The majority of my young adult life seems to have been spent trying to lose weight or failing to get healthy.
I've written about my struggles before; specifically about the time I lost three stone in weight, which made me utterly unhappy and hindered me from finding that holy grail of lifestyle balance. Unfortunately, that balance never made its debut in the imaginary television series of my life. I met my boyfriend and decided to hibernate for the winter with a Chinese takeaway and packet of chocolate bourbons in tow. The relationship stone is a very real thing and cocooned me in warmth against the harsh temperatures.
Related: I lost three stone in weight but I still wasn't happy
Thankfully, gaining that weight didn't drown me as it might have done in years previous - I floated lovingly to the surface into the pool of soppiness, all thanks to the relationship. I like to call that stone of weight 'my happy pounds' because that's what I was; happy. College was going great, life was dandy and I felt secure. But being in the early stages of a relationship is an enabler for obliviousness. Eating out every night of the week is normality, and enjoying a full packet of rich tea biscuits with Nutella on top while watching a Louis Theroux documentary is lunch. I forgot about exercise and I became blissfully unaware of fruit.
On my own terms
At some point, when the buzz of new love begins to fade, your general health and well-being need to be taken into account. I knew I would have to address it, but this time I didn't want gimmicks, or fads, or an Instagram account showing me intricate ways to lift 100kg on one leg. I had spent long enough depriving myself and doing weird exercises in front of the gym mirror that I hated. I didn't need obsession or counting calories. I just wanted to feel healthy. If some of that effort shed a few unwanted pounds even better, but it wasn't the pinnacle.
I started with the exercise. My knees have been creaking and I have a sneaking suspicion that I am suffering from early onset arthritis. So I started Pilates. And now there lies a love affair between us. My legs have been hoisted up into positions I never thought were possible, and sometimes it feels like my internal organs might come out, but that's OK with me. The creaking is fading to a small tick, and the rest of my joints sound like they have been well oiled. There was always such hype around Pilates and a part of me refused to believe it, but from the moment they first told me to hang myself off the side of a box without any support (while I quivered in fear) I knew it was something special.
The food element is a lot trickier to tackle. A packet of biscuits lies beside my desk and I am a notorious picker. I pick at food more than I eat meals. I don't have the heart to refuse a stray Malteaser, and now I have a penchant for a glass of red in the evening.
Never stop trying
They say God loves a trier, and by God am I trying. I'm trying to eat more fruit and vegetables. I'm trying to drink less. And I'm trying to exercise at least twice a week. It is by no means perfect, and some weeks go by where I have failed all of the above. But therein lies the magic; I'm trying. That's all we can really do. My mistakes of the past were a direct effect of the enormous pressure I put myself under, which led to me physically and mentally cracking beneath the surface.
However, now I'm starting to listen to my body and what it needs. I have a comprehensive awareness of the habits I have fallen into before, both good and bad, which means I now have more control. But I know more than anyone that it could be improved. If this were a Leaving Cert exam, I would be failing but at least it's a start. I am trying my very best and that's all any of us can do.
We need to stop feeling defeated at every extra strawberry daiquiri we accidentally order on a night out. Realise the importance of health but don't twist it into a Leaving Cert exam. Forget the books, the fads and the fitness influencers. Forget the bullsh*t. Get healthy in a way that works for you. And if you fail, eat that stray Malteaser and drink that glass of merlot.
Just make sure to try again.