Striving For Progress, Never Perfection
Updated: Nov 16, 2022
My stomach has gone!
I looked at myself in the mirror today. First time in a long time I’ve taken a proper look at my body. I have changed so much in the past 10 years, and seeing my reflection this morning I was shocked to find my stomach was flat. I’ve had a little bulge in my belly since giving birth to my son via emergency c section, it’s still there of course, but now my stomach falls inside my protruding hip bones, instead of past them, and the little bump around my scar has diminished to almost nothing.
I have worked very hard on my body over the years; trying to achieve a healthy weight to begin with and then trying to tone up certain areas. I have maintained the results for almost 8 years now. I’ve got areas I’m not 100% happy with, I think we all do no matter what size we are, but overall, I am confident within my skin.
Reflecting on what I've achieved and how hard some parts of the journey were, the mistakes, failures and successes I experienced, I wanted to share my story in the hopes it may help guide or encourage someone on a similiar path.
About 10 years ago I moved to Queensland with my now ex-husband and two little girls who were then 3 and 1. We were moving to be closer to family and at that time I weighed 96kg.
My lifestyle leading up to this point had been fairly sedentary. I played netball once a week and worked full time in a role that required little physical activity. I ate ok, not super healthy but not terribly, my weakness being lollies and biscuits on occasion. More occasions than would be recommended by any health professional though.
My marriage was tenuous. We were working through some issues but it wasn’t going well and our separation was inevitable. When we did separate I decided I needed to make some changes. I had been married about ten years, to a man who was wonderful, kind, funny, supportive and who I considered a good friend. Our separation was something I instigated but not because of infidelity or any nastiness. During the marriage I had been comfortable, not caring that the kilos had slowly been piling on. I had been a bigger girl during high school too, so it was something I was used to. After we split it occurred to me that I wasn’t actually happy with the changes my body had gone through; having kids, not being overly active, not eating overly healthy. I weighed myself when we broke up and instantly, the moment I saw the numbers, I made the decision to bring those numbers down. My goal was to reach 75kg.
The first thing I did was cut out the lollies and biscuits. Over a couple of months I lost 8kgs, doing nothing but this. At 88kg I walked into a local gym and spoke to the staff. I discussed my goals and we came up with a plan that combined weight training and cardio.
For the cardio I started out on a treadmill. My first run was 100m. That was all I could do before I needed to slow down and pull back to a walk. I put 45 minutes to an hour into each treadmill session, which occurred about 5 days a week, and over a few months I went from being able to run 100m to 1km. I didn’t like the treadmill however. I didn’t like how it felt, how the scenery never changed and the noise it made. I switched from the treadmill to the street and began to run outdoors. Some days I’d do two runs, morning and afternoon, sometimes 7 days a week, sometimes only 4. I still run now and can easily do 10km's in one go. I set a minimum distance of 5km per run which I still stick to today as much as I can. It was really difficult at first, getting to a point where I wasn’t dead or dying after each run, but slowly my body got used to it and the results were incredible.
Side note, if I ever say run, I mean jog. Odd moments here and there I’ll run, or sprint, but it is a steady jog in all honesty.
The weights training was undertaken with weekly support from a PT for almost a year, and then I cut that back to seeing a PT every few months just to make sure my technique wasn’t slipping. I was given workouts to do on my own and, overall, I committed to 3 workouts per week. They were standard workouts; upper body, lower body and core. Nothing fancy and each session was around 45 minutes. I have a home gym set up now, which I don’t use as often as I probably should, but my current job is very physically demanding, so is my puppy and the kids, and I play netball a minimum of 3 nights a week, often with multiple games per night.
It took a year or so to get to my goal weight of 75kg. I found adjusting my eating habits incredibly difficult at first and the weights training was making me stronger and bulking me up somewhat. I was loving my new found fitness and energy levels, and I was really enjoying the workouts themselves, so I kept going. Around 2 years later I hit 60 kg and for the past 7 years, or there abouts, I have maintained a weight between 60-65 kg, never going above 65, sometimes dipping a little below.
In the past 7 years I had another baby, I took up the terrible habit of smoking (the story behind that is quite lengthy and involved), but I kept up with my fitness and healthy eating. My weight stayed stable aside from during the pregnancy.
I quit smoking a few times and each time I did put on a couple of kilos. I became a fairly heavy social smoker around November/December last year, and with that change I also drank more alcohol than I ever had before, a few nights a week. I was still hovering within my little bubble of 60-65 kilos but I felt crappy. I felt bloated and unhealthy most of the time. My body was hurting more than it had, not that I know for sure the adoption of an unhealthy lifestyle was the cause, but it was mainly an overall feeling of discontent and a general feeling of being unwell. I hated it. I tried to make some changes, but I wasn’t strong enough. I can blame my situation but it boils down to me and me alone. It has only been recently that I have stopped smoking all together, using a nicotine free vape to help avoid temptation when around friends who smoke. It’s been almost two months since I have touched a cigarette, and I’ve also cut down on the beers and wine significantly, having one or two with friends and nothing more. My body hasn’t hurt much since.
