Podcast

Fitty & Fatty Ep.60 – Rest and The Truth About “Toxins”

https://fittyandfatty.podbean.com/e/fitty-and-fatty-s3-ep60-rest-and-the-truth-about-toxins/

This week Fitty encourages us all to take a rest. Fatty tells the truth about “toxins”

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Eat Your Cake and Have It!

For many years, I was one of “those people.”  You know the type.  The ones who never taste a bite of birthday cake, because it isn’t Paleo.  Your colleagues who always pass on team lunches, because they are doing Whole 30.  The ones who think their discipline might inspire others, but in fact it makes them uncomfortable.  They sit on the sidelines, sometimes smug, always separate.

In fact, much of my professional life has been spent on these sidelines.  By the time I passed my final accountancy exams, I was already marching towards disordered eating.  I was a sad, lonely girl.  Desperately seeking connection.  Wanting so badly to belong to a tribe.  To be a part of something.  Along came “clean eating.”  Without giving much, if any thought to the ramifications, I decided that this was what I was going to be doing now.

Out the window went refined grains, sugar, most dairy and even sweetcorn.  Not only did this radically impact my diet, it also changed the way I identified myself.  I was no longer someone who ate things like cake and cookies.  I was no longer willing to be spontaneous with food.  I couldn’t afford to wing it.  Everything needed to be tightly controlled.

Before long, I had fallen into the common trap of all or nothing mentality.  I was either eating clean and doing Paleo, or I wasn’t.  There was no room for maneuver.  Absolutely zero flexibility.   It shouldn’t surprise you to hear that this did nothing for my social life.  Instead of finding connection and camaraderie with my growing team, my lifestyle choices only served to isolate me.

I stopped taking coffee breaks, and avoided eating lunch with my peers.  Partly because I was under insane pressure in work, but also because it was tough pretending to be satisfied with yet another salad.  Even when, on the rare occasion I did join the lads for a Friday trip to Subway, I dared not deviate from the plan.  For anyone who might be wondering, eating a salad in Subway, while the guys are tucking in to foot long subs, tastes like misery and despair.

I am not for a second saying that there isn’t merit in following eating plans.  But I have learned the painful lesson that it is important to have at least a degree of flexibility.  If for no other reason than to preserve your sanity.  If 80-90% of your eating is supporting your goals, you can afford to have fun with the remaining portion.

Last year I went through so much upheaval that I was forced to reevaluate everything.  It seemed like nothing was going right.  As hard as I worked to keep everything tightly controlled, it still eventually went to pot.  As difficult as 2018 was, and loathe as I would be to repeat it, it taught me a lot.  Perhaps most importantly, it taught me that even I cannot control everything.

There will be times when work is a nightmare and you are at your desk 16 hours a day.  You will have times when there is conflict in your family and just keeping yourself upright is all you can do.  There will be illnesses and injuries and all sorts of other stuff that will prevent you from getting to the gym.  No amount of neurosis can control for this.  We can however, control how we deal with it.

We have the choice to allow these occasions to derail us.  Or instead we can think of them as part of the process and move on.  Progress is never linear.  If you read the autobiography of anyone you consider to be successful, I can almost guarantee that it wasn’t all plain sailing.  Dealing with adversity and learning to make allowances is what strengthens us.  I am desperately trying to resist using a cliche here.  But it is true, flexible people can bend and sway and are resilient.  Rigid people crack under pressure.

When I came back to work last year after a thankfully brief lay off, I made a decision.  I was going to eat cake.  You see, I now manage a team of ten people.  As important as it is to provide them with supervision and training I feel it is far more crucial that my team feel supported and empowered by me.  I never want my guys to doubt that I am in their corner.  How can I hope to do that, if I won’t even celebrate their milestones with them?

When the birthdays come along, I am the one singing the loudest (and most tunelessly.)  I am first in line to dish out hugs and accept cake.  It seems crazy to me now that I ever didn’t do this.  Since I started here in December, there have been maybe 5 or 6 birthdays.  That’s 6 pieces of cake, or as my brain likes to work it out, less than 2,000 calories.  Over the course of a year or a career, I promise this will make exactly no impact on my overall health goals.

