Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Fighting fat (or the nine steps to a new you)

I'm trying to type very quietly today as mum is attempting to have a nanna nap on the couch next to me right now, but I have something I have to get off my chest right now so it can't wait till she's up and getting ready for work.

Anyone who has been a regular reader of mine would know that I try to eat a healthy and balanced diet, and I attempt during the warmer months to do some form of semi regular exercise. Well recently I discovered a support group on Facebook for people trying to lose weight, and I joined up to see if they would be able to keep me motivated in my own winter slump. Interestingly enough, the girl who started up the page is actually a neighbour of mine, but we didn't realise we lived so close to each other until after I joined her group. We now chat on an almost daily basis, and I think I can safely say I have made a new friend which is wonderful.

As for the group itself, while it is wonderful to see so many like minded people from all over the world joining together to support each other in our quests to get healthy, it is sad to see so many people who are incredibly misinformed about the route to good health, and who are also riddled with so much self hatred because of how they look. Now as I have mentioned in an earlier post here, before I had Miss K, I was in exactly the same boat and filled with the same hatred of my body for becoming a lumpy mass of tubbiness, but once I became pregnant and realised what a miracle the human body can be, I learned to accept that I will never look like the photoshopped models on the front of all the magazines and love my body for the incredible machine it is. That doesn't mean that I don't still want to be healthy and fit, it just means that I am more forgiving of the various lumps and bumps that have shown up as I got older, and instead of just being depressed that I am what the health profession considers obese (but I just consider overweight) I have decided to accept what I cannot change, change the things I can, and love all of it no matter what.

So with that in mind, I have decided to share with you my wonderful readers some of the steps I have had to take in the past to get to where I am today, still not perfect, and still trying to lose weight, but not filled with self loathing and pity.

1. Love yourself warts and all

I was always told that no one can love you until you love yourself, and I believe this with all of my heart. Love has to come from within yourself before it can come from anywhere else. If you are unhappy with your appearance, sure make the changes you feel are necessary to fix this, but make sure it is for the right reason. If you are doing it so that you feel better about yourself and to be healthier for yourself then this is good. If you are doing it so that other people will like you, then this is bad. You could be the skinniest person in the world, but if you think that you are worthless, then that is what everyone else is going to think about you too.

2. Treat your body like the wonder it is

The human body is truly a work of wonder. We have so many different mechanisms, all which have a specific function which is necessary to operate on a daily basis. Your body is working 24/7 in ways that sometimes you aren't even aware of. Things we don't even think about like the way your skin absorbs vitamin d from the sun, which is necessary for a healthy skin, organs and immune system. Then there is the wonder of thinks like reproduction which is just mind boggling, the fact that we need our bodies to propagate the species and avoid extinction. All of this makes for one awesome machine which should be respected and loved. I used to treat my body less as a temple and more like a three car garage before I got healthy, and I paid for it big time. No energy, unhealthy skin, digestion problems and all other kinds of nasty ailments have plagued me for years. I still get a nasty reminder of what my life was like if I relax my eating and sleep habits too much, and it is a very effective motivator to get back to the healthy lifestyle which make me feel so much better.

3. Learn about the foods you are putting into your body

In order to learn exactly how much fat I was eating on a daily basis, I started to use an online food diary which not only tracked what I was eating, but exactly how many calories was in each piece of food I put in my mouth, as well as the vitamins and minerals I was getting on a daily basis. This was an incredible eye opener for me, I couldn't believe that if I had one bad day and ate take away for dinner instead of cooking something at home, my calorie intake would sky rocket out of control. Given that there are calories in absolutely everything we eat, and the human body needs on average only 1200 calories a day in order to function, this was proof positive that I needed to make big changes to my diet. But that hasn't meant that I can't eat all the foods I still love, just that they have now become sometimes foods instead of every day foods. And I have actually found that after a while I don't enjoy my take away meals like I used too. Being aware of their incredibly high fat content tends to keep me away a lot more than it used to. For anyone looking for a good food diary, as well as an exercise diary, check out It even tells you exactly how many calories you need to burn a day in order to lose weight, as well as how much calories you do burn when you exercise.

