It’s that time of year again when we start to think about and plan our new years resolutions and reflect on the year past, pondering how we can make the next one even better. Personally, 2016 been one of my best years to date – I’ve learnt more about myself than in any year previous. Today’s post is just a culmination of the things that have supported me this past year and hopefully one or two may resonate with you before you make your new year resolutions.
1) Run Your Own Race
“Comparison is the thief of joy”
I regularly bring things back to one of my life philosophies which is “if it makes you happy, do more of it, if it makes you unhappy, do less it” – this mantra was born out my constant comparison to others and how inadequate, unhappy and lifeless it used to make me feel.
This has been the first year that I learnt to stop comparing myself to others. There was a time when I compared everything I did to that of people that I perceived to be ‘ahead of me’ and it always left me in a negative state- so and so had a better body, more money or whatever.
Ironically the ‘low’ that this comparison would bring actually had the opposite effect on my productivity, I had less energy and had an overwhelming ‘oh whats the point?’ on doing another gym session, eating another meal or creating another video – so and so is better anyways.
If you have been following me the last 12 months, you have probably noticed a lot of videos, blog posts, snapchats, podcasts etc. I regularly joke that I’m the worst ‘fitness fan’ in the world as I don’t know what anybody else is doing- I’ve just been focused on getting my things done. The freedom that comes with doing your own thing, however that looks for you, is the most liberating feeling in the world. Decide on what it is you want- be it a new job, a better physique, a deep meaningful relationship with someone or whatever, then run your own race and remember that comparison is the thief of joy.
“The flower doesn’t think of competing with the flower next to it, it just blooms”
Which brings me the next thing I learnt in 2016.
2) Stop Following Certain People On Social Media
One of the three most common messages I receive are ‘I love your snapchat Q+A’s’, ‘You got me into reading more books or audiobooks’ and ‘I unfollowed so many fitness people on social media after watching your video, listening to your podcast or reading your blog’.
I think I feel more strongly about this than any thing else. If you are following people on social media who make you feel bad about yourself on a consistent basis and are providing nothing but daily updates on how great they look, you need to UNFOLLOW them!
I’ve included myself in this bracket, if I make you feel that way on a consistent basis, then by all means, unfollow me – this isn’t about me and my vanity metrics of ‘I have this or that many followers’ – if I’m not helping make your life better in some way, then I’m wasting your time.
But you need to apply this to every ‘fitness’ person you follow on social media. I have had so many of my online clients (my girls mostly but some of my guys too) fix their relationships with food through eating ‘real food’ and building their knowledge on what works for their body. The occasional protein bar and energy drink isn’t going to kill you, on the contrary, you can get into amazing shape in spite of using these; but two protein bars, a can of monster and ‘insert generic supplement brand name’ protein powder is not the reason Instagram fitness people are in shape! They either incredibly strict on their diet the other 90% of the day (which they don’t show you for some reason) or they are using other supplements or substances that burn right through those things (again, that you don’t see). This gives off the false impression that the reason they look this way is because of ‘these foods’ or ‘that supplement’. As someone who was deep within that side of the industry; I won a pro card, competed and finished 8th at the Worlds in Las Vegas and traveled the world as a professional fitness model, I can tell you first hand, what you see is not always what you get.
If you find yourself scrolling through your Instagram, Facebook or snapchat on your lunch break, after work or late at night and find yourself feeling ‘worse’ after it, it might be worth doing a new year social media clear out.
“Get rid of everything that doesn’t make you happy and give your attention to the things that do” – anonymous
3) You Can Get In Shape Eating Protein Bars, Energy Drinks and Processed Food.. It Just Not Optimal
If you have been following me over the past year, you may have heard me speak about coco pops, monster drinks and protein bars. So I guess my end of year thought is, can you get in shape using these foods and drink? I’ll share my story below and let you decide for yourself on what may work best for you.
If you follow my snapchat Q+A’s (briank019) – I regularly mention how much I love the taste of Coco Pops or that I used to eat protein bars every day. For nearly my two years of competing and traveling as a fitness model, I ate these foods daily and I will categorically state that you can get in tremendous shape (which is subjective to each person) but using these foods; and if you are happy with the way you look and more importantly, the way you feel, then by all means, continue to use them. I love Socrates “know thyself” – if it works for you, then do it.
