After the excesses, the guilt trips

Encouragement for weeks, from every angle, to indulge yourself.  TV adverts, magazine articles, food pictures, special offers, biscuits and chocolates in every work place.  Mince pies, mulled wine, Christmas cake, marzipan fruits, After Eight Mints, cheese, chocolate tree decorations, a cheeky little glass of fizz.

After the excess comes ta new message.  To do, to be, something else instead.

Just because it is January. 

The new year, new you pressure. 

Blatant fat shaming. 

Adverts everywhere, for a quick detox, weight loss clubs, gym memberships. Celebrity exercise DVDs.

10 Steps to this, that and the other.  All the clickbait.

Shiny and bright white new Christmas trainers, waiting in the box. 

It’s all just marketing.  Much of it promoting quick fixes, doomed to fail.

 

There is a reason that many diets and big life-style changes fail. 

They are just too big.  Too much change all at once.  It’s cognitive overload.  

There is nothing wrong with making some new resolutions for the new year.  They can be a positive thing, providing focus and helping to create new habits (or tackle unhelpful old ones).  But instead of deciding to change everything, all on one day, choose something else instead.

Choose small changes.  Doing one thing at a time. Small steps. 

If you have never even run for a bus, deciding to go for the marathon in a matter of months is probably setting yourself up for failure.  Aiming, just to being with, to go for one single parkrun is more doable,  more real.  Then when you have that achievement ticked off, take the next step.  And the next one. 

If you want to improve your wellbeing in 2018 (and not just the first week in January), take just one action, make just one change.  Today.  Stick with it for a while.   And then think about making another.  It’s tortoise, not hare, time.  And while you are at it, ignore the marketing and the clickbait and all the other stuff that just makes you feel like crap and simply wants to part you from even more of your money. 

Make your wellbeing changes manageable.  Make them count.  Make them today.

 

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The Christmas Quality Street Grief Cycle

Promises self not to eat any Quality Street

Decides that some Quality Street might be acceptable.

Limits self to one strawberry cream and one orange cream.

Actually eats 12 strawberry creams and 10 orange creams.

Decides might as well eat entire tub now.

Opens wine to go with it because, well, Christmas.

Goes to bed drunk with chocolate still smeared on face.

Wakes up and promises self not to eat any Quality Street.

Repeat.

 

Excuses, excuses

I’ve got a confession to make.

I’ve been lying.

To myself.

It’s the big lie too.

The ‘I don’t have time to exercise’ lie.

Let me explain.

When I first got seriously into fitness, I found it fairly easy to fit it in. I had a short commute, and a job good enough to mean I could afford a cleaner and send out my ironing.  My time of choice to work out was in the morning before work.  Up at 5.30, in the gym for 6.15, a hard training session and then off to the office.  Weekends were dedicated to running, cycling and even longer gym sessions.

Fast forward to today, and I have a gruelling minimum three hour round trip to work. Layer on top of that the cooking, cleaning, washing and all of the other life stuff we all have to do. Trying to fit in family and some freelance work on top, exercise just kept getting pushed further and further down the priority list.

Exercise was important, but not urgent. Not in the same way that having clean clothes and food in the cupboard was.

Before I knew it, I was out of the habit. I didn’t have the time, or so I said.

Excuses are easy. But as with all things, it’s a matter of priorities. I have the same number of hours in the day as Beyonce (although probably less domestic help to be honest).

So I have had a long hard look at my lifestyle.

Last week, instead of driving to a few places that I needed to go, I took my bike.

I prioritised my health over the emails that I could do on the train later, and ran at lunchtime.

I ignored the ironing pile and went out for a late evening run. I couldn’t make a full gym session but I could do a quick jaunt near to home.  And let’s face it, I can always wear something with a few creases.  I ditched a TV programme that I normally watched and did some cardio instead.

We are all busy. No one just has the time.  You have to make it.

As the saying goes, if you want to do something you find a way; if you don’t you find an excuse.

Power in the group

There’s something about having an exercise partner. On one hand, I don’t like it.  I like to do my own thing, at my own pace.  But that’s the thing.  Left to my own pace, that pace will be slower.  When I run in an event or in a group, I run faster than I do when I’m on my own.  When I don’t have a commitment to someone else, I am just that little bit more likely to stay on the sofa.  It’s a peer pressure kind of thing.

I’ve recently joined a lunchtime running club at work. Like many of us who work in offices, I rarely take a lunch break. Most days, you will find me eating a sandwich at my desk whilst scrolling Twitter.  But when there is someone counting on you, you go.

