Happy Birthday To Me: Fulfilling My New Year’s Resolution
2018 was the year I made a choice, and accepted a mission. Or rather, it is the year… we’re only half way through. For once, I made a Serious New Year’s Resolution in January, one which held a lot of personal meaning, and I’ve actually seen it through. As the new year rang in, I made the choice, and made the resolution which was to be a long-overdue birthday gift to myself.
On the face of it, my resolution, my personal mission, may seem superficial. Shallow. Vain. However, I feel it’s quite the opposite -and I’ll do my best to explain why.
My 2018 New Year’s Resolution
Right back at the start of the year, I finally made my mind up to do something I’ve been meaning to do for years, but somehow never got around to it. I wanted to lose weight. It’s not like my weight was stopping me living my life, it didn’t affect my mobility or my health, so some might say it was an unnecessary thing to do. Not for me, though. I wasn’t happy with the weight I’d put on over the previous few years, which was due to stress, house moves, work, children. With my family always at the forefront, I put myself at the bottom of the list, every single time. To put it bluntly, I didn’t feel like me anymore. I felt totally lost. I was a devoted mum, a devoted partner – but I wasn’t a person I felt like I loved, which is a horrible feeling and a terrible place to be in.
My body confidence had gone from tip-top before I had my last child 5+ years ago, to complete rock bottom. I found myself wearing clothes which just covered me up the best, which hid the rolls I’d put on, and which were loose, baggy, comfortable. And you know, that’s not the worst thing in the world, I’ll freely admit. But I wasn’t happy, and it’s something I could do something about – if I really put my mind to it.
That’s the crux of the matter really. It was never about the number on the scale or the size on my clothing labels. It’s all about happiness, confidence and doing the best for my mental health. If I don’t feel psychologically happy and healthy, how can that be any good? And for me, body issues have a long and nasty history in any case. The only way I felt I’d ever get a handle on the whole thing was to lose weight, get back to where I feel happy and confident, and rediscover the me I felt happy with, and was proud of being.
How I Went About It
Christmas Day 2017 to July 2018
So, once I made my decision back at the start of January, I put my plan into action. Goals were set. Dates were chosen for those goals to be achieved. The main date being our birthday celebration weekend, which is when Darren and I traditionally stay over in our local city for a weekend around the time of our birthdays and revisit our years of pubbing and clubbing, wining and dining -just for a few days, anyway.
Our birthdays fall a few days apart mid-July (July 22nd/26th), so from early January I had about six and a half months to reach my goal. The number on the scales I wanted to see, and the dress size, will remain my little secret – it’s not important or relevant to anyone else, in any case. I will say that I really wanted to lose 4 stone. To be entirely honest, I don’t think I 100% believed I would ever reach those personal goals… I just knew I was finally ready to give my 100% effort to attempt to get as close as possible. As long as I gave it my all, I wouldn’t be letting myself down. And that’s something to be proud of in itself, weight and dress size completely aside.
Diet & Water Intake
Ok, so I had six and a half months to try and do this thing. Achieve my personal goals. The obvious first step was a dramatic change in diet. Takeaways weren’t an option any more, and alcohol was severely limited – in fact I haven’t had any wine in the house since January, I’ve only had a glass of white wine here and there when out for the occasional meal. I know white wine is a weakness of mine and if I have bottles in the house I’ll only be tempted to drink them… I can have anything else in the fridge or cupboard, chocolate, biscuits, crisps, you name it and I can resist. There’s just something about wine!
Oh, and I started to drink plenty of water, and I’ve kept that up. At least 2 litres per day. A couple of these motivational water bottles really helps.
The second big change, and one which has been truly life-changing in some extremely surprising ways, was to start doing some exercise. Ugh, exercise. Not only did I hate the idea (and the reality!), I was pretty scared. How do I go about starting to do exercise when I’m not a gym bunny in the slightest? What sort of exercise should I do? What should I wear? How on earth would I find the time?
Well, I need to get my youngest child to school every day, so I decided that walking was a good place to start. I’d been lazy last year and cadging lifts there and back twice a day, but I put my best foot forward (well, a foot, anyway) and started walking him to school. Then walking home. And setting off again in the afternoon for another walk across town.
Walking has been the foundation of my exercise regime, and it’s been transformational in a few ways. Firstly, the physical changes. It took a while for them to show, several weeks in fact. But slowly I could see my legs becoming more sculpted, then several weeks again after that I could make out the slightest bit of tone. Secondly, my fitness levels improved. It’s quite hilly around our town so the school runs include at least one hill, depending on which route is taken. Hill-climbing is great for the heart, and over time I found myself less and less out of breath when reaching the top of those hills.
