Sum­mer sun and con­stant crav­ings slow my wed­ding march

I’m told it takes 21 days to form a new habit. I’ve been do­ing this for nearly 50 days now, but it still doesn’t feel like much of a habit

The Irish Times - Tuesday - Health - - Fitness - Do­minique McMul­lan

I’ve reached a bit of stag­na­tion. While lit­tle mus­cles are bub­bling un­der my skin’s sur­face, I’m hav­ing dif­fi­culty coax­ing them all the++ way out. I’m wor­ried that per­haps I started a lit­tle too early, as the siren call of cake, bur­ri­tos and ice-cream is only get­ting stronger as the weather im­proves (it’s so much harder to swap the gym for post-work gin & ton­ics when it’s warm) and the big day is still five weeks away. This must be the most chal­leng­ing part of work­ing out, the sim­ple act of just con­stantly do­ing it; again and again and again and again. Es­pe­cially when it’s no longer new and shiny.

Re­search shows it takes 21 days to form a new habit. I’ve been do­ing this for nearly 50 days now, but it still doesn’t feel like much of a habit. Habits are things like pick­ing at your nails or hav­ing a snack bar (sigh, snack bars) with your af­ter­noon tea, not get­ting up at 5.30am to go the gym be­fore work. Habits are lovely things like hav­ing a glass of wine on a Fri­day, not things you spend all day think­ing of ways to get out of.

Some­one asked me yes­ter­day if I “loved it yet” and the real an­swer? Not par­tic­u­larly. Hon­estly, I’m a bit tired. And when tem­per­a­tures are in the 20s, there is very lit­tle I would rather be do­ing than fur­ther ex­ert­ing my sweaty, red body. Yes, there are mo­ments when work­ing out feels awe­some. I’m not deny­ing that. And if you could pack­age and sell those post-gym en­dor­phins, you’d be a mil­lion­aire. But the pre-gym fear is just as pow­er­ful. And no one seems to talk about that. Those who fol­low me on In­sta­gram will know how many times I have sat in my car out­side the gym, talk­ing into my phone, de­lay­ing un­til the very last se­cond when I have to go in. And I’m not sure if that will ever stop.

The body slows our meta­bolic rate as we change our diet, and as we age. Both of which I am cur­rently do­ing

Cel­e­brat­ing

It’s not help­ing that I’m just back from a few days of cel­e­brat­ing my civil cer­e­mony. There may have been wine. Tech­ni­cally, I am now a mar­ried woman. The wed­ding in five weeks is still the “big day”, but the cer­e­mony is not le­gally of­fi­cial, so the paper work had to be signed be­fore­hand (and ac­tu­ally I just can’t get enough of this whole wed­ding thing).

De­spite not be­ing sched­uled to, I worked out on my days off and I did en­joy that smug post-work­out glow. Hav­ing started at 15kg, I am now squat­ting 27.5kg, which made me feel a bit like the Hulk. (On a quick Google, I can in­form you that it is the same as the world’s heav­i­est cau­li­flower or six av­er­age size cats. Not too shabby, eh?) But I’m still not sure any of that was out of habit.

It turns out that while I’m work­ing out about five times a week, and eat­ing a mostly healthy diet, my body has reached a bit of a plateau as it gets used to the changes. John Bel­ton warned me that this might hap­pen. To con­tinue to progress at the speed I was, would have been un­usual. The body slows our meta­bolic rate as we change our diet, and as we age. Both of which I am cur­rently do­ing. Last time I was mea­sured my weight re­mained the same. But, I had also lost 8 per cent of my body fat. That’s a huge amount to lose, and I know that, but years of Weight Watch­ers-style pound-bash­ing has me twitch­ing to see the scales go down. It’s been hard to con­vince my­self that I’ve lost pounds of fat, which have been re­placed by pounds of mus­cle. It can feel like the cards are stacked against you.

Sweet tooth

The next few weeks will see me con­tin­u­ing to work out, but also fo­cus­ing more on healthy eat­ing. To see a no­tice­able change at this point, the ef­fort will have to be 80 per cent diet, and that is where I seem (and most peo­ple seem) to have dif­fi­culty. Un­usu­ally for me, I am con­stantly crav­ing sugar, which must be lack­ing due to the re­moval of pro­cessed foods from my diet, as I have never had a sweet tooth be­fore. This wouldn’t be too much of a prob­lem if I was sur­rounded by lovely healthy food to fill me, but in­stead it’s a choco­late bis­cuit that al­ways seems to be within arm’s length.

Healthy restau­rants such as Chopped and Sprout pro­vide great op­tions for lunch, but for those two cafes there are 25 chicken fil­let roll and a bag of crisps op­tions. Don’t get me wrong, there’s noth­ing that wrong with a chicken fil­let roll, but some va­ri­ety would make my life a lot eas­ier. Yes, I can make my own lunches, and of­ten do, but my willpower would be given a sig­nif­i­cant leg up if the om­nipresent white bread and Star Bars were a lit­tle fur­ther re­moved. The cul­ture cre­ated around food in Ire­land can make it hard to eat well. Bad day? Here’s a treat. Great day? Cel­e­brate with a glass of wine. Home to see the folks? Ap­ple crum­ble.

One of my wor­ries, as the wed­ding moves ever closer, is how I will man­age to keep some sem­blance of my current rou­tine in the af­ter­math. I have a vi­sion of a fridge full of take-out and gym gear qui­etly grow­ing mould in the back of the cup­board. I’m go­ing to be mea­sured again next week, and am hop­ing to find some in­spi­ra­tion be­fore that to keep me on track.

But will I ever get to where I think, “that was a great day, I’m go­ing to cel­e­brate with squats”? Right now, I’m not so sure.

PHO­TO­GRAPH: CYRIL BYRNE

Do­minique McMul­lan on the law of di­min­ish­ing re­turns: “Will I ever get to where I think, ‘that was a great day, I’m go­ing to cel­e­brate with squats’? Right now, I’m not so sure”.

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