Self Reflection

How not giving up led to me achieving weight loss

I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed – Michael Jordan

Exercise can be one of the most difficult hurdles to overcome, especially when you’re struggling with low mood. You recognise exercise is something you’d like to introduce to your life, but you have no energy or motivation to do it. For me, it has been a battle for the last 10 years to try and motivate myself to consistently exercise.

Over the years I’ve gradually seen my weight increasing, but I told myself it was because I was still growing. 10.5 stone, 11 stone, 12 stone… 14 stone. I would look at myself and wouldn’t be happy with the way that I looked, but I never considered myself overweight. That is, until I sat down one day after just getting a shower, saw my reflection in the TV screen and realised. I had a sizable amount of fat flopping over my sides and my stomach now had three rolls unwelcomely overlapping each other. I was overweight.

I think I had subconsciously known I was overweight but didn’t want to accept it and lose the image of how skinny and in shape I used to be when I swam. I already felt low; I didn’t need to add another problem to the list.

In more recent years I decided to try and commit to exercising. I signed up to a gym and planned to go at least three times a week. One visit to the gym later and a week had passed, and I was left feeling very demotivated. A couple of months had passed and I had built up the courage to try again but was met with the same disappointment. I just couldn’t bring myself to go, whether that be from feeling low or from lack of energy.

For months on end I felt a growing frustration within me and despair at the idea I would never be one of those people who gets in shape, has a great body and actually enjoys exercise. However, one day after failing to go to the gym again I noticed myself planning to start again next week. I reflected on how, historically, it had taken me a few months to get back on track and try again, however it was now taking me a week.

“Okay”, I thought, “it’s taking you less and less time to get back on it and try again. That’s progress.” I remember feeling a lot of relief when I acknowledged my progress, it wasn’t much and I still felt so far away from where I wanted to be, but over time I was able to change my habits and be more persistent with exercise.

I decided to set myself a challenge; something that would push me but also was achievable. I set myself the challenge of doing 30 days of yoga. This was beginner’s yoga so I knew it wouldn’t be hugely taxing on my body – turns out because I had little to no strength and fitness it was much more of a challenge than I originally anticipated, but it was still manageable.

However, as usual, I gave up; I got to day 5 and decided I was too tired to do day 6. But then come a week or two later I tried again. I got to day 10, then day 14; I was getting there. Then, finally, I did 30 days. It was tough and on multiple occasions I didn’t feel like doing it, so I would substitute the days routine for one in the series that looked a little easier so I would still be keeping on track, but was able to accommodate how I was feeling that day.

I wanted to give up multiple times, but I had been there. I had gotten to day 14 and given up and felt disappointed in myself. I was so tired of not achieving my goal, I used that negative emotion to drive me forward and push me to the end of the 30 days. I felt very proud of myself for achieving that goal, but I had to make sure I didn’t lose my momentum. The yoga stopped but going to the gym started up again. Two times a week, then three.

Fast forward a few months and I’m 5kg lighter, starting to see real progress with my strength and fitness and feeling good about myself. Now, I sometimes find it harder to not do a workout or push myself because I remember all the times I have failed or given up and how I have felt when I have. I use that negative energy to drive me forward, even if it’s just pushing that little bit harder than I did before. I wouldn’t have that if I hadn’t kept trying and failing.


Persevere

Start adding some exercise into your routine; this is probably the hardest part of your journey, when you’ve just started and are trying to make the change in your life.

Choose something you think you will be able to keep to; I found running wasn’t for me initially. It is a very tough sport to start from scratch and those first few runs aren’t pleasant. I found it put me off doing exercise a lot. Walking, however, was something I could get into more. Walks along the beach or in a nice area, listening to a book I found worked for me. Increase the length of your walks or visit hilly areas if you want more of a challenge.

I also tried using the gym, but if you can’t afford to then there is so much you can do with just your bodyweight. I gave up a lot, but I kept trying. When I was at the gym and had completed I workout I usually felt good, the hardest part is re-training yourself to go out and do it, especially when you really don’t feel like it.

You will struggle, you will give up, but you need to keep going. Allow yourself time, gradually you’ll begin to fall into more of a routine.


Use your experiences to drive you

Don’t let the challenges you’ve faced, the negative emotions that haunted you go to waste. Use them to drive you forward. I remember going out running one day when I really didn’t feel like it. I was two laps from the end of my run and was concluding I was going to give up and walk.

However, I’d been there before. I’d given up too early before; I knew I could complete the run, but mentally I was giving up. I remembered how I felt from times before and used that to take away the option of stopping. This didn’t happen immediately, but I’d given up to many times that I was fed up of doing it. The sense of achievement I got from completing the run was huge, and I learnt I have more control over my mind and my body that I thought I had. Since then, I push myself just that little bit further than the time before, because I can.

Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying ‘I will try again tomorrow.

