Hello lovely – thanks for stopping by!
So I have been writing this piece for almost 6 months now – messing around with wording and trying to cut down the word count (sorry guys it’s an essay!) but now pretty much taking it back to where I started with it – here it is my fitness journey – the real raw truth and the battle I had with food and the image around the fitness industry.
Where It All Started
Throughout my school years it was well known that my diet was largely Maryland cookies, pasta and pick and mix but being young and being part of multiple sports teams I never gained any weight or paid any attention to this – I don’t know what it was but being unhealthy and never having to worry about being fat actually made me feel good and I thrived of this attention.
I carried this ‘diet’ with me to University but I swapped my trainers for heels and adopted the stereotypical student lifestyle of boozing and takeaways. I was so wrapped up in living in a big city and being able to go out drinking any day of the week, no real worries, no parents and despite studying a sports degree, the most exercise I now did was walking to Uni and back, if I even made it in! However 6 months in, the lack of sport and increase in alcohol and I started to gain weight. Not obese level but considering my smaller frame I noticed and enough my clothes began to feel a lot tighter.
Growing up I had never weighed myself or spent to long fussing about what I looked like in the mirror, I barely even remember thinking about weight or analysing what I looked like but I guess as we grow up the pressure from magazines, social media and those around us can all put pressure on us to analyse more our own bodies.
I still can’t put my finger on exactly where/why/how it all started but the fact is come 2nd year of University I was in a bad place mentally. Looking back at photos I wasn’t overly chubby at all but in my head I thought I saw myself as fat and ugly and would be seriously strict on myself and then binge when I became so exhausted from it all and emotions took over. And by binge I don’t mean a pizza or big chocolate bar, I mean both plus sides plus sweets plus some cookies I mean I went all out!
I often did this in secret and told myself its ok because I’ll get back on it tomorrow, I did not want people to see what I ate as unlike at school, it was now having an effect on my body, but I didn’t know how to stop. I started to research on the internet ways to lose weight fast and time after time diet pills popped up. I forget which ones now I used but I can say it was at least 4 different brands and sometimes taking more than the recommended dose. Looking back now of course this was not only stupid but highly dangerous too – I was desperate and in a bad place.
It had got so bad that I didn’t want to go out for meals with my friends not because of the food but because I didn’t want to eat but because I felt so fat and was scared of being judged for what I chose. So instead I would make excuses to my friends, sit in on my own with something like pizza, chocolate/ice-cream to make myself feel better. However, my friends were not falling for these excuses (I am a terrible liar) and I needed to change something quick or lose them.
I started to see a Uni counselor for it after thinking it may be easier to open up to a complete stranger, but with the pressure of final year, mixed with my fear of opening up and running out of excuses to tell friends where I was I only attended one session. Pressure was building inside me to tell someone but I just didn’t know how or who to. I remember clearly sitting in my Uni room close to tears trying to work out in my head the best way to tell my friends. I eventually sent a message to a few close friends and looking back this was such a huge ask and a lot to take on but I have to say I am extremely lucky to have had and still have the BEST group of friends around me. It was such a relief being able to talk to someone about it and a big part of who and where I am today.
I am not naturally a very open person which I think was the cause of a lot of the problems for me and as much as I can seem very open and friendly come to anything personal or emotional and I am very closed off.
I felt so much better having talked to them and although the little voice was still there I was back going out with friends enjoying myself and having a healthier relationship with food and exercise.
So that year I finished my final year and graduated Uni with a degree in Sport & Exercise Therapy having had some of the best experiences, met some awesome people and learnt some important life decisions but now the decision …..what next?.
In my 3rd year I had become increasingly active in the gym (having never stepped foot in one before) I loved the buzz of a workout and it played a huge part in my recovery from my unhealthy relationship with food.
I loved working out with friends and always took interest in researching exercises and planning workouts for us, though it wasn’t until a couple of my friends mentioned that I should take up PT that I had ever thought about it before, but then began my journey into PT.
I was so excited to get into a career combining two things I love, fitness and helping others. Super excited to start I started to research into PT, got myself booked onto a course and starting searching and following Instagram pages of ‘successful’ fitpros and PTs. It soon became clear that everyone seemed super lean with strict diets and beastly training programmes.
To be a successful PT I believed you should be super lean, no fat, no cellulite be good at every aspect of training and ‘eat clean’ 100% of the time. So for me still having very little self-confidence I became very obsessed with the ‘fitness pros’ on social media believing if I were to be successful I HAD to look like them. Little did I realise at the time this was far from reality and certainly not what they looked like 24/7. But this lead me into a little obsession with wanting to know how they trained/what they ate and obsessively comparing how I trained and ate with theirs. I became one of those #iifym girls (if it fits your macros) and weighing every gram of food that passed my lips, only looking if it had the right carbs, fats and proteins ‘needed’ and never thinking is this bar with an ingredients list bigger than the gym posers ego actually doing me any good?! I would often limit myself all day so I would have the macros left to eat ice-cream and cookies – healthy? I don’t think so!
Food is More Than the Calorie Number
Now this is where my good friends at Vivo Life come in (originally number one fan) but honestly these guys are incredible and actually don’t think they realise just how much they helped me.
We met through Instagram when they commented on a product I was using, shoutout to RAW Cacao Brazil Nut Butter (the picture that got us talking) but seriously the amount I quizzed and annoyed Josh about nutrition and what to eat, should I track etc and he not only answered everything so in detail and was super helpful but he has still stayed my friend to this day! I have to admit at first I didn’t 100% follow all the advice as I was scared to leave my tracking and protein shakes/bars/’treat bowls’ but slowly but surely I saw the light, and what I change!
