It has been awhile since I’ve blogged about my fitness journey so I thought this would be a good opportunity to bring you all up to date with what I have been doing recently. You may recall me mentioning in this post that I managed to make quite a bit of progress in terms of weight loss last summer, bringing my weight down from 93kg to 78kg. Unfortunately, I was unable to maintain that weight as I had a relapse. Having to take medication again increased my weight but I cannot blame that alone. I felt depressed by the weight gain and compounded to the problem by eating badly, and before I knew it my weight had risen to 94kg! I dread winter. I hate cold weather and found it difficult to be motivated enough to run outdoors. In addition, I also hated the gym that I had joined back in January, and as a result, hardly went there. While it is fairly close to home, if you don’t like it, you simply won’t go there, even if it’s next door. Period.
As I grew bigger and lost more and more fitness, I became increasingly depressed. I have Type 2 diabetes, which I am meant to control with diet and exercise. As my eating fell to the wayside, I stopped testing my blood sugar, choosing to live in oblivion. I knew something had to change, but I felt stuck in a cycle of losing weight, only to gain it all back every time I had a relapse and had to go on medication. It then became hard for me to start my fitness journey all over again as I felt so disappointed by having gained weight. However, this is the reality of my life, and probably much better than having to take medication all the time, which only caused my weight to continue to climb. I thought about my problem very deeply and realised that the thing that frustrated me most was that my base weight was so high, and it was very hard for me to bring it down due to fluctuations every time I had a relapse and had to take risperidone. The reason for this is because when I worked as a lawyer at Bell Gully a couple of years ago, I had to take my medication continuously in order to hold down the job. This pushed my base weight from 70 kg to 93 kg, and I have never been able to bring my weight down to this level ever since. My ideal or goal weight is actually 60 kg, but I’ve allowed a 10kg buffer because of my condition and the effect medication has on my weight. So in an ideal world I’d be 60kg, and allow a buffer of 10kg for weight gain caused by relapses and the medication.
I was pleased that I was able to lose 15 kg on my own last summer, without a gym or PT, but realised that if I were to try to push past the barrier and bring my weight down to 70kg or below that level, I would not be able to do it on my own. Part of the problem was that I wasn’t getting enough support from the community gym which I was going to, but linked to that was also the fact that I was not forthcoming about my situation because I didn’t feel comfortable confiding in the instructors there. However I cannot solely blame them. I needed to want to be helped, if that makes sense. It took some time for me to reach that point.
A few years ago, I trained at Les Mills and used the Howick branch a lot, as it is close to home. I met a wonderful young trainer called Laetitia. I confided in her about my condition and the problems it presented in terms of my weight and she was wonderfully supportive. However, after a particularly bad depressive episode I left the gym, which was probably one of the biggest mistakes I have made in my life, as my health and weight have deteriorated ever since.
I was determined to pick myself up again, but this time around, I knew I could not do it alone as I had done last summer. I constantly thought back to Les Mills Howick and how much I enjoyed going there. The trainers and fitness instructors were all so wonderful to me and I felt happy to go to the gym, which wasn’t the way I felt about the community gym. One of the instructors at the community gym always put me down in the Combat class, getting off the stage to come over to correct me on my movements. I always felt self-conscious infront of the other gym goers, which was one of the reasons I went to the gym less and less over the course of my membership. I couldn’t complain to the manager about him as he was the manager!
I had to accept that this time, I needed to see a personal trainer, which was hard for me as I’m a self-starter and believe firmly in helping myself in order to get ahead in life. Over the years though, I’ve learnt that there’s no shame in asking for help when you need it, and it’s certainly better than struggling on your own or giving up. Deep down, I desperately wanted to do the YMCA 10k summer series in the Auckland Domain, which starts in October and I knew I’d never get there if I continued to go it alone. Last summer, I just did a couple of the runs, this summer, I’d like to do the entire series, which starts when daylight saving commences in October and runs until April, when daylight saving ends. To run with the pack, I need to be able to complete the course in no more than an hour and a half (the course is quite difficult and contains a lot of hills, so this needed to be taken into account).
