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Are We There Yet?

I have a confession to make.  It turns out that I don’t, in fact, love the Holiday Season as much as I thought I did.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the big meal and getting to spend some time with family and friends, but it is all starting to feel like too much.  Too much eating and drinking, too much excess, too much not knowing what day it is, and dare I say it, even too much togetherness.  I find myself really looking forward to things getting back to “normal.”

I am probably in the minority of people who can genuinely say they look forward to January.  To me it feels like an enormous reset button and presents a great opportunity for a fresh start.  Few things excite me more than opening a new diary, and thinking about all of the possibility its blank pages contain.  All of the unimagined challenges, triumphs and everything in between, which will soon be jotted throughout, fill me with a sense of optimistic enthusiasm.

If you have started to think that this post is about New Years resolutions, then I can assure it is not.  In truth, my jury is still out about them.  In 20 odd years of making them, I would struggle to think of one I have managed to stick to, and I am quite sure that I am not alone in this.  Part of me believes that sitting, pen in hand, on the last day of the year, making lists of ill defined and arbitrary objectives is only setting ourselves up for failure.

As we get ready for 2017’s imminent arrival, I have decided instead to resolve only to do my best.  I know that this probably sounds trite and overly simplistic, but it feels to me like it covers all the bases.  If 2016 has taught me anything, it is that I have no idea what is going to happen next.  So, I have promised myself, that whatever I decide to undertake, I will do it with a good heart and a clear mind.

By a good heart I mean that I will be careful about the demands I let other people make of me.  Often we take on so much, because we don’t want to say no, that we end up resenting it.  We can end up feeling like everyone wants a piece of us.  I have discovered lately that when this happens, it isn’t the other person’s fault, but entirely my own.  As Matthew Kelly says

“Most people overestimate what they can do in a day, and underestimate what they can do in a month. We overestimate what we can do in a year, and underestimate what we can accomplish in a decade.”

I have had to remind myself of this so much this week, and tell myself that “no Arwen, you can’t expect to fit months worth of catching up with people into the week long winter break!”

As for the clear mind, this is a little more straight forward.  I have been taking a leaf out of Marie Kondo’s book and clearing out the clutter.  This all started a few months back.  The girl I shared an office with was heading off on maternity leave, and there was a new guy coming it.  The office itself is about as large as a box bedroom.  I worried that a man and a woman in such tight confines might feel a little claustraphobic.  So, before he started I decided to clear as much as possible out of the office.  Years worth of boxes and files were sent to archive.  (I will admit, I was ruthless, but so far nobody has looked for anything!)

As the clutter began to be removed from my work space, I honestly could not believe how much better I felt.  The air seemed lighter somehow.  I felt like my head was clear and I could breathe easier.  It was amazing.

Since that happened, I have been trying to take the same approach in my home.  My catchphrase for the last few months has been “is it OK to throw this out?”  I have taken countless car loads to the dump and boxes to the charity shop.  The latest mini clear out included no fewer than 26 coffee mugs!  I can’t begin to tell you how cathartic and addictive it is to literally put your house in order.

Such a simple thing has had such a profound effect.  I am calmer and sleeping better.  Getting ready to meet a friend for dinner last night, in my cleared out bedroom, was an absolute pleasure.  Even being able to put our Christmas presents away was revolutionary.  Normally we would be still tripping over them until well into the New Year!  I feel like I am getting ready to welcome 2017 as I would an honoured guest, with a tidy home and an expectant heart.

As much as I can’t wait for the New Year (and I really can’t) I am tying not to wish this time away.  Before long we will be back in the routine of working, training, meal prepping etc. and longing for the next break!  A good friend of mine describes these periods as being like deserts between rivers.  I think this is particularly apt as it is almost impossible to appreciate the one, in the absence of the other.

I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you who have supported me in my endeavours this year.  I wish you all the very best for 2017.  Be well and don’t forget to have an adventure or two xxx

 

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2016: Curves, Conflicts and Context

As the end of the year approaches, I find myself reflecting on the past twelve months.  Revisiting resolutions and making judgments on goals set this time last year.  I try to look back on the year about to close as objectively as I can.  I ask myself what have I learned?  What did I achieve?  Am I closer to where I want to be than I was back in the dark days of January?

