My path to wellbeing – how I learned to work with my brain and my body.

Today I spent some time catching up with friends and one of them (Tasha) asked me for some advice on her New Years resolution of becoming more healthy in 2017.  She wanted to know what food substitutions I had made in my diet and how I keep motivated.  Of course I agreed and since I am currently on holiday I though I would do a proper job of it and make a blog post.  I am flattered that Tasha asked for my suggestions but there is an underlying challenge with this.  I have been on this journey for a while now and the strategies I use now are not the ones I started with.  I have done a lot of learning about what suits me, and of course as I have grown stronger and healthier that has changed.  In this post I intend to look back to the start of my journey and hopefully highlight the bits that worked and were helpful as well as sharing the bits that didn’t work, that if I could do it again I would do differently.  I suppose the important thing to remember is we are all unique individuals and as frustrating as it may be, we all have to find the strategies that work for us.  Here is my story…

Maybe four years ago, once I had finished my Masters Degree, I started paying more attention to my body and how I was feeling in my body.  It wasn’t great.  It wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t great.  I felt tired a lot and I was constantly not quite well.  It turns out a big part of that was hay fever, but another part was the food I was eating and how I was spending my time.  I had been doing full time study and full time work and in order to fit all that in things like sleep and even going outside had to take a back seat for a while.  At the time I was teaching infants and toddlers at a fantastic centre alongside some awesome teachers.  One of them, Marjorie, introduced me to myfitnesspal and that was my first step to getting where I am now.  Thanks, Marjorie!  If you have not heard of myfitnesspal, it’s basically a calarie counting app, or a high tech version of keeping a food diary.  What this did for me was put a limit on how much food I was eating (2000 cal/ day). We had a chef at the early learning centre were I was teaching and if there was food left over I would be there.  Tracking via myfitnesspal made me accountable for that.  I became aware of what I was doing and began to look at the numbers.  If I have 2000 cals for the day and I eat five mini pancakes at 100 cals each, than that is making up a quarter of my daily nutrition.  Having the information, this is how many calories a body needs in a day, this is how many calories there is in a particular food, enabled me to start making choices.  Making choices and being in control of my journey  became the backbone of everything that came after and I think the reason I am where I am today.  I could, and still can, eat and drink whatever I want.  It’s my choice.  I even go over my daily limit every now and again.  I choose not to make it a big deal and in my head I just start my day over again.  This worked for me and while it was still difficult, having ‘rules’ in the form of a daily limit worked with my personality.  

Food substitutions becomes sophistication…  Having a limit on the amount of calories I was consuming made me a lot more picky about my food.  I will never forget how angry I was when I found out how many calories there were in a Mac Donald’s Georgie Pie, 593cals! And that’s just for the pie.  Forget about the combo.  Plus I was still hungry after eating it.  I will never do that again, I was so mad.  Using myfitnesspal really opened my eyes to the foods I was eating and because I enjoy food and eating and wanted to do more of it, I decided to make some substitutions.  To start with I swapped out full fat milk to trim milk in my coffee and I started using unsweetened almond milk in my cereal.  That helped and it’s something I have stuck with.  I also swapped to diet soft drinks and energy drinks, like Coke Zero and sugar free Redbull.  It worked for me at the time, I wanted something and I didn’t want to use up the calories, so I chose the fake sugar.  I look back and see these drinks like a crutch or training wheels.  Over time I outgrew them and now I don’t need them anymore.  The more I learned about the foods I was eating the more curious I became about food and trying healthier alternatives.  There are so many blogs out there sharing great recipes like this one for Homemade peanutbutter cups.  What I discovered through trying out these types of recipes was, healthier, better quality foods are more satisfying to eat and you don’t need as much to feel full.  Also now when I try candy bars etc, I don’t enjoy them anymore, which makes saying “no thanks” that much easier.  

Walking becomes running. Clear mind happy heart…  Not long after I started using myfitnesspal I got my first Fitbit.  If you have not heard of Fitbit it is at it’s core a pedometer, it measures how many steps you take in a 24hour period.  I hooked my Fitbit up to myfitnesspal and I could earn more calories by walking.  This was awesome but I quickly discovered I was not getting very many steps just following my normal routine. I decided to use my lunch breaks for power walking.  My break was only 30mins at the time and I would be out the door asap.  To start with I would do one lap around the block then as I got faster I could do two!  The best part was how I felt when I got back from my walk.  I could of left in the worst mood after having a horrible morning and I would always come back happy and ready for the afternoon.  It wasn’t a long walk but it gave me guaranteed happiness every time.  Walking became a habit for me on my lunch breaks, one that I have continued to this day.  Three years on I wanted a bit more of a challenge so I took up running.  I have some knee issues so I got myself a Moov.  If you haven’t heard of Moov, it does all the regular activity tracker bits but it has also got a personal trainer built in.  This was super important for me if I wanted to run without injury.  My Moov taught me how to run.  It talked to me about the length of my stride, how hard my impact was and lots of tips to give me good running form.  Running is hard.  It’s definitely a challenge but pushing through the challenge makes me super happy every time.  I love it.  I think because running is so difficult, especially at the beginning, I had to use my whole brain to get through it.  I had to be fully present in the moment, a lot like active meditation.  Running gives me a clear head and a happy heart.  

Obviously there is a lot more to my journey then what I have written about here.  I have become a bit of an exercise and nutrition enthusiast and ofcourse got some great results from all my hard work/ effort.  After four years I am 20kgs lighter, my body is strong and I am well.  In fact my body fights off infections that make other people sick (point of pride).  I am really happy with where I am now and it is just a case of keeping on keeping on with everything.  I hope this helps with your New Years resolution, Tasha. 😊

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4 thoughts on “My path to wellbeing – how I learned to work with my brain and my body.

  1. Jess, thank you for this wonderful read. I am so proud of all that you have achieved since we first started on our fitness journeys. You are a true fitspiration and an amazing friend! Funny how the day I started going back to tracking my macros was the day you posted this, which reminded me of the benefits, challenges and fun of being accountable of your health. This is no mere coincidence! And Tash, this is your sign to join the club 🙂

    • Hahah yeah Marje! I will attempt to begin somewhere 🙂 I just need to see what fits me.. this is going to help me start somewhere :)💜

  2. Thank you so much Jess for this! I really enjoyed reading this and it was like receiving a New Years Gift! Now I just have to use it in a way that suits me and my lifestyle! I’m going to keep
    Referring to this post to help me look back and see that we all can achieve something great if we want it bad enough- heart and mind working together 💜

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