When I started my health and fitness journey 18 months ago I had just finished my Masters and had noticed a few anxiety spats had started to creep back into my life. I saw exercise as a way to burn off what I ate and would eat the classic ‘girl on a diet’ food (soups, soups, soups). I’d categorise foods as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ and every slice of pizza was served with a side of guilt. My boyfriend (now husband) weight trained and always tried to get me into it, but I was convinced that it would make me bulky and that I knew best.
Fast forward to the picture on the right after consistently following a structured weight training program and eating a healthy balanced diet (and only weighing 5kg less). I’ve removed the labelling of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods and educated myself on what nutrients my body needs to perform at its best. I eat pizza, I lift weights, I walk, I squat, I eat nutrient dense foods - I train for enjoyment not for punishment. Over the last 12 months I’ve lifted more weight and eaten more food than I ever thought imaginable. Everything I thought I knew about losing weight, getting ‘in shape’ and living a healthy happy life quite frankly couldn’t have been more wrong. Whilst you can see the body fat lost, you can’t see the mental strength gained. The girl on the left is hiding her face, unhappy with an anxious relationship with food. The girl on the right is smiling, happy, confident and healthy. That’s the biggest transformation for me. That’s what I’m most proud of.
There are millions of these tip lists online, some from trained practitioners, others just from personal experience like mine below. Whilst I wholeheartedly believe in sourcing sound nutritional and physical advice from qualified practitioners, I do feel there’s value in sharing advice through experience - as long as it’s clear that’s the case. So I’d like to share the top 10 things I’ve learned so far:
- There is no quick fix, it takes time and progress can be slow. Sometimes I would go weeks without noticing any real difference aesthetically, but would notice huge mental leaps.
- Don’t think as progress as purely an aesthetic benchmark - there is so much more progress to be made in your mental state and wellbeing, all of which you can’t see from the outside.
- The scales and what size your jeans are, are not a measurable form of progress and only fuel negative relationships with your body image. Focus on strength, over the scales.
- An aspiration to look like someone else sets yourself up for failure from the get go. We are all different shapes and sizes and there is no right or wrong. It’s easy to follow someone on Instagram and think you want to look like them, but what does that really mean? A healthy body type doesn’t have just one shape or size, it can be any.
- There’s no such thing as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ foods - there are foods which are denser in nutrients and which reward your body in different ways. There’s no quick fix that’s going to give you abs - and equally having a slice of pizza isn’t going to hanker that.
- When it comes to picking a weight, choose form over ego every time. It’s so tempting to see what others are lifting and try to match it, compromising your form big time along the way. Learning to sacrifice my ego rather than my form was a big learning curve.
- I know this one gets said a lot, but consistency really is key. You can’t undo steady progress in one weekend. It takes time to make the progress so it equally takes time to undo it. Approaching it as a healthy balance means nights out, weekends away and holidays aren’t really a worry point anymore.
- Find a lifestyle that satisfies and challenges you in equal measure, otherwise you’ll always ‘want more’. A lot of the industry is geared around ‘wanting’ - wanting a flatter stomach, more toned legs and so on. Reaching a mental state where you’re challenged but satisfied is half the battle to success.
- It takes time to repair an unhealthy relationship with food. This was one of the hardest parts to swallow (excuse the pun) as I felt like I was doing all of the right things but not necessarily getting anywhere. It was only when I addressed and began repairing my emotional relationship with the food I eat, and why I ate it, that I began to make progress.
- Finally, your motivation to change your lifestyle needs to run deeper than an aesthetic goal. Looking a certain way won’t make you happy, reaching a place of happy, healthy balance both mentally and physically is a much bigger step in a positive direction.
If you're following me on Instagram you'll see I post openly about my health and fitness journey on a regular basis. My aim of bombarding you with 10 million pictures of my abs, is not to show off but merely to be open and honest about my experience. What drives my confidence to be open and share my experience is the hope it might inspire others to find a healthier, happier balance - both physically and mentally.