I love that line from the movie How to lose a guy in 10 days “you want to lose weight, stop eating fatty!”. Tony Robins continually says in his podcasts “if you haven’t lost the weight and you say you’ve tried everything you haven’t. That’s a story you’re telling yourself. When you have lost the weight, you have tried everything because it worked”.
I hadn’t tried everything and it really was as simple as wanting a healthier body by thinking about what was going in how I was moving it. Plain and simple.
I’ve been a long distance runner for a number of years, I love big walks on the weekend and go to the gym five mornings a week. I was pretty fit but there were a few stubborn kilos that lurked around my belly and I was determined to shed them and gain some much needed confidence lost from my Heathrow injection back in 2005. Looking back at journals since then my body was a constant theme and source of personal judgment and unhappiness. When I thought about that, I’ve basically been unhappy with my body for over a decade. How ridiculous!
Across about eight weeks, this was my journey:
Research and awareness
I didn’t want to go for a diet or a fad that promised quick results, I wanted to change my relationship with food and truly understand how to nourish my body.
Being free and open to new information, I started speaking to a few Vegan friends. It wasn’t intentional, it just happened that I hung out with a few over a short space of time. I was asking them about their reasons for being Vegan, how they felt, if they felt they were missing out on anything, how their energy levels were doing etc. They came from the perspective of a love of animals, the health benefits of not having animal products in their bodies and the impact of animal agriculture on the environment.
The following few days, I was deep in documentary land learning about animal agriculture, studies on populations eating plant-based diets and studies of diseases being positively impacted by a change in diet away from animal products. It was intense. To be honest some of them felt like heavy propaganda and I admit to being swept up in their emotional messages. Fork over Knives, Food Matters and Cowspiracy are good ones to start your own documentary spiral.
I spoke to a dietician friend of mine knowing I needed to get to the other side of the nutritional debate. All my research was coming up empty as to why you shouldn’t follow a plant-based diet. Speaking with her she agreed there wasn’t a lot of sexy research out there to disprove the vegan diet and we discussed the arguments in some of the documentaries and what research they were basing them on. There was a lot to be said for how people chose facts and figures for their causes. She gave great advice about checking information sources and ‘experts’ when validating research and advice. While I wanted to remain evidence-based I was curiously pulled toward the plant-based diet.
My motivation for this switch in lifestyle was for health reasons and environment reasons. Health meaning reducing my risk of cancer and other life threatening diseases like heart attacks etc. Environmental reasons means refers to overconsumption and animal agriculture.
Overconsumption to me means mindless consumption, wasteful creation, useless single use products and the disastrous impact of plastic. Some changes I made were coffee – I got a keep cup and used that rather than being a part of the horrible statistic of 1 billion cups being throw away each day in Australia. Not only was reducing my cows milk consumption doing wonders for my body but I felt better knowing my Keep cup choice was doing wonders for the planet. I started to freeze bananas for smoothies in tupperware containers rather than use glad wrap, just put fruit in the crisper rather than in bags or glad wrap, started taking green bags to do my groceries and stopped using straws and went to restaurants that used paper forks and containers if I was getting takeaway. Or just not get takeaway and enjoy being in an establishment catering to you. All these small changes were not only making me feel like a better human by being more conscious about my choices but they were helping me think about my food choices, be more prepared with my meals or changed where I ate when socialising based on their ethical and eco practices.
Because I love being outside, I love exploring my home country and others when abroad through running, walking and hiking, I was saddened by all the destructive things we as humans have done to the world. Because of overpopulation and the explosion and exploitation of the meat and dairy industries, I no longer wanted to be a part of fuelling those industries as much as I was.
Since my interest in a plant-based diet was to see how it would feel to benefit my health and reduce my personal impact of animal agriculture on the planet, I decided to give it a go. I did it on the condition (from my friends warning also) that I was going to ensure each day I got the requirements I needed and I stayed doing it for the right reasons – not to promote some unreasonable and unsustainable lifestyle.
Trial and error
The first say, three weeks on a plant-based diet were the hardest. I was constantly hungry. Constantly unsatisfied in the way that the food was delicious but my stomach felt like a cavernous hole that could not be filled. I was finding cooking a fun novelty looking up new recipes and balancing the nutrients required in my body each day, I felt like a scientist! Past that three week hurdle I started to become satiated and felt I had more than enough energy to keep me going through the day.
I’m eating lots of fruits and vegetables, legumes, grains, beans, all the good stuff. Breakfast is a green juice or a protein rich smoothie. Lunch is a salad or wrap and dinner is a stir fry, curry, stew, soup or vegetable based salad. I prepare what I’m going to eat for the week to balance out the dietary requirements and not be wasteful with ingredients.
