Exercise as a crappy bandaid

Exercise was once a bandaid for me. It did a pretty average job of covering a wound much too big for it. In many ways, it simply deepened the cut, magnifying my issues. Exercise wasn’t the answer to my problems but I used it in a way that gave me some short lived satisfaction.

Rather than tackling deeper seeded self worth and body image issues I thought that sitting on a spin bike or running would somehow alleviate my sadness. It certainly cleared my mind for a while but after a short time the same destructive thoughts reappeared and so I was left clutching to what soon became an obsession with destroying myself in the gym. I became addicted to the short bursts of relief it offered.

Unfortunately, exercise, weight loss, strict diets, excessive resistance training, back to back sessions and relentless regimes don’t offer a long term cure to feeling sad or worthless or lacking. Trust me, I’ve tried them all.

Hitting the gym can absolutely be a release but like any habit of consolation, it doesn’t actually address the issue.

Your worth doesn’t rely on your ability to burn calories, it doesn’t rely on your stamina to smash out extensive workouts, it doesn’t rely on your resolve to stick to a low calorie diet. Your worth is intrinsic. It’s always there. Your mere presence on earth is solid evidence of your worth.

You are an energised being with a unique set of skills. Your gift is that you are the only you. Ever. You will never be replicated. Your worth to the world is immeasurable.

I hope you can sit quietly with yourself one day and realise how powerful you are. It’s the recognition of this power and this strength that will forever fuel your sense of self.

Don’t be sucked into the idea, as I was, that your self worth is hiding just beyond your next workout.

Does this sound familiar?

There’s a common theme that I notice amongst most girls who train and diet. It’s certainly magnified by social media but I think most girls have experienced a variation of it.
We train hard, we feel good, we reach a place of relative balance, and then we diet or embark on a “cut”. Whether it’s for a comp or otherwise, what I tend to notice is during the leaning out process a certain, scathing critical psyche emerges. While dieting we become clouded in our judgment and fail to see just how much our bodies have changed. I don’t claim to know the science behind this, it’s as though we suddenly become body dysmorphic- our apparent slimming down is invisible to us. Most of us then end up dieting for way too long due to being unsatisfied with not yet achieving the striated, single-percent body fat idea we had in our mind, then realise we can’t continue like this and so we increase our energy intake.

That’s when all hell breaks loose.

As we begin to eat more, weight gain is inevitable. Dealing with this can be mentally exhausting. Negative internal chatter becomes much louder. Weight gain feels like a regression. We felt so successful when we were lean, we prided ourselves on our fit exterior and suddenly, increased body fat feels like a loss of control. We convince ourselves that we are less fit, less impressive. It’s a serious mind game. You look back at those old photos and suddenly you see just how lean you were, something that you didn’t appreciate at the time. Comparatively, you convince yourself that the way you look now isn’t as admirable.

At this point, many of us decide that the only way out of this feeling is to start dieting again. It becomes cyclical.

These feelings aren’t evidence of psychosis. You aren’t crazy. I see Instagram captions recounting the same story as above time and time again.

Wanting what you don’t have is human nature. Social Psychology studies confirm it. When something is taken away from us or we see somebody else with something we don’t have – we crave it. It consumes our thoughts. So when you’re eating more food and you see a girl on the ‘gram with an eight pack or lines through her legs, you forget all the positives of eating an adequate energy intake (bountiful hormones, god-like strength, emotional regulation, boosted recovery) and basically all you think about is dieting again.

We’re basically setting ourselves up for failure by embarking on short cutting periods or diets that aren’t sustainable long-term. Inevitably, at some point we need to eat more and face the mental struggle of weight gain. Whether this resonates with you entirely or not, there’s no denying that we have all been convinced by societal ideals that being leaner, smaller, more slender is better.

So, why do we do this?

The thing is, unless you’re a body builder, an aggressive cutting period where calories are dropped drastically isn’t actually necessary. If you want to step on the stage then, maybe this is what you need to do but for your average fitness loving, heavy lifting babe or dude, I can’t see how a drastic cutting cycle is all that beneficial.

I’ve fought negative thoughts about myself for years. Many years. By simply restricting my intake and focusing myself on aesthetic goals, I’m basically begging myself to feel inadequate. If you’re anything like me then no doubt the same is true for you.

So why don’t we all learn from the glaring mistakes of so many – me included – and strive not for a strong bulk followed by an emotionally draining, soul destroying (not sorry for the hyperbole) diet period but for sustainable, happy-every-day progress?

Unless you plan on stepping on the Olympia stage sometime in the future I don’t know why you would want to strive and struggle through a routine that trashes your mental wellness in the process.

I’m not saying the ambition for achieving a stronger, bigger, rounder, denser etc. etc. physique isn’t a worthy endeavour, because it is, it’s satisfying as anything. I just hope you’ll consider whether the methods you use to get there need to cause psychological or emotional distress. Because the more I learn and reflect, the more I think that discomfort and mental exhaustion just isn’t what this fitness thing is meant to be about at all.

