Over the last year, I’ve made a shift in my lifestyle and managed to turn my health around. A few small changes on a daily basis became my way of life and opened me up to making bigger moves, but it’s doing it consistently that’s made a significant difference. Lots of little things – the kind that we’ve always been told to do- have added up. Looking back, there are five ‘things’ that got me started, are here they are in the order that I did them.
For a while now friends, family and followers have been asking me to share more and I’ve really wanted to… Mostly I’ve been asked ‘How did you lose so much weight?’ And for me it was about feeling healthy, not weight loss. But I felt like I needed to walk the walk and make a sustained change before going online and talking about it. I believe in encouraging others to take baby steps, because every bit helps. Remember that each person and every single body is different. So maybe for you, some of this will work and some won’t. I’m not a healthcare professional, I’m just sharing my story. Today I finally feel ready (and confident enough) to start sharing how I started my health and wellbeing journey.
Figure out “Why”
Personal trainers and fitness coaches call them goals. Psychology circles call it motivation. Yogis refer to intention. For me, once the ‘why’ of trying to live a life filled with healthy choices clicked into place, it no longer became a struggle to eat better, eliminate stress and stay active. But it took a while to find the purpose.
So what’s my ‘why’? I got sick of feeling tired and sick all the time. It’s as simple as that. Most of my life I haven’t had the best relationship with myself and quite low body confidence. This got me into a cycle of comfort eating and exercising as punishment or to fit into clothes. But ‘looking good in a bod-con dress’ wasn’t enough to keep me going when it came to making good decisions for my health. Because I was making the decisions based on outward ideals, not inward ones.
I’m going use an example of one of the first dietary changes I made to make this point. I read somewhere that Khloe Kardashian cut dairy of out her diet when she started losing weight. She credited it as having made the biggest different. Now I love cheese and can smash a butter-rich milk chocolate cake in record time. But if less dairy made Khloe Kardashian lose 5lbs, I thought I should try it. This decision was made purely out of vanity and wanting to be thinner.
I tried cutting down on dairy (not cutting it out completely) for about two weeks and subbing almond milk in my oats, avoiding toasted cheese sandwiches and leaving feta off of my salads became second nature. Here’s the kicker, I woke up one day and didn’t have the constant sinusitis I’d lived with for years. It was amazing to wake up and forget to reach for my nose spray because I didn’t need it to breath. My skin looked clearer, my cellulite wasn’t as bad as normal and I’d lost 2kg’s in a month.
Currently, I have around 2 small portions of dairy a week and when I say no to dairy, it’s out health and environmental concerns and compassion- not vanity. This ‘why’ is a sustainable purpose for me.
My Relationship with Food
For me, this is a big one and something I still work on. I previously mentioned having a tricky relationship with food and the thing is, I was conscious of it but I wasn’t taking any responsibility for it. One day I had a conversation with my friend Anna-Belle from She Said, who has herself undergone a huge health and wellness journey. I was bemoaning how hard it was to eat healthy when I eat out often and the social aspect is so difficult. I remember saying “I don’t know how you do it”. Her answer was simple “Stop eating crap.”
Her point was this, no-one was forcing me to eat the food they made. I could choose to make my own meals, but I wasn’t out of convenience. After realising that it was only going to change if I changed, I started looking at which habits and behaviour around food I had that weren’t good for me. Then I thought, in an ideal world, how would eat every day if I could choose? After research, I started planning. Then I adjusted my circumstances as much as I could so that I was preparing food in a space that I controlled.
Budget is a concern, so I don’t buy the most expensive health foods or pay through the roof for kale and fresh berries every week. I plan a few meals a week, figure out how to shop for seasonal fruit and veg that doesn’t break the bank and prepare my own food as much as I can. So I created that ideal situation as much as I could. This wasn’t an overnight process and some days I do eat pizza or occasional cake- but it’s not a ‘daily treat’ mentality like it used to be. And if I fall off the bandwagon for a while, I forgive myself and start again.
