Keeping fit and healthy used to be something I thought was for ‘those people’ - you know the ones that somehow love exercise and vegetables naturally? I can say that these things do not come to me naturally, therefore I felt I could exclude myself from doing this.
I also had this false belief that exercise is only necessary if you're overweight and I wasn’t, so I thought I could exclude myself from having to participate! So long as I kept tabs on my chocolate intake I figured I would be a-okay!
But something clicked last year - first it happened with exercise and then with diet and nutrition.
I realised that if I wanted my body to remain in relatively the same shape it is now, then I needed to put some work in. And the earlier I did that, the better it would be for my older self. But despite this, the prospect of going to the gym didn't motivate me...
So I decided to find something I enjoyed but also gave me a good workout - I’ve always loved to dance so I quickly fell in love with Zumba.
A couple of months later I started the Healthy Strong programme - a new business that my lovely friend Kara Smith has just launched. She believes that we are made of body, soul and spirit and so addresses all these areas when treating people.
Part of this process involved looking at my diet, with Sarah from We Thrive. I had struggled with IBS for a few years, particularly when I went through a very stressful and painful time in my life. Sarah had experienced some of the same symptoms I described to her and was able to explain to me what was likely happening in my body. She suggested quite a big change to my diet which involved reducing the amount of gluten and dairy I consumed. There were also some simple breathing exercises she suggested before eating; and going for a short walk after a meal along with a couple of other things.
For so long, I had been experiencing discomfort, bloating and pain and not knowing how or why this would come on. But I just soaked in all the information in and went for it. I can genuinely say it has changed my life. I am now equipped to know what will not do my body any good and have alternative foods to turn to. I am now empowered to know what food suits my body and have loads of new recipes and foods to try - which is so fun!
But surprisingly, the combination of changing my diet and exercising also affected my mindset about being fit and healthy.
I can look at models and fitness instructors on Instagram and Facebook and just constantly pick out the flaws in my body,
'Stomach's not flat. I don’t have visible abs. There's cellulite on my thighs and bum. There's slightly too much fat on the hips.'
I’m sure you can pick out what you don’t like about your body in seconds too. This can almost put you off exercising and being healthy because you feel like there’s a standard that’s portrayed that you’ll never reach.
I definitely felt like that and sometimes still find myself thinking that.
Something God has said to me though is this:
'Your body is your body and no one else's.'
You can look at some else’s body, sometimes a person that is a similar body type to yours and therefore think that there is a legitimate cause to compare your body to theirs. But their body is still not yours - it will not function in the same way as yours. If you believe you are unique your body cannot logically be the same as anyone else’s!
So I am trying to focus on my body and not on anyone else’s.
I’m still on this journey to embrace myself. I've noticed that the bits that I don’t like so much are the parts of my body that so often we're told we shouldn't like, by society and mass-media. But guess what? I am still beautiful and of worth with cellulite, a stomach that isn’t flat, no abs and all hip fat!
Having the ‘perfect’ body (whatever I think that is) will not fix the way I look at myself. I’ll just find something else to dislike. Not to mention I’ll be constantly striving to keep my body in the shape of someone else!
I want to love me because God does. He created no one else like me - and part of appreciating that, includes taking care of myself using diet and exercise.
This doesn’t mean I don’t ever have chocolate or get take out (I definitely still do have chocolate) but it means that I now recognise the importance of eating healthily and exercising. Because if I don’t take care of myself, it’s not just my body that suffers but my soul and spirit too.
I think it’s also good to point out that if you have goals for your body, whether you want to build up muscle or lose weight - that isn’t a bad or shallow thing to want.
This gets tricky when your identity is pinned on it - when you aren’t enough or desirable without the muscle or toning in the places you want it.
If you’re secure in your identity and have good self-worth but want to work on your body that is awesome - go for it! I have just started to go along to classes like body conditioning more often which involve weights and ab crunches - because I genuinely want to be healthy and strong! I’m not going to spend all my energy getting a 'flat stomach' because I know that will not fulfill me. It won't bring me happiness but taking care of my body and building its strength will give me life and joy.
I hope in sharing a bit of my journey with food and fitness that it encourages you wherever you’re at. I feel like this is a life-long journey and I’m still learning. I have good and bad days, like everyone does. But I encourage you that if you have no idea where to start - ask someone for help!
Having friends that support you and encourage you in your value and identity, also makes a massive difference. Shout out to Lydia and Sharon, who have done this for me. Good health is not something that is out of reach for you - so keep going and love you because there’s no one else like you!