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.

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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.