Mind Over Matter
TANYSHA BOLGER – JUNE 18, 2014
Whilst my weight loss journey is far from over, I thought I would share a little about how I found myself 30 kilograms (66 pounds) lighter. With it, I hope I can inspire other young women who want to not only lose weight, but make a lifestyle change.
In October of 2013 I finally decided that it was time to make a change. After spending most of my childhood and teenage years overweight and unhappy, something ‘clicked’ inside me, telling me that “enough is enough”. I realised I was putting my body under a lot of stress and increased my risk of many diseases and cancer with each kilo I was gaining. I wasn’t happy with the way I looked and I knew that something needed to change.
After spending several days planning out various exercise routines, a friend who was a personal trainer offered to help me with a meal and exercise plan. At this point in time, I was already going to personal training two to three times a week but was getting very weak results. Either I wasn’t pushing myself hard enough or my diet wasn’t up to scratch. After writing down everything I was eating, I realised it was certainly the latter, and it needed a complete restructure to cater to losing weight.
The toughest challenge about losing weight was in the first month, that’s where it is make or break for most people; either you’re going to keep going or you’re going to give up. From what I have been through, I can honestly say that almost daily, I thought about giving up. “It’s too hard. I miss eating ice cream. I miss eating bread. This chicken tastes horrible,” occurred daily on my thought radar throughout the first few weeks. Now, nine months later I rarely, if ever, have those thoughts, and I feel so much better.
The purpose of this article is to not only recount my weight loss journey but to also to provide some motivation, health & food tips I’ve learnt along the way and some helpful pointers in terms of exercise.
Eating properly and forgetting the word, “diet.”
Depending on where you are on your weight loss journey, and yes, it’s a journey, it’s a very long journey to be exact; eating properly is going to be the main thing that really gets that weight off. Seeking a dietician will help you structure your meal plan properly as you want to be sure you are getting everything you need, minus the nasty sugar and those naughty carbs.
Getting to the serious stuff, I honestly recommend getting rid of the word “diet” from your vocabulary. If you want to lose weight AND keep it off, a diet isn’t going to do anything, it needs to be a LIFESTYLE CHANGE. You are going to need to completely transform your eating habits, which for me took around 3-4 months. That means having your body accustom to the taste of the food, the timing of when you eat and the nutritional content.
My meal plan consisted of oats, eggs, lots of water, chicken and salads. It was basic and admittedly boring, but it was the only thing that would help me keep my carbohydrates on the intake low.
HELPFUL FOOD TIP #1 – Add some seasoning to your chicken breast or chicken thigh, like a herb mix or a squeeze of lemon. Eating chicken with no seasoning or spicing, tastes utterly boring. Mix it up and have fun with your food (but keep it healthy), it doesn’t have to be boring!
As I completely cut sugar from my meals, (and I mean, completely) I began to have headaches almost daily that would on average last for around 3 hours. After a month to nearly two months, they finally disappeared and gave me no more trouble. Cutting sugar was the hardest thing, the cravings were at times unbearable. To counteract my want for sugar I drank water and did something to keep my mind off of it until the craving subsided.
Over time and after losing around 10-15kg, they finally subsided into what I have termed “background cravings”. Instead of acting on an instant, “I really feel like chocolate I’m going to get some right now and stuff my face,” they turned into, “mm, I sort of feel like chocolate but I’ve lost more weight this week and I’m doing well, maybe another time.” Cravings will probably be the BIGGEST challenge you are going to have to overcome. Be strong, be powerful and be conscious of what you’re thinking and eating.
HELPFUL FOOD TIP #2 – Cravings suck, big time. They’re going to bring you down, and if you’re doing really good at the gym then splurge out on a bad meal or even a bad day, chances are you’re going to feel guilty. There’s no simple solution to counteract cravings, but thinking positively will help. Every time you go to drink a soft drink, or go to buy a bar of chocolate, just think, “I’ve worked so hard at gym this week and I’m feeling really good, do I really need this *item*?” OR another thing you can do, albeit boring, is just drink some water and wait 15 minutes to see if you still really want that bad thing.
From my experience it was all about positively reaffirming my own progress on a day-to-day basis and brushing away the cravings like flicking a piece of dirt off your shoulder. It gets much easier as you go on and make progress.
Exercise, but first let me explain a thing
I cannot stress enough how beneficial weights will be to your fitness and health regime. I was so scared to try my hand at weights but my progress when compared to just cardio and to both weights and cardio was unbelievable. Whilst there’s more technical elements to what I’m about to explain, (your doctor/health/exercise professional will explain it much better) here’s the basic gist.
Cardio – is going to burn fat only whilst you’re actually doing cardio. When you’re running, you’re using your energy stores that you have, no more, no less. It’s great for building up your respiratory rate and it’s a great measure of your fitness level. A healthy weight loss regime includes an exercise plan that includes both cardio and weights. Even if you don’t like weights, doing ‘weight-bearing’ exercises (which is where you use your own body weight to train, such as a pushup) can also be beneficial for you.
Weights – these beautiful things work your body during exercising and post exercising, depending on how hard your work. When you weight train your body, you’re actually tearing little fibres in your muscles, and the only way to repair them is to use energy and resources your body has after you have worked out.
