January is a pretty easy month to stay on track isn’t it? No one’s drinking, everyone’s rushing out to get their gym discounts, where they’ll dedicate more hours to the gym than they did for the prior year, and everyone is so focussed on the “New Year New Me” trope, that its easy to turn down social engagements, to turn up at a friends house with a box of tea bags rather than a bottle of wine or to opt for a banana rather than a Big Tasty…
My weight and body image is something I struggle with constantly. I absolutely cannot stand when other people take photos of me. I can’t tell you the stress I feel at social engagements – from family Christmas to nights out with friends, knowing that someones going to be taking photos, posting them on various social media or our family photo stream and the fact that I’ll get a glance at just how big I really am.
After 2 controlling relationships, where my boyfriends continually highlighted my weight, watched what I ate and commented on it and the way I looked (one charmer even cited my weight as what drove him to cheat, and I was c 9 stone at the time!), the relationship I have with the way I look and the weight I am has been an absolute disaster since I was 17 years old.
Throw into that mix the media, the way we’re supposed to look, Instagram models, real-life models – and it’s the perfect storm for a chronic yo-yo dieter. The former is something I constantly worry about for my nieces, so (on the rare occasion) this ever comes up, I always make a point of highlighting how GREAT our bodies are, how good exercise for you is and why its important to look after the bodies we’re in. That got me thinking, that I’d never dream of speaking to my little nieces the way I speak to myself about body image…
And that’s when the penny dropped, I’ll be 29 this year, and after years of battling, feeling defeatist and feeling like I just can’t seem to lose weight and keep it off, I’ve decided that in the spirit of self-care, it’s time to re-adjust the way I look at myself. I’m unhappy with my weight, but I also want the focus of how I perceive my body to change, and I’m sure I’m not the only one!
I’m at the heaviest I’ve ever been, and that’s OK because the weight will come off, but it’s time to start appreciating my body for what it can do, and exploring what exercise I enjoy – learning what I don’t enjoy, finding the right balance and making the little incremental changes that will make me healthier in my lifetime, and make me happier as a person.
Got yourself a nice cup of tea? Okay, good – let’s get into it!
You won’t catch me on a far-fetched juice cleanse, or signing up to yet another new gym, or undertaking Dry January. I’m the kind of person that needs a lot of help staying on track – I cave easily and I’m terrible for mindless/emotional eating and most days I get through by pouring a large glass of wine (or two, or three..!) the minute I walk in the door. Then usually a sweet treat while I watch something trashy on TV…
I’ve been researching books and apps that can help us stay on track, even on the ‘off’ days we might be having!
- My Fitness Pal – Free, with the option to upgrade to their Premium model.
This app came under some criticism in the news recently – I think somewhat unfairly, as I think they undertake all the measures they can reasonably take to ensure this encourages losing or maintaining weight healthily.You input all your key stats, whether you’d like to maintain or lose weight – you can choose between 0.5 a week or 2lbs a week, and ultimately it tells you what calorie goal to achieve per day in order to do so. If you’re drastically under, it won’t give you your projected weight for five weeks time.For me, as a mindless eater, this is really helpful. I’ll often say “I need some chocolate to get through this afternoon” so I’ll happily indulge in that, then when I get home, I’ll think “What a day – I need a couple of glasses of wine” so I’ll indulge in that too. When I cast my mind back to what I’ve been eating, I think “yep, I’ve stayed on track today”, and don’t even consider the chocolate, wine and whatever else I’ve had outside of my meals throughout the day. My Fitness Pal helps give me pause for thought – it helps me make more conscious choices. So I’ll still have my chocolate, but maybe I’ll cut back on the wine in the evening. Or maybe I’ll opt for a clementine instead, and indulge myself later.
Because it tells you what extra calories you’ve gained by exercising, I’ve found this to be a huge motivator in getting me out and about. I have a love-hate relationship with exercise, but this helps me motivate myself considerably, as it shows me a tangible result from the effort I’m putting in.
- Dry Days – Free
Drinking is without doubt, my biggest vice. I probably erred towards the slightly too reliant on it. In a situation with new people? You’d find me with a drink in my hand. Off to an event I didn’t really want to attend but was too late to cancel? I’d drink to get through it. Long day at work? Drink. Family stress? Drink. Tired? Drink. It became all too easy to rely on a large glass of wine for most of life’s little ailments.Don’t get me wrong, I still thoroughly enjoy a glass of wine. I have no desire to do an entirely dry month. I am a social person, I enjoy a glass of wine with friends, but there have been so many instances where I’ve had a glass of wine, just because… of habit, really! I went on the hunt for some apps to track my no drinking days, which is when I stumbled across Dry Days.
Dry Days has some pros and cons. You can log a dry day, see how many units you’ve consumed, keep a track of how you’re feeling as a result of your dry spell, and you get a little trophy each day you stay dry. All in all, for a free app, it’s pretty decent, but the language and check-up notifications to ‘check’ you’ve stayed dry can be a little irritating.You can also ‘Friend’ your pals on there, as you can on My Fitness Pal, though there’s not much friend-to-friend interaction available here.
I find it useful to track a dry day as soon as I have lunch – it makes it easier for me to commit to it, rather than having to go back and ‘undo’ the dry day I’ve logged.
