Words by Geraldine Ruffle.
Time off is not a dirty word...
Naturally, as women, our weight fluctuates regularly.
That's just a fact.
But, does anybody else beat themselves up every time we're "not looking quite our best"? Regardless of hormones, stress levels, exercise or diet? Of course you do, we all do. It's nothing new that the media and social pressures affect the way we feel about our bodies but why should that affect our happiness and our health. There's more to it than weight right?
I know what you're thinking, oh look another post telling us that the media is wrong to body shame and everyone is beautiful. But, can there ever really be enough of those? Why should you pay any attention to this one?
It's not about teaching you to believe that all bodies are gorgeous, it's not about convincing you to love however you look. It's about pushing or pretending to love our bodies when we don't. It's about letting go of the need look and feel a certain way.
I've done it all, I've gone from daily heavy training and a shiny six pack to rarely moving off the beach for days and going up a dress size (or two). The difference, I've also gone from being stressed, moody, exhausted, burnt out, injured and ill to being relaxed, feeling free, content and downright happy in my own skin. That's what we all need to learn right, that happiness and self confidence doesn't come from 'looking right', right? That 'looking right' comes from having self confidence and being happy.
The fitness industry is a tough career choice for your self confidence. You're inherently programmed to always care about your weight, your diet, your workouts and your body image, and you're judged on those things all day every day. Every social media post, every outfit, every workout, it's definitely a tough industry to be a comfortable person in.
Don't get me wrong, from day one I loved my job! Waking up every day to teach classes and train clients was often a real joy and not a chore. Notice that I said often, it had its moments of course like any job. I am human too ;)
Adding a physical job into a life of tough competition training for sport and dance was a definite challenge. There were of days when I physically dragged myself out of bed because my body was so stiff and so sore and just so damn exhausted that the thought of getting up on stage to teach a class almost had me in tears, and some days it probably did!
We've all been there right? Days when either mentally or physically or both, you just don't want to get up and get out but you smear that brave face on anyway and plug on until you can next have a day off. This ever repeating maybe weekly or monthly cycle of over exhaustion was just too much.
So what did I do?
I changed tact. I left it all behind and travelled to the other side of the world to take a breather, explore new ways of finding confidence and experience fitness from a different outlook.
An Australian Perspective
When I first landed I was all jittery and stressed because I'd sat on a plane for almost 2 days, had eaten only stodgy aeroplane food and had barely moved a muscle except to shift seat position. I felt awful. I needed to go for a run. As usual when I didn't get enough exercise I was agitated and moody and not the sort of person that would easily make friends on a solo travelling adventure!
After my 6 week Aussie gym tour (catch the whole thing in my Insta. Shameless plug there) I settled down in Byron Bay, well known for its 'slow down, chill out, cheer up' motto. It became so easy to fit in their relaxed, care free lifestyle and I soon found myself comfortable barely training and spending most days laid out on the beach or frolicking in the sea.
I soon admitted to myself that I had put weight on, I had lost strength and fitness. But, for the first time I actually didn't care. Previously when I'd gained weight I would have been moody and depressed and embarked on intense diets and exercise to help get me back to my normal look, convinced that I'd be happier when I lost weight.
This time though, I still felt so great. So relaxed, so calm and still more than happy throwing my bikini on each day. When I'd video call my friends and family from home they would tell me how much healthier I looked and how much happier I seemed. Naturally straight away I just thought, but how can they be telling me I look better when I know I've put on a dress size?
Because happiness looks good on everyone (cheeeese)
Kelly Clarkson (what a queen) is famous for saying that she feels her happiest at her biggest, she's been in the papers at all sizes and unfortunately shamed for being a larger dress size these days. However, she claims in every interview and every magazine that she's never been so happy and was really unhappy thin. We all know that every body is different and no two people will ever look the same way (identical twins aside, let's not get pernickety now).
As soon as I realised how happy I was inside despite being a different body shape, I felt an overwhelming sense of calm and freedom. Removing the stressors and pressures of trying to have my body look a certain way has done wonders for me. Back to exercising regularly and into a training plan designed around fitness rather than aesthetics I enjoy my gym time so much more, I'm so much more confident every day and I'm still a dress size larger than I ever was in England.
So shock horror
My life didn't fall apart just because I took time off training and time off 'looking perfect'! There were no emotional outbursts about my looks, no hiding in baggy clothes for a while and no filling my own head with excuses when I caught myself in the mirror. Seriously, how is that an ok way to be, how is that a healthy mindset. It's scary to look back and think how much pressure I used to put on myself in those competition days.
I look after myself, I train. I just train less, I socialise more, occasionally I eat cake, I go out and enjoy myself and sometimes I even skip the gym to do it (some days I skip the gym and eat cake) but now I worry less, I'm not stressed, I'm not over trained, I'm not exhausted and I'm not injured.
Mostly, my mind just feels so happy and free.
My focuses are entirely different and they centre around keeping that great big smile on my face, that's the type of person I want to be known as, that's the type of person people want to meet while they travel the world, and that's me, just feeling like me.
So why share this with you?
Because you don't need to run off to another country to discover true self confidence, you just need to realise what makes you the happiest version of yourself and the rest comes naturally. It wasn't about trying to be body confident, it wasn't about accepting that my body is beautiful regardless of weight. For me, it was being less stressed out and having the mental capacity to enjoy daily experiences, including my workouts that did it and the rest just fell into place.
We all need to be comfortable in our own skin. Time off was all I needed to discover that I'd been doing the wrong thing all along. Truth be told, now I'm a little more settled into my workouts I have lost weight and I have regained some definition and fitness and I know this trend will continue if I do, but it's not my focus so I don't drive myself crazy if I can't see results straight away.
So go find what it is that makes you happy regardless of looks, go chill out and discover why you should always be comfortable in your own skin (or your own lycra as we like to dress here).