Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Break Up

  8429536190_c994933a97_zShe tapped her fingers nervously against the surface of the coffee table. Despite having mentally prepared herself for a while, it was going to be harder than expected. It wasn’t like she hadn’t considered all the options, carefully weighing the positives against the negatives before making her mind up. It was time to end this relationship. It had run it’s course, and whether it ended up being a permanent or temporary break, a break was exactly what she needed.

Like all new relationships it started out so well. In the beginning she felt inspired, motivated and excited by the newness of it all. She gained so much and learnt so many things from her new companion. She pushed boundaries and tried things she had never tried before. Chia seed pudding, green smoothies, avocado chocolate mousse, yoga, kettlebells, sprouts, earthing and sunset runs along the beach: all new and wildly exciting. It was romantic, different and made her feel well within herself. Her happiness and healthy glow didn’t go unnoticed amongst family and friends, this wellness that radiated from her perfect new relationship. She knew this, and it made it so easy to keep going. This was a relationship that finally made her a better version of herself, made her strive for more in life, to never settle for less than what she truly deserved.

She couldn’t remember when the first cracks appeared. The first glimpse into the ugly, dark self-loathing that became more and more frequent, week by week, brought on by demands she simply couldn’t meet. Maybe the first time she caught herself looking in the mirror; wondering what she would look like if she only did more yoga? Would the gap between her thighs get bigger if she stuck to a raw juice fast for an entire week? Would more runs along the beach give her visible abs? The constant wants seemed petty yet important. Why this sudden change? Why did she suddenly feel like such a failure?

The relationship no longer brought her constant joy. Her companion felt more demanding, displeased, disappointed even. Constantly reminding her she should be better. Much better. She wasn’t tanned, slim or fit enough. There was always more to achieve and she wasn’t achieving it as quickly as she should or could. “Spring is coming, do a sugar detox! It’s 22 degrees, go for a long hike and soak up the rays! Kale is on special, make some green juice!”. The relationship felt like a burden, no longer the safe, inspirational, motivating and self-loving haven it had been in the beginning. She no longer recognized the person she had become. She had, like so many young girls, lost herself in an all-consuming relationship- too young to know any better. She needed to get out, focus on the positives and move to the beat of her own drum yet again.

She took a deep breath. “Dear Instagram, it’s not you, it’s me.”

Does this sound familiar to anyone else? Social media can be an amazing thing. It lets you stay in touch with friends and family, and share what’s important (or not so important) with whomever you see fit depending on your cleverly adjusted privacy-settings. You can follow you favourite bloggers, public personas, singers and fashion icons. You can stay in the loop with the latest tunes, news, podcasts, movies, blogs, interviews, recipes-shares, give-aways, gym-routines, events and holiday snap-shots. You never have to miss out. Ever. But sometimes our relationship with social media becomes all-consuming. Worst of all, it can make you feel inadequate.

At 33 I am mature enough to separate me from “them”. I am who I am, and I am quite happy being me with my life, genetics, looks and habits (not perfect, but I don’t really care). I don’t aspire to get a #boxgap (seriously, check out that hash-tag on Instagram and tell me it’s not sick and unhealthy??). I don’t follow #thinspiration, #fitspiration or #mumswith6packs. I’m quite selective and follow the accounts of people I either know in person, or would like to know because they seem sane, nice, clever and fun. I also follow a handful of accounts that I benefit from like food- and recipe bloggers, fitness experts and fashion editors (so I know what shoes are hot next season- don’t laugh, shoes are my thing!). Sure, I like inspiration too and strive to be the best and healthiest version of me that I can possibly be, but with age comes perspective and acceptance. I know that Instagram only provides a tiny little square of staged perfection, carefully lit and filtered for maximum impact and lots of “likes”. I know because I build my brand and run my business using the social media platform too.

