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I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead

Phrases like “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” and “you snooze, you lose,” and very much a part of every day conversation.  In today’s modern world, life is lived at such a frenetic pace, that often sleep and even rest are put to the very bottom of our list of priorities.  Surviving on little or no sleep has become a status symbol.  We almost compete with each other to see who can get by on the least amount of hours in bed, or who can pull the most all nighters.  We one up each other about how busy and exhausted we are.  It’s insane!

Up until 100 years ago, we slept and woke in rhythm with the sun.  Before electricity became cheap and readily available, it was just far too expensive to keep our homes lit at night, so when the sun went down, so did we!  Studies have shown that even in this short time span, the average night’s sleep has decreased by an incredible 20%.  Our evolution has no chance of keeping up with such rapid change in our behaviour around sleep.

Adequate sleep is fundamentally important for every function in the human body.  I cannot emphasise this enough.  Lack of sleep has been linked to increased risk of almost every disease you can think of, from diabetes to cancer to heart disease.  It has even been linked to obesity.  The funny thing about sleep deprivation, is that we all think it doesn’t happen to us.  Even as you read this, some of you may be thinking, “yeah I get what she’s saying, but I’m grand!”  None of us realise how much not sleeping enough is effecting us, until we do get enough sleep and see how different we feel.

IPad Insomnia:  This is a well researched phenomenon.  Most of us spend a staggering number of hours each day sitting in front of screens.  At work we are in front of computers, at home it’s laptops, tablets and cell phones.  The trouble with this, is that all of these devices emit what is known as blue light.  In the absence of light, our bodies release a hormone called melatonin.  Melatonin signals to the body that it is time to get ready for sleep.  Unfortunately, blue light inhibits the production of this hormone, so our body doesn’t get the message to start shutting down.

To combat this, there are a few things we can do;

  1. Have an hour of no screen time before bed.  Read a book or have a chat with your partner.  Take a warm bath or even meditate.  When you try this, you will notice just how much more sleepy it makes you feel.
  2. Take all electronics out of your bedroom.  All these little lights like the standby light on the TV or the numbers on the digital alarm clock can disrupt sleep.  Put the alarm clock in a drawer or even under your bed.  This has two purposes, firstly you won’t have the light contamination.  But also, if you are having trouble nodding off, or should you wake during the night, you won’t start doing mental arithmetic trying to work out how little sleep you are going to get.
  3. Make your bedroom as dark as possible.  This is a huge thing, especially in summer, or if you live, like I do in a house with a street light outside your window.  Invest in a set of blackout curtains.  I was skeptical at first, but I promise it’s worth the investment.  Studies have shown, that even a tiny pin prick of light on the skin can disrupt melatonin production.  With this in mind, it is worth doing all we can to plug those light leaks.

Sleep and weight:

There are two hormones in the body associated with body fat.  These are leptin and ghrelin.  Like many other pairs of hormones in the body, they act in opposition to each other.  Leptin is known the “satiety hormone” and ghrelin is known as the “hunger hormone.”

When we don’t sleep enough, our bodies produce less leptin and more ghrelin, which increases our appetite.  Have you ever noticed that when you get a broken night’s sleep, you often feel hungrier the next day?  I certainly have.  If you aren’t getting enough hours in bed, it will be significantly harder for you to make good food choices.

Brain Fog:

Most of us will know that not getting enough sleep effects how we think.  What we might not know is the extent to which this happens.  Research has shown that the longer sleep deprivation goes on for the worse the effect becomes, and more worryingly, the less we notice it.  It has been been compared the the effect of alcohol.  How after two glasses of wine you know you wouldn’t be able to drive, but after two more you might feel perfectly in control of your faculties.

The effects of sleep debt are so numerous that I could turn this blog post into a book and still not have covered all of them.  In fact, there are very few things in your life that can’t be improved by getting better sleep.  If you decide to make sleep a priority, you will be more productive, despite being awake for less hours.  You will be less likely to get into an accident.  You will be in a better mood, and less likely to suffer from stress.  It will be easier for you to manage your weight and your health will improve.  Your athletic performance will improve.  Your relationships will be better, and you will have energy to play with your kids and make love to your partner. YOU WILL FEEL BETTER!  Go on, give it a try x

 

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A Point on Patience

I will never be described as a patient person.  I like to think I have some nice qualities, but alas, patience is not one of them.  What little patience I manage to muster in my dealings with other people, I have absolutely zero with myself.  This is not a new thing.  Even as a little girl, if I tried something new, and couldn’t get to grips with it straight away, I would get frustrated and usually quit.  Roller skates were tried out exactly once, (sorry mom) sports and instruments were usually abandoned within weeks.  I just wanted to know how to do the thing, I wasn’t overly interested in the process of learning!  As I have gotten older, my staying power may have increased, but frustration and sense of urgency has definitely not abated.

