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.

Guest Post: Jo Giroux on Weight Loss Exercise

Jo Giroux is a personal trainer, weight loss consultant and nutritionalist. She also runs the fabulous Park Fit class that I attend every Monday in the Derbyshire Dales. Jo is a wonderful trainer, incredibly motivating in the face of mass cynicism and has really helped bust my body back into a recognisable shape. Jo has kindly posted about the best ways to shed fat while exercising.

Get Fit

I’m often asked what’s best for fat loss or weight loss, and it’s a been the hot subject for years. As somebody that runs, I’m a big running supporter. But for fat loss? No. It’s resistance and HIIT training that’s key.

I hear the same thing time and time again – “I want to lose weight but I hate running”, ” want to shift a stone so I’ve started going running”. If this sounds like you and your goals then read on.

It’s very easy to assume that running will single handedly shift the pounds because you see how many calories you’ve just lost on your little running app or watch and think that’s it. The thing with running though is once you stop, so does the calorie burning. There is very little Exercise Post Oxygen Composition (EPOC) with running (or any other steady state cardio) – so you only burn calories whilst you run. There is no doubt that you’ll burn calories, which is fab, but it will take longer.

You see that woman (lets use a woman for this scenario) who runs and runs and runs, has slim hips, lean muscles etc etc. Trust me, she’s been running for years, probably since school. And she’s like that because of her GENETICS. Not because she runs for hours on end. Don’t compare yourself to that woman – you won’t get her figure because we’re all different. It’s about being the best YOU can be.

So in Park-Fit we do a lot of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and there’s a reason for that. When it comes to efficient calorie burning HIIT is leaps and bounds ahead of standard cardio. Why? EPOC! That thing I mentioned before. When you do HIIT your body and metabolism function at a higher rate of burned calories for hours and hours afterwards. What does that mean? It means that whilst your sitting with your coffee post Park-Fit you’re still burning calories. HIIT forces your heart to adjust to the changing conditions: sprints, hill runs, fast feet etc. Your heart learns to operate outside its norm, and your body learns to adapt to these changes. All of this changing and sprinting kicks your metabolism into high gear for hours after you’ve finished exercising.

Studies have shown that participants who did integral training as opposed to steady continuous exercise lost THREE TIMES the body fat. I’d take that option every time. The bad thing about HIIT is that it’s exhausting. Your body wants to give up after 20 minutes and it takes time to recover.

So where does resistance/weight training come into it? Simply put, the bigger the muscle, the more calories it needs to work and keep being efficient. Big doesn’t mean you’ll turn into Arnie – as women we don’t have the physical capacity to get like that. But we can become lean.

Which exercises in particular are best suited for weight loss? Exercises that recruit the largest number of muscles – squats, lunges, burpees, kettlebell swings, push-ups etc. Hence the reason I like to do these most sessions. Get them in your workout, mix it in with some HIIT and you’ll build muscle and burn calories at an accelerated rate for hours after you’ve finished.

This is all good and well, but if you don’t eat properly all the above means nothing. Eat right, eat real foods. Don’t miss meals – you may see weight loss but not necessarily FAT LOSS. If you skip or miss meals your body will hold onto its fat stores, resulting in a weaker metabolism. If you want advice about your food – just ask. I’m happy to help whether you come to a Park-Fit class or not.

So, my ultimate advice? Establish your goals, but be realistic about it. Do a variation of exercise if you can, and pick something you enjoy. If you want faster results in less time – do HIIT and resistance. Run if you like. I run because I love the feeling of running, but it’s not for weight loss reasons. That’s why I do burpees 😉

For more details about Jo Giroux, please visit her website: http://www.jogirouxfitness.com/

A confession

park fit

I have a confession to make: I hate exercise. Pretty big coming from someone whose blog is about losing the baby weight and being healthy. Although it is true, I dislike the actual doing of exercise. I have pretty much zero motivation to get my butt up and do something and I very much wish I didn’t have to. However, there are some things I hate more than doing exercise and it is these things that I think about when I am not feeling it about jumping about.

1. Never having any time to myself.

Okay, this is changing now the littlest one is getting bigger. I’m writing right now, right? The thought of an hour and a half each week where I don’t have to keep checking where the little people are, sorting them out or wandering around with a backpack of poop is more than enough to get me out of the house and into an exercise class. I love my children and bedtime is often a wonderful part of the day but once a week I feel the sheer elation of sharing that time with my husband, who single-handedly gets them to bed whilst I go jump up and down in the park. It is pretty much my favourite evening each week.

