‘Running and lifting weights helped me lose three stones – and find my self-worth again’

Helen Thorn, 43, is a comedian and podcaster as one half of the Scummy mummies and an author who lives in London

People naturally assume that because I’m a comedian I have a rock-solid sense of self-esteem, but when I found out in 2020 that my husband had had an affair, my self-worth shot to an all-time low and I really questioned how lovable I was.

I had started running a few years before this; I did Couch to 5k and ran a Race For Life. I didn’t look or feel like a runner and, in fact, I walked most of it – it took me 55 minutes – but the beautiful thing about running is that it’s one of the most inclusive sports you can do. I met a really amazing community of women runners online who were of different age groups, shapes and sizes, with different motivations to run.

As my children were slightly older and I had a bit more time to myself, I wanted to do something for myself. The more I ran, the better I felt. I was a size 18-20 and weighed 100kg (15 stone 10lbs), but I did it for how I felt rather than for weight loss. Bryony Gordon rang me one day and asked me to do the marathon in my pants – as she had done – and so I did it in October 2021. It was an amazing feeling.

But what really changed me was strength training. I started working out with two amazing women, Amber Keatley-Shaikh and Suzanne Keatley, at their gym Fitology Hub. They got in touch with me just as I was completely broken by my divorce and asked if I was interested, that they thought they could help. Previously I would have said lifting weights was quite extreme, but actually doing it felt like recovery. Every weight I lifted I’d tell Suzanne another tale and get it out of my system; I could see myself physically getting stronger and the endorphins were incredible.

At the same time, Amber helped me with my nutrition; it wasn’t great before – I smoked and drank and ate rubbish (I lived off takeaways whilst I finished my book). To start with I tracked what I ate. Then Amber asked me to increase the number of plants I ate in a week to at least 30 and track how I feel. I started to really notice the difference if I had a salmon stir fry rather than a lasagne, and that was hugely motivating. I have lost 3½ stone so far but aside from that, 10 months ago I had blood tests done and I was on the road to diabetes. Now, at 78kg (12st 6lbs) and a dress size 12-14, I’m so much healthier.

I’ve been quite public about my physical journey by documenting it on Instagram. Initially, I thought: “Who is going to care about my midlife crisis?” But what I find really heartwarming is that every time I post about going for a run or working out, I get lots of replies saying that I’ve made another person get out there and do it. I have had some nasty comments about my weight loss – I think some people feel that I’m leaving them behind – but I realized that it was probably more about them and their insecurities than me.

What I’ve been doing wasn’t about getting smaller but about feeling in control again after my divorce. Running and strength training have given me self-worth I didn’t know that I had. I feel like I’ve got myself back – but this time a stronger version.

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