For about the past 6 months or so, I have been a kilo or two away from my goal weight.  My goal is to be below 59kg (yes, 58.9kg will do)  This number may seem arbitrary, but it holds great significance to me.  Should I ever reach it, I will share the reason for this with you.  Just before my trip to Madrid in May, I was the closest I have ever been.  One of my weigh ins was 59kg on the button.  I was as close as is humanly possible to be, without actually achieving it.

Then I went on my trip, and put on a little weight.  This was to be expected and I was totally fine with it.  I had had an absolute blast with one of my favourite people, eating and drinking with abandon.  I would never accept a life where I couldn’t have weekends like this from time to time.  When I got back, I assumed I would slip into my routine and within a week or two things would be back to normal.  Not so.  Work got busy and crazy.  I was travelling a lot and it just seemed like it took me forever to get my momentum going again.

Finally, about a month ago, things started coming together.  I was hitting the gym regularly, eating well, and walking the legs off myself and my poor dog.  I had even replaced my bedroom curtains with black out ones, and removed the electronics from the room to make sure I was getting better quality sleep.  For three consecutive weeks, I was exactly on plan.  This isn’t to say that everything was “perfect” because let’s face it, that doesn’t exist, but for those three weeks, I felt like I was definitely doing enough to get results.

Can you guess what happened during these weeks?  Absolutely NOTHING!!!!  The scale did not move at all.  Not one tenth of a kilo did I lose.  I really started to wonder what was going on.  I know rationally that the scales does not tell the whole story.  I also know that sometimes there can be a lag between putting in the work and getting the results, but COME ON!  I was working my ass off and getting nowhere.  I was just at the point of saying “screw this” and ordering an extra large pizza when I stood on the scales, and as if by magic, I was down over a kilo!

That was last week, and to be honest, if I had written this post then it would have been a different article entirely.  Last week, I was thinking “finally, I have this sussed, 58kg, you will be mine!”  This week, however, I have picked a shoulder injury.  Ironically, I think it was caused by excessive dog walking!  It’s nothing major, but I can’t train and it all feels like a bit of a cosmic conspiracy.  Damn it, I am so close, and I feel between one thing and the other I will never get there.

I am finding myself reminded of all the old adages.  Remembering all the great sporting movies, with their motivational montages.  I am reflecting on the cautionary tales of people who didn’t know how close they were to success when they finally quit.  Stories of people perishing in the desert, mere meters away from water.  I know my few hundred grams pale into insignificance when compared with the struggles some people go through on a daily basis.  But, truthfully, it has become about so much more than the scale weight.  This is something I cannot quit.  This battle has been on going for years.  Were I to walk away from it now, I know that it would haunt me.  I need this to be the one thing, the first thing, that although it didn’t come easy, I didn’t walk away from.

This morning, I weighed in at 60.2kg.  I have a bit to go still, and if the last few months are anything to go by, it may take a while.  The intensity will wax and wane as life carries on, and the results will of course, not be linear.  However, if I can finally master the art of patience, I will eventually reach the finish line.  With or without the roller skates!

For recipes, tips and ideas, hit me up at the links below.  Be well xxx

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Crossed Wires

A few weeks ago, I made a big mistake.  One of those embarrassing, cold sweat inducing, ground please swallow me up mistakes, that I am sure we all have made.  Let me tell you what happened.  I had been trying to get my hands on a book, and I wasn’t having much success.  So I had put a post on Facebook to ask if anyone had a copy I might be able to borrow.  A short time after, I was driving home from my mother’s place late at night.  I had my cell phone on the passenger seat beside me.  It lit up with a notification and I gave it a cursory glance.  It was a Facebook message (you know the ones that make the floaty heads appear on your screen.)  I looked at it for a split second, and I thought I knew who it was from.  I thought it was from someone whom I know pretty well and have a fairly established relationship with.