At the start of the year I set myself a target of 4k steps a day – not much, perhaps, to some people, but to me at that point, and maybe to many others, it seemed daunting. The only thing I had to count my steps was the Google app on my mobile phone, so it had to be with me the entire time I walked or my steps wouldn’t be counted.
What I wore changed over time, too. In the beginning I just wore my everyday clothing; flat winter boots and leggings and long baggy top and a coat which most definitely covered my arse. I didn’t have any workout clothes at all, and they’re all clingy and styles I definitely wouldn’t have felt comfortable even trying on, never mind walking around our little town in. After getting very sore feet from inappropriate footwear I decided it was time to invest in some walking shoes. Ugh, not only an exercise regime but also seriously unattractive footwear! I remember thinking that this had better all be worth it.
Walking shoes purchased, my exercise continued. In time I added stretchy and moisture-wicking workout leggings rather than my over-stretched ‘mum leggings’, and wore long tops until I felt more confident showing my rear under a mere waist-length workout jacket.
Tracking Exercise & Food
My step goals increased over time, as my fitness improved. From 4k a day, up to 5k, then I found I was doing 8k a day. It became annoying carrying my phone everywhere in order to track my steps, so I tried a couple of cheap wristband pedometers but they simply weren’t up to scratch. I wanted something proper, an investment I could put my confidence in, and my lovely partner bought me the Fitbit Charge 2 which I absolutely adore and which I totally live and die by.
In order to track my food intake I downloaded the Lose It app which not only gives you weight tracking/goal options alongside a daily food diary, but also lets you simply scan a barcode of something you eat and it will log the calories (and nutrients) for you. Based on your personal details and how much you want to lose per week, and by what date, it provides a daily calorie allowance for you to try and stick to. What’s brilliant about it is that I could connect the Fitbit app, so my exercise feeds through to the Lose It app and once a minimum daily exercise requirement has been completed for the day, anything after that is a ‘calorie bonus’. It’s very motivational.
My route to and from school changed a lot over the months. At the start I did the quickest route there and back, you know, like any normal person (see, I can act normal when I try!). To reach increasingly higher step count goals I needed to get a bit more creative. I’d wander down a new road and see if it connected to my usual route eventually, giving me a way of adding steps to my journey. I’ve kept on doing this and now I’m at the most stretched out I think I can possibly walk the route every day. On a typical weekday I’m walking 7,500 steps in the morning and another 7,500 steps in the afternoon, which sees me go pretty literally all around the houses, zigzagging through side streets and up and down three separate hills in the town.
Yep, my step count goal increased to 10k a day, which is what they say (whoever they are) people should be doing a day – but let me tell you, it’s not all that easy when you work both online and from home. Well, I challenge anyone to find it easy, really. Over here at least, it’s simply not that sort of world any more. I’ve kept my step count to 10k minimum a day despite doing 15k+ on weekdays, because I find it quite difficult even to reach 10k on the weekends.
Steady Weight Loss
Walking a whole bloody lot and seriously watching what I ate is what led to quite a lot of the weight being lost, in a steady way, over the first few months. I had to have occasions to look forward to – diets can get so bloody dull. I think that’s what is the killer for most diets; whatever you tell yourself you have to eat (instead of something else) seems boring and bland in comparison to that tasty treat in your imagination. So, I stuck to my diet and exercise 99% of the time and planned when I’d next be allowed a little soujourn.
It might be a date night with Darren – our Valentine’s Date Night was one such time – or the time minnie and I visited the local for a lovely slap-up meal.
I really looked forward to getting out, having a good time with them, but also of course the temporary departure from my diet. It’s not that I don’t like chicken breasts and turkey steaks, but I must have eaten an entire farm’s worth of them by now. I’ve kept with eating protein powder with a fat free yoghurt every morning for breakfast too, which keeps me going til lunch.
Of course, seeing the number go down on the scales was very motivational. It took quite a bit of time for other people to notice any changes, but once they did it just inspired me to carry on going and to stay strong. Another big motivation was not only being able to fit into clothes I wanted to fit into, and look good in, but also feeling confident wearing them. Including wearing them out of the house, which is often a different thing entirely.
As an aside: This also may sound superficial and shallow but one of my top distractions when I feel myself veering off my diet track is to either outfit plan for the next hotly-anticipated ‘occasion’ date, or to shop for a new dress online. Yeah retail therapy can get quite costly – I tell myself it’s cheaper than a gym membership. I think. Not that I’ve checked.