That’s why you need to be on a meal plan that has a lot of protein if you’re doing weight training – protein rebuilds and strengthens those muscles so you can lift heavier weights next time and have a kick ass toned body in the future.
Those heavy things are going to tone you like crazy!
If you’re a woman, weights are going to seem daunting. But in fact those big heavy things that make you sweat are actually going to be the best thing you could ever come across.
And if you’re scared about building too much muscle, don’t be. It takes a lot, and I mean, A LOT, of hardcore training for a woman to become ‘bulky’, we just simply don’t have the hormones to look all muscular like our counterparts with the Y chromosome.
Weights are going to tone you, help immensely with your cardio ability and help you feel better. You can reap the benefits of exercising in the morning whilst sitting on your couch and watching a movie in the afternoon because your muscles are repairing themselves, what could be better?
In essence there’s three parts to losing weight successfully. The first part is eating properly which we’ve covered, the second is being mentally strong and the third is exercise, YAY! To be honest, I shuddered at the thought of going for a run when I first started. “Really, I have to walk/run ALL that way around the block four times, ew.” Now my thoughts are, “I ran 3km for the first time ever today, I’ve never done that before in my life. Ever.”
A good way to measure your progress is through beating your personal bests if you’re a person to keep records; either whilst on your run or note down the time when you leave and return if you’re doing cardio. Your cardio ability or your ability to be able to run distance, the amount of time it takes for you to get ‘puffed’ is directly correlated to how healthy you’re eating and how many times you exercise per week.
Not endorsing any product at all, but I used RunKeeper which recorded my route, my overall stats like average pace and splits. There is a lot of GPS tracking things out there like Fitbits and apps, whatever you choose it should be okay.
It’s all about positivity
When writing this article I didn’t really have a structure in mind, I thought it would be easier just to recount as I went along. With saying that, if you only take one thing away from this article, let it be this; always, no matter if you give into cravings, skipped gym, ate pasta, didn’t go for your morning walk or slept in till 10am; THINK POSITIVE.
The only way you can lose weight physically is if your mind is going along with you mentally. Things will be hard, weights will be hard to lift and the end of the street on your morning run is going to look like a marathon away. Keep persevering and don’t ever give up, it’s going to be worth it. I never thought that I could do this, self-doubt always filled my mind, and it still does on the odd occasion. If you can change your thought pattern, and that takes work, you will find that your body will just follow.
Write down those goals
As lame as writing in a diary every day, having goals written down makes you accountable for your actions. The problem that most people have is they set unrealistic goals and set themselves up for disappointment from the get-go. The key to having fitness goals is to make them a challenge BUT achievable.
What worked for me was having goals that I knew I could achieve. At the start, I thought in my head; “I want to lose 30 kilograms, I want to drop a few dress sizes and most of all, I want to be able to run 3-6km without stopping.”
I under no circumstances, gave myself a time limit. I let it happen, however long it took. Of course, that’s not going to work for everyone, but you can set achievable weight loss goals depending on how much you exercise per week and what type of food you’re eating (and also how well your body responds to the exercise).
Another pointer is telling the whole world about your goals. Whilst this might sound strange, it keeps you motivated and it keeps you accountable for your progress. Tell absolutely everyone you’re losing weight and when you hope to achieve it, 9 times out of ten they’ll respond with, “heck yeah, wish I could do that!”
Which brings me to the rewards of losing weight
There are countless benefits to losing weight, both physically and mentally. Depending on how much weight you lose and how much you tone up, your body is going to change. Your confidence is going to increase and you’ll probably drop dress/shirt sizes and you’ll feel so proud of yourself. All that hard work will pay off eventually, all good things take time.
Once I have lost my next goal of 10-15 kilos, which will put my total weight loss at 45 kilograms, I will update an article with before and after photographs.
You’ll run into people you haven’t seen in a few months/years and they won’t even recognise you. I was in the supermarket the other week and my mum was looking for me but looked straight at me then looked away for a split second, then realised it was me, it was quite hilarious.
A final note
Losing 30 kilograms, (now 32 kilograms as I started this article a little while ago), has never been easy for me, it is probably going to be one of the biggest accomplishments of my life. I have cried, I have thought to give up several times, I have stopped running several times and screwed up my face at healthy food. My outlook on life has changed so much, for me I am a much happier and healthier person, and I have confidence now.
Walking in public used to make me anxious, fearful even. I was scared of what people thought of me and was consciously aware of what I looked like. When I talked to people, I was more interested in their physical appearance and how “not-fat” they were, rather than their personality. I couldn’t believe that I had gotten to that point in my life that I disconnected from people in such a way.
9 months on from when I started to lose weight I am a completely different person. I enjoy life, I enjoy going out and running, living life happy and enjoy time spent with friends and family. I am confident and I am happy.
I think, I am nearly at peace with who I am.
Disclaimer: I’m not a healthcare professional, all advice given on this post is purely from my own experience. When attempting to lose weight, always seek professional medical advice and structure your eating, exercise and sugar intake to suit your body. Whilst the saying is overstated, it cannot be said enough when it comes to losing weight; every body is different. What works for your friend or for the author of that fitness blog you just read, may not work for you. Losing weight and becoming healthy is all about finding what works for your body. Always think positive 🙂