A year ago (October 2017) I participated in an F45 8 week challenge… and it changed my life forever!
Last October (2017) I was at a stage in my life where I was unhealthy, unmotivated and quite honestly… depressed. I wasn’t a fan of myself or my body and you could tell by the food I was putting into it.
I was eating 2 minute noodles (accidentally vegan) and baked bean and spaghetti jaffles every day. I’d binge on kettle chips, sour patch kids, skittles and what ever else I could get my hands on, because it made me ‘feel good’.
I was going through a tough time mentally and my anxiety was probably at the worst it’s ever been. But eating made me feel happy. In the midst of all of the anxiety, at least I had food. It was the one thing in my life I could always turn to.
However with every bite I would take I knew in my head that I was being bad. But at the time I didn’t care, because it felt good and for a minute or two I felt happy. But without fail those ‘happy feelings’ were fleeting, and every single time that ‘happiness’ I got from food, turned into guilt and that guilt turned into more self loathing. And so the cycle would begin again and I’d eat something to make me feel better…
My love/hate relationship with food begun at an early age. In year 6, at probably the most cut throat and honest stage of adolescence, I quite vividly remember being called ‘thunder thighs’ on the school play ground and being completely devastated that someone else was aware of my greatest anxiety about my body… even at such a young age.
Growing up I was taught that food would make any situation better. I was given lolly jars to disguise neglect or given free rein on a whole box of icy poles to make up for being an absent parent (that I’d consume in LESS than 24 hours). To apologise for them having an outburst at me I would be given salt and vinegar chips to buy my forgiveness. If my parent was sad, we’d eat. If we were celebrating something, we’d eat.
And so, as I got older and started buying my own foods and making my own decisions and choices… my conditioning had taught me that if I was experiencing a positive OR negative emotion, that I should eat to resolve it.
Food was the remedy to every situation, and so I learnt to treat food as a comfort and not as fuel…
I wish I could tell you that the self image got better heading into High School but it most certainly got worse. I would sneak eye liner to school because I thought it made me look pretty. I would cake on foundation to try (and fail) to hide my acne covered face. I would tie my waist band on my school dress absurdly tight to give my waist definition, ultimately so that it would draw attention away from the size of my legs.
Thinking about it now, I am so devastated that I felt this way. Pouring this out into words on a screen, it reads like a sad story of someone you want to pity and pat on the back, but I assure you there is a ‘grass is greener’ending to this morbid story but you’ll just have to keep reading…
In year 10 I began to abuse weight loss teas and started to experiment with dieting and restricting calories. And in all honesty, I wish I had never started. I had an idea in my head of what I wanted my body to look like and it drew me to the point of obsession with exercise and food.
Ya know just to go off topic a bit for one second… no one ever tells you the delights of weight loss teas but I’m definitely going to…
You generally take them before bed or early morning. You are fine for a while until the pains begin… (What reads on from here is no word of a lie) These teas would give me severe stomach cramps at random intervals, all followed by at least 3 trips to the toilet in agonising pain, to have diarrhoea. Full face of sweats, followed by my whole body covered in sweat whilst sitting there on the toilet in the worst pain imaginable… Completely humiliating when you’re in first period Health class and you’ve been sitting in the toilet block for the whole period and you have to get your house leader to call your Nan to come and get you from school… na not very fun… and in NO WAY worth it, TRUST ME.
Anyway, back to it…
You see, the most horrible part of trying to look a certain way… is that when you finally have the body you are after, it still isn’t enough. No matter what, I was never happy with how I looked.
In 2014 I was sitting at my lightest weight I’d ever been (14kgs lighter than I am now) and my body had had enough. I was anaemic, I had no muscle, my hair was falling out and I was fatigued all the time.
So I had this body that I ‘thought’ I wanted… but it was of absolutely no use to me because it was suffering!
My body was literally screaming at me to take better care of it!!!
Fast forward a few years and multiple ups and downs, I found myself on the other end of that scale. I was unhappy, depressed, extremely anxious and I had turned to food again to make me happy. My body ‘looked healthier’ by all means, but was seriously suffering inside and out due to the food I was feeding it and my complete lack of exercise at that time.
Guys I won’t lie to you… I have yo-yo dieted for as long as I can remember. I would exercise for a while, eat really well.. and then fall off the band wagon and binge to the point I felt too much shame to get back on the band wagon.
I have been very skinny and then I have gone back the other way and consumed more junk food than humanly possible.
All my life I have I known how to lose weight or how to gain it… but I had never learnt how to sustain a healthy body weight.
Until my F45 8 week challenge…
I remember the first time my house mate asked me to join F45 I scoffed in her face and basically told her to f*** off. I thought it was a cult and listened to all of the nonsense I had seen over facebook about it. I wasn’t about to be one of ‘those people’.
But after hitting what really felt like rock bottom and feeling extremely self conscious about my weight and the way I looked in the mirror, I knew something needed to change. I had seen the new 8 week challenge advertised and knew that it might be an amazing way to kick start some sort of transformation in myself… and boy was I right!