So, I get home, and immediately tap out a response.  I then busied myself with recipe prep and chatting to my husband.  Meanwhile, the texter and I got into a conversation.  It was only a couple of hours, and dozens of messages later that I realised I had been speaking to someone else entirely.  Someone that I really don’t know very well at all.  Someone that really I had only ever spoken to in passing.  It was to my horror and dismay that I discovered I had been having a fairly open and direct discussion with essentially a stranger.  To compound my mortification, a few of the messages I had sent would have made absolutely zero sense!  All I could think was “oh shit!  How am I going to fix this?”  By this stage my new friend had said goodnight, and there was really no way for me to back track.

I fretted and cringed about it all night, and the next morning decided the only way forward was full disclosure.  I told the texter what had happened and honestly, he couldn’t have been sweeter about it.  He seemed to see the funny side, even if I couldn’t!  We continued chatting, and it turns out we have a lot in common.  Far from being ashamed, I now have that lovely shiny feeling of having made a new friend.

As I reflected on it in the days that followed, I couldn’t help wonder how different the encounter would have been had I known who I was talking to.  How much more shut off would I have been with a stranger?  It made me think about how closed off to new people and new situation we can be, without even realising it.  The whole episode made me learn two things.

Firstly, there really is no such thing as a mistake.  As the expression goes, as one door closes, another one opens. Every action we take in life will lead us in one direction or another.  These directions cannot be right or wrong, they are just different.  This applies to all aspects of life; health, relationships, careers etc.  We will always be faced with options and choices.  Some of which will seem impossible, but if we can remember, that no one choice will equal triumph or disaster, it can make making a decision a little easier.

If we take nutrition and lifestyle as a good example.  Often when we want to get started with making a change, there can seem to be so many options, and so much conflicting advice, that we become paralyzed by indecision.  We can spend weeks researching the relative merits of one program versus another, when the reality is, just picking something and going with it would be far more useful.  We can waste so much time and mental energy trying to figure out what is 100% optimal, when really doing anything is better than doing nothing!  If you start a program and realise it’s not perfect, you can always tweak it, but at least you have taken the first steps.  Don’t let your quest for perfection be a road block for your progress.

The second thing I learned from this is that life is so much richer when you are open and receptive.  When you don’t allow yourself to be closed off, life will throw all sorts of experiences at you.  Some of them will be weird, some of them will be wonderful and some will be a little of both.  I have realised that only by opening up and allowing these experiences to come to me, can I begin to hope to have the type of authentic life I wish for.  If I want a full and happy life, rich with opportunity and adventure, I need to expose myself.  Yes, this is completely terrifying and not without risk, but I definitely believe that the reward is worth it.

So, the next time a stranger approaches you with the offer of a book (or a coffee, drink, or whatever) instead of rolling your eyes and muttering weirdo under your breath, allow yourself to think that maybe, as Humphrey Bogart said, “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

For recipes and ideas check me out on social media at the links below.  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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In Favour of Faking

This week, I just really wasn’t feeling it.  After a busy couple of months, I think I hit a wall. I was flat and deflated, tired and lack luster.  There was no particular reason for, what I can only describe as general malaise.  I went through the week feeling like I was just dragging.  I didn’t want to train, I didn’t want to eat healthy, I didn’t want to do much of anything.  I felt like a  5 year old, throwing a tantrum because I was being forced to do something against my will.

So, what were my options?  I could either throw my toys out of the pram and abandon my routine entirely.  Or I could take myself in hand and go through the motions, regardless of whether I felt like it or not.  In these periods it can be hard to know what to do for the best.  There are times when we really do run ourselves down, and a break can be needed.  But equally, there are times when nothing is wrong with us, and we just don’t feel like playing.  Gaining an understanding of what your body, and mind, needs takes experience.

Last week, for me, was a little bit of both.  I was genuinely tired.  I hadn’t been sleeping well and everything suffered as a result.  However, there was also an element of laziness at play.  Times like these are tough on me, because I get really in my head about it.  If I start missing workouts, or not eating as I should, my inner critic is always sure to pipe up.  Taking a “rest” often does me more harm than good, I feel guilty and uneasy about it.  I have learned though the years, that the best thing for me to do in these circumstances is to fake it.

It is one of those things that is simple, but not easy.  It sounds very simple to just keep putting one foot in front of the other.  It sounds perfectly straight forward to just keep doing what you know you should.  But really, when your energy is low and your motivation has abandoned you, it is nothing like easy!  It’s important to remember that it’s not always going to be easy.  You are not always going to feel amazing.  Some days the bars will feel heavy and your healthy food will seem unsatisfying.  But more important to remember, is that this is alright.  It is okay to not feel okay.

