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Why Losing Weight WILL NOT Make You Happy

At the kick off meeting for my Lifestyle Re-Engineering Program last month, I gave a short presentation.  I naturally wanted to outline the program to the participants, but I also wanted to give them a little bit of insight into my own journey.  I have talked about my struggles with my weight on the blog a few times, but I have never really talked about it in public before.  I was standing in a room full of strangers, telling them about where it all began and I was amazed by how emotional I felt.

In that instant I was back there.  All the sadness and feelings of worthlessness came flooding back to me.  It was as raw and as real as if it were yesterday and not five years ago.  I remembered what life was like for me all those years ago.  I was an extremely troubled girl.  I hated my job.  I worked long hours, had a crazy commute and was going to college at night.  All of this left little time for self care, let alone self improvement.  There was no fun in my life and I was really just existing.  To top it all off, I was overweight.  I had no confidence and couldn’t stand looking at myself in the mirror.

In time, I began to lose weight.  I honestly thought this would be the answer to all my problems.  I would tell myself “just lose another five pounds, then you will feel good.”  Those five pounds would shed, and I would feel the same way, so I would convince myself that the next five would definitely do it.  On and on this went.  I continued to drop weight, but I was still miserable.  Even when I was approaching “goal weight” I still struggled with negative self image.  I was terrified that if I took my eye off the ball for a moment, that I would end up back where I started.

I had fallen into a very common trap.  I had treated the symptoms of the problem, without addressing the root cause.  I was, in essence, doing the easy thing.  Counting calories and hitting the gym, while it does take effort, is fairly straight forward.  You have a clear set of parameters to work within, and if you do what you’re supposed to, you will get results.  Easy!  The hard thing, the thing which I was avoiding doing, is to look for the cause of the problem.

What was it that was making me so unhappy, that I did not care what happened to my body?  What had made me give up on myself?  Why had I resigned myself, in my 20s, to a lifetime of feeling undesirable, unsexy and unwanted?  Why did I feel that I didn’t deserve to be happy?  These were the questions I needed to ask myself.  Nobody could do if for me.  There was no YouTube video to show me the steps, no ten minute miracle cure.  It definitely was not going to be easy.

I needed to re-engineer my life.  I set about identifying everything, which was not working for me, and trying to change it.  The first thing I did was quit my job.  I vowed never to stay in a job I hated again.  Life is too short to spend 40 hours a week in a toxic environment.  It took a couple of attempts, but I finally found the right fit.  I can’t tell you what a difference it makes to your overall well-being to be happy in your work.

During this time, I also finished college.  This had a huge impact.  My stress was massively reduced, and I now had time to do the things I enjoyed (if only I could remember what they were!)  I had spent 5 years studying at night and on the weekends, and my single-mindedness had allowed it to become almost all consuming.  I was in suspended animation!  When it was finally over, I spent two months sitting on the couch watching soaps (we will call this recovery.)  I then had to set about rediscovering what it is that makes me happy.

It was at that time when my love of fitness was born.  I needed to escape Coronation Street and the gym was as good a place as any to go.  My workouts became my outlet for a number of years.  I love training, but in hindsight it was probably foolish to put all my eggs in one basket.  Injuries and issues inevitably cropped up, and without something else to put my energy into, I became frustrated.

It is really only in the last year that I feel I am beginning to find balance.  I have rediscovered a too long latent love of reading.  Meditation and mindfulness are of huge importance to me now.  I invest more time and energy in my relationships.  The effect of all of this, is that I am happier now than I have ever been.  The happiness and confidence I have gained allows me to prioritise my health and well being.  In other words, being happy is helping me to maintain my weight, not the other way around.

The process is by no means complete.  I believe we are all on a journey of self discovery that lasts a lifetime.  I definitely do not have all the answers and  I want to continue to learn about myself.  I wasted far too many years being unhappy, I don’t want to let another moment be lost.

