How This Four Letter Word Will Ruin Your Body-Confidence And Ways To Avoid It

There is a four letter word which will do more to ruin your body-confidence than anything else and I would like to see it and all versions of this word removed from how you talk about yourself and your life. That word is FAIL.

Have you ever found yourself saying or thinking the following phrases:

  • I’ve failed to complete this
  • I’ve failed the challenge
  • I feel like such a failure
  • I have failed to fit into that dress
  • I’ve failed to lose weight/change dress size/fit into that item of clothing I used to wear
  • I’ve failed at life

You probably have one or more of these phrases going through your head each day and onc you have kids that sense of failure just packs the pressure on because you don’t want to fail your kids.

‘Fail’ is a destructive and counter-productive word that should be consigned to the same black box as ‘beach body ready’ and all those other negative messages in the world that make you feel like you aren’t acheiving.

Before I tell you how you can change your thinking to rid your life from FAIL-itis I want to tell you how my year of exercise started. I received an email from a vegan running blog challenging me to a whole year of running challenges. I thought, ‘why the heck not?’ and took it up. The first month’s challenge was to run at least a mile very day for the whole month. In Januray. In the Peak District.

For 12 days straight I ran through rain, snow, winds. I got soaked by inconsiderate people driving through puddles right next to me. I ran early in the morning before the kids woke up and at the end of a long day after I’d put them into bed. And then I got a day that it was impossible for me to fit in a run. Not just that I couldn’t find the time but it was completely and utterly impossible. I’d had 4 hours broken sleep, needed to get up and get the first train to London, spent a day in a meeting and then get a train back home, by which point it was so late I just collapsed into bed. I had failed.

So I missed the next day and the next. I thought I would just pick up the challenge in February but I didn’t. Nothing happened in March or April. I did the odd exercise video here and there, some yoga and my wonderful outdoor fitness class on a Monday. In June that ended for good. By the end of July I could no longer fit into some of my clothes with ease. Last month I joined a gym; this is most unlike me.

But does this story sound familiar? Do you start a challenge, get part way through and from external circumstances or as I like to refer to it as ‘life’, you stop for a day and that’s it the mojo has gone?

If so, here are my tips for combatting that:

1.Accept life happens

Missing one day of a challenge or even a week doesn’t mean you have ‘failed’ it just means you have a whole, complex life that needs attention. Be it children, work or family these things can sometimes gulp up your time in ways you weren’t expecting. Accept it, acknowledge it and get back on it. But most importantly the challenge is only with yourself so you are fully within your rights to…

2. Shift the goalposts

You know those cheesy, inspirational quotes that keep telling you you are only in competition with yourself? Well, theey are right. So who is to say that a 30 Day Shred needs to be 30 days straight? Is there a rule book somewhere that if you don’t do it without break days then you’ve not done it? Are we seriously saying we only accomplish things if we play by some rules set up by others or worse our subconscious?  Because that is total rubbish. Had I shifted my goal posts at the start of this year who knows where my running life may have been right now, I may have even enjoyed running. I doubt it but you never know. Sod the rules, change the goal posts, succeed.

3. Focus on the achievements

How often when doing anything to do with your health or wellbeing do you focus on your achievements rather than your end goal? Here’s the thing about health and wellbeing goals, as soon as you get near to them you push them further away. There’s always more you can do, better improvements you want to make. This is human but it also means we don’t always appreciate where we are right now and what we have done. Like that photo of you from 10 years ago that you take out and think ‘I looked so young, and thin. If only I’d appreciated that then’. Well big news: you are young and thin – especially to the 10 year older you who will be looking back at photos from now thinking the exact same thing. Appreciate yourself as you are now and celebrate the things you have achieved. Whether it is all-weather running for 12 days straight or lifting the next level kettlebell or simply going to a group.  All of it needs celebration and every time you feel like you’ve ‘failed’ then think of at least five things for every one negative.

4. Find your motivation

Failure saps motivation and feeds further apathy for doing something positive. When you find yourself missing stuff and not really wanting to get back into it, have a motivation plan. The hardest day is not the first day but the 10th or 20th or whatever your breaking point it to turn it into a routine that is part of your life. It turns out that my motivation is not really competition (with myself or others) so could take or leave a challenge. They tend to interfere in what I want to do in my spare time anyway. My motivation is sometimes fitting into some clothes I can no longer wear, or putting quid in a jar every time I do some exercise knowing that in a few months I’ll be able to afford something expensive that fits. This works really well for short classes and HIIT training. Or currently the big money investment of a gym membership for 6 months is keeping me ‘getting my money’s worth’.  My motivation is never fixed, it changes from time to time so I need to change with it.

5. Take the internet with a pinch of cynicism

How many times have you looked at your friends’ wonderful social lives, clean homes and sparkling children online only to find out when you meet them in person those images and posts they put out there are a small snap shot in time and they actually need your help and support? Or they are bored and it was their first night out in months? We don’t put out the things that are going wrong in our lives because that’s the part we hold back for those close to us. The same applies to all the ‘after’ pictures you see. We hold ourselves up to unobtainable lives projected out on the internet of strangers who we think are happier, healthier and more fun that we are. We aspire to a lifestyle that is impossible to acheive. We all do it and we all, deep down, know that what we see on the internet is a shell to live much like our own behind the filtered images.

