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The Pursuit of Happiness

“Once we’ve achieved what we have always wanted, we suddenly discover a new need, a new sense of something lacking. And so we travail on, in search of this new accomplishment, this new change-of-life, in the hope that, this time, the sense of contentment will be permanent…But then, when you have reached this new plateau of achievement you find yourself wondering: can you sustain this all now? Might it slip away from you? Or -worse yet – might you tire of it all, and discover that what you had in the past was actually what you wanted all along?” Douglas Kennedy -Temptation 

I have not written for a long time for the main reason that lock down has really tested my limits, but, as well as and as a product of this, I have learnt some powerful lessons. 

When people first started talking about the possibility of lock down, I honestly could not fathom it, and then when it did hit,  full blown panic set it. I would go through these motions of, ‘what am I going to do?’ All the things in my life that I have built and created to keep me sane are being taken away from me. Seeing friends, the gym, my job to a certain degree, all of those interactions with people that I thrive on – gone, and my biggest fear: ‘how am I going to cope with my children?’  I would then get the guilt of ‘well, why can’t you cope just being at home with your kids? What’s wrong with me for feeling like this? I must be a bad person to panic about being at home with them that much?’ In those first few weeks I went into meltdown and was feeling jealous and angry at others – even very close friends who appeared to be enjoying aspects, scrolling through social media feeling bitter at people baking, and taking romantic walks and then again feeling self loathing at – ‘what was wrong with me? I should be OK, I love my family – why do I feel like this?’ It was from this though that I managed – through the patience of my friends and my beautiful children, to pull myself together. I have learnt so much and although it has been a painful journey I am starting to come out of the other side. 

The first route out was a brutally honest conversation I had with a friend, through this friend they taught me that just because some people are doing something that I can’t do, or is different to me, does not make it a negative about me and that everyone is struggling in their own way and are finding ways to make it through. I have taken this advice to heart as I have spent time realising that I had been using this coping mechanism with everything in my life. Someone bakes some bread – ‘well I can’t’ cook so I am shit’. I needed to take the lessons learned from exercise and fitness – how I used to feel about that and the people that did it, I needed to apply that to all areas of life. 

The other aspect that has helped was running. I had started running with a friend before and had enjoyed it but not really focused on it, it was more of an add on to the gym and a way to spend time with a friend. When lock down started – I truly thought that I could not run without this friend and that again sent me into a spiral of negativity. I then decided to try it, more as a way to take a break from the house, I also decided to run to music. Music is a very powerful motivator and I spent quite a substantial amount of time constructing a motivating playlist. I also got better running shoes (for those new to running and on a budget I highly recommend Adidas galaxy running trainer around £40), I then got a strap for my arm to track my distance – again this helps as I like to know how fast and have goals. I then started to go at 5pm and guess what? I loved it, and realised that I could go quite a lot faster with music. These small successes of beating my minute per mile, is what I needed to feel like I was achieving something, and the rush of getting faster and faster was a feeling that I have become a bit addicted to. I now run as often as I can – but have to be careful as novice runners like myself are prone to injuries especially if you try to push it too much. I recommend picking a good 5 k route and working on that until you are at a pace you are happy with then upping if from there. I also recommend the free adidas running app as it is so motivational and helps track progress effectively. 

I also panicked about not being able to go to the gym as again I thought there would be no way I could maintain what I had gained through the gym – that it was the gym space, the equipment, the whole aspect of being in a different environment that was at the core of my drive. As time has passed I have realised that it doesn’t have to be like that – the motivation comes from inside – the space/place should not be at the heart. I have understood the power of simple body weight exercises, carving out a little space in your home, using youtube, finding routines that work. Press ups, jump squats, pull ups, dips on a bench, skipping are all amazing ways to build fitness and require so  little. I knew that if I didn’t get some sort of routine with my fitness and adapt I really would be screwed, with the kids around it is harder, but I often get them to do Joe Wicks and I do it with them and then adapt, when Jon is home, I have made a space upstairs which i call my ‘home gym’, I have created my own routines and schedules and just up the reps or sets when you can’t up the weights. Heather Robertson is also an excellent trainer to follow on youtube – her work outs are simple and minimal talking. 

