Something monumental has happened in the last few weeks, but I think I need to whisper it for fear of bursting the bubble……come closer……. I think I might have rediscovered my running mojo!
Those of you who’ve been reading my blog for a while may remember me talking about my, errrrm, complicated relationship with running in the past (feel free to check out the posts here and here) but I’ve been attempting to up my exercise game recently, mainly because I haven’t been feeling as though I’m the best version of me at the moment, and I am ready for change!
I’ve been relying on my daily walking as my only source of exercise and I’ve realised that it just isn’t enough any more. I’ve dabbled with some Barre3 (which is actually really great, and boy, can you feel it working your muscles) and a little bit of kettle bell action, but I never really felt fired up enough to turn either of them into a regular, committed practice.
Then a couple of weeks ago, I suddenly started feeling really anxious. While “putting myself out there” with the blog is ridiculously exciting, it can also leave me feeling a bit vulnerable, and last week I allowed the demons to get in and take over. You know all of that “ditch the inner bitch” stuff I bang on about? Well, I’m usually pretty good at it, but last week must have been my regular skinny bitch’s week off, because it wasn’t her tormenting me about the size of my bingo wings. Oh no, no no!! It was a new kid on the block who sounded exactly like the most heinous type of school bully. You know the one…..”you’re so stupid”, “you aren’t cool enough”, “you can’t be in our gang – you’ll ruin our cred!” Try as I might, I was finding it unbelievably difficult to bounce back from the internal insults, and I knew that I was going to have to try something different to pull myself out of the hole.
So I asked myself what advice I might give to a friend or client going through a similar experience. Perhaps not so surprisingly, the first pearl of wisdom that sprung to mind was EXERCISE. Now in the past I’ve been guilty of procrastinating my way out of exercise, so I decided to act immediately. As soon as the thought popped into my head, on went the trainers and I headed out to my office in the garden where my dreadmill treadmill sits. I didn’t have any plan, aim or goal, I just knew that I needed to work up a bit of a sweat. I also decided that rather than listening to my default loud music (as I usually do when I exercise), I would instead listen to something I could get more absorbed in. I checked my podcast list and found that I had an un-listened to episode of Laura Thomas’ Don’t Salt My Game, where she was talking to Chloe Brotheridge about her best selling book The Anxiety Solution. Now if that wasn’t the universe sending me a sign, I’m not sure what it was!
After doing a bit of brisk walking for 5 minutes, something really odd thing happened……..I suddenly decided to crank up the speed and have a go at jogging. And do you know what? It felt REALLY BLOODY GOOD! When I’ve jogged in the past, even when I was doing 5k regularly, the physical effort of it was so intense that I actually despised every step. But not last week! Even though I could feel that my body was working hard, I felt as though it was flowing far more naturally than any of my other attempts have done. It was nothing short of a revelation!
But the best bit? I couldn’t quite believe the amazing affect that it had on my mood. I know that the scientific research behind endorphins and physical exercise is well reported, and my best friend swears that exercise is the best anti-depressant, but from a personal point of view, I was very aware of how the act of pushing my body managed to get me out of my head for a while. Instead of continuing to get myself lost under a pile of negative thoughts, jogging made me really focus on the brilliant work my body can do. It also made me realise that I am actually a lot fitter than I give myself credit for (HAES anyone?!) and that in itself gave me a bit of a buzz for the rest of the day. In fact, the buzz was so good, that I decided to make it a regular part of my routine and since that day I have made time to hit the treadmill (and even to follow it with a cheeky bit of yoga) 3 times a week.
One of the things I‘ve realised is that my number one concern is no longer about losing weight, or running a particular distance in a certain amount of time. Instead my aim now is to make myself feel good. I’ve realised that connecting back to my body is a really important thing for me to do and that I definitely need periods of time where I am able to get out of my head and into my body.
So am I going to keep it up? Well, all I’ll say at the minute, is that I am actually looking forward to my next session….. in fact, I might even go so far as to say that I’m excited about it.
Now who’d ever have thought that was a possibility?!
