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Your diet is not only what you eat

I met Claire some 5 or 6 years ago; we started Crossfit together and struck up an instant friendship. When she moved to Durban I was so sad to see her go, but it was the right move for her & her 3 beautiful girls. Claire used to compete in fitness competitions in Holland, has been a fitness instructor a Virgin Active and now has her own boutique gym in Durban. She is a daily inspiration; her body & mind are her temples that she treats with the utmost respect. We are still in touch today and I am so honoured she agreed to write a post for me. “Your diet is not only what you eat” is explained beautifully here; I hope you enjoy it.

ClaireHi!  I’m Claire, a wife to Braden and a mother of seven children.  Yes!  You read that right!  We like to call ourselves The Brady Bunch – he donated the boys and I donated the girls. I am a lover of life, and revel in finding joy in the small, easily unnoticed beauty, the totally free kind that envelopes us.  Progress and healthy habits make me tick.

Bit of background info

I’ve traveled a crazy road.  Growing up as the eldest of six girls, reared by two earth angel parents, I fled the nest at the tender age of 20.  The decision I made at that point in my life set the course for one hell-uva bumpy ride.  I married a narcissist – a completely charming, but sadly, emotionally abusive man.  I got sucked into the most vicious of relationships, lacking the skills to manage the life I’d chosen.  Putting it down to, ‘well, they say that marriage is hard work, so this is what they obviously mean.’, and ‘better stick with what I know, as the devil I know, is the devil I can deal with, versus taking on the devil I don’t’, kept me actively enmeshed in this toxic cycle for sixteen years.  Knowing that what I chose to do when I finally knew that I had options, would impact my three precious daughters forever, so I ran for my life. 

I had come to the point in my story where allowing myself to be mistreated was more painful and more uncomfortable than the massive discomfort the disruption of divorcing a narcissist would create.  What a journey this has been!  What lessons I have learned.  As revolting as parts of it has been, I wouldn’t change it.  Every accumulated struggle, every bump and bruise and free-fall to new-found levels of rock bottom have contributed to my current and future selves.  I applaud them and thank my past self for being so brave and resilient through it all.

Did you know that we have 3 homes?  Our body, the earth and our mind.  My understanding of my place within each was so skewed and gravely imbalanced.

Your diet is not only what you eat

Your diet is not only what you eatThese strong, broad shoulders didn’t come as a result of skipping my way through tulip fields. I lived in Holland for 10 years, and remember some anguished walks through those fields in fact!  They were dark days. Lessons learned from my personal trainer, as a young and impressionable 16 year old ring true. Guy Thomas taught me that the physical and mental strength I developed from becoming good at pushing through 2 or 3 more reps, when the muscles were so fatigued, would spill out into other areas of my life and strengthen them all.  He couldn’t have been more right.

Training has always been a huge part of my life.  I revel in progress and the power that resistance training brings to my day.  It’s cleared the cobwebs and elevated my moods and it’s been a saving grace many times over, not to mention it transforming my shape. A clean up in the nutrition department also taught me how powerful that aspect of training is.  What we eat counts for 80% of our result – well, aesthetically anyway.  Competing in fitness & figure competitions in The Netherlands and Italy was one of the scariest things I’ve done, but it taught me some incredible lessons, one of which was how food can be a complete de-railer and something that can turn into an obsession.  I developed a binge eating disorder as a result of my quest to gain some semblance of control in my life, as being married to my ex left me completely and utterly, his property. Struggling with my binge eating disorder for about 10 years, restricting what I ate to breakpoint, only to ricochet in the opposite direction with as much momentum and force.  I was searching for happiness, and thought I’d achieve it through sculpting a perfect body.  How further from the truth I could have been?  At my best, when I could pretty much walk into any store, try on clothing and everything looked good, should have sufficed, yet it didn’t.  Still, I found fault, still I needed to work harder, still I wasn’t happy.

My place in my earth home I could comprehend, albeit a very difficult place, so the body bit, I controlled through stringent eating and training, creating a gorgeous physique, to silence the mind I had no control over.

Turning 40 changed a whole bunch of things

Turning 40, along with leaving a toxic relationship and creating a brand new, beautiful one, paired with the ups and downs of lockdown have brought with it a renewal, and an urgency to focus on a diet much greater than just food.

