5 Things I Did to Start My Weight Loss Journey
As I mentioned in my previous blog, sharing my journey to where I am today is extremely important to me. I didn't become a positive and healthier person overnight, I have worked at it for over eight years. I am also still learning and changing things as I go. I don't see this journey as one with an end, I see it as an evolving adventure that changes direction all the time.
Life changes and so does your journey.
In the last blog, I covered the importance of mindset and the environment that you create around you. In this blog I am going to talk about the more physical aspect. In Part 1 of this blog series I told you about my previous relationship which caused this big turn around in my life. While I was in this relationship I put on 20kg! I loved food, alcohol and not exercising. Before this relationship I was reasonably healthy as a dancer. I danced enough to keep me at a good enough weight, so food and alcohol were not a huge problem. But after meeting this guy and falling head over heels I soon adopted his lifestyle. I quickly gained a lot of weight and what's worse, my self-esteem dropped and anxiety took up camp within me.
I was the epitome of unhealthy - both mentally and physically. I spoke about my mental changes in my previous post so today I am going to tackle how I changed my life physically. Both the physical and mental self work hand in hand and both aspects have helped my journey to where I am today.
Here are the 5 things I did to start my weight loss journey:
1. My goal was to become healthier and not smaller.
As I said in the previous blog, there wasn't a specific event that caused a sudden change of mindset. I had just graduated from University and had moved back to my hometown after trying to move to a different country (I thought this would put some distance to the relationship and help break ties. It didn't work.). I was heading back to University to start my postgraduate studies and I realised I needed to change. I couldn't take this next step in my studies whilst hating myself so much. I knew I had to make a difference to my health. Even though I was 20 kg heavier than my average weight, I didn't set a goal to get rid of the weight.
My goal was to become healthier, not skinnier.
I needed a life overhaul - losing weight was not going to solve all the issues I had. Deciding to make a complete change to a healthier lifestyle meant I was focusing on the bigger picture and not concentrating on something that will fluctuate throughout my life. Becoming healthier meant I was looking at my complete self and not just the outside. I needed to think about what I was eating, how I was eating, what I was drinking, how I was drinking, what I thought of myself, who I surrounded myself with and how my inner dialogue spoke to itself.
The side effects of a healthier lifestyle was that I lost weight!
It didn't happen straight away, but as I combined the mental and the physical steps I was taking to improve my health the weight came off anyway. I was making positive steps in my mental state, I was making positive steps in my physical state and both of these aligned to create a healthier person. A lot of people get hung up on weight. I get it, society paints a picture of a certain type of look and creates expectations on body image, and we are meant to slave away trying to achieve it. But to me, being the healthiest version of myself was not trying to look like the people in magazines, it was trying to love myself. I'm not going to lie, I wanted to lose weight as well. But I knew that at that point in time I needed more than just a weight-loss programme.
Think about what you need. You are the only one who knows 100% what you need. Listen to your body and if it's telling you to be healthier, it may not mean skinnier.
2. I did not diet!
I know this sounds like a really silly concept, but it really worked for me. Common sayings for me were, 'double dinner', 'dessert dessert dessert' and 'coffee and cake'. I knew that if I found a diet to follow, I would follow along with it for the first few weeks and then once it was finished I would go back to my old habits. Mmmmm, double dinner!
I knew I needed a life overhaul and the change would need to be something permanent. So what did I do?
I changed one thing in my diet at a time.
I started with fizzy drink. I cut out all fizzy drink from my diet and the results were very surprising. I wasn't going to the gym at this point or doing anything else physically different, but the weight started to come off. I must have been drinking a lot of fizzy drink for it to affect my weight in such a major way. I did this for three weeks before I added on something else.
The next thing I added was more vegetables into each day. I made sure I ate at least 5 different types of veggies a day. Nutrients are key! Getting the right vitamins, minerals and fibres in definitely helped my body to function better. I made a conscious effort to make sure there was nutritional value in each meal I had. This meant I was helping my body get healthier.
Then I thought I would limit myself to one treat a day. Now by treat, I meant chocolate, ice cream or chips. At my heaviest, I was probably having at least 2 or 3 treats a day. So, cutting this back helped make a huge difference.
So, as I said, I didn't find a diet and jump on the bandwagon. Instead, I looked at how I could make small changes to my lifestyle that would be permanent. It's hard to take that first step and sometimes I don't follow how I eat. But I ensure that I don't let my old habits creep in permanently. Make the changes that are right for you. We all have different bodies, so what I decide to change may not work for you. Find what's right for you and then adjust things slowly.
3. I started with a small amount of exercise and worked my way up to more.
Having danced most of my life, I had always thought I did not need to join the gym. The gym was for skinny girls, buff guys and people who like to stare at themselves in the mirror. That was definitely not me. By this point, I avoided mirrors and shop windows (anything that showed reflections) as much as I could. I'd started to make small changes to my diet and I had never thought I would be able to go without fizzy drink. So, I thought to myself, 'if I can change the way I feel about fizzy drinks, why can't I change my thoughts around the gym?' It took a long time and a lot of self-talk, but eventually I got myself to a gym. I was so nervous when I went in, I thought everyone would stare at me and not let me join because I wasn't a fitspo.
