About sportymaenad01

I came late to this fitness and health thing... I have worked hard to lose 65kg over a fourteen month period... I'm no expert, but I reckon I've got value to add. I'm interested in exercise, fitness, healthy eating - the ups and downs of the journey from an individual perspective, but also how it fits into our community and the broader health landscape. I've worked in the health sector for a number of years, but in the policy and public affairs side... I have no medical training. If you need health advice, you should see a health professional.

What would you try…

if you had no fear?

what would you doI went dragon boating this morning for the first time. It was one of those sparkling Sydney mornings… sun shining, clear blue sky, a slight chill in the air. It was great to be up and alive.

And, turns out, dragon boating is fun. I went with a group of girls from work – but there were 16 other people in the boat with us, all newbies. We weren’t good enough to win any races, but there we were, down in Blackwattle Bay, sun shining down on us, out amongst the tinnies, the rowers, the other dragon boats and a luxury yacht or two, splashing around, having fun.

It made me think how much losing weight and getting fit and healthy has given me. Before I started working out and lost weight, I used to avoid outings like this. It doesn’t stop everyone, but it used to stop me. I was always fearful of embarrassing myself, or being too fat to do something, too unfit to last the length of whatever it was. I would never have said yes to going along.

I used to live with a really high level of background stress. I don’t think I ever really acknowledged it, but I was worried about stuff all the time. Would the seatbelt fit on the plane? Would I be able to get out of the full restaurant without knocking someone’s table? Would I fit in the space?

And that was just the physical stuff. The amount of thought I gave to what other people thought of me was ridiculous. Were they looking at me as I pulled the seatbelt around myself? Were they judging me if I ate the cake?

It probably shouldn’t be like that – certainly no-one should be judging anyone on how they look, and if I had a better self-esteem, maybe I wouldn’t have felt so constrained by it. But being fat made me feel I was able to participate in life less. It made me put off so many things, it made me fearful, it made me anxious. It made me delay life, and have less fun.

Probably the thing I was most fearful about was really putting in the effort to actually lose weight and get fit and healthy. Because what if I tried really hard, and I couldn’t do it. What would that mean? At least if I hadn’t really tried, I could always give it another go. So I didn’t. For a really long time.

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What I know now is I CAN do it. It was not easy – there are many days when it still isn’t. But I can do it. And I can keep doing it.

Losing weight has given me so much. I feel like I’ve been given a whole new chance with life, and I want it all. I want to run, I want to lift, I want to dragon boat, I want to play tennis, to snorkle, to swim, to ride my bike… to do ALL the things! And being fit means I actually can, most of the time.  And the thing is – that’s a great motivator to keep doing the other stuff – the working out, the eating right – because the trade off is everything else I get to do.

The new normal is the me who gets out of bed to train – even on the days I don’t really feel like it. The new normal is the one who thinks consciously about what she eats. And today, the new normal feels great. The only regret – and I try not to focus on regret – is that I didn’t do it sooner.

There’s more of me on twitter!

You can’t out-exercise…

… a crappy diet.

016I’m feeling a bit ranty … excuse me, please. I’ll keep it short!

I had to go to a work function tonight. Straight from the office, board members and the senior executive team, along with a number of stakeholders. A meet and greet, a chance to engage in a less formal setting, lots of smiling, talking – analysing the election results – you know the deal.

But can someone please explain to me – why  is the food served at these things always utter crap? Everything that came out was deep-fried, or full of carbs (and not in a complex, good way). Sparkling wine, white wine, red wine and processed fruit juice. I had to specifically ask for mineral water – and then I wasn’t offered a top up all night (as wine glasses were constantly topped up around me).

I know the score, and I was prepared. I ate before I left, I managed to get some mineral water – but I fail to understand why, when we know so much about food and obesity, we continue to hold functions that make it almost impossible to stick to plan or eat well. I know that for some people in the room, this was dinner – and there wasn’t a vegetable in sight! Four out of five of the food options were deep-fried. This was a function in a large hotel chain – it’s lazy, unimaginative catering. It’s not like it is hard to throw some healthy options into the mix – lots of places do it really well. This stuff didn’t even manage to look appetising!

I’m going to raise it at work tomorrow – I work for a health organisation, and we should demand better – but really, I find it hard to believe this is the best that a hotel kitchen can serve up. That it is even seen as acceptable.

And don’t tell me that environment isn’t an important factor in our rising overweight and obesity rates.

End rant. For now.

You can find more of this by following me on twitter!

