My Little Duke


My weight, and me - Part 3

Dieting, Food, MotherhoodSteph DukeComment

Anyone who has been around these parts long enough will know that I wrote two blog posts (a very long time ago!) about my dieting journey from when I was 19, through to being pregnant at 27. You can read part one here and part two here.

I can’t apologise enough for leaving you hanging! I wrote those posts during a very different season of life – one where I had little or no time to blog. I’m going to attempt to do two things in this post; try and bring you up to speed with where I’m currently at, and give you an insight into those last few months of pregnancy along with my post-partum weight loss. I hope that’s ok?!

I left part 2 on a rather sombre note … and things just didn’t get any easier for me as the months progressed. I was extremely unhappy. I felt alienated from my own body and didn’t know who I was anymore. Matt was coming to terms (in his own way) with his soon-to-be fatherhood and we just didn’t talk about our issues. We had a rough few months that ultimately scarred my overview of my pregnancy with Phoebe. Unfortunately, I don’t look back fondly on that time … and it makes me really sad. I won’t give you the details, but I would be more than happy to chat through my experience 1-1 if it’s something you’d like to know more about.

6 months pregnant at my brother and sister-in-law's wedding

6 months pregnant at my brother and sister-in-law's wedding

As my due date approached, I was more than ready for the pregnancy to just be over. Writing these words absolutely breaks my heart. Pregnancy should be a time full of joy and hope, yet I battled continuously with feelings of insecurity and hopelessness in my mind, and feeling completely out of control of my body – I couldn’t cope with it. I was actually (believe it or not) physically unrecognisable by the end. A close family member didn’t even recognise me out shopping about a week before I gave birth - I had to affirm to them that it really was me! Plus, the endless stream of comments on how big my bump was and those sympathetic stares was enough to nearly put me over the edge. I hibernated at home for the last few months, only venturing out if I absolutely had to.

When labour finally came, it was like the sour cherry on top of a bad cake. (Except getting to meet my Phoebe - that was the most incredible moment of my whole life!) But, keeping with the context of this post -labour ... was horrendous. When I tried to document it, it turned into a 5 part series (!) – you can start to read it all here. I came out of labour stapled together and in more pain than I thought was ever possible. Post-c-section pain was crippling and my recovery was incredibly slow. Having had such a big belly, the weight of that over my scar was heavy, and always present. It took a few weeks for me to get anywhere near back on my feet.

Phoebe's first outing on Christmas Eve 2014 - still very swollen and sore.

Phoebe's first outing on Christmas Eve 2014 - still very swollen and sore.

Phoebe was born on December 16th and I was back at Weight Watchers the first week of January. (In hindsight, I know I should have given myself more time.) I didn’t weigh myself during pregnancy as I had allowed myself some time off the scales while trying to conceive: to alleviate some pressure I was putting on myself and give myself a break. Even before I found out I was pregnant I knew I had a little extra weight on. So as I stepped on those scales, I felt physically sick. I had 4 stone on. From that moment, sheer determination kicked in. Now, it was time to take back control. Pregnancy forced all control clean out of my hands and now … I would be taking it back, by force. This all reads very melodramatic, but it’s an accurate portrayal of my feelings in those moments. Fourth trimester hormones probably didn’t help matters either!

February 2015

February 2015

Our first Mother's Day together March 2015

Our first Mother's Day together March 2015

May 2015

May 2015

April 2016

April 2016

Summer 2016

Summer 2016

Summer 2017

Summer 2017

I breastfed Phoebe until she was almost 9 months old - looking back … I don’t know how my body produced enough milk for her. It was a hard few months as I was as stubborn about losing weight as I was about nourishing Phoebe, and there was a definite conflict of interest there! I followed the Filling and Healthy plan the whole time I breastfed as it encouraged wholesome food options that suited breastfeeding. I honestly don’t know how I stuck so rigidly to it. Phoebe was a good baby - that definitely helped. But, I was adamant. Any of you who have dieted successfully will know that you’ve got to just be ‘in the zone’ – wholly committed to the cause and implementing action daily. I was enjoying the control I had regained, both over my body and with food, and once I saw the fruits of my labour I was (once again) hooked.

