I haven’t always been somebody that eats healthily and exercises regularly, quite the opposite in fact.
As a child, I remember being really active, running around like a lunatic, taking part in school sports, and generally not being able to sit still!
However, at the age of about 14 or 15 I no longer cared how quickly I could run a mile or weather I scored a goal at hockey, all I cared about parties and boys.
Overnight I quickly lost interest in sport, I started drinking and smoking and doing anything I thought would make me more attractive to the opposite sex! Sorry Mum! In fact, it wasn’t until about 14 years later at the age of 28 that I would again start thinking about exercise and healthy living – that’s a lot of years!!!
Having spoken to many clients over the past year I realise that this is a really common pattern. Many women mention losing interest in sport in their teens and never really thinking about it again until years later when they are trying to lose weight for a wedding, or when they reach 30 and start piling on the pounds.
I was a party animal at school and through uni; I loved going out drinking and smoking and would keep going until I fell over! Looking back my diet was horrendous too! If I made it to my 9am lecture I would almost certainly be hung-over (or still drunk!!!) and my breakfast would be 3 packets of crisps (1 nice and spicy nick nacks, 1 salt and vinegar McCoy’s and 1 salt and vinegar walkers!!!) and 2 cans of coke – every single day!!! I also spent a year ‘studying’ in Germany and had a burger king meal every single lunchtime and a pizza for tea. I loved drinking and smoking, cigarettes in Germany were so cheap at that time that they were almost free – I smoked about 40 a day!!
I now realise that I have no off button, if I open a bottle or a packet of anything I finish it – and as soon as possible!!!
I know this may sound familiar to students the world over but my unhealthy lifestyle didn’t stop there. I continued to smoke and drink heavily throughout my twenties! After finishing university, I went to work on cruise ships – or as I prefer to call it, the smoking Olympics! I worked on ships for 3 years and I didn’t in all that time meet more than a handful of people that didn’t smoke and drink heavily!!! I remember having 30 min lunch and dinner breaks – either enough time to queue for and eat a meal or enough time for about 5 cigarettes, 2 packets of crisps and a red bull in my cabin!! Unfortunately, I opted for the second option probably 99% of the time!! I have memories of running up the stairs (always late for work) and not being able to breathe! I was overweight, extremely unhealthy and my poor lungs had taken a battering!!
Although I didn’t feel particularly healthy at the time I guess when you’re young you don’t think too much about it and I certainly wasn’t ready to do anything about it. I remember a friend telling me at uni that he was going for a run. I remember asking him ‘why would you want to do that?’ and I really meant it too! At that point in my life I couldn’t list any benefits of exercise! It sounds crazy now but I really didn’t understand why people would put themselves through the pain. I was also shocked that a friend was going for a run – exercise was something that ‘other’ people did.
In my mid-late twenties, I went to work for a travel company in Oxfordshire and I instantly loved it! There were about 200 of us all between the ages of 22 and 35 – it was amazing! There was always somebody that wanted to go for a meal or a beer after work and always somebody that would stay out dancing with you until 5am on a school night! I fitted in immediately!
Although I loved the social life I wasn’t as keen on the work and over the years I found it more and more stressful. I would return home and sink a whole bottle of wine (at least!) and binge on crisps, chocolate and ice cream! As I was approaching 30 my metabolism was slowing down and I was quickly pilling on the pounds. I knew I had to do something to change my lifestyle but I didn’t know where to start. Food and drink made me feel so much better and I had no energy or time for exercise.
I remember one summer going to watch some friends take part in the Blenheim Triathlon, I remember being blown away by how well they did, I was so impressed and I felt really inspired! I spoke to a friend that day and we agreed that we would enter the following year. I knew it would be a huge task given that the only exercise I had done in years was on the dance floor! I was also so lazy at the time that even though I lived maybe a ten minutes’ walk from work I drove there every single day for years, the only exception being when it snowed!!!
Anyway, to cut a long story short I started training, I gave myself loads of time, I started running slowly in October that year and very slowly got to being able to run 5k. After Christmas I started spinning classes in the evenings and I started going swimming before work a couple of times a week. I was suddenly feeling much better about work and my performance started to improve. As I was now busy exercising in the evenings I dramatically cut down on my alcohol intake and my comfort eating (this wasn’t a conscious decision, I just didn’t need it so much anymore, I was without realising it feeling great because of the exercise and the endorphins!)
After months and months of slowly changing my lifestyle people started to comment on how good I was looking and that gave me confidence, I went out shopping and bought new clothes, got my hair done and started wearing make up! (I was not only very lazy, but very scruffy in my previous life! Nobody thought to tell me that grunge had ended in 1999!) Whilst training for the triathlon I missed loads of social events – I thought at the time that once it was done I would go back to being my old self again, propping up the bar and drinking pints, thankfully that wasn’t the case. Over the months and years, I became the person who turned up late at the party having been for a run or for a long cycle. Don’t get me wrong, I would still drink like a fish and eat like a horse, I hadn’t had a personality transplant and therefore still had no way of stopping once I’d started!
I decided to do a PT course when I was 31; I had made dramatic changes to my lifestyle over the previous years and wanted to help others in the same way. I had stopped drinking regularly by this time – it only took me about 15 years to realise that I was a terrible drunk and had no way of controlling my behaviour after so much as a sniff of wine!!! I was much happier when I was exercising regularly and eating well, I was more confident, I had energy, I suddenly loved shopping for clothes and getting dressed up, I felt sexy for the first time ever and I felt ready for a new challenge. In the office, I was surrounded by girls on fad diets, girls struggling with weight issues and those lacking the motivation to exercise and I really wanted to help.
I now love my job, I am much healthier and fitter than I have ever been and I try and eat as well as I can. I try and do a weekly shop, I keep only healthy food in the house and I try to stay organised. I eat mainly meat, fish, veg, fruit, nuts, oats and some dairy, and I have a cheat day on the weekend.
I love working out now, I love the feeling that I’m getting fitter and fitter. I still love to run and cycle but I have also started doing a lot more weight training and love the feeling of getting stronger and leaner.
Although I try and eat well the majority of the time there are always times when all I want to do is reach for a bowl of Ben and Jerry’s. I am after all a human being and when life doesn’t go to plan I like so many of us turn to food for comfort, after all, it is the most socially accepted addiction in our society. When I broke up with my last boyfriend I sat in bed and had a whole packet of biscuits, a bag of Maltesers and a Dairy Milk for tea. I was so upset with my situation that I just rolled over and went to sleep in a pile of crumbs and chocolate wrappings! Let’s face it, we’ve all been there, a bad break up, an argument with your boss in work, or the car failing its MOT, we often look to food for comfort, and it’s a never a celery stick that we crave!
However, it’s at these times when I look back and realise how far I’ve come and how much happier I am now. If I’m being honest I don’t always feel like going to the gym – sometimes all I want to do is sit on my backside and watch Neighbours whilst stuffing Maltesers into my mouth at great speed. I may not always want to eat healthily and exercise constantly but I keep doing it as I know how great it makes me feel and that feeling alone is enough to make me keep going! It’s not so much about how I look these days but how I feel and although I’m getting older I’ve never felt better!
I hope that I can now help other people make changes to their health and fitness, so that they feel the sacrifices are worth it and that they feel inspired to stick to it long term!