How I Maintain the Lifestyle I Worked So Hard to Gain
I am someone who doesn't have a great deal of self-control and am usually not very good at sticking to plans. I'd never really had to, until I made the decision to change my life to a healthier one. As I covered in my last two blogs, I was in a negative relationship, had gained a lot of weight and had no self-esteem left. I decided to change my life and try to become a healthier version of myself. In my previous blogs I covered how I kick started this journey, and now, I am going to let you know how I have tried to maintain it.
It has not been easy! I have had many ups and downs. It is super easy to focus on your lifestyle when you have time. However, I'm a workaholic. I love my jobs and I put everything into being good at what I do. But how do you maintain a healthy lifestyle when you are working 60+ hours a week? How do you exercise when you are at work 12+ hours a day? How do you eat healthy when you are driving between jobs, starving and driving past a lot of convenience foods? All of these combined make it hard to stick to the lifestyle that I dream of having.
Have you ever wished at some point that you could wave a magic wand and things would instantly change? Me too! But I knew this journey was going to be a continuous one and the changes I made would be hard to maintain. The biggest and most important part of my journey has been accepting that it needs to evolve and change to suit what is happening with my life at the time. This is where the positive mindset comes in handy. If you are thinking in a positive way you will get over obstacles easier. When things arise that challenge my health journey, I know that I need to stay positive and work through them with an open mind.
Here are 5 things that I do to help me maintain my healthy lifestyle:
1. Constantly check in with myself and assess what I am doing.
Do you ever feel like you just go through life on autopilot? Sometimes I do! I get up, go to work, go to the gym, then come home and go to sleep. Then rinse and repeat! This is so easy to get in the habit of doing. I forget to stop and ask myself, am I really happy?
So to combat this, I have started a weekly check in. I ask myself, am I enjoying what I'm doing? What things in life am I not enjoying at the moment? Sometimes there is nothing to change and sometimes there is plenty.
One example of this, in late 2016 I was getting really bored at the gym. I was going for the sake of going but not getting any enjoyment out of it. I really started to resent going and would make excuses not to go. So I asked myself, what do I want to do instead? After a while, I realised something I had been wanting to try for a long time was a triathlon. I used to do them as a kid, but I hadn't run since I was 12 and hated it. I stopped going to the gym and signed up for an all-women's triathlon. I did nothing for the first two months and started to feel really guilty. I knew I really wanted to do it but was too nervous to start. Six weeks out from the race I enlisted my Dad for help. He had been doing multisport for as long as I could remember, so was a prime candidate to be my coach. BEST DECISION EVER! My Dad took me under his wing and for six weeks we trained together in cycling and running. I swam by myself. At the start of the six weeks I couldn't even run 500 metres, however by the end of the six weeks I could run 6km! I loved it so much. I felt so good about myself and loved what I was doing. My goal was to finish the race, but I did better than that. I was first out of the pool and ended up 6th overall (that was including all the teams as well).
Because I enjoyed it, I stuck to it.
I changed what I was doing because I wasn't enjoying it anymore, I changed my focus and found something that really made me excited. I am always doing this with everything in life. It helps to keep me happy and healthy. Life is too short to hate the things you do. Try thinking about the things that make you happy and the things that make you unhappy. Then see if there are changes you can make to make your life even better.
2. Maintaining a positive mindset.
I know I write a lot about being positive (and am yet to do a blog about how to actually create a positive mindset), but it is such a crucial part of my health journey. When things get tough, having a positive mindset really helps me through.
When I was in hospital at the beginning of this year and was told my disease had got a hundred times worse and that I was going to need surgery to reset my bowel, I was gutted. I was upset, angry and I was sad. So many emotions in such a short amount of time. I cried for at least two hours solid. I had done everything I had been told. I had restricted my diet to be super healthy and I was the epitome of a good patient. Why was this happening to me? After my two hours of roller coaster emotions that I let myself have (it is just as important to let yourself feel all of the emotions), I then let it all go and focused on the silver lining. Yes I would end up with a stoma, but I will have my health and I will be able to eat vegetables (I love vegetables but my Crohn's had stopped me from eating them). And I would be able to exercise (which I hadn't been able to do for four months). All of these were positives, and they definitely outweighed all the negatives. Even after my surgery, when I had to change my perspective of my body, I still knew it was all for the best. There were so many reasons not to be positive, yet that was all I focused on. So many people commented on how well I was doing and how quickly I recovered. I put it down to staying positive. During my recovery I only focused on the good things in life and I recovered far more quickly than anybody thought.
I couldn't change my situation, so I figured I may as well be positive about it.
I couldn't change the fact I had to have surgery. And I couldn't change the fact that I was now an ostomate. But I could control the way I felt. Being negative was only going to make the situation harder, whereas being positive would at least make my journey more enjoyable.
When you are faced with a tough or hard situation, find a different perspective to look at it from. See if you can see the silver lining. This small shift in thinking can make your life very different. It is hard to always have a positive outlook and you have to really work to become used to it. It is definitely worth the hard work - and you are worth the hard work!
3. Nutrients not calories.
It is so easy when you are losing weight to become focused on your calorie intake. I was for a few years. I had a trainer at the gym and they gave me an eating plan. At the time this was what I needed, and it helped me lose a lot of weight. When I stopped seeing my trainer I thought I would try some eating plans of my own. So, I used MyFitnessPal. This helped me learn all about how many calories were in different foods and track my calorie intake more closely. Again, this was great at the time. I would definitely recommend this for people who want to start looking more closely at what they are eating! It is a great resource and I am sure it has helped many people throughout the world just like me.
