There’s really no stopping Trisha Lewis. I ask her a question, and she answers. Without telling her, I head down to the kitchen, make a cup of tea, have a biscuit, read the paper, listen to the Ryan Tubridy Show on the radio, go into the garden, dig up some weeds, wash the hands, walk upstairs to the office, and Trisha is still there, talking away. She is, in other words, an interviewer’s dream. Trisha is also something of an inspiration.
Over three years ago, she realised the life she was living had to change. Then working as head chef in the justifiably praised Cork restaurant, Jacobs on the Mall, Trisha weighed over 27 stone. In order to engage with her feelings about her body size, she had gastric band surgery scheduled but certain events made her cancel it. Cue two things: looking into the pit of despair or falling into the abyss.
That was then, goes the cliché, and this is now. Today, she is the author of two best-selling books (Trisha’s Transformation: Beat the Bulge and Still Indulge, and Trisha’s 21-Day-Reset), Brand Ambassador for Aldi, a motivational speaker, and consulting with various companies on well-being and self-esteem projects. She no longer works as a full-time chef and has swapped the familiar day-to-day with the something-different-every-week.
“I think the transformation in my life is something I’m very much aware of,” she says, “and I’m grateful for the second chance I received. It’s still fresh in my mind of how difficult things in my life used to be. Now, when I have the opportunity to look at every day and to make the day my own, I’m just so grateful. I’m very much aware of how blessed I am and how lucky I am. Two of the things I’ll never forget, and what I promised myself, are that I’d never go back and that I’d always look after myself.”
I ask her did a second chance ever seem possible, and she replies that no, the hope of a second chance had left her for a long time. “I was very, very unhappy,” she says, “and at one stage I made a brave decision. I phoned the Samaritans and asked for help because I knew that either my weight was going to kill me, or I just didn’t want to be here anymore. I could see no light at the end of the tunnel. My weight problem had hit 27-and-a-half stone, and I felt how was I ever going to sort that out?”
Trisha continued to fight, always on the lookout for glimmers of hope. One day, she says, a sliver of light landed softly but noticeably. “I remember on New Year’s Eve, 2018,” she begins. “I was numb, I knew that 2019 wasn’t going to be like any other for different reasons. For me, I felt my life was just beginning. My sister had a pregnancy scare, she went to the hospital but thankfully everything worked out okay. That same night, however, was quite a frightening one for me because I knew that if the baby came into the world the child might never know me. I felt the only thing I had ever achieved in my life was putting on weight, I was turning 30 within a month, and I knew things had to change. That was the start of a new journey for me.”
A few years later, and her life has been transformed. One of the crucial reasons for such a dramatic change was, says Trisha, being honest with herself. “In the darkest hours your thoughts are very loud, and you know exactly what needs to be done. My mindset has changed in that I realised the issue is never the issue. I had always thought that if I lost a lot of weight then I’d be happy, but what I’d urge people to be aware of is that there are layers.”
Trisha knows she can only speak from her experience and truth. The issue for her, she reveals, is that she would always do more for other people than for herself. “I wasn’t looking after myself, and the symptom of that was weight gain. Now that I look after myself, the symptom is weight loss, so what I would say to anyone in a similar position is be true to yourself, and don’t do something or allow something to happen out of hate of who you are, but rather do it out of love for who you’re going to become.”
Forget, too, she adds, about the media-related chatter of how weight loss is embarrassing, stigmatised, shameful, and so on. “Drown out that white noise and realise that you are somebody who deserves this. Take it easy and don’t go hard on yourself. Often in the media, you see headlines like ‘morbidly obese woman transforms into pretty princess’ or something similar, and to me that’s wrong because we are all beautiful. When you get a present at Christmas, do you care about the wrapping paper the present is in? Of course, you don’t because it’s what’s inside that counts. Focus on that and everything else will follow.”
She follows this with another very reasonable yet unequivocal comment about perceptions of weight. “Sometimes, people just want to put us on the scales and gauge our value by how much we weigh, but for me it’s all about listening to yourself. Hearing yourself say you can do it and know that you will.”
Another aspect of Trisha’s life that has changed considerably is the medium by which she can channel her life lessons – social media. With over 210k followers on Instagram (@trishas.transformation), she posts daily about her life in an authentic, amusing and inspiring way. This is from the last week of October: ‘You have no idea what it feels like to go from not wearing shoes with laces – as I couldn’t bend down – to absolutely whacking the crap out of a [boxing] bag with my leg in the air. Happy days!’
Of course, Trisha is using the platform for good, but she realises the same platform can also, in certain ways, be responsible for promoting idealised modes of perfection. Her response?
“If you follow somebody that makes you feel a little bit less about yourself, then you need to unfollow that person and remove them from your life. If you were out in a pub or a restaurant and someone made you feel bad, you’d avoid them, wouldn’t you? It’s like that with social media – 99% is good, but the other one per cent? I wouldn’t take advice or criticism from anyone that goes out of their way to hurt someone. My advice? Take social media with a pinch of salt.”
Spoken like a true chef!
Trisha’s 21-Day-Reset, published by Gill Books, is available in all good book shops. The book has been shortlisted in the Cookbook of the Year category in An Post Irish Book Awards 2021. For further information on Trisha, visit her website www.trishastransformation.ie
WRITTEN BY TONY CLAYTON-LEA
Journeys in Taste Interviews are Sponsored by Lexus Ireland