This year, for the first time, I am having trouble answering these questions.  You see, the goals at the start of this year were pretty much the same as they are every January.  I am always very interested in making improvements to my overall health and fitness, and so I set goals to work towards this.  Namely, I wanted to lose weight and I wanted to increase my fitness.

Did I achieve these goals?  The answer is, not really.  I started the year at about 62kg and I am finishing it at about 60kg.  So, nothing too note worthy there.  2kg weight loss in an entire year is slow by anyone’s standards.  What about the fitness then?  Did I make some noticeable progress in this area?  Am I able to go faster, or longer, or harder?  Again, the answer to this is not really.  If I was being completely honest, I would say I would be lucky if I have managed to maintain the level of fitness I had when I rang in 2016.

In the past, this realisation that I have “failed” to achieve my goals would have sent me spiraling into self pity, self loathing and self destruction!  I would have been lamenting and crying and declaring myself a hopeless case.  I mean, I only had two things I wanted to achieve, and I succeeded at neither.  What the hell happened?  In a word, LIFE!

I have come to understand that taking a snap shot of where you are at either end of the year can be a useful tool, but it is extremely limited.  It doesn’t take into account the other 363 days, when life is actually happening.  It doesn’t allow for any context.  Neither does it reflect the learning and growth which has occurred in other areas.  Just because you didn’t write something down as a “goal” at the beginning of the year, doesn’t make it meaningless.

Let me explain what I mean.  In January, this blog was just an idea and the YouTube channel was yet to be conceived of.  I hadn’t even contemplated giving cookery lessons.  I was blissfully unaware that I would have an injury, which would significantly restrict my training.  I had no idea that I was about to embark on two distinct and completely different courses of study.  In short, I had no idea of everything which was about to come my way.

These may all sound like excuses for not having achieved my goals, and truthfully, it is hard for me not to dismiss them as such myself.  A huge part of me wants to scold myself for allowing distractions to get in my way.  Surely if I had been truly committed, nothing could have stopped me?

In the stillness and quiet, I have spent time trying to reconcile this conflict.  How can we stay committed to our goals while remaining open to new opportunities which come our way?  How can we prevent our determination from turning into dogmatism?  The answer to this, for me, is to change the way I look at goals, and goal setting in general.  Instead of listing out thing I want to achieve, and dutifully ticking them off, I have tried instead to look at where I want to be, and use this as the litmus test when deciding to pursue a certain course of action.

In Simon Sinek’s book, Start With Why, he refers to this as the “celery test.”  It is the process of determining whether your actions move you closer to your overall goals or not.  So for me, I could ask if doing physio for my hip injury, and listening to the professional advice of restricting training, would ultimately help me to get fitter and stronger.  I think it will.  I could also ask myself if taking courses, writing blogs and teaching classes moves me towards my goal of helping other people to achieve their own fitness goals.  Again, I believe the answer to be yes.

Regular readers will have heard me say before that progress is often non linear.  We can often feel like we are taking one step forward and two steps back.  Putting emphasis on one aspect of life, naturally means something else may move out of focus.  Growth and improvement present learning curves, often steep ones.  But if we can try to put our goals at the centre of our actions, we won’t veer too far off course.

When I think now about the year just gone, I can’t be disappointed with my progress.  I feel like I have learned so much in the past twelve months, and that I am now far better equipped to handle whatever the future has in store for me.  So as it comes time to pen those resolutions, think hard about where you would like to be come Christmas 2017.  Choose actions through the year, which support this.  But remember, nothing is set in stone.  Life has it’s own plan, so be ready to roll with the punches.  Be well and Merry Christmas xxx

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Seasonal Sabotage!

The time to Eat, Drink and be Merry is just about upon us.  This is the time of year when we get to relax and enjoy spending time with family and friends.  A time when the diet relaxes and the training tends to wind down.  I think it is important to have this time as a psychological break.  A season of feast and plenty, before getting right back on it in the New Year.  But, how can we manage to avoid ruining an entire year’s hard work, while still having fun?  How can we avoid feeling like we are missing out, without ending up with a stocking full of regret?  This is probably the tenth Christmas I have spent in  “weight management” mode, so I have learned a few things to help me over the years.