When I don’t feel okay, I resist the urge to dive into bed and pull the duvet over my head.  I put a smile on my face, pull on my big girl panties and handle it.  This facade is as much for me as it is for anyone else.  Just knowing that I have stuck to my routine as closely as possible, can make coming out the other side of my funk happen a lot faster.  By eating crap and not exercising, I will only make myself feel worse.  The depressed feelings feed into themselves and before long I would have completely derailed myself.

Don’t get me wrong, I did not have the best week ever in the gym.  In fact, I only trained twice and went for a handful of walks.  I didn’t have the best week of eating either.  After doing my food prep last Sunday, I ended up ordering Chinese food, because my energy and resolve were depleted.  However, had I not dragged myself through the motions, my week could have ended up being a lot worse than it was.  I remind myself that absolute perfection is not only unattainable, it is unnecessary.

Your mood and energy levels are not ever going to be linear.  There will be ups and downs.  The down days serve to help us appreciate the up days.  After having a shitty week, I did the only thing I could.  I cleared my calendar, and put the emphasis on rest.  As I write this on Sunday afternoon, I feel very much recharged.  My fridge is full of healthy food and my gym clothes are ready to go.  I have come out the other side and by faking it, I feel like I have mitigated the damage somewhat.  In the grand scheme of things, a few off days are not going to have a material impact on my overall results.  However, if I had taken to bed and let the depression really take hold, it could have been an entirely different story.

So, here’s hoping this week will be better.  Be good to yourself and remember to embrace the power of Faking xxx

For recipe ideas and tips, check out my YouTube channel  Arwen Louise

 

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Why Paleo is NOT For Me!

Even before I had ever set foot in a strength and conditioning gym, the Paleo Diet was on my radar.  The diet, often referred to as the “Caveman Diet,” is based around getting back to our nutritional roots.  Meat, vegetables, nuts, seeds, fruit and some starches are included.  All grain, dairy, legumes, sugar and alcohol are off limits.  When I first heard about Paleo, it sounded a little out there.  However, the more serious I got about my health, the more appealing this way of eating became.

Initially I dabbled with 80/20.  This means that for about 80% of the time I followed Paleo principles and for the other 20% of the time, I was more flexible.  How this panned out usually was that Monday-Friday I adhered strictly to the plan and at the weekends I relaxed a little.  I got some good results in the beginning and of course, started thinking, well if 80% is good, surely 100% would be better?   This is where trouble set in!  Those of you who know me, or have read some of my posts will probably know that I don’t do things by halves.  Once I set my mind on something, I am all in.  In some aspects of my life this can be a good thing, unfortunately nutrition is not one such aspect.

So, there I was, following a strict Paleo regime.  Bacon and eggs for breakfast.  Fruit with coconut milk mid-morning.  Chicken and salad for lunch.  Pre-training snack was an apple and almonds.  Dinner was meat of some description and veggies, some times, but not always, I would include some sweet potato.  Notice anything?  Well I certainly didn’t.  I did not realise how chronically low my carbohydrate intake had become.  Paleo is not designed to be a low carb diet per se, but my interpretation of it meant there was little room for this macro-nutrient.

You see, in order to be fulfilling my carbohydrate requirements from the types of food I was “allowed” to eat, I needed to be eating a hell of a lot more food than I was.  Coming from a background of Weight Watchers, I was never going to be comfortable loading my plate sky high with veggies (or anything for that matter) while trying to lose weight.  My mind wouldn’t allow me to join these dots.  At this time I was training 5 times a week, for a minimum of 2 hours a night.  It’s not terribly surprising that this combination of high energy output and low carbohydrate input started to have a detrimental effect on me.

Yes, I lost weight, but I did not look lean.  I looked pale and gaunt around my face.  My hair fell out in clumps and my skin was in terrible condition.  I stagnated in the gym.  I felt I couldn’t make any progress and gutted through each workout feeling like I was dragging ass.  Luckily I knew the solution to that, why, more training of course!  I honestly felt that I needed to be training harder and dieting more strictly in order to get back on track.  I toyed with the idea of incorporating morning cardio, and researched everything I could to try to get back to making gains.

My diet had a profound impact on me socially as well.  I have never exactly been a social butterfly, but strictly adhering to Paleo made it all but impossible to interact with other people socially.  Even going for lunch with colleagues was awkward.  I would be enormously restricted with my food choices and would spend half of my lunchtime trying to explain why the hell I was eating my lunch out of a tupperware.  Even a trip to my mother’s house would mean packing my own Paleo approved snacks.