In my previous posts I alluded to the dedication required to lose weight. It’s no easy feat – no matter what stage of life you are at. Yes, some times are easier than other times (age/weight dependent etc) but ultimately … it takes great self-control and sacrifice. It’s a well-worn path for me. Almost 10 years of calorie controlling can’t be good for a person! I know that my brain has now been wired to think a certain way when it comes to food. I also know that I have to re-wire some new pathways to renew and transform my thinking.

Thankfully (for me) I lost the 4 stone. I’m currently at a healthy weight, once again, for my height. I only had a wee shaky period when I went back to work full-time. I was stressed and under-eating as a result. If I couldn’t control the situation or workload – I was sure as hell going to control something! No hard guess that it was food. But now, from the outside, I probably look to be a healthy weight. Yet, on the inside, I have such a long way to go. I guess I’m writing this as both acknowledgement of how far I’ve come and a declaration that there’s still plenty of work to do in this area of my life. But also, as a virtual ‘me too’ to you reading - if any of this resonates with you.

I step on the scales almost every single morning.

Yes. I do.

It is absolutely not something I advocate.

It is habit.

Thankfully I don’t let the numbers on those scales dictate my mood like they used to. It just keeps me in ‘check’ if you like. I’ve still a long way to go! I’m a work in progress and I have a suspicion that I’m not alone in these thoughts/issues.

My faith and identity in God are huge factors in any progress I’ve made to date in my dieting journey. It is only with His strength and power that I can overcome and walk into complete freedom. I know it’s coming … and SOON. I’d love for you to be part of that overcoming (if you’d care to share your journey with me.) Can I also possibly recommend another blog for you to read? … my friend Zoe (@nest_and_gather) recently documented her own journey – you can read it here.

Just know this today ... you are never alone. Social media can make lives look all shiny and wonderful ... no-one knows what goes on behind closed doors. 

I live too close to Lidl!

I live too close to Lidl!

Let me finish by clarifying that all these yummy pastries you see me scoffing on my insta-stories – they usually mean I don’t eat lunch! Lots of you have asked me how I can consume such nice treats and stay ‘thin’ – truth be told, I’d almost always rather eat something sweet than have a proper meal. I’ve always been like that! NOT HEALTHY – I know! I’m working on that too! I also have a really poor diet and that needs to change. 

I’d really love to hear your thoughts and experiences in this area. It’s something I’ve struggled with for such a long time now and can empathise entirely with you. As a mum too, I am so conscious of what I do and say around Phoebe. If I ever thought that she would feel some of the feelings I have felt about my body – I’d never forgive myself. I want to role model a healthy and happy attitude to food, not a constrained or cautious one. Our society and social media will do enough damage to our young girls and women  - I never want to add fuel to that fire. My prayer is that I can learn to swim upstream, go against the grain and find my value and worth in Him, not in a number. 

NYC February 2018

NYC February 2018

Bless you my lovelies,

Steph xo

Wee Skinny Buns!

Food, Motherhood, DietingSteph DukeComment

Wee Skinny Buns!



I can take no credit for these little beauties … thank you Weight Watchers for providing the perfect little mid-morning or late-afternoon snack. They are so simply ‘lagom’ – just the right amount to satisfy. Not too little, not too much. Just right. And get this, they are so super simple to make AND healthy too (well, sort of!) This is my slightly varied version of these yummy muffins. Great for the whole family and still taste as good from frozen. Just be sure to freeze them on the day you make them. 


Makes 12

Takes 10 mins to prepare

20 (ish) mins to cook

170 (ish) cals per serving

Suitable for freezing (Hurrah!)



low fat cooking spray

225g (8 oz) self – raising flour

1 teaspoon bicarb

a pinch of salt

25g (1 oz) porridge oats

100g (3 ½ oz) caster sugar

3 tablespoons sunflower oil

175g (6 oz) low fat natural yoghurt

6 tablespoons skimmed milk

1 egg, beaten

100g (3 ½ oz) raspberries, fresh or frozen


1 ripe banana, mashed (this is my substitute for the weight watchers recipe suggestion of 150g apple sauce)




1.     Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 6/200 degrees Celsius/fan oven 180. Lightly grease a non stick 12 hole muffin tin with the cooking spray or simply use 12 paper cases and place in the holes in the tin. I use reusable silicone muffin trays, without cases, as the buns come out really easily with the cooking spray.