I’ve just read a crazy statistic – the average person will spend nearly two hours on social media every day, which translates to a total of 5 years and 4 months spent over a lifetime. And that’s just the average, so it’s safe to assume that *some* of us are spending a lot more time on-line than that.
I’m as guilty as the next person, and absentmindedly picking up my phone and indulging in a little PS (Pointless Scrolling) happens more times during the day than I’d care to admit. But, like it or not, it’s where a lot of life happens these days, right? And it’s certainly not showing signs of disappearing any time soon.
Now while I’m not saying that it’s OK to opt out of Real Life in favour of the wonderful, shiny world of Instagram and Facebook, I am suggesting that if you indulge in more than a bit of social media, then it can be a great way to enable you to build a virtual community that supports and helps you to become more body positive than the mainstream media would have you believe is possible.
One of my on-line faves, Lucy Sheridan (see below) suggests that when trapped in the compare and despair cycle that we all fall into every now and then (and which is often perpetuated by all of those very carefully curated social media feeds), it is sensible to treat your social media as you would a guest list for a house party: don’t follow anyone who you wouldn’t be happy to have dancing on your dining room table at 1am!
I love this analogy, and realised quite some time ago, that there is great power in curating an inspirational and positive social media party. If following a certain person is triggering you into feeling crap about yourself, go ahead and unfollow them. It’s really no big deal. I mean, why spend your days getting wound up, or even worse, filled with self doubt, just because of the “stuff” that that certain person constantly posts? Remember this is your party, so feel free to “remove” the drunken bum with the offensive views!
I’d take this one step further, and alongside deleting those who drain you, I’d also suggest that it’s well worth while actively searching for accounts that are going to lift you up and make you feel fabulous when their words of wisdom or inspirational images pop up on your time line.
So in that vein, I thought I’d use this blog post to share with you some of the people who make me feel great when my finger hovers over that Instagram button once or twice (ahem!) a day:
@bodyposipanda – after a hard fought battle with anorexia, Megan Crabbe has now dedicated her life to promoting body positivity and body love across the globe and is just poised to publish her first book on the subject. She is a positive ray of sunshine and I love seeing her gorgeous belly roll pictures posted with such confidence and happiness.
@louisegreen-bigfitgirl – Louise smashes the old stereotype that big women can’t be fit and she is striving to “create a world where every ‘body’ can realise their athletic potential, regardless of her size.” In her own words she is a “plus size trainer and athlete” and is another who has recently published a book which is next up on my ‘to read’ pile – “Big Fit Girl”.
@carolinehirons – Nothing to do with the bo-po community, but Caroline is THE skin care blogger to turn to if you have any skin issues or queries about new products. She is the font of all skin care knowledge…… And the added bonus is that her instagram stories are often very funny.
@donthatetheshake – a fabulous feed filled with videos of followers dancing with their wobbly bits well and truly on show! Just the summary itself is wonderful: “dedicated to the ever amazing #DontHateTheShake videos. 100%Body Positive. No bullying. Safe Place for all!” Contributors with belly rolls are very much encouraged to get them out in the name of joyful dancing and I love it (but haven’t submitted a vid myself……….yet!)
@bodyimagemovement – for those of you who watched the wonderful Embrace, you’ll be very familiar with the founder of Body Image Movement – Taryn Brumfitt, the lady behind the movie. This is a feed which documents many aspects of Taryn’s life, including her global travels to publicise Embrace and her amazing, dancing quest to be invited as a guest onto the Ellen show!
@deliciouslyella – OK, OK, I know that the whole “clean” eating thing is pretty hackneyed now, but there are no two ways about it, I love Deliciously Ella’s food and am often inspired to try new recipes thanks to her Insta page.
@lucysheridan– As mentioned above, Lucy is one of my faves! She is a crazily successful coach (the Comparison Coach), public speaker, and one half of the duo behind the book “Higher Selfie”. As well as having an incredibly beautiful feed, Lucy often hops on to Facebook and Instagram live to share her words of wisdom. I don’t know how she manages it, but she always makes me feel as though I’m listening to sage advice from one of my closest friends. She has a gorgeous, warm manner and always has something encouraging or inspirational to share.