Firstly, be realistic:  There is very little point in promising yourself that this year you absolutely WILL NOT over indulge.  Swearing to yourself that not one Quality Street will cross your lips and the Christmas Dinner will consist only of meat and veg.  In my experience, trying to be overly restrictive in the run up to Christmas only leads to me end up diving head first into a trifle and reaching for the stretchy pants.  I have found that a far better strategy is to decide, ahead of time, which of the Christmas treats I absolutely must have.  I then allow myself to have these and actively avoid the rest.  For me, this is the turkey and ham sandwich on Christmas night, made by my super sister, I look forward to it all year.  You can keep the dessert, but if I don’t get my sandwich, did Christmas even happen?

Beware of the Bargains:  Growing up, the tin of sweets at Christmas was a really big deal.  It was the only time of year you could get them.  They would be bought ahead of time, but on pain of death, we were never allowed to open them until Christmas Eve.  Since I have moved out, I never bother buying them.  Between work and our family homes, there is more than enough junk floating around to satisfy even the sweetest tooth.  This year, however, I began to wonder if this was a little churlish.  Was I a complete Grinch to not even have a single sweet in the house.  I thought to myself I will pick up one tin, sure what harm?  I went to the supermarket and saw they were 3 for €15!  Wow, what a bargain!!  In the space of about 4 seconds, I had gone from not buying any, to buying 3 whole tins.  Luckily, I came to my senses and abandoned my purchase.

I will never forget a leader in Weight Watchers talking about buy one get one free tins of Pringles.  She said when she looked at it all she saw was “44 points for the price of 22.”  It really isn’t a good deal if you end up eating more than you intended to and feeling bad about it.  Don’t let the marketers draw you in to ruining your progress.

Let work days be “normal” days:  I will admit that routine is an absolute saviour of mine.  Automating as many decisions about food as I can has made maintaining my weight so much easier than relying on will power alone.  Every work day I have the same breakfast, and one of 2-3 different homemade lunches.  I don’t deviate from this just because it is December.  It helps me a lot to feel like at least some parts of my diet can be consistent regardless of the season.  If I were to abandon this for the month, I know I would feel completely out of control.

Offices are a minefield for the diet conscious at the best of times, and Christmas is the worst.  Across the country mince pies and selection boxes are being passed around with abandon.  My advice, and something I have always had to do, is just give it a wide berth.  I would always prefer to indulge in sweets and treats consciously.  Sitting at home relaxing with a nice cuppa and the fur babies.  Not while on a conference call and trying to get a balance sheet worked out.

Practice the one bite rule:  If you take a bite of something, (especially if it’s calorie laden) and you don’t really love it, stop eating it.  If you take a slice of grannies fruit cake and it’s as dry as the Mojave desert, proclaim it delicious and yourself still full from dinner, and leave it alone.  Calories are too precious to be wasted on things which don’t make you make yummy noises.

Remember that Christmas is ONE DAY:  I have lost count of the number of times I have heard people saying that there is “no point trying to be good in December!”  This simply is not true.  When you think about it, it is one day, one dinner and maybe a party or two.  When you consider that on average in December, we will eat over 100 meals, it puts the big one into a little perspective.  There is only so much damage you can do in a day (even if you do my trifle dive) a whole month ,on the other hand, is a completely different story.  If you make a decision to abandon all your good habits in December, you can expect to have a significant backslide with your results.  If you make this decision, accept that it is a decision and own it.  Christmas did not do it to you!

Move on:  Whatever happens over Christmas, it’s not the end of the world.  Even if you eat and drink far more than you had intended and if the scales calls you out on it, it’s not terminal.  Win, lose or draw this silly season, allow yourself to move on.  The worst thing we can do is fall into the familiar negative feedback loop of self loathing.  When 2017 comes in, be mentally ready to attack it, not wasting energy worrying about what you ate last year.

