2014 was a year full of personal growth and a year in which I learnt many lessons regarding health and fitness. Here are six of the main things I came to realise in the year just passed.
1. Food quality matters
In 2014 I realised more than ever the effect that micronutrient dense foods can have on your body. I learnt that the quality of food that you put into your body matters and what you eat will largely determine your results. I realised that focusing on micronutrient intake was just as important as counting macronutrients and that health, not aesthetics, should be my primary focus in fitness.
2. Stay away from extremes
It’s no secret that in 2014 I became so wrapped up in the idea of “IIFYM” that I took it to an extreme and, for a while, almost completely disregarded my micronutrient intake. I pretty much ate as much junk food as possible and justified it through the fact that it ‘fit my macros’. I forgot why I started in health and fitness in the first place. It took a few words from those close to me to make me wake up to myself but I’m glad I did because I now feel much better, both mentally and physically.
3. Outliers are outliers for a reason
This links to the last 2 points – in 2014 I realised that no two people can approach a prep or fitness journey in the same way. Everybody is unique and thus need to go to different measures than the next person in order to achieve their goals. I learnt this during my prep. I wanted to be one of those people who do little to no cardio during their prep, who eat high amounts of carbs right up to show day and who can eat pizza and donuts while leaning out. As my prep progressed, I found myself doing more and more cardio and eating less carbs and in all honesty, felt like a failure because I wasn’t able to uphold the things that I thought were “IIFYM principles”. Then the light bulb switched on and I realised that I wasn’t failing, and once I made clever choices regarding food quality, I saw the results that I had been yearning for.
During my prep I smashed almost every session. I did my cardio with 100% effort. But my body did not respond well until I added more cardio, ate less food and *gasp* ate “clean” (micronutrient dense) foods. You’re not a failure if you can’t be an outlier – they are outliers for a reason and only make up a small proportion of the fitness community. Not everyone is like those people who can eat a tonne, do no cardio and stay in great shape: they just make for great marketing and that’s why their stories are more prominent on social media than the people who struggle through prep like I did.
4. A great support system isn’t one filled with compliments
I learnt that the best kind of support system – the kind that can help you grow and improve – isn’t one that freely compliments your every move. If you’re surrounded by people who blindly agree with everything that you do then you won’t know when you’re doing something detrimental to your goals. The best kind of people to surround yourself with are the ones who compliment you when it’s deserved, who positively influence your actions and who aren’t afraid to suggest alternatives when you come up with an idea or find yourself on a path that isn’t beneficial to what you’re trying to achieve.
5. You define your own self worth
In 2014 I went to a competition to defend the title I had won the previous year. I competed with the dream of winning again and with the goal of placing in the top 5. And I placed 6th. Directly after I got off stage, I felt like a complete failure and was so upset about the results. These emotions only lasted for about a day because when I found out the reasons behind my placing, I realised that I had put in the effort required and had brought a better package to the stage than the previous year so I had achieved my main goal.
I know I haven’t posted my blog about the competition, and I’m not sure if I will, but one of the reasons why I didn’t place in the top five was because, to quote one of the judges, I wasn’t “big” and “sexy” enough on stage. In short, I’m not on stage to be sexy so the outcome of the competition was something I accepted because that criterion isn’t something I strive to meet.
I realised that the judge are a handful of strangers who judge a class based on their personal preferences and other criteria which they consider important. I realised that you can’t allow the opinions of strangers, whether they are judges or just regular people, to cloud your judgment and self-love.
One of the biggest lessons I learned in 2014 is that you can define your own self-worth and doing so will make you much happier than if you seek validation from strangers.
6. Stay away from tunnel-vision fitness and strive for balance
Fitness is a part of my life but it is not the be-all and end-all of my life. I have previously struggled to balance fitness with the rest of my life and in 2014 I found the balance I had been searching for. I enjoyed more time with my family and friends and I enjoyed vacations without guilt regarding food and training. I dedicated more time to university and my education. I became more efficient in my training.
As a result I improved my personal relationships, university results, mental wellbeing and realised the importance of focusing on all parts of my life, not just on fitness. I realised that there is more to life than training and fitness, and although training and fitness can improve your life, allowing it to take-over can be detrimental to your wellbeing.
I wish you a happy new year and a fun-filled, successful, healthy and happy 2015. Let’s make this year the best one yet!