I’ve always been one to look after myself by eating healthy and working out – you just have to ask my husband or take a look at the massive bookshelf at my place filled with health and nutrition books for the proof! I really wish someone had given me better guidance before I left high school to follow a path I’m truly passionate about and I would’ve done what I kick myself almost daily for, and studied to be a nutritionist or dietitian. Anyway, there’s still time for that (kind of…and I’m hoping to start next year depending on my workload situation). In the meantime I’ll keep being my own personal experiment to improve my knowledge for when that time comes.
Unsurprisingly, with my curiosity of health and nutrition came trying out programs and strategies in the health space. I had great success a few years back with the Michelle Bridges 12 Week Body Transformation (12WBT), but always found myself slipping out of control when I was done with the 12 weeks of structure and accountability. I still loved this program. I loved the structure. I loved the challenge. I loved participating with my friends and encouraging and inspiring each other. After going a few rounds of 12WBT, I carried on with a better knowledge of healthy eating with greater awareness of calories and fuelling my body with more whole foods. However, I soon learned that the prescribed 1,200 calories a day on 12WBT was not comfortable for me personally. I would hang out for Saturdays where you could eat out as long as you did your “Super Saturday Session”. I always loved these and for several months I put my poor body through hell (I’d do Les Mills GRIT Strength followed by Body Step, followed by RPM, followed by Cross Fit). What the actual *beep* was I thinking?! I was so destroyed by the end of my Saturday morning routine that I’d often stumble home, shower and fall asleep on the lounge room floor. Sometimes I’d fall asleep in the shower. No surprises there. But I was pretty lean and thought this is what was required to be lean!
A few years later I joined a shiny, fresh new gym that opened up near home and decided to do PT session a couple of times a week. This was awesome and I kept this up for about a year or so. My PT was excellent, but I found myself floundering around in the gym on my non-PT days and I wasn’t on top of my eating habits to see the results I was after. A rather large spanner was thrown in the works when my dear Nanna got very ill, ended up in palliative care and passed away six months later. Those six months were spent travelling to and from Warwick during the week after work (I was joint Power of Attorney so insert most stressful decisions of my life EVER). I spent most weekends there at the hospital, which meant very little to no training and eating whatever we could get our hands on in between periods of not eating at all due to stress and understandably prioritising her over absolutely everything else. This was a downhill spiral I could actually see unfolding before my eyes and things really fell to sh*t during this time – not just eating healthy and working out. I had to give up my dream job I’d worked so hard to get and had only just started because I just didn’t have it in me to take on this challenge during such a stressful time. Not to mention the relationship stress this situation caused, but thankfully we’ve been through a fair bit of sh*t together and knew we’d come out the other side eventually. After hitting rock bottom I saw a psychologist who reminded me that exercise and looking after myself with good nutrition was going to help me recover and help me to be more resilient when facing challenges. At the time getting back into training was the last thing I wanted to do but I sucked it up and got to work, using it as an outlet for emotions and avenue for chasing endorphins. I found myself really struggling to train alone so I decided to join F45. The team environment and epic HIIT endorphins were just what I needed at the time. I trained at least six days a week and was loving it. I did make the mistake of relying on a certain packaged food company to take care of the nutrition side of things for me. After starting to log my food into My Fitness Pal again I got the little alert that told me that this particular food was high in saturated fat. Then I looked a little closer at the nutrition panel and say no more. I was so disappointed because I knew I should’ve known better and considered the nutrition more closely. I was tricked into believing the marketing. But also, these meals might be a better option for some, they just weren’t for me.
This was the point that I decided to get some solid, reliable and results-proven guidance from an expert. I reached out to the lovely Kel to ask who she used for her food coaching and this is how my journey started with Adam and team TSN!