Lastly, enjoy:  I for one am so ready for the break at Christmas.  Having a few days away from work, watching old movies in my pj’s sounds like just what the doctor ordered.  This is the time of year to catch up with friends and family and relax.  Reflect on the year just gone and get ready for the one to come.  However you will be spending this holiday season, enjoy it, for it comes but once a year.  Be well xxx

 

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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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25% Off, Now What?

I have not always had what can be described as a healthy relationship with food.  As a girl I was naturally slim, so never really gave much thought to what I ate.  Of course, like every other teenage girl, I lamented to my friends about how “fat” I was and about how I should go on a diet, but it was really all just idle chatter.

I spent the summer before my final year in University on a J1 visa in America.  I loved every minute of it.  Waiting tables by day and partying by night.  When I came home, I had trouble getting back into the swing of things.  College wasn’t for me.  I studied English Literature, which was and still is a great passion of mine, but the whole student life thing just didn’t appeal.  I didn’t fit in, I struggled to make friends and I was generally miserable.  By the time my finals were approaching, I was in a deep depression.

I rarely made my classes, I didn’t have a job.  I was sleeping around the clock and I had no money.  I would eat one meal a day, which was always two slices of toast, a fried egg and a grilled tomato.  The rest of my waking hours, which were few, were fueled by coffee and cigarettes.  Naturally enough, I lost weight.  A lot of weight.  I plummeted to 7 stone (less than 45kg.)  My family and friends began to pass comments about it.  I took their concerned remarks as compliments and they were the one thing at that time, which made me feel good.  I guess you could say, I had developed an accidental eating disorder.

Thankfully, not too long after finals, my roommate recommended me for a job where he worked.  I got the job, and slowly began to emerge from the pit I had been living in.  It was a long process, and definitely a story for another day.  Slowly, as I started to feel “better” I began to put on some weight.  Initially this was a good thing, and everyone was relieved.  I figured I would just regain the weight I had lost during that year, and get back to normal.  Unfortunately, “normal” came and went and I was still putting on weight.  Over the next few years my weight steadily increased until I hit the 79kg mark.  I had almost doubled in size.

I hated myself.  I lived in over-sized clothes.  I hid myself away.  Dreading to go out and having to show everyone what I looked like.  I remember buying a dress for my 30th birthday, (something which should have been enjoyable) I just pulled something which I thought might fit off the rail in Tesco and decided that would do.  It was green and satinesque!  Even the thoughts of trying something on was too much for me.

It wasn’t long after that awful green dress when I decided something had to be done.  First to be tried was Weight Watchers and Aerobics, which before long gave way to Crossfit and Paleo!  Initially, I had some success and the pounds came off.  But it wasn’t long before the wheels came off the wagon and the weight would start creeping back on.

On and on it went, losing a little, gaining a little.  Each time I tried again, it was with renewed energy and more extreme measures.  At one time I was eating a 100% Paleo diet and training 8-10 hours a week.  My body was so over trained and under nourished that my hair fell out.  My skin was a mess and my hormones were all over the place.  I was once again giving my family cause for concern.  It was a decade later, and it seemed I had learned nothing.  I was right back in a place of disordered eating behaviour.  It didn’t matter how much weight I lost, I just couldn’t shake the fear that one day I would wake up back in my old body.

Then something amazing happened.  It all fell apart.  I changed jobs and I got really busy in work, so training had to take a back seat.  Following a strict Paleo protocol was simply impossible with the hours I was working and with the other commitments I had.  I had a series of injuries which kept me from training from a broken finger to a strained hip flexor.  If I had tried to write a story of disaster, I probably couldn’t have made it worse.

While all this was going on, I was trying to do my best to mitigate the damage.  I enlisted the help of two of the best nutrition coaches in the business and put myself entirely in their hands.  I didn’t have the bandwidth to argue with them, so I just did what they said.  I trained when I could and tried not to panic too much about it.  About a month ago, and 5 years after the hideous green ensemble, I weighed in at 59kg.  Exactly 20kg less than at my heaviest and about 25% loss in overall body weight.