@eatingpsychology – this page very much appeals to the health coach geek within me! While I trained with Institute of Integrative Nutrition (IIN) I have long since had my eye on following up my initial training with a course from The Institute for the Psychology of Eating. I need to earn quite a bit of cash before that becomes a reality (!), so until that point, I will continue to enjoy the free, little nuggets of wisdom that they post on their page.
@fullerfigurefullerbust – the gorgeous Georgina is a plus size model who proves without a shadow of a doubt that larger ladies can 100% be as sexy as hell! As well as posting amazing shots of herself in swimwear and underwear, she also posts videos of her training like a boss and is now contemplating becoming a plus size fitness instructor (which I think would be amazing) so I am extra keen to follow her journey.
@allisonkimmey – Allison calls herself a “Global Self Love Expert” and her wonderful tag line is “Just Do You!” She is another coach who strives to help women believe that diets and self loathing are not the path to a healthy or happy life and she posts frequent swimwear shots of herself in a bid to normalise a larger, post 30, post baby, body – Hallelujah!!!
@happilicious.co.uk – obvs! 😉
I’d love to know if any of this rings true with you. Do you find yourself seething every time a particular face pops up on your news feed? Or have you had any experience of culling your friends list in a bid to improve your self esteem? Why not pop on over to the (closed) Happilicious Living Facebook group to share your views, or drop me an email if there are any other wonderfully inspirational women who you think I should know about.
Last month, Ben and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary and as an inevitable (and slightly cheesy!) part of the anniversary celebrations, the wedding photo album came out and I hate to say it, but looking through them left me feeling a bit sad.
Let me give you a bit of background…….In typical “me” fashion, just 3 months before our wedding, I was a size 18/20. However, I was so unhappy with my size at the time (no surprises there then!) and I was so convinced I’d be able to lose a lot of weight very quickly (oh yes, that old gem!), that I went ahead and bought myself a size 14 dress (yup – mental!!!), and dived head first, all guns blazing into my second bout of Lighter Life.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the diet, it is a complete meal replacement programme, where you are limited to a strict 500 kcals a day in order for your body to enter a state of ketosis. If you stick to it, it really does work, in terms of the weight coming off quickly but I can tell you from bitter experience that it also makes life pretty bloody unbearable!
The sad fact is, when I think back to the run up to my wedding, the main thing I remember is hunger and an ever deepening obsession with the scales ! How tragic is that? I don’t really remember the excitement of planning, or the romance or the attachment to the finer details of the day…… I just remember the constant mental and physical torture of not being able to eat ANY food or drink anything other than water for 3 whole months!
Having said that, in the spirit of getting a job done and being the sort of person that doesn’t easily quit, I stuck at it and I made damn sure that I got down to the size 14 and fitted into my dress in time for the big day. But do you know what? I still wasn’t content with how I looked at all. I remained utterly convinced that I was huge and repulsive. I clearly remember sitting in my classroom after school one day, about a week before the wedding, crying to my friend about how disappointed I was because I was going to look so disgusting on my wedding day.
So when I revisited the photos last month, it broke my heart to my heart to remember how tortured I’d felt on an otherwise perfect day. It made me want to put an arm around the old me and sit her down for a cup of tea (sod the Lighterlife!) and a sisterly chat.
And what would I have told her? Well, first and foremost, I’d have told her that she needs to revel in the fact that she has found a man who really, truly loves her, no matter what dress size she is or what the number on the scales says; and I’d tell her that it breaks his heart to hear her ripping herself apart in the mirror every day. I’d tell her that her that despite all of the torture she has put her body through, it’s still doing her proud. That the body that she has scolded and hated and criticised incessantly for the last 20-odd years will soon carry and nurture the first of two beautiful, perfectly healthy, wonderful children. It will birth both children naturally with very little pain relief and no lasting after-effects.
I would tell her that while she frets and cries about her huge thighs, overhanging stomach and flapping bingo wings, she is missing out on some wonderful and life affirming opportunities. The holidays she doesn’t want to go on because she’s not thin enough? She’ll really regret that one day.
