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When I lost my self-self-belief: How fitness and dietary habits helped me regain self-confidence
I found myself at a crossroads in my 20s, battling to overcome a loss of confidence accompanied by clinical depression and an eating disorder. I’m happy to say that I found my way back from this place and if I’m honest, I’m in a better place now for having had that experience. Now in my 40s, I contemplate the transformative impact of two key elements: fitness and dietary habits.
I understand that saying these two elements alone caused me to regain my self-confidence would be misleading but these physical changes I made, in some instances, triggered mental gains and in others complemented the mental work that I did.
So, for the purpose of this post, I’m going to focus on the physical commitments I made that helped me regain my confidence and that I still use today.
My Fitness Journey
Regular exercise not only contributed to my physical health but emerged as a vital component of my mental health routine. On days when I felt less than my best, I often found that a lack of physical activity was at the root. Movement, whether through a brisk walk or an invigorating workout, became non-negotiable. I now recognise fitness as an expression of self-care.
These days, as a working mum, I am looking for forms of exercise that don’t take up much of my time and that I can do at a time that suits me. Also, the thought of an hour to exercise fills me with dread and I have cancelled the expensive gym membership for good!
Here are a few things that work for me:
- Walking regularly – This sounds obvious but I was one of those people who would drive to the shop that is only a 10-minute walk away! By making this simple change I am getting far more exercise over the course of the week.
- YouTube Yoga – Online yoga classes take away the travel time and allow you to spend as little as 10 minutes a day improving your core strength and mobility. @yogawithadriene offers classes for all levels.
- YouTube Workouts – Again save on travel time, work out when you want and for whatever amount of time you want. Here are a couple of workouts I like: Indoor walking workout for a gentle workout, which still gets the heart rate up; 20 minute HIIT workout if you’re in the mood for something a little more vigorous.
- Find an active hobby – I have started learning to rollerskate. It’s lots of fun and great for whole-body toning. Other ideas I have experimented with include hiking, dancing, gardening and cycling.
Dietary Habits: Nourishing my body, not depriving it
Embracing a well-balanced and moderate diet became an important element for me in rebuilding my confidence. Mindful eating, prioritising whole foods, and maintaining moderation empowered me to nourish my body in a way that supported both physical health and emotional resilience.
Understanding the role of nutrition in my journey was transformative to a young woman overcoming an eating disorder. It wasn’t about deprivation but rather about fostering a positive relationship with food. A well-nourished body became the foundation for everything else I wanted to achieve.
Again here, time is a potential inhibitor and therefore an excuse to not commit.
So here are a few simple things that help me:
- Drinking more water – This is my simple routine: A glass when I wake up, a glass with every meal, a glass or two after I exercise and before bed. If I adhere to that, I only have to drink a couple more glasses to consume 2 litres per day.
- Have healthy snacks in the cupboard – I tend to have apples, easy peelers and grapes to hand. They are nutritious, require little or no preparation and although they are fairly high in sugars, they are natural sugars. If I’m really hungry, a slice of wholemeal toast with a thin layer of natural peanut butter is a good quick option.
- Quick recipes – Not to be confused with junk food. I am always on the lookout for new delicious, nutritious and quick recipes that enable me to eat healthily without investing much time. A simple rule of thumb is to limit the number of man-made or processed ingredients. For example, I eat rice or potatoes before pasta.
- Bulk cooking – This does require commitment to an hour or two of prep once per week but once you’ve done it you have a choice of nutritious meals for the rest of the week. It stops me from lazily turning to quick processed meals.
- Limit alcohol – I like a nice glass of wine but very much drink in moderation these days.
Fitness and Dietary Balance
Fitness offered physical and mental empowerment, while dietary balance provided the necessary fuel for sustained well-being.
A residual benefit of all of this was that I also grew more confident in the way I looked, empowering me to be more ambitious with my style.
Taking ownership of fitness and dietary habits is proven to make a strong contribution to self-confidence. My experience is just further evidence to support that.
Closing Thoughts of Encouragement
Not all of the above experiences and ideas will apply to you. The reason I have shared my experiences is in the hope that you can see that you don’t have to make drastic changes to your lifestyle to be physically fitter and healthier. You can still have a glass of wine, you can still eat chocolate. I do!
For me, a series of small, manageable changes is far less daunting. I also find it easier to keep promises to myself this way. By making small incremental changes to my habits and routines I am getting physically fitter and healthier every day.
Do I feel more confident? Unequivocally yes. I have more energy, my concentration has improved and by keeping this series of small promises to myself I have more self-esteem.
So if you take one thing away from reading this, I want it to be that it’s not that difficult to be fitter and healthier. So, leave the car at home and walk and pick up an apple instead of crisps or a biscuit. You’ll thank yourself for it!
I hope this was helpful!