Hold that mirror up to those you see in real life alone and more importantly only measure yourself and your successes against you alone. This isn’t easy, it is human to compare and feel there is something better out there. It is what makes us strive to improve ourselves but it also makes us miserable.

There’s no easy way to do this because we all love social media and our online projections of ourselves. You should no more remove yourself from that world than you should start thinking this is how people live. Just the next time you see some posts of someone you know having a really great time, check in with them. It might not be as it seems.

Advertisements

5 Lessons in getting fit

For the first time since I was in my early 20s I weigh less than 10 stone. Or if I use my friend’s very flattering bathroom scales, 9 and a half stone. That is well over one stone of weight loss since my journey to pre-child body began. I still have a long way to go but I have learned rather a lot along the way about myself, the person I want to be and my relationship with my body. This is what I know.

dumbells

1. #No Excuses

What a load of crap that is for a start. I don’t have any excuses for why I don’t exercise daily and lose weight quicker. I have lots of very good reasons as to why it is impossible for me to do so. Let’s start with the fact I am exhausted by the time I get the kids into bed, then have to yo-yo up the stairs as they tag team waking until I take my tired carcass to bed. After which, my youngest wakes a few times in the night meaning the choice between waking early to exercise or 30 minutes of sleep is a no brainer.

I would rather be chunky Mum than tired and angry Mum. And I think my kids would prefer that too. Quite frankly all that running up the stairs must be doing something.

2. Fit it in where you can.

I have a weekly date with the kettlebell class at my local gym whilst my son has his swimming lessons. Sure I’d love to watch my boy flap about in the pool but it is a guaranteed 30 minutes of exercise each week that burns 500 calories. Plus it doubles as ‘alone time’ if I ignore the menopausal women with better arms than me.

I also figured out that walking back from the nursery run with the new one on my front burns quite a few calories. So on the days I do the drop off, rain on shine I go for a walk. If I stay out all day it all tots up to almost 8 miles.

3. Food

salad

Ah the food porn of Instagram. I was invited to join a vegan cooking group on Facebook but a well-meaning friend. I say well meaning because the group was more about weight loss than it was about vegan cooking.

I fully support anyone embracing the plant-based lifestyle for whatever their reasons, it is just that mine are not centred around weight loss. I love my food, I enjoy cooking it and eating it. I love eating healthy, colourful food as well. But I also love cake. Lots and lots of cake. Which is why I have developed a sure fire way of eating well and not gorging on cake: do not buy the cake. Or the biscuits. Or that chocolate bar. If it is not in the house by 7pm then I cannot physically shovel it down my throat while justifying it with the breastfeeding calories. Breastfeeding will never burn off eating a whole packet of Lazy Day Tiffins, which ever way I look at it.

This kindly person, when I joked about my post-birth body suggested I hire a personal trainer. As cheap as the gym, she said. Ah but not as cheap as my tried and tested ‘eat well and exercise more’ method and also read Lesson Number 1 up there.

I have also learned that if I do accidentally lose an entire packet of tiffins down my throat or over eat on the fresh bread from the market that it is not the end of the world. Guilt will only make it worse. Everyone has bad eating days and you know what? The next day will be much better.

4. Use what you have around you.

Getting fit and strong doesn’t need gadgets, fancy clothes or equipment. I don’t have a gym membership, I wear my £5 leggings and an even cheaper vest. I forked out on a decent sports bra because we all know that bras matter. But that is it. I am a little obsessed with the Queen of all Fitness, Gillian Micheals but at a fiver a pop for a DVD, that’s not too bad.

Instead I use my kids. Bench presses with the baby, work out the legs while she goes ‘flying’, become a swing as I do squats and bicep curls to lift her. With the older one, a quick trip to the park and 10 minutes on the see-saw is more squats than I’d do all week.

You Tube is also amazing for free work out videos. I like a challenge to kick start a new routine in my day so I take up a 30 day challenge of yoga. Sure I maybe only get through 5 days and of that my kids try join in too so make that 3 and half. Possibly spread over two weeks. But we had fun doing it.

5. With great age comes great wisdom.

Or something like that. Basically, I have come to accept that I do not have the body of a 20 year old. I get my bikini body the old fashioned way: I buy a bikini and I put it on my body.

There was a time that I thought I would never wear a bikini again. I last wore one when I was 24, in a hot tub in Estonia where only my best friend would be subjected to the horror of my slightly squishy body. Then pregnancy happened.

I went from looking like rivlets of blood were scored down my torso to a chubby Barbie left too close to the fire. At first I cried and then I thought sod it because I love my children more than I dislike my stomach scars. I am rounded and a bit soft around the edges because I need to be. I am still breastfeeding so there’s not going to be any hardened abs happening soon.