Of course, I got funny looks from my colleagues and friends.  Naturally, my family were very concerned.  They saw how obsessive and unhealthy my behaviour had become.  They tried to get through to me, but I just brushed it off.  They just don’t understand what it means to be dedicated!  They just don’t get it!  This is what I told myself.  My mother went so far as to include multi-vitamins in my Christmas stocking.  She was worried that the hair loss would become permanent before I came to my senses!

I had done, what so many others do.  I had taken something healthy to an unhealthy extreme.  My “all or nothing” personality meant that I couldn’t follow Paleo, or any regime, kinda.  In the end, I was very lucky.  As I wrote about in The Accountability Network I underwent some big changes in my life last year.  I was so busy trying to get to grips with a new job and new everything, that I didn’t have the bandwidth to be a Paleo purist.  I had to let go of it, and looking back it was the best thing for me.

Not long after joining The Performance and Fitness Academy, I started working with one of the wonderful coaches on my nutrition.  It was only then that I began to realise just how under fueled I had allowed my body to become.  I started tracking macros.  Eating more carbs actually helped me to drop body fat.  What was even better, was that I now had the energy I needed to get through my workouts.  I was alert and energetic in work.  My mood and emotions were more stable and I started feeling happy, for the first time in a long while.

Please don’t misunderstand me.  This article is not meant to malign Paleo.  I know there are a lot of people for whom it is a wonderful tool.  I am just not one of them.  I love that Paleo encourages people to eat whole, minimally processed food in as close to its natural state as possible.  This is something I still try to do, and always encourage others to do.  However, the restrictive nature of The Caveman culture is not something I can endorse.  I have learned, the hard way, that Paleo is not something I can safely do.  The older and more experienced I get, the more I have learned to accept my limitations.

Perhaps the most important thing I have learned through this experience, is that people who love and care about me, only interfere when they think it’s in my best interest.  Sometimes we are so entrenched in the situation, we lose all perspective.  Other people see things which we are blinded to .  I am determined to listen to conscientious objectors in the future and I urge you all to do that same.  Be well xxx

For recipes and tips, head over to my YouTube channel  ArwenLouise

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Don’t Listen to Her!

We all know how good it feels when we get a compliment from someone.  A real, unexpected and genuine compliment.  It can be anything from “your hair looks pretty today,” to “great job on those accounts.”  It often doesn’t matter the content.  It is the fact that someone has gone out of their way to give us positive feedback, which makes us feel so good.  Just one such moment, can be enough to make your entire day.

Imagine then, the opposite.  Imagine how it would feel if someone approached you to tell you how fat, ugly or stupid they think you are.  Imagine if day after day that person continually berated you with negative, insulting and downright hurtful comments.  If they bullied you and upset you, if they stole your self worth.  Would you keep this person in your life?  I sincerely hope the answer to that question is no!

The scary thing is that for many of us, the bully is inescapable.  She follows us around from morning to night, every day of our lives.  She says the most unspeakably awful things to us.  She exploits our biggest fears and weaknesses.  She can access our deepest vulnerabilities.  Who is the BITCH?!  Well, actually, she is you!  She is in the words you say when you don’t like how you look in the mirror.  She is the voice you hear when you screw up at work.  She is the one saying “I knew you were going to fail” when you slip up on your diet.

For the vast majority of us, we are definitely our own toughest critics.  We say things to ourselves, which we would never allow others to say.  And worst of all, we believe it.  We do it almost without thinking.  In fact, it took my husband to point out to me how often I say things like “I’m so fat,” or “I’m so stupid.”  I have exclaimed these things which such regularity that they trip off my tongue unnoticed.  I have started to wonder how damaging this could really be.  After all, I have struggled with confidence for most of my life, could my internal dialogue be part of the problem?

In Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk she discusses how much of an impact our body language can have on ourselves.  She talks about how spending just two minutes in a “power pose” can have an enormous effect on a person’s confidence and demeanour.  If this is true, how much of an effect could a lifetime of negative self talk really have?  How can we expect to be confident, happy people, when the person who knows us best constantly tells us we are a failure?

Imagine yourself as a little girl, or a little boy.  Imagine that every time you make a negative comment about yourself, you are saying it directly to that child.  Envision the pain and upset you would cause her and know that despite the fact that you are all grown up now, your words still sting just as much.

