Your mind will quit 1000 times…

… before your body will.

Ain’t that the truth.

When I first started working out, I was worried about so many things – but one of the biggies was that my body wouldn’t be able to keep up. I learnt pretty quickly that the body adapts fairly fast. I mean, I couldn’t run 5km straight away, or do 100 push-ups (ha! I still can’t do 100 push-ups!), but there was plenty I could do, and learn to do over time… plenty to keep me busy, keep me challenged and keep the kilos coming off.

 The mind on the other hand… the mind fights. It is dragged along kicking and screaming. It has all the excuses for not getting out of bed. It has all the reasons that a glass of wine or a cupcake is ok.

I have a friend Sarah, who I’ve recently encouraged (some might say nagged…) to join my gym. Like lots of us, she’s got a few kilos she wants to lose. She’s a single mum, she works fulltime – life is busy. She started with a bang – was starting to get all competitive with herself, pushing herself to do more – and then it got hard. Work ramped up, lots of stuff going on with her daughter – things were feeling out of control. And what was the easiest thing to control? The workouts.

She called Kirky to talk to him about it. He does a pretty good line in encouragement, and she’s changed her schedule around, and she’s back into it. And sometimes that’s what we need – someone else to show us a way through. Bless trainers and gym buddies.

Sometimes we’ve just got to rely on ourselves – dig deep. But there’s lots of websites and blogs – facebook and twitter. I’ve become the queen of the motivational quote. I have one for every occasion. I save them onto my phone, and recycle them in my blog. I always thought motivational sayings were twee before – not anymore!

When I first started, when I was really hating it, I would give myself permission to quit tomorrow. But I had to go just today. I figured if it was just today, I could stick to it. And when it was really, really hard I took it one decision at a time – each decision to workout, each meal choice… at that point “Just. Keep. Going.” was my motto.

The other thing I had to learn was to ask for help. People want you to succeed. Tell people you’re struggling… ask for the help you need to get you back into the gym, to eat a better lunch… people are more generous than you can imagine. They will help you out with a tip or some encouragement if they can.

And the longer you do this thing – the easier it gets. I mean the workouts don’t get easier – there’s always something new to learn (handstand push-ups anyone?) – but it gets to be habit. It gets to the point that when your doctor says you can’t train, you get stressed about that! Where the healthier choice is easier to make. It gets to be the new normal.

726So hang in there, Sarah. I have a plethora of motivational quotes to share, and I’ll do whatever I can to help you stick it out. Because it might be hard, but it is so worth it.

I’m also on twitter.

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I want to inspire people…

I want someone to look at me and say, “because of you I didn’t give up.”

When I made it to the 50kg goal a while ago, the owner of my gym asked me to write a testimonial for his website. I wasn’t keen – I still hold on to a lot of shame about even having to undertake this journey – but he said he thought people would be inspired by my story. He also said I could be anonymous… guess I’ve blown that now.

I’d never thought about being inspirational. This was something I had finally felt motivated to do, and it was for a very personal set of reasons – I hated myself and my body, and I knew I was going to make myself sick if I didn’t do something to change. I remember saying to him at the time I hadn’t done it for anyone else, I’d just done it for me.

It took me a long time to even feel proud of what I was achieving. I was dogged and determined in my approach, but it felt like it was punishment for years of “bad” living. It’s only recently that I’ve been able to talk to people about what I’ve done, and acknowledge and feel proud of what I’ve managed to achieve.

So it was pretty special today when my little brother told me he was proud of me.

We spent the day driving up the coast to go to a funeral. Not the most pleasant of excursions, but it gave us hours in the car together. We talked about his kids, our work, the rest of our family – all the regular stuff. And then on the way home we worked our way around to diet and exercise.  He’s put on some weight lately, and he is finding it really hard to do much about it between long hours at work and a busy family life. He started asking about what I was eating, how I was exercising – how I’d “done it” – and how he might be able to change things around to fit into his life.

And I felt inspirational, right there.

When I was at the gym tonight, my mind kept wandering off thinking about who I’d found inspirational when I started. There were lots of people who were supportive – my trainers, friends, colleagues who all went out of their way to encourage me, especially at the beginning when it was really hard – and thank you to you all. But actual inspiration? Really that was just one person – my friend Marie. She’d lost a lot of weight, and more impressively, has kept it off.

