The 30 Day Shred and Lying.

Push ups = nemesis

 

Today I have completed the 30 Day Shred by Jillian Michaels. If there is a woman in her 30s who hasn’t yet heard of this workout I would be amazed. It’s a Mumsnet favourite for a reason: 20 minute work out from start to finish. I’ll be honest, I missed one day due to complete exhaustion and illness but otherwise I did it. It wasn’t easy, I lacked time, motivation, fitness levels and enthusiasm but I did it. If you’ve followed any of my Insta-spam you’ll see I put my all into it.

So here’s the thing, why do a 30 Day Shred? When the 30 days are up, then what?

This is what I’ve learned over the past month:

  1. Women tell lies.

I’m guilty of this myself. I was in the pub with friends right at the start of the month. As we were in the pub it is safe to assume these were childless friends and the subject of post-partum bodies came up. They talked about how their mothers still had great bodies after birth and didn’t know how they managed it. Then asked me how I managed it.

For a second, I was about to tell that great lie that sometimes we tell “it just happens”. Like there is something great about you if you find things effortless. No there isn’t. I shocked myself that I almost said this because a. it’s not been effortless and b. I’ve grown two humans inside of me, my body will never be the same again. I have no idea why for that split second I wanted people to think it was easy to lose the baby weight, like there is a shame in working out but it was there. Instead, I broke the news to the childless that my body has changed shape and I work damn hard to get somewhere near to my 20-odd year old body.

I try to be okay about stretch marks but I know that it is okay to be upset by them too. For all the wonderful things that happened to make them, it still doesn’t mean I like them any more. I don’t love my children any less if I get upset that I look like melted Barbie.

2. It will take more than 30 days to look like Anita, Natalie or Jillian.

Bless Jillian for her boundless motivation on the DVD. I love it, I push through the pain but somewhere in the Level 3 circuits she says that if you’ve been working hard and following the diet plan this is where you’ll start to see the 6 pack. And I believed it. I eat well, really well and I put so much effort into the work outs but I have not got a 6 pack or anywhere near. I still have a post-pregnant pouch.

And when I took mid-shred challenge measurements and found I’d lost 2 inches from my hips in 15 days, did I celebrate? No, I cried because nothing, absolutely nothing had gone from the part of my body I hate the most: my stomach. What on earth is wrong with me? I truly believed that it didn’t matter how fat I was on day 1, by day 21 I would have six pack. No, the 30 Day Shred will not give you a six pack in 30 days but it will give you the kick start you need to make that (or something else) your goal. It will take more than a month to get the body image you want, but if you get a kick start then the end goal doesn’t seem so far away.

3. Self-confidence is everything.

If you’d met me you wouldn’t think that confidence and self-esteem were something I struggled much with but beneath the outer presentation to the world is a very shy person who battles against all natural instincts to go up and talk to people. It might be why I feel so chilled out in London; no one wants to talk to me. When blogging this shred on Instagram, I really struggled with the sweaty selfie. There is something quite self-indulgent about it and also, I don’t want anyone to see me in my workout. I would rather hide in a darkened room alone to do it.

I was horrified last week when three people saw me jogging into town from the school run. Horrified. I struggle to do my runs after the school run because I feel so exposed in the playground in my running clothes. I hate it. It took me ages to build up the the selfie on instagram. So, not everything that is put out in the world is a real, honest document of life. There are the bits that I didn’t show. I showed my arms because I was so impressed with them taking shape. If I could have photographed my legs, I would have done. I got my husband to take a photo of my press ups because I could do them. Did I get any of the things I struggled with whilst struggling? Any of my podgy tum? Nope, I only gave you half a story, half of the reality. It is just another way of lying.

One of the great things about blogging all of this is that I’ve met some great people online. I am in a shredding group on facebook. As everyone was posting their ‘before’ pictures, they would comment on how much they hated their bodies when in fact they were normal sized and shaped bodies for women who had quite recently given birth. All this sharing will hopefully let women see what is normal post-pregnancy. And so here is my before and after. Suffice to say my anxiety levels are sky high posting this:

Before and After

4. A kick up the arse is needed.

I love this 30 day shred because it kick starts putting exercise into the daily routine of my life. After a month, I have finally figured out I need to plan my workout into my day as much as I plan my work into my day. I stick to my plan too. If something comes along and derails my day, I put on my gym clothes anyway and do it when I can.