The more I thought about Les Mills the more I realised that it was the right gym for me, if ever there was one. I simply had to put aside my insecurities about being an ‘older’ member if I was to improve my health and fitness. I picked up the phone and asked if I could go into Les Mills Howick and talk to someone about rejoining the gym. The next day, I started going to the gym and working out on a trial membership thanks to a consultant called Autumn and before I knew it, I had rejoined the gym. There were some familiar faces and a lot of new ones as well. Since I had last been a member, they had upgraded the facilities so the gym was even better than I had remembered it! Unfortunately, Laetitia didn’t work there anymore (but she does work out there and it was lovely to see her again). Funnily enough, I ended up picking a lovely young PT called Alice that is really good friends with her. Her manner reminded me so much of Laetitia’s and that’s why I chose her. Since I started going to Les Mills, I have lost 4.5 kg in just three weeks. I have also gotten back into running 10ks, my most recent race being the Sri Chinmoy in the Auckland Domain last Sunday. I managed to complete the race in 1 hour 29 minutes (but the course is much easier than the YMCA 10k run which has more hills so I have quite a bit of work to do!). Initially, I was reluctant to enter into races when my times were so slow, but one of the fitness instructors called Maureen who also does 10k races encouraged me to enter in order to improve my fitness. There is another Sri Chinmoy race on the 16th September, which I’ll enter as well. I loved how supportive the other runners were during the race and afterwards. Considering how many times I have fallen down (one time quite literally, during a run along the waterfront), I need all the support I can get to pick myself up again and carry on.
I now exercise every day (which I didn’t do from February through to June). I do three 10k runs per week, sometimes going to the Newmarket branch of Les Mills so I can run in the Auckland Domain. I see Alice for PT once a week for an hour, and do another hour of weight training on my own during the week. For the other two days, I do classes. At the moment, I’ve been doing RPM with Kate and Pump with Stacy, who are both really lovely instructors who remember me from the last time I went to Les Mills Howick, and also from other gyms before that. The Saturday before last, Alice and I did George’s boxing class together, which I really enjoyed. Who knew exercising could be so much fun!
In parallel with exercise, I also keep a record of everything I consume on an app called My Fitness Pal. It’s been around for a long time, but I didn’t use it as I used to do Weight Watchers in order to control my weight. Unfortunately, Weight Watchers doesn’t work for me anymore. I have diabetes, so fruit most definitely isn’t free as per Weight Watchers, because it contains quite a bit of sugar. They have changed the programme so much over the years and added lots more zero points foods, especially those which are high in protein such as chicken, fish, tofu and eggs. I don't really agree with this. To me, nothing is free. Everything has some kind of value in terms of calories and macros, and therefore has an effect on your body. In saying that, I have developed a lot of good habits from doing Weight Watchers over the years, including weighing food to ensure I am not overeating. There are certainly some similarities between the two programmes, one being that you must record everything that you eat. What I like about MFP is that you record calories, rather than points, which to me seem rather artificial. I think counting calories is a more accurate way of measuring what you’re consuming. MFP also places an emphasis on macros, so if you enter the foods you’ve been eating across the day and corresponding quantities, it will give you the content of protein, carbs, fats, sugars and so on. Unlike Weight Watchers, I find this very useful, especially for controlling my blood sugar levels. I have been testing my blood sugar regularly and my levels have never been better! Although it sounds quite tedious to have to log everything you eat and all the activity you’ve done for the day, it actually isn’t as bad as it sounds. Once you enter items, they will automatically be stored in the system, making it easy to add them next time. The app (or I’ll often just use the website and work on my laptop) is very easy to use and MFP is a very supportive community of members, a lot like Weight Watchers. You can become friends with other members, see their food diaries and interact with others on the forum. I’ve had some queries about MFP and other members were most helpful in answering my questions.
It is early days yet but I am determined to make this work long term. That’s why I’m not following fad diets such as Keto or doing intermittent fasting which to me is just a form of starvation. Hopefully, with the help of a PT, I’ll be able to get back on the horse after relapses occur. I do hope they won’t – I’m trialling something new where I take my medication pre-emptively for a period of two weeks every six months or so to try and prevent the onset of psychosis – but it will be awhile until I determine whether that method works or not. In any event, losing some weight, improving my fitness level and being back with old friends at the gym has certainly made me happier and lifted my spirits. Given my battle with depression, this reason alone, nevermind diabetes, is enough incentive for me to continue on my journey.