This is the final instalment of a 3 part guest post series by my good friend Dr Rhianna Miles. She discusses her approach to exercise, after having instituted some huge dietary habit changes prior. I hope you have enjoyed her insight into her personal experiences changing her lifestyle, with the scientific understanding that her physician’s knowledge brings. The rhetoric from government and the media around diabetes and obesity is no exaggeration. It is the biggest health problem facing our society; obesity is becoming the norm, with nearly two in three adults overweight or obese. So enjoy what you eat, but be mindful. Exercise. Nourish your body. Live well. Santé!
Along with drastically changing what I ate, I also started attending a gym and found an exercise that I loved. For me, it was reformer Pilates. I was constantly sore from the moment I started. I didn’t think it was possible for my abdominal muscles to be so on fire, yet still functional. There was no more kidding myself that I was “fat, but still strong.” I’d really dropped the ball on my health, and had a long way to go to get back to where I’d been previously. The classes I attended made it obvious how weak I was, but I could work myself very hard without ending up like a sweaty beetroot. I learned that burning muscles and soreness the next day was not something going wrong, but the level of work I needed to achieve to ensure change in my body. The advantage of being constantly sore, is that it was a constant reminder to me of my need for healthy eating. More times than I care to mention, I mindlessly reached for a bowl of unhealthy snacks at work that I’d previously had eaten without a second thought. The twinging of my aching muscles as I reached towards a bowl of chips or chocolates reminded me that I had made a decision to make healthy choices. Being mindful of what I put in my mouth was all that was needed. Just an extra second to consider whether I REALLY wanted that chocolate, or whether I was reaching for it just because it was there. I never made anything “out of bounds.” If I REALLY wanted a chocolate, I was allowed, but after several days of very sore muscles, I found I didn’t want to “ruin” my workouts for the sake of one short lived snack. Actually, after a while, the sweets started tasting sickly sweet, and no longer desirable.
I made it to my birthday – four weeks into my new program, and the time when I said I could have wine again. Two glasses in on my birthday night, and I felt more than a little tipsy. Clearly, I’d made a big change to my metabolism and ability to handle alcohol. Previously, well over half a bottle could slip down my throat with little obvious effect. Not only was I saving money on eating out and fast food, but I was saving money on alcohol, too! As well as Reformer Pilates, I started doing some yoga. I’d previously tried yoga classes and found it to be some kind of weird spiritual mumbo jumbo, but this time around, I found it extremely stabilising for me. Attending yoga and taking 45 minutes out of my busy work schedule to just take time for me was a revelation. Allowing some introspection and thought about myself and my body made it much easier to continue making healthy choices every day.
My entire palate changed and sugary food started tasting unpleasantly sweet. The exercise was still very hard, and left me aching terribly all over, but I’d made a commitment that I’d do at least thirty classes in the initial eleven week program. This was a very achievable goal – only two classes a week for the first three weeks, then three classes a week thereafter. Having to schedule in and book sessions for exercise was invaluable for me. There was no more putting off a workout until later, because I had a 5.35pm booking to attend. There’s no way I wouldn’t turn up to an appointment with a patient, so I treated my exercise the same as I would any other appointment. Life would get busy, but appointments were appointments whether they were for me or someone else. It took me that full first eleven weeks to change from the mindset of “I can’t” in the classes to, “I will give it a go.” I found that the gains in strength were obvious as the classes went by. I needed fewer breaks during the class and could start to put more and more resistance on the reformer. Then my competitive streak kicked in and I really started pushing myself towards the hardest I could work. I decided a 45 minute class was short enough that I could work myself to exhaustion without concern I wouldn’t recover enough to get home again safely. I stopped second guessing what I was able to achieve. I learned that some physical discomfort is required to push for major physical changes.
After the first eleven weeks, I’d made significant headway. I’d lost 10.8kg, and 28cm over my measurements. I’d massively beaten my goal of 30 classes by doing 44! This was unheard of! I’d bought myself a dress at the beginning of the year hoping it would fit me for a fancy ball. I just managed to squeeze into this dress that was a full size lower than I’d been in January. I felt great! More importantly, when I went away on holiday to America, I couldn’t get away from the mindset that I deserved better than poor food. Everything I ate in America tasted sickly sweet. I craved vegetables like I had at home. I missed my gym classes and couldn’t wait to get back into it! I knew at that point that this was more than an eleven week plan, and from then on only healthy options would be the ones I’d choose.
Now a full two years later, I still log all the food I eat. That constant reminder to think about what I’m eating keeps my weight stable, a full 23kg below where I started. I allow myself far more carbohydrates now than I did when I started, but I exercise far more, having found that the stress relief of exercise gives me a great break from work and helps not just my strength and weight maintenance, but more importantly my mood and mindset towards food. It took a clear decision to change, setting achievable goals, making a change in my approach towards food and recognising the nutrient content of what I was eating and finding an exercise that I loved. I will never be a skinny model, but I know now that I’ll always be the healthiest version of me that I can!