'I Quit Drinking, Lost 2.7 Stone and Fell in Love with Exercise – and I’ve Never Felt Better'

Kirsti Buick

From Women's Health

Heather Bulumakau, 28, a supermarket runner from Warwickshire, was drinking a bottle of wine a day and binging on junk food when she decided enough was enough. Within less than a year, she’s managed to turn her life around. This is her story.


I was always the ‘bigger’ one out of all my friends, and once I had my son in 2013 and daughter in 2015, I began rapidly gaining weight over the course of a few years.

I reached a point I had no rules, I never held back on junk food or wine. Comfort eating and binge drinking were a daily occurrence. Drinking was a part of my everyday life for almost 10 years, and it had reached a point where I’d usually drink a bottle of wine every night. My nightly bottles were followed with share-size bags of crisps and chocolate. I had accepted this is how I would be forever.



But in 2019, it began to dawn on me that other people didn’t drink how I did. They could have just one glass of wine at a meal and be satisfied, whereas I’d want a bottle. My children had started to comment on it too, which floored me – ‘mum’s favourite drink is wine’, they’d say. I knew I had to change not only for myself but for them too.

Worried that you or someone you know might be drinking too much? Scroll down for information and support.

I was fed up of planning my life around drinking – it consumed so much of my daily thoughts. I’d finally become fed up of being in a cycle of drinking and hangovers, and the crippling anxiety that came with them.

One day at a time

I went teetotal in September 2019. I found a book called This Naked Mind by Annie Grace, which really helped me change my outlook – I’ve not touched a drop since I first opened the book last year. I now listen to sobriety podcasts daily and am in a few very supportive Facebook groups. I’m definitely not saying I don’t recommend professional help for anyone battling similar issues – I was just fortunate enough to find a way of quitting drinking that worked for me.

Was I an alcoholic? I’m still trying to figure that one out. I know alcoholism is a disease that progressively gets worse, and I’d found that was happening to me. One bottle of wine used to be enough, but in those last few months I found myself craving more and more. I wasn’t drinking to be social anymore – I was drinking mostly alone and out of boredom or to forget the stresses of the day.

The first few weeks were hard – especially the weekends. I would go to bed grumpy at 7pm on a Saturday night because I couldn’t have my wine. I had to avoid social media too. Everyone’s stories of them drinking just made me angry that I couldn’t do the same. But then came that fresh feeling on a Sunday morning – and it was those moments that made it all worth it. From then on, I just had to take it one day at a time.

The next step

At my heaviest, I weighed 13.4 stone. I did start slowly losing weight when I stopped drinking (about 0.7 stone) but my diet was still terrible. I realised I was using junk food as my crutch in the evenings when I’d normally be drinking – and it was making me feel almost as bad as the alcohol had. I woke up one morning at the end of January 2019 feeling fed up and bloated, and I knew it was time to take the next step. I took the plunge and signed up to my local PureGym that day.

Looking back now, the hardest part was physically walking into that gym. I had this horrible feeling that everyone was watching my every move. For the first couple of weeks, I stuck to the relative safety of the cardio machines. It’s funny – I felt like every person in there was judging me, but in reality, I don’t think anyone was even looking my way at all.

A couple of weeks into my new routine, I was starting to feel more comfortable – and I realised that just walking on the treadmill wasn’t quite going to cut it. I searched for fitness guidance and came across Krissy Cela's Tone & Sculpt app.

The app and Krissy's YouTube channel gave me the confidence to grab myself a mat and some weights, and try something new. Every workout has videos of Krissy performing the exercise so I would be glued to my phone in the gym to make sure I was doing the right thing. It was a relief to finally stop worrying about what everyone else was thinking and focus on myself.

It was around this time that I started tracking my food using MyFitnessPal. I to stick to and rotate between meals and snacks I know are within a reasonable daily calorie allowance, which I’ve found prevents my tendency to overeat.

What I eat in a day

  • Breakfast: Sugar-free muesli and chia seeds
  • Lunch: Protein bagel, Quorn slices (I’m not a vegetarian, I just don’t eat much meat) and a low-calorie packet of crisps
  • Dinner: Spaghetti Bolognese with Quorn Mince, portioned garlic bread and salad
  • Snacks: Skinny popcorn, Fibre One cake bars, Protein shakes or grapes

It only took a few weeks to start noticing a change. First, my stomach was rapidly ‘deflating’ and it felt different to touch – when I compared before and after pictures I was shocked. By April, I was down 2 dress sizes, and 2 stone.

I felt so much stronger emotionally and physically. I’d never thought I’d be hooked on exercise – I kept thinking, 'who am I, even?'

Make or break

When we went into lockdown during the global Covid-19 pandemic, I knew this was going to be make or break for my new routine.

Thankfully, I was able to adapt, largely thanks to Tone & Sculpt’s home workouts, impromptu PT sessions with my rugby player husband, and a newfound love for running – I use Strava to plan my routes and track my progress. I think I’ve forgotten how to gym!

How I workout

  • Monday: 5K run and Tone & Sculpt full body
  • Tuesday: Walk and Tone & Sculpt abs & cardio
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: 5K or Tone & Sculpt lower body
  • Friday: Walk or Tone & Sculpt upper body
  • Saturday: 5 – 8K Run
  • Sunday: Rest

Even being at home, I’ve seen slow and steady progress. Just before lockdown in April, I tried on an old pair of jeans that I couldn't get over my thighs in January, and I was thrilled when they fit perfectly. But when I tried them on in June, they were a few inches too big! I’m also down another 5lbs or so. When I stopped drinking in September, I weighed 13.4 stone and now I’m 10.7 stone – that’s almost 3 stone in 9 months.

It wasn’t that I had a specific weight goal I was after – it was more to do with holistic health – which was why I knew the alcohol I had become so dependent on had to go first. I wanted to play with my children and not be too tired to do so. I wanted them to look up to me as an active, happy and positive mum.

I used to roll my eyes at stories like this – but I’m becoming one of those annoyingly happy people I used to despise on social media. I’ve started getting Instagram messages from people saying I inspire them, and from people who are secretly struggling with alcohol asking for advice.

Knowing that by being so open about my weight and alcohol issues, I’ve made people feel they’re not alone is an amazing feeling – and it inspires me to keep at it.

If you're worried that you or someone you know is an alcoholic, here's where to get help

  • Drinkline is the national alcohol helpline. Call 0300 123 1110 (weekdays 9am to 8pm, weekends 11am to 4pm).
  • Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a free self-help group. Its 12 step programme involves getting sober with the help of regular support groups.
  • Al-Anon Family Groups offers support and understanding to the families and friends of problem drinkers, whether they're still drinking or not.
  • We Are With You is a UK-wide treatment agency that helps individuals, families and communities manage the effects of drug and alcohol misuse.
  • Adfam is a national charity working with families affected by drugs and alcohol. Adfam operates an online message board and a database of local support groups.
  • The National Association for Children of Alcoholics (Nacoa) provides a free, confidential telephone and email helpline for children of alcohol-dependent parents and others concerned about their welfare. Call 0800 358 3456 for the Nacoa helpline.
  • SMART Recovery groups help people decide whether they have a problem, build up their motivation to change, and offer a set of proven tools and techniques to support recovery.

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