I also know that unless genetically gifted, not everyone can look #fit, #slim and #skinny while doing the Crow-pose in a crop-top. I know that no one fuels themselves with #green #juice and smoothies covered in #organic bee pollen all the time (unless they are doing Gerson-therapy to heal from cancer, but that’s a different story). What do you need to know? That people and businesses don’t post pictures of the boring, mundane stuff because that wouldn’t grow their brand or generate interest and attention. We post pictures of the best of the best, the meals that look fantastic, the stuff we eat while out, the awesome people we’ve connected with, the parties we go to and anything that might brighten up someone’s feed (cats, shoes, sunsets and rainbow-photos all fall into this category). Nothing wrong with that. But I get concerned when the glimpse of perfection is perceived as the norm by the followers. Do you appreciate that it only offers a tiny glimpse, not the full reality, behind a person or a brand? Now that I have a little daughter, I often ask myself: Can a 16 year old girl look at images of #skinny girls doing #yoga #selfies while eating #raw #vegan #Paleo, and not feel a desire to look the same way?

Have you had a social media break, or ever felt a need to do it?

Photo from Farm9.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Why woman shouldn’t fear muscles. On themselves.

579654_10152702303800224_958442901_n I don’t know exactly when my focus shifted from wanting to be skinny to wanting to be toned and strong. But I suspect it happened around the same time I decided to change to a Primal diet and lifestyle. No longer did I find photos of skin-and-bone-thin models enviable.

Muscles on woman, or anybody, really, is an awesome thing. It makes you strong, and feeling strong is great as it also makes you feel more confident within yourself. I’m not just talking looks. Sure, your jeans will fit better and you might even rock that bikini, but when you feel strong you also trust yourself and your own capabilities a lot more. That’s my experience. Muscles makes the bathroom-scales useless and pointless. For that reason alone, I applaud and recommend heavy lifting. Right now I weigh nearly 5 kilos more than I did at my very lowest since initially losing all the weight (I lost 23 kilos over 12 months by going Paleo), but I fit into the same clothes- some of the clothes are even loser than before. And since gaining a bit of lean muscle, I find myself being far more insulin-sensitive. I seem to cope better with carbs than I did 18 months ago, but I also attribute this to improved liver-function. My lower back is less prone to getting sore, I can swing my 20 kilos of pure boy x 2 (I have twins) around without exhausting myself, and I can carry all of my weekly grocery-shopping from the car in one hit. The best part is that I can open jars without asking my husband for help. Such a small thing, but a giant triumph for me: I remember having days where I really felt like salsa for lunch, but had to wait till Matt came home from work so he could open it for me. It was annoying and downright a bit pathetic: I love that popping sound every time I manage to open a tricky jar by myself!

The great thing about eating a Paleo or Primal type of diet is that it encourages fat loss while keeping your lean muscle mass. Having said that, if you go day after day eating less calories, protein in particular- than your body needs, you will eventually experience loss of muscle. So eat up. How deliberating to hear after years of dieting! It’s true what they say; your training efforts and results are 80% diet and 20% exercise. I have always worked out; whether it was aerobics (I got my first gym-membership back in 98, don’t judge- it was all the rave back then!), spinning, swimming, walking, running, jogging, Pilates or doing hundreds of reps with light weights. Through all this I always ate the same old high-carb, wholegrain, low-fat diet. I always looked the same. Always with a body fat percentage varying between the higher side of normal right up to 48% (!!!), where I ended up after the birth of my 3rd child. I look back at photos from my early 20s, and I know I might weigh more now but I’m actually much leaner. The jeans and top that I wore the night I first met Matt back in a pub back in 2005 not only fit, but they are a bit too big. However, I weigh more today. So let’s conclude, muscles rock.

I know I’m not the only woman who has embraced a healthier ideal, replacing the old Kate Moss-types with someone like Jessica Biel (she does CrossFit). I don’t work out that much anymore: 2 days a week I lift weights, 1 day yoga, and the rest of the week I like to walk and make sure I get good food and quality sleep. For me, it’s definitely been a “less is more”-journey towards health and LGN (Looking Good Naked, a clever Mark Sisson-term). While I’m closer to my goal than I was last year, I still have a way to go, but the biggest difference is that I’m actually enjoying my work-outs and progress. I used to feel like I was chasing the impossible during all those long hours on the treadmill, while these days I genuinely look forward to my lifting-sessions. No, I don’t look like Jessica Biel, and I probably never will, but that’s fine with me. Because, guess what, I can finally open my own jars and do unassisted chin-ups. If that’s not the epitome of awesome, then I don’t know what is.

Have you started lifting weights and felt your confidence and body image soar? How did diet fit in with the bigger picture?