Saturday, April 26, 2014

Take your time

It is funny to realize that while I still have a long path ahead of me, a lot has changed in my body throughout the years.

Me at the age of 10yo during my thinnest years
I am perfectionist to the extreme. My OCD takes me from picking falling leaves on the floor at work, to putting away the weights at the gym. And I make faces when people lift weight but do not put them back. I take it very seriously. So having to accept that it takes time to build my body in a healthy way is not an easy task.

How many of you have caught yourselves envying those fantastic transformation stories? I did! Many times...

It is true that all we see are the results. We were not physically close to those athletes to know about their struggles and hard moments entirely. What we have are pictures of incredible bodies, while us... Well, the mirror talks to us.

My turning point: August, 2010. I cried after seeing it
But let's face the truth: is everyone the same? Are there two of the same human beings walking on earth? Two with the same characteristics, background and experience? The answer is no! So even though we give thumbs to those who achieve their top at a fast pace, there is no reason to beat yourself for not being the same.

My journey is far from being a fairy tale. I did improve a lot, but I still cannot tell when I will get "there". Last year, for instance, I reached a great shape. Unfortunately, I was not able to sustain it for long. I had some health setbacks and after a period of recovery, I noticed that I had taken some steps backwards. It all may have slowed me down, but the amount of experience and knowledge that I acquired in the process was not waste.

Whenever someone asks me how to get started, I always suggest taking one step a time. I myself did not like drinking water at all. My life was coffee (=caffein), Coke (caffein+caffein) and Mate (caffein+caffein+caffein). The only food for me was fast-food. For a while, I used to eat McDos three times a day on a daily basis. I love French fries (with lots of mayonnaise in the best Flemish style) and pizza. I could surely eat them every single day. At a certain point however, I realized the damage my bad eating habits were causing my body and, consequently, my health.

In 2012,  right before my very first contest preparation
I still drink one cup of coffee in the morning, but that is it! Throughout the day, no sodas either. I did drink one last week and it felt weird. Industrialized juices or smoothies are in my things-to-avoid list as well. However, despite the amount of sugar contained in them, they are still a better choice than a soft drink. Ideally, make them yourself with organic fruit and greens.

If sugar is your weakness, try observing why you "need" it. Is it because you are feeling anxious or stressed? Are you dehydrated? Are you having an energy crush? Watch your meals during the day. Are you eating enough? Are your dishes varied? Carbohydrates and healthy fats are not evil monsters and they must be part of any diet.

Personally, I am not the most creative person in the kitchen. I only learned how to cook after my first Bikini competition and I am not a cooking princess. On a weekly basis, I browse the internet looking for new recipes to bring some new colors and flavors to my intake.

At the first Arnold Classic Brazil, April 2013
Some of the tricks I also use to keep myself on track are:
  • Have a strong shopping list: I crossed the items when I buy them, but I do not erase them from my list. This way I keep track of the food I still have in the freezer as well;
  • Try new things: look for new recipes, make substitutions in your traditional plan. There is way much more than chicken and broccoli out there. And it does not have to taste bad to be healthy;
  • Remove ONE bad habit a time: in the beginning you may want to change things drastically, but if you want to make your changes last, it is better to give your body and your mind time to get accustomed to everything;
  • Watch your emotional level: we live under pressure every day, the whole day. It is traffic, work, family affairs, financials, etc. These things cannot control us though. Find a way to work it off without eating it out;
  • Keep yourself busy: find a hobby. Ideally, get involved with some physical activity. I love running and lifting weights. Is there any sport you like? Or dance style? A walk around the block is much better than sitting around;
  • Enjoy your new lifestyle: remember that you want to improve your life. It has to be fun even before you start enjoying the new you. Do not take it too seriously. 
Above all, have in mind that no matter how long it takes, it will be worth it. It is more than fitting in smaller clothes or hearing compliments. It is about improving your well-being. Do not punish yourself if you slip up. It happens to everyone. Be your best friend, motivation and inspiration. No one can be 24h a day by your side so become your best companion. Whether you lose one inch or improve your performance, be proud. You did not get in the shape you are now in just one day. You can and you will achieve it as long as you keep on doing what has to be done!

Pre-workout picture from April 22, 2014.
Now let me know about yourself? How is your progress going so far? What victories have you already booked? What are your plans for short and long terms? I would love to learn about your path too.

Wishing you all a great day!


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