LET’S talk about bodies. I have a very strange relationship with my body, I feel like I am in a constant state of flux, between loving it and thinking it is the most incredible thing to have created four fabulous children, but I also feel like I am constantly fighting with it too.
Four caesarean sections have not left me with the stomach of a 24-year-old, despite my best efforts, and the last year has definitely left me fighting to get into my jeans.
I wouldn’t consider myself an extremist, I have never been one to hop from one diet to another, but I do ebb and flow between good habits and bad habits, perhaps we all do?
On top of that, I spent six years alternating between pregnancy, breastfeeding and thinking about getting pregnant again. So my body has been through a lot. And I have made peace with my ebbing and flowing from periods of good habits drifting into bad back into good.
I think the last year has tested us all and I doubt there are many who haven’t put on a few pounds. Between baking banana bread to pass the time and an overall slow down in our pace of life, a little weight was bound to catch up on us. Well, that’s what I’m telling myself anyway!
For me, though, an overall shift towards a healthier mindset is the most sustainable way of making changes to my diet and lifestyle that I know will stick and bring my mind to a place where I can finally make peace with my body.
A couple of years ago, I worked with a friend of mine from Sligo, Daniel Davey, a high performance nutritionist who is a fountain of valuable knowledge on Instagram too. Daniel has a very rounded and sensible approach to making changes to your diet and lifestyle that will last, I can testify to that because I did what he suggested and I am still, largely, rooted in the same mindset.
I am not a note writer or a journal keeper but one of the first exercises with Daniel was to write down my health and lifestyle goals.
My overall aim is to be fit and healthy enough to keep up with my four ladies and to be able to wear a swimsuit on a freezing cold Irish beach with confidence, I may not be ready for the runway but I am not yet ready to hide away either. By writing your goals down, it gets you to really visualise them and makes them more real and it really does work.
Next up is to look at your food triggers. My major trigger is that when I am tired I just don’t care what I eat — I want sugar to give me energy and I’m too tired to care about the consequences. And even just knowing that and facing it head on was a big wake up call for me, it doesn’t impact me so much anymore because the girls all sleep at night but it was looking like a slippery slope when I have two small ladies who refused to sleep when they were younger.
Over the last two years I have made some small, sustainable changes to my diet and lifestyle that work well to keep me in the same pair of size 12 jeans all year round, which is great, and my mind is beginning to catch up to that constant state of peace. I try and eat protein at most meals, eggs feature heavily, and this keeps me full for longer, it stops me snacking on sugary things at 11am or 3pm (most days!).
I only have alcohol at the weekend because for me a glass of wine goes well with a bag of crisps and that is not ideal on more than one night a week. I try and incorporate exercise as often as I can, I walk three times a day on the school run. I used to run a lot but I neglected to strengthen my body after four babies and injured my knee, so now I do Pilates once a week (on zoom with Sinead Henry, another Sligonian!) and I follow Maeve Madden for her work-outs and I have never felt stronger.
And if it is small, long term changes you want to make, do them now and do them gradually. Don’t wait for Monday morning to throw out all the sweets and bread and start exercising like mad — that’s fine but it probably won’t last. Instead, tackle things slowly — start by having a better breakfast, do it tomorrow and see how you go.
Recognising that change takes time is important, it will not happen overnight, it may not even happen much in a month, but it’s happening, slow and steady wins the race.