I’d tell her not to waste any more of her precious life on guilt, shame and embarrassment but instead to revel in love, laughter and family. To shift her focus away from her reflection and towards the important people who surround and love her. I’d tell her to realise that the biggest problem she has is not with her body but with her mind, and that she’ll need to put her time, effort and energy into changing that rather that her waist circumference.
I’d tell her to learn about nutrition, not points and syns. I’d tell her that eating what she wants, when she wants doesn’t not make her a bad or weak person, no matter what the diet rule book tells her! I’d tell her to make the most of her wonderful body, to appreciate it for all of the amazing things it would enable her to do, if only she’d give it a chance. And do you know what else I’d tell her? I’d tell her that she looks absolutely beautiful, and in years to come she’ll look back on those photos and wonder what the hell she was worried about.
If only eh? If only we could take the younger us to one side for a little pep talk. But I can’t do that, so what will I do instead? Well, I’m going to bust my ass on making sure that my own children don’t battle with their body image in the same way that I did. I want more than anything for them to grow up appreciating their bodies as amazing instruments of wonder that will enable them to enjoy and experience the world and all it has on offer. I don’t want them to miss out on a single opportunity just because they believe they don’t look “right”. I want them to understand that if they love, care for and nourish their body, it will reward them by making itself a vehicle for all of the wonderful opportunities life consists of. I want them to truly understand and believe that they are about so much more than just a reflection in a mirror. I want them to love their bodies the way that I love their bodies and the way that I’m finally learning to love mine!
So come on, now it’s over to you. What would you like to be able to say to the younger version of you? What lessons would you like to share with her? Drop me a line or head over to the Facebook group to share your thoughts. I’d love to hear them
Oh and a quick PS…….. As for the meal replacement plan. By the time I came back from our 4 day honeymoon in Venice, I was already struggling to fit into to most of the clothes I’d bought just before leaving! Yup, you think the weight comes off quickly? Just wait until you see how fast it goes back on again!!
Step 3 of my 7 Days to Happilicious challenge talks about the importance of learning to ditch the inner bitch. We all have one don’t we?! She’s the horrible voice inside our head that pipes up at the most inopportune times. Whenever we’re feeling even remotely vulnerable, she senses the chink in our armour and nips in there as quick as a flash to make sure she tells us exactly how fat/ugly/useless we are. She’s a spiteful, calculating bully and we have to work really, REALLY hard to shut her up.
The first step in conquering her is to notice when she starts to rear her head, and then as soon as you’ve noticed her, the trick is to jump straight in and tell her to STFU! But then what next? What do you do to replace the gap that she leaves in your consciousness? Well, you need to turn it on its head and rather than allowing yourself to believe the heinous lies she feeds you, you have to affirm, with confidence, the qualities that a perfect future you would have.
Look, there is a certain element of fake it ‘til you make it about this idea, but just think about what happens when people start repeating the same lies over and over again….. that’s right, everyone starts to believe it. You keep telling yourself that you’re fat, ugly and useless and you’ll get nowhere fast, but change the record and repeat to yourself how confident and comfortable you are in your own skin and slowly but surely, you’ll start to feel the difference! Hell what have you got to lose? If you’re going to be telling yourself one of those stories anyway, then why not put the effort into making it the positive one?
Now, at first you might think this is mumbo jumbo BS, but I promise you there is proven method in the madness. Studies have shown that 80% of our thoughts are negative, and given that we have approximately 45,000 to 51,000 thoughts per day, that’s a whole lot of negative thinking we got going on!!! So how do we counteract that? By regularly using positive affirmations, that’s how.
While they work primarily on the subconscious mind, studies have also shown that positive affirmations can also have an amazing affect on muscle strength and energy levels (true story!) and more obviously, our emotional well-being. I am a huge fan of starting the day with a gratitude list to lift the spirits and shift your focus to all things positive, and likewise, reaffirming positive statements to yourself has a positive affect on your attitude, behaviour and actions.