I was scared when I no longer tracked I would gain weight, lose focus and more easily fall off the bandwagon with no cheat days and epic pudding bowls on days I had to make up my macros, but in fact the change was nothing that I thought. Instead I saw improvements in my energy levels, mood, focus, attention to clients and in my own training helped by the fact I was able to recover faster and so in fact I changed shape but for the better. I had far less bloating, I appeared leaner and felt stronger and fitter than ever! Of course I still have chocolate/ice-cream and more processed food but as in when I really wanted them now and not stuffing my face on one ‘allowed’ day. I want to feel good in my body and want to be full of energy and I know what foods help me be that person I want to be and so will chose nutritious healthy options over more processed foods but not because the fear of the calories or getting fat but instead not wanting those sugar crashes and mood swings but to live life to the full (cheesy I know) and because there is such a variety now – healthy certainly isn’t boring!
Importance of Work/Life Balance
I could leave it here and say it was all up from here but I want to tell you the honest truth, and show I am human and things weren’t all rainbows and unicorns from here but instead as much as I loved my job my work life balance was way off.
About a year in, my business was a real success – I had a large base of amazing clients and I won’t lie the money was good, I was able to afford a lot more (largely feeding my trainer obsession) and life was good. However slowly the long days from 5am -9pm, all be it a break in between but still the lack of sleep, endless planning and the shear amount of sessions and masseuse work caught up on me. I am someone who rarely gets ill, but I was starting to ill, at least one a month waking up with swollen glands and a fuzzy head.
I was training hard myself, around 8 clients a day, with maybe 4/5hours sleep a night and going out drinking and seeing friends on weekends my poor body was screaming out for help.
As much as I knew the more nutritious option would help me I pushed it to the back of my mind and began reaching for the quick sugar fixes and pick-me ups more and more. My energy levels and focus was crashing and it got to the point where I felt I was unable to give the clients 110% like I had been which frustrated and upset me. As I wanted to my body and head just couldn’t think straight – a mixture of poor diet, overtraining, long hours and socialising was catching up on me – time for a break!
The Year Out
I hadn’t had a holiday or a break from PT for more than 3 days since starting and it was now almost a year and a half in – I had always wanted to travel and possibly live in Australia so started toying with the idea. I mentioned it to a few close friends and family and all were surprisingly supportive and actually hugely encouraging the decision (huge shoutout to Sam Vaughan here – thank you!) I had no real ties and despite having a successful business it had become a little too much and actually having a break could give me back that oomph I lost.
So whizz forward a few months and I said some emotional goodbyes and set off on my journey down under! I had a year visa to travel and work in Australia and what an experience I had! I won’t bore you with all the details but I had set out planning to keep up my training and diet as both had fallen a little off track but instead socializing and the travelers life took over – I regret absolutely nothing and it wasn’t all pizza and cocktails I had a balance be it all tipped a little too far towards the drinks but the main thing was for one of the first times ever I accepted the change in my body and wasn’t crash dieting or over training.
The break did me so much good mentally and physically and although ideally I would have liked to kept a little more in touch with my training I am pleased I had the break as it gave me time away to realise what it really was I loved about it and I was actually looking forward to coming home and starting a fresh!
I have now been back 3 months and started a fresh up in London. I am fully back into training both myself and clients and balancing my diet to compliment my active lifestyle. Still a few tweaks to be made but safe to say I am the happiest I have ever been!
I don’t follow any set diet rules (e.g. vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free etc.) or any of those but enjoy creating my perfect balance between foods that make me feel good and nourish me and those I enjoy but know don’t love me back. I love all the food I eat and won’t eat something just because it may be labelled ‘healthy’ and certainly never ‘diet’ or ‘low-fat!
Exercise and diet are there to make us feel better not to punish or restrict.
I am far from perfect and still have good and not so good days but this is life! Working towards more of the good days and having a plan for when things might fall off track is key to achieving long term health and happiness.
For example, I know after a late night drinking with friends I am likely to eat something junky and that it does take me A LOT longer to recover but will I let this stop me going out and having fun or ruin the rest of my day/week? – ABSOUTELY NOT!
PS – Coconut water and fresh smoothies with Vivo Life Thrive are my number one go to to kick the hangover, which when combined with some fresh air, you are on to a definite winner!
Healthy Living is More Than Diet/Training
As you have probably noticed I haven’t just spoken about diet and training but life factors too that have a huge impact on how we feel/eat/act. In fact the unhealthy relationship with food and poor choices I made were linked emotionally to how I felt, and although this little voice hasn’t gone completely, the more I learn to deal with the cause of these emotions and focus my energy elsewhere e.g. taking a walk, calling a friend – the weaker the link is becoming.
Thank you, You Gorgeous Human
I really appreciate you taking the time to read this and this is something very close to my heart, as I mentioned I am a very closed person so talking about these kind of things is very hard for me.
Now is healthiest and happiest I have felt in a long time and so wanted to share this journey with you in hope it can help you or perhaps a friend going through the same feelings/journey I had. Everyone is different and will response and recover in different ways but I want you to know you are not alone and realizing you want to change is the first big step. You can get through this and you will, if you would like to talk to me even confidentially please do drop me a message via email or on Instagram and I would love to hear from you.
Chin up beautiful you’ve got this!