For anyone out there who may be struggling, feeling unhappy or lacking self confidence, I will say this; nothing changes if nothing changes.  The first step in addressing the problem, is to face it head on.  This may be scary and painful, but I promise you it will be worth it.  If your weight is problem for you, then loosing weight is naturally a good thing to do.  However, just be aware that it won’t solve all your problems.  Be well xxx

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Food, Fallacy and Foolishness!

As a society we have become completely spoiled when it comes to food.  We consume it with hedonistic abandon, and treat it with very little respect.  During the last couple of decades, our attitude towards food and eating has become completely skewed.  In short, we take it utterly for granted.

Growing up in Ireland in the 80’s, money was short and people learned to make do with what they had.  A pot of stew supplied four meals (two dinners and two lunches.)  Sunday’s roast was refashioned into casseroles, curries and sandwiches.  Nothing was wasted and nobody ever complained about eating the same meal two nights running.

I am now in the second week of a Lifestyle Coaching program I am running with a company in Dublin.  When we launched the program, I decided I would take part along side them, and “walk the walk,” as it were.  It came to the first weekend, and I was about to set off for my grocery shopping.  In readiness for this, I was standing at the fridge, with a thrash bag in my hand, preparing to throw away all of the uneaten food from the previous week.  To my astonishment, there wasn’t any!   We had eaten pretty much everything.  This is probably the first time EVER that this has happened.

My initial reaction was “oh my God, we nearly ran out of food, I better buy more this week.”  But then it dawned on me, this was the first time I had actually gotten it spot on.  If your fridge resembles Old Mother Hubbard’s cupboard come shopping day, you’re doing it right.  If, like me, you end up having to throw away a black bag of food, just so you can fit the new food, you are getting it terribly wrong!  When the realisation of this sank in, I felt both shame and stupidity in equal measure.

So where does this wanton wastefulness stem from?  I certainly wasn’t brought up with it, that is for sure.  I am beginning to think our generation is plagued by the paradox of choice.  So many available options causing us to devalue what we already have.  It is the classic thing of going and buying €200 worth of groceries and then hitting up the McDonald’s drive thru on the way home.  All of the food which was too tempting to leave of the supermarket shelves, instantly obsolete once a “better,” more convenient option has been presented.

Perhaps it is the remnants of our Celtic Tiger hangover, which has completely inverted our value system when it comes to food.  At its most fundamental level, food is fuel.  It powers every function in the human body from respiration to reproduction.  Should it be enjoyable, yes of course it should.  But pleasure is not its only function.  We, as a collective, to have managed to completely separate food from its utility.  We increasingly seem to want to eat purely for pleasure.

Clever corporations have cottoned on to this.  It is impossible to turn on your TV, scroll through your phone or even walk down the street without a barrage of advertising messages assaulting you.  Never before has overly processed, highly palatable, nutrient deficient “food” been so cheap or so readily available.  Fast food outlets churn out obscene amounts of food to us, while we let our fresh produce rot in our fridges.  It is not uncommon for typical families to be eating take out 2-3 nights a week.

We are being fooled into thinking that outsourcing our nutrition is the easy option.  Believe me when I tell you, it ain’t.  I brown bag my lunch every day, and have done for a good few years now.  I have a few tried and tested menu options, which I know will fill me up and fuel my training.  It does not bother me to eat the same few things all the time.  I know what I need to buy each week, I prepare it quickly and I don’t have to think about it.  It’s easy.  If I didn’t bring lunch with me, I would spend the morning wondering what I was going to eat.  I would have to go out to get it, which can be a pain in the ass.  I would create stress worrying if what I was eating was supporting my goals, and I would be spending a fortune.  The complete opposite of easy, if you ask me!

You might ask “do you not get bored eating the same thing?” and truthfully the answer is not really.  Breakfast and lunch, for me, are utility meals.  High quality food, in well constructed meals, designed to get me through the day.  I know only too well that I a have limited supply of both decision making ability and creativity, so I prefer to use these for pleasure meals.  Dinners with my husband and meals out with friends.  Not every morsel we consume needs to be worthy of a death row dinner.