As well as eliminating that huge chunk of poopyness from my life I have added some new activities to my routine. I still have netball, jogging and odd weights session at home, but I have included a weekly gym workout with a couple of girlfriends, and one 6km fast paced walk each day during the week and two 6km walks on the weekend days and days off. My steps each day have shot up to an average of over 20,000, which does include work activity and playing with the kids, and I just feel amazing. And I've shrunk!
I am not qualified to give dietary advice or advice on when and how to work out. But I can summarise what’s worked for me, and what hasn’t:
1/ Cutting back on the bad sugars. It’s hard to begin with, you may need a decent amount of will power if sugary foods are a big part of your life, but after a few weeks the body doesn’t crave it as much.
2/ I prefer drinking water that hasn’t come straight from the fridge. It encourages me to drink more and I have been told, and read, that it’s better for your body.
3/ Committing to regular exercise that includes weight training.
4/ Ensuring as many cardio sessions and weights sessions as possible occur in the morning, before eating breakfast, after a period of fasting. This one helped me achieve results far quicker.
5/ My PT used to bang on about weight loss being achieved best with higher reps and lower weights and if you want to bulk up and get bigger it was higher weights with lower reps. I followed this philosophy with weight loss and got great results.
6/ Having one day a week where I allow some naughty foods. Not to excess, but as a treat. Trying to eliminate the sweets, the delectably delicious foods, all together, never worked for me.
7/ Cutting back on alcohol consumption. Again, cutting it out completely doesn’t suit me. I fucking love beer, and wine, and I ain’t never gonna eliminate either! I do feel better limiting it though.
8/ Taking up a social, competitive sport. Having other people to play with, and against, is a huge motivator for me.
9/ Working out with my friends. Home gyms are great, I highly endorse them, but having someone to work out with, even if just once a week, is invaluable. It keeps you focused and less distracted by phones and thoughts etc.
10/ Following the old adage ‘Eat breakfast like a King, lunch like a Prince and dinner like a Pauper’. My biggest meal is breakfast, lunch is smaller, and dinner smaller still. With dinners being the last meal, I rarely eat pasta or dense foods. When I do, I usually go to bed feeling blah, so most of the time dinner is light and frugal.
11/ Calorie counting isn’t something I am a huge fan of, but being aware of the calories in food and what the body burns during rest, the basal metabolic rate, and activity, the active metabolic rate, has absolutely helped me with food choices and knowing what activity levels I need to achieve, as a minimum, to maintain a healthy weight.
I2/ My minimum duration of workouts, both weights and cardio, has always been 30 minutes, but I usually aim for up around 45 minutes.
13/ The occasions I have lost weight quickly I have usually gained it all back. The times it’s taken me a little longer are the times I have kept it off.
14/ Taking photos and keeping a record. This is something I haven’t always done but wish I had. I have photos from my wedding day, when I was much heavier, but not many progress shots. It would be nice to see how I’ve changed progressively.
15/ Doing workouts I enjoy! If I don’t like doing something I will change it to something else. You don’t have to include complicated routines, or anything fancy. Talk to a PT for some advice on what you can do.
16/ Touching base with a PT, or someone experienced, regularly to make sure my technique is the best it can be. Doing a workout incorrectly can lead to injuries and zero results. If all you have is a home gym then Google and You Tube videos, from trusted sources, can be your best friends.
17/ Taking measurements of my waist, bust etc as well as weighing myself, and only weighing myself once a fortnight or once a month. Weight, especially for women, fluctuates so much day to day. Hopping on the scales daily used to be incredibly discouraging.
18/ Keeping my mind healthy. If you’re struggling emotionally reach out to friends, loved ones, a professional even, to ensure you get the help you need. A healthy body is far better enjoyed with a healthy mind. I’ve found no matter how objectively I look at my body, if I’m feeling worthless, low, mentally dishevelled in any way, my view of myself is only going to be negative. Some things that have helped me keep my mental health in check and as healthy as possible, especially lately, have been:
· Seeing and talking to friends regularly. Say yes as often as you can to new experiences!
· Keeping busy as much as possible. I used to be quite bubbly and outgoing and found I have lost that about my identity of late, so I am forcing myself out of my comfort zone and exposing myself to a lively and energetic environment in the hopes I can reclaim that side of me. I started hosting pub trivia as part of this. I write whenever time allows which, for me, is incredibly soothing. Find something that’s yours and throw yourself into it, whatever it may be.
· Keeping my body moving! This helps me tremendously with keeping dark thoughts at bay.
· Cooking, baking, creating, and then sharing the final product with loved ones.
· Leaving the house. Taking day trips, staying away from home overnight, fishing, and jogging along the foreshore.
· Statements of affirmation. I bought a sticker for my mirror that says ‘I am strong’ and a bracelet that says ‘I am enough’. This may not help everyone but certainly reminds me of my worth when I often question it.
· Buying a new, sexy, outfit. I love wearing pretty dresses and sexy lingerie. It’s amazing the effect it has on my mood, even if no one else can see them.
· Pampering sessions. Getting my hair done, getting waxed, getting my nails neatened up, I even just got back from an appointment with a tattoo artist where I booked in for a full sleeve blue bells tattoo in memory of my mum whose ashes are getting scattered in October among the blue bells in England.
· When i'm hating what I see in the mirror, I try to identify one good aspect about my body. Recognising, and appreciating, at least one positive quality and feature.