How I Built The Healthiest Version Of Myself So Far
I was seventeen years old when I sparked a love for fitness but now that I am twenty one a lot of things have changed. Seventeen-year-old Gabrielle had a clear (but far-fetched) vision to be skinny, with abs, weigh a certain number, eat whatever she wanted but be super strong too. Through trial and error, frustration and tears I realised my routine, habits, and attitude were unreasonable.
It was unfair and unrealistic to demand MY body to look like ANOTHER photoshopped model body. I decided it was more worthwhile to focus on building a healthy, strong, functional body. After five-ish years, these are the changes/habits that have stuck with me and have helped me to become the healthiest version of myself (so far).
Ask the pros.
I was serious but clueless on how to create a healthy body, so I turned to the professionals. I chose a trainer with nutritional education, and we clicked instantly. My trainer kept me accountable with monthly check-ins to assure I was improving. Reassured me when I felt unmotivated and gave notable answers when I asked questions.
It is essential to find a personal trainer you feel comfortable with. This is someone who will be involved in adapting your health so make sure you find someone qualified, knowledgeable and most importantly, passionate about helping you succeed.
Be Like My Nana
I’ve grown up in a generation where technology has evolved in the blink of an eye. I’ve become accustomed to online shopping, Ubereats, Netflix, etc. I can access anything at the click of a button or a voice command. I don’t have to move a muscle. Except, humans ARE meant to move their muscles, that is what we are built for.
My Nana never stepped foot in a gym but was one of the healthiest and fittest people I knew. Back in the day, her family didn’t have the luxury of a tv remote control or even an indoor toilet. In the good ol’ days people maintained high levels of Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis or NEAT daily. NEAT is the energy we use throughout everyday life that isn’t intended as exercise. My Nana was continually moving her muscles, cleaning her house top to bottom, gardening, cooking, walking here, there and everywhere. Without even realising it, she burnt hundreds of calories doing these activities.
Whenever I’m mindlessly scrolling through Instagram or sitting on the couch staring into the abyss, I think of my Nana. I now make a conscious effort to walk not drive, take the stairs, not the elevator, stand not sit, etc. The effort may seem insignificant, but it all adds up to create a significant impact long term. Humans are built to move, so keep fidgeting, jumping, stepping and stomping through life.
Build that muscle baby!
From a young age, I was convinced that the only way to burn fat was through excessive amounts of cardio, which didn’t really tickle my fancy. I was told that I should start focusing on building and maintaining muscle so I could burn more fat and calories naturally. I was a little hesitant and naive at the beginning because I was scared of appearing too “masculine.” I gave it a go, and after being in the gym for a couple of months, lifting weights gave me the liberation of feeling stronger, the satisfaction of seeing my body composition change and each workout left me feeling better than I felt before.
I began to appreciate that all women and men can choose to exercise towards any body type. Masculine, feminine, small, big, strong, lean, athletic, flexible; whatever makes you feel comfortable and confident, as well as being healthy and happy.
Food glorious food.
Before I changed my unhealthy habits, I didn’t care about what I put into my body until my body became a reflection of what I ate. Like most people, I wanted to lose fat and to lose fat you have to be in a caloric deficit, there’s no other way around it. This meant I had to burn more calories than I consumed.
I found the easiest way to do this was to eat foods that are less calorie dense, full of fibre and water. Yes, that meant a lot of fruits, veggies, and legumes to keep me full and satisfied but the BIGGEST change was adding protein. It was sad and a bit scary how little protein I was eating before. It was a challenge being vegetarian, but eggs, cottage cheese, and protein powder became my best pals.
My best advice would be to dedicate some time to educate yourself on nutrition. Learn what your BMR is, how to read nutrition labels, what macros your body needs, what micronutrients are, etc. The best person to see would be a nutritionist or someone with a qualification in giving nutritional advice.
Now I have more knowledge, I eat intuitively which means I listen and give my body what it needs. This means, lots of whole foods, no restraints, no starvation, no tracking macros. Not saying you have to do this too, this is what works for me physically and mentally. Take your time to make changes and create habits that best suit you and your lifestyle. Oh, most importantly, don’t forget to ENJOY your food too!
Kick back and relax.
In the past, I would work out every day but become so frustrated because I wasn’t seeing the results I thought I deserved. It wasn’t till after an exercise science class I learned that I was overworking and exhausting my body. Without rest, my body didn’t have a chance to repair, replenish and grow the muscles.
I now take at least 1-2 days to rest a week, and that could mean anything from blobbing in bed watching Netflix or briskly walking for hours around town. I focus on completely avoid stressing my body out, mentally and physically.
Sorry to break it to you but reaching your fitness goals doesn’t happen overnight. Patience is essential not to get frustrated with your body. I can tell you that after a couple of months of dedicated focus to eating clean, moving more, organizing my training schedule and taking rest days I can proudly say I am the fittest and healthiest version of myself (so far!)
Let me know if you try any of these tips or have any questions!
All the best,