Body Transformations vs Self Compassion
My older brothers are both physical specimen. Kickboxing champions, fitness enthusiasts, you know that weird breed of human that seems to like exercise? I am not that breed. I was always a scrap of skin, bones and anxiety. I always dreamed of ?getting ripped in six weeks? or ?bulking up for summer?. I heard my brothers talking about supplements, training approaches and marginal gains. But I didn?t want marginal gains. I wanted a training montage. I wanted to go from zero to hero in about 3 minutes with ACDC in the background and then a jump in the air with a dramatic freezeframe! Yeah, I can see why they didn?t want to work out with me too.
Like every person going into their thirties I started looking towards exercise and diet as a means to slyly convince myself I wasn?t deteriorating and eventually dying. With my skinny frame and beer belly I looked like a lower-case b. I always wanted a dramatic ?before and after? and after a lot of work I felt I was in perfect shape? to take a before shot.
I tried intermittent fasting ? only eating between midday and 8pm. There is great research that this works well and isn?t dangerous. However, I like to eat socially and explaining this arbitrary rule about timings all the time made me sounds like a gremlin: ?don?t get him wet, he hates sunlight and don?t let him eat after sunset!?. I lasted a month.
I tried the Keto diet ? this is the high fat, high protein diet. It?s great if you love fish, red meat and dairy. I am a vegetarian? there?s only so much lentils one man can eat! I lasted two weeks.
I tried busting my behind in the gym ? I bought the protein powder, I made myself go four times a week. I pushed myself until I couldn?t push anymore. I made great gains but? in the end I lasted two months.
But every time I ended up failing. I ended up missing a few days, having a few drinks but mostly having a busy diary and not feeling like I could handle doing those things with aching muscles and a rumbling stomach. If you try to make a drastic change to your body in six weeks ? you will have a horrible six weeks. You will be hungry the whole time and your body will hurt.Then when you go back to normal you?ll gorge yourself to compensate. But what if I could change what ?normal? was for me.
Exercise advice is generally terrible. It?s all NEVER GIVE UP! GO UNTIL YOU CAN?T WALK! LITERALLY CRY IN THE GYM! This year I decided to take a more compassionate approach.
In January I bought some weights. I started using them once a week. That?s a whole once a week more than I used to! By the end of February I was using them twice a week and in March I was using them three times a week. And I stuck to this regimen strictly? except when I didn?t. If I missed a session, or let it slip I would forgive myself again and again and make sure I get back into the routine as soon as I can.
By May I started a diet. Where previously I had eaten whatever I want for three meals a day (plus snacks) I decided I would have porridge with fruit for breakfast, a different healthy lunch each day and then whatever I want for dinner. I stuck to this regimen strictly? except when I didn?t. If I went for lunch with family, or needed a greasy spoon after a night out, it doesn?t matter. I forgive myself and get back on with the routine as soon as I can.
There was no rapid change. But for the first time in my life, I had started an exercise regimen that wasn?t a fad. It?s been 10 months of exercising regularly. With self-compassion I?ve gotten rid of the most fattening part of any diet ? failure. Things became much better for me when I dropped the fads, stopped making short term changes to my body and started making long term changes to my life.??
By Josh Elton
Valleys Steps Associate