A few years back I was a total couch potato and (I thought) pretty happy with it. I ate big meals and I didn’t really do any exercise. I believed that exercising was a distraction from my (then) new business and was a way to not work hard enough. I thought about adding it, but it seemed like it was easier to skip than to make time for. But then I decided that I wanted things to change.
That’s the first step, really, to want something different. It wasn’t totally smooth sailing. I didn’t change overnight. But that’s why I wanted to share. First I cut out cordial. I didn’t drink water at the time, only cordial, soft drink or milk. I missed it at first, but I got used to the taste of water and I’ve never been back. I stopped adding it to the shopping list and the temptation went away.
I learnt that removing temptation is the key. So there are no sweet biscuits (cookies) in our house, dessert is a sometimes treat, and I’ve learnt to notice when I’m bored eating (getting food from the kitchen when not hungry as an activity to temporarily cure boredom). Soft drink is a real treat, too. Maybe twice a year instead of twice a week.
Sometimes bags of corn chips will come into the house, but they aren’t inhaled in one sitting, and are instead eaten over many days. I’m not perfect, and I don’t do any fancy diets. I just eat less than I used to and I stopped being at war with food.
I also realised that the portion sizes we were eating were based on making the plate look full and not how much we really needed to eat. Once my meat sauce recipe would serve 4 and now it serves 8. Without realising it, we were overeating. The funny thing was, we didn’t crave the lager sizes at all and weren’t left hungry.
This happened a bit at a time, rather than a flick-the-switch change. It made it not only managable, but like how I tidied my laundry and it’s stayed tidy because I didn’t attempt the whole house at once, small changes to how much we ate and what snacks (if any) made the shopping list, changed the way we eat.
In 2012 I taught myself to run. I only lasted 12 weeks that first time, but it planted a seed and slowly but surely, I kept coming back to it until it became something that was hard to live without. Last year I was up to running 15km at a time before my dodgy hip decided that was enough. I’m still rehabbing it 10 months later.
Then came strength training. Which is something I now get excited about doing and sad when I’m told to back off for a few weeks. It became something I wanted to do. Not because it was exercise or fitness, but because I feel great when I do it and when I’ve done it.
The thing you can’t really understand before doing running or fitness for a few months (without giving up when it feels hard at the beginning) is that you don’t always feel good because you got off your butt (the couch is mighty inviting in winter). You instead learn to feel good because of the effort that you put in and each little success you get from sticking with it. Not every run or session will feel like a success but when you look back and realise that you ran further than you ever imagined or lifted heavier that you thought possible, you can see your work paying off.
Then one day, maybe 5 years after you started, maybe sooner, you realise that you miss going to the gym when you’re injured and that you don’t crave all the foods that once gave you comfort and you sometimes even find yourself picking the bottle of water and the healthier choice at lunch. And sometimes, when you don’t choose that healthier choice, you realise that there’s no guilt, because life is too short.
I’m not the kind of person who could have flicked a switch and made all those changes at once. But starting and sticking to one at a time and adding them slowly has changed my life for the better. Running and strength training genuinely make me happy and lighthearted and make me feel confident and my home feels happier for it.
So if it all feels too big. Too monumental for you to make a change. Start with one thing and then add the next. Be kind to yourself as you make the change and if you want to try fitness, remember that you don’t have to be good at the beginning and remember to smile, even if you feel like a fool. Smiling makes most things better.
Is this something you’ve done? Is it something you’d like to do?