I had eventually reached my “goal weight.”  Okay, so what now?  It is very peculiar reaching a goal like this.  It never feels like you imagine it’s going to.  I still don’t look in the mirror as see the body I want.  I don’t yet feel satisfied and I certainly don’t feel finished.  I have learned a lot on this journey, and made more mistakes than I can count.  I think the greatest lesson I have learned, is that I don’t do well in extremes.  I am very lucky to have great people around me, and I have become able to trust them, even when I don’t trust myself.

I really believe that although I may not be exactly where I want to be, that I am ready to close the chapter of my life that has been the last 5 years.  I am ready for losing weight to not be the primary focus of my life anymore.  I want to concentrate on what I can be more of and better at.  The irony of my situation is not lost on me.  I can only smile when I think about how far I had to veer off course in order to arrive where I am now.

For anyone else who might find themselves battling to stay on track, I have this to say.  Just trust.  Trust the process, trust your coaches and your loved ones, but above all, trust yourself!  Be well xxx

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If You Don’t Know Me By Now…

Often when we spend a lot of time with people, and especially if we live with them, we come to be able to predict how they will behave in certain circumstances.  We all know the person in the office best avoided until after they have had their first coffee,for instance.  We also know who will be the one to upend the Monopoly board on Christmas night, and who will always try to be the peace maker.

Lately, I have started to wonder why I seem to be quite unable to make these connections with myself.  When I start to behave irrationally or feel like I am unraveling, I don’t seem to have the same internal index cards to tell me this is what I always do when the stars align in this way.

Let me tell you what I mean.  Regular readers will know that I am currently doing a management development course though work.  30% of the course mark is for a 5,000 work project, due in a couple of weeks.  The majority of the remaining marks are for an exam at the end of November.  Throughout my accountancy career, I have done more exams than I care to remember and I test reasonably well, so the exam part wasn’t really stressing me too much.  The project, on the other hand, was a completely different story.

For a lot of reasons, I was getting totally in my head about it.  I haven’t written anything academic in about 15 years, so to say I was rusty was an understatement.  Also, a large portion of the project was to be made up of a case study based around work.  I have only been in my job for a little over a year, and I have only been managing people for a few months.  I felt distinctly unqualified to write about it.

After weeks of procrastinating and “researching” I eventually decided to put pen to paper last weekend.  The week in work leading up to it had been hair raising, so as is often the case with me, the timing wasn’t exactly perfect.  I spent a few hours working on it on Saturday and another couple on Sunday morning.  By midday on Sunday, I felt like I had made a good start, but was starting to go a little stir crazy.  Errands needed to be run, and it was a good excuse to get away from the desk for a little while, so off I went.

First up was the pet shop for food for Annie and then to the grocery store for food for the humans.  I had been feeling a little funky all morning, it was hard to put my finger on it, but I just didn’t feel like myself.  I got the dog food and loaded it into the car, and the next thing I knew, I was in floods of tears.  Now, I am not talking Cheryl Cole crystal tears, I am talking huge, wracking sobs.  Let me paint the picture for you.  There I was, sitting in the car park of the pet shop, wearing huge sunglasses (thank God I had them) wiping my tears in a pashmina (note to self, always carry a hanky!)  For a good twenty minutes, I sat there, totally inconsolable.  The really crazy thing is, had anyone asked me at the time what was wrong with me, I would have surely sobbed “I don’t know!”

The truth of it is, I really didn’t know.  This made me feel both very stupid and more than little nuts.  I mean, grown women aren’t supposed to do this!  Surely I should be able to run some simple errands without being reduced to a puddle of snot?  What the hell was wrong with me?  Was I truly losing my mind?

The whole rest of that evening, I felt awful.  Like I was suffering some terrible, nameless grief.  I tried to nap, but couldn’t sleep.  It seemed as though anything I tried to make myself feel better, just made things worse.  Eventually, I gave up trying and put myself to bed.  Something amazing happened.  I slept.  I woke the next morning feeling like myself again, and apart from the embarrassment, there were no lingering affects from the day before.

It was only in the days that followed did I start to join the dots.  I began to remember I ALWAYS DO THIS!  I always take on a lot and hold onto everything so tightly, that when the pressure eventually releases, I fall apart a little.  The release of the tension of getting my project underway was so great, that it manifested itself physically.  I wish that I had been able to identify what was happening that day, so perhaps I could have avoided fearing I was losing my mind, on top of everything else!

