How to lose 30 ki­los in 30 weeks by a mum who did it

When busy make-up artist and mother Bernadette Fis­ers hit the scales at 130 ki­los, she knew she had to do some­thing. Now 30 ki­los lighter, she is shar­ing her weight-loss se­crets with other time-poor women, she tells Sue Smethurst.


Bernadette Fis­ers has al­ways been larger than life. In a world of surly, stick-thin su­per­mod­els, the cov­eted Aus­tralian make-up artist, who has worked with the likes of Ce­line Dion and Whit­ney Hous­ton, nat­u­rally stood out. It wasn’t just her big smile and bub­bly sense of hu­mour, it was her body, too.

In Jan­uary 2016, Bernadette tipped the scales at 130 ki­los. She was no­tice­ably larger – some­times more than twice the size – of the women she made up each day.

“I spent my day mak­ing peo­ple look and feel fab­u­lous about them­selves, but in­side I was hat­ing my­self,” she says. “I wouldn’t look at my­self in the mir­ror and I was re­ally an­gry at let­ting my­self get that large.”

That was then. Fast for­ward 18 months and, to­day, the 52-yearold Mel­bourne mum is hav­ing the last laugh.

Bern, as she is af­fec­tion­ately known, is now the svelte model in the spot­light af­ter shed­ding a whop­ping 30 ki­los in just 30 weeks, fol­low­ing a sim­ple diet plan she de­vised her­self. And the book she penned ex­plain­ing how she did it, The Lit­tle Book of Big Weight­loss (Penguin/Ran­dom House), has be­come an in­ter­na­tional sen­sa­tion.

“I saw my doc­tor about six months af­ter I’d started los­ing weight and she said, ‘Oh, my God, Bern, what­ever you’ve been do­ing, keep do­ing it!’”

Bernadette Fis­ers hadn’t al­ways been a big girl. Grow­ing up in a fam­ily of seven chil­dren on the out­skirts of Mel­bourne didn’t al­low for the pur­chase of lux­u­ries such as take­away food.

“We had a tight bud­get with a big fam­ily to feed so Mum made ev­ery­thing from scratch. We never had bought bis­cuits or cakes or soft drink or any­thing like that; it was all good, fresh food, noth­ing was pro­cessed.

“And we were sporty kids. With seven of us run­ning around, we didn’t sit still, but we also shared ev­ery­thing,” she says, re­call­ing how her weight started to in­crease af­ter she got her first job with a lo­cal hair­dresser and was able to buy her­self treats she didn’t have to share with her sib­lings.

“Sud­denly, I had money that I’d earned my­self and I could spend it

on what­ever I wanted. I’d think,

‘I’ll have that cream cake,’ and I didn’t have to share it with any­one.”

As the tal­ented hair and make-up artist’s ca­reer took off, so too did her weight. She paid a price for long days in the salon and on photo shoots not eat­ing prop­erly and pick­ing at food.

By the time she had landed a dream job in Europe work­ing on glamorous fash­ion shoots for Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Marie Claire, her weight was bal­loon­ing. To her A-list clients, such as Dan­nii Minogue and Richard Bran­son, she was the bub­bly blonde who al­ways seemed happy, but in truth, she was locked into a de­press­ing cy­cle of yo-yo di­et­ing.

“Prob­a­bly the worst habit I picked up in Italy was the ‘coke and smoke’ diet – I lived off cans of Diet Coke and cig­a­rettes,” Bern ad­mits. “Ter­ri­ble. Some peo­ple have said that they as­sumed I was happy be­ing large, but I was not.”

Bern’s weight would go up and down un­til she be­came preg­nant with daugh­ter Lilli, now 11, af­ter which she muses it was “up, up and up”. She had been feel­ing in­creas­ingly tired and moody, but when she strug­gled to bend over and do up her shoelaces, she knew it was time to take ac­tion.

She booked a check-up with her

GP, whose dire warn­ing sparked an ex­tra­or­di­nary weight-loss jour­ney.

“The doc­tor said, ‘Bern, you are mor­bidly obese, you’ve got hy­per­ten­sion, a fatty liver and you’re pre-di­a­betic.’ It was like, bam!” she says, laugh­ing. “She told me straight, but it was the wake-up call I needed to take my health se­ri­ously.”

The news could have been de­press­ing for some­one who works along­side waif-like women ev­ery day, but in­stead, Bern used the sit­u­a­tion to her ad­van­tage by tap­ping into the ex­pert knowl­edge of those around her.

On photo shoots, she would quiz the mod­els about what they ate and why, and how they kept their weight off, and wrote pages of notes with their hints and ideas. Then she would go home and re­search their sug­ges­tions in-depth to fig­ure out what would work for her.

