Week 2 of my 12 week healthy bikini body challenge has seen some tough days, and some bad choices. Find out how I have overcome these, and why this week has helped me realise I don’t want to be perfect.
As someone working in health and fitness you often feel pressured to be ‘healthy personified’. You feel you should always portray ‘the ideal’; have an immaculate clean diet, to revel in elated joy of exercise, and to love your perfect body. Come to think of it, I believe many women (and men), pressure themselves to feel they should be like this. Thanks to the wonders of social media we can put on show the best of our lives and share only what we choose to. We attempt to give the impression of a fabulous, faultless life. And we buy in to each-others illusions, comparing our faults and weaknesses against the glamourous, healthy choices of those around us. I am not casting judgement here, I am as guilt of this as anyone else.
So let me be the first to stand up and confess: my diet is not immaculate, I don’t always like exercising, and my body is far from perfect. And what’s more I am no longer going to strive myself for perfection. I feel better already.
I do not eat an immaculate clean diet. I like to think I eat a healthy diet, it is pretty well-balanced, but by no means entirely ‘clean’. At least not by the apparent standards of many self-proclaimed fitness coaches on social media. This term ‘clean eating’, has been thrown around a lot in recent years, and I think it’s lost all sense of meaning. To me, clean eating is not about consuming more or less of anything, but being mindful of food choices and eating whole foods in their most natural state, i.e. as little ‘processing’ as possible. Which as a general rule, I do. I will try opt for less processed foods when possible, but by no means or standards do I banish all non-clean foods. Good God no!
Since starting my 12 week bikini body challenge I have been posting pics of my meals and snacks on Instagram. I get a lot of meal ideas and inspiration from Instagram, so I hope sharing some back helps inspires others. Plus I find it keeps me accountable and motivated. This process of sharing all my food choices was easy in week 1 of my 12 week challenge when I was buzzing with new-start enthusiasm, but this week I have hit some lows. I had some pretty rubbish days. I was tired, stressed and making some less healthy choices. I was reluctant to post pictures of my less healthy meals and snacks, because I was ashamed at myself for starting to ‘fail’ so quickly.
Then I realised, what am I being ashamed of? I am a normal person, being tired and stressed is normal, making mistakes is normal, making some rubbish choices sometimes is normal. As anyone who knows me, or who has read my last few blog posts will know; I enjoy cake, and wine, and gin, and ice-cream and pizza, and I have promised to no longer feel guilty about enjoying these things. I really do believe that life is too short to not enjoy the things we love. It is just about learning to enjoy these things in moderation and balance. However this week I didn’t always feel in control of some of my food choices. I was mindlessly grabbing at things, and eating things when I knew I wasn’t hungry- just tired, or stressed or bored. So what if you make some bad choices, life is too short to revel in negativity, and it is certainly too short to not enjoy some chocolate cake. I always love that little analogy of: if you dropped your phone on the floor you wouldn’t keep smashing it until it was ruined. You pick it up, maybe curse yourself a little, but then you wipe it off, put it in your pocket and get on with your day. The same is true of eating healthy. I am slowly learning now to not keep punishing myself if I do have an unplanned treat, or feel like I lost control- get back on track, wipe it off, and get on with my day.
The aim of eating healthy or following a healthy eating programme isn’t to follow it 100% to the plan, bang on perfect all the time. It’s about finding a way to make it work for you. So if you slip up, that is OK. Don’t aim for perfection, aim for pretty damn good, and when you do mess up slightly you are much less likely to feel like you failed and jack it in all together.
A Real Role Model
In reality I don’t want anyone to think I am perfect, I don’t want anyone to look at the selected highlights of my diet and think, gosh I wish I was disciplined and motivated as that. I want people to look at me and think: hey if despite a love of cake and gin, Jennie can stay in not bad shape- then I can too.
I run two Weight Watchers meetings, and my members know all too well that I am not perfect. About 6 months ago I reached my
highest weight since getting to goal in 2009. I had avoided the scales, mirrors and the fact that my jeans were all tight, but with my 30th birthday looming I wanted to get back in control. I stepped on the scale to find myself 17lbs over my ideal weight. I was mortified, but determined. I told my members my situation and my plan to get back to goal. I also filled in myself a member card and asked one of my clerks to weigh me each week so there was no hiding from it or lying to myself. The following week I was surprised by how many members asked me how I had done – and every week after that. I was honest with them when I gained weight, and if I would share my challenges and difficulties of the week. What was so amazing and inspiring is that once I started opening up to my group, they opened up back. A few members went out their way to contact me and say they really appreciated my honesty, and they respected me more as a leader because they knew I had the same difficulties and could understand and relate to their problems. Which I do, I really do. I love that many of my members feel they can be honest with me and share their problems. I can help them much better that way.
