Yesterday, I got sent a random message from a girlfriend of mine saying I looked great.
Apropos of nothing but maybe my IG feed I’m back to updating and where I post my running diary on my stories.
This is someone who has known me for 7 or so years, she said I looked super fab and healthy and it was such a transformation from when I was working at my last job.
So, what’s changed? And was the old job to blame?
THE WAKE UP CALL
While I certainly hit rock bottom in terms of looking after myself in my last job, worked too many hours, gave up too many weekends, was never quite able to switch off even on holiday, travelled too many red eyes under pressure to be present in the office, thought sleep was optional. Fetishised being busy as a celebration of success. PSA. It’s not!
I remember coming back from a NY trip in October 2018, and I looked and felt like shit. Probably the worst state I have ever been and this was confirmed by a few people – concerned friends, clients and colleagues. I’d done two weeks on site an event in London including overnight builds, went straight to a crazy multi site activation in Berlin and worked like a dog, then jumped on a plane and attempted to rock up to an event and be fabulous. Spoiler I wasn’t, I was cross eyed tired and for the first time I couldn’t hide it.
I thought my diet wasn’t so bad but it was actually awful, eating lunch at 4pm if I could grab it, usually a sandwich or a chocolate bar, finishing work routinely 10/11pm and eating whatever I could that didn’t require me to cook – takeout, a bowl of pasta my husband left out. On the road the easiest thing to grab on the go was usually carb heavy, a croissant in the morning I would inhale when I had 5 mins, or a sarnie on the move. My body was telling me it didn’t like bread, but I wasn’t listening I just needed fuelling quickly and conveniently to keep going. I oscillated between starving, as I was too busy to stop and eat, and then gorging on carbs or sugar whenever I could to survive, as it they were the most accessible food stuffs at the random hours I was eating.
I realised I needed to make some big changes to my life. It wasn’t the job’s fault, I’d taught people how to treat me and I’d forgotten how to look after myself.
I needed some time to sort myself out and put myself first before jumping into another job and making all the same mistakes. I’m not really one for half measures, I only really knew/know how to do something 100, so I needed to take a break and reassess everything before jumping on the next treadmill.
I thought of all the things I’d wanted to do for me, that I’d allowed work to get in the way of, I wanted – not to travel – but to live abroad, I wanted to learn a language again, I wanted to continue my wine studies.
I didn’t know how to relax and just sit on a beach. We moved to Granada for 3 months, and I filled my days with stuff I wanted to do that would enrich me. I went to language school in the mornings and loved being a student again, I worked from a terrace in the afternoons (I had a non-compete in place so could only really work part time to begin with) and spent my evenings exploring, studying and tasting wine.
I started to feel like me again.
I worked my days via the sun, with sunrise marking the start of the day and sunset marking the end and being a time to relax and reflect. I started to feel calmer and more grounded.
I was beginning to figure out how I worked and what was making me stumble.
In terms of fitness, I’d run marathons – four of them in fact. I have enough stubbornness and grit to power through the toughest of races but running marathons hadn’t got me fit in the way I wanted. I’d train for the race, as a way to guilt free carve out some time from my schedule. But afterwards, work would overwhelm again and I’d not run for 6 months. The more marathons I did, the less I trained – as mentally I knew I could do the distance.
I realised my biggest issue was consistency. I’d associated consistency with being boring, predictable, safe. I liked life exciting, unexpected – impromptu.
At the beginning of this year, I didn’t set myself a marathon goal or sign up for some big race, I decided to work on the small runs, the everyday runs. I was inspired by a friend of mine Louise, on a tequila-fuelled trip, no matter how long a day we’d had in transit or how much we’d tasted – she got up every day and worked out, it was just what she did. I wanted to be like that – be someone who just needs to run, not for it to be such a chore to get out of the house.
I figured I could easily run 2 miles every day without needing a recovery, and those smaller runs would add up and be better than randomly running 10 miles on a particularly inspired day and then do nothing for 3 weeks or more.
So, I set myself a weekly target of 14 miles a week, and I’m not quite there but I am doing it more consistently and I’ve started to enjoy running again.
I’ve just noticed that I said guilt free time to train. I needed to change that too, to be a bit more selfish and put my own needs first – if I was in a good place, I’d be better able to look after others, this martyr thing had been my undoing.
After a self-imposed hiatus on travel, I started traveling again last September but travelled differently. Being master of my own schedule now, I travelled slower. Rejecting the red eyes and would arrive a day early as to allow myself to arrive fresh. I built in detours en route that would make life more interesting and indulge my passions, rather than a trip being a quick in and out, thinking I was traveling but in reality just commuting from airport to meeting room and back again. I’d spend an extra day, walk the city, I’d make plans to meet friends when I was there, make friends, explore a little.
