I’m currently taking part in the Fitter Cleaner Leaner Challenge by the amazing Tanya N. This is a structured, informative and supported challenge to help get rid of extra body fat, and surrounded by unhealthy treats at work I thought it is something that I would benefit from. I don’t necessarily want to lose weight, but since running the London Marathon I have stopped training in the same way, as is only natural, and I started a new job that is extremely sedentary.
I want to be clear and say that Tanya and the FCL challenge social media group are both great. There is plenty of information and support to ensure that the process is healthy, flexible, realistic and a positive experience. What I’m about to write is not a criticism of any person, diet programme or anything. It is simply a reflection on how being on a diet makes me feel, in case anyone else can identify.
I try to keep my blog and instagram more focused on fitness than I do healthy eating, because I don’t want to lie to people and pretend that I eat clean all of the time or that you have to eat a certain way. I personally think it is unhealthy to focus on body image to the expense of your happiness. This is largely because my fitness goals are performance based (I want to run the marathon in a certain time) rather than aesthetic based, but I also really struggle to say no to a delicious brownie.
The reason I am writing this blog post is not to review the experience or talk about my particular calorie goals, because I think this is private, and, more importantly, a bit boring, but I wanted to share how difficult I find sticking to a calorie goal. I have largely been good, but I have also slipped off the wagon a bit this week.
This feels a little embarrassing to write, but I am a little on the greedy side when it comes to food. I’m not one of those people who see food as fuel, but as delicious and a form of enjoyment. This doesn’t mean I eat junk food 24/7, but I do take pleasure from food and sometimes that means healthy nourishing meals, and sometimes that means chocolate, cheese and wine.
I’ve decided it’s important to share these so called failures as well as successes. It’s easy to post a photo a delicious healthy meal (the success), but unsurprisingly a few chocolate bourbon biscuits aren’t quite as pretty a post. Equally, there isn’t quite an inspirational quote to sum up the guilt and disappointment you feel when you’ve mindlessly snacked on something you didn’t even enjoy that much. This post is to share the reality of my experience with the #FCLChallenge in total, rather than just the highlights. Here are the three things I’ve learned this week.
- I have an emotional connection to sugar
This is not especially uncommon, but taking notice of what I was eating and recording it in My Fitness Pal, I did notice that the strength of my chocolate and sweet cravings were entirely dependant on my mood, as were the choices I eventually made. When I was stressed at work I cracked and had some biscuits, I didn’t even seek out something I loved, just something sweet.
My love of chocolate is well known, but I was surprised to discover to what extent I eat any old sugary rubbish out of boredom or stress.
2. Accountability is important
I made an effort to track all of my slips rather than just bury my head in the sand. This was really good because it meant that they were put into perspective rather than becoming a massive burden of guilt. It also meant I was forced to confront it as a decision I had made and will have the option of making again. I feel like a naughty school child typing it into the app, but as an exercise in awareness it was really useful. The food I eat are decisions made by me and for which I am responsible.
3. Perspective is important too
Whilst if you have a clear goal and time constraint you do need to be strict, I don’t believe things are as binary as successful or failure. It’s important to keep perspective and see ‘slips’ for what they mean, rather than just a failure on a diet programme. Was it a good night with your friends? Was it a reaction to something else? Did you just really want it and enjoy every mouthful? Did you do it mindlessly and regret it?
I’m only human and I don’t expect to be perfect, but I do think understanding the decisions I make will empower me to make the decisions which are best for both my mind and body.
I want to know I’m making decisions that are to my benefit, and that fuel my body to keep performing at work, keep me fit, and keep me happy. I want to make these healthy choices to know that I can, and to ensure I have a healthy relationship with sweet treats.
I am entering Week Two of the challenge armed with Tanya’s incredible information, the support of the social media group, a better knowledge of the choices I make around food, and understanding of my goals. Here we go.