Back in the day, I’d say I wasn’t a very strong person. I wasn’t necessarily weak, but I just kinda let things happen. I stayed in relationships too long because leaving them would be too hard; I stayed in education too long because I didn’t think I’d be able to find a job; I comforted myself with pizza and cake because dealing with my problems just seemed like too much.
In the grand scheme of things, my situation wasn’t that bad – but the things I’d have to do to change it seemed impossible, and so, I sandbagged up and stayed where I was. For years.
And I do mean years. I just plodded along, waiting for things to happen to improve of their own accord. Naturally, they didn’t, and the next thing I knew, I was pushing 300lbs and unable to walk.
Eventually, I joined the gym, and the rest is history. You guys know that story by now. But recently, I’ve become more acutely aware of these things: power, strength, and pride – and the way they all link together to make life pretty damn great.
This has come about in part because I’ve been exploring the physical kind of strength. Look at my face in this photo – this is not what someone taking it easy looks like:
That thing weighs 50kg, or 110lbs, which equates to pretty frickin’ heavy, if you’re me. And it’s just a part of what I’ve been doing in these training sessions with Tom. It’s taken a fair amount of discipline and hard blimmin’ work – but in the last three weeks, I’ve lost 16cm from my bust, waist, hips, leg and arm measurements, and I’ve lost 4% body fat – about 10lbs – and more importantly, I’ve gained 2.5% muscle. This, from someone who was pretty confident in their booty size anyway.
Turns out, I’m pretty strong. I can do a lot more than I thought I could, and it is very, very exciting.
As I said before, my motivation in doing this is to see how far I can go with this body o’mine – an experiment to see whether it’s possible to go from a morbidly obese girl who can’t walk, to someone who’s at something resembling peak physical fitness. But this does mean I’ve got to do a bunch of things that are way, way outside my comfort zone.
Each time I’m approaching one of those big ol’ weights, I have to tell myself I can do it. I have to genuinely believe that I’m not going to splat face down on the floor with all the grace of a chicken fillet falling off a worktop – and in doing that, I’ve realised it’s something that I have to keep doing outside of the gym, too.
In fact, I’m rapidly starting to think it’s something we should all be doing, pretty much all the time.
Now, I’m not suggesting you go and try hoisting a car over your head on your way to work, or go all Incredible Hulk on your three-piece lounge furniture. I’m also not suggesting you go trying to take over any small countries, or anything like that – because there are definitely negative connotations attached to those three lil’ words.
No – right now, I’m talking in a purely psychological, iddy-biddy-things sense. Trying to do something you don’t think you’re capable of, even though you might fail – that’s a bigger display of strength than actually doing it, to my mind. It takes courage, pure and simple. Then, once you’ve achieved it – even if you fail a few times at first – you’ll gain confidence. Pride, even. And if you follow that with something else you don’t think you can do, that’s it. You’ve got it. You’re cultivating the kind of mindset that can make pretty much anything possible.
In short, you’re empowered by it. That’s a successful little cycle you’ve got yourself – in which you use your strength, take pride in your achievements, and use them as power to do more amazing things.
Sounds simple – but it takes a little while to make it a fully fledged habit. You’ve got to start small. Take the stairs. Speak up more at work. Cut down on the cigarettes, or cans of soda, or bars of chocolate. Remember to appreciate the things around you. They’re small steps that can seem like big challenges – but once they become normal, you can move on to the next. Soon enough, you’re living your life by consistently pushing yourself – and consistently being more awesome.
And if you stick at it long enough, you’ll find that lil’ trifecta will take up residence. You’ll get a kind of calm confidence that sits down there at the bottom of your chest – like an anchor that keeps you steady when things are more difficult. It’s no surprise that there have been studies showing that exercise reduces stress, depression and anxiety – and I’d wager that’s not just a result of the physical activity. Doing something – anything – that challenges you, a couple of times a week, is bound to do good things for your psychological wellbeing – and let’s face it: that, right there, is the grand prize.
Back when I was my 290lb self, I wouldn’t have thought I’d struggling to deadlift something that’s about 30lbs lighter than the weight I’ve now lost. (I also wouldn’t have thought the lovely people at Natural Balance Foods would send me a bunch o’ these snack bars to keep me going – so consider this a shout out, because I love free food!)
When you start doing amazing things, other great things will inevitably follow – meaning instead of coasting, waiting for change to happen, you’re generating one awesome thing after another. The more you do it, the easier it gets – and once strength, pride and power become words that you’ve internalised, and made a part of yourself, I promise you’ll be stronger, in every sense.
So this week, this month, and this year: try the things you don’t think you can do. Be proud of them. And be empowered.
‘Cause I promise you can do a lot more than you think.