Friday, 9 August 2013

stepping into the change room

Blogging is hard. Like, really hard.

Well, I think so, anyway.

Some bloggers post all the time. They make it look so effortless. I don't know how they do it.

I, on the other hand, find it extremely challenging.

Satisfying, yes. Rewarding, yes. But difficult.

I work seven days a week - so finding the time to thoroughly research and then collate data is hard enough as it is. But then finding the time to put all of that information together into one cohesive, entertaining piece of writing.. Well, that's where things get really tricky.

I'll be honest with you now, and admit that blogging usually takes me hours.

Some days, when I'm lucky, I'll type and type and type.. And then I'm done! But more often than not, I'll type, read, delete, re- type, re- read, delete again, and so on.

So you can imagine how much it means to me when people give me positive feedback about my blog.

My readers often tell me that my posts have a stimulating effect on them - that something deep within them is stirred and roused when they read my blog. Somehow, my words have the capacity to awaken a part of them that makes them want to be healthier.

But, alas, too often the news that follows this is that ultimately, a bigger part of them then says, "Screw it, I just can't be effed." (No, they don't really say 'effed'. They say the real word, 'eff- you- see- kay- ee- dee.')

I've heard this same story from different readers so many times recently that all I've been able to think about is how to help them change. How do I help them go from simply wanting to be healthier, to actually being healthier?

I confronted one such reader with my problem, and she replied, "Well, Mandy, it's actually pretty hard. I'm not like you. Being healthy is just who you are. You don't know what it's like to have bad habits that need to be changed. You don't know what it's like to have a problem with your weight."

Well, actually, I do.

Growing up, I was always a skinny little thing. I grew up in a tough neighbourhood, so my parents forced my brother and I to study taekwondo as a form of self defense. Weekly classes and (almost) daily practice set the foundation for my brother's and my penchant for regular physical activity.

I was an avid reader, too, and the Californian character Dawn from The Babysitter's Club was my ultimate inspiration. She was tall, fit, and a total health food addict. I didn't know what tahini was, but if she ate it, I'd make my mum look for it at the supermarket so that I could eat it too. While all the other kids were ordering hot dogs and meat pies for lunch, I was ordering a salad sandwich on wholemeal bread, with a bottle of water.

But then, in year nine, I started to get sick. My tummy ached. It hurt so much that I would faint from the pain. The doctor prescribed me some tablets to help reduce my stomach acid levels, and told me to eat more, and eat more frequently. I did as I was told.

The tablets made me lethargic. I stopped being as physically active.

I guess I should have gotten the point when my mum told me that I needed to buy new clothes. I was no longer allowed to wear my favourite white shirt, because the buttons wouldn't do up the front anymore. I earned myself a new nickname - MM. It stood for Meaty Mandy. My aunts and uncles would quietly pull me aside at family functions and ask (tactfully? tactlessly? I can't tell), "Are you trying to put on weight?!"

It didn't bother me. None of it phased me. Not because I didn't care, but because I just couldn't see it.

Breakfast was either six slices of grain toast with six slices of processed cheese, two cans of chilli tuna and a glass of orange juice, or it was eleven (yes, eleven) Weetbix with two sliced bananas and milk. That's more than the cricketers do, mate. We didn't have a bowl big enough for eleven Weetbix, so I had to have two servings - one bowl of five, and then another bowl of six.

Lunch was six breadrolls. Afternoon tea was a whole apple and custard log (yes, I'm talking about the type of pastry log that is designed to be cut up and shared amongst several people) - all to myself.

Once - just once - I ate sixty McNuggets (with three tubs of sweet'n'sour dipping sauce) and a slice of cheesecake. I only stopped because I ran out of pocket money. That was just my afternoon snack - I'd had breakfast and lunch, and proceeded to have dinner that day, too.

See, the thing is, I was eating healthily. Or I thought I was. It's not like I was eating sugary cereal for breakfast, potato cakes for lunch, and donuts for my snacks. So I didn't understand why people thought I was putting on weight - I didn't see how it could be possible.

It wasn't until I saw the photo that I had my epiphany. My mum and I were flipping through photos of our extended family's Christmas party, and I stopped at a photo of a girl seated beside my father. I wondered who the girl was - I didn't recognise her. Who was this person next to my dad? I didn't remember meeting or seeing her that day. Gosh, she was fat. She looked so unhealthy. I could teach her a thing or two about how to eat well and be fit.

Wait, hang on. She has the same top and skirt as me! What were the odds?!


The truth didn't really hit me. That's not how I would describe it. It would probably be more accurate to say that the truth fell on me, kind of like a blanket, except more forceful. The truth kind of fell on me like a roof. The jigsaw puzzle pieces came together. The girl was me.

That was the day my life changed.

'Your desire to change
Must be greater
Than your desire to stay the same.'

The next day, my twin brother volunteered to be my very own personal trainer. He didn't really know much about exercise at that age - we were still in high school. He mostly taught me how to breakdance. But he made me do it every day, so I started to get used to regular exercise again.

My portion sizes gradually reduced. My meal frequencies went back to normal. My meals changed. My weight changed.

A few years later, my dad's diabetes control really started to fall out of line, and I was confronted with a new challenge. How could my father, with two pharmacy students as children (yes, my brother is also a registered pharmacist) still have poorly managed diabetes? We had to be doing something wrong.

And so, the research started. Textbooks were bought and read, notes were taken, lifestyle changes were made, and everything changed.

I didn't know it then, but that was when I first stepped into the change room. It happened again, a few years after that, when I was diagnosed with gluten intolerance.

When I share this story with others, they always ask me, "But how did you do it? How did you just suddenly wake up one day and permanently change? Why didn't you just fall back into your old habits like everybody else does?"

'Actually, I just woke up one day and decided I didn't want to feel like that anymore,
Or ever again.
So I changed.
Just like that.'
- unknown

I'm not saying that I'm perfect (I'm far from that!) - I'm just saying that I'm capable of change.

So are you. We all are.

I still get cravings for chocolate sometimes. Granted, these days, my idea of chocolate is the raw type made from organic raw cacao and coconut butter. But you see, it's not like I'm going without.

Living, eating and feeling well isn't about going without.

It's about learning, understanding and then implementing so that you can feel good from within.

It won't happen overnight - change is a gradual, ongoing process.

And that's what the change room is all about - taking small steps and making small changes so that one day, when you are finally ready to step out the other side of the change room, you will have found that you have already.. Changed.

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