I guess the truth of it is, when we look at other people the distance allows for perspective.  When we look at ourselves, this perspective will only ever come with time.  The best thing we can do for ourselves is be honest with those around us, so even if we are ill equipped to recognise what is going on with us, at least they will know!  I am not saying that if someone had told me last Sunday “Arwen, you always do this” it would have helped me hold it together, but maybe I would have felt like I wasn’t going through it alone.

I am very pleased to report that the project is just about finished.  Just as well, because I don’t want to have to find another pet shop!  Be well xxx

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Timing is Everything

Life is pretty hectic just now, but I get withdrawal symptoms when I am not writing.  So I wanted to share some thoughts I have been having lately, in what could turn out to be my shortest post to date.

Have you ever noticed that after you hear a word for the first time, it suddenly seems to be everywhere?  Or your friend introduces you to a band they love and then you hear their music on TV?  When these things happen, it almost feels as though the stimulus was always there, it’s just that your consciousness was not ready to receive it.

There’s an old expression, which says that “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”  Lately, this has taken on a much greater meaning for me.  There has been so many times recently when I have heard or seen something, just at the moment when I needed it most.  I definitely think it is happening because I am more ready.

I owe this readiness, in no small part, to reading a great book called “The Art of Asking” by Amanda Palmer.  I hadn’t come across  Amanda before, but I heard the book recommended and decided to check it out.  I wholeheartedly recommend it.  She is a fascinating lady and it is particularly well written.  The main theme of the book is about encouraging people to ask for the things that they need.  Having read it, this sounded like great advice.  Typically of me, I decide to embrace this, and jumped headlong into asking people for things!

My first ask was in the form of a request for a book (I didn’t end up getting the book, but it did end up opening some other doors for me.)  The funny thing about asking, is that it requires making yourself extremely vulnerable.  You expose a need in yourself and of course, you have to be open to hearing the word no.  Amanda eluded to this in her writing, but it takes experiencing it for yourself to truly appreciate how scary it is.

In order to be a ready student, waiting for her teacher, I have had to learn how to really ask.  In a challenging time in my life, I have had to learn how to say “I am struggling, can you help me?”  The most recent experience of this was with my 28 day challenge.  I struggled with it way more than I was expecting to.  The rest of the group were doing great and part of me really wanted to retreat into the shadows.  I didn’t want people to see that I, of all people, did not have my shit together (not even a tiny bit!)  The crazy thing was, as soon as I did admit it, as soon as I let it be known that I was in trouble, the support I needed came to me, and I was able to turn it around.

The older I get, the more I realise that in order to have the fullest and most authentic life possible, I need to be truly open.  Yes, this means taking risks.  This means leaving myself exposed to pain.  But, it also means being open to all the joy and wonder that people and life have to offer.  When you learn to ask, you will soon discover who will step up for you and who will slink away.  Recognising a need in others, and doing what you can for them is a truly noble act.  To those who have stepped up for me recently, thank you, you know who you are.  To those who have decided to slink away, thank you, now I know who you are.  Be well xxx

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28 Days!

For the past few months, I have been feeling a little bit like my progress with my weight loss has stalled.  I have mentioned in previous posts that for one reason or another, I just haven’t seemed to be able to drag myself across the finish line to my “goal weight.”  So, when Philly Kinsella announced that he was starting a 28 Day Nutrition Program for a small number of Academy members, I jumped at the chance to take part.  The idea behind it was to get a small group of 10-12 people together, with similar goals, in order to enable us to support and encourage each other.

I have done plenty of nutrition courses, and spent hundreds of hours listening to and reading the work of the finest minds in the industry.  For me, like many others, knowing what to do is not the issue.  The issue is, actually doing what is required to get the results I want.  I am a social animal, and having something or someone to be accountable to, outside of myself is hugely motivational.  This program gives us the perfect forum to share our struggles and triumphs as well as tips, recipes and ideas.  I couldn’t be more excited to be taking part.