- Changing up how I exercise
I won’t lie to you. If I could wave a magic wand and be one of those people who could eat whatever they want, I absolutely would. Sadly, the great gene gods did not bless me with that and instead filed me under “can gain weight by looking at a biscuit”.I’ve done it all – I love Bikram (hot) yoga but this is unbelievably expensive. I’ve had Personal Trainers and do enjoy the help and the planning, but again, I find myself becoming too reliant on someone other than myself, which in turn makes this an expensive habit to maintain!I joined my local gym because it has an exceptionally quiet swimming pool, and is notoriously not-very-busy.
A word on gyms because for years, I terrified myself by joining a gym and then thinking but what if people look at me?! I know lots of people feel this way when they first join a gym – I was convinced that everybody who was a bona fide Gym-bod would be cautiously side-eying me for being a January-joiner, and for not being in peak fitness. Here is a revelation for you…
NO ONE AT THE GYM CARES WHAT YOU ARE DOING AT THE GYM.
Gym inductions are invaluable – as soon as you sign up, book it in, it’s super important to feel comfortable with what the equipment does and how to use it. Plan your workout before you go and get familiar with the route you’ll take around the gym.
Everyone is working towards something in there, trying to achieve their own goals – they are in NO WAY CONCERNED WITH YOURS. Reminding myself of this often helps me take away the hot flush of embarrassment I feel creeping up my neck if I’m in there with 6 Baywatch extras.
I love to swim, and use the classes at my gym, but really one of the best exercise commitments I ever made to myself was taking up Netball through Go Mammoth. I made amazing friends, I never think about the fact I’m exercising, and the girls and I even do team socials. They’re a fab bunch of girls and after our first season where we didn’t know each other we finished bottom of the league. We’ve stuck together and this season we’re in second place.It’s so nice doing sport as a team, it’s a great way to make friends, plus you feel such a sense of pride in your team :). I honestly can’t recommend Go Mammoth enough – and if Netballs not your thing, they have a myriad of other sports and classes available.
With exercise, find what works for you. I know a woman who’s main exercise is a 20 minute walk at lunchtime everyday. She loves it, it works for her, and its great for her. I also know women who do cross fit. Men who run marathons. Men who do a 15 min yoga Youtube video a day. You’ll never regret a workout, but it is about finding the one that you can enjoy (or, if you’re like me, tolerate 😉 ) enough to do.
- The Four Pillars
This book arrived on my door step, very sweetly bought for me by my big sister. It’s written by an ex-GP, and I have to admit, I’m not normally one for this genre of book. My Amazon ‘recommended’ list are pretty much all described as… “This year’s #1 psychological thriller, perfect for fans of Gone Girl and Girl On The Train”.In the spirit of changing up this blog, and finding out all the different ways we can better equipped to ‘self-care’ properly, I’ve been reading this book every night before bed and I. Am. Hooked.This book has so significantly contributed to the way I’m changing up my various routines. More than anything its really helped me to understand the direct relationship between stress and our health.
As an anxious person, I’m constantly stressed. Sometimes when I’m not even anxious, I’ve been known to worry, because ‘it’s not like me to not feel anxious so what if something’s wrong’ 😂. This book is so fascinating as it talks all about Cortisol, our stress hormone, and how that operates when our bodies are in flight-or-fight mode, which is triggered by anxiety. It’s all about getting Eating, Sleeping, Relaxing and Moving right, and how securing these four pillars by making small changes can be life changing.
I’m only 150 pages in and I am already waxing lyrical about this book to everyone I know. Understanding the science behind how are bodies function is so so helpful, and is really helping me to understand why I need to take better care of myself!
- Sleep Routine
I have actually yet to get to the sleep chapter of The Four Pillars, but one thing I wanted to get much kinder to myself about was my evenings (I’ve got a whole post coming up on how to deal with saying ‘no’ to social plans so sit tight!)No weekday drinking is proving hugely beneficial to my sleep. I look forward all day to heading to bed at 22:00, a big camomile tea and setting my timer for 30 minutes. I turn my phone on Do Not Disturb, and I just completely tune the world out.I love the Neom sleep candle, and a nice relaxing bath before bed – I highly recommend the Knackered Cow bubble bath. It’s a little bit expensive but so relaxing.
This has helped me so much in terms of refocussing my mind before bed, leaving me with things to think about as I’m drifting off. It’s also helped see me through to a 530am alarm to set me up to go swimming before work!
Of course most blogs will recommend you read before bed, but if falling asleep to a comforting TV show or film is what works, pursue that! A psychotherapist once told me its actually a bit of a misnomer that falling asleep to TV is ‘bad’ for you. If you’re anxious it can be a good thing, as it helps to remind you there’s something happening outside your head, and can allow you to tune in to something other than your thoughts. :).
This post is pretty bumper! And there’s no reason to make every single change to your life with immediate effect. They say it takes 3 weeks to form a habit, so start small. This is all about small, incremental changes towards “Livin’ yo best life!” and being at your happiest.
Take care of your body, exercise when you can and with what you find enjoyable – don’t be afraid to experiment! Most of all, just be kind to yourself, speak to yourself as though you’re speaking to a child. From acorns, grow oak trees :).