Category Archives: change

From couch potato to gym rat. My story.

How I got hooked on fitness…..

 

I have been asked many times over the years if there was a time in my life when I wasn’t into fitness.

I’d love to say no, and that I’ve always been super fit and healthy, but that would be a lie.

 The truth is that I used to be  a bit of a couch potato.

My diet was pretty bad. At the time I thought it was average but I didn’t know any better. I was never overweight, in fact I was what we in the fitness industry like to call “skinny fat.”

Skinny fat means being thin with a higher fat to muscle ratio, in other words, soft!

So how does one go from a skinny fat couch potato to a lean, mean fitness machine I hear you ask?

I’m going to tell you.

After my first child was born I struggled with a sleep routine for him. He was a happy, delightful baby, just wouldn’t sleep. I was a bit of a mess for a long time & my G.P. diagnosed post natal depression.

Eventually I got to breaking point and took him to a sleep clinic at 7 months old where the hard as nails nurses taught me to get tough on the little cherub.

Finally I had a dream baby who slept 12 hours at night.

Two months later I found out I was pregnant again. I was petrified and miserable. The birth and subsequent sleep tortured months were still too fresh in my mind and I wasn’t ready.

Besides, how could I love this baby when my heart was already bursting to overflowing with love for my baby boy?

During this period my father was fighting a losing battle with emphysema and my husband was working in a job with a lot of travelling and networking involved.

I couldn’t get excited about having another baby. I felt scared and alone in spite of having my fantastic sisters there to support me.

I was still depressed.

After a very quick and trouble free labor, I gave birth to my precious baby girl and fell in love immediately with her.

She was not an easy baby.

She cried almost constantly unless she was upright and in my arms. I had to try sleeping sitting up with her on my chest just so she would be quiet.

I also had a 17 month old to contend with and household duties.

I was in hell.

I got sick with an infection.

Then my son got sick with an infection. I was sick, with a sick toddler and the Anti-Christ projectile vomiting newborn, all while my husband was away on business interstate.

Off to the doctor we went but my G.P. ignored my snotty toddler and set off alarm bells over the color of my baby’s skin. She was yellow.

We were sent for tests. He rang that evening as soon as the results were back telling us we needed to head off to Monash hospital first thing to be admitted. My baby girl was very sick. I rang my husband who couldn’t come home till the following day.

We set off and got a flat tyre on the way just for good measure.

Me, feeling ill and frightened, my toddler, full of a chest infection, my newborn, bright yellow, and thankfully my oldest sister who was my rock and lifesaver!

We had test after test. They pinned my baby down and put needles in her tiny feet and hands. I just wanted to go home.

My son who had been the center of my universe up till now was ceremoniously dumped with my other lifesaving sister to become a part of her household for the following weeks while we waited even just for a diagnosis.

When we got the diagnosis it was shattering. I had been in denial thinking it would be something that would be fixed easily with antibiotics or some other fancy drug.

Not so.

She was diagnosed with Biliary Atresia and we were told she had a 30% chance of living to age 2, a 30% chance of getting through childhood but needing a liver transplant and a 30% chance of making adulthood but with cirrhosis of the liver. The other 10% just die.

Those stats were hard to hear.

She needed an operation regardless and we were told she would spend her life in and out of hospital if she survived.

She got her operation and the time was very traumatic for all of us. My weight had dropped to around 45kgs from the stress.

We came home and had regular tests and doctors visits in between visits to my very ill father.

I wasn’t coping.

With my husband away a lot, a toddler, the constant worry over my baby and my father I fell into a worse depression.

At the time when my father passed away I couldn’t even cry for fear I wouldn’t be able to stop.

I spent months in a state of negativity and resentment and guilt.

Finally a friend of mine, in an attempt to get me to “snap out of it” bought me a 30 day gym membership.

I didn’t want to go but there was a creche at the gym and she more or less dragged me.

I didn’t love it at all but I decided to make a commitment of not only the thirty days but added another 2 months to the membership.