There’s just a couple of us. It’s a chatty, not too hard-core kind of thing.  It gets me moving, even if it does mean that some of my colleagues inevitably see me in lycra (sorry about that).  We do laps of the local park.  At this time of year its cold and muddy and wet and I like it.  Running with someone else makes me run longer and faster than I would if I was on my own.

So if you need a little more motivation, if you need that extra push, find someone to exercise with. There’s power in the many.

 

Good enough

We are coming up to that time of year again.

First we will have Christmas, and all of the indulgence it brings with it.

Then there will be New Year’s Eve, the final excess of the season.

And then…..

The guilt.

The resolutions.

The TV adverts for diets and detoxes.

The celebrity exercise DVDs.

The pressure – from external sources and from within.

Being hard on ourselves.

 

Anyone familiar with my story will know that I found losing weight and finding fitness hard. I still do.  I know that I always will.

I read this article at the weekend.  I wanted to share it, not just because I found it inspirational, but because it also echoes my own lived experience over the last five years.

I have learned that there is no end goal, no finish line. That the path is not always a straight line – sometimes you fall back a little and that’s okay.  I have learned that health and wellbeing is about caring for yourself and putting yourself first, something that many of us don’t do often enough.  I have learned that when it comes to weight loss and fitness, we have everything we need inside ourselves, we just have to believe it.  Most of all I have learned that there is no quick fix – there is only one race, and that is your own.

I am not perfect, but I am good enough.

 

The 9 kinds of people you always meet in the gym

gymThe protein bore

Often found in the changing room discussing chicken, raw eggs and supplements. Bore off.

The selfie taker

It’s like, a thing in the gym today. Posing in front of a big mirror looking for the perfect shot to put on Facebook, smug model style. Did your workout really happen if you haven’t posted it on social media?

The one who looks done

Whether male or female, this person has the perfect figure and looks super awesome. Logically, we know that they probably got this from all the hours that they spent in the gym working their (tight) ass off.  But it is still okay to hate them a little bit.

The one who looks overdone

Usually a guy tbh. Often found bulging out of a very small vest.

The grunter

Found in the big weights section. Sound like they are trying to do a very big poo.

The one with the fancy, expensive gym gear

It always matches. Sometimes, even the bag and the trainers.  Mostly women, these people, never ever look like a sweaty mess.  They also usually have done their hair to go to the gym.  WTAF.

 

The one who is unnecessarily naked

You are in the changing room. There is, naturally, a requirement to change, wash, remove items of clothing and so on.  And yet some feel the urge to wander around the changing room as naked as they day they were born.  For ages.  Even worse, they engage you in conversation and you don’t know where to look.

The randomer

There is always one. Looks like they were intending to go for a nice day out and accidentally took a wrong turn.  Wearing a sweater and gardening shoes.

The person who doesn’t put their weights back

A special place in hell is reserved for these people.

Running, again.

Today, I ran.

It’s been a long time.

Months in fact.

Right now, I feel a long way from the girl that last year ran a half marathon, did a mud run and their first triathlon.

I’ve been quiet on this blog. Mainly, because there has been nothing new to say.  How many times can you write that you still aren’t getting your shit together with this stuff before it gets boring?

I know what I need to do, but somehow I am just still not doing it.  For months now, it has been excuses all the way.

But I remembered how I got into running in the first place. I joined a beginners group – and that started everything.  With the support of other runners, I found my running groove.

Where I work now, there is a whole running community going on. And they are have a beginners group.  I figured if it worked before, it might work again.

So I signed up.

I was nervous.  I wasn’t entirely sure I still knew how to do this stuff.  Physically, I am heavier than I was when I was running last.  I have a dodgy knee that I can’t quite get right.  I wasn’t even sure I had the breath (or VO2 max if you want the proper term) to sustain a run of any sort.

I carried my kit on the train this morning, still not entirely sure I was going to go. I’d lined up an excuse just in case (meetings, meetings).  Only they changed the time just for me and I didn’t have an excuse any more.

So I went.

Putting on my running shoes has always felt good. Wearing them after such a long time felt like coming home.

On the run itself, I was, if I am honest, a bit rubbish. But as they say (on Pinterest anyway), a bad run is better than no run.

The girl who once ran more than 13 miles without once stopping to walk is still in there.

And now she is running again.

Why diets suck

As a word, ‘diet’ simply means what we eat. But it has come to mean something else.  It has come to mean following an eating plan with a view to losing weight.

We announce that we are ‘on a diet’ to ourselves or to others.

Well of course we are.  We are all on a diet, even if it is made up of Pot Noodles and Big Mac Meals and Prosecco.