I started this shred struggling with level 1. Today, I ran up a big old hill in the rain. That may not seem like much but I detest rain, running and hills more than anything. I get up and I do it not because I want to be skinny but because I want to be strong. We have a newly installed pull up bar in our house. I can barely lift off of the ground but I try each day because I know being strong is a realistic goal.

This is the point of the shred, not to just lose the weight but to know that a daily piece of exercise is a good thing. This is my ‘what next?’. The final few days of this challenge were the hardest because I was so ready to move on to the next thing. I now run home from the school run, do some work out before starting work, have picked up a yoga class on a Friday evening with friends and even do some strength work outs with my husband. I have 6 week abs, kettlebells and ballet arm challenges all lined up next plus runs getting booked in. I cannot wait.

5. Your body is the only one you need consider for goals.

It is very hard not to compare yourself to others, especially if you have groups that are doing workout challenges with you but your body is unique and special to you. Your fitness is like no one else’s and the only person you should be in competition with is yourself. Wise words that I should heed sometimes as well. Not sit on my phone after 3 glasses of wine being miserable that other people have lost more weight in the same time. We all tell lies about our bodies in one way or another, we only show what we want other people to see.

So what is next?

Well, I’m not going to bore everyone with daily photos of my 6 week abs, goodness knows I was bored of my instagram feed by the end of this month.  But I am going to keep working out and striving for my goals. I am also speaking to some women who have inspired me over this past month to talk about what keeps them going, how they’ve felt about their post-birth bodies.

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.

Things You Don’t Expect When You’re Expecting.

I spent my first pregnancy reveling in its blissful magic. I glowed and was amazed by everything that was happening. My husband and I followed the progress with online apps  religiously, setting dates in our diaries for the next progress stage video. Second time around this is definitely not the case. In my mind, pregnancy was a wonderful thing to be treasured and my son would hug and kiss my bump while telling his unborn sibling stories about his day. Here is what I did not expect.

1. To be simultaneously kicked from both the inside and outside.

There is a party in my womb between the hours of midnight and 4 and, like irritating neighbours having a garden rave, I am not going to get any sleep while it is going on. Second pregnancy is making me hyper-aware of the night time movements anyway. What I did not expect was that having a 3 year old in the bed due to a house guest would mean getting kicked from both sides for 8 hours solid, often at the same time. I am not sure which is more preferable, dislodging a heel from my eye socket at 2am or kicked in the bladder for an hour making me feel like I need a wee, when I do not for the whole night.

2. Climbing the Soft Play Mountain.

Six months into my first pregnancy I very proudly climbed a mountain in Spain. Sure it had steps and hand rails but  I did it, rather than get a bus to the top with all the old folks. Woe betide my husband when he tells people it was less of a mountain and more of a ‘rocky outcrop’. What I did not expect to be doing this time around was sliding my bump through a snaking ladder of soft play centre made to fit a 2-6 year old around and not a 30 year old pregnant woman. My son decided to take the steepest slide into the ball pool that even my husband said was a pain in the coccyx and ‘Mummy has to come too’. I could even see from the peak that my coffee was going cold and my magazine unread.

castle of santa barbara clowntown

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Using my bump as a lever.

First time, I wished for a cattle prod to keep people at a half-metre radius from my bump. Second time the bump is instead used to lever my son into and onto various places as he is now too heavy to lift. The bath tub and various walls to walk on being most popular. It has a great second use pivoting him up into the air that I was not expecting.

4. To not give a crap about the ‘rules’.

Pregnant women are not allowed to do anything fun in the slightest. Rollercoasters, petting zoos, drinking, and gardening are apparently all risky and should be avoided. Caffeine is also outlawed in normal amounts. At your most tired, when you could do with a coffee drip you are advised to limit your intake. Yeah sod that. The best day of my pregnancy so far has been hopped up on at least 5 cups of tea and coffee plus copious amounts of cake. I managed to get the boy to a toddler party, charge around doing the shopping and still find energy to dance around my living room to some probably inappropriate music while teaching my son the lyrics. This is not a normal day. A normal 3 cup-limit day consists of me passing out on the boy’s bed whilst trying to encourage a nap while he climbs over me and destroys the flat for an hour before getting bored and throwing books at my head to wake me up.

I have also been having pretty much every negative side-effect possible of pregnancy. This all seemed to resolve itself when I resolved to have a glass of wine. The up side is that because I am only having a glass, I had better make it a really good glass.

