The truth of this summer’s goals

I never thought this would happen to me. I never thought I would ever train hard enough or be strict enough with my diet, and that that person could be me. If I’m honest, I always thought I’d eat too much chocolate and cake. It has been a wake up call, but also a realisation that we all have complete control over our body and can transform it to look however we want it to look, with the right dedication.

I have always looked the same: slim, athletic and tall. I can be thankful for my genes, but also from a lifetime of playing sports. On reflection, I have gradually shed some ‘puppy fat’ over my late-teens and twenties. Friends and family would comment ‘you’ve lost weight’ and I’d always be surprised as, if I had, it would have only been a pound or two. Being tall, I just thought people remembered me as ‘bigger’ than I actually am. Since about the age of 16 when I weighed roughly 12 stone, I have gradually dropped to just under 11 stone (68-70kg). My mother did the same, but not with quite as much exercise involved. At a height of 181cm, this is a healthy weight.

When I arrived in London, my goal was to get a job in the fitness and health industry, aka a gym, and learn as much as I could whilst also benefiting from it to get myself fitter and stronger. I attended a course back in July, and I am 100% sure the course deliverer never thought she’d have this effect on me, when declaring it ‘really hard to get a six pack’, I just thought (once again!) ‘challenge accepted’!

In the gym environment, there were people eating super cleanly: sugar and carbohydrates appeared to be the enemy and the more protein the better. At least that’s what I saw and I began to make changes in my diet in a quest to make myself leaner.

I became obsessed with what I was eating, how I was exercising and trying to get super lean. I wanted to get really fit and strong, too. I was watching people at work and what they were doing, including the super fit and seeing how I could exercise to be as fit as them. The energy imbalance was probably great because, despite trying to eat as healthily as possible, I just wasn’t eating enough and I became pretty low and depressed in August/September. Not only that, but my periods have stopped now for nearly 6 months. Not something you normally declare to the world, but I want this post to highlight what happens when training and diet can go to an extreme.

I did go to the doctor, and blood tests showed I was perfectly healthy (and not pregnant…) and we decided that with starting a new job, living alone and being in a new environment along with being on my feet most of the day, and then including a workout every day, that a combination of all this was probably the trigger to send my body into a bit of shock.

I thought I would be chuffed that I had managed to shed body fat and get my six-pack (slightly wonky, but it’s there more or less!), however, I burst into tears – I was miserable! Not only that, but I was scared I was making myself unhealthy. I wanted to be the healthiest I could be, which meant functioning like a woman should, and I wasn’t. And, as a trainee Personal Trainer, I felt I had failed.

I have been slowly trying to increase what I eat, and let go a little. Having achieved such a low body fat, I am balancing on a delicate line of wanting to put on weight and adjust my exercise/rest/energy intake balance so I am healthy but also, sadly, dealing with a part of me that now fears fat. Ridiculous, I know, but also understandable, I think?

I don’t believe for one minute I am alone in this. Being competitive, wanting to be the best athlete one can be…it can all get a bit out of control without the right guidance. We need to be reminded, and that’s the idea of the title of this blog ‘Treadmills and Chocolate” to get that balance right. No one said it was easy though!

We had many a discussion at work as to what our definition of an athlete is. Most of us agreed that someone who has reached a certain level of fitness is an athlete and these people can then be categorised as ‘professional’, ‘elite’, ‘competitive’ and ‘amateur’ athletes. Each body is unique and you should not need to be categorised to know when your body is at an extreme or not, for example you may not compete at all, but train enough to have body statistics similar to a professional athlete.

I am not underweight, and I am fit and strong, but my body probably prefers to carry some more fat, and might then function better as a woman. If I carried a little more blubber, too, I think I might find life in the mountains a little warmer!

Switching my focus entirely back to sport, rather than the number on the scales and how I look is proving to be a healthier outlook to have. Focusing on being better at skiing, stronger at lifting, faster at running and swimming and fuelling my body with the energy it requires doing that, is making me feel much better and happier. The athletic body shape should just happen as a consequence.

This is easier said than done, and everyone has issues about their body. Accepting how I am built, listening properly to my body and treating it with a bit more respect, might lead me to getting even better results.

This has been a valuable experience for me, and my future as a personal trainer. I am learning about the issues that can arise with training and it is making me appreciate the value of correct nutrition, rest and exercise that is suited for each individual.

If anyone wants some information about what it takes to be lean and about the Female Athlete Triad, have a look at the links below.

 Precise Nutrition

American College of Sports Medicine