I had always been thin and relatively athletic through school and college; in fact, at just over 10 stone I was probably even a little underweight for my height. But starting an office job and driving everywhere meant that I began putting on the weight. It just spiralled from there, until three and a half years ago I was sat at home at just under 17 stone. I was unhealthy, overweight, lazy and unhappy with the way I looked. Even worse, it had started affecting how I felt about myself. Even though I had a partner, my family close to me and the food and drink that comforted me, I felt like I was alone. I knew that I was in a hole and that I would struggle to get myself out of it.
I had tried to lose weight a couple of times before, but my heart had never been fully in it. I didn’t have a good enough reason to do it, or a desire to stick to it. As a result, I failed. Like every time before, I just gave up. I thought that I would just carry on going round and round in circles; trying a little and failing miserably. And every time I failed, I turned to food. It made me feel better in the short-term, but I always ended up that little bit bigger because of it. It was a vicious circle I couldn’t get out of and I always ended up feeling worse in the long-run. The craziest thing was, the 15 minutes it took me to eat the takeaway or to drink the booze and fizzy drinks gave me enough empty pleasure that I was willing to justify doing it. Of course I always regretted it afterwards, for the other twenty three hours and forty five minutes of the day.
I remember watching TV and films, thinking “Wow, I would love to get back to looking like that.” The feeling would come on so strong, so intense, that it made me want to change my life around. But after a few minutes, I had forgotten about it and was heading off to the shop for something processed; something quick along with something fizzy to wash it down. Eating fast food had become such a routine, it felt like it was part of my muscle-memory.
I then stumbled upon something that would get my attention; my switch, my drive to change that I had not had a reason to use for years – COMPETITION! A three-month weight loss challenge at work, where the whole office was involved. The challenge was to lose as much as we could in three months, with a weigh-in every Monday morning in front of everyone (now if that doesn’t motivate you…). We all put money into a kitty for the winner at the end (a little extra incentive to stick to it). GAME ON! I had always stepped up to the plate when set a challenge and, from then on, competition became my best friend. And so the journey began.
I started saying to myself “Right, what can I do to try to keep my mind focussed, to stay dedicated to this?” and began to look online for help and suggestions. I started talking to myself when I was alone, to keep myself motivated. I wrote a daily diary, printed pictures of who I aspired to and put them up on the walls of my garage so that I would always see them when I was working out. I put my work-out plan up, to keep me focussed on how I was doing and where I was heading to. I tried to introduce every possible thing I knew of to keep my mental strength up and in the game. Going into it, I knew I would struggle, so I tried my best to play a game against my mind to stop the negative thoughts from creeping in.
My daily diary was the biggest help to me during this time. I would write my diary at work, half an hour before I left to go home. I always wrote between 1 and 2 pages every day. I wanted to make sure it was fresh in my mind, that my subconscious would be ‘singing exercise’ by the time I got home to train. And you know what? It worked! I would train as soon as I got home, Monday to Friday. After a while, I started wanting to get up nice and early at the weekend, to get a workout done before we went out for the day. Mostly, this was to make up for any time lost during the week, when we had plans and I wasn’t able to train after work. I eventually found my own groove, training five or six days each week and taking my rest days when my body was shouting for it or when I had commitments that took me away from my training. My weekend training became a huge part of my routine; I began to enjoy the early-morning workouts before breakfast – it really set me up for the day!
The weeks went by and I felt like I was slowly making progress; that I was doing pretty well! I was starting to feel good within myself. I had more energy, I felt slimmer, I wasn’t bloated all the time from the fizzy drinks and starchy carbs that I had been overindulging in. I found myself spending a lot of time reading about training and nutrition, watching videos on YouTube from popular workout bloggers. I concentrated on finding out what worked for me and, especially, what the common mistakes were.
It was overwhelming at first, because I didn’t have anyone to help me, to teach me or to motivate me while I was training. I didn’t have a Personal Trainer. I didn’t have any friends that were in the same position as I was. I trained by myself, for myself. Being an only child, this wasn’t too much of an issue – I was used to having to entertain myself. I actually enjoyed putting on my headphones and getting lost in my own little world. But, I look back now and think that it would have been helpful to have someone there, like a Personal Trainer; someone to push me harder than I was willing to push myself and to take my training to new levels, even though I know I trained myself hard. Even now, people who train with me mention that I don’t mess around with my training.
I began learning more and more about nutrition, about the training principles that I could implement into my own workouts and even into my everyday life. I found out – mostly through trial and error – what worked (and what didn’t work!) for me and my body. I still wrote my diary every day, using it not only to keep my mind on-track with training, but also to vent my frustrations. That way, I was able to focus on what I needed to do next. The daily grind can easily distract from what is most important in life – and can easily take you down to the shop to buy something you regret as soon as you’ve scoffed it down. So, I got rid of all the usual stresses of daily life by writing them down, which allowed me to use new-found headspace for training potential!