Not only that but sometimes I go on the weekly family swim without shaving. I know, there are people in my town who now know I am capable of growing body hair, that I’ve reached puberty with all the dark hairs that go with it. I gleefully do kettlebells whilst flashing my pits. I walk through the change room with hairs on my legs. It is liberating how much I have accepted my body and wish, oh so wish, I had done so a decade ago.

The App Is Back

The fitness app is back in my life.
A few weeks ago, my husband went on a night out with his best mate. He text me at 9pm to say that the friend was staying over and could I please have a quick whizz around the flat. My vision of that Friday night did not include scrubbing out the loo at 10pm but that is a tangent I don’t need to relive.

The next morning, his friend starting counting up the drinks they’d consumed the night before. Curious as to why, I took a stab in the dark that he had started using the fitness app that I was trying out when I first started this blog. It turns out he was and wanted to know how I knew.

“The only time I have ever kept track of my drinks on a night out, other than teenage exaggeration, was when I was tracking the calories.”

“How’d it work out for you?”

“I lost most of my weight when I stopped worrying about that thing and just exercised.”

Since then my husband managed to convince me to give it another go. I put on 2lbs and got annoyed at the thing. But I can see what he is eating in the day and give encouragement for his goals, which is a good thing.

Although, the app does make me aware of what I am eating in the day and I have hunted out some quite lovely alternatives to cake and chocolate.

Also, it supported my view that if the Government really, genuinely want to cut down on binge drinking, especially with young women, then all they need to do is clearly show in massive red numbers the amount of calories in the alcoholic drinks. Suffice to say my evening glass of wine is now something of a treat.

 

Know Your Body, Don’t Worry and Smile Plan.

I don’t believe in diets. The moment you start losing weight on one, you end up quitting. I think that’s why I don’t do diets; they are something that can be quit. They are not permanent. If a ‘weight-loss plan’ is to actually work then it has to be a total lifestyle change. To change, we tend to need those big moments, epiphanies or a large kick up the butt.

I am trying to loose weight because when I was pregnant, my eating habits changed. When I stopped being pregnant, stopped breastfeeding, I didn’t start exercising or change my habits back to pre-pregnancy.

I have a pretty healthy diet. I put it down to my veganism but you can get unhealthy vegans just as much as you can get unhealthy omnivores.

A few years ago, I was at the 30th birthday party for a friend of my husband. Some of my husband’s school friends were there, even a few I had yet to meet. When the buffet came out, I sent my husband on a food-check to see what I could eat. One of these friends who I had just met that night asked what my problem was:

“Oh, I’m vegan. He is just seeing what I can eat so I don’t eat anything by accident.”

“Carrying a bit weight for a vegan aren’t you?”

“Well, thanks for calling me fat.”

He didn’t actually mean it as a criticism, he later admitted, but that most vegans he had met were waif-like and didn’t seem to eat food. I love cake. A little too much.

The upshot of all this is that I have finally changed my habits from pregnancy and learned a lot in the process about the kind of foods I need to eat to keep up my energy levels. I had a great diet pre-pregnancy but it didn’t matter so much if I got tired at 4pm, I could get a coffee and biscuit and coast along in the office until the caffiene kicked in to get me through to the evening. Besides, sleep could be caught up at the weekend.

Now, however, I can’t be tired. I need to be active and alert all day, to match the energy levels of kids. I realised I drank too much tea and coffee and it was doing the opposite of what I wanted by absorbing too much of my iron.

I realised the other month that instead of the low-carb diet which takes about 2 weeks to notice, I needed a good old fashioned low fat, high carb diet to counter the fact I don’t eat animals. I needed more tofu, more sprouts and more beans.

I could no longer go for long runs, or any runs in fact as I was just too exhausted. ThenI heard about a school of thought which suggests a few minutes of pushing yourself to the limit, done 3 times a week can do more for your health than regular runs or other exercise. So, my pushing myself to the limit on wii fit hula hoop was working much better than a 5k jog outside. Short, sharp bursts of energy.

Finally, the moment I stopped worrying about my weight so much was the moment I seemed to kick start losing it. Being happy is more important than being thin and busting a gut to look a certain way was not working for me. I had a better diet when I stopped calorie counting and working out what foods I needed, what point system I was on and if I walked to town I could have a slice of bread.

So, given that I have started using my common sense, I have decided to give my loss of baby weight its own name, like a proper Plan. This is the Know Your Body, Don’t Worry and Smile Plan.

It has a three-pronged attack to losing the baby weight:

1. Eat well. A balanced diet that you are comfortable with where you don’t deny treats or essential nutrients. Any diet, vegan or none, has potential to be a bad diet, make small changes to make yours a good one and build up energy levels.

2. Exercise that fits around your life. Everyone can spare 3 minutes, 3 times a week to get out of breath. Fitness games, running, cycling or er… other stuff that gets your panting. All good for shaping up.

3. Don’t worry about it. It’ll go soon. Work out your bad habits, don’t feel bad about them, just change them. Do something for yourself that makes you happy at least once a week. Don’t calorie count, watch scales or stress about your body. Everyone has things they don’t like about their body, just do what you need to to feel comfortable in yours.

That’s it. Kind of my take on the Eat Less, Exercise More.