A lot of you will already know from my social media accounts, since the new year came around, I’ve been trying my hardest to start a healthier lifestyle. I’ve battled with self-confidence issues for the majority of my adolescent years, trying out various ways of creating a more confident version of myself. Most of my confidence issues arise from disliking the way that I look, both my body and my face. Although it will be hard for me to talk about as I feel as though I’ve hurt a lot of my teenage years feeling this way, I feel as though I should probably tell you a bit about my past with these particular issues, in hope that it makes one person feel less alone in their head and motivate them to change their lifestyle like myself.
During high school, I discovered make-up and woke up several hours early to wake up for school just to precisely apply make-up and style my hair in ways that would hide my flaws. I would buy clothes from the likes of Topshop even though the price tag was plenty out of reach for a 14 year old girl. I remember begging my mom to buy me Weight Watchers ready meals for dinner instead of eating with my family and eating what they were eating. The amount of times growing up that I cried publicly in the changing rooms of shops because I didn’t fit into the size 8’s that everyone else in my year seemed to fit into, and then proceed to shout at my mom for feeding me ‘too much’ food. At a size 12/14, I felt like I was twice the size of every other girl. Sometimes after dinner at my family’s usual time of around 5pm, I’d force myself not to eat a morsel after that time until the next morning. Half of the time, I’d cave a few hours later and then continue to eat everything that I could find in the cupboards in an attempt to make myself feel better. 14 year old me, sitting on my bed, crying into my packaged flapjacks.
I’m at university now, and although I don’t cope in the same expensive ways that I used to, I still have the same issues that I’ve had for the past 10 years. There have been times where I’ve felt a lot more confident, and times when I truly hated looking in the mirror. Usually these ups coincided with the fact I lost a little bit of weight. I remember feeling elated when people at school commented on the fact that they thought I’d lost weight, however their comments also pointed out to me that they thought that I probably should be losing weight. Fast forward a few years, just before university, I joined the gym, downloaded MyFitnessPal, gained inspiration from the new boom of #fitspo inspiration on Instagram and really threw myself into creating a healthier life for myself as well as losing a bit of weight. This was my first successful attempt at losing weight and probably the most confident period of my life, coinciding with my 18th birthday. I lost a few kg which was enough to boost my self-esteem for a while and attempted to carry it on during my first year of university. However, soon after starting, I got involved with my now boyfriend and a few years of ‘relationship eating’ and feeling a little bit more confident with where I was at, I’m now at my heaviest weight yet of 83kg.
A lot of this weight, I’ve put down to inactivity which has also coincided with the start of university in 2013. I felt tired all of the time and I could never figure out why, until I hit an all-time low in Autumn/Winter of 2014 and got diagnosed with an Atrial Septal Defect (a hole in my heart which stretched to 2cm in diameter). Along with the symptoms that the defect caused me – which probably had been going on for a while before I even noticed them when they started to get worse – I fell into a state of constant panic. I became afraid to be by myself, and relied a lot on the people around me. It was a very hard time for myself. However with the support of my loving boyfriend, friends and family; I managed to pick myself back up again towards the end of 2015 and finished the year with my awaited heart surgery. Now, I’ve been given the 6 weeks all clear just before Christmas and ready to sort my life out and rid myself of these issues that plagued my adolescence. I feel as though I have nothing left to lose. I want to give my body the best and healthiest experience possible now that I’ve been given a second chance. So here I am. Only 1kg down… but feeling a whole lot better and motivated.
- Find inspiration
One thing that has really helped me in my journey so far as been all of the wonderful inspiration that graces our social media platform these days, especially Instagram. Find someone that you can relate to, that not necessarily may have reached their fitness goals yet, or someone with a body in similar structure to your own. You can follow accounts that might inspire your nutrition as well. Seeing your inspiration everyday when you check your social media might just stop you from indulging in that leftover chocolate from Christmas. Some of my favourites are: Ellie Goulding (elliegoulding), Em Sheldon (emshelx), Rachel Aust (rachelaust), Ella Woodward (deliciouslyella) and the Hemlsey Sisters (hemsleyhemsley).