I kept up the F45 for about five months for a couple of days a week around my weights workouts, and after Adam attempting to pry it from my hands for some time (sorry Adam!), I finally let it go when I went in for surgery in April 2019. Some context… this was my first surgery – avoided for years – so needless to say this was a super stressful event for me and I was also worried about getting completely out of routine again. I was thinking of excuses to get out of it right up until being wheeled in to theatre – no joke!!! I told myself to suck it up and get it done and no more pain would mean better health anyway! It took me longer than expected to recover and get back into things and I’m only just now (five months later) able to put any real weight on my hips/abdomen. The mental side of things surprised me a bit. I was warned that I might get a bit depressed but I was absolutely not prepared and clearly underestimated it. I love routine, structure, progress and moving my body so I reminded myself (again) that when I could get into my routine I’d start to feel better, and I did.
Overall, things have progressed really well and I’m loving the changes I’m seeing in my body, and how I feel, each week. One big bonus is that I’ve gone from someone who catches every cold and illness going around and being sick at least once a month to only having one (yes ONE) cold since December 2018! This is huge for me and I know it’s because I’m eating much better and not absolutely flogging myself with copious amounts of exercise. Although I admit I still miss my HIIT sessions sometimes.
I don’t think any of us would lie and say living this lifestyle is a walk in the park. It’s definitely not easy but if you’re serious about looking after yourself you just make it work. Flexible dieting is great because nothing is off limits; it’s just some things in moderation and careful planning and consistent execution of the game plan. It’s looking for the opportunities during the day to train, plan meals, plan training and food for the coming days. I’m up at 4am every day except Sunday, to get training in before anything else can get in the way. Training after work wouldn’t work for me with the hours I work and the travel time to and from work. Find what works for you. Know that it will take some adjustment and “doing what needs to be done even when you don’t feel like doing it” but it’s worth it. Well, it’s worth it if you have clear priorities.
Food wise, a big one for me is portion size. I bloody love food – don’t we all?! It’s one major way we spend quality time with our loved ones – nothing beats a great lunch or dinner party (including dessert!) with your nearest and dearest. Well my nearest and dearest like to cook up a feast for 50 people when there’s under 10 guests. I’ve always been a big eater and need to consciously make that connection of reaching fullness rather than only thinking I’m full when I’m over full (ie feeling like my stomach is going to burst). I can basically eat at any time so it can be a real mental battle sometimes, especially at events with loved ones and at work with the never ending morning teas containing all my favourite foods (which is all of the foods). Bulk cups of tea to the rescue!
A daily struggle of mine is having my most special loved one not on the same journey as I am. My husband likes to indulge at any opportunity. I’m convinced even more so since I really cracked down with my nutrition. This is probably the hardest thing of this lifestyle, but he understands, and I’ve been this way in one form or another for our 20 years of being together so he can’t say I’ve changed for the worst Lol! He respects my goals and I don’t make him follow my eating choices 100 per cent of the time. We only have dinner together so it’s only one meal that I need to adapt, but we’ve got that down to a fine art – although it takes time, persistence and a frequent reminder of purpose. He enjoys his “junk food fixes” (KFC and Burger Urge) when I’m not home. Family get togethers are hard, but I’m lucky in that we usually all bring something to share. I make a macro-friendly dish and dessert for everyone and calorie-bank for the event. If it’s not planned in advance I really need to exercise my willpower muscle hard!
The moral of this long story is that there will always be speed bumps on your journey. Some will be really big where you might get stuck and it’s tough to overcome them (if you need to take a break do so), and others will be smaller but will still challenge us. One saying that has stuck with me for years is “this too shall pass” – such a powerful saying that’s helped me through lots of adversity. Challenges are part of life, and the journey will test us from time-to-time. Find passion in being your own personal project. Know that looking after yourself will help you better face the challenges in life. Remember that looking after yourself makes you happier and also helps you look after your loved ones better. Remind yourself what eating well and exercising does for you – it makes you feel good! It is actually more about mental health for me than physical appearance. The gym is a fantastic outlet to channel emotions into and this can be used as a tool to help you achieve PBs too, so think of it that way.