 

Whatever does not destroy me…

… makes me stronger.

084I’ve been struggling with injuries again in the last couple of weeks. Missed workouts, no running, pain, physio, massage, dry needles, pain killers, more massage. All the fun of the fair.

And then there’s the head. I know I’ve written before that I can be black and white in my thinking – and injuries really bring that out. I get disheartened, feel out of control – my eating plan takes a hit, and I’m left wondering if I can keep this up, whether it’s even worth it. Straight away I’m thinking about how I never hurt myself when I didn’t work out. And maybe this life isn’t really for me – that maybe I won’t be able to sustain it. And that I’ll fall off the wagon, and go back to the girl – the fat girl – I was before.

My trainer, as usual, has been fab. Encouraging me to keep moving, doing the things I can do, and working on fixing things so I can get back to working on the longer term goals. To understand that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. To get back on track. He’s had an injury recently too – we’ve been able to compare notes on the relative benefits of treatments, and the frustration of not being able to train properly.

But it was one of my CrossFit coaches who really helped me out this week. His words of wisdom were something along the lines of that, unfortunately injuries are part of training… it’s the price you pay for not sitting on your arse and being unhealthy.

It would be better without the injuries. Before I started to train, I didn’t get injuries. But he’s right. Because I also didn’t get the exercise highs, or the satisfaction of setting goals and achieving them. Of being fit and strong. And healthy. Of being able to do things that most people can’t. And hell, I’ll say it, I certainly didn’t look this good!

So… I’ve worked out that I need to take time to get better. To get back into it gently – not to rush and ruin all the healing. To take some time to reassess the goals, and figure out an alternate route to get to the same place.

And to keep trying to shift this all or nothing thinking. Not to be quite so hard on myself. Forgive myself for the slip-ups, and remember that it’s the long game that’s important. That this is the new normal. The challenge is, of course, to remember this next time it happens – and not be beating myself up for two weeks before I figure it out again. *Note to self.*

I’m also on twitter.

Also – shock – I’m not the first person to deal with this… there’s some good advice in here.

If it doesn’t challenge you…

… it doesn’t change you.

Lazy Girl Fitness – a personal trainer based in Sydney – has issued an ab challenge. A chance to spend 28 days focusing on your core… instead of throwing in a couple of rounds of crunches at the end of a session (or sit ups with a big barbell when your trainer MAKES you, like this morning) – 28 days where you focus on improving core strength and abs. Just because you want to.

For me, it never hurts to do some extra core work… a stronger core helps to keep my back happy. And who knows, I might start to love crunches so much, I just start busting out random sets while I watch TV. They are one of those exercises my trainer loves to point out you can do anywhere – no equipment required!

I’ve even done the whole “take-a-photo” thing. I have previously resisted all attempts by my trainers to record this journey of mine photographically… and I have to say that taking a photo of my bare midriff tonight may prove to be the most challenging aspect of this challenge. I’m certainly not brave enough to share it yet!

In my life as the fattest girl, I made a conscious effort not to be in photos. I learnt how to take photos, and bought really expensive cameras so I could be the photographer, not the subject.

Back when I started going to the gym, I wouldn’t let them take my photo. There is no classic before shot of me. I haven’t let them take it anytime since. The tape measure came out once, but I almost went catatonic, so that never reappeared either. I hated weighing in too… the humiliation of weighing in on that first day was almost overwhelming, but that was the measure I understood, the one I had reconciled myself to, so that’s what we went with.

But lately I’ve been thinking a lot about measuring success – the scales just aren’t moving like they did in the beginning, even though my jeans feel different. What is success now? Is it the elusive number on the scale? Is it a body fat ratio? A set of measurements? Or some physical feat I aim for and achieve (handstand push-up?!?)?

At the moment – aside from the very specific handstand push-up target – the goal is something like stronger, leaner, fitter. I am loving challenging my body to do new things, I am loving feeling stronger, and I’m kind of marveling at how much the shape of my body is changing without actually moving the numbers on the scale very much at all – I am developing some serious muscles! I have even consented to doing measurements in my session this Wednesday – I now want to know what those numbers say over time.

And tonight, the photo. With midriff bared. I have decided to embrace the  challenge in all it’s photo-collecting glory. Who knows, maybe by the end I’ll be brave enough to post the photo. That would be a completely unanticipated new normal!

I’m also on twitter.

PS You can join in too… no special equipment required, just visit Lazy Girl Fitness for all the details. I look forward to seeing your photo too… good luck!

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.

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.