I have found self-care to be absolutely crucial to my weight loss and overall health. It was only once I changed my mindset from trying to punish my body into submission, to trying to take the best care of myself, that my health and weight really changed for the better. I had spent years of yo-yo dieting and losing lots of weight, but then putting back on even more. I was also exhausted, had migraines, poor sleep and depression on and off. I had also tried anti-diets which involve eating when you are hungry, stopping when you are full and eating whatever it is that you truly want. However, while these principles are very useful, if you still hate yourself and want to punish your body, on their own they are not enough and I would just eat Jaffa cakes all day!
Eventually, something in me changed and I decided that neither of these approaches were working for me and I have always had a strong interest in nutrition and health, so I decided to try something different. I guess it’s a hybrid approach, but it has worked better than any of the yo-yo dieting/anti-diet approaches and ultimately led to me training to be a health coach. I am so keen to share this with other women, because I know I am not the only one who has struggled with these things. The most incredible thing is that not only did I lose weight, but I have kept it off for years now and it is not hard, but it does require a different mindset. So, step number one is wanting to truly take care of your body in the best way possible. Obviously, this applies to food and eating the best quality, most nutritious foods you can find. But, it also means taking time to relax and care for your mind, body and soul. Everything in our bodies is interlinked, so if you take time to relax your mind, then your stress levels will be lower and the Jaffa cakes may not look so appealing. You may also sleep better, which means you might not need as much coffee in the morning, which means you may not have an afternoon slump and reach for the Jaffa cakes! See how everything is a circle, if you start taking care of one aspect of your life, then it will have positive effects on other areas. For me stress was a huge factor in overeating, I used to come home from work and eat a big bag of M and Ms everyday; once I got that stress under control, I didn’t want them anymore. It doesn’t mean I never eat any, but I don’t crave them. Sometimes these days I crave fruit, my old self wouldn’t have believed that was possible!
Top 3 tips for self care
- Breathe consciously. This sounds too simple, but it affects the biochemistry in your body to turn down the fight/flight response (where we spend much of our time in our busy lives). Simply, let your abdomen move outwards as you breathe in and let it move inwards as you breathe out. You can practice this almost anywhere, at traffic lights, in queues, in meetings or waiting for the kettle to boil. The beauty of it is that, it is also one of the only stress reducing techniques that you can do without anyone knowing you are doing it, which I find very handy. Don’t just do it when you are stressed though, the more you do it each day, the more beneficial it is.
- Practice spending 10 minutes a day doing something you really enjoy and that is distracting enough to stop you thinking about other things. This could be meditation or yoga, but it could also be dancing round your kitchen, having a bath, going for a short walk. Anything you enjoy is great, but no screens please. Then just take note of how you feel afterwards, I am sure you will feel a difference and we can all find 10 minutes a day for ourselves. Once you start to notice the impact on the rest of your day, it becomes addictive.
- “Put on your own oxygen mask first”. This is related to the above practice. As a nurse, I learnt the hard way that always putting other people first is not just unhealthy for yourself, but is unsustainable. You can actually take much better care of others, if you make some small changes to take care of yourself. How you do this is individual to you, it may mean saying no sometimes, or taking little breaks, or booking a massage or buying some organic vegetables. There is no right or wrong, but it’s the principle that underpins it all. If you fall apart, then you cannot take care of anyone. Better to do a few less things today and be at your best forever.
All of these tips start the shift towards taking care of yourself and seeing how small, but consistent changes can have a radical effect on your health and weight. If this area interests you, then it is a topic I coach on in my Nurtured Body Programme. Feel free to get in touch, I’d love to talk to you about it.