Change, like sunshine, can be a friend or a foe, a blessing or a curse, a dawn or a dusk’. William Arthur Ward
Improvement. As humans, it’s embedded in our DNA, (for most of us) to strive to be better. Better in our work life, our home life, with personal relationships, and even in my case, with ourselves.
Change. So as ‘hippie’ as this sounds, I’ve embarked on a journey. Those of you who know me have seen the change. A physical one. It’s something that many people have been curious about, so I shall let you in on just how I’ve changed.
For the last 9 months (so from the time my sister got engaged) I decided to get into shape. Now this involved an immense lifestyle change. As it had to I think. It also required a lot of dedication, and willpower. Ultimately though, I think it required an unwavering personal desire and yearning to achieve this. Now I don’t mean the ‘want’ where I go to the gym and then eat chocolate, and dessert and McDonalds, and maybe a salad for lunch the day after – you know for balance, and because I’m on a ‘diet’ – and then complain that I’m not losing weight and that it’s probably my thyroid, kind of ‘want’. No I mean a real longing to improve.
So I did exactly that. In October 2015, with the help of my personal trainer – Jack, I embarked on both a regimented exercise routine and diet overhaul. Now before anyone says anything, my success is not down to the fact that I decided to spend a small fortune on a personal trainer to do this for me. There are millions of people who enlist the help of trainers the world over, and don’t improve (and yes, this has been me in the past too).
I chose to enlist the help of a personal trainer because I wanted guidance. Like a Yogi seeks a Guru, I looked to someone with the knowledge and expertise to push me through. I’ve learnt how to work my body to the max – I mean the man during our training sessions is evil, but brilliant – I’ve been taught about how and why the activities we do, mold and shape my physique – and believe me, I ask a lot of questions, Jack literally hates me as a client.
However, despite the trauma I get put through for two hours a week, I work with someone I can trust and who knows my goals and how I can best reach them. As much as my trainer has been a contributing factor to my change, my achievement is down to personal desire. I’ll get back to this point later… So what did we change?
Firstly, let’s begin with the training. We effectively began weight training. Now I must point out here, that I have lost just over 2 and a half stone in weight, and get this… 5 dress sizes. Seriously. At my biggest, and this was actually at Hannah and Taurean’s engagement party, I was a size 18. That black and white dress (My Shamu dress… not because of my size, but because it’s the same colours as an Orca Whale) in the photo? That’s a UK 18. The bright orange ‘traffic cone’ dress I’m wearing at work today… a size 10.
Now if we go by weight, it’s fair to argue that 2 and a half stone over 9 months is not a lot. You’re right. Now this slow progression – Jack and I have concluded – is that it could be down to genetics, that muscle weighs more than fat, that hey, it’s slow but at least it’s consistent, so don’t get so hung up on the number of kilos, but rather the percentage of muscle mass and body fat each week. However, dropping 5 dress sizes is a big feat, (note to readers: I want to drop one more, and be a size 8, just to see what it looks like on me. The benefit of this is that if it doesn’t look good, I can just eat a load of pasta and go back up a dress size!) and one that was accomplished by weight training.
This consisted of weighted squats, weighted lunges, chest press, leg press, lateral raises, weighted rows, triceps dips, pull-ups, sprints, (which as a form of cardio is far better for you than consistent endurance cardio. It turns out, short bursts at a high intensity burn the fat and not the muscle, allowing you to build more muscle – making you both leaner and stronger – which allows you to even burn calories while resting.), battle rope battles, core work and boxing. We mix it up, so I don’t get bored, and it’s fair to say that it’s been working. My body shape has really changed. I’m more toned, I’m stronger, I’m fitter overall, you can see muscle definition (mainly in my legs – I’m very proud of this by the way) and I can wear a whole new range of pretty clothes (and occasionally borrow Hannah’s leather jacket – much to her chagrin I might add).
