reason and for whom the weight loss needs to be slow and steady and sustainable for life. Even then, 12wbt might be a good kick start (I’m not sure, I’m not a doctor/nutritionist/anything qualified, don’t quote me!) For those of us who just have a few kilos to lose while re-setting some habits – like basic portions – and know that our general lifestyle will be enough to maintain things after that, I think a concerted effort like 12wbt is a good way to get the weight off. And get that awesome granola recipe.