4. Take all the help you can get

It is incredibly hard to stay motivated when you are on your own. There were times that the only reason I went out and played tennis with my little sister is because she was the one who called me every weekend to remind me to come get her and go out for a run around. And at the end of the day I was grateful that she had hauled me off my lazy butt for 45 minutes of sweating and panting because I felt great. I used to live with a friend from high school, and she would make me put on my walking shoes every night and we would go for a walk around town, even in the freezing cold of winter. Again I hated her while I was putting on my shoes, but I always felt so refreshed when we finally got home, our noses pink and numb from the cold air. Mum and I are each other's cheerleader this time, and even though neither of us can motivate ourselves to work harder, we are happy to support each other and give pep talks whenever they are needed. It is much harder to go easy on yourself when others are watching you, and sometimes that is all the motivation you need.

5. Stop caring what every one else thinks

This one was a big deal for me, because I spent the first twenty years of my life caring about what everyone else thought, and completely ignoring my own opinions, or changing my opinions just so that they fit in with everyone else's. But all that meant was that I was a complete doormat, and not really being true to myself. At the end of the day, the only person you spend 24 hours a day with is yourself. The only person who can hear all the little voices in your head is yourself, so why would you listen to the voices in someone else's head before your own? Learn to own the voice inside your head and listen to what it is saying about you. If you don't like what you hear, either change the track or change what you don't like about yourself.

6. Become more selfish

This doesn't mean always take more for yourself before giving to other people, this means start taking care of yourself before you do anything else. For any of my readers who are mums, you will know how hard this one is because our job description means that we put our kids before absolutely everything else. Our hunger, our appearance, our bladders always come out second to the children. But at the end of the day if you want anything for yourself, you are going to have to be the one who does it. I'm lucky because my child is still at an age where she needs 14 hours of sleep a day, so I only need to put her first for 10 hours a day. And when she is in bed, or happily amusing herself with the contents of our plastic cupboard, that gives me plenty of time to stop and have a coffee, or read the pull outs from the Sunday newspaper. And sometimes being selfish can mean refusing to listen to someone's constant criticisms or complaints, or something as simple as making sure you get a good night's rest.

7. Don't take life too seriously

Laughter really is the best medicine in the world. Nothing gets me out of a slump like having a giggle with Miss K. Sometimes it is hard to find the humour in a situation, but if you can learn to laugh at yourself then life gets a whole lot easier. It is too easy to become stressed these days, people work longer hours, women have more things to juggle on a daily basis, the news broadcasters are hell bent on trying to convince us that the world is coming to an end. Sometimes I find myself becoming too focused on unimportant details and stressing myself out, and when I do, I have to take a step back and tell myself to chill out and relax because at the end of the day is it really important that everything is perfect? or is it more important to be happy and calm?

8. Stop beating yourself up

This is a big one for people who are trying to diet. Every day someone in my weight loss support group posts that they have fallen off the wagon and totally hate themselves for being weak willed. I keep telling them over and over again that everyone deserves a treat, otherwise being good is too hard. But every day there is someone else who needs to be told to go easy on themselves. We seem to forget that we are all human, and as a whole, the human race is flawed. There is no one out there who is perfect, and convincing yourself that the only way to prove that you have succeeded is that you can go the rest of your life without eating a chocolate bar, or you are the absolute best at whatever it is you are good at is only setting yourself up to fail. If there are two things that you need to remember to survive in this world, they are that everyone needs chocolate, and no matter how good you are at something, there will always be someone who is better at it than you. This may sound completely depressing, but it can also be incredibly freeing. It doesn't mean never try to be good at anything, just that you need to learn to be the best that YOU can be, not the best that someone else can be. Sure if you have done something absolutely reprehensible like had sex with Mickey Rourke, or head-butted a small child to get to the last biscuit in the pack, then beat yourself up, but otherwise, go easy on yourself.

9. Accept that there are no quick fixes

This one makes me angry. Everyone is looking for the short-cut in life. The get rich quick scheme, the lose weight fast scheme, the learn a new skill in a day scheme. The short answer is there is no such thing. Anything worth doing in this life takes time and effort, and if you really want to be proud of yourself at the end of the day, the only way to do it is the hard way. The sooner you accept this, the sooner you can get on your way to mastering whatever it is you want to do.

Well I'll get off my soapbox for now, but I hope that there is something here that you my wonderful readers can take away from my lecture today. If anyone else has a secret to success that has helped them, I'd love to hear it.
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