Living a Life of Leisure (Centres)

In my previous posts, I have touched on two topics which affect my life: vanity and motivation, so it only feels right for the third post to combine them. In 2013, I left my life as I knew it and moved to Sheffield for University. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to me, I was leaving my body, as I knew it, at home with my parents too.

First year of living in halls is like living in a bubble. A bubble that apparently nutrition and wise decision making cannot penetrate. I estimate it took 3 months for my diet to descend into complete anarchy and by the second term I was trapped in a cycle of over indulging and under exercising. Predictably, I put on a noticeable amount of weight. However, it crept up on me so I didn’t notice for an alarmingly long time considering I was so self-absorbed.  Anyway, by the time I graduated and moved back home, the takeaways had taken their toll and I had to face the consequences of my eating in the mirror every day.

I ignored it for a long time but the last straw was about two years ago when I was in the bath and tried to avoid looking at my reflection in the tap. A definite low point for someone who stops to observe themselves in a car window. This acted as my turning point; I was unhappy with my physique, size 8 was but a murky memory to me and size ten was a couple of pizzas away from a similar fate.

Long story short, I joined the gym.

Over the course of the last two years I have been going to the gym at least 3-4 times a week consistently. Although my body is finally back to being the way I like it during the process of getting here I have encountered many of the common issues fitness faces us with. When you make the decision to change your lifestyle and get into the gym, you can always expect there to be growing pains (and actual pain in this case come to think of it). Now, as 2018 draws to a close, I consider myself to have become somewhat of a gym whisperer, and a generous one at that, so in preparation for the January resolution buzz, I have decided to offer some advice. I hope my hard earned insights can be of help to you all in your quest to become sickeningly healthy.

  1. Ladies don’t be afraid of the men

First things first; men do not have any ownership over the weights section. ‘Yeah, obviously’ I hear you cry, but trust me, when you get in there and your find yourself next to a behemoth dropping weights that are bigger than your head everywhere, you will seriously consider running to the safety of the cardio section.

It’s a weird feeling, considering it is the only place that people with less muscle should be, yet it is the ones already weighed down by theirs that are comfortable being there.

NO MORE is my plea to you.

The only way to start feeling at home in the weights section is to put some empowering music on your phone, strut in there, pick up the 4kgs and go for it. After a couple of weeks I promise that you will feel at home there and scoff that you ever felt differently. Before you know it, you will be telling Tim in his vest to move over, you want to flex in the mirror too!

In all seriousness though, cardio is good for losing an initial bit of fat, but to build the body you want and see plastered all over the place, you need to create some muscle. By doing so you can take advantage of perception. Want a smaller waist? Build your shoulders and bam, you have the illusion in all its tapered glory. Building muscle not only speeds up your metabolism, meaning you burn more calories, but it will make sure you stay in proportion, or help you change your proportions if that’s your goal. You can build whatever kind of body you desire, just get in that weight section!

  1. Don’t rely on motivating yourself. You. Will. Fail.

This one sounds weird, but the reality is, that little voice in your head whose job it is to shame you for being lazy and force you to get up and do stuff, can be a bit lazy too.

Don’t be surprised if after a month or so your resolve begins to dissolve and you’re back to eating peanut butter with a spoon (a random example in no way related to my life…)

I combated my ability to down play how much I needed to go to the gym by following people on social media who make me hate myself a little bit. This sounds like a toxic piece of advice I know but it honestly works for me. If I am in bed scrolling through social media, it isn’t going to be one of my friends who sparks this reaction from me. I need to be bombarded with physical examples of what I want and, because I am still in bed, don’t yet have.

This works for me because I am depressingly aware of what distracts me on a daily basis. Therefore this solution is tailored to help me snap into action, the possibly attainable carrot tantalisingly dangled from the pull up machine. This can be changed to fit different people’s habits of course. If you honestly assess your habits and locate what is becoming a hindrance to your activity then you can create your own solutions. My friend, for example, leaves notes to herself and pictures of her ‘dream body’ randomly in the pages of books she is reading, because she knows books can swallow at lot of her time.

Do what works for you but do something because it is really, really difficult to keep your motivation up without a little bit of help here and there.

  1. You’ve got to organise to capitalise

This is a common tip you can find on most fitness pages which only serves to prove how true it is. Creating structure around your workouts and your diet helps immensely in your journey to becoming the envy of everyone you know. Many fitness influencers publish their own workout guides that you can purchase but I don’t think it is really necessary. I spent a lot of time on YouTube and Instagram finding people whose bodies I wanted to emulate and watching the movements they did in their videos. In addition to this, rather than pay for a personal trainer, I watched other people’s personal training sessions in the gym while I was there and basically stole their plans. #sorrynotsorry

By combining these two cheap and fool proof methods, I made my own plan until I became familiar with what each exercise did for my body and how they could be grouped, tweaking as I went. Now I split my workouts by muscle groups which I why I can go to the gym 4-5 times a week without damaging my muscles. This helps to stop your workouts getting too repetitive which limits your interest and enthusiasm for the gym but also your progress. Muscles get accustomed to exercises after a while and they become less effective, unless you are increase the weight constantly.

