‘I was the last fat comedienne… so I lost 2 stone!’ says Helen Lederer
For years Helen was in denial about her size, but seeing Dawn French, Pauline Quirke and Ruth Jones lose weight finally gave Helen Lederer the push she needed to change her unhealthy eating habits.
Inspired by her fellow comedy actresses, Helen has dropped two dress sizes in three months after swapping her binge-eating and drinking for a diet and exercise plan. Helen, 57, says: ‘I didn’t want to be the last fat comedienne. I knew I was getting heavier but was stuck in a rut and couldn’t find a way out. ‘But seeing how amazing Dawn, Pauline and Ruth looked gave me the inspiration I needed. Reading a comment on a viewers’ forum that I looked like a dog’s dinner as I reviewed the papers on the news gave me the extra jolt. ‘And they were right – I looked at myself slumped on screen and knew I wasn’t doing the best I could for my body.
For a long time I’d been in denial, avoiding looking back at my previous TV appearances – and even in mirrors. But I knew it was time to change’ Helen, who lives in London with her GP husband Chris and actress daughter Hannah, 22, has struggled with her weight since childhood and is now learning to take complements about her new svelte body.
She’s also rediscovered her joy of clothes shopping. She says, ‘Only a few months ago I was taking new clothes to a dressmaker to sew panels down the sides of size 14 clothes to make them fit my size 16 frame. My entire wardrobe was black and the only dresses I wore reached from my neck to my toes. I didn’t enjoy buying clothes anymore. I hated the sight of myself in changing room mirrors – I’d give up and go and eat two scones. ‘So recently when I tried on size 12 dress in Miss Selfridge, I thought, ‘Blimey, this fits!’
I don’t want to dress muttony and I know I’ll never be super-slim because I was a fat child, but it felt fantastic and very empowering, as if I’m a member of a whole new community.’ Helen followed the ‘123 Hello Me’ 12-week online weight loss programme, which has three simple steps: eat sensibly, keep active and take fat-binder pills. The system doesn’t ban any food groups. Instead it provides you with healthy, balanced meal-planning advice based on your body mass index (BMI) and encourages followers to keep food diaries to track their daily calorie intake.
Helen was also encouraged to exercise gently but effectively. ‘When I was working from home I’d sit on my fat bum all the time except when I went to the fridge – I’d never leave it empty-handed! And I couldn’t have biscuits or chocolates in the house because I’d have to eat the lot. ‘This time I went to the gym properly. Before, I’d go just to tinker. But I’ve learnt to sweat, which sounds terribly attractive! Twelve weeks ago, I’d go and scowl at my personal trainer, David Santos. I was horrible to him and answered him in one-word replies. Now I realise I owe him a lot. I go on the treadmill and listen to my iPod, which is loaded with great songs, and I run for 20 minutes. Afterwards I feel elated and I know I won’t have a chunky Kitkat or I’ve wasted all my hard work.’
Helen also had reason to lose weight due to health reasons. Her mother Jeanne died three weeks before Helen’s wedding 13 years ago and had type 2 diabetes. Helen says: ‘Mum wasn’t tall and was quite round and I’ve inherited her blood and her frame.
I miss Mum so much and feel she could have had longer in this world, but there wasn’t the same awareness of diabetes then. I want to be here as long as I can and I want to be able to go up and down stairs without feeling out of breath. ‘My husband says that by shaking up my diet and exercising, I’ve put years on my life. Helen hopes to lose more weight but has no intention of aiming for a drastically smaller shape. She says: ‘Weighing 10st 10lb is still quite big for someone who’s 5ft 3in, so I’ll continue my healthy eating and exercise. I don’t have an unrealistic goal to be skinny. But I’m glad some of my bulk has gone.
I’m respectful of the fact that at my age, weight loss is slower. I’ve had to ban bread because just looking at it makes me blow up like a loaf and I can’t have pasta now, because I was a pastaholic. ‘I’ve made a tentative change to my body and my health and I’ll have to work hard to maintain it. I’m not smug or victorious. But does it feel great to be a size 12? Oh my goodness, YES!
Helens typical diet-
Breakfast- Hard-boiled eggs with Ryvita or scrambled eggs with coriander, a snack apple.
Lunch-Smoked salmon with mixed salad (lentils, rocket, coriander, pomegranate seeds, goats’ cheese, walnuts, red cabbage.)
Dinner- Grilled fish with houmous, sun-dried tomatoes, couscous with almonds and a spot of red chilli jam.
Has seeing celebrities/actresses etc on TV ever spurred you on to get fit and lose weight?