The last few weeks has given me a real opportunity to evaluate my own food behaviours.  I have had some exposure to the homeless crisis in our Capital and wasted food really bothers me.  However, I honestly believe that unless we revert to the old ways, we will keep on filling up those black bags.  Unless we begin again to appreciate food and all that it does for our health and well being, we will keep allowing ourselves to be sold to.  Big corporations do not care about our goals.  It is up to us to be the gatekeepers of our own refrigerators.  Be well xxx

 

 

 

 

 

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What’s Another Year?

On the 27th of January, this blog celebrated its first birthday.  In the crazy haze that was January, it was nice to see the little notification popping up to remind me that 365 days had passed since I started talking to you guys.  In the very beginning, I knew very little about blogging, (and I am sure some would argue I still don’t!)  I didn’t have a “brand” or a “message.”  All I really had was a desire to reach out to people.  I wanted to try to give people the type of advice, I wish I could give my younger self.

You see, I am not a health guru, or an expert of any kind.  All I really am is a girl, who has made a lot of mistakes, but who has tried to learn from each one of them.  One year ago, I knew I had a lot to say, but I had no idea how to go about it.  Somehow, amongst the anxiety and impostor syndrome, I managed to hear a small voice say “just start!”  So I did.  Not knowing where it would lead, and not even daring to hope it might come to anything, I sat and put pen to paper for the first time.

In the last year, between the blog and the YouTube site, I have put out almost 100 posts.  I never could have imagined starting out that this could be possible.  It has made me think about just how many other things in life are like this.  It has reminded me how all great journeys begin with a single step.

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If you have a goal in life, whether it is fitness related, career related or even family related, the best advice I can give you, is just start.  Even if you are unsure of what the first step should be, just try something.  If it turns out to be the wrong thing, at least you have ruled it out as an option, and you will be closer to finding the right thing.  So often in life, we succumb to paralysis by analysis.  Constantly weighing up options and wringing our hands, but never actually doing anything about it.

I mentioned in a previous post, that we have been getting some work done in the house recently.  Nothing too major, just some decorating and minor repairs.  This has caused me huge turmoil.  I spent months, if not years, trying to figure out which order to do the jobs in.  Would it be better to get the shower in the en suite fixed before or after re-flooring the bedroom?  Should we start the painting in the kitchen or the living room?  I drove myself crazy trying to come up with the optimal plan, and meanwhile, nothing got done.

Eventually, when I began realising how pointless this all was, I decided to just do something, ANYTHING!!  I told myself to just start.  If it turns out to be a mistake painting the walls before putting down the floors, oh well.  At least I will have learned something.

I can’t tell you how many times over the last year I have questioned myself.  I have wondered if I am good enough.  I have fretted about whether or not I can make a difference to people.  I have told myself that nobody is interested in what I have to say and just to give up.  Without fail, in these moments of doubt, the universe has reached out to me.  Either through the encouragement of a friend, or the kind words from a stranger.  In just such a moment, I came across Neil Gaiman’s commencement speech

Neil is a fantastic author and orator, and his advice is, that when we face these times of darkness and despair, we should “make good art.”  This spoke to me on so many levels, but at the most fundamental level it told me to keep going.  It said to me, you have taken the first step, and the hardest, so just keep putting one foot in front of the other.  Even if you don’t know where your destination is, move forward, and be confident that you will recognise it when you get there.

I truly believe that in life, any meaningful change brings with it a certain amount of pain.  Whether you are trying to get promoted in work, or drop a dress size for your wedding, there will be times when you will wonder if it is really worth it.  When motivation abandons you, let momentum take over.  Just keep going and you will eventually get there.  Sometimes it is only in looking back, that we appreciate how far we have come.  Be well xxx