2. Not fitting into my clothes.

I live in fear that if I stop working out then my newly purchased size 10 clothes will start feeling tight on me and that fills me with enough dread to keep moving. The clothes in my wardrobe range from 8-maternity size 14. Actually, that’s a lie as the other week I chucked out all the size 8 stuff because I am a 32-year old wearing the clothes of a 21 year old. I also sent the size 14 and maternity wear to charity because I am not getting that big again. Having a moon-face does not suit me. Keeping only clothes suited to my current age and body shape keeps me going to fit into those clothes.

3. Having arms that keep waving after I have stopped.

I am getting guns. Badass guns and I want to keep them. I don’t want to be stick thin, I couldn’t care less about between-thigh space. I want to be healthy. I want to be able to backwards superman lift my 1 year old over and chuck her upside down; not feel like she is superglued to my back because of some little used, flappy muscles.

4. Not being able to eat cake.

I love cake. With the cream and the sugar and all its fatty calorie goodness. I don’t want to gorge on it. Well, I do but I won’t. I just want to have a slice of it now and again knowing that its not going to become an extra layer to the belly. I don’t want to spend my life on a diet, counting calories, watching what I eat. I know I eat well and eat lots. I just want to enjoy food without a bad relationship with it. To do that, I need to exercise. If I wanted to be thin, I would do some daft starvation diet. I want to be strong so I work out.

 5. Giving Up

It’s kind of easy to put off doing an exercise DVD or give up half way through because it is hard and makes you sweaty. I now go to Park Fit at our local park and make friends with other mums who also want get strong and healthy. It’s great, we keep each other motivated. When there is a new person who is struggling then they get encouraged along to finish. It’s too easy to give up on your own. Go for a run, feel your lungs are going to break out of your chest and quit is something I’ve been known to do before. I can’t quit in class, everyone is watching. When the teacher does a particularly difficult circuit she tells us we’ll thank her in the end and I honestly do. I have guns.

And so every time I think I simply cannot be bothered or do not have it in me to get off my butt and do something, I think of all the reasons I love what exercise does, the way my body has been changing, that I can run faster, lift heavier and do more.

Frugal fitness

Living in North London is not always conducive to frugal living. Take Muswell Hill, for example. The place is a monument to the middle classes; coffee shops punctuate a long row of estate agents, clothes boutiques, baby boutiques and cosmetic boutiques. On Friday I realised my one and only sports bra was sat in the washing machine and a great barrier to my work out schedule for the weekend. With little spare time and no inclination to be trying on bras while keeping a toddler in check, I bobbed into Sweaty Betty to get some highly engineered scaffolding. There, in a shop that sells itself above my means, was the answer to my current conundrum of whether or not to join the gym.

I don’t especially agree with paying for exercise, it should be the most frugal of activities where you put on some running shoes (and a decent sports bra) and put one foot in front of another at increasing speed. However, a whole industry has been made out of making exercise very un-frugal and I too have been victim to the ‘year-long gym membership’ in the past. Joining a gym, using it for about 3 months and then never stepping foot inside again, counting down the weeks until I could hand in notice like a little chubby truant.

Instead, I went running sporadically in the clement weather and in a fit of January resolution making, bought a Davina DVD for a fiver. I actually use the DVD twice a week or so and see it as a personal challenge to get through the thing without cheating by way of sitting and watching it with a cuppa when I start to break the slightest sweat.  So I know that if I joined a gym with all the best of intentions, I would talk myself out of actually going because there would invariably be a bottle of wine urgently needing my attention at home.

Yet, upon my visit to Sweaty Betty, I found that with my purchase came membership to the Sweaty Betty club and therein lies free exercise classes. Yep, totally free exercise classes once a week in store. I am trying out yoga tomorrow and hopefully ballet fit later in the week. Sure, I will probably stand out like a sore thumb with my ‘kit’ being some incredibly battered up muddy trainers, holey leggings that have seen better days and a vest which cost less than the bus fare to get there.  As I watched my husband do some post-run stretches on my yoga mat tonight, I wondered whether I should give it a scrub first before taking the stinking, cat scratched and stained excuse for a mat down tomorrow  morning.  But I think I hear a glass of wine calling me.

Short Term Goal

I have now officially lost 10kg since the arrival of the boy; which is 1 stone 8lbs in proper English.  I actually weigh a lot less than before I was pregnant, although as I have stated before, my body shape is a heck of a lot different. It’s probably age as well but there are still some clothes that I cannot comfortably fit into again.

It is heartening to see how far I have come, not only in terms of weight loss but also in adjusting to my new life. I actually quite like it now. So I no longer have an interesting job title and more free records than I could possibly listen to, (seriously, I am still trying to get through the last of the CDs I received before my maternity leave ended and the best mate has more promos for me of some the more recent releases). But big whup – this week I taught my son to pull a range of funny looking faces and monster noises. Nothing has greater job satisfaction than that.

