A Chinese food fiend who realised she had to lose weight when she struggled to go for a walk has ditched her weekend feasts and swapped them for fakeaways.
Tanya Friel, aged 27, from Redditch, dropped three dress sizes and charted her amazing weight loss journey on Instagram coming up with healthy versions of takeaway favourites.
She joined Slimming World and said she needed to ‘shift the pounds’ when she physically could not go for a walk in the evenings due to her ailing health.
The trainee quantity surveyor, who also suffers from a debilitating health condition, said: “I just decided that I needed to lose weight, put a bit more ease on my joints. I had gained weight from a lack of mobility.
“I have ankylosing spondylitis, a condition which affects my joints, and psoriatic arthritis.
“It affects my eyes too. Inflammation within the body that can target anything. If I eat the wrong food, that can flare up.
“I had been eating takeaways as long as I could remember but stopped.
“I was focused on losing the weight. The pain levels started going down, and I almost figured out what I was supposed to do to feel better.”
How to make ‘fakeaways’
Tanya set to work on making healthier versions of the dishes she loved. Still to be enjoyed at the weekend – a treat with less guilt and impact on her health and weight.
“Chinese would be my go to takeaway,” she said.
“I like anything! Chow Mein or curry, or a salt and chilli dish. I love veg. But a lot of Chinese takeaway food has trans fats.
“I think people think because there’s veg in Chinese food, it’s the healthy option. But it’s not.
“A lot of it has MSG (monosodium glutamate – a flavour enhancer). I think that’s what makes it addictive.
“With a takeaway, I think it’s just the treat if it is at the weekend. When you want a cosy night in with a takeaway and a glass of wine. Something to look forward to. Especially now!”
She said: “I got ideas from Instagram. Anything that’s deep fried or any butter they come in, when I do mine, I do them in the oven and use a low fat spray.
“I started sharing the recipes on Instagram and at first had people that know me liking them.
“Things like chilli chicken, I coat with herbs and spices but from a takeaway they would be completely coated in batter too.
“What makes the dishes nice is topping them off with things like sesame seeds or spring onions.
“I lost weight and dropped three dress sizes from an 18 to a 12.”
Her other key tip is cutting out bread.
“I try to avoid it at all costs!” she said. “I make fajitas with spinach and egg wraps with a light spray instead.”
An added bonus to the health benefits are the wealth benefits – with Tanya believed to have saved around £2,000 in the process.
Tanya’s secret ‘journey’ on Instagram
Tanya’s first food post on Instagram wasn’t a Chinese meal but a cooked breakfast on September 22, 2019, a healthy version with poached eggs, tomatoes beans and low fat bacon medallions.
She has built a following with her Chinese ‘fakeaway’ meal tips and tricks and regular posts on her weight loss progress.
With Instagram Reels – the Irish woman, who hails from Donegal, has created short 15-second videos showing how her recipes are put together.
But initially Tanya kept her identity secret on Instagram. The Brockhill resident said: “When I first started off my journey, I hid who I was.
“It was just a way I needed to document myself losing weight, doing that for a year.
“Around September of last year, I put pictures of me there.”
As well as Chinese meals and breakfasts, Tanya has posted Tex Mex dishes like Chilli loaded chips and chicken fajitas, Indian meals like chicken and prawn curry, Italian favourites like low carb pizzas, turkey lasagne and chicken and bacon carbonara, and burgers in a bowl, but not a bun like a Big Mac.
And low fat desserts too – like healthy trifles with sugar free jelly, Greek yoghurt, low fat squirty cream – and a mini-Lindt chocolate bunny.
While her healthy food has built the following – her most liked post is of a mint Aero cheesecake with more around 30,000 people viewing it and giving it 550 likes – but it was Christmas!
Tanya has inspired her mum and sister to try healthy recipes and they have their own WhatsApp group to encourage each other. Her partner Paul has lost weight too. And many others on her Instagram page here.
The journey continues
And Tanya is still on her journey. She said she would like to lose more weight and another dress size. But her ‘journey’ has already brought health benefits.
She said: “I am still a stone away from where I want to be. Before Christmas I lost two-and-a-half stone but have put some on!
“I do have a real takeaway every now and again.”
She exercises too, running 5ks in 2020, and skipping, from a point when she could not walk a year before.
She said: “I could never ever look back to not eating healthily. My pain levels have dropped significantly. I couldn’t lift a suitcase in to an overhead locker on a plane. I can do more things.
“Before I was diagnosed, I was thinking this pain was going to be such a big burden. Now I have got a completely different outlook.
“At the moment I have got no limits!”