It will, however, allow me precious moments of connectedness with my team.  It will give me an opportunity to show the people reporting to me that I am a human person.  I still don’t eat cake every time I see it.  I don’t ingratiate myself into other teams birthday rituals either.  However, I am beginning to understand that loosening up a tiny bit, will harm me very little, if at all.  Furthermore, it has the power to enrich my life.  Plus, as it turns, I actually really like cake.

For 37 years I was an all or nothing girl.  Like any muscle that hasn’t been stretched in a while, flexibility is hard won.  I am still learning to be less rigid and have a long way to go.  I do know one thing for certain, I don’t want to spend another moment on the sidelines of life.  Happy birthday and be well xxx

 

 

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The Goldilocks Effect

A few weeks ago, my husband and I decided to buy a new mattress.   We had had our existing one since we moved in and it was long overdue for replacement.  It was flat as a pancake and I was tired of feeling like I was sleeping on springs.  It goes without saying that I am no mattress expert.  There was a million choices and it seemed impossible to differentiate between them.  But, I figured anything I chose would be a marked improvement on what we had.  So, just pick one, right?  Instead of getting overwhelmed (which I usually would) I did what people normally do in a situation like this like this.  I didn’t go for the cheapest, and didn’t go for the most expensive.  I went for something in the middle.

This is fairly standard in decision making.  It has been well documented by behavioural experts.   If you don’t believe me, just notice what you do the next time you are choosing a bottle of wine in a restaurant!  This all got me thinking, if this Goldilocks effect is so standard in decision making, that it is essentially the default, how come it doesn’t translate into the rest of our lives?  How come so much of our behaviour is one extreme or the other.

I have talked a lot on the blog about the idea of balance.  I want to have a healthy diet, but I don’t want to feel restricted.  I want to get enough exercise, but I don’t want to run myself into the ground.  I love to keep busy and active, but want to avoid feeling stressed and overwhelmed.  Why is it that in these areas of my life, I find it difficult to determine what it “just right?”

I mean, wouldn’t it be ideal if our bodies were programmed to give us immediate feedback?  Like, “OK Arwen, that’s enough cake now.”  How perfect would it be if we were given accurate indications on how much actually is enough?  Of course, there are plenty of devices we can plug data into.  We can track our food intake, our energy expenditure, our sleep and just about any other metric you can think of.  However, is our reliance on these tools only further damaging our ability to make good decisions by ourselves?

Any regular readers will know that I have experimented with just about every diet protocol that there is.  I have gone from elimination type diets, where I ate as much as I wanted, but only from certain food groups, to diets that involved weighing and tracking every bite.  No matter how diverse these diets appear, they all have one common drawback.  They don’t feel like a “normal” or “natural” way to eat.  I am at the stage now, where I really want to be able to eat intuitively.  The only problem with this, is that I don’t trust my intuition.  Do you blame me?  It hasn’t got an awesome track record of keeping me in line!

It is a very similar situation with training.  I always wonder if I could or should be doing more.  I am constantly on the look out for new things to incorporate into my routine.  New ways to get more out of my training sessions.  Again, it would be lovely to feel in tune enough with my body to be able to relax about it.  I don’t want to spend any less time in the gym, but it would be nice if it took up less head space.  Surely the only time I need to be actively thinking about training, is when I am actually doing it?

In short, I have reached a point now where I want my training and nutrition to just tick along in the background.  I don’t want them to be a source of stress or anxiety.  I would love to be able to just rock up to the gym and do whatever workout I felt like, without worrying about how it will impact the rest of my week.  I would love to blow off meal prep if I am tired or busy, without it giving me a panic attack (not literally, but you get the point!)  As it is, I am over thinking and creating problems for myself, using up time and energy which could better serve me elsewhere.

Having given all of this a lot of thought, I think the only way I can learn to trust my inner Goldilocks is if I let her take control.  This isn’t going to be an easy transition for me.  I am a complete control freak and I always have a nagging worry in the back of my mind that if I take my foot off the gas, even for a second, I will wake up 20kg heavier.  I know how irrational this is, but you try telling that to the voices in my head.

