By Michael Bromley.
I generally rock a mix between a dad bod and someone who has done too many curls. Law made me fat, but health and fitness, and beating yo-yo dieting, have played a massive part in helping me find my mojo, and it can help you as well.
You may have picked up on a core principle of Beyond Billables; the need for action. For me, that action has manifested itself in my somehow becoming a Martial Artist. I say somehow because like getting into recruitment or becoming a career manager, it was never a long-term personal goal. It is generally a surprise to most when I say I have spent the last 10 years doing a combination of kickboxing and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. But I have and maybe my story can help you find something you can be passionate about as well, or reclaim something you’ve lost.
The dark past
I used to look in the mirror and see someone fat and horrible, even when I wasn’t. I did that from my early teens until my early 30’s. It was debilitating, personal, and completely impossible to communicate. Then I had a conversation with my trainer (and future sensei) about getting off the rollercoaster and it changed everything.
Body image is something so personal that discussing it is always going to be controversial. One person’s idea of a positive body image is another person’s fat shaming. All I know is that I managed to single-handedly fat shame myself, without anyone else’s help. Through my training and a number of challenges, I was able to finally come to terms with the real me, the strong, lean, competent me who could do whatever I wanted physically.
Winding back the clock further, even as a chronic asthmatic I was a super active kid. No hospital bed or four nebulisers a day could hold me back from playing every sport under the sun and generally living the quintessential young active boy’s existence. Cricket, rugby league and union, tennis, golf, surf lifesaving, basketball, swimming, touch football, soccer. You name it, I did it – generally in a massively mediocre fashion, but I was the kid who tried his guts out nonetheless.
Not being blessed with anything particularly helpful in the sporting skills department didn’t seem to matter, I just loved the challenge of sport and it’s fair to say, before I started studying law, it was the one thing I could completely commit to.
Now, most people who know me generally get the impression I’m a confident guy. Externally, maybe, internally, not so much sometimes. For me, the fat shaming started when I was about 13. Starting high school, I just happened to start growing out instead of growing up. You could say I was a “late bloomer”. I was also teased rather constantly about my “coke bottle” glasses, my weight and my size, and because I had been on TV in a few ads (apparently that was worthy of teasing). Or that’s what I thought it was about at the time. In retrospect, the fact I wear my heart on my sleeve and was a massive “try hard” at everything made me a good target. Putting aside a long future post about bullying, my reality is that I developed low body image through my teens and into my 20s.
Incredibly, I was never really that overweight, at any point, but I thought I was.
Law made me fat
Even though I perceived myself as overweight, I really wasn’t. However, that started to change in law school.
Working 2 jobs, studying 5 subjects a semester and going out 2 nights a week resulted in me becoming less active and developing some amazingly bad eating habits. Dinner at my evening job (Blockbuster or the pizza restaurant!!) generally involved one of three takeaway options, lunch usually involved a few toasted sandwiches or a pie, and then I got to the weekend and “treated” myself… Factor in at least two $10 student drink cards, and suffice to say I had no idea about diet. I was also terribly spoilt and never had to do much cooking at home, nor any real shopping, so there was a pretty big disconnect for me around diet.
I started to pile on the kilos late in law school and when I started working as a graduate it all went downhill at a rapid rate.
4 biscuits (chocolate on Tuesday and Thursday!!) with my morning and afternoon coffee… Why not?! A burger or pizza for lunch? Yeah, sure. It was Poor Eating 101. Coupled with decreasing self-esteem from being so disconnected in practice and having no free time to play sport, I put on about 8 kilos in 18 months. Law made me fat, I told myself.
Getting off my “fat-coaster”
When I moved to Sydney, I decided I’d better get my weight under control and get active again. So I joined a gym, and at the end of the year, I started Lite n Easy. Over the next 6 months, I dropped down a bit. I was still on the chubby side, but I was on my way and was learning a lot.
The thing I kept struggling with was yo-yo dieting and riding the fat-coaster every few months.
Have you ever yo-yo dieted? Have you ever lost heaps of weight and still not been satisfied with yourself? I’ve done both. Lost 12 kilos, put it back on, lost 10 kilos put it back on, lost 8 kilos… You get the picture, right? See, even when I was riding high on the fat-coaster, I was still not happy with myself. One morning my trainer and I had a little chat. She asked me if I wanted to keep riding the roller coaster, for the rest of my life. No one had really asked me that before. Did I want to keep thinking like this about myself for another 40, 50, 60 years? The reality of that struggle started to get through my thick skull. It was ok to ride the ups and downs for now, but forever?! So I said no. And I proceeded to train hard but didn’t really get off the rollercoaster. But I had my mind open to both the opportunity to get off, and the horror of staying on.
I ended up taking another few years to action my dismount from the fat-coaster. It happened in stages – I did a 30-day challenge with a group of awesome girls, and that was super empowering. I started to kickbox and then I started Jiu Jitsu and felt like I was physically quite capable. I picked up the running bug and did a few City to Surfs and a half marathon. And at some point, I stopped caring.
For me, the key was proving myself as physically able to do what I wanted to do, no matter my weight. It was breaking the bond of my perceptions that had held me back, which ultimately let me kill the fat guy in the mirror.
I realised this year, at my heaviest in 5 years, that I had actually jumped off at some point without even really knowing it. I guess it helps when weight is so handy in Jiu Jitsu but more than anything I just stopped caring so much and embraced the beauty of never getting back on that ride again.
What you can do
- If you cry inside at photos of yourself, it’s ok. You can make a change if you want to. Start something new, try different things, give yourself permission to learn and you’ll find what works.
- Go and do something you used to do before you started working and re-ignite a lost love.
- Try something really different. Go indoor rock climbing or commit to doing a fun run or go for a walk in the bush/ forest / along the beach with friends. I love to go for a swim in the surf… Whatever it is that makes you feel alive, let yourself do it and see how you feel again.
- Sign up for a food program, become a vegan or try going Paleo. Lots of diets work, give yourself 30 days and try it out. I’ve done everything except giving up sugar, and that’s on my list this year! Trying will make you feel more connected and help you learn. Maybe the first thing you do works, or maybe the 5th – just commit to giving it a crack.
- Stop eating all the chocolate biscuits at work!! Or maybe that was just me….
- Share your stories with others in the Beyond Billables Facebook Group. People need to hear them so they can feel like they too can do it.
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