2.     Sift the flour, bicarb and salt into a mixing bowl. Reserve 1 tablespoon of oats for the muffin tops, then stir the remaining oats and sugar into the flour.

3.     In a separate bowl, mix the mashed banana, oil, yoghurt, milk and beaten egg together, then stir this wet mixture into the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined but still slightly lumpy. Stir in the raspberries, then spoon into the muffin tins, dividing the mixture evenly to make 12 muffins. Scatter with the reserved oats and bake in the oven for 20 mins until risen, firm and golden brown. My oven is fan assisted and I usually bake mine for about 25 mins.

4.     Cool on a wire rack and ENJOY (especially a wee sneaky one straight from the oven!)


… Frozen berries can be stirred straight into the batter; there’s no need to defrost them first. I have only ever used frozen rasps!


My weight, and me - Part 2

DietingSteph Duke1 Comment

In the initial few months of pregnancy I struggled to cope with what was happening to my body. One minute I’d be feeling just fine and the next I’d be gagging and reaching for the food cupboard. It was an endless cycle; a rollercoaster of emotions that eventually began to take its toll. I so desperately wanted to take back control of my eating, but I was only just managing to survive the onslaught of wave after wave of nausea. It would surge from my stomach, right up to my throat and every single time I would rush to the nearest loo, utterly convinced that I would vomit – but the release never came. Not once did I ever puke during my pregnancy. Boy, did I want to at times though! Instead of vomiting – I ate. Eating was the only way I could endure that awful nauseating feeing. I never really wanted to eat. I was never actually hungry enough to eat. I was only eating to try and reduce the nausea. The more I ate, the more I physically felt better. However, the more I ate, the more I mentally felt worse. Pregnancy was becoming a battle – a fight between my physical body and my mental state.

As the weeks turned into months, I inevitably began to get bigger. I had gained a noticeable bump by around 8 weeks. Every time I went out I was terrified of meeting anyone I knew – I couldn’t bear the thought of people thinking I’d 'let myself go' and started putting on weight. I hate myself even writing that! How completely stupid! But, I have to be honest with you … this is exactly how I felt. If I’d met someone, I would have immediately wanted to tell them ‘I’m pregnant!’ just so they would know I had a reason for the belly! I was actually glad that my belly continued to grow, then, at least it was obvious that I was pregnant. Unfortunately, my belly continued to grow, and grow, and grow until I thought that there was NO WAY it could grow any more. Yet, it did!

As Summer 2014 approached I began to panic; I had several weddings to attend and absolutely nothing to wear! The first wedding was of an old school friend. I was around 3 months pregnant and none of my dresses fitted. On the morning of the wedding, (YES I KNOW!!) I arrived at my local Next store at 9am (hoping and praying) to find something (anything!) to wear. I lifted anything that vaguely looked like wedding attire and tore into the changing rooms. Several dresses just didn’t hang right and made me look more ‘fat’ than ‘pregnant.’ I never really realised just how complicated dressing a body with a bump would be. It’s a tricky business! I pulled on a stretchy, lace, backless navy dress, looked in the mirror and thought ‘that’ll do.’ I wasn’t bulging in the 'wrong' places yet so it skimmed over my curves without being tight. It was a ‘dressy’ dress and teamed with my own neutral sandals and navy fascinator, I was sorted. I drove like a maniac to my mums to get the seal of approval and felt good in my body for the first time in weeks.

The weather grew warmer and I continued to swell. My wedding and engagement rings seemed to be getting tighter by the minute and I couldn’t bear not wearing them at the remaining weddings. It got to a stage when I simply HAD to take off my engagement ring – otherwise I wouldn’t have got it off at all. My next wedding was a scorching day in July. I decided to get the use out of my lucky navy Next dress and spent the day sweating the bit out in it! The lace was comfy yes, but talk about trapping the heat … I don’t think I have EVER sweated so much in my whole life! Because the wedding coincided with our wedding anniversary, my hubby and I stayed the night at the reception venue. For those who have never been, Ballymagarvey Village is gorgeous. Having a room close by was a God-send that day; I could nip in and out to the toilet when I needed, whip off the dress for 10 minutes to air myself and take a wee sneaky lie down to re-coup. I was glad to survive the day and thankfully the next wedding wasn't until September.