My final ‘lesson’ and perhaps the most important one. Reasling that just ‘being’ with my children without having millions of activities and plans was not something to fear. I think deep down maybe I have hid from being a mum in part and hid behind work because I was scared that I wouldn’t be very good at it, I don’t bake, I am messy and lax about rules. I was forced, under lock down to actually reconnect with that side of me and find my own way. Being honest, it has pushed my patience to its limits and I have missed adult company, but I have found that my three little bears are the biggest teachers of all. They just want me, they don’t care if I am not good at something, they just want my time and for the first time in forever I have been able to give it to them. I still can’t bake, but I have also learnt so much about them and how good fun they can be,I am also a very good goalkeeper and great at being a dinosaur and attempting dance routines (I still can’t dance). 

I believe that – for me and I know is true for society we are constantly searching for something, rushing around, trying to do better, have a goal, and aspects of that are great – but sometimes in all this searching you have missed your actual life, too busy going on to the next thing. Once I had got over, what felt like the microscope on my marriage and my parenting I have worked out that I am the only one who was judging, and that if I just take the pressure off I can get the joy out of the small things, and that I can just ‘be’ and enjoy my coffee, playing. I still have days where I am tearing my hair out and trying to juggle three little separate demands and trying to do my job has been very testing but I don’t need to be the top of the class, they don’t care – they think I am great and that is enough. 

Thanks for reading – please get in touch with your lock down struggles, I can also share my workouts and running playlists if anyone is interested 

Love always

Ruby

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The Brave and the Bold

Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment and blame.” Brene Brown

It has been awhile since I have written – this is partly due to a mini crisis of confidence – (why am I writing a blog? What’s the point? etc etc) but also due to the summer holidays. Summer holidays are great but they also present some challenges, such as keeping three small people entertained and from killing each other. So far we have managed to do that and I have also managed to be in keeping with taking up new challenges – again things that I would not have thought possible two years ago. 

Before I go in this I had said in my previous blog that I was going to write about going to gyms. I wanted to mention some of my experiences and then some tips that have helped me enjoy going rather than seeing them as palaces of doom. 

I had never really been to gyms, when I was at college and university everyone smoked and drank coffee and never went to gyms, gyms were for only the exceptionally sporty – an alien race for me growing up. Fast forward to 2019 and gyms are everywhere and are commonplace in our society, but for me they still held connotations of a world that was removed from me, attractive people being good at sport and everyone staring at everyone else. Don’t get me wrong some gyms are still like this and even recently I went to one and had a small panic attack and was glad to leave, but there are also many that are not like that or not like that at certain times. 

Anyway, below are some tips below which I feel have helped me: 

  1. Wear something you feel good in, I would go with all black – leggings and top (loose if you are anxious), decent trainers (TK maxx for all of the above). If you feel comfortable and OK and don’t have holes in the crotch this will help. When I first went to a gym, I didn’t have the right clothes – I had old maternity trousers with hole in the crotch and I was standing next to this woman who was like a goddess – and I wanted to cry and nearly ran out – but I had a very good friend with me (remember the power of the right people?) and it was OK, but dont wear clothes with holes in, or stand next to the goddess’s. 
  1. Do your research of gyms – this can unfortunately only be achieved by going – day passes are a good idea and many do open days/free trials. Different gyms suit different people AND also think about the times – go when you will actually be able to go – then you can see the type of crowd that go when you do. My gym is great when I go Saturday mornings – quiet, lots of older people, not too many maniacs but at certain times when I have changed my schedule – it’s been full of young people and very crowded 
  1. You don’t need a personal trainer if you have a good experienced friend to show you how to use the equipment. I have seen many personal trainers who basically aren’t very good and if you do use one – use your trial gym sessions to watch them with other clients or go on a recommendation
  1. If you feel super anxious when you first start going I would just head to a stationary bike or treadmill and go on there for about 15/20 minutes just to get your bearings and calm down and get adjusted to the new environment. 
  1. If you really really hate it and you have tried a few gyms several times then maybe gyms aren’t for you and thats OK to, there are lots of other things you can try (more on that in the future). 

