When good willpower goes bad...
I had something of an epiphany when I decided to write this post and it was the desire to find a way of eating and a way of exercising that freed me from the cycle of yo-yoing that I've been on all my life.
Here's my story, indulge me if you will...
I do have a cast iron willpower, but the standards I set myself are pretty high, and one sniff of failure and it's like that one bad apple spoiling the bunch.
I'm hardwired to think that exercise is better if it's performed before 7am and with relentless regularity. In previous incarnations this has manifested itself as pre-6am five kilometre (minimum) runs at least six days a week.
Life gets in the way, whether it's seasonal bugs and colds, travel, injuries or work commitments that mean early morning gym sessions just aren't going to make it into the day's schedule. In my mind that's when the willpower begins to soften, when the grit and determination start to get a bit woolly - when things begin to unravel. That one missed run becomes a spec of dust on my track record that quickly turns into an episode of Extreme Hoarders.
I'm sick of succeeding in fits and spurts so my main objective, at the age of 39, is to reprogram the hardwiring that keeps setting me on a course to failure - to stop being my own worst enemy.
And dear reader, here's where I am.
At this point I was prepared to write a very detailed account - in fact I'd started writing it - of the sources of my information, what I was doing and how I was doing it. I wanted to share my methodology with you, but then I spoke to future podcast guest and personal trainer Anna Reich and I stopped in my tracks.
We were trying to record an episode of The Beauty Podcast about her journey from public relations to personal training and most recently body building. Thanks to a lousy internet connection that prevented us being able to record we caught up on the phone and it was a game-changing chat.
I voiced some of my frustrations to Anna and she listened with her very well trained ear. I was bemoaning how there is so much noise out there about what kind of exercise to do or what diet we should be following that it's easy to feel a little paralysed by the choice. With infinite options, which is the best one?
Am I the only one rendered inert by all these choices?
More to the point, if I share the new tools I've researched for myself, give you a breakdown of my workouts and tell you what I've had for breakfast, lunch and dinner then I'm just adding to the noise. Plus there could be an implication that I have some answers, but I don't, I'm figuring this out as much as you are. Ultimately, I would just be contributing to the very madness I'd absented myself from.
That's not what I want to do.
If, however, you are in a similar position to where I was a couple of months ago and you want to make changes this is my advice:
- It might sound counter-intuitive but get on the internet and start reading, however bear this in mind... 'All diets and workouts work, it's whether you stick to them or not that determines whether you succeed or fail.' It's so obvious and so true - and an astute observation from my very wise friend Hannah. I've dismissed diets as 'not working' before, but it was me that was the problem, I couldn't, or didn't, stick to the diet... If you are looking at adopting a diet or workout that means you have to make major changes then it might not be right for you, look for the something you can slip into your life as it is right now.
*Embarrassing fact alert! I very seriously contemplated moving to LA a few years ago because I thought it'd mean I'd hike in the canyon like all the celebrities. Forget paying rent, moving halfway across the world and the stresses that would involve, I thought a fricking canyon on my doorstep would make me the best version of myself/one of the skinny girls from The Hills.
- Stop paying attention to other people's instagram feeds. Their 6am spin class isn't necessarily the path to your healthiest you.
- The body is a high-performance machine and there are rules that apply. A diet is a little bit like a surge of nitrous oxide into your fuel tank (I'm thinking Fast & Furious here) that allows you to make a big change in a short amount of time and get you where you want to be faster. They have their purpose, but think about a lifestyle instead and something that you can maintain.
- Females shouldn't be afraid of the weights room. If bulking up was that easy then Arnold Schwarzenegger's physique wouldn't be anything special. Weight training increases your metabolic rate so that even when you're not in the gym you're a walking, talking fat burning machine.
- View health and diet foods with caution. There's a lot of crap in there and the world 'health' in a product description doesn't mean, sadly, that it can be consumed in unlimited quantities.
- Keep a record. You'll only be able to spot progress and what's contributing to it if you keep a log. I have a renewed love for spreadsheets...
Finally, let me know what you think? Anyone else trapped in the 'yo-yo', bamboozled by whether to become Vegan, or eliminate dairy? Let's talk, I'm @emmaguns on twitter - let me know...