I guess all of this has been about learning to love myself again. For year’s I did not enjoy being in front of the camera, I can probably tell you only a handful of pictures of me taken in the past 10 years where I don’t cringe when I see them. I’d always pose with a glass part obscuring my face, I didn’t like what I saw on camera.
In the past six months or so, I’ve experimented with being in front of camera again, and finally starting to like what I see. Self-love is the way.
And I guess two other turning points. Playing ‘mas at Trinidad Carnival was a celebration that was so joyful, I left my anxieties at being semi naked in public at the hotel. I embraced every curve and felt like a goddess. It was an entirely life-affirming experience.
And the past 3 months of island isolation had slowed life down and left little to do at times but exercise, from running (Strava), yoga (Asana Rebel), swimming, dancing to soca (IslandHopWorldwide) tracks – pure joy and mood booster – to exercise workouts via Freeletics.
It wasn’t just that though, I got into a pattern of intermittent fasting (ZERO), which is relatively easy to do when locked down every night. Intermittent fasting limited the window not just for eating but drinking and that curfew curbed my drinking and made me realise quite how many liquid calories I was consuming. I left the island looking better than I had in years.
When I arrived in Antigua I’d only packed for a few days in London and so was recycling regularly the 5 pairs of pants and two bras I’d packed. I’d ordered a few bikinis but towards the end of my stay I realised I wasn’t filling them. I’d lost weight and finally that meant my boobs had shrunk a bit too. In a good way.
I struggle to buy underwear from normal shops as I am/was an odd size – I have a relatively small back vs large cup size, there was only one store in London I could get nice bras in a 34HH at an affordable price – so when I ran past a boutique in Brooklyn that claimed to do big sizes and everything in the window looked sexy, I stopped in and tried some stuff on. They measured me up and to my delight I was a 30 back size and measured up as 30FF.
Guys may think a big cup size is a dream, but the reality is big bras are usually not so attractive. When they are on maybe, but when you drop your bra to the floor to undress, those huge cups look as sexy as scaffolding. A feat of engineering for sure, but not exactly attractive.
So, when I was handed all this pretty, dainty stuff to try on I was overjoyed to find it fitted. I selected a few bras and pants, then asked about swimwear and nighties/négligés. I bought everything I felt fabulous in and filled three bags with treats. The women in there had my number and started handing me panties to try, that when I asked the size and discovered it was a small or even XS I squealed with delight and said I’d take it – I know my ass is not small but I loved them for allowing me to believe so. I won’t tell you how much I spent just that it was worth every penny for how it made me feel.
You won’t find any underwear snaps of me online, not quite that brave yet. But wearing nice lingerie makes you walk a bit taller and saunter with sexiness whatever you wear on top. Brooklyn Fox Lingerie is my new go to and somewhere I’ll stop in to whenever the lingerie draw needs refreshing.
So yes, I can finally take that compliment, I do look happier and healthier than I have in years, and it’s because I truly am.
Now, it’s about how I maintain this as life gets busy again.
I’m toying with the idea of getting a personal trainer, to keep me accountable and help me find a new rhythm during this new chapter in Madrid. It feels very self-indulgent, but you know of all the things to spend money on, investing in myself and my health is probably the best bet I could make right now.
This is a well written, honest and open account of burnout, bad diet, realisation, self love and more. It speaks volumes that for the last six months I’ve been excited to see your tweets and hear all about your adventures. Being stuck away from home, regular running, self discovery at Trini Carnivale (I have another dear friend who goes regularly), reacquaintance with your Antiguan family and the difficult process (during COVID era) of trying to find your way back to the man you love. From here at least, it’s seemed an exotic and wild ride, and has made for very enjoyable reading.
Your sentence about fetishising being busy as a measure of success will likely resonate with many of us and it does take some serious change of mindset to realise that ‘me time’ and healthy body/mind/diet are crucial to this.
Keep up your new good habits and perhaps I’ll see you in Spain or elsewhere one day!
Thank you Simon. This was one of the posts I was most self-conscious about writing (and publishing) but it has probably been one of the most important parts of my personal journey over the past few years. Thanks for following the recent updates and providing cheerleading support when needed. It truly has been a wild ride and I’m definitely committed to making these changes stick and enjoying them being a part of my new routine. Look forward to catching up for a glass of vino in Madrid, London or wherever in the world our paths will cross next. Send my love to the Piper family.