For 33-year-old, primary school teacher, Vicki Schofield, a house move and busy weekends spent redecorating meant that she and her fiancé fell into bad habits. Takeaways and missed gym sessions led to Vicki putting on weight and feeling sluggish.

When her sister suggested that they take part in our online Happy Heart course together, Vicki knew it was the motivation she needed. After four weeks on the course, she lost 10lbs, and says that she feels healthier and has more energy than ever before! Read this inspiring interview with Vicki, on how she changed her approach to food and life, and why she believes you can too!

What made you sign up to the Happy Heart course?

My sister did the Happy Heart course a few years earlier, and over a chat about weight loss and general health, she suggested we have a go at it. She wanted a kick start to get back into cooking healthily, as she was finding it difficult to stick to with a busy life, whilst cooking for her family, who are big meat eaters. 

I also wanted to be vegetarian for quite some time but I always found it too hard to stick to, opting instead for takeaway or convenience food. My fiancé is also a big foodie and has his own food blog, which pretty much always features meat as the main part of his recipes, so it was difficult to not eat meat at home. 

I knew I needed to make a change but I didn’t know how. When I looked up the course I was surprised. I had never heard of a wholefood and plant-based diet. Before I started the course, I read the material and realised what it actually meant! I expected it to be vegan, but no oil, refined flour, or sugar was surprising. I wasn’t sure if I could make that many changes all at once but I wanted to try my best, and initially seeing it as ‘only a month’, I decided to stick to it.

What was your health like before you began the course?

We had recently moved house, and decorating and home improvements were in full flow, taking up most of our free time. This meant we had fallen into bad habits and were eating a lot of takeaways, oily food, and white bread, and I was not feeling good about it. I had stopped going to the gym, put on weight, and was feeling tired and sluggish. I was also getting a lot of colds and bugs from my job, and that made me less likely to make any healthy changes.

What was your experience of the course like? What were your favourite parts?

I chose a time that would work with my job and my lifestyle. I knew it was going to involve some effort initially, so I chose the April course, knowing I would have a little bit of free time during Easter. At first, I was really excited to get going with the course but it got difficult quickly because I hadn’t prepared fully. I quickly printed off the Happy Heart week one shopping list and was surprised at how little I actually needed to buy. Fruit, veg and beans were the staples, and that meant my shopping was easier and quicker. I also really enjoyed how accessible the course content was and how I could access it from my phone whilst in the supermarket.

Did you enjoy the cooking aspect of the course? What were some of your favourite recipes?

Once I realised that I needed to prepare, I batch cooked a lot. I’m not usually the cook at home, I typically leave it to my partner, but I knew that if I wanted to cook Happy Heart food, I needed to make time to cook in advance. I used any spare hour I had, to cook a new recipe and freeze a load in containers. I liked the clear layout of the recipes, and I am the kind of person who needs a recipe to follow. Chopping and peeling became my staple, and I bought a compost bin to help me feel better about the peelings I was creating.

My partner loves evening meals and we really enjoyed the Indian Daal, Pad Thai, and Burritos. However, my favourite group of recipes was the breakfast recipes. I was sick of having a poached egg for a weekend breakfast and I wanted new plant based options for a good weekend brekkie. The idea of ‘pimping up’ porridge, toast, and smoothies, gave breakfasts a more fun, grown-up feel. Also, the banana pancakes were a revelation. 

Did you discover any new foods or ways of cooking?

I’m sure this is a recurring theme, but, for me, it was no oil! We used oil all the time and we definitely found this section of the course really interesting. Steve and Dave’s videos really helped me to understand how many calories I was adding to food, just by adding oil, before I added any ingredients. I was still a bit unsure if it would work, or if the food would taste as good. However, I wanted to stick to the plan as closely as possible, so we gave it a go. Now, I will not go back to cooking with oil. I know I can cook just as well without it. 

We also realised how substitutes could bulk out meals, such as beans and tofu. I started to think about these as a staple, and once I had tried tofu a couple of times, I got the hang of draining it and using it properly. It started to taste really good!

Were there ever times that you struggled on the course? How did you stay motivated?

I was very lucky that my sister and partner were following the course too, and it was really good to have that supportive network. I would say you should definitely find someone to do the course with you, or use the Facebook group to keep you motivated if you are struggling or need a suggestion. It makes all the difference. I think my first evening meal was tough. It seems like so long ago now, but I remember thinking I was craving pizza when it was really just my bad habits kicking in again. My advice would be to prepare as soon as possible. It’s never too early to get cooking. Don’t let yourself get really hungry and be tempted. The great thing about this course is that, if you eat the right foods, you can eat as much as you like and you never have to get hungry!

If I had particular cravings, I looked at the course content or online for plant-based alternatives and focused on making those. I love chai tea lattes and I used The Happy Pear turmeric milk recipe on YouTube to fulfill my craving. If you put in the effort, there is usually an alternative you can find, and after a few days you just stop craving it!  Also, don’t deny yourself a treat. On the course, Dave and Steve say that if a glass of wine helps you eat the veggies, then do it. I lived by this and if I was struggling, I would plan a little glass of wine or a Happy Heart-friendly treat to keep my motivation going.

