This week I share my 12-month challenge to optimise my fitness, feel comfortable with my ageing body and see if I could conquer the demons from my past that had led me to unhealthy eating habits. Here is an honest account of what I achieved and how I did it. There may be one or two suggestions that will help you with your emotional and physical well-being.
There I was, a year ago with a failed relationship and all the signs of middle-aged spread. I felt old and a bit past it. Sometimes life’s twists and turns can knock the stuffing out of us and I felt a faint but definite fear about growing old. Or was the fear about looking and feeling old? I realised that unless I changed my attitude towards ageing then this negative vibe would drain my life force energy. As a speaker on charisma, where energy plays a vital role, I need to be a model of excellence and walk the talk on everything I share with others. I totally believe that our body shows us the physical manifestation of the thoughts, feelings and beliefs we have consistently thought in the past. If I was feeling a fear of growing old then my body was going to accelerate this belief. Such is the power of the mind-body connection. If I looked in the mirror and wasn’t comfortable with my image then the audiences I speak to would not feel comfortable. The bottom line is that whatever age, body shape or appearance we have, if we are not at peace with this external persona then we unwittingly drain our charisma.
On 5th August 2014 I set myself an audacious goal – to get supremely fit and learn to appreciate my body. I had struggled with eating disorders in my past and was always trying some latest crazy diet. During my ‘Atkins’ phase I ate bags of macadamia nuts. Then there were the tablets that caused a rather unpleasant reaction if you ate fat. When I tried out different shake diets I started eating sugar compulsively and might consume a box of Fab ice lollies instead of eating a proper evening meal. So whilst some people might not see getting fit as an audacious goal, I knew that tackling the emotional issues behind my lack of fitness as well as the physical challenges would be tough and demanding.
The first painful task was to weigh and photograph myself – I needed a starting point. The scales persisted on pointing to a rather high weight regardless of where I placed the bathroom scales and the photos of me in black Lycra would take the edge off anyone’s appetite. Yet at the same time I felt strangely determined as I went in search of a commando style Personal Trainer – someone who would motivate and inspire me without being intimidated by my controlling personality. I joined a gym at my local Village Hotel and was introduced to Paul Cole. He looked fit, tough and was exactly my age. He persuaded me to invest in a MyZone belt so he could see how much effort I was putting in. (Crikey – this was a bit hardcore!). He looked rather startled when my effort level shot up to 77% just by walking onto the treadmill.
The first few weeks were agonising – although Paul seemed to know exactly how far to push me each time and gave me such a variety of exercises to do so that I never knew what to expect. Then he introduced me to indoor rowing and the sessions became hugely challenging. The more I whinged, the more deaf he appeared until it dawned on me that it was easier to just shut up and get on with it.
After an intense training period last August I was about to enjoy a spa break with my daughter Rose when my back went. Enter Steve Chalkien, sports masseur for hardcore sports fanatics. From the moment I met him I realised that the appealing image of relaxing massages surrounded by the essence of aromatic oils was never on the agenda. As he pummelled and prodded and dug his fingers into pressure points I had no idea existed I realised that there was no such thing as pleasurable pain. If I had wanted to complain I couldn’t because there was no way I could have got a word in edgeways! After the first massage I felt bruised, sore and slightly nauseous. “See you next week” he cried on his way out with a particularly wicked-looking grin on his face!
As the months rolled by my quest for fitness started to integrate into a routine and I began to look forward to going to the gym. My rowing was improving and I was lifting heavier weights. Paul gave me the nickname ‘Rocky’ and we started competing with a much younger friend of mine in different challenges. My sports massages felt easier to endure and Steve (who happened to be an ex marathon runner) even persuaded me to take up running. As if by teletransportation I found myself in a park every Saturday with 400 men, women and children running 5k before breakfast!
All felt good as I smugly kept having ’secret feels’ of my taunt muscles and doing weightlifter poses in front of the mirror in my pjs. Paul (my PT) shattered that feel good feeling when he said “Rocky, given how much you train you don’t look that fit” He told me to give up wine and start watching what I was eating. That night my daughter suggested that I go along to Slimming World. I entered a world of strange conversations about star weeks and syns (don’t ask!). The regular weekly weigh-in sessions helped to keep me on track during the week and the pounds began to fall away.
During one of my charisma master classes I met a woman who would seriously give Wonder Woman a run for her money. Kim Raine is a vibrantly attractive nutrition and well-being expert with an abundance of energy and enthusiasm. I signed up to her 12-week healthy eating programme in the hope that some of her vitality would rub off on me. OMG! No caffeine, no alcohol, no wheat, no dairy, no sugar and no processed foods. Hello – what exactly was I supposed eat? Kim’s instructions to de-clutter my fridge, throw out any ‘dirty’ foods (no this wasn’t a 9 1/2 weeks moment) and learn how to cook. My daughter found this strangely amusing given that I was dreadful at cooking, whilst my sister was less than complimentary about the ‘interesting’ photos of my culinary dishes I posted on Facebook. My period of eating ‘clean’ foods did encounter a few ‘Red Bull’ and ‘Haribo’ setbacks yet generally my body became like a temple and I realised how crap I felt when I didn’t eat well.
Most overeating is not about a lack of knowledge or a lack of willpower. Overeating from a metaphysical perspective is driven by a need to fill an emotional need. As a qualified hypnotherapist I created and recorded my own hypno-meditations blending four powerful elements that worked directly with my unconscious mind. It was a bit strange being hypnotised every night by myself yet it did have an impact!!!!
In the midst of all this health and fitness madness I discovered the joys of ‘pulling with coconut oil’ (not pulling in the ‘pulling guys’ sense, I mean gargling with coconut oil) body brushing and Nutribullets. Pro-biotics and vitamins replaced the empty wine rack and Evian unofficially took over product placement in my home. I was officially obsessed. Hooked on feeling healthy. Captivated by feeling fit and loving the surge of energy that I hadn’t felt for years.
So it’s now 12 months exactly since my ‘quest for a charisma body’ began. I have lost 25 pounds, I can row 2000 metres in 8 minutes 52 seconds and I have transformed my eating habits. When I notice my wrinkles in the morning sun, I cheer that they represent an experience of my life that I’ve worked hard for. Each wrinkle is an intrinsic part of me and my life’s journey.
Some people climb Mount Everest, some run marathons across the desert. Some people win Olympic golds and some swim the English Channel. These are grand achievements yet as my own mini challenge draws to a close I feel proud of what I have achieved in a year. Tina Turner once sang “what’s love got to do with it?” so I’d like to sing “what’s age got to do with it?” I’m probably fitter than I’ve ever been and not a whisper of an eating disorder can be heard in my house. I realise that I abused my body for years, took it for granted and expected it to deliver high performance on low grade fuel. Just because I’m in my fifties doesn’t mean I can’t experience high levels of physical, emotional and spiritual fitness.
I can now stand on stage and speak with utter authority about loving and respecting the skin you are in. Because when you can love and appreciate every part of you, your inner essence shines brightly. So why not gift your body a little bit more love – you maybe surprised by how it shows its appreciation.
If you are interested in receiving suggestions for how you can improve your own health and well-being, Paul Cole, Steve Chalkien and Kimberley Raine have compiled their top recommendations. Simply email Emma Mattingley and she will send you a report summarising their top tips.
Have a great day!