Proud of my muscles

When I look at photos of me from just a few years ago, when I was first getting into running and racing, I can’t believe how much I’ve changed.

Mentally I’ve changed in a big way. I view running and exercise completely differently. I no longer just run. Several injuries have taught me my body is not the hardy type and I need to work on my weaknesses regularly to keep me running healthy and strong. But not just that, I found a great love of lifting weights. I no longer feel that running is my one and only (though if I had to choose, it would always be running. I am a runner first and foremost).img_6036For the past few weeks I’ve just been going to the gym and lifting and it’s been a great break from running. Though I’m itching to get back to it now, I haven’t been going out of my mind because “omg I haven’t been running”. I’m happy to take a break and refresh my system to get the mojo juices flowing again (nice). This is is different to the old me!

I thought I’d share this comparison pic I created because it kind of blew me away. The photo on the left is from around three years ago. I look like an entirely different person. I feel like an entirely different person.Transformation photoThe lack of self-confidence is obvious but also lack of muscle. This is why I love lifting. It’s given me a body I’m proud of. I’ve never hated my body or thought I looked bad, but seeing my body now in comparison to how it was has just validated my love for the gym. I feel better in myself and think I look better after gaining some muscle to my frame. And with that I’ve also gained confidence.Girls with muscleI stride into the gym knowing exactly what I’m going to do that morning. I feel confident going into the weights area, setting up the squat rack and doing my thing. And this has trickled into my life in general. At work I’m more confident, I stand taller, and with running I run stronger and feel like I can kick out that 7min/min at mile 26 of a marathon.img_6051There is also something so satisfying and fun about lifting weights. You can focus on so many different areas. Becoming a stronger runner with form drills and increasing my strength endurance, or focusing on aesthetic goals such as sculpting my shoulders and getting a perkier bum. Or just generally increasing my overall strength – can I smash my personal best when squatting or deadlifting? There’s so much you can do. I’m never bored at the gym.

I’m not saying everyone must lift, and everyone must have muscles. Absolutely not. What I think is important is finding that thing that you love and enjoy. Exercise shouldn’t always be a grind and it certainly shouldn’t be a punishment.

lucysewellIt has to be something that, first and foremost, is enjoyable. If it’s not you won’t stick to it.

It also has to make you feel GOOD. Both running and weight lifting make me feel fantastic. Realistically not every gym session or run is a “punch in the air” scenario, but overwhelming most of the time I enjoy it and look forward to doing it again. So choose something that makes you happy, whether it’s weight lifting, cross-fitting, running, swimming or walking, it’s all good stuff. And most importantly, don’t compare yourself to anyone else out there! No exercise is superior to another and everyone is in a chapter of their own story after all.

What is your favourite exercise?

Do you compare yourself to others?

How has exercise changed you?

Having a fat day

You wake up in the morning, you look in the mirror and you you just feel crap. We’ve all been there. Nine times out of ten, nothing has changed from the day before, but you just feel a bit fluffier, a bit softer and a bit, well, fat.

The most annoying cases are when you’ve eaten really healthily the day before, you had some successful workouts through the weeks, and yet you still feel like you’ve gained weight. Surely you don’t deserve this? You’ve been so good! The more understandable situation is when you’ve had a bit of a blowout the day before… you swear you can almost see that sticky toffee pudding protruding from your mid-line.

But it’s all in our heads. Yes maybe you ate a ridiculous amount of food the day before, but rest assure it’s not going to miraculously turn into fat within 24 hours. Usually what’s happened is that you’ve eaten a lot of carbs and salt and your body’s holding onto a bit of extra water so you are probably a bit puffier than the day before but it’s not going to last.

And in the case where you’ve been really ‘good’ with your food choices, you’re probably just a bit bloated. Whatever food you eat will affect how flat your stomach is regardless of whether it’s a pizza or broccoli. And vegetables and fruit are all fibre-tastic and can cause your body to bloat as it slowly breaks it all down. But temporarily again.

