Anonymous asked: What if you were the unfittest woman in Britain? How would you start?
Well – I think this how we all feel (those in the 20+ lbs overweight club), but its rarely true. However, if I could share what I’ve learnt into 5 handy starter lessons, this is what I would share:
1. Start yesterday. Don’t think ‘tomorrow’, ‘next week’ or ‘after that big dinner party’ – you should have started 5 minutes ago, 5 days ago, 5 years ago. Start now. You don’t need a carb blow out beforehand. Let go of your unhealthy habits and begin your new life NOW.
2. Be honest about your food. I went 24 years without admitting I had a problem with food. Or thinking that I was genetically predisposed or that I hated the idea of being one of those girls on a stupid diet. And most of the time I really believed it. At my worst I believed I was healthy – but at my best I admitted that I actually didn’t know what healthy was. See, if you just admit you don’t actually know, you start from a place of learning, not shame.
Its time to get real. If you are more than 20 lbs overweight chances are you have real issues with food that need to be addressed. I’m not talking about unhealthy yo-yo dieting that leaves you bigger and unhappier, I’m talking about compulsion, addiction and serious thought-crimes. Food is all you think about. Food is your best friend. Food is your worst enemy.
So what should you do? Start by keeping a food diary, about examining when and why you eat, tracking calories (I recommend www.livestrong.com’s daily plate). You need to arm yourself with knowledge of exactly what you’re doing and when you’re doing it – trust me, until you see it written down you don’t actually know. And you need to look at WHY you eat and address those underlying causes.
Case in point: a friend’s overeating was linked with a terrible fear of being pretty or attractive after being attacked at 11 years old. She remembered thinking ‘if this is what happens when you’re a woman, I want none of it’. In went the food and on went the pounds. This came out in therapy years later and was a major breakthrough. Look deep.
3. Stop being afraid. My life as an overweight person was ruled by fear. Fear of people seeing or commenting on my body, fear of being challenged physically (and this could mean running for the bus or a team-building ‘rock climbing’ exercise at work) that would highlight what a disgusting mess I was. That someone would see me buying trousers in the men’s department cause there didn’t make things big enough for me in the women’s section, that I would be laughed out of a gym for even thinking I could succeed. Fear is what keeps you fat.
The gym can be a terrifying place but you need to go there. Your body can become your friend, ally and amazing machine that fuels you through life, but you need to put the time in first. You’ll see improvements faster than you can believe, but you have to stop being afraid of the gym or exercise, of failing. The time I hit the gym and actually managed to get somewhere was one attempt of MANY between my 18th and 25th birthdays. I was great at failing and could never have succeeded if I hadn’t stopped being afraid. Really – you have nothing to lose except the associated health risks of obesity.
4. Choose a food framework to help you make healthy choices (notice I didn’t say DIET – DO NOT DIET). Research has shown that reducing caloric intake in any combination (whether its from fat, carbs etc) will result in weight loss. Now, this gets much more complicated when you’re looking to train for athletic results, but in pure weightloss terms there are many different eating systems that can help you get where you want to be. I vaguely followed South Beach for years (though not their strict phases) but the Zone, Paleo, Primal Blueprint or even Weight Watchers can work. But follow common sense: PROCESSED = BAD, FRUIT and VEGETABLES = GOOD. Let yourself cheat a bit.
Try, above all, to have an uncomplicated relationship with food. Detox from sugar and carbs. If you think about food compulsively, try hypnotherapy (Paul McKenna’s I CAN MAKE YOU THIN helped me stop eating when I was full).
5. Get moving. Walk everywhere and try and incorporate exercise into your everyday life as much as possible. Build muscle by lifting weights (you won’t bulk up!). Squat as much as you can. Stairs. Every little bit really does count. Think of it as a calorie bank. Teach yourself to run. Join a class – boxing and martial arts were great for me. When you get bored, switch it up! In general at the beginning you should be feeling like you want to puke after each session and if you aren’t, don’t expect results (This is why I’m not recommending yoga for weight loss, though I love it). Embrace the burning lungs, the aching joints, the emotions that arise.
Get a personal trainer if you can (and a good one – don’t go to fitness first) as they’ll make sure you’re dry heaving. But really, walking can do a lot. Set a goal, set a deadline, take measurements, celebrate progress, but MOVE. Connect with you body, become friends, even lovers. Appreciate its new progress and find reasons to move forward.
*** BONUS*** LOVE YOURSELF NOW. The most important one of all – but I’ll be writing a whole separate blog post on. But in short: accept where you are now. Stop being ashamed. Love yourself and forgive yourself for being unhealthy or unhappy. Then move on.
I can’t say I am a master of any of the above steps (except maybe fear. fuck you fear.) but it took me years to really learn them and I kick myself now knowing that I could have accelerated my progress in early years if I’d only done x or y or that I forgot what I used to do and got off track with my food (remember: you can’t always eat like your friends. you are different!). But you must forgive yourself and vow to fail better next time.