I went through a phase in my early to mid twenties when I fell completely out of the routine of exercise and eating well.
What I didn’t share as much of in that post is the specific actions I took, the practical changes and the things I had to learn which I’d previously given no attention. I want to talk about that today, as the truth is that while I’d been lean prior to gaining the weight I was never quite where I wanted to be. My stomach in particular was a problem area. It seemed that even when I was at my leanest I just couldn’t quite get rid of that last layer or 3!
In my late teens and early twenties I’d been obsessed; a gym junkie. I participated in body sculpting and fitness model competitions, and I did well, even winning the title of ‘Miss Sports Model Melbourne’. I was used to being very in shape, very lean, very much able to wear whatever I wanted to.
But as time passed, life became busier. I still worked in the fitness industry, but I was in management, spending sometimes over 60 hours each week at a desk. Attending meetings in the morning early when previously I would have been doing cardio, and help back late at night when previously I would have – well. I would have been doing cardio again. With my weight training somewhere in between.
And because my life was so busy, because my energy was starting to suffer as a result, and the weight was creeping up, I believed that exercise would just have to take the back-burner for now. In my mind I never meant completely.
I told myself each day that today would be the day I’d squeeze a proper workout in. But the reality was that new tasks were always added, existing projects ran overtime, and to be quite frank I simply couldn’t be bothered a lot of the time. I was so tired. Couple that with the fact that my self-confidence was slipping away as I slowly but surely gained weight and I really just couldn’t face working out.
What had once been routine had become uncomfortable, forced, something that was easier to tell myself I’d make time for ‘tomorrow’. I couldn’t even argue inconvenience of getting to the gym since I already worked there!
I wasn’t a completely lost cause. I would sneak in the occasional workout late at night but when I did my half-hearted efforts were a far cry from the days of pushing myself until my muscles burned and my lungs felt like they’d explode. The days when working out made me not only look great but feel great about myself.
The big problem here, as I’m sure I don’t have to tell you, had nothing to do with how busy I was or how tired I was. Looking back, it came down to these two things:
1. I had the deep-set if misguided belief that I had to wait until I started to feel good about myself again before I could face exercising regularly again
2. I believed that there was no point doing a workout unless I could put aside at least a full hour. My background with exercise and what I’d been taught as a trainer was that a good workout is at least 45 minutes and sometimes up to 90.
Eventually, I got to a point where I hit my upper limit. I hit the point where my weight had gone up by about 10 kilograms (22 pounds) and something in me just said ‘that’s enough now’. It was like I couldn’t go further, a switch flicked within me and I was ready to change.
Unfortunately my schedule hadn’t changed and I really couldn’t fit in one hour workouts every day. So, I began where I could.
I started walking to walk more often for a start. This didn’t make much difference, but it got me in the right mindset, which was huge.
And I began doing small exercise circuits at home each morning before breakfast, using just my bodyweight to start with and then using nothing more than a pair of dumbells for various exercises.
Within about 2 weeks I was absolutely furious with myself. Not because what I’d been doing the past 2 weeks hadn’t been working but because it had been! And I realised how much time I’d wasted feeling awful about myself and (worse still) feeling as though I didn’t have the power to change anything.
At the same time as being furious at myself I was so very grateful that my body was responding to something so simple, so basic. Something that yes, still took a bit of motivation when it came to following through but something that ultimately took less than half an hour each day (sometimes even just 10-15 minutes!) and therefore was pretty hard to make excuses about not doing.
It wasn’t long before I started waking naturally earlier with more energy, adding another 5 minutes and then another. Before I started doing short but intense workouts in the gym again. Before my enhanced energy and self-confidence started to cross over more into what I was eating, and of course into how I felt about myself.
It wasn’t so long, really, before I found that the 10 kilos I’d gained had, in fact, slipped away again.
Of course a lot of this came down to developing a strong mindset and inner strength.
But in the end, mindset only takes you so far.
If you want to create lasting change, the thing that will make the biggest difference in the end is taking action.
Some would say massive action, and I do agree with the concept but I need to clarify that ‘massive’ doesn’t necessarily mean massive in terms of time input. It can be massive in terms of the turnaround in behaviour.
For me it was ‘massive’ to commit and follow through on daily exercise, even if it was only 5 minutes to start with.
For me at that time it was huge to start making just the tiniest of changes to my nutrition regime, to look at improving one small thing each time rather than the whole shebang all at once.
It was massive for me to start even thinking about hormones like oestrogen, insulin and cortisol, and how a dominance of all 3 was at the time holding me back from both feeling ‘on’ and energised and also from burning fat.
It was massive to start adjusting my daily routine to reflect better hormonal balance; to learn about it in the first place!
It was massive to start thinking in a different way. To start seeing myself as someone who worked out daily ‘no matter what’. Who didn’t have to do so in the gym to get results. Who ate good food choices 90% of the time. Who was kind to herself when she didn’t, rather than beating up on herself and ending up in a binge.
Who listened to her body.
Who listened to her dreams as well, and made slow but very very sure daily steps towards living them.
Who one day woke up and went ‘omg – I think I’m actually there. I think I actually have abs coming out!’
(Who to be honest didn’t even believe she was that lean until she looked at the photos again months later :))
When it comes to you and your journey, massive might be doing 5 minutes of exercise even once. And being so damn proud of yourself for making a start.
The secret, in the end, to getting as lean as I wanted to be, was simply this. I kept making change after change. Mostly small. But absolutely consistently, day in and day out. Tweaking. Fine-tuning. Optimising. And repeat.
Because a start is all it takes to ignite change.
And then another start.
It doesn’t matter what your story is.
It doesn’t matter if you’re 50 kilos overweight or 5.
It doesn’t matter if you used to be a gym queen or an athlete or if you’ve been overweight since being a child and have no idea what exercise even feels like.
It might be committing to changing one small thing in your nutrition each day.
One small thing in your mindset and the way you think.
Learning one new thing each day or week about your hormones and how they impact you. And then doing one small thing about it.
It doesn’t matter how you begin.
What matters is this.
You gotta start.
Life is Now. Press Play.