Marie and I had worked together years ago, and when I came back to Sydney, she encouraged me to join her gym. And it was her success that inspired me to face my fear and call Jace, go and meet him, and go to my first session. She has supported me ever since, but part of getting through the door that first time was the inspiration that I took from her story – the belief that she gave me that this might be possible.  What I saw in Marie’s story was someone like me, who had done the thing I so wanted to be able to do.

Google tells me that inspiration is defined as the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, esp. to do something creative. Marie’s success made me believe I could do something, that I could make a change, that this time it could work.

Because you can know all the statistics and the facts, you can know you should do something, you can even know how and where to do it, but sometimes what you really need is to know is that someone else has been there before you – someone real, someone like you – and that it’s possible.

So, I’ve decided to breathe deeply, and get more comfortable telling my story, because maybe it will be the thing that makes someone else feel that it’s possible for them too. And wouldn’t that be a cool “new normal”.

I’m also on twitter.

Don’t reward yourself with food…

… you are not a dog.

I was having lunch with a girlfriend and her one-year old daughter last week. Her daughter wasn’t having a good day. They’d had a busy morning, and she’d had enough. We made faces at her, tickled her, spoke in silly voices, tried distracting her with car keys and spoons… all the regular stuff. Eventually we got her a baby-chino and some hot chips. It kept her happy long enough for us to have lunch and a gossip, and then they went home so she could have a sleep.

My friend commented at one point that she was probably setting her daughter up a dysfunctional relationship with food. I responded that I thought it would take more than one lunch. And I’m pretty sure I’m right. Plenty of kids have been feed a bowl of chips to keep them quiet without developing eating disorders.

My own certainly developed and was reinforced through a mix of circumstances and over a period of time. It is something I am still unraveling, and I still struggle with. I manage to be in control most of the time now, but I wouldn’t say I’ve conquered it. I’ve struggled the last week because I haven’t been able to workout – doctor’s orders! – so that has made me even more conscious of what I’m putting in my mouth. I wonder if I will ever be able to relax with how I eat, or whether I will always have to be uber-aware of what I consume, and how it fits with the plan.

The behaviours are so practiced that they’re almost hard-wired in. This reward one has got me thinking today. A couple of weeks ago I hit a goal and I bought a cake – a very good flourless chocolate cake – to share with my team at work to celebrate. Today I got some good news from the doctor – I’m allowed to workout again – and I was walking home, wondering what I could grab for dessert to celebrate. My automatic response to celebration is to eat something… something off-plan, with sugar, salt or fat, or all three – salted caramel and white chocolate gelato anyone?!?

Sad? Eat. Happy? Eat. Stressed? Eat. There really isn’t an emotion I haven’t stuffed down my throat, and I’ve been doing it for years.

So much of this journey is about learning new responses and behaviours. I’ve learnt to get out of bed in the mornings to workout – I now miss it when I’m not allowed! I’ve learnt to plan my meals at the beginning of the week – and I now feel disorganised if I don’t. As I walked home today, arguing with myself about rewarding myself with food – and remembering this little meme above – I realised this was just another behaviour I needed to change. So I started thinking of other ways to celebrate or reward myself. Rewards that don’t make me a dog. And that brought up some far more interesting options!

So – I’ve had my dinner, written my blog, and I’m about to have some strawberries (on special at Harris Farms this week!) and yoghurt for dessert. It fits with the plan, it isn’t a reward, it’s just part of my nutrition for the day – it’s the new normal.

And what did I do to celebrate? I put the celebration off til tomorrow… I’m off running with the Ladies Running Club in the morning – and really, that’s celebration enough.

I’m also on twitter.

At some point in your life, you’ll have to trust yourself.

I suggest you start today.

I’ve said before I can be a bit black and white in my thinking. In my natural state, I’m in or I’m out, I’m on or I’m off. I’m going hard, or I’m going home. I’m eating well, or I’m bingeing on junk. I’m running a marathon or I’m sitting on the couch.

So this week was always going to be tough for me. I have been waiting for months to have a little medical procedure done – nothing major, but it involved cutting and stitching. And I knew they would tell me I couldn’t exercise while it healed. And I have been trying to prepare for that.