Then we changed my diet. It’s had an overhaul really. I mean as a family we cook from scratch, but let’s be honest, I LOVE food. As in I’m a little obsessed… Actually really obsessed. So you’d have thought that changing the way I eat would be immensely difficult for me. It wasn’t too bad to be honest. So long as the food tastes good, I’ll eat it. It’s also about balance. I have cheat days. I eat chocolate if I want to, I indulge in ice cream occasionally, and I even still drink. I just don’t binge or have it every day. My diet consists of egg whites in the morning, either scrambled, or as an omelette with spinach and tomatoes. I sometimes have a slice of rye bread with it too. I snack in-between, either having a little Greek yogurt with blueberries, or a handful of almonds and an apple.
For lunch I’ll typically have a little protein, in the form of chicken, (mainly because this is what was left from dinner the night before), and salad. I’ll pair this with a complex carb, sweet potato, brown rice, spelt or quinoa. Every now and then I’ll have couscous. This isn’t often, but again life is about balance, and I like food. If I’m peckish in the afternoon, you’ll find me eating more blueberries, or blackberries, or cucumber, or celery. If I’m starving perhaps a rice cake and almond butter. I basically eat pretty consistently throughout the day. Little and often, and my body responds well to this.
I’ve also cut out the fizzy drink. I may have one a week. Or I may drink carbonated water. It all depends on my mood. If I ever drink coffee, it’s a black coffee, and I rarely drink traditional English Breakfast tea, so I allow myself one every now and then when I feel like one. Otherwise it’s water, green or peppermint tea.
It’s incredible, but your body adapts very quickly to this new way of life. I quickly find myself feeling lethargic, uncomfortable, and I become an intolerable person if I miss the gym for a few days or eat junk food consistently. I’ve also never believed or saw this as a diet, but rather a lifestyle change. I think this way of thinking is a huge reason as to why I’ve achieved so much. My brain doesn’t believe it has been deprived of anything, and knowing that I can have whatever I want whenever, has basically made me not crave it. If I do, which isn’t often, I’ll have a little. A little chocolate, a little glass of coke, a large glass of wine, or even a Big Mac (although this hinders your body creating abs apparently. You know, just an FYI…).
Now the age old question. Why did I do it? Why did I suddenly decide to want to lose weight? What changed? So here is the thing. I’ve always been confident and very sure of myself. I was big, but I owned it. I’m not tiny now, and that’s also ok. This is my body type, my body shape. I have curves, and am a ‘solid build’ according to the BodyTrax machine at David Lloyds. I am smaller than I was, but I will never be Kendall Jenner, and that’s not a bad thing.
My argument for doing this has been that it’s for Hannah’s wedding. Well yeah, it kind of is. Mainly though, it’s for me. Not Hannah, not my mum, not for a boy, or because society tells me to. I want to feel pretty, and feel more comfortable in my body. I’d like to be more aesthetically pleasing. It’s always so much about aesthetics isn’t it? I want to wear things I’ve not been able to wear before. It’s selfish, but I wanted to change, so I am.
I’ve also experienced a more mental change too. Exercise and the right food have a real effect on my mood. I’m calmer. Exercise has become a de-stressor. I can run though my day working out, or not think about it at all. It’s a form of meditation for me at times too. When something is particularly difficult or strenuous, (i.e. 100 pull ups), it’s all I can focus on. I’m essentially clearing my mind of everything else, de-fogging it of all the unnecessary thoughts from the day.
I love it and tend to plan my life around it. Well in all honesty it’s become a ritual. Like morning meditation, except I gym in the evening… But you get me. While this makes me sound obsessed, I’m not. When I’m tired I stop, if I ache I listen to my body and take a day off. Again I find a balance, and that’s the most important thing.
If I can do it, anyone can. Take your time with it. A change like this can’t and doesn’t happen overnight. As impatient as I am, and everyone from my trainer, to my family and friends know this, I have realised that in this instance, time is my friend. I’ve also concluded that if you really want to do something, or want to change, you will. At the end of the day, it’s self-change and self-improvement, so is entirely up to you.
‘You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself. That is something you have charge of‘. – Jim Rohn