Social media tells us the general consensus is that last year was pretty shit. But if there is one industry that has thrived, and will continue to do so, it’s the health and fitness industry. Last year saw the rise of Joe Wicks and his “Body Coach” empire, the strange new fad of Cupping, the expensive yet ever-so-trendy Brazilian-style Acai Bowls and the sugar-free phenomenon. Next year will undoubtedly see this industry climb to the next level as we all become increasingly stressed, anxious, over-worked and worried about what the future may hold. People are finally realising that exercise is a great coping mechanism for stress and what you eat directly affects your brain. And hopefully soon, the medical world will begin to catch up. Technology has enabled us to track our steps, heart rates, workouts and so much more. The power is in our hands to ensure we are informed, prepared and successful. Fitness gurus and wellness-oriented social media celebs post their every workout, meal, and video blog online so that we have a vast network of support as we follow our own personalised health routines from home, in the office and on the go.
My personal fitness journey has been a rough ride during the past twelve months. Moving to London and adjusting to big city living proved more difficult than I could ever have imagined. In Belfast, I was spoiled by a 10 minute walk to work and a 24-hour gym quite literally on my doorstep. Thanks to the convenience of location and a car, I worked out every day and sometimes, twice a day. When I wanted to switch things up, I hopped in my car and nipped up and down Cavehill or drove to Newcastle for a hike up Slieve Donard. In January, I moved to London and within a couple of weeks, I had torn a muscle in my lower back, which put me out of action for almost two months. In June, I fell and fractured my elbow whilst out running, meaning that I couldn’t lift weights for about six weeks. My badly cut knee then became infected, further delaying my full recovery. In October, I sprained my wrist badly when I slipped and fell on a wet floor in Valencia, Spain. This put me out for a further few weeks. In July, I moved to NW London where my nearest gym is a 15-minute tube ride away. My commute to work is 30-35 minutes by tube, unless I decide to hop off at Green Park but that adds another 15-20 minutes to my journey. This means I lose up to 90 minutes a day to commuting and I can’t nip to the gym in the evening unless I incorporate it into my journey home. All of my injuries coupled with two break-ups, two moves, two sideways moves/ job changes at work and some pretty distressing health issues (which I am not ready to blog about yet) meant that at times, last year felt like a big, long mental battle to stay afloat. I had to fight to stay motivated to take care of myself and not let my health issues get in the way of me living. This didn’t always happen but I am lucky to have some of the best friends in the world, who supported me and loved me every step of the way. My family and my best friend were also always there for me on the other end of the phone when I just needed to vent and be upset and angry.
Time and location-based constraints aside, I have struggled to adapt to the London lifestyle whilst still maintaining the level of fitness I had in Belfast. The first six months were OK; my sleep and stress levels were horrific but my eating and fitness routine stayed relatively on track. Having a gym in my apartment building helped and the nearest Puregym was only a 10 minute jog away! Living alone meant that I could escape and have headspace when I needed it (I love my space). The latter six months have been awful. My weight has crept up and up and UP as I completely stopped watching what I was eating, started boozing like a true Londoner, began partying more, and then Christmas came around and I just ate and drank everything in sight. You could call it “indulging” but I call it bingeing. For anyone else who has previously been overweight or has struggled with their weight, you will know what I mean. I don’t even want to count how many chocolate coins, cookies, and glasses of wine I consumed during December. Anything sweet that was in my apartment or my parents’ house, I ate it. I completely took the piss and every day, I ended up in a huge calorie excess, which meant the fat just absolutely piled on. By the end of December, my clothes wouldn’t fit. This is no exaggeration; I broke the zipper on two pairs of jeans and my gym tank tops barely fit my giant, newly developed love handles. Horrific!
So, what have I learned about myself over the past few weeks? Food is a comfort for me and this is a behaviour I want to break for good. Food should be for nutrition, not for comfort or leisure. This is not to say that we shouldn’t enjoy what we eat; but we shouldn’t eat for enjoyment. As a result of eating crap for weeks upon weeks, my body is now re-addicted to sugar/processed rubbish and I will need to detox over the next couple of weeks to break this addiction. When I eat junk, I feel awful. The physical feeling is one of bloated, heavy, lethargic discomfort. The mental feeling is one of stress, guilt, anxiety, sadness, disappointment and irritability. To my grave disappointment, alcohol and I simply don’t mix well. It sends my sugar levels into a dramatic upward, and then downward, spiral and greatly interrupts my sleep. And unfortunately for me and my body chemistry, the excessive drinking results in rapid weight gain. Please note that the above side effects will not hold true for every individual; this is my personal experience due to my metabolism, hormones and other factors. The only exception seems to be red wine, so that will be my drink of choice from now on. After Dry January is over of course…
One last piece of advice to myself and to anyone else hoping to lose weight; don’t listen to your friends. They will lie to you and tell you that you look fine, you aren’t any fatter than before Christmas, you don’t need to lose weight, etc. They do this because they are nice, they love you and just want to see you happy. You need to listen to yourself. You know how your clothes should fit, what weight is comfortable for you, what you should and shouldn’t be eating, and whether you want to go out or not. Do not do anything to please others; do things to please yourself. Focus on your true friends and your family; they will be there for you always and make sure you love them back. Go out, have fun but don’t lost sight of your long-term goals and what is important to you. For 2017, my commitment to myself is to prioritise my health. This means lots of sleep, lots of green food, lots of green tea, lots of trips to the gym and weekends spent training and feeding my soul. I won’t avoid social situations entirely but I will be cautious about what I put into my body and whether I consume alcohol or not. And to help motivate me to really challenge myself, I have a Tough Mudder scheduled for May 2017. Decide what is important to you and exactly how important it is. Who do you want to be? What do you want to achieve? What do you need to do to get there? If you want it badly enough, you will make it happen. Cheers to a year of health, happiness and being the best versions of ourselves.