With my Crohn's diagnosis, calorie counting went out the window. As the disease took over my life it took my appetite with it. Certain foods were making me horrendously ill and nausea was my new default setting. My cramps made me want to be sick most of the time and the thought of food was horrible. It became very apparent that instead of counting calories, I needed to jam pack as much nutrients into whatever I could eat. When your food intake is so limited, that is really hard to do. There are a lot of foods that I can't eat and unfortunately these are the same foods that I wanted to pack in because of their high nutritional value. These foods include coconut, broccoli, almonds, cauliflower and brussel sprouts. (The full list is actually a lot longer than that, but this is a short sample off the top of my head.)
How did I get nutrients into my diet when 'healthy' food was making me sick?
SMOOTHIES! Smoothies are the best thing in the world. You can pack in so much nutrition into one smoothie. My favourite smoothie is mixed berries, spinach, banana and chocolate protein (not whey protein because that aids inflammation). If I wasn't having smoothies, then I was eating mashed potatoes and peas. Soft foods are amazing.
Soups are also a great way to get more nutrients into your diet. For example, I make a pumpkin soup, but hide at least 5-7 veges in them (my partner hates vegetables so I hide them in the soup). Soups are easy for the stomach to digest and a quick meal when you don't feel like having much to eat.
Now when I am choosing what to eat I always ask myself, what has the best nutritional value? If it has none, then I make a different choice (except if I am having a treat).
This may not work for you, but for me it was quite liberating. I went from agonising over calories to focusing on the nutrition I can put in my body to help it be the strongest it can be. I think when you have a disease that stops you from absorbing nutrients, you become far more aware of them.
4. I do not punish myself.
The words 'cheat day' or 'cheat meal' instantly make me feel nervous. I have used them in the past, but I really try not to use them now because they make me nervous. I know this works for some people and I think it's great if it does. But for me it fosters negativity and negativity, for me, equals anxiety. I like to be positive, so I try and keep my thoughts around food positive as well.
A few years ago, I got super into the gym and was eating very strictly. I was so into it and I loved it. I had a food plan and I stuck to it. Things were going really great. But then I realised, the way I was eating was not sustainable. I wasn't calorie counting but each meal was planned to perfection by my trainer and there was no room for variation. When I had a goal I was working towards, this was great. I was trying hard to get into shape for a friend's wedding. And it worked! I lost a bit of weight and then was feeling great. After the wedding I stuck at it for a while, but then I got bored. I got so bored of eating the same thing day in and day out. This wasn't sustainable. After a while I started adding in different foods, but I started to feel guilty. I was cheating on my eating plan. I would get so wound up about it sometimes I couldn't sleep. So from that time onwards, I decided to change the way I talk and think about food.
I try and keep an open mind about what I am eating. I eat rather restrictedly at the moment due to my Crohn's Disease, so it would be easy to feel guilty when I eat some things I shouldn't. I try and eat a more primal paleo diet - gluten free, grass fed dairy (minimal amounts), vegetables, fruit, nightshades and meat. This can sometimes be tough, especially when you go out for dinner or there is fresh baking on offer at work. So I let myself eat small amounts of food I normally wouldn't, because I know its ok to do this if I am not eating large quantities and am not getting into the habit of eating them all of the time. I also don't punish myself for having something I normally wouldn't. Punishing yourself sets you up for more guilt.
I try and eat as nutrient based as possible but sometimes all I want is hot chips (fries). And that is OK.
Think about how you talk about food. Do you put negative connotations around food? What can you do to help build a more positive mindset around what you are eating?
5. Positivity, Positivity, Positivity!
You are probably all sick and tired of me talking about being a positive person! But I can't emphasis enough how being a positive person has really changed my life. I haven't always been positive. I used to be a glass is half empty person, negative and cynical. But I realised it was holding me back and adding to my unhappiness.
Now I will do a serious point number 5…
5. Setting goals.
I have never been the best at goal setting, so I am not going to write a lot about it. This is something I am really working on though, because I want to be good at setting goals for myself.
I admire people who set goals and work towards them.
Actually, looking back at my life, I realise that I have done some serious goal setting and stuck to it. I made the goal to change my life around (which you can read about in Part One and Part Two of this blog series). I worked so hard to get myself out of the bad situation I was in and I stuck to it. I made it a goal to become a school teacher and I achieved it. I made it a goal to choreograph a show to be performed overseas and in 2016 I choreographed a show that was performed at Disneyland in L.A. Then in 2017 I choreographed some dances that were performed at Disneyland Paris. So as I am writing this, I'm realising that I am someone who sets goals. However, I don't write them down, I don't have an action plan, I don't have end goals and I don't follow the S.M.A.R.T goal structure. But I do set goals and I do achieve them. And these goals have given me purpose. They give me drive and they give me determination to better myself. These are the things that help me continue to be a healthier person.
One thing I am working on at the moment though, is getting better at setting goals, writing them down and tracking them. Watch this space to see if I achieve this.
This has been a long journey I have taken you on. I really can't express enough how healing it has been to write all of this down. Along with everything I have shared with you, I think writing it all down and getting it out has also been a major part of my journey to becoming a healthier me.
If you are wanting to make a change in your life, I really hope there is something in these three blogs that can help you be the best you can be.