Well, when I say trying to prepare for that, I was looking for the caveats. I was hoping they might forget to tell me I needed to rest. Or that I might feel so great post-procedure, I’d be able to run straight back to the gym for a quick afternoon session.

Because I don’t trust myself to take a week or two off, and be able to get back into it. I don’t trust myself not to plonk myself on the couch in front of the TV with a bag of chips, a pizza and a tub of icecream and return to normal. Not the new normal… the old normal, the one I’ve just spent fourteen months working off.

I am trying to learn to trust myself more. To understand that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. That a week or two off doesn’t mean it’s all over, and it’s a bust. But I have to admit that I am struggling.

I have hated my body for a lot of years. I hated the way it looked. I hated that it let me down. I hated that I couldn’t control it. In the last fourteen months, I have learnt to control it. Mostly. I have learnt about calories in, calories out. I have learnt that I control what I eat, and I control what I burn.

But I am feeling very out of control today. In an effort to maintain control I walked for a couple of hours (walking is the caveat, by the way – I can walk because I can walk without sweating). I have been extremely careful of what I have put in my mouth. I know I am winning the calories in, calories out battle today. But I am feeling really anxious, and really out of control. Really uncomfortable. And I don’t like it.

On Monday I was congratulating myself for being able to have a night off over the weekend, and get back into routine, and understand that having a night off was OK. Today I am terrified that a week or two might be too big a test for the new normal, and that I’m not ready. That I might fail. And go back to the old me. The one I wasn’t proud of, and that I didn’t like.

I guess for now all I can do is what I have taught myself all along… to keep taking it one day at a time – one meal, one decision at a time. To trust myself, until it starts to feel better.

But if anyone has some handy tips or caveats… please, feel free to share. I’d be glad to hear them!

I’m also on twitter.

Don’t let the weekends ruin your progress…

… fight hard towards self control.

It can’t just be me. Weekends make it harder to stay on track. Something about the lack of routine… and so many opportunities for brunches, lunches, dinners, parties, each with their own traps and pitfalls.

I try and keep some routine in my weekends, because I know I do better that way. Saturday I head out to an 8am Pilates class, I stay on for the TRX class – so by 10am, I’ve burnt a few calories. Then brunch, catch up with friends… sometimes a massage or a trip to the hairdresser. The rest of Saturday is usually taken up with weekend chores – shopping, cleaning, washing – all the regular stuff.

Sunday is harder – I try and get in an early run, but I’m more likely to stick to it if I’ve organised someone else to go with.  Catch up with some friends, recreational shopping. Sunday afternoon I try to reserve for food prep and planning for the week ahead. Sunday night I sometimes have friends over for an early dinner before we plunge back into another week.

But even with a bit of a routine, there are little traps. Like brunch. I love coffee. Really, really love it. One brunch date with good conversation could easily cost me 500 calories in coffee if I’m not careful. I have to be constantly vigilant. Moderation in all things. Including milky lattes. Even when it’s skim!

But then there are nights like Saturday. A friend’s birthday drinks. I don’t drink alcohol all that much any more, so I volunteered to be the driver. The fact we had to get a cab home probably tells you some of what you need to know here.

We walk in. “Would you like a lemon martini?” Martinis are a particular weakness of mine. Start the night off with a kick, I think, why not? Then there was the first top up. Still time to stop, I think, we’re using small glasses. You can finish up here and still drive home, I think. At the second top up logic and experience told me I was in trouble. Then we shifted to the French champagne, and I knew I’d lost the battle for the evening. Enjoy yourself and grab a cab, I think. Shortly after, I pretty much just stopped thinking for the rest of the night…

And that’s ok – it doesn’t happen often, and it was a great party.

Not so long ago, a night like that would have thrown me right off track. I tend towards “all or nothing” in my thinking, so a big night would have meant I’d fallen off the wagon, and I would definitely have written Sunday off too, maybe longer. But Sunday I got up (late and seedy, I admit), and gave myself permission to skip the run. But I had an egg white omlette with micro greens salad (and a couple of small skim lattes) for brunch, went for a walk into the city with a friend, and spent the early afternoon trying on a few frocks (and buying a couple), then I cooked a healthy dinner and had an early night. And this morning, I got up in the dark and went and trained.  Right back into it. The new normal.