We are often told to treat others as we would like to be treated.  How about treating ourselves that way too?  How about putting a ban on negative self talk?  Didn’t your mother tell you “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all?”  I know I would never dream of calling anyone else fat, lazy or stupid.  Don’t I deserve the same from myself?  How can I expect others to treat me better than I treat myself?

I think, for me at least, it’s time to stem the tide.  I am going to make a conscious effort to gag that girl!  I will endeavour to call time on all negative self talk.  Those of you who know me, feel free to pull me up on it if you catch me slipping!  After all, a habit 34 years in the making, won’t be easy to break xxx

 

 

Articles

The Accountability Network

About this time last year, I was getting ready to make some pretty big changes in my life.  I was making a career move.  I got offered a great job, closer to home, which meant I no longer needed to commute to Dublin from Kildare each day.  It also meant changing gym.  I had been training at a strength and conditioning facility in Tallaght for about 3 years at that point.  After a bit of Googling, I found another great facility to train at, which was minutes from my home.  So, I made the switch, and honestly just assumed I could pick up where I left off.  I was wrong.

You see, I had gotten into a great routine in Tallaght.  Leaving work each day and heading straight to the gym, no exceptions.  I never had to think about whether I particularly wanted to go or not, I just sort of auto-piloted myself there each evening.   As well as this, I had built some great relationships there.  I was friendly with my coaches and there was a great sense of camaraderie in the classes.  I really had not anticipated how much I was going to miss this.

So, I left my little pond in Tallaght, and starting swimming in the big pond in Kildare.  I loved the training, and the coaches were great, but for some reason, which I couldn’t figure out, it just wasn’t coming easy.  I really enjoyed the classes, but had to drag myself there.  I felt awkward and unfamiliar, instead of comfortable and at ease.  I never managed to get to the gym as often as I had planned and started to beat myself up about it.  For want of a better expression, I had completely lost my mojo, and try as I might, I couldn’t figure out the root cause.

I remember when I told my father about starting the new job he had said “you won’t know yourself,” and to be honest, that was exactly how I was starting to feel.  I love training, and my family and friends even playfully called me a “gym junkie” so why was I having such a hard time getting my head back in the game?  Why was I finding this transition so difficult?  People change gyms all the time and do just fine.  What the hell was wrong me with me?

As the months went by, it slowly became clear to me what was missing.  I no longer had my accountability network.  In my old gym, I was a familiar face to all, and if I went missing, it wouldn’t be long before someone would be checking in with me.  In the new place, I was the little, anonymous fish.  Nobody would notice if I was there or not.  In Tallaght, there was a regular group of  girls (and guys) I trained with and the friendly competition between us was often what spurred me on.  This too was absent now.  Not that it wasn’t happening, just that I wasn’t yet a part of it.

So, now that I knew what the problem was, what was I going to do about it?  Unfortunately, as adults, we don’t often feel comfortable asking people if they want to be our friend!  The irony of the situation wasn’t lost on me.  I didn’t want to train regularly because I felt apart from everything, but the only solution to that was to train regularly!  If the accountability network didn’t exist for me, I needed to build it.  I was the new person, so it was up to me to make the effort.  As a friend of mine often says “you have to go along, before you can get along!”

It has struck me recently how often situations like this come about.  How we so often are faced with doing something, which feels alien and uncomfortable in order to reach the end goal.  Sometimes the very thing we need to do feels so very counter-intuitive, that we almost back away from it entirely.  It is often said that to be successful, whether it be with your weight-loss, your training, or even in your career, you need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.  I agree with this, however, I would say that it’s not necessary to stay uncomfortable.  Once you get your foot in the door, start asking the question, “what would make this easier for me?” and once you have the answer, act accordingly.

For many of us, change doesn’t come easily.  In my situation, the career change was actually much easier than changing gym.  I know how odd that sounds.  The only thing I can put it down to, is that I expected the change in job to be challenging, where as I had greatly underestimated how hard leaving my network would hit me.  It’s an awful feeling when something, which was easy before, suddenly becomes difficult.  My rational mind kicked in and told me that if I just stuck with it, that it would eventually come good.  And, to a greater or lesser extent it has.

I love my new job.  It’s much more enjoyable and challenging than any other role I have had.  It also demands a lot more of me than other jobs, and so sometimes things like training have to take a back seat.  I am learning to be okay with this.  Gym junkie no more?  Perhaps, but I am figuring out new ways to define myself xxx