Mary Anne Radmacher, American author and artist
Self Reflection

Being in Limbo

I’ve been going on walks recently to clear my mind and appreciate the now. Find me on Instagram

Mind racing, head spinning, I can’t sleep. I lay there in bed regretting the day gone, dreading the day to come. Sleep is a gift I have not been given this night. Sleep is a mercy, an escape but tonight I stay in a prison of my own creation.

I search for the darkness to consume me and relieve me of my thoughts, but I get pulled back to the disappointment of the day that has gone. I’ve been in a trance all day; focus is sporadic, joy non-existent.

I’m in a state of limbo, where my future is uncertain. I slipped into the all too familiar pattern of distractions. Starting a new game or continuing with a newfound hobby all seem to tiresome to me, so I give in and watch TV; mind numbing TV.

I’m paralysed in the moment, unable to move forward or backwards as I no longer know what the route ahead of me is. In the next few weeks I will find out if I have gotten my dream job. In the next few weeks I’ll find out if I have to begin the job search hunt again.

Being in limbo is something I have never recognised as having a big impact on me, until now. I am struggling to keep with my routines, with exercising regularly, with making time for my hobbies and for finding time to relax. This is because my whole world, right now, is focused around my future. The days drift by me, like unwelcome clouds in the sky concealing the sun. I can see the light in the distance, but right now I’m in shade; I’m in the unknown.

I want to look around me and acknowledge grass on my feet, the wind on my skin, the cat pawing at me who wants an early dinner. Instead, I stay fixated on the sky, worrying that if I lose sight of the sun, I won’t find it again. I am not living, I am existing.

But then my head kicks in:

“You’ve been here before Lisa; you know you shouldn’t distract yourself. You know you need to begin to plan your days again to add some structure, some certainty.”

I take my eye off the sky for a second, but panic and look back up again.

“Trust yourself, you’ve spent countless days looking at that sky but it’s only when you stop looking and focus on the present that the sun comes out.”

Reluctantly, I look away and take a moment to acknowledge my surroundings. I feel scared, I can feel my thoughts returning but I resist the urge to look back up again. It’s dark around me, colourless. However, when I take a second to just be in the moment, I see a glimmer of colour trickle in.

Being in limbo is tough, whether you’re waiting to find out about a new job, your exam results, if the person you like likes you back… it’s easy to surround yourself with distractions and take your mind off the problem. You may feel okay whilst you’re distracted, but as soon as the distraction isn’t there anymore you feel low.

In these times, it’s important to stop yourself from defaulting to numbing yourself to how you feel. It’s important to stop gazing up and start looking at what’s around you, what opportunities you have that day because they’re there. Whether it be reading that book you’ve wanted to start for a while, taxing your car that’s due to run out next week and has been bothering you or writing a blog post.

It’s important to take a moment to be mindful, that is to take a moment to appreciate, without judgement, what is around you. To quieten those concerns in your head and take a moment for yourself.

For me, that moment of silence and not rushing into my next mind-numbing activity helped me to recognise that I need something certain in my life right now. I need some structure, so I can be certain about what is going to happen in my day. Drifting through the day without a plan so far has left me susceptible to distracting myself playing games. Distracting myself with games means I’m not progressing forward which makes me feel unhappy, so I then can’t enjoy things I would usually enjoy.

Recognise when you are distracting yourself from your reality, it may take you a few days, maybe even months, to do anything about it but it’s important you recognise you are doing it.

Try to take away those distractions and let yourself be in the moment. Don’t be discouraged if you find it too difficult initially and go back to distracting yourself. It’s difficult to break a habit. Acknowledge how you feel and don’t forget it, one day you will have had enough of distracting yourself and those feelings of disappointment and regret will help you break the cycle.

When you take a moment for yourself, it’s okay to feel scared or unsure of what to do next. You’ll work it out. You may find some peace in the moment or you may not be there yet. Keep persevering. Don’t be discouraged if you’re still at the start of your journey with this, you will get there.

The sun will come out again, trust yourself.

Learning

The Fear of Failure

You can call it failure; I call it life.

Ant Middleton

It has been a while since I have written a post, so I must admit it is a little intimidating coming back to it again!

A lot has changed, the world is looking a lot brighter.

www.instagram.com/theartofbeinghappy_art/

When I wrote my first blog post I was very motivated after a long period of feeling low and enjoyed the experience, but the more I wrote the more I began to feel like it was a chore to do it. That is not what I wanted from my hobby, so I decided to have short break and explore some other hobbies.

Now, I have always been terrified when it comes to investing money into things, especially when I don’t know a lot about them. My husband and I ordered a hot tub (one of those blow up ones that probably looks a little more expensive than it really is). I remember looking in my garden and seeing so much potential for what I could do to make the hot tub area a nice area to be in. However, as soon as I thought about the possibility of putting in decking myself and designing an area in the garden, I felt terrified and immediately put that crazy idea to bed. I had never done it before so it would be a little risky to give it a go and potentially waste time and money.

Or would it?