“Many of the girls study nu­tri­tion and they have a deep in­ter­est in their health, so they were very knowl­edge­able,” Bern says. “I did shoots with ath­letes and train­ers, too. Ev­ery­one was happy to an­swer my ques­tions. I wanted to lose my weight as quickly as I could in the health­i­est way. I wanted warp-speed weight loss!

“When you’re fat, you want the fat gone, prefer­ably yes­ter­day, and I wanted the fat to stay off, per­ma­nently.”

She con­densed all she had learnt into a se­ries of sim­ple rules to live by, such as cut­ting out pro­cessed foods and sugar, re­duc­ing her in­take of carbs and not eat­ing af­ter 7pm. She added a lit­tle more phys­i­cal move­ment into each day and, within a fort­night, she had no­ticed a dif­fer­ence.

“My clothes fit­ted a lit­tle bet­ter. There was a shift in at­ti­tude within my­self. I felt calmer, more in con­trol of my world, less moody and I just felt hap­pier within my­self,” Bern says. “I felt like I was on the right track, which was very mo­ti­vat­ing.

“I’d tried all sorts of di­ets be­fore and my weight has gone up and down. I knew, this time, I had to throw out all of the rules of the past and just stick with some­thing sim­ple and man­age­able be­cause I still have to go to work ev­ery day and look af­ter my fam­ily, so it had to fit with my day-to-day rou­tine. I didn’t go to the gym and ex­er­cise fu­ri­ously ev­ery day be­cause I sim­ply didn’t have the time to do that.”

Af­ter 30 weeks of fol­low­ing her ba­sic plan,

Bern had shed a whop­ping 30 ki­los. She loved it when the other school mums si­dled up at pick-up time ask­ing for her tips and she hap­pily shared her ad­vice, of­ten email­ing her notes around or send­ing Lilli to school with sticky notes of in­for­ma­tion to give to other moth­ers.

“Ev­ery day, some­one would say, ‘Bern, you look great – what’s the se­cret?’ And that felt so great, but I knew if these women were look­ing for sim­ple an­swers in a very clut­tered world of diet in­for­ma­tion, then so would many others,” she says.

Bern cre­ated a pam­phlet to share around, which was so pop­u­lar that

It was like, bam! The wake-up call I needed.

she de­cided to self-pub­lish it as a mini-book. Af­ter the lo­cal pa­per ran an ar­ti­cle on her suc­cess, the first print run sold out and ma­jor pub­lish­ers from around the world came knock­ing on her door.

The Lit­tle Book of Big Weight­loss, with its per­sonal, of­ten hi­lar­i­ous, anec­dotes and straight-talk­ing for­mat, has been a huge hit and is now be­ing sold in 21 coun­tries. Bern re­ceives emails or In­sta­gram mes­sages ev­ery day from women who are us­ing her book as a guide so they can fol­low in her foot­steps.

“There’s a mil­lion diet books out there, but there was noth­ing con­densed and to the point that spoke to me. I needed some­thing that was easy and real. No count­ing calo­ries or any­thing like that. It had to be a plan I could live with. It’s an hon­est book – no bull­dust!” Bern says, laugh­ing.

While ex­er­cise wasn’t a pri­or­ity – get­ting her diet right was – Bern found ways of in­cor­po­rat­ing more ac­tiv­ity into her ev­ery­day life. She set her­self a tar­get of 10,000 steps per day. When she went to work, she would park fur­ther away so she would walk more, or she would head out for a stroll with Lilli on her scooter, or do more at home, such as vac­u­um­ing vig­or­ously and clean­ing, to boost up her steps.

“It was all about just mov­ing my body more,” Bern ex­plains. “I didn’t put pres­sure on my­self to pop on the ly­cra and head to the gym for an hour. I just used my time a lit­tle bet­ter and found in­cre­men­tal ways of in­cor­po­rat­ing move­ment into my day.

“If we were go­ing out for break­fast or cof­fee, I’d walk to the café. And walk­ing to and from school with Lilli. If by the end of the day I hadn’t reached 10,000 steps, I’d walk around the block. I love be­ing out­side in na­ture, I find it very calm­ing. Of­ten, Lilli will come with me and we are all hap­pier and health­ier for it.”

As she slips into a stun­ning off-theshoul­der top, slim-fit­ting jeans and heels for our photo shoot, the fruits of Bern’s ef­forts are clear: the woman who used to refuse to look at her­self in the mir­ror is brim­ming with con­fi­dence and clearly com­fort­able in front of the cam­era.

“For a long time, Lilli couldn’t fit her arms around me when she tried to cud­dle me,” Bern says. “Now, her arms go all the way around me and she can squish me. That makes it all worth­while.”

ABOVE: Bernadette tak­ing part in a fundrais­ing walk – walk­ing has be­come part of her daily rou­tine. LEFT: How far she has come.

“I be­came my own guinea pig,” Bernadette says of her diet plan, at home in her kitchen.

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