I promised myself that no matter what I was going to have that one hour to myself 3 mornings per week while the creche was open. If I still hated it then I would quit.

Soon it turned into 4 days and by the time the 3 months was up I was hooked.

I felt better, I looked better, I had something outside of my larger than life husband and 2 babies.

I felt like I had found my drug of choice.

Naturally I wanted to learn more about the amazing things I could do to change my body. I decided to do my Cert III. Not because I wanted to work in the industry but because I wanted knowledge and the confidence that comes with that knowledge.

Cert III led to Cert IV and within 12 months I’d completed my course and walked straight into a job.

I have never looked back and have spent the years since learning as much as I can about what our bodies are capable of, and challenging that in my capacity as a personal trainer and group exercise instructor, and through my own training.

Only stopping to have my third child before getting straight back into training and learning.

Pushing myself physically has saved me mentally in the worst times of my life.

The gym has taken me from being a shy, timid mouse to a women with power beyond measure.

It has gotten me through my darkest days and has allowed me to shine.

I am proud to be giving my children, especially my beautiful daughter, the best role model they can have for living healthy, active lives.

The gym or playground is my happy place.

When I’m training, or teaching, I am me.

I am in control, I am confident, I am free.

I love sharing that with others and seeing them gain strength, confidence and self esteem through realizing their capabilities.

It’s not easy to force ourselves out of the sad comfort of our own rut, but it’s so worth it.

Not every before and after is about the outside.

 

Habits and the rise of childhood obesity

I’m not an obesity expert and I’m FAR from being a parenting expert just to be clear.

I’m a mother of three and understand how trying it can be at times. So this is in no way a judgement on young parents, just my thoughts and observations.

No electronic devices needed here!
No electronic devices needed here!

I remember when my kids were small. It wasn’t always easy, even with well behaved children.
Sometimes I did what was easy for the sake of my sanity. My daughter was sick as a baby, and cried a lot unless she was being held. I also had a toddler who needed my attention and care. I remember putting my baby girl in a musical motorized swing for TWO hours just so I could get a shower and some housework done in peace. The recommended  time was 10 minutes…..I felt so guilty after but at the time I was desperate for a break from her.

In spite of my intentions of being the perfect mother, the TV became my babysitter at times. I still know all of The Wiggles songs word for word.  Still waiting for Jeff to wake up. 😪
My son knew his alphabet and could recognize letters at aged 2 thanks to Sesame Street and Shrek is probably still one of my favourite movies.

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So I understand taking the easy route and I know as parents we’re all doing the best we can with the tools we currently have. But I think there in lies a problem.
The abundant tools we have.
Our parents didn’t have the resources we have and I’m not sure our kids are better off for it.

In the 70′ s and 80’s we had books, a few toys and TV. We only had kids shows on for small portions of the day. We didn’t have computers, DVDs or internet. Our parents did a weekly or fortnightly shop and when the luxury stuff ran out, we made do. The food had to last and had to be rationed to ensure it did last. We had 3 meals and a piece of fruit for morning tea. We only got fruit which was in season too.
After school was a bowl of cereal or some toast. Our mothers baked, but we didn’t have cake and biscuits every day. There were no packaged snacks as I remember, until they came out in the late 70’s or early 80’s. Even then only a few kids got them on the regular in their lunch boxes.

Most of us only did one sport, which was generally on a Saturday. So we weren’t out 4 or 5 nights of the week with activities. No quick meals reheated or eaten on the run. We ate dinner all together as a family.
So simple compared to life now for kids with so much time spent out and about with busy siblings and parents.

For example, I was at the doctors office recently.
My appointment was at 1pm. Not long after lunch time for most people.
There was a young mother in the waiting room with a toddler.
She had some toys and books in tow to amuse her daughter.
She also had an array of tupperware containers. Chopped apples. Crackers. Cheese and sultanas. Not a bad selection for a 2 year old.