Some days I really don’t want to go to the gym. Some days I make myself go and hate it- yep every second of it, so I just pack it in and go home. I am not going to waste an hour of my day half-heartedly prating about on some machines. So either give it my all or go home. In fact just this morning, I ‘skived’ they gym *shock horror*. My alarm went off at 6am and I woke up,I got out of bed, I brushed my teeth, I even put on my undies and one sock. Then I realised how tired I was, my knees were aching and really I wanted another hour in bed. So back to bed I went (still with one sock on). You have to listen to your body sometimes. And in all honesty I don’t feel one bit guilty about not hitting this gym this morning, because I do feel much better for that extra hour in bed, and I know not being tired will help me make better food choices. Note- to all my set U free clients, I don’t condone cancelling sessions, it’s my job to make sure you get the most from every workout and motivate you when you’re not in the mood 😉
No More Body Shame
So, the hardest part of letting go of perfection… accepting my body probably isn’t ever going to look like one of the girls on the cover of a fitness magazine. (Though I will soon be in Women’s Health magazine- but that is a different story). No matter how hard I try, no matter how clean my diet, how hard I train, I will probably never like every part of my body. And do you know what- I reckon those women in fitness mags have the same body hang-ups as the rest of us.
My body is far from perfect, but that is OK. It works, and all things considered it works pretty well. I can see, hear, smell, touch, feel, walk, run, swim and dance. Already I see that I am more fortunate than many, and realising how grateful I should be for the body I have.
OK, I don’t want to get all hippie here, so let’s be brutally honest. No matter how much I try and focus on these wonderful qualities of my healthy body, I will still want it to look better in a bikini! There are parts of my body I hate, that I have tortured myself anguishing over. In my teens and early 20s I hated my freckles. People told me they were cute, which is exactly what I didn’t want- I wanted to be sexy and cool, not cute. I hated my gingery blonde hair and dyed it every colour under the sun to hide it. Yet as I have grown older and wiser I have grown to not only accept but embrace these features of my body.
I still don’t particularly like my wide feet, my stumpy hands, my slightly crooked nose, my goofy smile, my broad shoulders, or my chunky legs, but I have come to realise there is not much I can do to change them, so why torture myself hating them. It is wasted energy worrying about something I cannot change. But more than all these things, there is the thing I hate the most about my body, and I have ashamedly hidden it away. My saggy, excess skin and stretch marks. It is an unfortunate aftermath of such a large weight loss.
After losing 7 stone I was left with excess skin around my arms, breasts, tummy and bottom. At the time of my own weight loss transformation I was the only person I personally knew who had undergone such a journey, and the sight of my saggy body horrified me. It felt a cruel punishment after such hard work. Working now as a Weight Watchers leader and personal trainer, I have met many people who have undergone similar substantial weight losses, and I realise that I was very lucky with the amount, and appearance of my excess skin, but knowing that doesn’t cushion the blow.
I was fortunate this year to be financially supported in undergoing a breast augmentation, helping to correct the excess skin in my breasts. I went from a 40DD before losing weight, to a 32A-B after. The site of my breasts after losing weight upset me. I never felt feminine, I didn’t feel sexy, and I lacked confidence. After working so hard to not only lose weight, but to stay in good shape, it was heart-breaking to have this one part of me that I couldn’t do anything about. The surgery was a big decision, and not one I made lightly. It has helped my self-confidence hugely, but I will not be having further surgery.
Instead I am going to try love and celebrate my body, excess skin and all. So here it is bold and proud… my saggy excess skin, stretch marks and all. As you can see, when I stand up straight the excess skin is not too bad. However the moment I bed over, even the slightest bit… boom! There’s no cheating gravity!
I wanted to share these images as a comfort to all the women out there who are hiding their own body shame. You are not alone, far from it. It is OK to have some saggy bits, wobbly parts, stretch marks, cellulite, lumpy bumps and things you just don’t like. Stop striving for perfection and focus on being a better, healthier, happier version of you. Accept your body hang-ups and embrace them.
For me the saggy skin around my stomach is a reminder of how far I have come. My stretch marks are my battle scars. Sure I would love it to be a six-pack, that would be a much nicer demonstration of my hard work, but it aint, and that’s OK, that is normal, it is perfectly normal.
I am Jennie, founder of set U free fitness and a Weight Watchers leader in Leeds. In 2009 I got to goal weight after loosing 7 stone. I believed that once I shifted the excess weight my life would be perfect, and I would live happily ever after. The truth is, it’s still tough. Life After Goal is my ongoing journey to stay healthy and happy. It is a collection of my thoughts, the lessons I have learnt, and the mistakes I have (and still do) make in battling my relationship with food and keeping up an active life.
First results of my 12 week healthy bikini body challenge.
Though I started my challenge on a Monday (classic) I actually weigh and measure on a Tuesday night with my Weight Watchers meeting. I was pretty impressed that in week 2 (so 10 days in to the plan) I had lost 1.5lbs and a massive 4cms off my waist! I am more than happy with that. Feeling more confident.In week 3 I am focusing on getting back to eating more whole foods and good fats. As I started to loose control in week 2 I started doing the classic diet mishaps of avoiding carbs and good fats and grazing mindlessly on fruit. Big mistake. I have already planned and organised my meals and snacks for the next few days and feel better for that.