5. To spend most of pregnancy in a semi-crouched position.

First pregnancy was spent in the sitting on the couch position, second pregnancy in the ‘clearing up toys’ position. I am sure I had 6 months of back problems last time around from sitting at work on a chair older than time itself. This time, in spite of spending most of my day collecting things off the floor from standing, not even a twinge. If you see me walking down the street looking like I am impersonating the missing link, you’ll know I got stuck in that position.

Post-Christmas relaxtion

We were in deepest, foggiest Cornwall last week with sporadic internet and no phone connection. This was after my husband had taken all the chargers in the flat on a work trip abroad. So I was essentially cut off from the modern world for around a week. It was bliss. Not so great for work-related opportunities but for re-centering myself it was exactly what I needed.

We were in Cornwall for a wedding. After I had gotten over the whole wedding on a Wednesday in Cornwall during January where no kids were initially invited, it turned out to be a superb mini-holiday post-Christmas.

Fort View

The wedding was in the middle of nowhere, set in a historic fort on the edge of the country. This was the view from the garden, which was spectacular. It was also a crazy journey there down single track country lanes, in pitch black and fog that was of a horror film. A wrong turn endured us to a many-point turn and thankfully a very patient toddler who seemed to understand silence was most important at this point.

Fort Frolic

Yet, we made it there safely and returned with a rough plan for a Summer escape with some of the friends we shared the cottage with last week.

Having had a week of escapism, I was very much ready for the start of my yoga course tonight. It turns out I am actually rather good at yoga. I didn’t get corrected once and even got into the flow of things.

We all had to introduce our yoga levels at the start of the class, given that this is not one for beginners. I was a little embarrassed to say that my only yoga experience was really on the wii fit, aside from my pregnancy yoga.

Little did I realise how good my pregnancy yoga teacher was because while I didn’t know any of the names for the moves, I did recognise the pregnant-versions which we were taught in our class.

I used to get giggling fits in my pregnancy yoga classes and tonight during relaxation brought back a whole host of memories of 10 heavily pregnant women, sticking their butts in the air and shaking them about before being wrapped up in blankets on their sides for breathing techniques.

It almost belittles how great that class was during my pregnancy. I went into it to do some sort of exercise and came out of them with a whole different attitude to pregnancy. I did spend most of my relaxation time thinking up coherent arguments to convince my husband that home birth was the best option during the first few months; then after he had read up on the subject, I used the time to mentally go a bit postal about my unnecessarily stressful job situation.

From the first class, I was hit with a new perspective of childbirth. Amazing given my very first class involved no yoga at all and one of the most extreme birth stories I could have heard but it gave me the insight that if that was the worst it could be, I could deal with it. I went from crapping it about birth, thinking I would take any painkiller going, to wanting a wholly natural birth. They were how antenatal classes should be. And they sorted out all my aches and pains.

I only realise now that it was laying the foundations for proper yoga. Not wii fit or gym-class yoga but actual flowing, thoughtful yoga. I’m never going to be into the chanting and bell-ringing side of it but I do feel more energised and focused from just my first class and am ready to take it as far as I can go.

I would also recommend that any pregnant women in the N8 area of London, or within accessible distance should check out Birthwise Yoga for the best experience during pregnancy. Anna, the teacher, is wonderful, down-to-earth and really cares about everyone in the class. I didn’t realise until tonight just how special a yoga teacher she is and how much a teacher makes a difference. My teacher tonight was great, really encouraging and very much worth the time, make no mistake but it really shows the when there is a level of understanding from a teacher. I don’t think I can ever go to gym yoga again.

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.

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.

Weight Goal

My wii fit weight loss goal is this coming Sunday. Apart from a 7lb loss after the big house move, I seem to be fluctuating around the 10st mark. I would have had to have lost 10lbs in the next week to hit the goal, so it has been adjusted. I now have 2 weeks to lose 6lbs and keep the weight off. After that, no more weighing.

My real-life goal is to fit into a skirt I have worn but twice and to dare to bare my legs this Summer. Thanks to the erratic evening exercise and traipsing up and down hills I can now fit into a size 12 skirt not worn since pre-pregnancy and my legs are looking better than they have since I could run more than a mile.

The wobble-belly is still there but slowly shrinking. Slowly, slowly. At least I don’t feel as down about it now. The stretch, sorry life-marks are another matter. They have faded, yes, but you can’t unstretch a rubber band like stomach skin.

I believe that drinking less tea and coffee has also helped. I realised I was making my way through way too much and it was probably sucking all the iron out of my body thus making me tired rather than envigorated.