By Teodora Goloiu, psychologist and personal trainer
Firstly, how my life is, on a regular basis:
For many years, my lifestyle is in line with the standards of the “fitness world”: I know what I eat, I know how many carbohydrates, fats, and proteins I have on my plate, when I am on a calorie excess, when I retain water due to excessive salt consumption or due to hormones and how to reverse it.
I know when I have cravings for unhealthy foods and their causes, which muscle groups to activate more, which exercises are most effective for my body type. I know how to accept my moments of weakness, how to return to my usual lifestyle without too much effort or guilt. How to alleviate my anxiety when I face unforeseen situations, how to encourage myself when needed, how to be tolerant of myself when I need a break.
This is because I graduated with a degree in psychology, then a master’s in cognitive and behavioral science and all on the back of dozens of hours of personal development. Then I practiced fitness for years, I took a diploma in anatomy and fitness principles and techniques. I participated in nutrition courses and read books and case studies on food, micro and macro-nutrients, cravings, deficiencies, and sugar consumption.
So what I want to convey here is not my pride in my intense research work in the field of health, but…..what do you do when you don’t have all these tools, courses, practice and you are simply a normal person with a job different than mine… a person who faces stress, extra kilos, fatigue, lack of motivation, cravings, guilt, anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, sugar addiction or lack of sports experience? And yet you want to feel better?
I had an interesting experience, one I hadn’t lived for years. On a ten-day vacation with family and friends, I chose to spend my time without even one hour of sport, without having to analyze any second what I eat, without a specific bedtime. I immediately returned to normal, but I wanted to share some personal experiences and some tips that work for me whenever I need a fresh start.
Disclaimer: this is not medical advice and it is not meant to represent medical or personal advice related to your specific situation. It is my experience and I want to share it, because it made me understand even better how my new clients feel, at the beginning of a process for healthy choices!
What I experienced in just 10 days without sports, with “bad” food + zero sugar soda
• I “got a belly”… I experienced bloating sensation, and boating turned soon into a thin layer of fat on the waist area. Incredible how fast. Not to mention that the sensation is simply frustrating to see and feel.
• I got some cellulite. Again, how fast. Seriously, cellulite is terrible and it shows up so easily!
• I had the impression(that was my perception) that no defined muscles can be seen on my body: where is the biceps, where are the buttocks activated, where are the lines of my abdomen that two weeks ago allowed me to proudly wear a short top just like when I was a teenager?
• I started sleeping more. I could have slept 10 hours a night, and waking up was hard anyway. Sleep, sleep, sleep, just let me sleep.
• although I slept as much as I wanted, at least three times a day, at different hours, no matter where I was, I was becoming incredibly sleepy. Guaranteed, I could have instantly fallen asleep in the back seat of a taxi, or on a visit, while my friend would speak happily, or even in the park. My body simply needed energy that it had nowhere to get.
• I started to feel slow. Of course, I was in the vacation mood, but even so. I could have stayed in one place for hours, to relax, without having a concrete activity. Simply sitting, without “stressing” my body and mind with a task. For sure, that didn’t make me feel happier.
• I began to feel dissatisfied with my choices. I was simply not happy with my general state. Why should I do such a thing? If anyone else made me feel so tired, I would see it as a negative influence on the part of the person. Why would I do this to myself?
• I started feeling occasionally a bit of nausea and stomach pain. Foods that contain too much trans fat, fast absorption carbohydrates, low nutritional foods, alcohol or sodas (examples so you have an idea: mayonnaise, fatty cheese, minced meat, cakes, flour, dough, sugar, beer, Cola zero) made me actually feel lethargic.
• I started having anxiety. And not only because of dissatisfaction with my food choices; but actually, on a physiological cause, I began to feel more easily sensations like palpitations, agitation, without a concrete source. Not to mention that it has become tiring to climb a few floors.
• All in all, I wasn’t too proud of myself. That wonderful euphoria was missing, after a workout and a shower, when all the muscles are activated, the mind is happy with the endorphins and the achievement feeling stays with you. And the energy level after a rich, but nutritious meal. I was missing them!
OK. Do you find yourself in any of these states?