Dealing With Body Dysmorphia
It’s funny because during my two years of competing, I was walking around at my leanest (about 6% bodyfat), training three and four hours a day, putting so many different stimulants, caffeine and other crap into my body and I hated the way I looked. My lifestyle and my food choices in particular were causing horrible anxiety and even worse cravings. I’ve spoken in the past about how my daughter changed my life and I have no doubt that i would have trained and eaten myself into an early crave had she not been born. 18 months ago, I decided that lifestyle was no longer for me but still some of the bad ‘fit life’ habits crept into my daily routine. Namely, coco pops post workout, energy drinks or diet drinks during the day and protein bars as snacks.
My turning point came when I was on binge number 4 for the month; and had searched every cupboard in the house for any chocolate or sweet food I could find. I felt like a heroin addict in need of a fix and there were nights when I would have to drag myself to bed early just because i didn’t want to give in to the cravings.
So what happened over this past year? I started to get curious as to why my cravings were so bad. Why would I be sitting perfectly content at 7pm and be ready to sell my left arm for a bar of chocolate at 8pm? Turns out that the protein bars, coco pops and different energy drinks weren’t as ‘good’ as I had thought.
“Don’t fool yourself and you’re the easiest person to fool” – Epicurus
I had convinced myself that these foods were fine because i was eating so clean the other 90% of the time and as Epicurus says ‘don’t fool yourself and you’re the easiest person to fool’ – when you start to make up reasons to justify it to yourself, then you really are in trouble. Do you know the the first thing that you need to do when you join alcohol anonymous and other addict groups? You have to admit you have a problem.
I tried to objectively take myself away from the entire situation and think about what advice I would offer to someone else in a similar situation. Side note: if you wonder how I deal with hate or negative comments, I do the exact same thing. If you are worried about what people say or think about you- 99 out of a 100 times, its just that person’s opinion of you in that moment in time or a manifestation of their internal feelings projected on you.
“Everything we hear is an opinion, everything we see is a perspective” Marcus Aurelius
I knew I had to find the source of the problem, so I experimented. Firstly, I eliminated Coco Pops post workout; and for obvious reasons (processed ingredients, high in sugar etc) – it was the most logical thing to go. The cravings got a little better and my energy definitely became more stable throughout the day as i wasn’t needlessly spiking my blood sugar levels, but it didn’t quite do it.
Luckily my sister is a lecturer in Northumbria University and she sends me articles from time to time. During this period, I was reading about how certain sweeteners mimic insulin in the brain, sending the body into a negative feedback loop with an insulin release that isn’t followed by a blood sugar level increase (basically the opposite to what your body is evolved to do) – so I cut diet and energy drinks. Again, cravings were a little better but i wasn’t out of the woods yet.
So what felt like sacrificing a new born to the Roman gods, I bit the bullet and tried giving up my beloved protein bars. The first 3 or 4 days were hard, I wanted them worse than any chocolate bar (which makes me question the ingredients further, I don’t ever remember having withdrawals when I cut broccoli or spinach for a few days)- but a funny thing happened by the end of that week. My carvings disappeared.. completely!
In hindsight, understanding the effects of poly-alcohols on the body (they are way worse than sugar), it makes sense now and I haven’t eaten a protein bar in nearly 6 months (I do eat about 50g of 85% dark chocolate every day and feel so much better for it).
I still take Holly for ice cream once a week but for the first time in a long time, I’ll have it because I ‘want’ and not because i ‘need’ it (even though, she regularly takes half of mine anyways <3)
I built these craving systems into my online program and as I want anyone going through it to have their free meal, chocolate bars or ice cream because they ‘want’ and not because they ‘need’ it.
So can you eat protein bars, coco pops and energy drinks and get into incredible shape? Yes you can and lot of people do. Is eating a high sugar food post workout, a high stimulated drink pre workouts and a poly alcohols as a snack optimal for fat loss, muscle gain or cravings? I can only speak from my experience so I’ll leave that for you to decide.
Hopefully my top three lessons will help when setting your own New Years Resolutions. Have an incredible New Year and I will see you all in 2017 😀