Organising your diet is also important I think. Go shopping with meals in mind and try to plan your week as best you can. I don’t like to do meal prep because I never know what I am going to feel like eating, so if you’re fickle like me you definitely need to make sure you have a few healthy options in the fridge waiting.  I would also recommend getting the MyFitnessPal app as well so you can track what you’re eating. I was horrified at the information that I had been eating pasta for a family of 4 with ease for the majority of my life. That being said, be mindful of what you’re eating and how much but don’t starve yourself, you need to eat to speed up your metabolism if nothing else. Eat a balanced, fresh diet and exercise regularly and you will be laughing.

There are many other things I could go into on this topic but these are the main three that I wanted to share. I could always write a follow up post to this another time if that’s what the people wish, let me know.

My last word on the topic is at least give yourself 8 weeks of serious training and commitment, once you see results you won’t need any more help.

Enjoy your journey to health, it’s horrible but well worth it.


Being Mildly Motivated: An Abusive Relationship with Yourself

One thing that I have learnt never to underestimate is my ability to avoid doing stuff.

These tasks are unlimited in their variety; all that is certain is that if I feel as though I ‘should’ be doing it, a lot of the time I won’t be. Not doing/starting/completing things is not especially out of the ordinary; many people don’t do stuff they know they ought to. However, what I find especially strange about my personal avoidances is that, at some point, they were all things I really wanted to do.

The feeling of motivation is an odd phenomenon I think. We often underestimate how fleeting it can be and how it’s potency in driving you to do something can evaporate the longer it is left unattended. I was inspired by this subject whilst working on the beginning of a different blog post. There I was tapping away, ruminating over all the subjects I wanted to tackle, when something caught my eye. “God, your hands look awful.”

And that was literally all she wrote.

An hour later I had little recollection of some of the ideas I had been so excited to write about and even less of the excitement itself. But at least I had a full manicure, better do my toes to match…I’ve found that there are endless distractions that we can busy ourselves with providing we want to be distracted.

But, inevitably, guilt rears its ugly, self-righteous head (usually when you lay yours down) and relentlessly reminds you that you should have been finishing what you gave yourself till today to do, rather than wallowing in the depths of your own laziness. However, the self-destructive behaviour does not end here. Often this situation will repeat itself for a few more cycles until finally, you do whatever it is you were supposed to do. And suddenly it’s as though the clouds part. You are hit with the intoxicating realisation that the thing you had been avoiding doing this whole time was actually really easy to complete. Not only was the experience totally painless, but you are once again filled with an enthusiasm and the promise to become more dedicated. From tomorrow you will begin working on your next task and will definitely not get complacent again.

But predictably, you do.

The mystery of this plot thickens further when we think about how humans, rightly or wrongly, often measure their sense of worth against their success. But how are we supposed to be successful when we avoid the necessary steps to become so? Our perception of how valuable a person we are/will be is entirely dependent on us. Which is great, right?

No, it’s terrifying.

This mind set is admittedly really hard to break but, in order to achieve what we are capable of, break it we must. The desire to become accomplished isn’t going to fade, so unless we take action, we are resigning ourselves to a lifetime of always knowing that we could have done better, had we just put the effort in.

That’s the thing however, which I think is a comfort to some of us and may on some level contribute to this behaviour. We have the potential to accomplish almost anything, if we try hard enough, care enough or put enough hours in. That’s why you hear so many people saying ‘I could’; in theory most people can. But it’s weirdly preferable to fail because of our own laziness than to have really tried and fallen short. It’s scary to try.

Some people are genuinely okay with putting some effort in and getting what that gives them. If that is you then fair enough, do your thing. But before you count yourself in this group, really have a think about it. Most of us fall prey to the three R’s; Reminiscing, Romanticising and Regretting, I know I do. Even if you look back to something as small as a subject in high school that you could have gotten better results for, this applies to you.

The behaviour of being motivated, but only mildly, is not easy to combat. But I genuinely believe that people like us will not be content with our lot in life unless we do. There is no magic way to shake yourself out of it however. Which is unfortunate. It seems fitting though that the only solution for your tendency to avoid things is to tackle it head on. Obvious as it sounds, everything would have been so much easier if we just did stuff. (Eat your heart out Nike)

One thing that has started to help me has been to focus on the fact that the only person who is being cheated in this equation is me. I will be the one to miss out, I will be the one left wishing it had been different and I will be the annoying person doing the Marlon Brando “I could have been somebody” speech at any and every opportunity.

I have realised that I cannot rely on something or someone else motivating me. It has to be me. Getting things in life easily is great, but nothing feels as good as reaping the rewards of hard work. Focus on the feeling of validation you get from that, and let it imbue you with self-worth and determination. And most importantly, hold onto it; don’t let it evaporate before you can act on it.

The only person who will lose out, is you.

Let me know if you guys struggle with motivation and how you combat it.

I am always taking tips.


