Updated: Jan 8
Day 8 into January 2020. How are you feeling? I had been feeling a bit blue, a bit run down and overall, a little unmotivated. (Probably also not what you were expecting me to open with eh?)
I got hit by a cold and a cough and before I got better, I got a second one! Christmas and New Year was still wonderful spending time with family and friends - but the discomfort of being unwell did put a dampener on it. As I sit here writing and recovering, I am reminded of the importance of health and how it can make or break an experience.
Let's get to the point of this blog - as you can see from the photo above, I've lost a significant amount of weight in my own personal experience (those fetching pair of hiking trousers featured above was from a 2013 purchase, and although at the time they were a little loose on me, they fit me well enough to wear hiking! ) but this is not a diet pill, a skinny tea or a HIIT workout app advert - in fact, it's the very opposite.
When I was heavier, the biggest thing I was dissatisfied with was my health and feeling as though I wasn't utilizing my supposedly 'peak body' years.
I went through constant mental cycles of "well I like food and I'm not going to be around be around forever so I'm going to enjoy my food! I don't want to live my life on a diet and I'm much more than how my body looks anyway" to "I'm such a failure why do I do this? I feel so bad about myself I bet no one else has these issues! This is so embarrassing I don't have any self control!"
Over the years, I realized it was VERY possible to enjoy food, social lifestyle, being active and most importantly, ENJOY balancing all of these! Here are some of the things I learnt which changed my chronic yo-yo dieting to actually having fun working out and maintaining a that lifestyle. A lifestyle which doesn't feel like effort or restrictive.
For me, it all boiled down to ONE thing - my focus on WHY I was exercising and eating shifted.
In the past - exercise was a necessary evil to ensure I lost weight. It was boring, it was time consuming and it was difficult so quite frankly there was a million things I would've preferred to have done than exercise. There where a series of focus shifts which I'll share with you below.
1. Moving away from overall general movement to personal interest specific mini (non-weight loss based) challenges.
The first shift occurred when I had a couple of weeks spare in Zanzibar (long story) and I had always capped my running at 5km since I had no interest in seeing if I could go further. With an afternoon to kill, I wondered if I didn't stop at 5km, if I could go further. I did. In fact I doubled it and I did it easily! And I felt amazing. Mentally and physically - it was a lightbulb moment. From then, I began to look for more challenges and achievements. It could be a time vs distance benchmark. Or it could be mastering a certain a movement / reps / weight in the gym or becoming strong enough for a certain Yoga Asana.
2. Understanding the why and how movement affects my body and what that means for me.
I experienced painful trapped nerves and after reading up on it, I began to strengthen my back and felt a big improvement. I became much more interested in why exercises have the effects they do on our bodies and why the are good for us. Which meant - when I do these exercises, my thoughts would go back to how my well-being will improve and that the results were for me.
When I look after myself - I am ultimately the one who will benefit and reap the rewards in my body which functions better.
3. Understanding the why and how what I eat and drink affects my body and what that means for me.
I began to take an interest not about how many calories a food item has, but what nutrients it holds and what does that translate into for our body. Whilst I am still not a scientific expert, I am much more aware of why and what I eat. (I mean please don't forget - you do NOT have to be a scientist or a nutritional expert to consume food! )
I've found myself thinking more in terms of "what nutrients does my body need right now and where can I get that from?"
HOWEVER - I think this has also been important for me, I am not a purist. Sure - when I'm having a nice time at a meal I'll want a drink or two, if my period is due and I want whatever I want, I'll have it. I feel strongly, that unless you have a lifestlye which demands strict regimes (say - an Olympic athlete?!) the rest of us mere mortals only need to make sure we are living a balanced lifestyle without the need to punish ourselves for having a glass of wine (or two!) In the past whenever I had told myself 'right! (with a slap on the knee) No more chocolate / crisps / cakes! They are BAD for you!" I of course instantly think 'I REALLY WANT CAKE!". Once I removed the idea that there were 'good' and 'bad' foods - I didn't feel guilt or shame about having it as a treat.
I started to see food, exercise and most importantly - my body and mind - as a friend, an ally and I owned the rights to looking after it so that it can carry on performing these miracles it does every single day.
We all own a machine - it moves us from A-B. It breaks down food, it pumps blood around delivering oxygen, it fights germs we can't even see which I think is simply amazing.
I found when I relied on an upcoming holiday, event or sheer willpower to look after my weight, I failed repeatedly. That also included using celebrity images as 'goals' and an over idealistic lifestyle / expectation that weight loss = happiness.
Simply put, because they are not persuasive enough long term, and unlike the weight loss claims of the skinny-detox-miracle-shake-tea-pill adverts I say repairing the body and mind from previous trauma takes time. Changing your mindset takes time. Ingraining habits and adjusting lifestyles...yep. It takes time. Whilst an extreme restrictive diet etc may well create a fast result, you can bet your bottom dollar you will experience at least one or more of these -
a) Be unable to maintain that lifestyle
b) Get bored of a restrictive diet plan and feel unhappy / hungry / unsatisfied / FOMO
c) Start to feel rubbish from loss of nutrients (bloating? Tiredness? Bad skin, breath hair falling out and so on. Just think about all the bunged up people on the Atkins! No thanks! )
d) Find result plateau - compliments thin out - inclination to continue waivers
e) End up putting on more weight than you lost.
f) The worst one IMO - harbour harmful negative thoughts about yourself and your body
MOST of all - you will likely have learnt nothing from that process to work towards a healthier life.
In fact, in my experience it tends to do the opposite. You associate the weight loss product with being successful in helping you lose the initial weight and will then forever believe that, or another product holds the key to weight loss increasing your reliance on them.
So to readdress the title to make it crystal clear - the secret(s) - is playing the long game - focusing on 'health' not 'weight' and understanding more about what and why. Think about it. We are being sold products purely because 'leading industry experts' are telling us it works. They have dedicated all the time, money and research in order to cut all these corners for just for us lucky people(!)
When we begin to understand our own bodies and it's needs to create a better relationship between food, health, body and mind, we won't need them anymore, and they don't want that. We all want fast results but you will end up setting yourself back if you don't make the time for the truly important things -
"If you do not make time for your wellness,
you will be forced to make time for your illness."
Capitalizing on our reliance on them to find solutions to problems we create, we become slaves to their marketing spiel.
That's why this year - I propose that you don't just get 'healthy' you get 'educated'.
Once you begin to respect all the things our body and mind work together to do,
the changes you have been hoping for in your life will really begin. Your priorities change, your energy and mood changes. Your motivations, your enjoyment of things in and outside of work changes. The best part of all this, is that it's not a painful temporary evil. It's a gratifying process.
If you are ready for all of the above, I'm excited for you. There's tons of information out there and it can be overwhelming, but I've designed a 6 week beginner yoga and nutritional advice course for you to get you started and I want to share it with you. (I'll be writing a bit more about the benefits of Yoga and how it helped me soon.) You just need to let me know when you are ready to WANT to make that change. It will be a public class of no more than 15 people consisting of 60 minutes yoga and 30 minute nutritional advice. Knowing where to get the help but not acting upon it does no good for us. In fact - I would argue it's damaging. We load on guilt of 'I should... one day.... I know but...' instead of making the step. Everyday we delay it & see no instant repercussions of our inaction further embeds the idea that it's okay to do nothing.
Wouldn't it be painful to find one day that you have said this to yourself for so long that you have already missed some of the best opportunities?
So let's work on this together - I want to show you how I did it without the fancy talk and unachievable budgets.
Mary - MY City Yoga