How did you feel while doing the course?

At first, it can be a challenge, as your body adjusts to the new food. However, as you progress through the course, you do start to feel the health benefits kick in. I felt like I had more energy and exercise felt easier to do. You can tell that your digestive system is working better and you feel that your body is retaining less of the ‘bad stuff’ from before the course. I also started to naturally drink more water, which helped me to feel hydrated and led to better skin days. Always a bonus!

What have been the main benefits that you have experienced from taking part in the course?

I used the course as a reason to make long overdue changes. I was worried about inconveniencing people we were having dinner with but I just made sure I told them about the course. Almost everyone was helpful, supportive, and usually interested in my lifestyle change.

Even though I was doing it to lose weight, I didn’t struggle as much as I have on diets before. The focus wasn’t on eating less and being hungry, it was about cooking tasty food and being full. If you keep the fridge and cupboards full of good food, it’s so much easier to cook and eat good food. I kept dried fruit and nuts in my snack drawer and a soy yoghurt in the fridge.  

If you are doing the course alone and you have a family to prepare for, my suggestion would be to keep a shelf in your fridge that is just for you. Then when you go to the fridge looking for something, look on your shelf only and keep something you know you love in there. Mine was avocado. It was my treat on toast or on top of a meal. It’s still my ‘go-to’ now!

Ultimately, I lost about 10lbs in four weeks. Keeping a record of this helped with motivation and meant I had a concrete reason to continue with this lifestyle at the end. I am also more energetic now. I am exercising more and I make time to exercise in any spare time I have, rather than making excuses not to.

What are the top three things you learnt from having taken part in the course?

Tell people you are doing it! If people know, they will ask you about it, and this will help keep you motivated. Plan and prepare. I know everyone says it, but I can’t stress enough how it helped me stick to it. Don’t be afraid to have some treats. Make them Happy Heart-friendly, and make sure it’s something you enjoy and can reward yourself with – whether that is a glass of wine, or the vegan chocolate sorbet. Don’t beat yourself up if you do slip up, just keep going. Take each day as an opportunity to try a new recipe and, if you’re struggling, make sure it’s something you’re really looking forward to trying.

Do not be afraid to tweak the recipes too. I use the recipes as a guideline and inspiration. I’ll often swap or add vegetables to suit my needs or change the spice mix a bit. Lastly, use the Facebook community! It has a wonderful group of people helping each other out. It can really make a difference when you have an urgent question or just need some motivation.

Has your life and diet changed much since completing the course?

I definitely cook more. I don’t rely on frozen, fatty, convenience food from the shops. I plan and cook ahead of time and I always make extras to freeze. When snacking, I choose healthier alternatives like hummus, wholegrain crackers, avocado, fruit, and veg. I don’t eat the chocolate, biscuits, and sweets that I used to, and I don’t crave them like I did before.

I have used this course as my springboard to start being fully vegetarian. I have now been veggie for 2 months, and I can honestly say it’s been so much easier than every time I have tried to do it in the past. Thanks to the Happy Heart course, I now have a bank of super-tasty recipes I can make quickly and easily, and adapt to my own lifestyle and tastes. My partner is now more open to the idea that plant-based food can be tasty, meaning I can cook it and he will happily eat it, and even say how good it is! Now I try to stay Happy Heart-friendly throughout the working week, as much as possible.

We have made more time for cooking healthily and planning ahead. We buy more vegetables and fruit and actually use them! We are more conscious of the oil, refined foods and fat that is in the food we choose and we make healthier choices because of that. I haven’t stopped eating out but I research where to go and make sure they have good options for me before I go. Before I started the course, I expected to go back to the way I was before, but now that I have tried the recipes and experienced the benefits, I won’t be going back to my old diet. I will only be expanding my Happy Heart-friendly recipes and eating more veggies than ever before!

If you have been inspired by Vicki’s story, then why not give yourself the gift of health this summer by signing up to our four-week, online Happy Heart course which kicks off on 5th June! We are currently offering 20% off our June course when you use the coupon code SUMMERBODY20 when signing up here!

Packed with delicious, wholefood and plant-based recipes that are quick and easy to make, our course is guaranteed to boost your health and leave you ready to take on the year ahead – all in just four weeks! With tips on how to eat healthily on the go, meal plans, shopping lists, as well as motivational videos and live Facebook Q&A sessions with Dave and Steve, the course is the perfect opportunity to reboot your health in time for spring.

Just like Vicki, we have had thousands of participants experience weight loss, improved health, and boosted energy levels by taking part in the course! So what are you waiting for? Eat your way to a healthier and happier you this summer and sign up today!

For more information on our Happy Heart courses, please visit thehappypearacademy.com

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