I’ve decided that I want to share my journey from skinny to strong (both physically and mentally) and to the healthiest version of me with you all for the first time. If you’ve arrived at this blog post via Instagram then you will have already seen my transformation picture, but if not, here it is.
I apologise for the lack of clarity in this comparison photo, but I was never planning on changing my body in any way or embarking on a new health journey, so I never took any proper ‘before’ or ‘after’ photos. The photo on the left was taken about a year and a half ago. Although I was naturally skinny, I was also on a low-carb diet because it was a popular lifestyle choice at the time and I believed that it was the healthiest way to eat. However, although this approach might work for some, it was not for me. As a growing, very active teenage girl I was exhausted most of the time, slightly underweight and doing mainly frequent and intensive cardio, such as running. This also greatly weakened my immune system and left me feeling quite ill at an extremely stressful school time (GCSEs).
On top of that I had an unhealthy mind-set, but still managed to convince myself that I was healthy. I wasn’t eating sugar, gluten or grains and so I had to be healthy, right? Wrong. When I say I didn’t eat any of these things, I mean I didn’t ever eat any of these things. If something was not 100% healthy or I didn’t know of or approve of the exact ingredients, it would not pass my lips. As you can imagine, when it occasionally did, I would be consumed with obsessive feelings of guilt, and as though I’d failed somehow. Some of you might recognise this behaviour as orthorexia, defined as an obsession with healthy eating. I recently read an article on ‘clean eating’ in The Sunday Times Magazine which encouraged me to speak out about this.
However, I just view this stage in my life as my least healthy and happy one. To me, in my current healthy mental state, and I’m sure to all of you, this behaviour appears stupid and irrational, because it is. But try telling that to a stubborn, impressionable teenage girl who is heavily influenced by society, social media in particular. I can’t properly explain what it feels like to be in such a helpless place. It can be difficult to tell people how you feel, because you’re afraid of what they’ll do about it – you’re afraid that they’ll do what’s best for you because it doesn’t seem like it would be best for you despite how bad you’re feeling. For example it can be hard to believe that eating carbs won’t make you fat when you’ve got that ingrained in your beliefs.
Luckily I never had to seek help for this behaviour. Somewhere along the way I began to realise that it was not the right way of living. That I couldn’t be happy and healthy like this. That a good diet is not the only component of good health. And somewhere along the way I changed my mind-set.
I suppose I just started questioning my behaviour more – so I’d ask myself what I was trying to achieve by eating 100% healthily, or who I was trying to prove myself to. I realised that if you eat 90% healthily for most of the time, that piece of cake won’t wreck your lifestyle, your fitness or suddenly make your weight rocket. And there’s no point in depriving yourself when you don’t actually have to, even though it takes plenty of self-convincing at the beginning!
The photo on the right was taken very recently at Be:Fit London just over a month ago and about a week before I started BBG (this is not a BBG transformation). It was a gradual process, my mind-set did not just change overnight. I started to include wholegrains in my diet again, I reduced the amount of cardio I was doing, I started to include and enjoy treats, without the niggling guilt that used to follow. Now I eat carbs, I eat a lot, I don’t track macros, I eat treats (sanity is important, people!). I don’t crave or eat junk food because I genuinely love to eat healthily and there are so many sweet healthier alternatives that I prefer, but if I do have something I wouldn’t normally, I enjoy it. I workout a lot because I absolutely love it, not because I feel I have to. I mostly do strength and resistance sessions using my own bodyweight and extra weights, I do HIIT cardio sessions, run occasionally for enjoyment and do plenty of yoga for both my physical and mental health.
I’ve gained weight, mostly muscle, and I’m not bothered by it. If anything, I’m very happy about it. Sometimes I get called “bulky” or “too muscly” and my confidence gets knocked slightly. But then I realise I don’t care what they say. As cheesy as it sounds, I’m the happiest, healthiest and most balanced that I’ve ever been and I intend to stay that way. It’s not just me who’s noticed it either – friends and family have commented on how much healthier and happier I seem, and this reminds me of how far I’ve come.
As I’ve said before, humans seem to find it incredibly difficult to find that balance, and there seems to be a fine line between the extremes. I’d urge anyone who identifies with those feelings to do something about it. I think it’s absolutely essential to remind yourself how important your happiness is and that this should come first.
Thank you for reading! Please feel free to comment or share your own experiences below.