I have a trip to Rome coming up in 3 weeks, and I think this will be the perfect time to experiment.  For the four days I am there, I will not even attempt to track a single calorie or macro.  I won’t be eating at my desk or with other distractions.  I will try to use eating in a more relaxed setting, to help me to better recognise and trust my hunger and satiety ques.  My travel companion has never struggled with her weight or food in general, so she will be a good guide.  I also won’t have access to a scale, kitchen or bathroom, so I will need to trust myself to do without the former, and not worry what is happening with the later.  (I will post my meals and snacks on my Instagram story, so you guys can see how it’s going.)

Any of you who may be reading this, thinking it all sounds crazy, let me tell you how much I envy you.  I have battled for a long time with very disordered thoughts and behaviour around diet and exercise.  At the moment I feel like I am controlling it, as opposed to it controlling me, but I am acutely aware of how quickly the scales can tip in the other direction.  Enough is enough.  Be well xxx

Ps.  Any of you who have come up against similar issues, I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences.

Articles

Humble and Hungry

Comparison is the thief of joy.  This is what they tell us.  “Don’t compare yourself with others, only compare yourself with the person you were yesterday.”  While I can see some wisdom in this, lately I am finding myself thinking it also has a few fundamental flaws.

First off, I for one, am a highly competitive person.  It is not at all unusual for me to see someone performing well, be it in the gym, or at work and to think to myself “I want to be more like her.”  I see the talents of others and aspire to match them.  This competitive part of myself is as much a part of me as my sense of humour or the colour of my eyes.  Far from bringing me joy, trying to deny it has actually created conflict and anxiety.

You see, I have hunger.  I have drive.  I will always want to be doing more and achieving bigger and better things.  Its just in my nature.  So, how better to direct this drive than by looking to successful people and modelling my behaviour accordingly.  In work, this might be working as hard as your boss does, because you would like to be promoted to her level.  In the gym, this could be putting in as much practice with handstands as the guy who is always upside-down.  Let me be clear, this is not the same as simply being jealous of what others have.  This is unhealthy and will eventually drive you nuts.

The second flaw I see with comparing yourself with the person you were yesterday, is that is lacks context.  Regular readers will know that the last few months have been a little crazy for me.  I have to admit, as much as I will be happy to have this period behind me, it has definitely helped me to gain a little perspective.  This is particularly true when it comes to training.  In my quest to be better than the Arwen of yesterday, I was always striving to make improvements.  I constantly wanted to increase my volume, to lift heavier and to finish faster.  While I was never going to be an “elite athlete” there was a time for a while there when I wasn’t finishing last in every workout, and that felt like success to me.

During my recent busy time, I hadn’t been getting to the gym at all.  I was able to make something of a return a couple of weeks ago, and I got my ass well and truly handed to me.  I was standing at the bar, attempting to do chin ups.  Before my sabbatical, I had been able to string a few together, but on my first session back, I was barely managing one.  All the little voices inside my head started screaming at me.  “I have lost all my fitness,” “I am pathetic,””I will never get back to where  I was,” “I am going to be last!”  These were just some of the thoughts running through my head as I attempted to get my chin over the bar.

After the first round of the workout, I stood up and literally shook my head.  I knew I had a choice to make.  I could either continue to feel sorry for myself, and let self pity take away all the enjoyment of the workout, or I could strap on my big girl pants and handle it.  Thankfully, I decided to do the latter.  Yes, I am not where I used to be and I certainly am nor where I want to be, but I am doing it none the less.  It is a deeply humbling experience to realise you ain’t as good as you thought you were.  Still more so when the struggle happens in public.  Last or not, when I finished that workout I was greeted by the smiles and high fives of my Academy family and I am so very grateful for that.

When I look back at the time when I was “doing well” with my training, I would have beaten myself up for missing a single session.  Now, if I get to the gym AT ALL it feels like a win.  I have also gained a certain clarity that at the time when my training was going well, pretty much nothing else in my life was!  Circumstances change, life throws us curve balls and more important than striving to be better than yesterday is learning to be where you are.