But with the more regularly understood definition of the word in mind, I am going to say….. diets suck.

Diets suck for lots of reasons.

First up, as soon as we think we are on a diet we feel deprived and want to eat ALL OF THE THINGS.

Second. Many of them aren’t long term sustainable in terms of having an actual life.

Thirdly, however they are dressed up, they are only telling us what we already know.

Whether you follow Weight Watches, Slimming World or the Body Coach, it all amounts to the same thing, right at the very core of it. Eat less crap, move about more.

We need to reclaim the word ‘diet’. A diet is what we eat.  Some are healthy and some are less so.  My diet recently has not been good enough.  I have not been eating according to my goals.  I don’t need to follow a plan to know this.  I know that if, like last week, we ate out several times and consumed a fair amount of wine along the way, the scales will tell their own story come Monday morning.

If you want to lose weight, create a calorie deficit. That is what every diet plan is fundamentally all about.  Whether you are actually counting calories or not, it’s about energy in versus energy out.  When you check out a class or a programme or a magazine article, there is no magic formula contained within.  At the core of it will be more fruit and veg and protein and water.  Less (unhealthy) fat and sugar in whichever guise it appears.  More exercise and movement.

So my suggestion is don’t ‘go on a diet’ if you want to lose weight. Just improve the one that you already have.

Delayed gratification v immediate cake

cake

I am fascinated by the way our minds work. Especially when it comes to weight loss and fitness.  A few years ago, I made such a change to my approach and mindset that I lost six stone and got really quite fit, fit for someone who couldn’t walk up a few flights of stairs previously at least.

I thought I would never go back. That it was hard wired in me.  But that turned out not to be the case.

One of my lessons along the way has been this one.

Successful weight loss is about the ability to delay gratification.

If you ask many overweight people whether they want to lose weight, they will say yes. I certainly did, for all of those years that I was obese.  Why then, is it so hard?  Because really all you have to do is eat fewer calories.  An over simplification?  Maybe, but only a little.

But there is a disconnect. If you want to lose weight, they why is it so hard to do the simple thing that would enable it: resist poor food choices?

In my opinion, it’s all about timing. Weight loss takes a long time, especially when you have a lot of weight to go.  Cake is immediate.  So is chocolate.  And wine.  And crisps, and take-aways and all of the nice things.

If we stopped to think before we made the choice, we probably want the weight loss more than that individual piece of cake. But you can have the cake right now. The weight loss….. it’s abstract. It’s in the possible future.  It is too hard to equate one with the other.

You may be familiar with the leading experiment in delayed gratification at Stanford University. Researchers gave children a treat*.  They were told if they could resist eating it for a little while, they could have two treats.  Left alone, some children managed to resist and hold out for the greater long term reward.  Others just scoffed the first one.  Long term analysis of the group showed that those that were able to wait had better life outcomes in many ways….. including BMI.

No surprise to me.

I’d have been in the first group. Because one little treat can’t hurt.  Especially if it is right in front of me.

Until there are many of them, of course.

There are a few ‘secrets’ to weight loss. None of them come from a celebrity or a revolutionary new diet.  One of them is about shifting our thinking.  If we can focus ourselves sufficiently on the long term, on the bigger goal, on what we want most of all, then maybe we can resist the cake in front of us, right now.

 

*It was a marshmallow.  Now I want a marshmallow.

Thinking about exercise

The way you think about exercise is important. The framing of it in your own mind can be the key to doing it, or not doing it.

Take yesterday. I was working from home.  For me, this means I don’t have to spend two and a half hours commuting, time I usually spend on doing life stuff.  Yesterday, this meant washing, ironing, cleaning, cooking and the like.  By 8.30am yesterday I had a sparkling bathroom, washing on the line, and my OH had some crisp shirts for the rest of the week.  After then doing my contractual duties to my employer, I sorted the Tesco shop, did a nursery run, emptied the bins, cooked the tea and washed up.

So when it got to 7pm last night, frankly, the last thing that I wanted to do was exercise.

Two things made me go. First of all, I had set myself a target for the week. If I hadn’t gone, I wouldn’t be letting down anyone but me.

Second, I decided it was my me time. All of the other stuff in the day was for someone else.  Bosses, trade unions reps, colleagues, family.  Exercise is when I get to be selfish.  Exercise is when I get a few moments to think about nothing but the sounds of the road, the next rotation of my bike wheel, my breath.

10K later, I was, as always, glad I had gone.

If you make exercise a chore in your mind, you will never appreciate it. You will never want to do it for its own sake. If you find your very own reason for doing it, reframe it from a must do to a want to do, it is ever easier to walk out the door