"I stopped binge drinking and lost 7 dress sizes"

After one false start on her weight-loss journey, Nikki Howarth ditched social drinking and discovered CrossFit, losing a further 38kg in the process.

Nikki's weight loss story

Name: Nikki Howarth
Weight loss: 44.2 kg
Was: 106.2 kg
Now: 62 kg
Height: 1.69 m
Age: 32
How long it took: 3 years
How she did it: Group Coaching at West Harbour, Auckland, NZ, with Coach Joanne Woodward

“I lost 4kg in four weeks just by sticking to Weight Watchers and not drinking, and it was a turning point.”

Before and after

I was a big binge drinker

My husband Danny and I had young children and not a lot of spare money. I’d always been overweight but, in 2012, I started to drink a lot. Instead of going out we’d have friends over for Thirsty Thursdays and Friday Fundays. At the time I enjoyed it and it was a way to socialise without spending a lot of money, but along with the drinking came hangovers, which led me to eating takeaway - sometimes three or four times the next day. Before long, I was quite overweight.

My pants were ripping at the seams

At the time I didn’t realise how big I was. I used to wear size 18 black stretchy tights – they kept ripping at the seams, but I wouldn’t allow myself to get a bigger size. I was convinced they were just poor quality! Being that overweight made everything hard. My seatbelt used to dig into my neck, I struggled to walk from the front door to the letterbox and I’d have to sit and watch the kids play at the park rather than joining in.

I couldn't believe I was over 100kg

Then, one weekend I came across some scales in our hallway cupboard and thought I should check what I was. When I saw I was 106kg, I was shocked. On Monday, I signed up to Weight Watchers. During my first attempt on the Program, I lost 17kg in five months, but gained 11kg back. In retrospect, I didn’t make enough small, sustainable changes to keep the weight off and I was oblivious to what kind of exercise I needed to do. I wasn’t drinking as much, but I was still using up my weekly ‘spontaneity stash’ in a Friday-night drinking session, then having takeaway the next day. The wheels fell off and my clothes started getting tighter.

Dry July was my turning point

A year later, I got back on the scales and realised I was back over double digits at 100.3kg. I knew if I didn’t do something, I’d end up heavier than I was at the start, so I went back to Weight Watchers. This time, I felt especially motivated by my Coach, which made a big difference. Around mid-year, I decided to sign up to Dry July. I lost 4kg in four weeks just by sticking to WW and not drinking, and it was a turning point. Something clicked and, since then, I haven’t had the same mentality about drinking. Funnily enough, I don’t see the friends who I used to drink with anymore, and that’s fine as I don’t want to binge drink anymore either.

I stepped up my fitness with CrossFit

Another turning point was when I discovered CrossFit. It’s improved my fitness, changed my shape and given me muscles. After my second class, I went home in tears; I was so frustrated at struggling to exercise with two slipped discs and a sore back. I’ve made so much progress since then, thanks to doing CrossFit four to five times a week. I’ve learned how to lift heavy things, I can run 5km, I did my first CrossFit comp and achieved one of my main goals, which was to lift a 44kg barbell – the amount of weight I’ve lost.

I no longer sit down to massive portions

Along with my fitness, my diet has improved, too. I used to have big portions – three servings worth of spag bol in the one meal – but I’m much better these days. For breakfast I might have Weet-Bix or muesli with yoghurt and sliced banana on top, lunch might be scrambled eggs in a wrap or a roast vegetable salad with feta, and dinner could be salmon with sweet chilli sauce, cashews and spinach.

I became a Weight Watchers Coach

Now that I’m a Weight Watchers Coach, it’s even greater motivation to stick to the Program. I’m not perfect though; I have takeaway once a week, but it’s usually chicken and rice from the kebab shop or a burger and chips from the fish shop rather than from a drive-through. Compared to the old me of a few years ago, I feel absolutely amazing! I’m so proud that I had the mental power to shift the weight and get to where I am today. I’ve had a positive influence on my family – my husband joined CrossFit recently and my daughters and I do a mini ‘workout of the day’ after dinner, where we do burpees and push-ups in the backyard. It feels amazing to have made everyone happier and healthier.

If you believe in yourself, anything is possible!

When you’re overweight, you think everything’s impossible, but once you make that first step to walk into a Weight Watchers group session, it starts a domino effect. If you believe in yourself, anything is possible! CrossFit is my ‘me time’. I drop the kids at school then I’ve got an hour to exercise and unwind. Having lunch at a cafe by myself is another ‘me time’ favourite. Before Weight Watchers, I’d never have been able to eat alone without worrying what people thought of me, but now I have the confidence not to worry.

How to drink smarter

Nikki shares her top tips for outsmarting social drinking.

  • Think twice about your drink of choice: If you enjoy a wine, go for a low-calorie one. Similarly, just because you enjoy beer doesn’t mean you have to drink beer. These days, I have vodka, lime and soda water.
  • Mix your drinks: Go to events knowing how many drinks you’re allowing yourself (and the SmartPoints values) and have water in between. I’ll have vodka, lime and soda, then I’ll have one without vodka.
  • Seek out supportive friends: If someone is your drinking buddy and you stop drinking, they might not want to make that change with you. You need to either convert those friends to drinking tea or coffee or meet new friends. WW meetings are a great way to meet like-minded people.
  • Find a new way to unwind: You have to replace an old habit with a new habit; you can’t just stop drinking then sit on the couch. I now unwind with CrossFit; for some people it could be walking, for others knitting. Find something that speaks to you.