When the dust settles and I can start putting a little more emphasis on my fitness again, I hope that it won’t be too long before I am back in the swing of things.  Until that happens, I will no doubt suffer many sore muscles and the occassional bruised ego.  However, I am learning that if I can remain humble and hungry, no amount of comparison can truly steal my joy.  Be well xxx

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Uncovered, Unplugged!

Okay, I’ll admit it, I am addicted to my phone.  It is never more than 5 feet away from me at any time.  It’s my phone, alarm clock, diary, food tracker, iPod and camera all rolled into one!  I would truly be lost without it.  You see, I have what I term, compulsive communication disorder.  A symptom of this disorder is the constant need to be in touch and connected.  It wouldn’t be at all uncommon for me to have 5 or 6 text conversations happening simultaneously (cause there’s no way that could be bad!)  Add to this the multiple social media platforms, which I “need” to keep up to date with, and it’s a wonder I haven’t developed some sort of repetitive strain injury from clicking in to and out of all the apps!

I will also admit that this has caused a certain amount of disharmony in my household over the years.  My husband feels he doesn’t get the best of my attention, and loath as I am to admit it, he is probably right!  Truth be told, my technology dependency has been at the root of more than one argument in the past!  So, partly to try to  wean myself off my drug of choice and partly to see if I could do it, I decided to have a technology free day.  A couple of weeks ago I committed to turning my phone off on Friday night at midnight, and not turning it back on for a full 24 hour period.  That meant no texts, email, social media, blogging etc. for one whole day.

I really didn’t have any idea how this was going to play out.  I was expecting to feel very twitchy without my beloved devices.  I experience fear of missing out at the best of times, but taking a 24 hour break from checking in with the “world” was a whole other ball game. Surprisingly, it was fine.  My hands felt a little like they had nothing to do, but mentally, I didn’t struggle as much as I had expected.  In fact, I felt like that Saturday evening was the first time I had truly relaxed in ages.  It was as if switching my phone off, actually allowed me to switch off too.  I felt refreshed and revived after it, and shockingly, I did not miss out on anything too earth shattering while I was off the grid.

In the weeks following my little experiment, I began to notice more and more of my behaviour in relation to my phone.  The other night, I was sitting reading a really great book.  I was enjoying it immensely and if anyone had asked me, I would have said I was engrossed in it.  Not true, it seems.  Every time the little light on my phone would flash, I would immediately abandon my book to tend to it.  Without fail, the allure of the little green light was too much to resist.  Like a sirens call it beckoned me away from what I actually wanted to be doing.

As I noticed myself doing this, I started to wonder where this sense of immediacy is stemming from.  I know I am not the only person who experiences it.  Just because someone sends me a text, or tags me in a meme on social media, doesn’t mean they own me.  Why can I not just allow the little light to blink until the time is convenient for me to deal with it?  I know that when I send a message to someone, I certainly don’t expect an immediate response.  So, why do I feel like I have to drop everything, literally, and give my phone urgent attention?  Has my attention span become so shortened by technology that I am powerless to avoid distraction?

Whatever the cause of this, now that I have become aware of it, I am eager to make a change.  It troubles me greatly that a device, which should be making my life easier, has gained control of me.  Instead of helping me to be more productive, it is having the exact opposite effect.  Rather than allowing me to be more social, it is only serving as a barrier between me and those I am physically with.

Realistically, going cold turkey is not a solution.  I do need to use my phone for certain things.  However, I would estimate that about 50% of the time I currently spend staring at the little screen, is time that I don’t need to be doing it.  Wasted time essentially, flicking between apps and checking on stats.  Maybe if I could reduce this amount of time, it would help release technology’s grip on me.

So, here’s what I am going to do.  From today, when I am reading or watching something on TV that I care about (i.e. not just when it’s on for background noise,) or talking to you lovely people, my phone will be out of sight.  I will put it in a place where I physically need to cross the room to access it.  In this way, I will at least be conscious of what I am doing, and how often I do it.  When I spend time with family or friends, my phone will stay in my handbag, so again, checking it will require a conscious decision.  A wise woman told me recently then when we pass 30, we lose the ability to multitask.  Bearing that in mind, I want to give what’s important to me, the best of my attention.

