I’ve been prattling on to The Boy Next Door that I’m going to write some posts on fitness and health, for awhile now. My head is exploding with so many things I have to say. It’s kinda one of those subjects you should never start up with me, because 1. I’m passionate about it and 2. I’m a complete nerd when it comes to reading up on nutrition and spending Sunday evenings in bed watching YouTube fitness related videos, so I forget that others might not want to hear about Romanian dead lifts in extreme detail.
This post is long and drawn out, but I can’t go on about why I think you should eat a certain way, or why I think you should lift a certain weight, without explaining that I’ve not always been a fitness loving ‘freak’…
Have I always been this into fitness? No, most definitely not. Sure I spent between the ages of 4 and 17 in a ballet studio, 6-7 days per week in the latter years. But I was an extremely fussy eater right up until my late teens and nutrition was not something I ever thought or knew much about. I never put on weight and could eat what I wanted thanks to the strenuous ballet lessons. But then I quit. I gained 5 kilos in less than a year as I continued to eat the same way and didn’t pay too much attention to my weight creeping up.
I’m only 5ft 2, so believe me 5 kilos shows. I also managed to inherit the more muscular build of my father as opposed to the petite frame of my mum, apart from my hands, feet and wrists, unfair, it could have been by bum and thighs that benefited. No such luck.
And so it began. Around 18 I guess I started to notice my body had expanded, and I became aware of those things girls so love to fixate on: Diets. I remember going on evening walks with my mum, complaining to her that I had ‘back fat’, then going home and typing up how many minutes I had walked for that evening, in the hopes of removing said back fat. But if someone put a cake in front of me, I would eat it, zero willpower, zero progress. I think this is fairly standard behaviour for a lot of young women: overeating, dieting, bingeing and repeat. It comes out of desperation for a quick fix I guess and such lack of education on the subject.
After quitting years of ballet, I didn’t start up regular exercise again until I was 21. My boyfriend at the time was a personal trainer, so I signed up to his gym, and he taught me correct technique and welcomed me to the world of protein shakes. I enjoyed the gym, and took an instant liking to weight training, as well as the social side. I could sit on a swiss ball for an hour chatting away. That is what a swiss ball is meant for right?
Throughout my twenties, I tried so many diets: I did the ‘starvation’ diet, which DOES require extreme willpower, refusing food is not easy, but with it comes this dangerous sense of elation when you look at your reflection in the mirror and see a thinner you. As I type this I wonder if it makes me sound like I had some extreme eating disorder, but the truth is, nearly all females I know have punished themselves this way at some point in their life, and admit to the same euphoria of feeling like they had ‘control’ over their eating, or lack of. This usually ends in a complete meltdown and one giant motherf*cking binge fest. Diet fail. I spent £500 on the Sureslim diet, where I would travel weekly into central London to be weighed and have to fess up if I hadn’t stuck to the 5 hour gaps between my three meals that wouldn’t have kept an anorexic full. I lost weight on that, I looked quite good! Fast forward six months after giving up, and that weight was rapidly coming back to haunt me. I did the Slimming World diet multiple times, with a wee bit of success, and throughout this period of my life I’d always fallen back on the protein diet when I needed too. The only two things that remained consistent during these years was my obsessive 24/7 thinking about what I had eaten that day and how guilty I should feel (I would mentally picture all the food on a big plate, to ascertain the level of guilt I should be feeling) and the yo-yoing of my weight going up and down.
I found it difficult to locate some photos of me living a ‘larger life’, but the photo on the left pretty much sums up my bad eating habits of my twenties and the photo on the right shows me looking a little chunkier.
In 2001, I moved to London to live with the personal training boyfriend. Lack of fitness and the simple fact my life had been tipped upside down, fresh out of home, living on the other side of the world, with what turned out to be one unbelievably awful rollercoaster ride of a relationship, comfort eating became a regular feature. The boyfriend would leave me at home, and with me being able to count the number of people I knew in London on my thumb and first finger I found myself eating cookies, chocolate, and all those other sugary delights, or baking something to keep loneliness at bay.
Oompa Loompa’s may very well have been marching behind me, as my jeans rapidly became more snug. But then I went on ANOTHER diet. An extremely effective one. The Break Up diet. After my world fell apart, the stress resulted in me being able to eat a whole tub of ice cream and still lose weight. The extra kilo’s fell off and stayed off for a good few years. I also joined a local gym and started to enjoy working out again. I started to create my own life, make my own friends and enjoy being a twenty something female in London. But you know what happens when you enjoy being a twenty something female (or male) in London? You eat out. A lot. And it’s never healthy. Hello weight gain. I remember going to the gym one day here in London, with one of my kiwi male friends who I went to high school with. We decided to spend 45 minutes on the treadmill. I walked, I jogged, I felt good. Then we finished our workout, and decided that it was absolutely a good idea to go straight for dinner to the Indian restaurant for a curry and naan. We still laugh about that day. But seriously, what were we thinking?! I was enjoying myself, out several nights a week, the cinema always involved Peanut M&M’s, dinner always came with a side of fries, and mid afternoon sugar lows could be solved with cake or a chocolate bar.
