It struck me earlier this week that I had recently published a very honest but perhaps slightly self-congratulatory blog about my health journey. In it, I revisit how my weight and mindset massively fluctuated throughout my twenties and thirties, but that as I celebrated my 40th birthday, I finally felt that I'd finally conquered my demons, managing a more moderate approach to food and fitness which resulted in me being in the reasonably healthy place I'm in now.
Within a short space of time, I was unable to socialise, and working in NHS communications, pretty much tied to my laptop 24x7. Although at first I stayed pretty committed to regular workouts and the 5:2 diet, the surreal life changes messed with my head a little, and eventually I realised I was drinking and eating far more than usual. I was feeling pretty sluggish mentally too. Trying on jeans this week which stopped my circulation, I realised that if I wasn't careful, I'd be googling blogs like the one I'd only recently written in a desperate attempt to get out of my apathy.
Fed up of listening to myself moaning about how I feel and look, I launched my recovery plan this week.
So here I am. Less healthy, heavier, but aware and calm rather than teetering on the edge of total self sabotage like I would have been several years ago. Fed up of listening to myself moaning about how I feel and look, I launched my recovery plan this week, and I thought I'd share the five steps I always go back to when I go off the rails. I'm no Joe Wicks, but they work for me:
1. I chip away at it every day: Positivity breeds positivity, so anything I do to contribute toward my goal will unlock more steps towards getting it. I try to get the good stuff in early to set the tone for the day ahead. It might be getting my gym kit on and working out for as little as 15 minutes first thing rather than leaving it until the evening when I'm inevitably knackered, or a healthy breakfast - these are the nuggets of gold which put me in the right mindset. Gone are the days of hour long workouts and a lettuce-based diet, expecting instant results, because that’s not realistic. It’s about little habits that will stick in the long term. Just take it a day at a time and do your best for that day, and the day after, and so on.
2. I'm kind: To myself. I try not to berate myself - I speak to myself like I would another human facing the same challenge. This is even more important if there's something going on in your life which makes focusing on your health seem a little irrelevant or pointless. I wish I was the type of person to use exercise as a healthy outlet for stress but I'm not, so trying to make positive changes when going through something difficult can be a mammoth effort. When I keep trying in spite of that, I remind myself that it's pretty inspiring. Keep telling yourself that too.
3. I do stuff for my mind not just my body: I wouldn't have stood a chance on my journey without getting healthier mentally first. I've learned over the years that my mind is the foundation for my health, not my waistline, so I do stuff to nurture it. Sometimes I journal, sometimes I meditate; as long as i do something that absorbs me in the moment at least once a day. If that’s exercise, great, but any activity that feels good is equally valuable when it comes to mental health. A walk, a cup of coffee in the garden, a few pages of a book… Whatever it is, fit it into your day. And if that means budging something else out of the way, do that. For me it was Facebook; I feel like I've detoxed my mind by stopping using it - it was taking far too much of my time, and it didn't make me feel good.
4. Focus on what I want: I remember why I'm doing this and I tell myself regularly. For me, it's to feel strong, and look good in whatever I choose to wear. And because I want to make the most of myself. When I first started this journey, I found building a virtual scrapbook on Pinterest really useful. It's full of the inspirational quotes that used to make me mildly nauseous until I realised I believed them. (What have I become...?)
5. Act like I'm already there: Achieving the switch from feeling out of control and hopeless to an inner knowing that I was going to achieve my goal took me a very long time, but with every attempt and every lesson that came with it, I evolved. And that took me closer to becoming the person I wanted to be. I know now that although I'm human so will mess up sometimes, I'll ultimately stay the course. Throughout my struggles, I had many pockets of success. And during those, I kept telling myself that I was a person who took an interest in my physical and mental health. A person who was making positive changes despite facing huge challenges. A person who wasn’t ruled by food. And eventually, those things became a reality. They will for you too.
You’re already on this journey. Therefore you’re no longer stuck in your old one. Please keep going - you're doing the best you can.
I'd love to hear your tips for how you've come back from a blip. Comment below!