Necessary only about an hour after lunch? Probably not.

The child was pretty happy. Babbling and climbing up and down from the chairs and rearranging the out dated magazines on the coffee table. Charming the other people in the waiting room with her innocence. The mother, obviously trying to stop her baby from, well….being a baby, kept trying to distract her from her exploration of the waiting room and the people waiting there by offering her food.

It’s now not an uncommon thing to see parents using food as entertainment or distraction for little ones. I see it all the time.

It seems that parents these days can’t leave the house for an hour in between meals without a meal to keep their little ones occupied.
Car trip….snack.
Gym creche at 9am….snack, because 1 hour is far too long to go without food at 9am.😣
Play group…snack.
Visiting friends….snack, just in case.
Shopping…..packed smorgasbord of snacks.

It has become the expectation and the norm for kids to have food on hand at all times. Regardless of when they last ate and how much.

I don’t remember a lot about being under school age, but I certainly don’t remember having food on tap all day. I don’t remember leaving the house with a six course meal either. Like a mini body builder. I think I’d remember that.

I do remember being so hungry at meal times that my mouth would water in anticipation. I do remember eating everything on my plate even if I didn’t love it. I don’t remember any of my 6 siblings being fussy eaters besides one who wouldn’t eat silver beet. Fair enough though. It tastes like dirt and from our garden sometimes the wild life stuck to the leaves even after washing and steaming. Mmm snails….

Fast forward a few decades and not only do this generation have snacks to get them through every day appointments or chores, but they have iPads or iPhones or gaming devices to keep them suitably disengaged from the world around them and their imagination. (I’m guilty of this too.)

Heaven forbid we teach our kids to suck it up and be patient when things are a little boring. Play I spy?
No. Much better to give them food and technology to relieve the boredom of every day life and real world interactions.

All of which teach our kids about delayed gratification,   communication and real life, which is not always entertaining. (Unless you’ve been allowed non screen time to develop an imagination of course. Then you can make any situation entertaining. )

We can justify constant feeding of our kids by suggesting we only offer healthy food, but like I say to my adult fat-loss clients, the numbers still need to add up for energy balance, deficit or surplus. We can still over consume healthy food and gain excess fat as a result. Infants are less likely to over eat, but when it’s constantly offered it becomes a learned habit.

Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in teens in the last 30 years.  This is a rapid and concerning growth. The chances of an obese child becoming an obese adult are higher than for a child of average weight. With obesity comes high risk of lifestyle diseases as well as the emotional difficulties some face with body image with an unhealthy body composition. So it’s not about fitting a social norm, but about health and well being.

As children get older there are temptations everywhere, and kids are masters at pester power and manipulation. The canteens at sports events selling “sports” drinks and sweets have become the parents bane. If it’s a once a week thing after a game to get a treat, I see no problem. Unfortunately when there are several children in a family all playing a couple of sports, it soon becomes an every day temptation that parents are giving into more and more to keep peace.

All the while justifying it with the thought that it’s been burned off with all the sport. Which may be the case for some, but for plenty, the  rest of their 23 hours are spent sitting in class or on a device and the one hour a couple times a week is the only time they’re truly active.

That’s just one place where kids are regularly over consuming though. Then there are trips to the supermarket and pocket money at the school canteen. Sleepovers and play dates where parents offer treats and fast food just because there are guests over.

Treats are no longer treats, but every day foods for a lot of kids.

My motto for my own children is to say yes when I can if there’s no harm in saying yes. However, I think all kids need to hear “No” sometimes to learn self control and real expectations in life. They can’t always get what they want, especially when it may not be good for them long term.  We also need to learn to say no to ourselves at times. 🙂

I know there are much worse things for children to be than fat, like unhappy or cruel and insensitive. We teach kids to be decent people with good morals, we give them the best education we can provide, we give them opportunities to shine in sport and activities they enjoy, we make sure hey brush their teeth and teach them about home and personal hygiene. All so they can grow into well functioning adults.

