How I transformed my body out of love, not hate
Somewhere around July this year I decided something had to change. Despite eating a healthy, relatively clean diet and practicing yoga every day, I wasn't in a loving relationship with my body. Whilst I am much more than my body and my physical appearance, I was unhappy with it. Somewhere along the line, between moving out of home, giving up my sporting practice, the stress of school and the restrictions of living at a boarding house and an increasingly (involuntarily) sedentary lifestyle, I had gained about 15 kilograms, lost a lot of my muscle tone and definition, lost fitness and lost confidence. My clothes no longer fit and if they did they were uncomfortably tight. Over time I had developed an unfortunate habit of eating far too much food, even to the point of binge eating. Whilst the majority of this food was healthy, I still ate far too much and consumed more energy than I needed. And it was showing. Not only was I not looking my best, but I didn't feel all that well. Particularly after a binge or a 'bad' day of over-eating, I would feel sluggish, unhappy and extremely bloated. For some time I tried to imagine that one day I would magically wake up and stop over eating or suddenly become a gym junkie (I have now accepted that is never going to happen!), but this magical day never came. Finally, I realised that there was only one way to achieve the change I wanted - make a change (or three).
Before embarking on this I had a body analysis style test, which revealed what I had known: I had excess fat, I was under-muscled and was generally a little heavier than would be ideal for my body. I certainly didn't look overweight, that was never the case, but I wasn't the best version of myself. The body test, however, did reveal some good news with regard to my cellular health: I had low inflammation levels, good hydration and reasonable muscle quality. I attribute this to my diet and the elimination of gluten, sugar and as much processed food as possible.
After discovering Kayla Itsines on Instagram I made the decision to purchase her 12-week Bikini Body Guide, as I had seen numerous 'transformation' photos and I was impressed with the results. However, I found I had a certain level of guilt and shame about this purchase. I thought people would think I was trying to undertake some rapid, weight-loss fad workout thing and I felt ashamed that I had gotten to the point where I needed such a program anyway. I also had moments of fear that such workouts would not benefit my body, or worse, that by following this program it would be some kind of hate exercise against my body. These feelings remained for about a week, this guilt and shame, before I realised something critical: I didn't hate my body. I was doing this because I loved my body and I wanted to make it healthier, fitter and stronger.
I found that this quote pretty much sums up what I am trying to get at:
And so, out of love for my body and a desire to make it the best possible version of itself, I started Kayla's program. The first legs session resulted in so much soreness that I hobbled for four days following it! When I was younger I was a competitive diver and I trained 3-4 days a week for 1.5-2 hours at a time, which kept me very fit and strong for many years. Over the last three years the amount of vigorous physical activity I do has dramatically decreased since I moved to boarding school and thus I had lost a lot of my fitness and strength. Even one push up was a challenge! However, within a week of starting the guide I was enjoying it, and after two weeks I could already see and feel small changes in my body. I could now do 5 pushups instead of 1, 10 burpees without a break in the middle, I could do 20 V-snaps (a classic diving exercise) in a row. I could feel my fitness and strength returning, and although it was incredibly physically challenging I did enjoy every workout.
What's more, I could see small physical changes without any change in my diet (due to being at boarding school). Kayla's guide suggests taking weekly progress photos to monitor physical change. Although standing in front of the mirror and taking a full body shot every Monday morning was a bit daunting, I liked that I could see changes, albeit small. I loved my body because it was getting stronger and fitter and more toned. My confidence increased after workouts and I was proud for finishing each and every one. These benefits were perhaps even more important than the physical changes, because I felt so much better. I started to love exercising again, especially the HIIT (high intensity interval training).
In between all of this I continued my yoga practice. The exercise soreness meant I lost some flexibility, but the stretching definitely helped to relieve this pain. I also found that the increased strength meant that I could achieve some poses that were previously too difficult, such as arm balances and inversions. Instead of exercise being the anti-yoga, my practice and my workouts complemented each other wonderfully. What's more, throughout it all I rediscovered the joy of regular, intense exercise and being fit.
Somewhat to my own surprise I completed the 12 week program, and felt much, much better for it! That was just over two weeks ago now and whilst I have not kept up all of the workouts, I have done a few HIIT sessions, been walking and done one training circuit (abs, which are by far my favourite to work out)! After completing it though I know that I will be able to maintain regular exercise in my life, something that I am hoping will see me make continual positive changes.
The final 'transformation' photo, whilst modest, did show me that my efforts paid off. I have regained muscle tone, lost some excess fat around my stomach (which is bad for your health) and generally improved my fitness.
Whilst it takes a lot of courage to post the photo above, I realise that it doesn't really matter what anyone else thinks of me, or my body. I am proud of the results I have achieved, and continue to achieve. This is not the end, but merely another step in my journey to becoming the healthiest, happiest version of myself.
More importantly than any physical change though, over the 12 weeks I worked hard to change my thinking patterns and think positively about myself and my body. I have been a believer in positive thinking for more than 3 years now, but I am only human and I was in a bit of a ditch with my negative self talk. I made sure throughout this that whenever a negative thought popped into my head, I was quick to dismiss is as fiction and replace it with a positive affirmation.
Some of my favourite affirmations include:
- I am beautiful, inside and out.
- I radiate with health and beauty.
- I accept myself deeply and unconditionally right now.
- I am fit, strong and healthy.
- I choose to exercise because it makes me feel good.
- I love the body I am in.
These are just a few basic affirmations, but you can modify them according to whatever negative thought keeps you tied down or makes you unhappy. Remember, your thoughts are not the set in stone, you have the power to choose what you think. Choose wisely and choose positively.
Along with the affirmations, I continued to work on my eating habits, in particular boredom/mindless eating and overeating. A few weeks into the 12 week program I watched an incredible documentary called The Tapping Solution. If you have not heard of tapping I highly recommend you have a look at the link and give it a go. I am still very new to the practice of tapping, but after watching the documentary I began tapping for my bad eating habits, accepting them and then releasing the negative emotions I had surrounding them. One particular time, after a large binge, I tapped before bed and then woke up the next morning to find my appetite had suddenly decreased and where I would normally have an internal battle to stop myself eating too much food, I could simply get up and leave the table when I was satisfied. It was an incredible and enlightening experience, and as I become more accustomed to tapping I will dedicate future posts to it.
I must reiterate a final point: I did this out of nothing but love for my body. I chose love. This was about me and no one else. There is nothing that makes me sadder or more distressed than people feeling pressured to look a certain way or be a certain size and punishing themselves with diets and excessive exercise as a result. Society sets standards, but you don't have to follow them. Realise that you are unique, beautiful and special. Let your light shine. Do what is right for you. Be the best version of you. And for the last time (in this post, at least), love your body.
Important note: I have done my best to write honestly and openly about my experiences and given the personal nature of this post. Please respect my choices to share this with you.
With love and gratitude,