- Very rare sleep ins. Just try your best to go to bed earlier wherever possible – even on Friday nights and Saturday nights like me (such a nanna haha). My excuse is that my migraines are triggered by abnormal sleeping patterns so I have to. This keeps me on track that’s for sure.
- Lots of planning in advance – just get it done when you can and make it easy for yourself where you can – see above for how I do this. My planning usually takes place on the train to and from work (and when “watching” tv shows and movies that I wasn’t too keen on agreeing to in the first place haha).
- F45 got me fit but wasn’t giving me the body composition goals I personally wanted to achieve. You need consistency to change your body. And a lot of bloody hard work and not just cardio!
- Routine and habit.
- Hard work and sacrifice. Usually comes with anything worth having!
- Trust the process. Be patient!
- Let your family know you’re doing this for you (and all good if you don’t have an end goal – a healthy life is an end goal dammit!). And remember this isn’t just about appearance; it’s also about your physical and mental health. You love them, but you’re important too.
- Smashing up the weights is the perfect outlet for channelling emotions.
- Make training exciting. Set yourself mini goals. Get it done before you have time to think too much about it and put it off for “later”.
- Short-term pain for long-term gain is a thing. That burger tastes damn good, but choosing something to help you achieve your goals long-term is more rewarding and you will have soon forgotten about the burger. But if you have the burger, well chances are you will practically “inhale” it and be left with guilt and damage control. Which would you prefer? Be patient and the time for burgers will come! *reminding self here haha*
- It is going to be very hard when those closest to you aren’t on the same path. Think of ways you can help them understand your goals and what they can do to minimise the impact on them if they aren’t on the same path. Eg my husband has his KFC and Burger Urge fix after work before I get home. Or on weekends when we have separate commitments.
- Socialising is important though. Plan your events where required with “calorie banking” and then being able to spend this quality time with your loved ones.
- And finally (not that it will help most of you), but just another justification for me being “bland/boring” – having an allergy to the preservatives in most alcohols helps me steer clear most of the time. Plus I’m silly enough without alcohol haha!
- Seeking out guidance when you need to. It’s ok to ask for help!
- Planning in advance.
- Copious cups of tea.
- Being consistent with most meals. For me that’s breakie and lunch. Be creative where you can but still controlled. For me that’s with dinner – I’m annoyingly fussy (can’t eat the same thing more than two days in a row, and dislike reheated frozen meals) so need some variety somewhere and dinner is where I do this. I also have a pretty set meal plan for each day of the week. This is easy because: 1. Less thinking involved (none of the dreaded “what do you want for dinner”); 2. I know it works and tastes good. 3. I know how to make it quite quickly. 4. Little to no wastage. 5. I can copy this in MFP to future days and weeks, which means faster tracking too!
- Encouraging my husband to have his “junk food fixes” when I’m not home (but I still get him to send me pictures haha). Try your best to help your loved ones understand your goals. This is definitely easier said than done for some. There’s some loved ones that I get a very sore tongue around these days (from biting it – HARD) haha!
- Cooking my protein powder into desserts – THE BEST and makes it feel more filling. I’ll share a recipe with you guys soon!
- Being observant.
- Being mindful.
- Exercising your willpower muscle.
- Setting yourself mini goals – mine is abs by my anniversary in February 2020. I know this sounds a little shallow but I’ve always wanted them and know this requires dialled-in consistency and discipline so I know even if I don’t get the abs I should be looking pretty good and it’s keeping me really focused on the task at hand so I’m holding on for as long as I can. Haha!
- Making it fun however you can – mini goals (see above). Of course the nutrition side of things helps if you love cooking, but even if you don’t, just keep things simple and set goals to stick to your plan and it will soon become habit and you will see food more as fuel and to drive your results. Plus you might even surprise yourself and grow to love it!