The Problem With Thinking ‘Beauty is Only Skin Deep’

Okay, so I didn’t really know what I wanted to start writing about so I looked in the mirror to do some soul searching and got distracted, as always, by my skin.
I have acne. I’ve had acne for ages. It’s not nutrition based, not a symptom of needing to drink more water or because I wear cheap makeup; it’s cystic, hormonal and it’s here to stay. (I’m being dramatic, it’s starting to go)

I don’t want to ramble on about it too much as the purpose of this piece isn’t to whine about my skin, but I want to create some context for you.

Okay, so, I started getting spots when I was in year 7/8. Nothing major, just teenage skin, although it always seemed a bit worse than my friends’. It stayed like that until I was 16 and then kicked up a notch, at which point I began to go to the doctors for some advice. Advice turned into going on 5 or 6 different acne medications, none of which worked. Topical treatments also really aggravated my sensitive skin so they were out too. Eventually when I was 18 they put me on the contraceptive pill. I tried a couple before they decided on Dianette. This did more for my skin then all the other efforts combined, I had clear skin within two months, minus some scarring, and off I went to Uni feeling fab.

Fast forward 5 years to this January and I’ve just gone through a break up. In classic female fashion I want a whole new start for 2018. So I stop using the pill. I would say it took 3 months until my skin erupted, by the end of March I could definitely see a noticeable difference, long story short by July I was looking a hot 16 year old mess.

The point of writing this, I hear you all wonder, is not to wallow in my own grease, but instead to raise a question; why does acne have such a strong effect on people? I believed myself to be past caring about such trivialities, having been through it before and coming out the other-side with only a few visible scars to show for it. However, I was shocked at how much it affected not only my opinion of myself but how I thought I would appear to other people. It is all well and good thinking that beauty is only skin deep and not important in the grand scheme of things, but when we operate in a world where appearance counts for a lot, what are you to do when you don’t like the skin itself?

Predictably, I scurried off and got myself back on the pill, started taking probiotics and zinc to improve my gut health and switched to all organic face washes and my skin has vastly improved. (I will include pictures) But what I should have done is leave my skin and go and get to the bottom of the issue and heal it naturally. Alas, my vanity prevented this; so I know that one day, when I stop the pill, the problem will quite literally re-surface.

So why does the outside take centre stage where the inside is left to its own devices? Well, first and foremost, because we can see it. The old adage ‘out of sight out of mind’ is extremely pertinent in this case. Looking in the mirror every day and not liking what you see is a draining existence.

I have also noticed that the products we buy for skin are also part of the issue. Not just because many things will actually make your skin worse, but because of how they are named. ‘Skin Perfecter’, ‘Complexion Corrector’, ‘Concealer’, all of these products are marketed to us with the intention to fix a problem. The problem being our face. Buying and using concealer will eventually convince you that certain parts of your face which occur naturally are unsightly and need to be covered up, hidden, concealed. The same goes for correctors and perfecters, smoothers and toners. All descriptions that ingrain the idea that you are not ‘perfect’ or ‘correct’ without them. This leads to a really unhealthy relationship with makeup in a lot of cases. Many brands will prey on people with insecurities for this reason, which is why they are branded towards people who want to cover up their acne. The hard work is already done for them, they just need to capitalise on our belief that, in order to look ‘good’ we can’t have visibly ‘bad’ skin.

In addition to this, generally speaking, we are creatures that are hyper critical of ourselves and, sub-consciously or otherwise, of others too. I think that is part of our problem re being image conscious. I would argue that the route to true self contentment is through not looking at other people and picking up on their flaws. Thus you would have no reason to believe that anyone would be worried about your own. It’s cyclical. The solution as to how we view ourselves is rooted in how critically we see other people.
These are just a few thought I have on the subject and felt like sharing. If you agree/disagree with something that I have said let me know. Let’s talk about it!

As promised here are pictures of my acne from August to November sans makeup (I’m so brave.) I started to keep track of how my skin was improving in attempts to negate the self-loathing thing that acne sufferers have. These are my evidence, to combat my own toxic thoughts, and sharing them is an attempt to purge myself of the thoughts all together.

J x

August – November 2018

An Introduction

Hi potential readers,

I just wanted to personalise this pre-made feature thing (I can’t stand looking at stock posts) and sort of give an intro into what I’m doing on here, so I guess this is going to act as my first blog post.

Essentially, the title of my site sums it up. I am completely new to blogging. Never ventured into it before, barely considered it before 12:39 today. Nothing.

But, here we are, and I’m still not entirely sure why.

I think I’m going to use the platform for lifestyle blogging purposes/everyday thought venting and see what happens. It would be kind of cool to have somewhere to explore some of the passing thoughts I have, and see if people agree.

Maybe this blog is just an extension of my ego, but maybe it will prove to be a place to share ways of thinking/ways of living and open up some discussions. Maybe it won’t be half as profound as that. Or, maybe I’ll get bored in a month and it will end there.

Hopefully I will write some things that interest people and challenge me.

First instalment to be added soon. (or second, depending on what I just wrote can be categorised as.)