I have actually been going to the gym less this holiday and this is not just due to a lack of opportunity. It has been down to me having the confidence and desire to try other activities. I have started playing…netball!  Netball used to produce some sort of allergic reaction in me and made me think of scary big girls who were super competitive and popular, but thanks to some encouragement from a friend, I went to play in a casual ‘back to netball’ scheme. It was amazing, and I loved it, partly because everyone was so friendly and even though most of the players were more experienced than me, they totally encouraged and supported me and I have been again and am even thinking about joining a team – literally when I told my mum she was so shocked as in her mind she remembers the old me who would have rather put my hand in a wasps nest then done anything like that. 

The other activity that I have tried is..surfing! This one was not quite as successful – not in terms of how I felt but in how hard it was! This one is one that has been something that I have admired from afar and have always believed that its one of those activities that goes beyond being a sport for the mental health benefits that this brings has been widely documented. So I tried with my daughter and although I was pretty awful what I liked about it was that for the first time in as long as I can remember, I wasn’t thinking about anything else but just the sea, not what I looked like or how I was letting myself down, it was completely clear – which was a very powerful feeling. I also loved the fact that I was doing something like this with my daughter rather than standing on the sidelines. 

A friend of mine said it was about being brave and bold and this is the attitude I am trying to adopt in all areas – if I can do these two things in a month – what else is possible?

Thanks for reading

Ruby x

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The Healing Power of Movement

in becoming human, man had acquired, together with his straight legs and striding walk, a migratory ‘drive’ or instinct to walk long distances through the seasons; that this ‘drive’ was inseparable from his central nervous system; and that, when warped in conditions of settlement, it found outlets in violence, greed, status-seeking or a mania for the new.” 
― Bruce Chatwin, Anatomy of Restlessness: Selected Writings 1969-1989

In the last post, I started to talk about changing what you think is the unchangeable, parts of you that you think are fixed and will be there forever. Exercise is one of those for me – which is what has motivated me to start this blog. This is also intertwined with another aspect that I have believed was ingrained in who I was.

From as long as I can remember I was always referred to as a ‘worrier’ by my parents and people that knew me. Worrying is my default setting, when everything gets too much to cope with I worry, I worry about worrying, I make lists, both physical and mental of my worries and religiously review them, my worry is that if I forget to worry about something then I will be caught by surprise and then something will happen that I won’t have accounted for.  There have been points where this has controlled me to such an extent that it has prevented me from being ‘present’ in my life. You feel trapped in cycle that you can’t seem to stop, only muffle it sometimes, it’s like trying to push your covers every morning to start the day, accept some days the cover is like lead and it becomes harder and harder to lift it.

I have been diagnosed with anxiety, panic disorder, depression and post-natal depression three times, have been on a variety of medications and have felt at times that I have no grip on these feelings.  I just assumed I was born this way and would have to spend my life managing these ‘conditions’.

The one thing I never tried was exercise. There has been countless research into the positive effects of exercise on mental health, but due to my phobia of my body, I never thought that this would be something that would help me, only hinder.

It has only been recently that I appear to have found a relatively stable period and I now know that this is due to me overcoming my fear and having exercise and movement as integral and necessary parts of my life.

I had always known that walking had always helped me when I felt like I couldn’t cope. I used to walk for miles and miles when I was really struggling so deep down understood that movement was therapeutic. The more I have thought about this, read and talked to others I believe in what Bruce Chatwin, the travel writer says above, that our lack of movement in the modern world has led to many problems, and that nomadic and less settled societies seem to be much more at peace and less riddled with the anxiety and pressures that settled people do. I am no anthropologist but I am drawn to the belief that we need to move for our mental well -being.

I find that now when I do not exercise or have had a break many of my ‘worries’ feel out of control again, I feel agitated and anxious – so exercise has become part of my treatment. I do still feel that it will always be a part of who I am, but it does not define me or control me as it once does, I do not feel so powerless as I once did.

Exercise can help you regain parts of your life both physically and mentally. When I have felt desperate and like I am losing my grip – it has helped me get back on an even keel. You feel empowered when you make progress and see changes, you think – ‘Well I never thought I could do that, so what else could I do?’

It is never too late to start to make these changes, and these changes can be small but have a huge impact.

I will talk next time about some changes to try if you are new to exercise and/or like me feel terrified at the prospect, how to enter a gym without having a break down and that having an inspiring and supporting network will be the key to making these changes happen.