I guess what I’ve learned over time is it’s OK to have a night off, it’s OK to have a few drinks every now and then, it’s even OK to skip the Sunday run occasionally. This is about the long game. It’s about getting most of the meals right, and getting most of the workouts done. It’s about having enough of a routine to cover me most weekends, so they don’t ruin my progress. And even though it still makes me nervous, and more than a little anxious, I can breathe deep and know that the work I’ve put in last week before the party, and the work I will put in this week after it, covers me.

And the biggest thing to remember is it’s not how I do every weekend anymore. Because doing it that way all the time can stall my progress – and I work too hard the rest of the week to do that.

I’m also on twitter.

Losing weight over the phone

We hear it in the news all the time.  In western countries, obesity rates are rising. Dramatically.

In my own country – Australia – over 14 million people are overweight or obese (Monash University Figures). That’s from a population of 23 million.  And there’s lots of reasons for it – cheap, fast and plentiful energy-dense food. More screen time. Busy lifestyles. Less need to move.

Those Monash figures go on to say that if weight gains continue at the current rate, by 2025 close to 80% of Australian adults will be overweight or obese, and that it has become the single biggest threat to public health in Australia.

I’m a pretty lucky person. When I finally decided to get serious about losing weight and getting fit and healthy, I had the resources available to get the help I needed. I joined a good gym, I got a good trainer, I had a group of supportive friends around me. I also knew how to cook, and I’m educated enough to at least know the basics of good nutrition.

But not everyone is so lucky. Like most health indicators, obesity is linked to disadvantage. That means there are a lot of overweight people out there who can’t afford the kind of interventions that I paid for.

Now – I know I had the knowledge to do it on my own. But it was a long haul. I’m a pretty determined person, but I know that at some point on a bad week I would have gotten a bit disillusioned, decided it was all to hard, and consoled myself with a bag of chips, a pizza and a tub of icecream. So would have ended another diet and fitness regime. It had happened before.

Knowledge by itself just isn’t enough. There needs to be a supportive element. But how do you produce that in a way that is accessible to the numbers of people we’re talking about?  How does a health system – which even after massive injections into preventive health over the last five years, still only spends around three percent of the budget on prevention – afford interventions that support so many people to lose weight? Especially when the external environment is working so hard against it.

I read an article this week that gives me some hope. This group telephone intervention would be relatively inexpensive to run, and the results show it was even more effective than individual telephone support, because of the encouraging environment created amongst participants over time.

Now that’s not the whole answer by a long shot, but it is encouraging to see some work being done on interventions that are cost-effective and easily replicable.  Because if we don’t start doing something, as a community we are not going to be able to afford the health bill.

I’m also on twitter.

(I would also like to acknowledge Heather Frey and Lori Shemek for their twitter support, freely given. A couple of timely messages of encouragement, which may not have seemed like much, but were truly appreciated.)

Do it today…

… and be proud tomorrow.

The longer I go to the gym, the more reasons I have to be proud of myself. Scattered along this journey there have been lots of proud moments – the first week I didn’t hate it, the first time I could do half an hour on the elliptical without thinking I was dying, the first sit-up, the first push-up, the first time I realised I could run, the first time I realised I was enjoying a workout! But today was a big one. In fact, today was huge.

Today I weighed in at 50% of my starting body weight.

My first day in the gym – the 9th of May, 2012 – I weighed in at 136kg. It was the biggest I had ever been. I was ashamed, embarrassed, humiliated. I didn’t just think I was the fattest girl in the gym, I was the fattest girl in the gym. By a long shot.

Today – 14 months later – I weigh 68 kilos.  I am literally half the woman I was.  I have lost 68 kilos.Well – when I say lost, it’s not lost. Not really. I know where it’s gone. It left step by step, squat by squat. It was in every cupcake I didn’t eat, and every apple I did.

I’m not finished yet… there are three kilos left til I hit my goal – and I know now that this is my life. But for right now, for today, I am proud.

(I am also thankful – particularly to my trainers Mark and Jace at the Workout Club in Darlinghurst, who stood by me every single step of the way. There are not enough words.)

I’m also on twitter.