Three Month Success
The first three months of training went past faster than I ever thought they would and it came to the final weigh-in day at work. The combined total loss for the office was 14kg. 11 of those were my own. I was shocked. I looked at the spreadsheet and cash prize with a whole heap of inner pride and realised that I could see this through; I could lose a whole lot more weight if I wanted to. The curtain over my eyes was starting to lift and I felt determined to make my body fat into my enemy; into something I wanted to squash and get rid of for good.
Over those three months, I had created myself a new routine; eating and drinking all the right things, while doing the right amount of exercise alongside it to be able to lose weight. I was no longer craving sugary and fatty foods or drinks. Things were much easier. For the first time, I felt as though I was in control of my own body. And most importantly, I was no longer afraid of failure. That work challenge had, ultimately, changed my life.
The next hurdle to get over was that I no longer had a challenge to beat; there was no competition with anyone else and it was down to me to motivate myself. For the first time, I knew that I could do it. I took small steps, setting myself achievable targets that challenged me but that weren’t too far out of reach. The steps I took came and went very quickly – and I smashed them all. Before I know it, my first year had finished. Instead of thinking “I wonder where I would be now if I had just stuck with it?” I was proud of my achievement. Sticking to it, the time had gone by just as fast as it had when I’d put the weight on in the first place!
Believe in Yourself
I still can’t believe how much I achieved in that first year. I looked and felt great. I had energy, I didn’t ache, I didn’t get hot and sweaty all the time, I wasn’t out of breath all the time – and my clothes fit me! I’d wanted it for a long time, but for years I had thought it was out of my grasp; that I’d never be able to achieve what I did.
Being overweight had broken my spirit, even without me realising it was happening. I had slowly started to lose my confidence, started to go into my own shell. The fact that it is such a slow process means that you don’t notice it at first. The food that was making me so unhappy had become the only thing that provided me with a small amount of happiness. It’s strange to think of it that way, but that’s what happened.
I also know it’s hard for you to tell yourself that you CAN do it, to motivate yourself to get started on your own journey to fitness. My transformation didn’t come without hard work, dedication, commitment, consistency and a passion to want to change. But, at the same time, it came with blowouts (on takeaways especially), injuries, doubts and some steps backwards. You need to get back up when you fall down. Don’t give up. A takeaway, a bottle of wine of an evening; they aren’t going to undo everything you’ve already done. Just write it off as a bad day amongst the many days that have gone well. Put it behind you and carry on. Don’t tell yourself “I’ll start again on Monday”; you’ll only get into a routine of it. Just continue where you left off. I had enough falls in my journey, but every time, I got back up and carried on. I didn’t let the guilt of a takeaway take over – I just wrote about it in my diary and put it out of my mind. Six days of good nutrition and training will not be negated by one blowout meal. Write it down, get it out of your system and move on. After a couple of days, you’ll be right back on track.
The Next Step
One and a half years after starting my journey, I was getting ready for my Personal Training course. I was nervous – it was straight after Christmas and it felt pretty soon to be thinking about a new direction. I was worried that I’d be the chubby one; the one in the worst shape. But you know what? I wasn’t! At just over 11 stone, I was one of the lightest and leanest on the course. While I was there, my motivation to learn and my work-ethic were picked up by the tutor and the other trainees. I was the only one who was up at 5 in the morning, travelling for over an hour and a half and then training at the gym for another hour before the classes started. I realised I was fit and working just as hard as the others, that I already knew a lot and had the potential to learn lots more. I passed all of my exams with scores of 94% or above; I was one of only two people on the course to do so and came second overall by only 1% across all the exams.
Onwards and Upwards
Now, I’ve started to build up my own Personal Training business so I can help others who find themselves in the same position that I was a couple of years ago. I want to spread the word – “It can be done!”
Yes, it’s hard. Yes, it’s challenging. Yes, on occasion, you WILL want to give up.
But, believe me – it DOES get EASIER. You WILL get STRONGER, FITTER and FASTER. You will LEARN how your BODY REACTS to TRAINING and NUTRITION.
Sometimes, when you doubt yourself or feel like giving up, you need someone else to believe in you, when you don’t. Someone to tell you that YOU CAN DO IT, YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH, YOU ARE WORTH FIGHTING FOR.
The fact is, if it was meant to be easy, everyone would look like an athlete or a model. But, if it was that easy, you wouldn’t achieve the same degree of pride in yourself after you succeed.
You only live once, so don’t regret anything.
GO FOR IT. LEAVE NOTHING ON THE TABLE. YOU CAN DO IT.
TRUST ME. BELIEVE IN YOURSELF, AND YOU WILL ACHIEVE GREATNESS.