Please let me know your thoughts, especially of mental health is something you have struggled with like me!

Lots of Love

Ruby

Redefining the Midlife Crisis

“Maybe the journey isn’t so much about becoming anything. Maybe it’s about unbecoming everything that isn’t really you, so that you can be who you were meant to be in the first place.” Paulo Coelho 

Jaques claimed that people in their mid-30s typically experience a depressive period lasting several years. Jaques—a physician and psychoanalyst—said he’d identified this phenomenon by studying the lives of great artists, in whom it takes an extreme form. In ordinary people symptoms could include religious awakenings, promiscuity, a sudden inability to enjoy life, “hypochondriacal concern over health and appearance,” and “compulsive attempts” to remain young.” The Atlantic 2018

This is what has been described as a ‘midlife crisis’. After doing some research into this area, I found out that this ‘condition’ was first really researched at the start of the twentieth century and has now become terminology that we are familiar with.  What always comes to mind when thinking about a midlife crisis is one of negative connotations: leaving partners, desperately trying to recapture youth and engaging in risky-type behaviours. 

The Office for National Statistics reports that 40- to 59-year-olds are the most anxious age group. Marshall believes this anxiety is sparked by a sudden awareness of mortality and a fear of failure; the nagging, nightmarish sense that we will never fulfil our true potential.” The Guardian 2016.  This may all be true, but having done some deep thinking about this, I believe that rather than being negative – ‘midlife’ is to be embraced. 

As lock down is starting to lift, and the school summer holidays begin, I have been, (as I always do anyway at this time of year) reflecting on the year passed. What has gone well? What have I achieved? And the most important question,  how do I want the next year to be? These feelings have been gathering momentum the older I am getting which got me to thinking  about the term ‘midlife crisis’, exploring the nature of ‘midlife’ and what it means. As mentioned above, I kept coming across negative feelings and behaviour based on fear responses, but I had a nagging feeling that this wasn’t the whole picture. 

The more time passes I have grown to believe that heading towards 40 has created sharpened moments of reflection – what has been and what has become. To me a midlife crisis is like the top of a hill or roller coaster before the descent. The first 40 years are climbing the hill, striving to get to the top. Then when you reach 40 – the climb has ended but have all the things you wanted come to pass or is what you wanted at all in the first place? How do you want the descent to be? How are the next 40 years going to be? This is a pivotal moment. My thoughts at the top have been, do I want more of the same? What have I learnt about myself and what I want? My ‘midlife’ moment is not without fear.

Maybe for many they have realisations that what they have is enough, but the reflection is still useful, to be grateful for that and to cherish what you have and your achievements. But what if you are trapped in a cage? What if you are fighting to get out  but the outside is terrifying?  What if you and your fear which has placed  you in that cage? Do you risk the frustration of staying or risk everything by leaving?

I have realised there are parts of my life which need to change. I have been told that we write a story about ourselves – my story has been too negative and has dictated behaviours which have restricted me.  Maybe for each person there is more than one story, and maybe the next 40 years we can learn from the story to make a better one, one with more wisdom and the focus to live the life we are capable of living.  Lock down has taught us so much about ourselves. Both painful and beautiful, pulling lives clearly into focus – no blurred edges.  Maybe for the first time we are free from  distractions and can work out what we need, what is important for us, and then give us the tools to move forward. 

I feel that every year that has passed I have grown – I hate that expression, but for me my teens and my 20’s were riddled with self-loathing, anxiety and behavior that was chaotic in an attempt to be someone I wasn’t. Getting older – especially in the last year, has brought with it a feeling of self-acceptance, of being more confident in who I am, realising that there is no ‘truth’ but many truths and stories that make up a person. I therefore think the ‘midlife crisis’ should be given a new definition – rather than it being seen as all negative and self-destructive it should be seen as positive, embarrassing who we are – what we have learnt and what our boundaries are, what are we willing to accept? What do we want to change? 