Finally, June. June hit and the nerves set in. Yeah, I’d lost a ton of weight (ok, not literally, but it felt like it) since January 1st, but was my current plan going to continue to see the weight come off and see positive changes to my body? I decided to kick it up a gear, and made a promise to myself that I’d do an hour on my exercise bike every single day through June. No matter what.
Yes, I’d bought an exercise bike about a month previous, but I found I could only do ten minutes on it on the lowest intensity and my legs just gave out. I’d thought that all the walking would have prepared me better, but it turns out that it’s a different type of exercise, different muscles used. So, committing to an hour a day was pretty bloody scary, if I’m honest. Once I’ve made a promise like that to myself it’s like a proper blood oath; I’d feel crushing disappointment in myself if I didn’t see it through.
It was really difficult. Adding the hour’s exercise bike on top of the 15k weekday and 10k weekend steps was exhausting. On top of which I still had to try and do my best with the children, the house and with work. It’s a difficult juggling act at the best of times. Darren has been amazing offering to cook and stepping in to help with the children while I workout. At the start of the month I was on 3 to 4 out of 8 intensity levels on the bike, and I finished up doing mostly 6 out of 8, and 10-20 minute intervals of 7 or 8 out of 8 intensity.
Walking had been keeping me mostly in the ‘fat burn’ heart rate zone, which is great for dropping the weight, but ramping it up on the exercise bike meant I was getting in, and staying in, the ‘cardio’ heart rate zone (all according to my Fitbit, anyway).
Plus, I could feel the muscles changing in my legs. I’ve given up hopes of skinny legs at this point, it’s just not how my body is made (and let me just take this opportunity to send out a massive F-you to all jeans manufacturers: please make jeans for women with calves, thighs and butts). I’m putting everything into trying my best to sculpt and tone the shapely legs I’ve got.
Reaching My Goals
Completing my June challenge to myself on top of keeping with my diet and exercise in the previous months allowed me to come into July feeling exceptionally proud of myself. And why not? I’ve worked damn hard to get here. Yes, I’ve lost the four stone I wanted to lose. I’m back in the clothes and clubbing dresses I loved and wore before my last baby, and which I’ve been eyeing with sadness ever since. Until now. Now they’re all back hanging in my wardrobe, along with a generous amount of new additions. Including shorts! I never thought I’d feel comfortable and confident wearing those.
I started this mission, this goal to fulfil my new year’s resolution and rediscover the happier, confident me, thinking it was all about the number on the scale and the size on my clothes tags. And for me, they will always remain a part of it. I don’t feel confident in myself when I’m bigger, and therefore I don’t feel happy. However, I’ve also learned that I feel so accomplished from completing a workout that exercise is going to be a big part of my life from now on. From hating the idea of it, and never actually giving it a go, to realising what people have been saying all along is actually true, has been a revelation. The endorphins, the adrenaline, the buzz – whatever you want to call it, I love it. I’m not happy if I can’t do a bit of exercise each day.
You might be wondering why I’ve only stuck with walking and my exercise bike as my exercise, if I’ve discovered such a love for it. A few reasons. I’m still not confident enough to run in public, maybe that will come in time. My time is limited in the day due to childcare and work obligations, and I find I can just about fit in the exercise bike along with the walking. Finally, I have to keep my exercise pretty low impact, and especially when it comes to my upper body, due to a broken collarbone which will never heal properly and for which I see a chiro on a 4-weekly basis. Thanks, a certain ex.
Looking To The Future
Now comes the maintenance zone. I’m at the weight and dress size I want to be, I feel proud of all the hard work and effort I’ve put in, and happy to have reached my goals. My confidence is once again back where I want it: zooming high. It’s not and never has been about comparisons with anyone else, I simply want to be the best me I feel I can be. And I was already happy with the inside! Now I feel the outside reflects the contented person I’ve grown into. I’m not perfect in any way at all, but I’ve learned to love myself – with a few hefty tweaks, here and there.
But before I sail off into the horizon for what I hope is a happy ever after of weight maintenance, fulfilling regular exercise, a beaming smile (thanks Invisalign) and glowing confidence, while living in our forever home, I have a birthday weekend coming up fast which is packed with celebrations.
Happy birthday to my wonderful, gorgeous man, Darren – and happy birthday to me. My birthday gift to myself this year was to excavate the real me I knew was under the years of life and stress, a happy and confident me, and I’m welcoming myself back with open arms.
With a mojito in each hand, obviously.
PS: Gratuitous addition of my Amazon wishlist link!
In case you want to contribute to my smile… <3
Unsponsored, contains affiliate links