What To Eat
You’ll note that food comes up twice before activity here cause that little saying that gym bunnies and cross fit boets use as Instagram captions, “80% in the kitchen and 20% in the gym” is true. I’m sorry guys, I wish we could all eat junk food and then do a workout and look great but for most people, it doesn’t work. Like I said earlier, when I don’t eat healthily, I don’t feel healthy. I’ve recently gone on impromptu adventures that were amazing… but I didn’t have my own food prepared and I literally woke up the next day grumpy and feeling hungover because I ate stuff that doesn’t agree with me.
So on average, what do I eat? I don’t have the ‘perfect’ eating plan by any means. I aim to eat certain amounts of veg, whole grains, legumes or pulses and veg daily to get the right amounts of carbs, fibre and protein. I aim to eat certain amounts of dairy, refined sugar and refined carbs a week for balance and my sanity when socialising. Through trial and error, I worked out which portions were good for me to lose weight and feel satiated. Now I know what a good portion is for me to maintain my body as it is. I dabbled with food tracking on using the FitBit app and their simple Macro tracker and while it really helped, I no longer do it daily but it’s a good way to check in.
I’ll be posting a more comprehensive food update in a few weeks to break down my daily and weekly food guidelines and give examples of meals in frequent rotation for summer and winter.
Twenty minutes a day is all it takes. That’s what I keep in mind. More than twenty minutes is great! But don’t beat yourself up if that’s all you can fit in. I use these twenty minutes to touch base with how I’m feeling, instead of just hitting the toughest workout I can manage.
Learning to figure how my body, mind and emotions are feelings to ‘touch base’ with myself has helped so much not just with health and fitness but with my mental state. This can also help you figure out what you want to do that day- feeling tired? Do a restorative activity or slow down your pace. We’re not machines and some days physical activity is tougher than other days.
When it comes to getting active the best advice I can give is to find what you enjoy. Running gives a lot of my friends great results and they rave about it, but I don’t find it enjoyable. I love a quick paced walk on my own or in a park with friends. I can’t wait to hit my yoga mat to get into a physical practice and delve into my mind. I love pilates and barre-style workouts and I find HIIT challenging but fun. Cross fit, kick boxing and fast-paced, high-impact stuff makes me want to stay on the couch ’cause I just don’t dig it. So find what works for you and join a class or get a buddy system going to keep you pitching up.
Whatever you chose to do make sure you have the correct form to avoid injuries. Nothing is worse than getting 6 weeks into a fitness regime, only to have to stop for 2 weeks because box jumps and your knee injury from Grade 11 aren’t good friends. If you aren’t doing movements properly, your body won’t be getting the right activation which will impact on your results. So don’t do things half-arsed.
We all go through dips in motivation and this can affect your consistency. For me, this is where ‘The Why’ at the beginning comes back- if I don’t do these simple things, I won’t feel great later today, or tomorrow or even later in the week. But sometimes that’s not enough. When this happens, I lean on these two tricks of the mind;
It’s become a habit, so don’t break the habit. And if you take a break, jump straight back in so it remains a habit. When the behaviour is second nature, you just do it even if you don’t really feel like it. What’s more, the endorphin boost for an increased heart rate makes our bodies crave exercise. So if you do it regularly enough you’ll eventually miss not doing it! If not feeling like it made me not work out, or not eat well the day before, I make sure that it doesn’t turn into more than a day or two. Breaking the habit means I have to start building it again.
‘If other people can do it, so can I’. Social media is both good and bad and we know that be used for comparison. But if the comparison becomes positive, it can be helpful. When I see a someone I admire working out, instead of going ‘ugh, she’s so great’ like I used to, I use that to get myself moving. What do I mean? I’m not a morning person but I often need to get up early or I’ll miss out on making a decent breakfast or being active for the day. When I’m lying in bed, not wanting to get out, I go on to Instagram, ignore my feed and notifications (this is NB) and go straight to one of three people’s stories. These are people who post often on stories so I know they’ll update. When I watch Candibod post about her Sweat1000 class, her personal client and that she’s started her own workout for the day before my alarm has even gone off- it’s easier to put my sports bra on and get going. Other people I follow for this are Sugar Free Sundays, and Jordyn’s Channel.
This post was not sponsored or paid for in any way but throughout my health and wellness journey, Maaji has supported me. Maaji sent me this set and I feel confident and comfortable in their activewear, making it that much easier to stay consistent and committed. You can find Maaji online at colourbox, and in the Joburg and Cape Town stores.