I did join and I have never regretted it. It was that very visit that helped me take the next step towards a healthier lifestyle. I was now the proud owner of a gym membership and I was determined to not be one of those people who have a membership and never use it. So I started going to the gym. Luckily, when I joined they gave me a free session with a trainer. This was super helpful as I had no idea where to start. It was this very session where I realised that if I committed myself to do too much at once, I would run in the other direction as fast as possible. The awesome trainer somehow sensed that this was the case and made the session casual. She also made it clear that I didn't have to commit heaps of hours to make a difference. To start with, any amount would help. So, with this bit of advice, I started going twice a week for about 30 minutes. I know it doesn't sound like much but it did actually make a difference. Once I got used to twice a week, I increased it to three. Then, 30 minutes became 45 minutes, and eventually 45 became an hour. Then, I was brave enough to start mixing it up between weights and cardio.
This made me feel great and like I was in control.
I was doing it at my own pace and listening to what my body needed. I knew if I went too hard too fast then this would be a short-term relationship with the gym. So instead, I played the long game. I built myself up over time. If you are worried about not being fit enough or committed enough to start a new form of exercise, do it slowly and give yourself time to build up to doing more.
4. I only did things I enjoyed.
I loved going to the gym. I had this new activity in my life that made me feel good about myself.
That was the biggest key.
I loved the gym, I wanted to go, and the side effects were infectious. I felt like I had more energy, I was losing weight, and it helped control my anxiety. These things all added up and made me enjoy what I was doing. Because I enjoyed it, I kept doing it. I think if I had hated it, it would never have lasted.
I find that this is an important part of anyone's weight loss journey. If the form of exercise is hard work and you hate it, you won't stick to it. If you enjoy it and it makes you feel great, you will continue to stick at it.
I feel it's the same with other types of activities in life as well. I had started to study to become a teacher and I enjoyed going to the lectures. I had started the gym and loved it. I had changed the hours of my part-time job and they worked in great with what I wanted to do. Everything in my life was changing and everything in my life was making me happy. Previously, I would have done anything for the ex, whether I enjoyed it or not. He enjoyed playing PlayStation, so I would sit with him and play PlayStation, even though I would be bored after half an hour. He enjoyed drinking, so I would go and drink with him. After 4 years, I didn't even know the things I liked. We had got into a routine of doing the things he enjoyed and that was that. I didn't want to rock the boat so I never questioned it. In hindsight, I wish I was strong enough to speak up or move on sooner. But I learnt from this and I will never put myself in that situation again. I will always do things that make me happy. In saying that, I still take part in things that my current partner loves. The difference is that he takes part in things that I love as well. It's reciprocal. We appreciate the other person and we constantly discuss how we feel about the things we do for each other.
The thing about being happy is that it helps to make the foundations of a healthier lifestyle even stronger. Find the things that make you happy and do them! However, I'm not necessarily saying quit everything you hate. I am saying if something makes you unhappy, but for practical reasons you must do it, then try finding different ways to go about it. For example, I wasn't enjoying my part-time job, so I changed my hours and things improved considerably. Changes don't always have to be massive to be effective.
5. I worked hard and didn't punish myself for making mistakes.
Don't you wish sometimes that you could snap your fingers and change everything you wanted to change in less than a heartbeat? Believe me, there were times that I wished that was the case! I hated the situation I had got myself into and I longed for the instant change. There were times when I saw people who were happy and envied how easy they made it look. So I used all of those feelings to grow my determination to achieve that happiness myself. I knew one day I could be that person who made being happy look effortless.
With that in mind, I had to work super hard at it. But it did get easier. I had times where I reverted back to my old ways. It's hard to be enthusiastic about going to the gym when it's raining outside and you have a whole season of your favourite show lined up. Still, to this day, I have times where I don't want to go to the gym or I just want a mouth full of a fizzy drink. I let myself do these things on occasion and I try not to give myself a hard time for doing so. It's all about working with your inner dialogue, and when it says 'I'm too tired to go the gym' then I'll work harder to talk myself into going by reminding myself how awesome I'll feel afterwards.
The important thing is that you don't punish yourself for taking a day off or eating that whole block of chocolate. Accept that it happened and move on. These are just blips in the bigger picture. Missing a workout or eating something you didn't think you should doesn't make you an unhealthy person. It makes you normal! Be kind to yourself. Love who you are and move on by knowing there is always tomorrow.
The initial hard work is worth it!
I am still on the journey to a healthier life. I think it's always evolving. As you come across new information, as your interests change, and as you meet new people the quest continues. But I allow myself to remember my past so that I can use it to become a better person, and I don't regret anything that's happened. I've learnt so much about myself and it's given me the strength and determination that I have today. It is this strength and determination that has helped me deal with my Crohn's diagnosis (which has been another part of my journey to a healthier life).
If you are wanting to make changes to your lifestyle and to start your journey to a healthier life, remember...
You are worth it, your happiness is worth it, and your health is worth it!