I know that I have learnt that my abilities are greater than what I once thought, I have started writing and started running and continue to improve with my exercise – all of which I never thought I could do, I had written a story about myself which stated that ‘you can’t do that, you not a …. type person’ . I know I have written about this before but exercise has opened my eyes to challenging the image I had of myself and has made me braver at taking on new challenges. My ‘midlife crisis’ is one of taking control of my life and making a new,  more positive narrative – being a positive role model for my children, being a good friend and not writing myself off, getting out of the cage no matter how terrifying that might be, as I have realised that staying trapped is far more scary  

“People may call what happens at midlife “a crisis”, but it’s not. Its an unraveling – a time when you feel a desperate pull to live the life you want to live, not the one you’re “supposed” to live..to let go of who you think you are supposed to be and to embrace who you are.” Brene Brown

The hidden enemy

“Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.”

William Shakespeare

Self-doubt;  the biggest obstacle to your own contentment and happiness. The invisible force that prevents you from doing the things you have always wanted to do, that creates a negative energy that sucks the joy out of new challenges. It spawns jealousy in others who have the self-belief to do the things you have only dreamed of. 

It is the voice in your head that says ‘you could never do that…’/ ‘you wouldn’t be any good’ ‘……… is better than you at that so why bother?’ or it can be the real voices around you that claim to support, it can also plant the seeds of this doubt, ‘do you really want to do that?’ or ‘that’s a bit odd’ when you want to try something different. It can be almost impossible at times to silence these or balance them with reality. Sometimes it’s easier to take the road that is most known to you, to opt out, not do it, give up – it feels safer. Why risk failure? Self-respect? It would just confirm what you already know, that you weren’t good enough – so just stick with things as they are.  

Now I know that most people will at certain points in their lives (even the most confident ones) question whether what we are  doing is  good enough. We reconcile certain choices with the idea ‘I wouldn’t be good enough for that’. But for some this debilitating feeling can actually have them living a completely different life to the one that they truly want, what if they had more courage and self-belief then they could be reaching potential they never knew they had. 

I believe that an element of self-doubt can be useful, it helps you take certain things seriously, your work hard and you think things through – these can be good. I would say that being ‘self-aware’ is vital in relationships with others and can serve well to ensure that we improve ourselves and can reflect, evaluate and move forward. However there is a fine line when this in-depth analysis can paralysis you into doing the things that you have always wanted to do but felt you couldn’t. 

I am writing about this fear, as it is one that I battle with daily and I am sure resonantes with many of us. This could manifest itself in the types of jobs we go for, the groups/sports/challenges we may or may not go for, even to the types of people we surround ourselves with. I have written before about how exercise has helped me so much in dealing with my self-doubt, as when you run a bit faster (or even begin to realise you can run at all!), lift a bit more then you begin to start creating a bank of counter evidence to the ingrained belief that you are not able to do certain things. So below are a few ways in which you might want to try to give yourself a well-needed dose of self-belief

  1. Write a journal or have a notebook where you write  down all your accomplishments – I don’t mean huge life accomplishments, small every day successes – you ran further, you started running, you ate well, you actually got the kids dressed before midday! You met a deadline at work, anything – no matter how small. Then when you have a feeling of self-doubt and look back through the weeks – you will be surprised about how much you have done. We always tend to focus on the things that have gone wrong, the failures but actually when you weigh it all up, the successes outweigh every time. 
  1. Setbacks as opportunities – If something doesn’t go your way, try not to see this as an excuse to give up. For example, I found out about a friend who had been furloughed, he was concerned that once the furlough period was over he would be one of the ones considered for redundancy. Instead of waiting, he went and learnt about all the other aspects of the company, he went in to help and volunteer, he went on a free course and now the company want him to possibly open a franchise in the area he wants. So he turned a potential set-back into an opportunity. 
  1. Choose the voices – if you have ‘friends’ or influences in your life that are not rooting for you, not supporting you and are not your champions, it may be time to rethink their role in your life. Positive energy breeds confidence in the ability to change and try new things. This is not to say you want an army sycophants – good friends will question and help you figure things out, but they will support and encourage if it’s what you want to do.
  1. Wait a day – don’t act hastily ( I am super hasty) don’t delete that email, say no/yes, have a day’s thinking time – self-doubt will be an automatic response so give it a day to have a rational debate with yourself and your important people. 
  1. Start small – if some of the things that you want to do seem insurmountable, try and complete small challenges that will help create a sense of achievement and therefore build your confidence. Complete a free online course (I highly recommend the skills network for free courses) try a new exercise or just exercise, the small steps equals big changes in how you view yourself, a person that can. 