So am I Vegan? I wouldn’t say so no. Predominantly my everyday diet is plant-based but I’m not restricting my lifestyle by being completely strict. For example, my flatmate and I cook each other dinner once a week. I cook her a Vegan meal and she cooks a meal of her choosing. The first time she cooked a delicious Chinese beef and broccoli dish I ate the meat and it was yummy. Another time she made a prawn and seafood dish and both times I didn’t feel like I had been missing out on anything. Interestingly my body was the one to react because it started to let me know when it didn’t agree with foods, fatty foods or seafoods especially because the food I was eating was so wholesome. On another occasion out with friends for cocktails, the only option for a share plate was a cheese and meat board. I’ve always loved cheese so I got involved and it was delicious. Because my reasons to reduce animal products are for health benefits and the impact on the environment and not cruelty to animals, on occasion I feel ok to say yes to this WITHOUT guilt and actually, with pleasure.
Reading this you could say “once you start to allow animal products back into your diet it’s hard to keep saying no”. Not for me. Because I was feeling great inside and out I had no guilt in instances like the above. My relationship with food and my body was evolving and I am so much more aware of what it needs, when and how much is too much.
Moving because it feels good and and as part of a routine
Granted, I had the extra time to work out but it also changed the way I looked at getting around and opportunities to not be lazy.
My routine included continuing to hit the gym with my gym buddy at 6am, five days a week. We combine cardio with strength and weight sessions. We love F45 so when not doing that we took over our local Anytime gym and made up our own sessions using an interval timer. Training with a partner is SO motivating for me, while it’s definitely a chance to catch up we have trained for so long together we know each other’s abilities and continue to test each other and encourage each other to push past boundaries.
On those weekdays I was walking at least 7km also, walking home after the gym. I actually loved this time because not only was it my time to listen to podcasts and learn new things, I was walking new paths that I have never explored before. Ten years living in Sydney and I’m only now starting to know every street like the back of my hand. It’s made me really start to love my hometown.
I’d often walk a few other kms per day, around the beaches of Bondi, into the city, to a cafe or even to meet friends, I’d take a change of clothes for the opportunity to walk. Interestingly I had dropped a weight on my foot (20kg fucking yes ouch!) which meant running past about 5km was hard, so walking was a huge part of my cardio.
The weekends were a little bit more relaxed, at least one walk, and a run when my foot was back in action.
To be honest my exercise routine hadn’t changed drastically. The extra kilometres, I feel were what was making a difference. People kept asking me “aren’t you bored just wondering around?!?!?” I didn’t see it like that at all. Listening to podcasts or reading a book while on the treadmill was stimulating my mind as much as my heart rate. It was also fuelling my creativity. I would have to stop frequently to write something down or rush through the door and start typing on my laptop as sweat blinded me from my forehead to get an idea or a story down into words. Working on my body was bringing energy to dormant functions I had abandoned for years.
Habit forming behaviour
Working on my health and fitness has been an exact Slight Edge transformation. New daily habits have compounded over time to achieve desired results. To be clear my goals weren’t strictly to lose weight. I wanted to be strong, healthy and fit. The weight was a by product of what I was eating and my exercising.
Results keep you on track
In two months, I had shed around six kilos. That’s huge for me. I was feeling it in my clothes for sure, shorts were falling off me and tops were getting baggy. Getting ready to go away I bought a bunch of new clothes at sizes 8 and 10 where I am usually a 12 or 14. The feeling was, and is euphoric being able to wear clothes like they were intended and feel confident and dare I say sexy! I feel like I have plateaued, this seems to be my new weight. Hovering just under 62kg. I love it. Like a snake shedding a skin I feel a wave of freedom, happiness and confidence in this body reborn.
Friends and family keep asking me how my “new diet is going”. They ask me if my “diet” or all the exercising is attributed to my changed body. I think it’s a combination of both. I use inverted commas because I think they see it as a phase where as I see this as my lifestyle. People challenge me with “when you return to work you’ll get back to old habits” or “because you aren’t working you have more time to work out”. Some of that could be valid but FUCK! What a way to support someone who is trying to improve their health and happiness! I challenge back though that I know what good and happy feels like so I won’t want my body to go back to the way it was. Because I am not feeling restricted with what I am eating I don’t feel like weight will come back on because I have changed my food and lifestyle choices to support a body and fitness right for me.
Once your lifestyle promotes your health and a body you love, you HAVE done everything you can to get the results you want.
Have you been, or are you on a journey to improve your health? What have you done to change your relationship with food and exercise?