It bothers me greatly that I have to ration technology in this way, but I have proven to myself, that I can’t be trusted to cell phone responsibly.  Let me know if you have experienced similar issues, or if you have any ideas for me.  I will keep you up to date with my progress.  Be well xxx

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The Balancing Act

As the 2016 Crossfit Regional season reaches its climax, I can’t help but be absolutely awed by the incredible feats and physiques on display.  Men and women are submitted to grueling workout after grueling workout and keep coming back for more.  They appear almost indefatigable and are an inspiration to all of us casual athletes.  However, as I watch these men and women perform I can’t help but ask myself if there is a point, at which, the quest to become “the fittest on earth” becomes an unhealthy thing?  Is there a point at which health must give way to performance?

Most of us train in order to become fitter and to improve our health.  You don’t need me to tell you about the numerous health benefits associated with doing some form of exercise and with becoming more active in general.  Along the spectrum of health, both diet and exercise are two things, which have a profound impact on overall well being.  Having both of these things dialed in will definitely help you to become healthier.  There is no denying that.  Is there, however, a need to be concerned with getting too much of a good thing?

When we look at the definition of health, it can be summed us as the absence of illness or injury.  In the pursuit of either peak performance or a stage worthy physique, athletes often endure numerous injuries.  You only need look at the heavy strapping and taping on display on the competition floor to realise that this is the case.  Is it fair to say, therefore, that these athletes are sacrificing health in favour of performance?  Would it be true to say that in order to achieve elite status, athletes must push themselves past the bounds of what would normally be advisable?

In any sport elite athletes must subject themselves to physical demands which most of us could not endure.  Watch any Rocky movie if you don’t know what I mean!  Most of us simply could not withstand the physical and mental stresses, which are required, in order to become the very best in our chosen discipline.  This is not a criticism.  The truth of it is, in order to achieve the levels of performance or body composition required to take center stage, we must sacrifice a great deal.  Not least of all is our health.  Social life, work life and relationships also have to take a back seat.  For most of us, achieving this level just won’t be worth it.

I have personally struggled with unblurring these lines.  As someone who had a problem getting my weight to behave, it was difficult for me to recognise when enough was enough.  Not long ago, my coach asked me a very important question.  Something which helped me gain a little much needed perspective.  He said “Arwen, where are you trying to get to?”  I didn’t have an answer for him, and he just let the question hang.  I allowed his question to marinate and a few weeks later, when I met with him again, I had a bit more of an idea.  We hashed it out together.  He basically said that when you get to a certain point with your weight and body composition, you’re going to have a choice to make.

Yes, I could continue to try to drop weight.  I could continue to try to lose another bit of body fat, but it wasn’t going to be any fun.  It would mean missing out on a lot of the things which make life worthwhile.  I needed to decide if seeing a smaller number on the scale was worth missing out on birthday cake and a glass of wine at the weekend.  As I have absolutely no desire to be on stage or to take part in competition, it was an easy decision in the end.  That’s not to say that I won’t continue to work hard with both my nutrition and my training, but it does mean refocusing my energy away from those particular metrics.

For me, life is about balance.  The more effort you put into one aspect, the less energy you have available for anything else.  This year has seen me embarking on a whole host of exciting adventures (not least of all talking to you lovely people)  None of this would have been a possibility if I can continued to obsess over every morsel of food ingested and fret over every workout.  I believe we should give our nutrition and training the amount of attention they require, but no more.  They should be life enhancing and not sources of stress.

It is up to each individual to decide where on their list of priorities these things fall.  It’s also important to realise that at different stages, they may become more or less important.  Be aware that you are a human being with limited resources.  Spend these resources in the way that brings you the most joy.  Balance your time and your efforts according to your own goals and you won’t go too far wrong.  As yourself the question my coach asked me.  Where are you trying to get to?  Once you have the answer to this, unapologetically race there.

Next week I am off to Madrid to watch the European Regionals, and I will definitely be glad to be sitting on the side lines!