For me, that voice is still there but I am learning to listen to others that are louder and more positive – it started with exercise but I am starting to realise that the ceiling might not exist. 

Love always

Ruby x

Bite the hand that feeds…

There is no magic cure, no making it all go away forever. There are only small steps upward; an easier day, an unexpected laugh, a mirror that doesn’t matter anymore” Laurie Halse Anderson – Wintergirls 

The topic of this blog has been one which I have spent a lot of time debating about whether I should write about. This is down to several reasons: firsty, I am not an expert or professional in matters of nutrition, diets of disordered eating,  I am mindful that this is still a current area that I am ‘doing battle’ with and it is intertwined with many other areas of my life that I find challenging. 

This blog isn’t intended to be advice or tips or diets that work, it is just simply my history of what would probably be classed as ‘disordered eating’, one that I feel ready to share, and my aim by sharing is to reach out to others and to create help create honest conversations as starting points to help change negative behaviours. 

My mum, for as long as I could remember, had a very negative body image and her weight yo-yoed from being bigger when we were younger to her dropping a significant amount of weight when she left my dad and took us to Brighton. My mum always attributed weight to life experiences, nothing to do with diet and nutrition and she never did any exercise – she didn’t believe in ‘diets’ only that weight was due to outside forces over which you have no control. I don’t know whether this has any relation to my eating habits and attitudes – but I do remember ‘weight’ being something that has always been present in my life, as is true for many. 

I do have an odd memory of a summer when I was about twelve. I went to stay with my aunty, apple picking in the Kent orchards. My aunty we always joked had the best cupboards, full of treats. I remember everyone going out and my going into those cupboards and I suppose having what  would be described as a ‘binge’. I literally ate so much I thought I could burst and after the rush, I felt an enormous sense of shame and guilt, like I just couldn’t believe what I had done. I then went and put on my aunties ‘lizzie’ exercise video and did it three times. I didn’t really think about this again. 

During my teenage years who was a late developer, no boyfriends and a huge does of low self confidence – mostly tied up with how I looked, if I was prettier then things would be better, if I remember a boy I liked saying to me one, ‘it’s a shame you aren’t prettier, then you could be my girlfriend’ This wasn’t necessarily a food or weight issue but it was all about the external vessel and how that side of me was always something that needed to be compensated for, be useful to people, be funny, be kind and then the fact that you are ugly can be overlooked. Whenever I felt like this – food was used as a comfort, and that behaviour that I had first demonstrated when I was twelve would come to rear its ugly head time and time again. 

This continued through university where my alcohol consumption also increased dramatically. I have always struggled to eat healthy and have a huge sweet tooth, this combined  with no knowledge of how to look after myself or nutritional knowledge , meant that my weight ballooned as did my lack of self-esteem. I then returned home and this carried on, I worked at a pub and carried on a very unhealthy lifestyle, late nights, bad food and drinking. I hated my body and hated the way I looked  but couldn’t find a way to change – again a bit like mum, I felt that my weight was all to do with outside circumstances and so surrendered myself to assuming that this was normal. 

I moved to Norwich a year or two afterwards to make a new start but what came with me was the same old bad habits. It was about a year later when I met my (future) husband that things began to show some improvement.  I lost a huge amount of weight – due to the shock of actually allowing someone in and accepting love and being in my first and only relationship. I also learnt to cook and for the first time managed to find a balance of controlling my eating and eating (fairly well), looking back it may have been papering over the cracks but I do remember feeling a certain peace with how I looked and how I felt about food. 

Pregnancy would be the next trigger, again this is unsurprising and common. With all three children I gained huge amounts of weight and more so in the postnatal months, eating to survive, no sleep, PND meant that I stopped caring about myself, again – blamed outside forces on how it was. 

