I'm in my 50s with a six pack and I've never looked better – here's how I got in the best shape of my life | The Sun

FOR many women, going through the menopause can take its toll on the body.

But for one woman, the beginning of “the change” signalled a remarkable spark of motivation that led to her getting in the best physical and mental shape of her life.

Cecilia Harris, 52 from Ingatestone, Essex, began experiencing symptoms of the perimenopause aged 49.

While at first the symptoms threatened to impact Cecilia in a negative way, the personal trainer was determined to take back control of her body, and used lifestyle changes to tackle menopause head on.

A change in exercise routine and diet helped Cecilia lose weight, gain muscle, and drastically transform her confidence, and now she’s helping other women do the same.

Cecilia, who trains celebrities including Frankie Bridge, Wayne Bridge, Ryan Thomas, Lucy Mecklenburgh, Susanna Reid and Kelly Hoppen and set up her own fitness app RWL, says: “When I turned 50, I didn’t see it as a milestone.

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“I was like, ‘Whatever, it’s just another age.’ “I know I am getting older, but it didn’t scare me.

“I think you always have choices in life, and with age you either embrace and work with it, or you fight it and get depressed about it.

“I fully embraced it and to be honest, it was a huge motivator for me.

“When you get older you need to take care of your body even more – and when I started doing that, my body started responding in the most positive way.”

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Cecilia, who had been a size 10 and regular exerciser in her 40s, admits that while she had a healthy figure, she had never had a very toned aesthetic.

She says: “In my 20s I was a junk food addict who did no exercise and I suffered with post natal depression and low mood after the birth of my son, Fabio, when I was 30.

“I was a size 16 and had no idea how to improve my mood and my life and I never considered it was partly down to my diet and lack of movement.

“Luckily, my husband Frank took the reins.

“He knew he needed to do something to help, so signed us both up to a local gym with a personal trainer who helped me fall in love with exercise.

“I couldn’t believe the difference exercise had on me, and with this new found, happier mindset, I was also able to embrace a healthier diet by giving up a lot of processed foods and moving on to more balanced meals.

“By my late 30s I was down to a size 12 and decided I wanted to help others by becoming a personal trainer, so I did.”

Cecilia began training clients from a small studio in Essex.

But despite her success training others, Cecilia admits she often let her own diet slide and as she approached her 50s and began to experience symptoms of the perimenopause, noticed the impact this was having on her mind and body

She says: “I was happy and enjoying life – and food and wine – but it wasn’t until early signs of the menopause began when I was 49, that I realised I needed to take my lifestyle more seriously.”

Cecilia admits an early experience with prescription drugs made her determined to fight the menopause with exercise and diet rather than doctor's visits.

She says: “When I started experiencing these hormonal changes in my late 40s it made me think back to other times in my life that I had struggled with my health.

“I had bad skin in my 20s and was prescribed a strong drug to ‘cure it’, which made me feel horrendous.

“I had postnatal depression after having my son Fabio when I was 30 and was prescribed Prozac as a first time mum. 

“This drug completely floored me and left me feeling like I didn’t know myself anymore.

“I’m sure that if I’d have come off the junk food diet in my 20s my acne would likely have cleared up.

“And instead of being given Prozac, if I was advised to move more and eat better, I know I’d have hugely improved my mental and physical health without medication – because that’s exactly what I ended up doing.

“I know circumstances and cases can be different, but I know that diet, exercise and lifestyle have been the key to unlocking my health problems.

“Conversations around HRT are really important, but so are conversations around moving more, changing your diet and prioritising your sleep hygiene.

“So when the start of the menopause hit me, I knew I needed to step things up again.”

Cecilia began researching the menopause, the hormonal changes she was experiencing and the research behind lifestyle change to help with the symptoms.

She says: “I already had a good knowledge of exercise and diet, but learning about what happens as we age and go through the menopause was a huge learning curve for me and I found it fascinating.

“The truth is, it doesn’t take huge changes to experience hugely positive outcomes for menopausal women.


“Here’s what my day-to-day lifestyle was like before I made the menopause changes:

“I’d get up and have a coffee straight away. I’d eat a breakfast of toast and I’d walk the dogs.

“I’d have another coffee, then start work. I’d have at least another coffee and a snack – usually a few biscuits – before lunch.

“Lunch would be a cheese sandwich with some fruit. And I’d snack again on crisps in the afternoon.

“Dinner was usually a home cooked meal like a lasagne or spaghetti Bolognese and a glass of wine.

“I’d fit in a workout about five times a week, so I was very active but my workouts would be cardio based. 

“So aerobics, HIIT or dance fit, anything that got my heart rate up.

“This worked for me and I was a happy size 10, but when I researched the menopause, I quickly realised things needed to change.”