If so… and you have the impression that these are just your normal, general, natural states and that this is how life really is… I want to let you know that it is not normal! This is actually experiencing only a limited part of the real potential you have, mentally and physically. How do I see in people the situation of a sedentary lifestyle and bad eating? Like putting a cat on a leash: it works if you struggle, but this is not how it’s supposed to be for this species.
How did I reverse these inconveniences, with a fresh start, one by one, after only two weeks:
• For the bloating: I avoided foods and drinks that cause it: dairy, beans, anything containing white flour, sweets, carbonated juices, fried foods, foods with sauces, raw/fried onions, raw/fried garlic, any form of alcohol and too many foods at one meal. Also, random snacking was prevented by not buying snacks.
I chose instead: omelettes, green salads, white meat, avocado, plant-based milk and yogurt, dates, bananas and mango, nuts, fish, I combined vegetables with a little rice and drank enough water. After 4 days, my bloating had already dropped considerably.
• Against cellulite I used training: weightlifting, jogging, jumping. I ate oven- cooked or steamed food. I made sure to drink enough water. Note: cellulite disappears slowly, so continue even if you don’t seem to see any rapid changes.
• For my body shape: I stopped focusing on the lack of muscle definition at the moment and I focused on my strength and the way I feel. The strength was greater than expected, the muscles activated quickly, I just had to continue with training dedicated to each muscle group, until I regained my exact desired shape.
• For the sleep excess: I limited my sleep hours to 7-8, going to bed early. No food before bed, with music and light movement at waking up. Even some stretching with deep breathing will make you awake fast. Combined with the resumption of training and healthy eating, I now wake up earlier and motivated to start my day.
• For daytime sleepiness: first of all, it almost disappeared automatically with a fixed sleep schedule, healthy food and sports. To make sure it doesn’t show up, I just drank only one coffee a day (a lot of coffee… it only requires more in time and creates a vicious circle). Instead, I drank a lot of water, ate an apple or two a day and made sure I didn’t stay in one place for too long, without moving or leaving the house.
• For the laziness: Yes, here, it’s a combination of physical and mental factors. I chose to have the attitude of being in control of my life and success. You have exactly the same power. I can choose to be lazy in my free time, or I can do activities that will bring me results later.
! Not every second we are ready for action! Sometimes we just have to start, even for half an hour, whether we like it or not. The more you get into the action, the more ready you get to do it. The longer you stay, the longer you would stay! In addition, feeling productive at the end of the day is guaranteed to be much better than rested, but restless and dissatisfied.
• Nausea and stomach aches were due to wrong food choices and soda. They disappeared on their own once I returned to regular meals, foods containing fiber, protein, no coffee on an empty stomach, no beverages, with a large glass of water at waking up, no juices or sugar or wheat.
• To counteract the anxiety on a cognitive background I chose to make a list of the negative things I would say to myself, sometimes without realizing: possible examples: “I don’t like it, I can’t, it annoys me, what if it doesn’t work, it’s hard, no I’m in the mood, maybe tomorrow”; and a long list of positive beliefs, here some examples, “I am capable, I am in control, I choose to do so, patience is essential, I am happy to do this, I am grateful that I can live healthily, I feel good when I do this, not everything improves one day, even a little is better than nothing, I already feel small improvements, longer-term results will pay off”.
Can you write your list of negative thoughts and your positive ones?
• For physiological anxiety (agitation), I avoided excess caffeine, took half an hour in the morning with chill music and my thoughts, refused to check my notifications first thing in the morning, jogged occasionally, meditated for 10 minutes at various times of the day, did stretching, drank plenty of water and ate fruits and vegetables.
• All in all, the feeling of dissatisfaction turned into satisfaction. I loved myself in those ten days too. But now it is a pride to look at my day and to have fulfilled my list of goals, to look at my body and like the results, to give myself time for rest, encouragement for any progress and especially, to have chosen BALANCE:
Not everything is black or white! We don’t always live perfectly! No one does! Sometimes relaxation is essential and giving up control for a while will do you good! But in the long run, perseverance, discipline and healthy choices are the best options!
Trust me, I’ve learned by experience!