My starting weight on day 1 was 59.9kg and my bodyfat, also measured on day 1 with calipers, was 17.5%.  I have learned over the years to be quite detached from these numbers.  They are just objective metrics with which to track progress.  They do not impact how I feel about myself (anymore.)  The days when I feel I look my best and at my leanest usually don’t correlate to the scales at all.

What I will be doing:

  • I have calculated my current maintenance calories and have set up about a 15% deficit.  This means I will be aiming to eat just under 1600 kcals per day
  • I am aiming to get about 130g of protein per day (roughly 1 gram per pound of body weight.)  I want about 30% of my calories coming from fat and the remainder from carbohydrate.
  • I will weigh myself each morning and track my weight on a spreadsheet.  I weigh myself every morning anyway, so this is not a big change.  The idea is not to become fixated on the numbers themselves, but by tracking my weight, I can start seeing the patterns behind the numbers.
  • I will track my food intake using MyFitness Pal.  This will mean weighing and measuring food to be sure that the information is accurate.  This can be a bit of a pain, and not something I will be doing forever, but I really don’t think there is another way to go about tracking calorie intake.
  • I will be continuing to train 3-4 times per week as usual
  • I will be leveraging the power of the group when my motivation, creativity and energy are flagging
  • The photo above is showing some of the food from the first few days of the plan, as well as a picture of me before starting.  I will continue to photograph what I am eating, and I will take another one of myself at the end.

What I will not be doing:

  • Freaking out any time I see the number on the scale increase.  Body weight fluctuations are normal, especially for women.  This is why getting the overall trend of weight changes is important
  • Expecting everything to be easy
  • Giving myself a hard time if my calories or macros are not perfect on any given day.  I recognise that it is what I do consistently over the course of the program, which will bring results.

What I expect:

  • I am hoping to achieve modest weight loss over the 28 days.  1-2kg drop would be great.
  • I would also hope to see some small drop in my bodyfat percentage, but I am realistic.  28 days is not a long period of time, and it may take a little longer for results to show up!
  • I am expecting to feel hungry at times.  This is normal in a deficit.  I am eating less than my body needs, so it’s natural to expect hunger.  Even when not on a cut, it is normal to experience hunger.  If you never get hungry, chances are you are over eating
  • Not every meal is going to be an Instagram worthy masterpiece.  Sometimes eating is simply about fueling your body.  This is especially true when you are aiming for specific macros.  There will be times when I will eat something that I don’t particularly “want” #firstworldproblems
  • I expect to feel tired and lacking in energy at times.  My body will have less fuel going into it than it is used to, so there may be less energy available.
  • I am going to have to get creative.  As the wise man said “calories are scarce in a deficit,” so more thought and planning needs to go into each meal/day to ensure I get maximum benefit.

Overall, I feel confident that with a group of great people behind me, as well as great coach in my corner, I have every chance of being successful.  The community support aspect of weight loss is something, which is all too often overlooked.  If you are trying to change your lifestyle without the support of your family and greater community, you are facing an uphill battle.  This is true if your aim is to lose 1lb or 100lbs.  We may not be able to get those close to us on board all the time, but we can seek out others to support and be supported by.  Our creativity is sparked by interactions with others.  I know personally this week, I have been trying to come up with new and exciting things to try.  I feel energised and awakened by being part of a group and harnessing its power!

I will let you know the final result after the 28 days, and also where I plan to go from there.  A new body is a bit like a new outfit, you don’t know how it’s going to fit until you try it on.  At the moment my goal weight is just an arbitrary number, when I get there I might decide I want to drop a little more weight.  Or equally, I could find that I want to put a little back on.  I will let you know when I get there.  Be well xxx

 

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Only a Number?

This year I will be turning 35.  I must admit the idea of it is filling me with a certain dread.  I am not particularly looking forward to officially hitting my “mid-thirties.”  However, this is not for the reasons you might imagine.  Yes, my hair is going plenty gray.  The little lines around my eyes are there for everyone to see.  My boobs are not quite what they used to be, and it certainly gets harder to hide the tiredness with each passing year.  None of these things, although certainly unwelcome, are not what is really bothering me about getting older.  What truly terrifies me is the prospect of my body not being able to do the things I expect from it.