2. Educate yourself on proper nutrition
Another thing that was really helped me has been my ever-growing interest in nutrition. My interest started when I discovered Ella Woodward (Deliciously Ella) and her recovery from an autoimmune disease using good nutritional habits. At the time, I’d only just got diagnosed with my heart defect and Ella was the light in the dark for me. She inspired me to use include more fruit and vegetables in my diet as I realised that I barely included any, and after time, I began to feel so much better. I really believe that my increase in confidence and coping with my illness was down to better nutritional habits. I felt a lot less tired (before I constantly compared myself to an old granny) and much less anxious. Now, most of my shelves are filled with variations of healthy cookbooks and my friends all expect to receive healthy alternative cakes from me on their birthdays.
3. Find a buddy
Luckily, I have a house mate that loves to go to the gym, so every week we have a Saturday morning ‘gym date’. Having someone else to go with really motivates me on the times where I would rather just stay in bed. I also try and do workouts in my room several times a week as going to the gym can get expensive, especially if you don’t have a membership whilst you’re easing yourself into your new healthy lifestyle. When I’m at home, I aim for around 20 minutes of workout and usually spend about an hour at the gym when I go with my housemate. I find that at the moment this enough to make me feel energised for the rest of the day and make me feel proud of myself for getting up and doing something.
4. Make the most of technology
Probably the most helpful thing in shedding this initial bit of weight has been making the most of apps like ‘MyFitnessPal’ – a food diary app and calorie counter, and ‘Sworkit’ – a workout generator. I think every man and his dog know about ‘MyFitnessPal’ and there are a lot of controversial ideas surrounding it’s use. However, personally, I think that it is a great app to use to get started and better understand how much food you should be putting into your body to reach your goals. Once I have a bit of a routine and gain more perspective on my portion sizes, I’ll probably drop back a bit on this particular app, but for starting off your journey, it works absolute wonders. Plus, trying to meet your macro ratios feels like an actual game. It’s so fun.
‘Sworkit’, as I mentioned before, is a workout generator app and probably the best that I’ve found so far. I’ve trialled other workout apps but haven’t met anything quite like ‘Sworkit’ before. You can create workouts for any amount of time which best suits you and your lifestyle and you can also skip particular moves if they give you discomfort. This comes in handy because I’m not allowed to be lifting any more than 20/30kg because of my heart surgery for a while, so I’m nervous about attempting proper push-ups because of having to lift my bodyweight. The app is extremely customisable, simple to use, and it also gives you previews of the moves that the app generates for you. Whats more is that you can sync your end of session stats with ‘MyFitnessPal’ and the calories you’ve burnt during your workout will be added to your total calories burnt during exercise for the day. MORE FOOD.
5. Keep your eye on the prize but remember to live a little
As a student, it’s next to impossible to maintain a 100% healthy diet. There’s the temptation of fast food from your housemates, stress which leads to emotional overeating and alcohol. Lots of alcohol. I’m rather partial to a glass of vodka and mixer (or two, or three… let’s end there) and I’m not about to start missing on my nights out. I drink alcohol only when I’m going out to socialise with my friends so it is very much a treat. So once a week/every two weeks, I’ll head into town with my friends and enjoy some intoxicated fun. I try and skip on the greasy fast food at the end of the night however, and swap my usual full fat coke for lemonade to reduce the guilt. The main thing is, I don’t miss out on something that I enjoy. I try and not complete a diary entry on ‘MyFitnessPal’ for one day a week, and indulge in some treats in a healthy amount without feeling guilty. It’s important to cut yourself some slack every once in a while. If your friend orders pizza and you REALLY want that pizza, have a slice. If you want that Dairy Milk, have that Dairy Milk. The main thing to remember is though that you are in control of your actions, and no one else is accountable for you overindulging. So don’t indulge everyday, but do give yourself the occasional treat. Without them, you may fall off the health wagon one day and stay off it, and ruin all of the progress you’ve made so far. Stay balanced and don’t restrict completely.
6. See your workouts as a very important meeting
Maintaining exercise is very important for your overall health. Exercise boosts your mood, helps you feel more energised, and also boosts your physique when combined with healthy nutritional habits. Scheduling my workouts into my day and setting their importance to high helps me so much in getting them done. Your health is just as important as going to your lectures or finishing off that essay. If anything, exercise will boost your cognitive function, aiding you in these other areas of your life.
I hope these tips have helped you in some way. Please let me know in the comments your thoughts! I’d love to hear if they have helped you.