Everything changes when you realise your diet isn’t just what you eat.  It’s what you watch, what you read, who you follow and who you spend your time with.  If your goal is to have a healthier mind, start by removing the junk from your diet.

All too often, we find ourselves in a burning building and lack the skills to exit safely.  Instead of escaping through the fire exit, the safe way, we panic and jump out the window, breaking an arm or a leg.  Like the physical danger this kind of catastrophe threatens, so too, the skills to exit an emotionally burning building safely can be just as confusing. Journalling, taking walks and listening to podcasts have become part of my ‘healthy fire escapes’ from life’s storms.  I have learned to turn to these healthy ways of dealing with problems, thereby replacing old, less effective ways that before, would have sadly affected others negatively too, most often, my family and myself.

Self love is not selfish

Self love, with a massive emphasis on my mind ‘home’ has been one of my biggest challenges over the years, and I’ve come to realise just how vital it is. My relationship with food was heavily affected by deep seated emotional baggage.  Food was the bandaid, it was my happy drug, it solved all my problems…temporarily!  My brain had developed an effective habit that saved it time and energy to keep resolving the same sadness/guilt/out-of-control flaw.  Food.  Once I’d devoured the whole chocolate, muesli and peanut butter, cake pops and flapjacks, I felt just as bad as I did before, but even more deeply entrenched in the guilt pit.  It was only when I came to the realisation that I deserved love, real unconditional self love, no matter how I look, no matter what I do, no matter what stage of life I’m in.  The very basic level of needs; self love, was what was actually lacking, not the perfect body, like the media loves to tell us.

It’s all good and well knowing what needs to change.  But how to change it and make it long-lasting is a different battle altogether.

Atomic Habits

James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits gets this point across so powerfully.  He mentions that we are so quick to dismiss small, insignificant changes because they don’t make a massive impact in the moment.  Why is it as humans that we’re patient enough to let things slide, but super impatient when we want to reverse the process?!  “If you save a little money now, you’re still not a millionaire.  If you go to the gym three days in a row, you’re still out of shape.  If you study Mandarin for an hour tonight, you still haven’t learned the language.  We make a few changes, but the results never seem to come quickly and so we slide back into our previous routines.  Unfortunately, the slow pace of transformation also makes it easy to let a bad habit slide.  If you eat an unhealthy meal today, the scale doesn’t move much.  If you work late tonight and ignore your family, they will forgive you.  If you procrastinate and put your project off until tomorrow, there will usually be time to finish it off later.  A single decision is easy to dismiss.  But when we repeat 1 percent errors day after day, but replicating poor decisions, duplicating tiny mistakes, and rationalising little excuses, our small choices compound into toxic results.  It’s the accumulation of many missteps – a 1 percent decline here and there – that eventually leads to a problem.”

Setting goals is great, but goals define the end result.  What gets us from start to finish and maintains those results are all the micro habits and choices every day.  Goals are good for setting direction, but systems are best for making progress.  A handful of problems arise when you spend too much time thinking about your goals and not enough time designing your systems.

Focusing on what I value most

If a gorgeous body is what I would love, but I know on its own won’t bring happiness, what other ways can I achieve happiness and by association, get that body?  No amount of longing to achieve this goal is going to help me get it. I’ve tried countless approaches, and I have achieved my goal, only to hate my life, despising my rigid, cold and anti-social, at-the-expense-of-all approaches.  What good is that?!

By focusing on what I value most, I’ve siphoned my thoughts and the power they possess to steer my day (which eventually equals a week, and then a month and then a year – and then your life).  Life is actually unfolding and happening, friends, while we’re waiting for something better to happen.  Live your life.  Actually CHOOSE to live it.  Set those goals and then focus all your energy and attention on putting powerful systems in place that will enable you to arrive at the destination YOU choose.

Balancing attentive care to all 3 homes is what has helped me find happiness, while still allowing for space & energy to be on the path of progress.  I don’t have to save happiness for that future self.  I can allow it to be part of my current self’s dialogue, knowing I’m working with the systems I have in place to achieve the goals I have.

Your diet is not only what you eat by Claire


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