I’ve had my fair share of fat days. In the past I’ve stood in front of the mirror and picked and prodded different parts of my body, allowing myself to get down about it and vowing to eat “clean” for the rest of the week. If you let it bother you, it can really put a dampener on your day and your confidence, but now I’ve just learnt to deal with these days in a more positive way.

In fact I hate the term “fat days”, despite using it throughout this post. The word “fat” is not a particularly great word.fat

And in reality, you’re not fat on fat days. You just feel like you’ve put on weight – whether that weight is actual fat or not is almost a moot point: you believe you’re appearance is worse than it was yesterday.

Here are some tips I find helps me get over those annoying fat days:

  • Move away from the mirror. Stop poking, prodding and staring. Accept that you’re not happy with how you look but stop dwelling on it.
  • Focus instead on what you are happy with that day. When I have a fat day I try and make sure I have a good hair day for example (I know this sounds like such a stupid thing but it works for me!)
  • Wear an outfit that makes you feel good. I have a pair of jeans I don’t go anywhere near when I’m feeling heavier. Instead I’ll wear a pretty dress or something that isn’t close-fitting. It’s got to be comfortable and make me feel good.
  • Eat normally. Don’t vow to never eat a cupcake again. Don’t miss out on breakfast. Just eat what you normally would. Enjoy good nutritious food and lots of water. If you are holding onto extra water because you had a big salty meal the day before then the extra hydration will help wash that out and help readjust your body to how it was before.
  • Don’t weigh yourself. Your body’s weight fluctuates every single day. My weight goes up one or two pounds and that’s just life. Hormones, food, exercise, hydration, stress… it all affects how much you’ll weigh in any given day. And if you think you’re heavier just ignore the scales because it could just put you in a worse mood about yourself – however realistic that weight is to normality.

The best piece of advice I always give myself is: look at yourself like your best friend, mum or partner looks at you. They don’t zoom into your thighs or supposed muffin top. They look at the whole of you and see only the good stuff – because really there is more good stuff than anything else. Only you know your flaws and only you focus on them. I guarantee if you mentioned your “fat day” to someone they’d have no idea. But regardless of whether other people notice or not, you still feel it and it can affect your confidence. Just don’t let it drag you down. It’s a transient thing. If you are trying to lose weight, just see it as a hurdle in the road. Use it to keep motivating you forward to make healthy decisions but again, don’t let it consume you or make you think you’ve failed. Progress is not a linear line after all.

Just a few of my thoughts today, when I’m having a fat day myself 😉

Have you ever had a “fat day”?

Are you confident about the way you look?

How do you boost your confidence?

Who I used to be (part 1)

I never intended to write this post. It’s horribly embarrassing and I cringe thinking about. I never talk about it and very few people who know me know about this (or if they do, the details), which is why I’m so reluctant. But there’s an important part 2 which in order to get to I need to talk about this first. Furthermore, in the interest of honesty and the integrity of my blog, I wanted to just ‘get it out there’.

I will quickly start off, however, by saying that the title is entirely accurate. I’m not the person I’m about to describe anymore and nor have I been for a a good long while. (I’m probably overdramatising this sorry, it’s just a really awkward thing for me to ‘discuss’).

In a nutshell this is going to be talking about my relationship with food. It’ll also talk about periods so if this isn’t your cup of tea I suggest you click the close button – I won’t be offended!

When I was at school I never had any issues with food or what I looked like. I played a lot of sport, walked to school and ate crap (ahh turkey twizzlers…). I was slim and healthy. When I went to college I took the bus, I stopped playing sport and still ate crap. I noticed that I had put on a bit of weight. My jeans felt a bit more snug. So I started cycling to college (about eight miles each way) and took a bit more care with what I was eating. I also began weighing myself.