Ever heard the statement, “the body achieves what the mind believes”? Well it’s not wrong! Our mind is a hugely powerful tool and we often underestimate the influence that it can have over our bodies. Scientific research has shown that positive self talk releases endorphins and serotonin in our brain which then flow throughout our body, making us feel fabulous! And I’m sure we’ve all heard how top Olympic athletes are encouraged to visualise themselves crossing the finishing line in a blaze of glory, right? Sports psychologists have found that this action actually triggers neural actions within the brain that can then be used to enhance future, “real life” performance. Pretty powerful stuff!
So back to our affirmations! To get the best results, your affirmations need to be in the present tense, so as if they are already true, right here, right now. For example: “I love and repsect my body” rather than “One day I will love and respect my body.” You also need to repeat them often so that they get embedded in your brain and become second nature. I love using mine as soon as my inner bitch pipes up – almost like psychological armour, but it is also a great idea to find concrete ways of weaving them into your day so they become associated with certain daily habits. For example, repeating them every morning when you stand in the bathroom brushing your teeth; every time you switch the kettle on to make a cuppa; on the drive to school to pick up the kids. Say them in your head, say them out loud, say them while looking at yourself in the mirror, write them down, keep them on your phone as a screen saver and repeat them every time you pick your phone up…… Any which way that suits you is grand!
Experts suggest that the most powerful results come when you create your own very personal affirmation, but I think that when you are starting out, it can really help to read the affirmations that other people have used and adopt and adapt any that particularly resonate with you. So in that spirit, here are some that I have found particularly helpful! Please feel free to use them in whatever way suits you best:
I love my body as it is today
I am comfortable in my own skin
I am grateful for everything my body allows me to do
My flaws are unique and beautiful
I am enough
I make healthy choices. I have respect for my body
I am active and full of energy. I am healthy, vibrant and I look great!
So there you have it. A quick, free and easy way of boosting your self esteem that doesn’t take 12 weeks of food restriction or a daily hour of beasting yourself at the gym!!! I’d really love to hear from you if you have a go at using any of these affirmations so feel free to leave a comment below. Or why not head over to Facebook and join the Happilicious living closed group where you can share your experiences with a group of like minded women?
Ok. So you’ve stopped dieting. But you’re still a size 16. How can this possibly be a good thing? Get back on that diet and get yourself down to a size 10, fatty……..
I’m slightly ashamed to admit that in my not so positive moments (which thankfully occur far less frequently these days), this is what I imagine a lot of people think when I tell them that I am a diet-ditching health coach!
So in a bid to silence my (inner?) critics, I thought it was worth putting pen to paper in a bid to explain my current relationship with food.
Eating for nutrition (not weight loss).
Let’s get straight to the nub of it. When it comes to food, my end goal has been transformed. I now realise that it is far more important to eat in a way that nourishes my body, than it is to eat in a way that merely shrinks it. Oh and it’s also really, REALLY important to me that that nourishment happens to come in a really delicious form!
We all know that in order to improve our diet, the best (and most simple) thing we can do is to eat more fresh fruit and veg and to drink more water. I’m obviously not discounting or excluding other food groups here, but in my honest opinion, if you concentrate on adding in extra veg and water, you’re off to a winning start and the rest is all down to how adventurous and creative you are. So there’s no longer any calorie counting or carb dodging involved with my daily meals. In order to satisfy me now, the food I eat just needs to bring me nourishment and joy.
Crowding out not cutting out
When I was dieting, all of my energy and focus used to be trained on restriction and deprivation. Only eating things on the green list; sticking to my daily allowance of X; saving my allowance to enable a weekend “blow out”. How bloody depressing!
Rather than focussing on the things that I’m cutting out, I now search for ways of adding more in, which feels so damn liberating! Just how many different veggies can I cram into my delicious curry? What protein can I add to my breakfast to make sure I stay full until lunch? I know that it’s sometimes an over used word these days, but abundance is definitely where it’s at!!
The strange concept of treating yourself
For most of my life, “treating myself” meant filling up (some might call it bingeing) on as much high fat, high salt, high sugar food as I could cram in to my mouth in one sitting. This ludicrous practice was a kick back to the restriction that I would place on myself while following the latest strict diet and thank God I’m now able to see just how ridiculous and damaging this was.