I almost dropped him and the pram down the stairs this afternoon because he made me burst out into laughter making straining, grunting noises as I pulled the pram up to the front door. I am pretty sure I don’t make straining grunts as I hike the pram up the stairs but I could be wrong, it often feels like I am giving myself a hernia.

Slight digression aside, I now have a short term exercise goal: to run down to Finsbury Park and back without stopping for a walk. It’s around 6km there and back. I can currently manage 4km, or as I am measuring it, to the end of Rancid’s cover of The Kids Are United on my play list. On Friday, I hope to make it to the end of Dolly Parton meaning that next week an addition of Bowie should take me the full 6km. The novelty of listening to music on my ipod is probably what is carrying me so far in the first place. I am not a good runner, get a mouth full of midgies each evening and feel like my asthmatic lungs will explode at any minute or my flat feet won’t carry me back home.

Once I have acheived this goal, I will sign up for a 10k race. If I can run up these hills around here, I think I can manage a nice, flat park somewhere. Plus those races always have lovely little goodie bags at the end. I still don’t know how I managed a 10k a few years ago, I barely even trained running a few laps of ‘Scary in the Dark Park’ over in Tottenham.

On a side note, today’s cheer has been brought about by the boy dancing to music. His new favourite song is Jilted John by Jilted John. My mini punk rocker…

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.

 

Progress is visible.

When I started this blog, I wasn’t in a great place. I didn’t feel too grand about myself, where my life seemed to be going or, to be precise, its lack of direction,  and the loss of my social life. I watched my pre-baby friends hang out in the park having fun, drinking beer, going about their lives without hours of preparation and planning. They could rock up to a gig at a moment’s notice or drive down to a festival without worrying where they would kip. Heck, they could go to gigs and festivals.

Their lives seemed to be carrying on without me, while mine stood still and I felt OLD. Don’t get me wrong, I love my son with my whole life and would never choose my pre-baby life over this but I wasn’t expecting to feel old, frumpy and like time had stood still for me. I felt like life was passing me by at the age of 28.

It got worse when I realised returning to work, any work, was out of the question financially. Moving away was impossible and would probably break my heart anyway. I love this city, I love my little area. I feel elated just walking down Archway Road and seeing the London skyline.

Yet, I didn’t feel like a Londoner any more. I didn’t get the tube anywhere and people talked to me. Complete and utter strangers started conversations with me on buses and then one day, I found myself doing the same. It felt strangely familiar, like I was transported back up North to where, on the most part, people natter away at every opportunity rather than sit in stony silence next to a stranger on a bus. Like you have to spend the next 30 minutes of your life with your thighs squished up together so you better smile and find out how far down the route those thighs are intending to go.

Still, I love this city. I love going down to the river, appreciating the green spaces, that you can be spontaneous and find something worthwhile and interesting if you look hard enough. A lot of that gets hidden under nappies, prams, catching hats and toys.

I started this blog because I weighed myself one day and I was still the same 11lb 3oz I was months before. I was overweight and unhappy. Not that being thin makes you happy but being fat was not making me any less unhappy. I hated the way I looked, I hated my boring Mum-hair, old clothes and beat up trainers. I wanted to have a conversation with someone about music, books, films or the news and I found myself with connections made solely through my son. I didn’t know these new people like I knew my friends.

It may have taken a while to find some common ground that I feel comfortable on, my nervous chatter might have been a stumbling block as well, but I have met some wonderful, interesting people; who below the initial surface have continued to surprise and entertain me.

I re-coloured my hair, tried out a new style (known as growing it – something not done since I hacked it all off into 2-inch, pink spikes, aged 16), and trawled ebay and the sales for cheap clothes that were not black jeans and tees. They are in fact black leggings, dresses and skirts but I like black.

I started doing face masks, looking after my skin, taking one night a week to see my best friend, who only lives on the next street. I’ve even made it to a few gigs and stayed up until 5.30am partying. Things are more erratic on the social side but it still exists.

I have a vague plan of where life may take me but have learnt not to worry so much about a firm career, I can forge my own way in this world. I have become confident in my parenting and saying ‘no’ to things I’d just otherwise get annoyed at to be polite. I am getting quite good at saying ‘no’.

I logged back into my fitness app today, recorded my food diary for the first time in a long time and entered my new weight; 9lbs 12oz. That is a total loss of 1.4 stone or 19-odd lbs. Not bad going really. So my belly is still wobbly and marked, I can’t fit into a large proportion of my pre-pregnancy clothes but I can fit into some and more to come. I feel positive about getting my body back in shape now.

I don’t gorge on cake, probably because I am no longer in that place where I need a sugar rush to get me to the next coffee. My caffiene intake is right down and I feel so much better for it. Plus, I have almost finished Shantaram – only 4 months in – so might get to read some more books.

This feels like progress, I can see the progress. I am starting to enjoy my new life, finally.