Over a few weeks I noticed my weight was going down. It felt great! Suddenly my jeans fit again. But it quickly became a bit like a drug to see my weight dropping – it was so addictive. I stopped having the same meals as my parents and cooked my own ‘healthy’ meals. Snacks were no longer chocolate bars or crisps. I became more controlling over what I was eating and found myself getting worried if I lost that control. Going out for meals or going to friend’s houses became stressful as I couldn’t eat what I wanted to. I suddenly became fixated with what I was seeing on the scale and how my body was ‘streamlining’.

My period stopped. I panicked but told no one, but I went to the doctors. In my head it wasn’t because I’d lost weight – weight I didn’t need to lose – it was something else I was certain. I’ll never forget that doctor’s trip. She said “maybe you’re cycling a bit too much. Just eat a chocolate bar now and again.” And that was it. Looking back, I needed that doctor to say to me “You’re not healthy” and shake some sense into me. I needed her to say: your bone health is in danger, your future fertility is at risk, your body is in shock.

I was living in a sea of denial and the doctor’s lack of concern validated what I was doing. If she’s not worried, why should I be? Ultimately though it was no one’s fault or responsibility but my own. I remember seeing a friend that I hadn’t seen for a couple of years and she commented how much weight I’d lost. It wasn’t a compliment but I felt buoyed by it. Nothing anyone said, any concern they gave, helped. So perhaps any doctor advice wouldn’t have helped anyway.

Then something snapped. I stepped on the scales, looked at the number and thought “what the hell am I doing?”. I didn’t feel healthy, I didn’t look healthy. I was cold all the time, my skin and hair were lacklustre. I felt crap. Was I any happier at that weight than I had been the last time I got on the scales? No.What exactly was I trying to achieve?

I was never a dangerously low weight and I don’t believe I had an eating disorder, but I do believe I could have gotten myself into a really nasty position had I not woken up from whatever fantasy world I was living in. I was addicted to the weight-loss and thrived on the control I could have over something as simple as food.

I finally opened up to my parents. They were understandably relieved. I remember my sister saying to me that they were so worried about me going to university on my own and that no one seemed to be able to get through to me or talk to me about what was going on.

The summer before going to university my head was in the right place and I got back on track with being healthy and sensible again. I learnt how to cook with my dad so I would go to university with healthy, sustaining recipes. I started eating foods I had been avoiding.

Throughout the first few years of university gradually the weight went back on. I won’t lie, it was a tough process, especially during a time of such change and independence. The fear of suddenly putting weight on and feeling and looking fat was hard to overcome. But eventually the barriers came down, the control was lost and I started to love food rather than fear it. I realised that nothing bad would happen to me by losing that control. In fact, I started feeling miles better: I had more energy, my skin, hair, body all looked better. It did take time but my weight increased and my period started again. You can’t imagine how happy I was!

That was about ten years ago. I’m a vastly different person to that girl in the past. I adore food now. I look forward to every meal. I love trying new restaurants and eating with friends and family. I eat cake with abundance (as you well know). Food is not fuel to me, it is happiness and good times.

This is part 1, I have a part 2 to come to talk a bit more in detail of where I am today.

It was a growing process for me and only one that I could do on my own in my own head. If you’ve never been in that situation or similar then it’s tough to understand something seemingly pathetic and vain, but it does consume you and you do become blinkered. It becomes a mindset and you can’t seem to escape it. I’m obviously thankful I did.

I hope you don’t think I’ve been dishonest in my blog or that I’ve ‘covered’ things up. This is just not a particularly comfortable subject for me as I don’t feel like I have any affiliation with that girl who was so controlling with what she ate. I’m embarrassed how I let it spiral to the point it got to and it’s just not something I like to talk about. But it is important to talk about it and I’m not ashamed of how I’ve grown to be who I am today.

If you are going through something similar or worse and need some advice then email me (annatheappleblog@gmail.com), I’m happy to talk about it further there. Alternatively, Laura’s blog has so much fantastic information and support around this area. She’s brilliant.

If you’re comfortable to answer, have you ever had a difficult relationship with food?

Is food pleasure or fuel for you?

How has your eating habits changed from when you were younger?