In July we jetted off on a beautiful Baby-moon to Sicily and enjoyed a wonderful weeks holiday together. We lazed by the pool, explored the cobbled streets of the quaint and quirky nearby towns and ate way too many custard filled pastries! There was something so special about that holiday, something I can't quite put into words. There was just a sense that things would never be quite the same again. Never again would it just be us two. We savoured each quiet moment - relishing our last holiday of freedom and flexibility. I was 4 months pregnant on our Sicily adventure and looked 'obviously' pregnant so felt mostly ok with that. I certainly didn't have my size 8 'bikini bod' though and I couldn't help but sneakily glance at 'perfect' women on the beach and feel a sting of jealousy.  Terrible. Just terrible. I should have been thankful I was pregnant. I didn't know who may have been looking at me - wishing, hoping and praying that they could experience pregnancy. How could I be so selfish? The battle in my mind raged on as I struggled to focus on the blessing of pregnancy and not my diminishing self esteem. 

As July turned to August, I felt like I was turning into a beached whale. I was feeling continually more unattractive and hideous, and the tension was beginning to strain my relationship with my husband Matt. He was doing nothing wrong. Neither was I, I think? It's just ... we sort of didn't really talk. I was having major mental issues and I never felt I could share them with Matt, partly because I guess I felt stupid. I was the one who wanted to get pregnant so what right did I have to complain about my body? I put myself in this position so surely I had to deal with the consequences? In hindsight, of course I should have communicated my issues. That's what marriage is all about! I just felt like a complete failure during pregnancy and always felt like I was moaning about endless things that were wrong with me to him. From high blood pressure, to swollen feet to aches and pains ... I couldn't add just feeling unattractive? Surely that was obvious to him? But I don't think it was. Like a lot of Daddy's-to-be, he was having his own struggles...



My weight, and me.

Motherhood, DietingSteph DukeComment

Every single day, I wake up and the first thing I do is venture tentatively into my bathroom and step on the scales.  I don’t like to admit this, but more often than not, what that little square box on the floor reads, determines so much about that day. If the numbers are good, I’m good. And the opposite, unfortunately, is true.

I am not naturally thin. Growing up, as far as I was concerned, I was always the taller friend. The bigger friend. The uglier friend. Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t unhappy … I was just … well … me. What people liked about me was my personality; I’d like to think that I was (and still am) funny, positive and caring. I’m certainly not a negative person. I’m optimistic and open to challenge and opportunity. However, there did come a moment … a truly life changing moment, when I took charge over my eating habits and began to change my body, inside and out.

I have to give credit to Weight Watchers (I know there will be plenty of critics out there!) but it worked for me. From that very first meeting, I was a changed person. I have NEVER looked at food (or my body) in the same way since. For the most part, that has been a very positive experience, but even to this day, I have daily struggles in my relationship with food. Weight Watchers taught me to take control of my eating habits and at that time I followed an intensive POINTS system. I had a POINTS allowance for each day and boy did I stick to it. In fact, too often I challenged myself to eat below the allowance, and when I managed to do that, I won a mental battle with my mind and my body. Those days (to me) were good days. If I exceeded my allowance, the guilt engulfed me like a heavy wave, ready to suck me under.

Like any diet, real lasting success only occurs from sheer grit and determination. It is absolutely fair to say that I became O.B.S.E.S.S.E.D. I thought I had all the power and control, but little did I know that food had complete control of me. Mentally and physically, I was enslaved. Honestly, parts of me are still under the cunning control of food. When diet alone began to slow my weight loss progress, I began to exercise. At one stage I was running several times a week, then using home fitness DVDs and core exercises after my run. Nothing was enough. I always felt I needed to do more and eat less. I cannot deny that I felt great. I really did. As the pounds dropped off, my confidence soared. This was the first time in my life I felt good about my body and comfortable in my skin.

