I’d say I started to be more conscious about what I eat weeks before turning 29.
It all began in a Xmas dinner with friends, when one of my good girlfriends started telling me about this “fitness challenge” she was doing, which was a combination of healthy eating and specific weight exercises. Her enthusiasm was contagious, plus she did look stronger and her body more defined – her before and after pics were an amazing prove of it too!
Luckily, my body genetics help me to stay in a good weight without having to do huge efforts, although if I do eat more calories than the ones I burn, I also do get fat too of course. Especially around the bum/hips area, same tendency as my mum – it’s all in the genes again… the good and the bad!
Despite I was not over-weight; I was definitely not strong or toned either. So I thought it’d be good to give that “challenge” a go; after all it was just 8 weeks and less than £100 for them to provide me with a personalised training and eating plan. Sounded like a good deal which definitely worked for my friend, what would I lose for trying?
The New Year arrived, and so did my Challenge resolution! After filling the questionnaire, I got my tailored training (4 days a week) and the diet, which included only poultry, white fish, green veggies, rice, lots of water and supplements. No other meat or fish, no alcohol, no fruit, no sugar, no other carbs than rice… nothing, except for the “cheat day”, when you could have a free meal of your choice.
Despite it did look “challenging” indeed, I was quite motivated. I like cooking too, so I was optimistic and thought I’d make the best of it with my kitchen creativity.
The first week started and, by day 5, I was so bored/angry/frustrated due to the food limitations of this challenge, that I already wanted to end it. “What a fail, I have no will-power!” one part of me thought. “This makes no sense, this challenge is not realistic and I definitely don’t want to spend the next 7 weeks this moody!,” said another voice.
As I quickly realised, I do enjoy eating, not bad eating, but eating variety! I like to eat until I’m not hungry anymore. Plus, with all the “forbidden foods”, my options were not only dull to the palate, but also very restrictive for my social life too! Not to mention the supplements… How can take this protein shake be healthier than eating an apple? It just wasn’t me; I’m not a body-builder, neither a orthorexic.
So I followed my intuition and wisely listen to the second voice. And the real learning began.
Despite I kept the exercise bit (which was easier than expected!), I was a bit disappointed about myself for not following the diet as I “should”. But inside me, I knew there should be a better way, and that disappointment pushed me to wanting to know more about nutrition.
So I read and learnt from amazing books out there, and adapted healthier food choices to my preferences and my lifestyle. It did worked, and so well! Not only I got stronger, but I was free as well. Free to keep enjoying my big breakfasts, to have a glass of wine with a friend or a piece of cake if I wanted to.
I realised how damaging restrictive diets can be. Despite I definitely failed at the official “challenge plan” – I got where I wanted physically, and most importantly – The lessons from that period have remained with me until today.