It was after the birth of my third child that my obsession with dieting and calories began. I started tracking calories just as a way to see what I was consuming. Someone had taken a photo of me with Henry when he was about eight months old and I looked and my arm looked like a thigh, – I didn’t recognize myself and it was then that I decided to do something about it, stop blaming outside forces. I downloaded the app myfitness pal and decided to cut out alcohol and treats. When this wasn’t enough I moved on to shakes and lost a significant amount of weight, I felt great and was able to wear nice clothes, people complimented me or made comments on how much weight I lost – I became hooked. 

I know that my personality -as I am sure many can relate too – is highly addictive and obsessive –  I display little self -control -its either all or nothing, binge or fast, and this is a cycle of behaviour that I know I need to change. The weight I had lost and the feeling I gained became an obsession. My lowest point was when I was about seven and a half stone and eating about 800 calories a day – I was tired but I had convinced myself – this is brilliant – ‘I am finally thin and I am finally attractive and in control’. Except that I wasn’t, I mean yes I was thin, but I wasn’t attractive, I wasn’t in control – food was incontrol, my warped self image was incontrol.

My obsession with weight loss has been a roller coaster – the binging followed by guilt and shame and then obsessing about starting again the next day, making lists and mental promises to myself to change, and embarking on excessive exercise. I have used slim fast and other shakes, kidney bean extract as a carb blocker, the grapefruit diet, intermittent fasting, fasting, no carbs, skinny sprinkles (don’t ask), green tea extract, the list goes on -I am a makerters dream!

How did things change? What has helped me to regain control of this area of my life is through fitness and exercise. I believe that through running, weights and all forms of exercise – for me made me view my body in a totally different way. Once you can lift a certain weight or run a certain distance that you couldn’t before or believe you ever could you begin to see your body as funcional – see – look what it can do? Once you see your body as functional and not a source of shame or to be viewed you understand that it needs to be nourished to function. The better the nurishment the better the function – you can run faster, lift more and with that comes a sense of pride – your body did that. 

The power of exercise has helped me on the path towards gaining control over my obsession with weight and poor body image – it has not gone away and I still use myfitness pal and track calories, I do panic when I eat what I consider too much, I worry when I gain, I still have a inability to control myself and binge, I still feel ashamed, but the gaps between these feelings are getting longer and I know the tools I need to mend. Fitness is not the complete answer but its a step in the right direction, its helping me try and become a positive role model to my children 

I would be really interested to hear any stories you have about this – its a common issue and I know my experiences are far from unique – it just helps me to write it down and have others say ‘yes I felt like that’ so that you are not just a voice inside your own head, 

Thank you for reading 

Love always

Ruby

Motivational Forces at Work

“Don’t make friends who are comfortable to be with. Make friends who will force you to lever yourself up.”

– Thomas J. Watson

“Keep away from those who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you believe that you too can become great.”

– Mark Twain

I wanted my blog today to begin to actually give practical advice about how to start incorporating exercise into your life in a non-threatening way. The advice will not be from a trained or qualified professional but just from someone with experience of going from fear to love.

My first two blogs were mainly about mindset and overcoming perceived hurdles to change but I need to address what actually happened for those changes to begin in the first place.

For me the pivotal time when was I started a new job in September of 2018 which was around two years after the birth of my third child. This was when my body confidence was at an all time low, my weight had yo-yo’d significantly. Starting a new job, I was once again on a ‘diet’. (I will post in the future about ‘diets’ but again very much like my relationship with exercise, my relationship with food was one that I would not describe as healthy.)

It was when I started my new job that two people entered my life, both of which have had a significant impact on the way I view physical activity. They shall remain anonymous but both of these people provided very different forms of inspiration and motivation.

One pf these people  is someone who has taught me how to use  exercise as a way to carve out time for myself. We go to the gym together, have a coffee, we make it a social time, a time for catch up, enjoying the company. This person supports, encourages  and makes it fun, so that it is now part of my social life, time away from my responsibilities of work and being a mother. This, I would suggest, is a great way to start, find a friend that you can start doing physical activity with.  It will make beginning so much easier and less threatening. The other valuable thing about starting out with a friend who is more experienced in this area, is that they can show you how to do the exercises and make sure you are doing them right, support and encourage when you are struggling.  

This person helped exercise become a regular part of my life by building it into a routine. I always had the excuse that I didn’t have time, but now every Saturday morning – tthe gym with my friend and afterwards we have a coffee, we go early as not to impact weekend family time, and thereby I kill a lot of birds with one stone, social time, time to focus on taking care of myself both physically and mentally and a way to spend time with my friend.