I began thinking, contemplating over the idea of who I want to be. I considered the idea that a characteristic of the person I wanted to be was fearless, well somewhat anyway. I had just finished a book by Ant Middleton called The Fear Bubble (I highly recommend it). It talks about how so many people live their life in their own safe corridors. Opportunities come up to open new doors and see what is out there but ultimately most choose to retreat to the comfort of familiarity and certainty, their corridor. It is something I’ve been doing for the last few years.

Learn a new skill? I could but if I am not good at it, I’ll feel demotivated. Go for a job I’m really interested in? Maybe, but if I don’t get it then that’s it, I’m doomed to be a failure. Sounds crazy when you hear someone else’s thought process right? Of course as an outsider you’re able to see things in perspective.

“Just because you don’t get that job doesn’t mean you’re a failure!”

“Practise makes perfect, if you’re committed enough you will get better”

In all honesty, the reason I chose to commit to renovating my garden was because I was fed up. I was fed up of saying “I wish I could craft things”. I have too many wishes I’ve sat on for a while.

“I wish I could lose this weight that’s making me unhappy”

“I wish I could draw better”

“I wish I could write a successful blog”

No, I wasn’t having it anymore. Fail or not, I was going to build some decking and plant boxes for my hot tub area. I jumped in the car and went to Homebase to scope out how much it would cost me. Cost was something I had to consider but I had decided it wasn’t going to be a reason I didn’t go through with improving my garden. If it was too expensive to buy decking, then I’d buy used wood and sand it down and put decking together with that. Ultimately fear of failure was the driving factor behind all of my doubts, as soon as I recognised that’s what was triggering the doubt I pushed forward.

The fact is, if you want things to change you have to do something about it. Staying in my corridor wasn’t working. I felt stuck in life, demotivated and ultimately very bored. I would rarely push myself out of my comfort zone and give something a go, therefore nothing changed. The moment, and I really do mean the moment, I began facing my fears and having the courage to try new things my whole world changed.

It’s wasn’t some magical feeling, where you feel like you’re on top of the world and can do anything (not at the start anyway). I felt terrified, constantly doubted my decisions and was wondering if I’d just wasted a few hundred pounds of our hard earnt money on something I was going to give up on. However, I kept going. If I failed I would try again, as ultimately all failure is, is a lesson.

“You bought partially premade decking slabs which cost more than anticipated. Next time consider looking for used wood and making your own from scratch. You’ll learn more and save money.”

“You didn’t support the wood when you were cutting it so when it got weak it splintered the end. Next time, balance it between two equally high supports.”

“Okay, you sawed your finger so maybe next time buy some gloves.”

I’m still a novice when it comes to gardening and DYI, but I have learnt a huge amount in such a short space of time. I didn’t look at any of my mistakes as failures, I looked for the lesson in them.

A story I find inspiring is one of Mandy Harvey. She is a singer and songwriter who at the age of 19 lost her hearing. Mandy had every right to give up and accept the hand she was dealt, but instead she began to practise and learn again. Now, she’s not only a professional singer and songwriter, but also has a book and has several tours where she speaks about the hardship she overcame.

In her book, Sensing the Rhythm, she speaks about how most people stay inside their own boxes, their comfort zones, similar to the corridors Ant Middleton describes. She describes how she went through a period of feeling very low and her life and dreams had fell apart. However, one day her dad asked her if she’d like to sing along to him playing guitar. Naturally, she thought it was a crazy idea because she was deaf and things wouldn’t be necessarily be able to. However, from that, she was able to see a world of possibilities open up for her again as she was able to sing along and keep in tune and rhythm. Mandy recognised she wasn’t hopeless in her situation; she could change it.

Mandy goes on to talk about saying yes when the time is right. If she’d said no to joining her dad in what seemed like a hopeless cause she may have never climbed out of her box and grown as a person, opened that new door out of her corridor.

Since I made it my mission to work on my own self development, I have pushed myself towards saying yes and opening myself to new experiences. More recently, I have not let fear of failure dictate what I can and can’t do.

I thought I was going to fail miserably at my garden, but I’ve done a good job that I’m proud of and have learnt a lot – I’m now progressing onto making some garden furniture.

It’s not fully done yet, but I’m proud of the progress made so far!

I thought I’d fail at my first interview for a job as historically I’ve never made it when I’ve looked to pursue my dream, but this time I passed it. I learnt from my previous experiences and used them to inform me this time round.

I had the courage to step out of my comfort zone and the resilience to take the positives from my failures. I honestly believe progression leads to happiness, which is why so many of us are unhappy as we feel stuck. Don’t let fear of failure stop you from growing as a person. The more you fail, the more you’ll learn and grow.

Sure, it may be uncomfortable and you may mess up, but next time round you’ll do better. I have had some awful experiences failing but I wouldn’t change them. I have learnt a lot and I’m beginning to feel happier as I’m not the same person I was a year ago, even a few months ago. The idea of failing may be terrifying, but the idea of never trying and letting your life drift by you, that is what is truly scary.

Things turn out best, for people who make the best of the way things turned out

John Wooden, American basketball players then Coach