Cecilia’s research helped her discover that metabolism slows as we age and the drop in oestrogen during the menopause causes a reduction in  bone and muscle mass.

She also learnt that certain foods can make symptoms worse, while others could significantly improve menopausal symptoms.

She says: “Processed foods are a big no, but I was surprised to learn that complex carbohydrates like white bread and pasta, could add to menopause symptoms, while caffeine and alcohol were also big thing to avoid.

“Instead I needed to be eating lean protein, lots of vegetables and whole grain foods.

“I started by cleaning up my diet.

“I swapped toast in the morning for an omelette, lunch would be salmon and fresh salad and dinner would be something like chicken, roast vegetables and brown rice.

“I still had coffee and the occasional glass of red wine, but I always made sure I stayed hydrated.”

Cecilia noticed an almost immediate change in how she felt and how she looked.

She says: “Within days of cleaning up my diet, I started to feel much more energised, less lethargic and my skin started to get its glow back.


“I lost a few pounds in body fat in the first few weeks and it spurred me on to make changes to other areas of my lifestyle too.”

Cecilia took a look at how she was training her body and realised that, although she was active day-to-day, she wasn’t stopping to consider what her ageing body needed in order to stay fit and healthy.

Cecilia says: “I was doing a lot of cardio, exercise that just used my body weight like aerobics, walking, dance fit, HIIT.

“Basically, I was working out like I was still in my 30s, without realising that I was now basically in my 50s.

“When you age, your muscle mass naturally decreases unless you work to keep it up.

“While I was keeping myself fit with cardio, I wasn’t working to strengthen my muscles and this was impacting my figure because I was losing muscle.

“The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn day-to-day, so I knew I needed to stop the cardio and start strength training – so that’s what I did.

“I didn’t go to the gym, I just used dumbbells at home and started lifting weights at least five times a week.

“Squats, lunges, bicep curls – I would work moves for every area of the body into each workout and over time I increased the weights I was using.

“I honestly saw results within the first week. 

“As I worked to gain muscle, my body fat started to drop and my body became leaner and stronger.

“I was working with my body to stop it from getting weaker, and fuelling it with the right foods to keep it healthy and it responded.

“In two months I had gone from a size 10 to a size 6 and I had visible abs and lean arms.

“I felt amazing and the best part was, I was enjoying every minute.”

Cecilia began sharing her journey on her instagram page @resultswithcecilia and gained tens of thousands of followers of women her age wanting to know her secret.

The menopause role model was so overwhelmed by the response that she created an entire section of her app RWL (resultswellnesslifestyle.com) to helping menopausal women find a diet and exercise plan specifically suited to them.

She says: “I called it ‘In Perfect Balance’ because I think that’s what changing your lifestyle in menopause can do, it can give you that balance back that helps you feel you again.

“Getting in the best shape of my life as I turned 50 gave me more confidence than any botox could ever give me.

“I don’t attach self-worth to the way my body looks, but I do feel proud of myself when I keep my body healthy and I reap the benefits of feeling energetic and sleeping well.

“I’m more body confident now, as a 52-year-old going through the menopause, than I've ever been in my life.

“If you would have told my 20-year-old self that I’d be posing in a bikini on instagram in front of thousands of people, I wouldn’t have ever believed you.

“I feel so in tune with myself, I'm in touch with my thoughts, my mind and I don't care about judgment.

“I spent my younger years fearing other people’s judgements of me, but I'm liberated from that now because I believe so much in myself and what I do that I don’t worry about what other people think.”


Using dumbbells – or tins of beans/bags of rice/bottles of water – work through these moves at home, or in the gym.

Perform 12 reps of each exercise and three sets on each move:

Front Raise

Stand with feet hip distance apart and hold one dumbbell with both hands down in front of you. 

From here lift the weight up to eye height with straight arms, then lower back to start position.

Glute Bridge

Start lying on your back with feet flat on the floor. 

Place a dumbbell or two on your pelvis and support it with your hands. 

Push into your heels and lift your bum off the ground, squeezing your glutes as you do. Then lower back down. Repeat

Kneeling Shoulder Press

In an upright kneeling position, hold a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder height.

Squeeze your core then push both weights up above your head.

Lower back down to shoulder height then repeat.

Side Lunge Bicep Curl

Start with feet hip distance apart, dumbbell in each hand, then lift the left foot and step it out wide to the left, bending the left knee and keeping the right leg straight. 

As you do this, curl the weights up in front of you.

From here, push off the left foot and bring yourself back to standing and lower the weights back down to your side.


Start standing with feet hip distance apart, a dumbbell in each hand by your side.

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Curl the weights up to shoulder height then bend at the knee and send your bum back and down.

When you reach the bottom of the squat, push into the heels and return to standing. Repeat.

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