I’ve recently started getting back into some kind of consistent routine in terms of working out and eating well. Like most people at some point in their life, I fell off the fitness wagon. For the past few months I have just been dipping my toes in the water but not really getting into any kind of routine or consistency with either my training or my food choices. It’s become way to easy for me to order a takeaway rather than cook dinner or to sack off the gym, just because it’s raining outside.
As a result, everything had gone out the window…..my fitness levels, my mood, my confidence, my will power and even my motivation to do anything about it. That was, until a month ago when I decided enough was enough, I felt like shit and I needed to do something about it.
Fast forward four weeks and here I am, a month into a “healthier lifestyle” and today I was checking in with myself and doing a progress report, like I would do with clients. As you all know, I’m 100% anti scales and so at no point have I bothered weighing myself, because quite frankly I couldn’t give a shit what my body weighs in relation to gravity. I care more about being healthy and seeing what my body can do but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t care to some extent what it looks like, because I do.
In terms of monitoring progress, there are quite a few different things that we look for with our clients (depending on goals of course) and so for me I went with stress, mood levels, sleep and took a set of starting photos as I was really conscious that my posture had slipped a lot recently and I wanted to work on improving this through exercise.
When I looked at my starting photos side by side with the photographs I took this morning – I was amazed at what I had achieved in just four short weeks….. I wish I had the balls to show you (but I’m not quite there yet with the whole body confidence thing, although I am working on it) not to show off, but to show just how much posture can affect the way our body looks.
I’m not saying that in 4 weeks I have suddenly developed this “fitness model” physique, because it couldn’t be further from the truth (or from my goals). However, what I have achieved is a significant reduction in body fat (through exercise and healthier food choices), reduced bloating (monitoring trigger foods and reducing them) and improved posture (exercises) – which as a result makes my tummy look flatter, my limbs leaner and my body looks stronger. I was pretty pleased with myself as you can imagine. However, as I started completing the rest of the review paperwork I began to realise that as great as these results were, they were insignificant compared to the other results I had achieved once I began comparing the other results for stress, mood and sleep, which were all pretty dire 4 weeks ago.
The thing about sleep is, it affects pretty much everything in your life. When you get enough sleep (eg 8 hours) your body produces enough HGH (Human Growth Hormone) which helps regulate metabolism, it helps reduce cortisol levels (stress hormone) which also effects metabolism, insulin levels, appetite etc. It helps with your mental focus, your mood, patience levels and generally helps you function on a daily basis.
So……when you’re not getting your 8 hours and are sleep deprived your metabolism is totally out of balance. When I started out 4 weeks ago, I was probably averaging around 5 hours a night – and proudly boasting that I don’t need sleep and that I can manage on little or none most days. Who am I kidding? – Yes, I was only getting 5 hours sleep a night, but I certainly wasn’t managing. Looking back at my self-review questionnaire, I wasn’t functioning well at all. I was always starving and craving sugary foods (and eating them), feeling like no matter what little exercise I did, it wasn’t making me feel any better like it used to, I was grumpy and snapping at little things that usually wouldn’t bother me. It was clearly affecting me more than I realised at the time.
The second major change I discovered was stress and how it was affecting me not just mentally, but also physically. Like most of my friends, I am a busy person – not just with work and family, but I also have quite a busy social life, all the challenges I enter myself for, but I’m also guilty of over committing myself on a regular basis.
I wouldn’t necessarily class myself as “stressed out” because mentally, I don’t feel “stressed”, just busy. However, what has been apparent this past month, is the physical reactions that occur because of too much of the stress hormone in my body.
When your body is pouring out cortisol in response to “stress”, basically, you produce higher insulin levels, your blood sugar drops and you crave sugary, fatty foods (yep that was me).
Your body thinks you’ve used calories to deal with your stressful event, even though you haven’t, and as a result, it thinks you need to replenish those calories, even though you don’t (yep, me again snacking after meals). Then to make matters even worse, the sugary food you’ve just eaten triggers a boost of cortisol that can last up to five hours……(you know how it goes – too stressed to sleep….)
BUT to make matters worse, it’s not just stress that causes our cortisol levels to increase. There are other factors too such as being dehydrated – again, I was guilty 4 weeks ago of surviving on just coffee and the odd bottle of water when I worked out. Coffee is my biggest stress inducer but the hardest thing for me to give up. Its crazy because I KNOW all of this stuff, I teach students about it, I train clients and explain it to them yet when it comes to my own life – I do the opposite!
Fortunately, over the past 4 weeks, I’ve not been doing the opposite, I’ve actually been following my own advice for once. I’ve not gone on a crazy fad diet, I’ve just made better food choices and been much more organised with planning my meals.
I’ve worked out regularly, doing a mixture of strength, cardio and relaxation exercises either at the gym or at home when the kids are in bed. Again, I’ve not embarked on some crazy, hardcore training plan as this would only add to the level of stress my body is under.
Here I am 4 weeks on and yes, physically I have made really good progress when comparing the before/after pics. However, this pales into insignificance when you look at the progress made in other parts of my life.
I would forgo all of the physical changes I have made to feel happier, less tired, less stressed, have more patience with my children, wake up feeling energised, going to bed feeling relaxed, feel comfortable in my clothes, to enjoy eating good food and not feel bloated and uncomfortable after – these are the things that a lot of people fail to notice when they are solely focused on weight loss and how they look when training. BUT these are the things that are probably going to have the biggest impact on your life. These are the things that make all of the difference and actually they will indirectly impact on the way you look.
Sometimes, it’s the things you don’t see that make the biggest difference.