These days I look to treat my body with food that I know is going to taste amazing and make me feel great both physically and mentally, rather than leaving me feeling sick, bloated and guilt-ridden. A massive salad with spiced roasted chickpeas and a gorgeous homemade dressing? Sounds great. Sourdough toast topped with avocado, tomatoes and chilli? Yes please! An exotic fruit salad with a helping of greek yogurt? Ship it in!! I know full well that if I eat foods like this, not only will I thoroughly enjoy myself while I’m eating them, I’ll also feel satisfied and fantastic once the meal is over. No more food hangovers or beating myself up for days on end over my perceived lack of willpower.
And I’m not saying that I never eat high fat, high salt, high sugar food any more. I do! I still eat takeaways and chocolate bars, I just no longer see them as a treat. And believe me, that mental shift makes a world of difference and means that I don’t crave them half as often; which brings me on to the next point……..
Allowing yourself freedom to “cheat”
I have such vivid memories of me and my best friend spending the best part of a week planning the no-holds-barred food fest that we were going to indulge in following our Slimming World weigh in. I actually used to fantasise about it!! Which takeaway would it be? What selection of chocolate bars would I scoff before and after said takeaway? We called it our cheat meal, even though what I managed to consume in that one sitting would have contained waaaaay more food than would usually be considered just one meal. I would eat until I felt sick. Not because I was hungry, but because I knew that if I wasted this one window of opportunity then I’d have to wait a whole week before I was able to taste such freedom again!
But guess what? If you aren’t following a diet then you have no rules to stick to and therefore no reason to cheat. If you want to eat the chocolate bar, then eat the chocolate bar. Any time you want. But I’ll bet that you’ll find that if you know you’re “allowed” it, you won’t crave it half as much. It’s just like children – as soon as you tell them they can’t have something, they’ll argue that it’s the one thing they want most in the whole wide world – right?! Well adults work in the same way. Tell us not to think about a pink elephant and we’ll immediately start thinking about that pink elephant and nothing else. It’s the same with food! Remove the restrictions and the cravings will ease off……… Crazy huh?!
Listening to hunger cues (not eating for the sake of it)
Ok, so I know that this phrase is bandied about willy nilly but now I really do try hard “listen to my body” when it comes to the food that I put in it!
When we diet, we inadvertently train ourselves to run rough-shod over the cues that our body gives us. Rather than recognising when we are hungry (or full) and acting on it, we force ourselves to wait until it’s the “right time” to eat. And likewise, instead of tuning in and really thinking carefully about which food our body is really craving next, we are trained to stick to the meal plan that we’ve oh-so-carefully mapped out, sometimes days in advance. How can I possibly know what dinner I’m going to want on Wednesday evening if I’m planning it at Saturday breakfast time? It’s bonkers and I want my meal planning to be as flexible as my appetite.
I know this may sound like a meal planning/shopping nightmare, but I find that the best way to manage it is to keep cupboards stocked up with the basics that I come back to time and time again. Then I just need to do a weekly shop for fresh produce and any key ingredients for new recipes (or old favourites) that I’ve got my eye on for some point during that week, but other than that, I try to go with the flow as much as possible.
The upshot is that food no longer controls me the way it used to when I was locked in dieting hell, and the sense of freedom I get from that is truly amazing. But here’s the caveat: none of these practices have just snapped into place at the click of my fingers. I’ve wholeheartedly thrown myself into this way of eating over the last few years, and reaching this point has involved a lot of studying, trial and error and introspection.
Added to which I know that the “journey” isn’t yet over and probably never will be. I don’t have it all perfectly sussed all of the time. I’m not sure anyone does. Life is all about the ebbs and flows and there are still occasions when I feel myself getting lost and reverting to old patterns of thinking and eating. But nowadays, instead of hitting the panic button and searching desperately for the latest quick fix, I take some time to figure out why I might be feeling that way and then focus my attention on fixing the problem, rather than just covering it up with the false promises that the diet industry are so keen to feed me!
If you’d like to find out more about any of the points I’ve covered above, why not contact me? Feel free to join my Facebook group (it’s a closed group so only others within the group can read what you write) or drop me an email so we can arrange a chat – I’d love to find out how I could help you.