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15 lessons about diet & exercise


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This post follows on from my body transformation blog post ( since it was getting rather long). The lessons are from a journey I started almost 8 years ago now – and it never really ends!

1. Losing weight in isolation

… will rarely make you happy, at least not in the long term. Being overweight is rarely a reason for feeling unhappy, it’s a symptom.

2. Stop “should”ing on yourself

Life happens in waves – let them carry without guilt. Sometimes you need to back off exercise and be kind to yourself, just in gentler ways. A long walk in nature can be just as good for you as a heavy exercise session. Do what feels right, not what you think you should be doing.

3. Education is key

Yes – recording what you eat is boring, I’m going to lie.

But you either want to develop good habits, or you don’t. If I didn’t record my food, day in day out for those first few months, I would still have no clue what is going into my body. I would not know that generally I feel better eating more protein than carbs. I would not have a grip on what a portion size looks like. Learn the basics about macros (protein, carbs & fat) if you can. You will thank yourself. And although knowledge by itself is not power, applying what you learn is.

4. Ignore the trends

There will always be new diets, trends, crazes, discoveries. So much info out there – you can watch two documentaries biased towards two different things, and your confusion levels will really be at an all time high. So ignore it. Only you know what your body and what makes you feel really good. Make friends with, get to know it, then look after it.

  • a side note here about the much coined term and current focus on Intuitive Eating – sure that works, but only once you are educated! It’s not some excuse to stuff a 12 pack Krispy Kremes, because you feel like it.

5. It’s never just about WEIGHT LOSS.

Unless you are hugely overweight, the scales really do not matter too much – it’s all about FAT LOSS. And no, it’s not because fat weighs more than muscle – 1kg is 1kg. It’s because fat takes up more space. It’s fluffy. Muscle simply takes up less space, so that’s less inches on your body.

I don’t weigh that much less than I did when I was at my heaviest – but I’m still 2 sizes smaller.

6. 80% of the body is built in the kitchen.

Some say 90% but for me it was 80% good diet, and 20% exercise. But ideally it’s best to eat well & exercise too. You will never look toned (unless mother nature was super kind), unless you have a little bit of muscle on your body. Exercise gets your body stronger, more flexible and as the saying goes “If you don’t use it, you lose it”. I don’t really want joint replacements anytime soon if I can help it – do you? And if you are a young whipper snapper reading this – yes I know no one even THINKS about stuff like that at your age. But if you don’t, I promise you one day you will wish you did.

7. Be honest with yourself .

There is really no point pretending you are doing everything you can, when deep inside you know you are not.

If you were, you would see results , it’s really as simple as that.

I was there once, with my “but I tried everything” excuse. Bottom line is I wasn’t consistent enough with diet or exercise, too stubborn to try something different, and frankly too lazy to make it my priority. I was not some anomaly, I just hadn’t found the thing that worked for me. You’re not an anomaly either. Unless you have a medical issue that specifically stops you losing fat or getting healthy, it’s all on you.

8. Stop expecting things to change in 2 weeks.

They won’t. Expect to wait 6-8 weeks before seeing real changes that may last if you keep going. The initial stuff is mostly water loss.

9. All or nothing is not a good approach.

Because the ALL is not sustainable in the long term. And then you go to nothing because of burnout, and you end up feeling like rubbish. The yo-yo effect. Soul destroying – just STOP doing this to yourself. Same goes for fad diets, slimming shakes & other fad products – for most people they are simply not a sustainable option. Its gets too expensive, or too repetitive.

Granted they may help you with with initial bit of shifting some weight/fat, but If you skip the part where you have educated yourself about real food, then what? When you drop the fad, you are back to square one. Just say no.

10. Drop the ego.

Unless you are training for a competition, no one cares what you can lift or how far you can run. Even a few years ago, I was still hung up on numbers. How much weight I lifted, or how many pull ups I could do. Until I realized that I had nothing to prove, to anyone. I still love achieving personal bests as much as the next person, but I do it entirely for me. And I love a little competition, as I know it pushes me when I may be feeling lazy.

11. Cure yourself from comparisitis

What’s the point of comparing yourself to others? Work with what you’ve got. If you are 5″3 and have tendency to carry fat around your middle, you will never look like Linda Evangelista (I’m really showing my age now). So, work with the body shape and genes you have been given, and work out what makes you feel amazing.

Wellness means different thing to different people – not everyone wants to be skinny, just like not everyone wants to have muscle. Ignore what others are doing, and you will set yourself free. You know nothing about their goals, life situation or their health – all of which affect our journey. Which leads me to the next point.

12. Get to know yourself and what works for you.

Not just physically but mentally too. Don’t be so damn hard on yourself.

If you like dancing, dance. If you like running, run. Movement is movement. We are all so very different. Appreciate this in yourself, and find something you love. And if you stop loving it, change it up.

I have times where I go for a few of weeks without any exercise, especially when work is intense. In that time I make sure I walk more, as I know that otherwise I get completely in my head, and stressed. I make up for less movement by being more mindful of what I eat. The world isn’t going to end if you have a rest, or eat a block of cheese.

13. Maintenance

This is a big one & really just an elaboration on the above.

If you are constantly forcing yourself to do things you don’t like, eventually you will stop. That is why maintenance is virtually impossible after crash or faddy diets, or crazy exercise binges. It’s impossible to keep up that sort of level of deprivation, or intensity. The wellness journey is something that continues forever – so find something that actually fits into your life, and you enjoy. Experiment too – doing different things keeps things fresh and fun.

14. You REALLY do only get one body

Yes, I know that’s a cliche. But it’s also the truth. It’s one I remind myself of daily, every morning when I look in the mirror. I know that as I get older, I will have to adjust what I do. Take more rest. Keep my heart & lungs healthy (and yes that means some cardio!). Stay strong.

I didn’t think about those things when I was younger because I took my body for granted. I assumed it would always just be there for me, fully functional. And so far, I have been lucky. Even if I do have a very clicky knee.

I come across people in their 40’s who can barely lift their hands above their heads without pain, because of limited mobility. People who can barely lift a weight of the floor. People who put massive strain on their joints & their hearts, because their vastly overweight. People who think they are too old to make a difference, and have given up because it’s all just too hard. All of the above are CHOICES.

My question to you – what do you choose for yourself? How do you see yourself in the 2nd half of your life? And how will you make it happen?

15. We live in a world which is beautiful because of diversity.

We are all different shapes and sizes. We all have different reasons for doing what we do. Some people are more motivated by how they look, some by how they feel, and some by health. Don’t judge anyone’s, or indeed your own motivations. Any reason that gets us moving and eating well, is a valid reason. Because both of those things are imperative to good health, physical and mental. And ultimately, that is all that matters.

Nourish yourself and enjoy it. Your body and your mind will thank you for balance.

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Maria is a Therapeutic Life Coach, Business Coach, Photographer & free spirit. Multi passionate, logical, creative, and an extrovert introvert. Fascinated by people, psychology and most at home by the sea. Foodie & dog lover.


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