I worked in Topshop at the time and during my Weight Watchers journey, I managed to make my way from size 14/16 clothes into size 6/8. I was proud and rightly so! Losing weight (no matter what anyone says) is HARD WORK. It requires dedication to the cause, major motivation and unwavering self-control. I tracked and recorded every single thing that I put into my mouth and saw the benefits on the scales each week. It got to a stage were my Weight Watchers leader warned me to slow down. She knew that I was getting dangerously close to being underweight for my height and sternly advised me to learn how to maintain my new weight and to stop shedding the pounds. Any of you who have lost weight will know that it’s equally hard to find the balance of stopping weight loss and maintaining weight, and it was only when I was at a very low weight, that my weight loss eventually slowed and stopped altogether. At my thinnest I had lost 3 stone.

Personally, I found maintaining my weight more of a daily struggle than losing it. No matter what I ate, I was always weighing up the pros and cons in my mind and deliberating what I should eat later in the day, depending on whether the morning had been good or bad. To this day, I still constantly think about what I eat and if one day is a bit bad, the next day will undoubtedly be good. I still exercise, but thankfully it's now for enjoyment and stress-release, rather than to solely lose more weight! I am currently at a very healthy weight for my body – but that doesn’t stop my addiction of weighing myself every day and constantly watching what I eat.

So where does this link in with me being a mummy? I felt you needed to know where I was coming from before I document my journey with weight through pregnancy. My struggles with my body during pregnancy derived solely from my past experience with dieting and it was no wonder I had issues…

Since getting married, I put on about a stone. It was a healthy weight for me and I found it easy enough to maintain. 3 years in, when my husband and I were trying for a baby I vowed to look after my body and eat well. I drank whole milk instead of skimmed, cut out alcohol and cut back on the amount of time I spent at the gym. So when I did find out I was pregnant, I wholly endeavored to give my body a break and try and enjoy the experience – no pressure. Ha! I can laugh at myself now. No pressure. NO PRESSURE?!!! During my pregnancy, I never felt MORE pressure about my weight and how my body looked. And what made it worse was that I had NO CONTROL over what was happening to me. For someone who had spent the best part of the previous 10 years CONTROLLING her eating and weight, I was now forced to listen to this new and rapidly changing, SWELLING body! A body in which I felt trapped.

                                                                                                                                    Just 4 weeks pregnant!


                                                                 Just 4 weeks pregnant!

Please, please don’t get me wrong here. I was and AM unbelievably grateful to have been able to get pregnant and deliver a healthy, happy baby. My darling Phoebe is a blessing from God and I am thankful for her and for the experience of being pregnant. Despite this, and I never forgot it during pregnancy, I guess I just got overwhelmed by all the crazy, flipping HORMONES raging a riot round my body. I was a complete mess. That is not an understatement. It seemed like from the moment that faint little line appeared on that purple pee stick, someone took a bicycle pump, stuck it into me and began to pump me up. Instantly, my face, hands and feet began to swell. I had to tell my co-workers I was pregnant really early as I began to show in my work clothes and felt nauseated for a good part of the day, every day during the first trimester.

My body began to change rapidly before my eyes and I knew I was quickly losing control. I constantly felt nauseated and the only thing that eased it (ironically of course!) was eating. And it didn’t matter what. When the feeling came over me, I had to move fast … and eat! I distinctly remember one day coming home from school and my husband was standing making the tea. Suddenly the nausea came and I searched frantically for some sort of snack to eat. On this occasion the only thing I could seem to find was baked beans. I cracked open the lid and just as I dunked in my spoon, my poor husband exclaimed, ‘the tea is literally 10 minutes away Steph! What are you doing?!’ Most of you mummies and mums-to-be reading will totally relate to my response, ‘YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND!’ I wailed and shoved the whole spoonful into my mouth – followed by the rest of the tin. And yes … they were cold! (Another thing my husband just can’t understand!!)


I can only apologise at this point, because it seems that this blog post is going the same way as my Labour Blog, sorry … 5 part SERIES!! Stay tuned for more on my inability to cope as my body grew bigger, a heartbreaking but important few months with my husband and a post-partum body shock! 

                                                                               10 weeks preggers!

                                                                               10 weeks preggers!