Don’t get me wrong – when I first took those footsteps into the gym, it was all about weight loss.
I was never a depressed, shy, or insecure fat girl, and I didn’t want to lose weight because I hated myself, or how I looked. I thought I looked good – I just thought I’d look even better in a smaller dress size. So confidence has never been the issue, despite the relationship I’d been in until that point had, when I look back on it, given it some pretty hard knocks. So I wasn’t out to “find myself,” or anything like that – I didn’t really think anything would happen, other than perhaps losing a few pounds before hitting the pizza again.
In hindsight, however, I didn’t realise that my lifestyle was having as detrimental an effect on my overall health and wellbeing as it was. The improvements I’ve seen since I embarked on this have actually been kind of scary. My skin is clearer, my hair is softer and more shiny, a mysterious slightly niggling toothache I’ve had for a while has disappeared – these are all ways I’ve benefited from an improved diet, outside of the weight loss. I don’t doubt that a lot of this is related to the move from hyper-processed, mega-refined foods to stuff that, deep down, I know my body wants me to eat.
On a non-physical level, I’ve got much more energy (which I need – I’m a very, very busy person between the job, the freelancing and the PhD). I used to be fuelled by refined carbs, sugar and caffeine, which would give me the much-needed high that would help me to power on through my workload… Until the inevitable crash. At which point, I’d need more of the same to bump me back up. And in hindsight, I was nowhere near as efficient on a sugar high as I am even before my morning coffee now.
Plus, I realise now that all of the highs and lows relating to the constant spikes in blood sugar was having an impact on my mental wellbeing. I’d go from super-stressed, to apathetic, to manic, to miserable – often all within an hour. Since I’ve been eating clean, I’ve found my emotions have levelled out and I’m generally pretty happy, satisfied, and (relatively) zen. Not sure how much of that I can put down to green tea and yoga – but it’s certainly helped!
Weight loss is still a factor, of course – but it’s better measured in the mirror and clothes than on the scales. There are really lovely moments where I catch a surprise glimpse of the new me – for instance, when I fold my arms, I can feel actual muscles tensing and relaxing, and my thighs are no longer a flabby mess – I can feel quads in there! When you’ve been the fat girl forever, you seem to get the impression that you’re just a soft sack of flesh. What’s going on inside doesn’t really figure in your thinking. The sudden realisation that you’ve got muscles – and I even caught a glimpse of a collar bone the other day when I was tying up my shoes – makes you realise that there really is a fit person inside struggling to get out!
And that’s been the big thing I’ve learned on this “journey,” if you can call it that – wellness on the inside shows on the outside. And you probably can’t achieve that face down in a barrel of New York Super Fudge Chunk.