I only genuinely started to find fitness when I was about 30.  I had no interest in sports as a kid, and used every excuse you can think of to even avoid PE.  The word athletic could never have been used in a sentence containing my name.  In the past few years I have enjoyed figuring out all the new and exciting things my body could do.  I loved feeling strong (relatively speaking) and even mastering fairly basic things like a press up or a pull up, was a huge thrill.  Up until now, I have been in the position of feeling that there was more potential.  That I hadn’t yet reached the peak of my physical performance.  As I get older, there will eventually come a time when this capacity is maxed out and starts going in the other direction.

Obviously, I am aware that this happens to everyone.  I am not a unique snowflake after all!  I know that we all must face the challenges that growing old presents, as gracefully, or disgracefully as we can!

My grandmother was a hugely influential person in my life.  My mother’s mother was a constant presence in our lives, especially when we were very young.  She had married a man 13 years her senior, and spent much of the last years of her life being his primary carer.  I truly feel that making such a sacrifice for the man she loved, and not putting herself first, aged her considerably.  Although she was only in her early 70s when she passed away, by that time she would have had difficulty walking around the block.  As well as this, she had battled an illness in her middle age and it left her as frail as a tiny bird.  I find myself wondering if had she engaged in some form of exercise, if she might have been able to rebuild herself.

Watching her struggle, really taught me a lesson about the importance of staying as active and mobile as possible, no matter what stage of life you are at.  I look at fitness now, almost like a pension.  The more you invest into it at an early age, the greater the return will be when you are older.  Every day of the week I see pictures of men and women in their 70s and 80s performing amazing physical feats, breaking records and out lifting people half their age.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not about that!  What I am about, is being able to look after myself in my twilight years.  I want to have the strength to be able to lift myself out of the bath tub and the balance to bend over and tie my shoes.  I know this may sound extreme.  However, if we don’t make the necessary investment in our fitness, we may well be faced with the prospect of not being able to perform even these simple tasks.

Exercise is important, we all know that.  What we might not know, is that as we get older, it gets even more important.  Strength training in particular is crucial.  This is especially true for us women.  As we go through menopause, our bone density decreases, leaving us at greater risk of fractures.  Resistance training has been proven to counteract this.  Another factor to consider is muscle wastage.   Physically inactive people can lose as much as 3% to 5% of their muscle mass each decade after age 30.  There are two ways to mitigate this.  Increased protein consumption is one (this can be a problem as older people sometimes experience a drop off in appetite and may not be able to increase protein intake.)  The other way to help prevent muscle loss is to engage in resistance training.  I am not talking about lifting intimidatingly heavy weight.  Resistance training can be done with light weights, kettle bells, or even just your own body weight.

I remember having a chat with a couple of girlfriends and they were asking would I still be training when I was 60.  I said why not?  I don’t imagine that at 59 I will say, that’s enough of that now.  I fully understand that my training may change as the years unfold.  I don’t expect to be doing the same workouts as I am now, but I would like to hope that I could continue to do something.

over-55s-class

Matty Nagle Fitness Over 55s class killing it on the Concept 2 Rowers

In the gym where I train, The Performance and Fitness Academy, there is a class specifically designed for people over 55.  There are men and women in their 70s taking these classes and getting amazing work done.  The coaches routinely post updates of their progress and it’s amazing to see the increases in strength, endurance and mobility that these guys have gained.  The participants are visibly younger looking.  This crew of older people, some of them grandparents, really give me confidence that an active, healthy life is possible at any age.  One member had this to say “I was meant to have back surgery before I started because the pain was so bad. Now the pain is gone and the doctor told me I don’t need the surgery anymore.”  Another member began training after a course of chemotherapy.  The training helped him to gain enough strength for his doctor to allow him to travel to Australia to visit his son.

When we are young, training for lot of us, is about managing our weight and looking hot in that new pair of jeans.  As we get older it becomes so much more significant.  It begins to have a profound impact on your quality of life.  So, I urge you, whatever stage of life you may be at, get active and stay active!  As they say, use it or lose it!  Your grandchildren will thank you for it xxx

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