Happy New Year, Bonne Année, Feliz aňo Nuevo, Frohes neues Jahr…here we all are, a week or so into a year that’s shaping up to be as wobbly as the last one. And I’m not talking about my thighs here. The most terrifying show on earth – Trump’s Circus – rolls on and we all wait with bated breath to see what happens next.
In the meantime, it’s back to business as usual for the rest of us mortals. I finally made it back to work this week, after a fortnight of rest, fun and the usual over indulgences. And like lots of other people, I’m taking my first shaky steps towards shifting those extra holiday pounds.
As ever in January, advice on how to do this is everywhere. Especially on Facebook and other social media – every other post on my news feed seems to be about fitness and bikini bodies right now. The latter particularly pisses me off because I thought we were over that sort of thing. But no, even in a freezing cold January, I am supposed to give a shit what I look like in a bikini. Or at least get ready for giving a shit in six months’ time. Or be deemed inadequate and shamed forever.
Except I don’t. I give a shit about feeling a bit bloated and blobby, and wanting to change that, but the rest not so much. I have come to the conclusion that I really don’t give a toss about bikinis or about what anyone thinks I look like in one. Because I won’t be wearing one and I’m perfectly happy with that.
It’s a little depressing that we still get the New Year, New You type of articles too. They inevitably feature hardcore, detox diets that are impossible for most normal, flawed humans to sustain beyond a week, with a gym regime to match. And of course, the gyms will be full to bursting with well-intentioned folk, who will have abandoned it by February.
Something has shifted in my thinking about all of this. I started this blog two years ago, in training for a big race. I spent a long time before and after trying, and failing, to achieve proper ninja fitness levels. And while I loved it for a long time, my priorities have changed. That sort of exercising is brilliant, but these days I can’t get motivated about it enough to get out of bed in the morning to do it. I’d rather just dance.
When will we ever earn to not buy into the sales pitches of the snake oil salesmen? Of course it’s natural to want to get healthy in January, it’s the balance of nature. You’ve been excessive? Stop doing it and eat well. Yin and yang. What goes up, must come down. But we need to do it gently, building up to better fitness, rather than taking the usual crash and burn approach.
In amongst all the articles screaming at me to get fit and gorgeous NOW! I’ve found one great piece, and one that lets the more laid back exercisers among us off the hook. Or at least a bit. The former is about the writer’s struggle to control her alcohol habit, and is a wonderfully honest account and really worth a read. Her hardest challenge, like many of us, is not about having periods of sobriety, but about maintaining moderate drinking all the time. And I guess that applies to eating, or whatever else it is you do too much of that’s bad for you.
The latter piece highlights recently published research, which shows that cramming your exercise into the weekend has almost as good an impact on health and life expectancy as going hard at it every day. So there’s no need for shame in being too knackered or too busy to get much done during the week. Having said that, we should all be moderately active every day, even if it’s just getting up for regular walks about.
As for me, I’ve started a daily practice of 100 squats, because if you only do one exercise each day, it should be burpees. But if you can’t face them yet, squats are the next best thing. And I mean low squats, as low as you can get without falling over. It takes a couple of minutes, which is nothing. I plan to introduce 30 burpees to this in a week or two when the idea doesn’t make me want to cry.
The reasoning behind this comes from my only real NY ‘resolution’ which is to pay off my credit card debt and be more thrifty. As a result, I can’t afford a gym on top of all my tangling and travelling. However, I know what to do to get fit, and I plan to do a drop in session at the local council gym when I can, because I really miss lifting weights. Some I can’t do without someone to spot me, but there’s always the beautiful deadlift.
And that’s about it. I’m ditching the high carbs for a bit to get the bloat down, but not strictly. Eat less sugar by reducing dependence on processed foods. Wine allowed once a week if shared. One other thing I read about this week was about the benefits of raw cacao powder, which is full of goodies. Among the numerous nutritional benefits which are summarised here, it also gives you an energy boost, so I am thinking about trying it as a substitute for some of my coffee. It seems it has a bitterer taste than hot chocolate usually would, so that sounds about right. Like a lot of busy people, I reckon I drink a bit too much caffeine and that’s obviously bad for my sleep.
The biggest change for me this January is finally coming to accept myself and like myself as I am. Sure, I need a bit of tweaking, but I’m basically okay. I saw pictures of myself at new year, taken from unflattering angles, and for the first time ever didn’t want to destroy every copy in existence. Instead of a double chin, I saw myself and friends having a great time and it made me smile.
Let’s face it, there’s enough shit to be worrying about these days without panicking about how chubby your face looks on social media. And in tough times, moments of joy with friends will get you through. By all means, lose that chub, but if you beat yourself up about it along the way, you are only more likely to fail. And I know because I’ve done it a hundred times.
There is one last spot left, my Achilles heel. Despite loving dancing and the joy it brings, I still, on occasion, compare myself in a negative way with the smaller, slimmer women who must be easier for leaders to move around. It’s ridiculous and pointless but I can’t help it. And I’m so damn sweaty! Still, I remind myself that if it was so bad, then no-one would ever dance with me. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, to use a slightly inappropriate proverb. The confidence in this area will come eventually. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
So it seems 2017 is the year of proverbs. And for me, the year of fuck it to the marketers and the food companies and the diet gurus who just want our money. And most of all, self-love. After all, if I don’t love myself – apart from my family who are legally obliged to – who will?
Until next time,