I like to shake things up and be unconventional, so instead of telling you about my 2013 resolutions, here are my 2012 revolutions!
Tired of failing at countless diets (or of diets failing me), reaching a new low of self-esteem and body image but sky high level of frustration, I had to create changes that worked for me. Ten years ago, I remember very clearly when I went over the 60kg mark and it left quite a mark on me. As a young teenager, following a traumatic experience I put on around 5 or 6 kg over couple of months. I was calling myself fat, felt out of control and started to feel really guilty and ashamed of myself. This would become a long destructive and unstoppable spiral.
In December 2011, I had reached a new weight of 70kg (for 1.63m) and this was a wake-up call. At 24 years old, I was scared of what were going to be the following 10 years. I didn’t want to believe it but had to face it; I had failed to achieve what I had seemed to be trying for the past decade. I was emotionally exhausted. Accepting failure was the first step that led me back on my feet and to recovery. What happens when you hit rock bottom? You kick down and push yourself back to the surface. So that’s what I did. I decided this time to approach things differently. I had to find something that would work long term, that wouldn’t be too complicated or expensive and that I would enjoy. Demanding much? We all deserve the best! The only concession I agreed on with myself was the time frame. For once in my life, I agreed to be patient. I was desperate for something I would be able to call a lifestyle rather than a quick fix. And last but not least, something that I decided for myself, that would empower me, rather than forced on me.
The first shifting paradigm for me was the switch of focus from “diet” to “health”. I had to create new mental and emotional associations with food and everything surrounding it to stop the shame, guilt, uncontrollable cravings and other negative side-effects. Dieting was only increasing the stress and frustration I was already going through. This time, I went in with the aim of getting healthy, being in charge and taking care of my body. Instead of just feeding myself, I had to learn how to nurture myself, not only physically but also mentally and emotionally. I am absolutely convinced that all of those fields are linked and can develop to a vicious OR a virtuous circle. Too often we wait to be satisfied with the body we see in the mirror to start telling ourselves positive thoughts and compliments. But I believe than we can jump start the process and obtain better results from telling ourselves how good we look today to get our body to react and mirror our imagination. This was the second realisation and major paradigm shift for me in 2012.
Going even further, not only did I focus on what I was looking at (biased picture and often leading to negative thoughts), I started to look through my body and to look forward, projecting a realistic but pleasant body image (in my case a picture of a strong, curvy but defined feminine body). So my mental body representation, and the emotions surrounding it, started to change before its physical expression. Some people call it visualisation, self-convincing, positive thinking. Whatever works and makes sense to you. Intellectual shifts not only influence feelings and emotions but can even precede them. This led to a great satisfaction and fullness feeling, eliminating the need to vainly search for this through food.
For me personally I had to trick my brain into finding situations, based on temporary moments and facts, where I could honestly and rationally not only accept myself but be proud of my appearance and find myself beautiful. This revolution came through movement. What I mean is that for so long I hated looking at myself on a still picture or in the mirror, changing this was too much of a leap of faith. But watching videos of me dancing, I re-discovered my body and realised that my focus was too narrow and unfair. Sure I might dislike the extra fat here or the shapes there, matter of personal taste I guess, but what about the overall feminine body moving with grace and ease? If I could move beautifully, then maybe my body wasn’t as bad as I pictured it?
Starting from one timid but positive thought, I went on to try replacing the instinctive negatives feelings coming up to mind by positive thoughts one at a time. Even if it’s a simple thing, that might sound ridiculous, like saying to myself “I do like the natural shape of my eyebrows” or “I do like my nails today”, it was worth a try and eventually counter-acted the devastating effects of “Really looking crap, can’t been seen like this, how can people look at me without disgust” or “I really have no will power why am I even eating this”. These negative feelings still come back around and sometimes submerge me once in a while but unlike before I don’t let them settle in anymore. Those are small but efficient steps towards self and unconditional love.
I only got a chance to think about this and train myself this way once different areas of my life that were creating a huge amount of stress and anxiety came to ease, not completely of course, but once I was able to let them go and put them at rest (this took me a good couple of years too, I’m the slow processing type of person!). This left me ready, emotionally and mentally available, to spend my energy and time working on ME. It is strategic to pick the best time to engage on this path as I felt like I was taking on a new intense training course and this required the vast majority of my attention. (Notice how I said best and not perfect time). I don’t think I could have asked myself to deal with everything at once while still expecting great results!
From an intellectual side of things, I spent a considerable amount of time reading articles, thinking/meditating internally, “digesting” things and finding how they could relate to me, how I could implement them into my life/ routine/thoughts. I also discussed about all of this with many different people (I apologise for the very mono-topic chats I inflicted on my friends and family members!! ) A year down the road, I have learned how to differentiate things that suit me and things that don’t.
This brings me to the physical and exterior aspect of things, surely the most visible but not necessarily the most important. Along the way, I have also re-discovered sports! Not as a calorie burner or a punishment but as a fun and recreational activity to build up confidence and achieve kick-ass goals. Not just through dancing but as I started strength training, I discovered how much inner strength and mental power I can find in myself when needed. This was such a great confidence recovery and I definitely have this integrated into my life now. It also helps my brain to let some steam out and not over think for a while. It is all a matter of balance between physical, mental and emotional strength and peace (can’t help but think of Kung Fu Panda’s master Shifu repeating “Inner peace…” and losing it)
Of course I did not do this alone. After struggling on my own for the first half of the year (using mainly Internet for ideas and tips and although getting some results), I decided on an impulse – I only thought it through once or twice rather than weeks on! -, to hire a trainer at the beginning of the summer. I realised that even though I am motivated and knowledgeable, the road is hard enough not to be taking it alone. Not only could I count on my trainer to provide professional coaching through different circuits and exercises matching my physical ability, I was also lucky to find somebody that suited my personality. Because of my nurturing and soothing process (like after recovery, I was healing from many years of “sickness” as opposed to my current state of health), I needed somebody who could adapt his coaching style to match me. I did need to be motivated of course but by seeing that somebody would believe and trust in me, using a soft approach. This safe training environment alongside my mental work proved to be successful over the last year and again today. Some people get best results with a much harder and pushy approach. The important thing is to find a professional that brings the best out of your potential. Good trainers know how to adapt to their clients.
And because I’m extra lucky or blessed, (bring out the tissues), I can say that I would have never been able to achieve all of this without the unconditional love and support of my husband. As I was changing, he embraced the new me and adapted (sometimes slowly but surely… me, impatient?) so we could stay aligned with each other. From moral support and encouragement to prepping the food before I cook it, he is by my side an invaluable help. I am forever grateful that he endorsed my choices (to an extent that suits him), and that this experience overall brought us together, through mutual compromises, understanding and love.
This is a long path, I am just somewhere along the way and constantly finding ways to adjust better and improve but I am deeply happy, moved and proud of the results achieved inside and out this year. Bring on 2013!
My next article will go through concrete tips that worked out for me but as I hope I made clear above, changes happen in your approach and mind-set first, before resulting in everyday adjustments! So don’t wait for it, be creative and see how you can find things to shift and improve this week (and every single week of 2013!) Over 50 positive habits that will happen by the end of next year!
Warning: Those kinds of changes are not only visible but also contagious and will inspire others!