Teaching our kids to use food as boredom relief is not going to help them become well functioning adults. Habits start from childhood. Do we want our kids in the habit of over consuming from toddlerhood? Teaching them to rely on devices for entertainment and social connection instead of real world interactions and sensory experiences may be the norm, but is it optimal for their mental well being and social learning? No.

When we decide to have children we take on certain responsibilities. We strive to be the best we can for our kids and sometimes it’s difficult to be consistent and disciplined for their benefit. Even if we fall into the easy fix solutions in tough times, which we all do, letting kids know the discomfort of being hungry, bored and patient will help them learn to delay gratification and build their character.

Change, expectation vs. reality.

Life is a series of highs and lows.

Last week was a bit of a low for me and was finished off with some awful news of an old friends passing. I’m so sad for his family. He was far too young and such a great guy.

When tragedies like this happen we tend to contemplate our own mortality, and sometimes we want to make radical changes to the way we live.
Whether it’s our lifestyle or relationships, the sudden death of a friend can trigger a need for fuller living and regret for wasted time.

Similarly we hear of people who have life threatening illnesses who embark on health and well being or spiritual experimentation.

My trigger for change happened a long time ago, and this was another jolt to remind me that life is too short not to live with gusto.

Some people believe the decision to change is the hardest part, and once we make our mind up the rest is easy. That kind of thinking can set us up for negative self talk when the inevitable happens.

Even after a shock the decision to change isn’t easy.
Neither is the process.
Radical change isn’t easily maintained for long without setbacks.
We revert to default behaviors or habits.
Fear kicks in when we leave our comfort zone.
Self defeating monologues go on in our heads.

I have been in the process of significant change for a long time and recent setbacks have seen me fall back into old negative thinking patterns of self doubt.

This weekend I was lucky to be in the right place with some amazing people at the right time for me.
I spent 3 days on a leadership program with an inspiring and supportive crew.
I heard stories of great achievement in the face of adversity. I listened to stories from others facing similar fears, and human frailties.
I was reminded about the power of perspective. Reminded of the importance of self reflection, mindfulness, resilience and using response instead of reaction.

It was enough to lift me into a different mindset completely.
Reinforcing things I knew, but hadn’t been practicing as much as I needed to recently.
Even coaches need coaching.

In real life awful things happen. Then good things happen. Then there’s lot’s of everyday things that happen.

None of it has anything to do with my luck or what I deserve in life.

How I respond to it however, can determine the quality of that life.

I can choose to be defensive and passive. Thinking things are happening to me and I’m powerless.
Or I can choose to be constructive and focus on the things that get me where I need to be. Take ownership. Use my resources. Take action. Step into an effective role instead of a passive one.

It’s not always easy, but the more we practice constructive, positive behavior, the more likely it is to become our default setting.

When it comes to making life changes it’s important to be kind to ourselves. We didn’t create these habits or thinking patterns over night so how do we expect to change them without lots of imperfect practice?

When something bad happens, or we mess up, it’s normal to go through the process of negative emotion and questioning why. It’s unrealistic to be permanently positive. We’re human.

We can choose the path we head down after that initial reaction has passed though.

Solution oriented and positively hopeful, or negative, reactionary and destructive.
The more we pull ourselves up into constructive pathways, the more likely that will become our default setting.

Like any great achievement it takes practice and perseverance. Mindfulness and self awareness. Support and self nurturing.

Whatever the catalyst is for positive change, being aware that setbacks are inevitable and FORGIVABLE will help us to get back on track quickly.

Laying the foundation for new default settings.

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For anyone who is interested in the program I did, I have shared links of the organisations involved. I recommend both so highly for anyone who wants to be more effective in their personal, professional and community life.

Lord Somers Camp and Powerhouse, Power2Lead.

Practical Workplace Strategies.

Check their sites for current and future programs, I’m grateful I did!

https://www.lscph.org.au/programs/p2l

http://practicalworkplacestrategies.com.au/about-2/