While I loved playing Rugby professionally, I always looked forward to the off-season and a chance to relax and let the bumps and bruises of the past season ease.
But when it rolled around, I was never able to fully enjoy myself as I always had two words on my mind ... "Fat Club".
A club of which I was a regular member.
Fat Club (now called Sumo Club) as the name suggests is for players who fail to meet their skin-fold targets (fat levels) when returning from holidays, and are punished with extra fitness and mind-numbing chores during an already physically gruelling preseason. And it sucked.
But it did help me face up to the fact that I had an eating problem. I was never alone and always had plenty of my fellow front-rowers keeping me company, and I was in the club every year of my career until I discovered tracking what I ate. Tracking my food has literally changed my life.
The physical benefits of losing some weight are well known, but what it's done for my mental health is incredible and I think these benefits aren't talked about enough.
I feel like I have my whole brain back, as a big part of it was always being wasted stressing about what I could or couldn't eat.
I feel great and have more energy than ever before. Energy I use to exercise, keep up with my three kids and strive to do great work. I'm more optimistic about my future, and I no longer catastrophise or waste energy beating myself up for eating too much or for having a treat. All the negative self talk has disappeared and I've dedicated the rest of my life to helping others feel the same.
Firstly, I'm not saying anyone has to lose weight, and I'm certainly not saying people need to weigh their food, track their macros and count every calorie in order to do so.
But if you want to lose a bit of weight easily, you just need to be consistently mindful when you're eating, and the easiest way I know to do that is to track what you eat.
Tracking helped me to become more aware of what I ate and showed me when I've eaten too much (or not enough) as I was blissfully unaware prior to tracking.
And to feel the benefits, you don't need to track every day and you certainly don't need to get it perfect. Just the process of being mindful, helps me make better choices then if I was eating on autopilot.
I regularly eat foods I love, I feel good about myself, and have all the energy I need for everything that's happening in my life, and I think 28-day challenges and fad diets only set people up for failure. What happens when the challenge is over? And have you noticed that all of weight loss programs and health challenges are all between 28 days and 12 weeks?
I believe that's because they're unrealistic and require too much change, which then makes people feel shit about themselves when they're unable to keep it up, or fall back into old habits once the challenge is over. But then the fitness industry can sell you another program six months later when you feel like giving it another crack.
I'm not sure if they've done this intentionally, but I think the fitness industry has a lot to answer for as they've exacerbated a vicious cycle of human nature.
A cycle I was stuck in, and one which would start when I'd eat without thinking, which would cause me to over eat and put on weight.
I would then feel worse about myself at the end of each cycle, and would bury my head in the sand, making it longer before I would try to lose weight again. Looking back, I believe this cycle was leaving me vulnerable to having parts of the fitness industry prey on my insecurities.
But after tracking, I've realised there's nothing wrong with me (just my approach), and I've never had an issue with my weight again.
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