I remember so clearly pacing back and forth in my kitchen over and over before I worked up the courage to go to the information evening. It was the most nervous I had felt in such a long time and that little voice in my head kept telling me ‘just stay home, its safe here’. But somehow, I worked up the courage and went! And I will always be so grateful I did!!
I started my 8 week challenge one week after that. For 8 whole weeks between October and December, I followed that challenge to a tee. I did not drink any coffee or alcohol that whole time and I didn’t stray from the meal plan once!
I was 100% committed to completing my challenge with zero regrets. I went ‘balls to the wall’ or ‘full boar’ or whatever other cliches describe it…
My friend once said to me that I’m an ‘all, or nothing’ kinda gal. And I think that is the most perfect description of me. When I went vegan, it was a decision I made instantly that I have never faltered or strayed from and never will. All or nothing I guess.
So you can expect that during this 8 week challenge I was the most annoying person to ask out to socialise with or to spend time with…
a. Because I refused to eat or drink anything that wasn’t on the meal plan.
b. Because all I did was take pictures of my food and talk about the fact I was doing an 8 week challenge (sorry not sorry to the friends who endured it).
During that 8 weeks I became a completely different person. I meal prepped every week, I exercised daily, I wrote in a diary, I ate well and in turn my mind also started to become well.
I learnt more about myself in that 8 weeks than I would have ever thought possible. I learnt how to eat well and nourish my body but most importantly it taught me how to look after my self properly.
It has taken a lot of work over the past 2 years to genuinely discover how to feed my body what it needs to stay healthy, especially on a plant based diet! Its not like going vegan comes with a how-to manual… for my first week as a vegan all I ate was avocado toasted sandwiches… This challenge completely opened me up to eating the right foods to nourish my body.
It was amazing how quickly I started to feel the difference during that 8 week challenge! Once you start to feel the benefits from exercising and eating good food… you never want to stop feeling that way. That ‘healthy’ feeling, almost becomes addictive.
Feeling strong, energised and happy were extremely foreign feelings for me and I felt on top of the world!
At the end of the 8 week challenge I was sitting 8.6 kilos lighter and had lost a total of 8% body fat. I felt amazing inside and out and to top it off I won the Ocean Grove 8 week challenge and had come out $1000 richer!! But honestly I didn’t care about the money (it was a nice bonus though) because my results were not only physical… but also mental.
After the challenge I found that I had a better idea of how to be happy and healthy and how to live a better lifestyle. I was inspired to get back into the health and fitness industry and help people to do what I had just done. I enrolled into Naturopathy and applied for a job as an F45 trainer in Melbourne. I found my love for cooking and recipe developing after many years, and started to create amazing and nutritious foods again!
I felt like a completely changed girl, and I was!
But the greatest challenge was coming off the challenge…
I wish I could tell you that it was all easy from there… But it didn’t quite happen that way.
Finishing the challenge in December/January school holidays at the very busiest time in my work year managing a cafe in a busy coastal town… was probably not ideal.
My F45 was only open for classes in the morning and I started work at 6.30am every day and was unable to make it to classes! I slowly started treating myself to snacks and dinners out and I slowly began to put weight back on.
I put on roughly 5 kilos over Christmas and January. And this was completely attributed to me not exercising like I was and not maintaining a balanced diet. But once I got back into the swing of things my body hit a sustainable weight and my body liked where it was at.
Over this past year I have discovered how to maintain a healthy lifestyle and remain at the same weight. For me, thats pretty crazy after a life time of fluctuating weight and yo yo dieting. I am neither super thin, nor overweight. I finally have muscle and am the strongest I have ever been. I am sitting at a healthy 24% body fat and have consistently all year. That is nowhere near where I finished my challenge at, nor is it athlete level but it is a healthy ‘balanced level’ for me.
I go out for dinners with friends, I eat pizza and I drink alcohol. I have packets of chips and loving earth choccy but I don’t do it every day. I make better choices about food and I exercise regularly. I have a passion for creating healthy and delicious meals I cook every day.
I make sure that my meals have an abundance of colourful vegetables, a good protein source and healthy fats. I make sure I’m getting the most nutrients and vitamins out of my food and that is my only goal. I feed my body what it needs and I take very good care of myself.
I think at one point or another everyone struggles with wanting to be skinnier or to look a certain way and some times we do some pretty extreme things to get there.
I for one, have always felt super restricted when I’m doing something crazy like that and I’m generally really unhappy about it and end up binging or going backwards right after it.
Right now I treat myself 20% of the time and eat healthy 80% of the time… and that makes me pretty darn happy!!
There is absolutely no secret, the key is good diet and exercise!
My F45 8 week challenge was a real catalyst for change in my life and I am extremely grateful for what it has taught me about exercise and food.
It can be a lot of time and effort but ultimately you come out of it with amazing habits and skills to incorporate into your life. I honestly couldn’t recommend the experience enough.
For now, my goal is to hopefully inspire others to gradually start to incorporate healthy eating and exercise into their lives like I did… whilst also remaining balanced and happy!
In the end,
Its about eating well, exercising, enjoying yourself and living a balanced life.
Love Steph xx