There’s that moment where you actually feel a little bit invincible, ‘look how much I can eat without getting fat’, until it’s almost like one morning you wake up and suddenly it’s not just bloating, it’s a belly. The good habits of the gym started to wear off too. I remember thinking one day ‘I HATE the gym, I don’t think I’m ever going to go back’. Then I probably ordered a pizza for dinner. But I didn’t feel good, and I looked a wee bit chubby. It was around this time, that things took its toll and out of desperation I signed up to the Sureslim diet. As I mentioned earlier, I did lose weight, but it was not easy! When your last meal was 5 hours prior and all you have to look forward to is a small piece of chicken and a measured portion of broccoli, let me tell you, it’s not my idea of fun. So as you can imagine, I was unable to sustain this, and returned to eating high calorie foods with a side order of guilt.
2007 I moved to NYC for 3 months. I was helping a family I worked for in London to move back and settle them back into New York life. I was living-in. After my 11 hour work shifts, I wanted to get out of the apartment and have some of my own headspace. This meant heading to a diner for dinner. $5 for a burger and fries? Are you kidding me? Yes please. Weekends consisted of trying cupcakes, pizza, ice cream and anything else heart attack inducing. My thighs wobbled by the time I touched back down in Heathrow, and I was worried as 20 of us were off to Greece and Turkey for a month long holiday 6 weeks later. This body was not bikini ready. We had a bbq at our place one weekend with everyone going on the trip, so we could talk through all the last minute details. As the conversation went on, it turned to slimming down in time to not cause cracks in the ground as we walked from the sand to the surf. It turned out everyone was worrying about their fat rolls, lads included. One of the girls going on the trip, a great friend of mine, and not a size 8 type of girl, stood up in front of everyone and lifted her shirt saying ‘You all need to take a good look at this, because THIS (pointing at her belly) is not going to change between now and when we get to Greece’. Laughter erupted in the room, and a weight lifted off everyone’s shoulders. To this day it is one of the most refreshing comments I’ve ever heard, (thanks M for keeping it real!).
The next few years continued on their usual yo-yo journey, with summer being the time to send me into panic mode, lower the calories, get back in the gym and do what I could before I would board a plane to head somewhere in Europe for a beach. Slimming World worked quite well for these moments, thankfully before my trip to Colombia to stay with friends, who look like Michaelangelo has sculpted them himself. I’d been in an H&M changing room trying on a bikini for this particular vacation, and got a hideous shock when I caught a glimpse of my unsightly derriere in the mirror. This bottom could not travel to South America without some serious reshaping. So I planned out healthy meals, I joined a 10 week jive dance class, and I hit the gym as much as I could. It worked. I kept a close eye on what I ate through the 6 week vacation, and upon my return a house mate said to me ‘Hey did you leave something in Colombia?’, ‘No, why?’ I asked. ‘Well half of you is missing!’ he told me. I’d eaten healthily, treated myself without going overboard, and I’d worked out with my friend at their amazing gym to keep things in check.
This holiday, I truly believe was the start of a slow change in me. I was enjoying the gym again, I loved the way weight training would change my body shape, and watching what I ate meant that when I did treat myself I didn’t have that meltdown mentality of ‘Well I’ve eaten pizza. I’ve failed. So I may as well get dessert and follow up with a week of bad eating now!’.
Don’t get me wrong, my weight still fluctuated after this new found knowledge, but it was all down to how disciplined I was with eating and fitness. If you take a look through my blog, you will quickly see that I’m a huge foodie, no longer am I that fussy eater I was as a child. Quite the opposite in fact. I love burgers, sushi, brownies and ice cream as much as the next person. However, I’ve learnt over time to love being healthy more than anything else.
These are gym progress photos I took earlier today. I’m 35 in a month. Feeling good!
And so, it’s at this stage, after giving you a lengthy background of my own ups and downs, and making it known that I still don’t love my thighs, that I will plan to post a few bits and pieces on the subject that I cannot shut up about. I can’t bear the thought of young girls (or guys) beating themselves up over their weight, trying extreme diets and failing, when all they really need to know are some key points to prevent this complete waste of brain space.I see people going on diets, the worst being glossy mag diets with a photo of a swimsuit clad girl who ‘lost 6 pounds in a week’. Their diets, in my humble opinion, are bullshit. I see girls at the gym, lifting weights that a 5 year old wouldn’t struggle with, and I bite my tongue and think ‘Just go home love. Or do yourself a favour and lift something that makes that muscle hurt, so you’re actually making this hour at the gym worthwhile’. I think what’s happened over time, is that my fascination for fitness and nutrition has grown so much, that it frustrates me when I see someone making all of this harder than it needs to be.
In the meantime, if you’re feeling impatient, as I’m signing off now (Breaking Amish is about to start on TLC and I cannot miss it!), please check out my lovely friend Alexandria’s blog Greetings From Nolandia, where you’ll find fitspiration and great ideas on living a healthier life.
Happy Sunday y’all x