The other person was someone I met at work. This person from first impressions was the epitome of everything I was not, and  would not normally or ‘on paper’ (I really hate that expression) be someone that I would have as a friend. This person taught me that  this ‘pigeonholing’ or ‘labeling’ of both others in and myself was what had been holding me back. This person was young, confident, sporty – like I said – opposite to me! From getting to know this person, I found that they were able to  help me in so many ways, they live their life to the absolute maximum, pack everything in and make the most of every opportunity. This love of life is infectious and has enabled me take on new challenges and not to be a passenger in my own life.

Although these two people were the trigger, I am lucky to have a lot of people in my life who have helped support me including my husband and children. Support is key for making changes, as it is so tough to change habits and attitudes that have been built up over thirty plus years.

You may find that when you start to make changes that some people in your life might  that difficult or threatening. This was how I used to be, change was to be feared, it’s the unknown and many people may project that fear on to you. Try to drown out the noise and make sure that you and your ‘fitness friend’ can speak about this, it will help keep you focused.

My advice is to find a fitness friend and start doing one activity a week with that person, turn it into a social time, make sure you have a treat afterwards and make it something to look forward to.

Next time I am going to write  about how to enter a gym without having a minor or major breakdown,

Please share your thoughts on my blog

Best

Ruby x

The ‘outer’ Vs ‘the inner’

“Sometimes, people use age as a convenient excuse. ‘I’m too old to start something new’, or, ‘I couldn’t learn that at my age.’ Other people, though, go on to achieve their greatest accomplishments in life in later” years.” Catherine Pulsifer,

This story starts with a beginning. A beginning which was the motivation for this blog and has helped me now know what I want to start doing with my life, what I want to continue with and what I want to ditch.

This beginning, like for so many women (and more increasingly men) was wrapped up in shame.

“Shame is an unpleasant self-conscious emotion typically associated with a negative evaluation of the self, withdrawal motivations, and feelings of distress, exposure, mistrust, powerlessness, and worthlessness.” Dictionary definition of the word ‘shame’.

The part of that definition that stuck out for me was, ‘negative evaluation of the self’. That ‘self’ for me was my physical self. My body to me was like an outer shell that was a sentence or a trap. In my inner ‘self’ I felt was the champion, I could rely on that to not let me down, to rise to a challenge, to pass an exam, to talk to strangers. It was my ‘outer self’ that caused ‘feelings of distress, exposure, mistrust and powerlessness’.

This is probably true of how many young people feel, my experience is far from unique (depressingly) and increasingly in the modern age, people are encouraged to feel shame so that businesses can market the supposed ‘solutions’.

My shame manifested itself in the form of absolutely hating sport with every bone in my being. I avoided it at all costs, I used to walk out of the school gates on a Friday lunch time when it was double PE. Sports day, I wouldn’t come in, I forged notes from my mother excusing me for all sorts of varied reasons. I associated any physical activity with the conviction that my body would fail me and this would be made worse by taking place in a public setting. I always wore baggy clothes, avoided boyfriends. Going on holiday proved a challenge, sobbing in changing rooms, almost being embarrassed to have a shower – all created parts of my personality that I believed were cemented forever.

Like I said, my feelings that I felt until recently, are hardly one of a kind, but I would say that I developed a phobia of exercise and my body.  My body was an obstacle, one that would always let me down, so I almost denied its existence.

This unhealthy relationship with my outer ‘self’ carried on until around two years ago at the grand old age of 35. I have had three children and by rights this should be an age when the shame of age and post baby body should be evident, but I can honestly say the opposite is true.

I still have my old hang ups and would hardly call myself ‘body confident’ but what I would say is that I have a greater understanding and appreciation of what a body, my body can do. How with the right support network and the right exercises in the right environment has changed my life? I want to be a healthy role model to my children and hope that by proving to them that you can change, embrace yourself both the inner and outer self.

This blog is about sharing that change of mindset and hopefully can help others know that at whatever age, things can change that you thought were unchangeable. I will be sharing how I achieved this, advice that helped me and people that inspired me,

Lots of Love

Ruby