Why I’m not #couplegoals

In the same way that social media paints an idealistic, watercolour version of what being fit and sub-15% BF looks like, I think it does the same thing with relationships. Being with somebody long-term and living with them isn’t all candle-lit dinners, kissing mirror selfies and unwavering devotion. I haven’t been blessed by a perfect, Disney-movie relationship where everything is understood and our souls are enchantingly intertwined.

My relationship is thick with misunderstanding. It involves pain and regret over things said in the heat of the moment. There’s anger and fire and just getting pissed off because the lid of the toothpaste was left off for the 17th time.

After three and a bit years it’s not always pure passion. Sometimes there’s no intimacy because you’re either tired, or distracted or you just can’t connect. Sometimes it’s wondering whether after all the ups and downs maybe you both need some space. It’s falling asleep without saying goodnight or simply irritating each other without even trying.

It’s being tired, it’s swallowing pride and meeting halfway, it’s trying to be understanding even when you don’t agree, it’s realising that non-negotiables are important but nit-picking is entirely unnecessary. It’s always wanting the best for him. It’s being amazed that you could care about somebody else’s happiness and wellbeing as much as you care about your own.

These relationships aren’t just comfort and support and ILYSM Insta-captions– there’s also feeling vulnerable as all hell and investing your most valuable possession, time, in something that could shatter and disappear in a single moment. It’s wondering if your devotion will be for nothing and contemplating, subconsciously, the horrible pain that will be inflicted if the two of you decide this just isn’t it.

It isn’t looking at each other and seeing perfection. It’s seeing every fault, every shortcoming, every idiosyncrasy, every dark part and accepting it. Loving it. Embracing every twisted bit of their being.

Despite #couplegoals, the reality involves slammed doors and raised voices. It’s feeling like I don’t like you very much right now. It’s needing to go for a walk.

It’s feeling at home in their arms. It’s feeling like you’ve fallen apart only to realise they know exactly how to put you back together. It’s having somebody who can fix it. It’s feeling scared and confused and working it out together because despite it all you’re both learning how to love.

Relationships aren’t what you see on black and white Tumblr quotes, they aren’t embodied by Instagram romance memoirs to significant others, they aren’t the same for everyone, there are no standards.

This commitment is beautiful and fractured and painful and scary and unpredictable. It has the power to obliterate everything and the power to consume you and teach you what happiness is.

It’s this tangled, intricate mess that makes it worth it. The beauty isn’t in the perfect idea, the beauty is that amongst all the imperfection there’s something hidden there, which words can’t explain that makes life worth living.

Why I don’t think I ever want to cut again

Last year I did a powerlifting competition. It was awesome. I felt fantastic. In the weeks leading up to it I felt like it was the opportune time to begin a cutting phase. Something I had never done and after over 18 months of a seriously productive surplus smashing something like 300g of carbs a day I was under the impression that dropping weight was going to be fine.

So off I went. Under the guidance of my very fantastic partner, I stuck to weight loss macros religiously. After about eight weeks I had dropped a reasonable amount of weight and physically, I looked quite different. The weight loss certainly wasn’t linear up until that point and what I would soon find is that over the next 10 weeks, despite dropping my macros further, my progress really stagnated.

At a certain point, I felt that my intake wasn’t sustainable. Between full time work and various other commitments the food I needed to stick to in order to continue seeing results wasn’t fun. So I increased my macros up to “maintenance” or thereabouts.

For the next few months I managed to maintain a fairly lean physique but I also experienced extreme exhaustion and hunger quite regularly.

Unfortunately, what I also began to experience were thoughts and fears that I thought I had left in my past. Feeling “heavy” for no reason, experiencing extremely poor body image days, having strong food cravings and feelings of inadequacy if for some reason I was holding water or not looking my best some days. On top of that, I really felt as though I was restricted, unable to enjoy things as I usually would due to reduced flexibility. “Eat more” seemed like the logical decision but I had convinced myself that eating more would mean undoing all my hard work and not looking as impressive, as fit, as strong, as desirable.

I’ve worked for years to not feel this way. Really, I mean years. So I felt really disappointed in myself that mentally and ultimately rather than feeling like the empowered babe I once had, I felt as though I had regressed in terms of my self-perception.

And that’s the thing about dieting. Try as you may to make it “balanced” and “sustainable” unfortunately, this mentality is centred on being less, on being better the smaller we are, on rewarding our ability to restrict ourselves in some way with praise. It’s a hard thing to deal with.

I’m not into fitness for self-deprecating reasons. I once was. I don’t want to be now.

I want to grow and improve and in years from now I want to feel like I can look back and see vast development in the way I perceive myself.

I don’t feel like a cut supports these goals, which is why I don’t think I will ever do one again.

Try these peaceful, macro-friendly slices

I have searched far and wide for a raw slice recipe that is as delicious as it is macro-friendly. And I failed.

Every recipe online either calls for 4kgs of coconut oil, 4 cups of nuts or 35 dates (measurements may be subject to hyperbole) making them seriously calorie-dense.

Well– I’ve done it you guys. Introducing you to your new afternoon, pre-workout or dessert snack.

Prepare to cry tears of happiness.

What you’ll need:

3 large, pitted dates (or 40g of sultanas)

150g of riced cauliflower (put 100g of cauli florets in the food processor and pulse until they reach a rice-like consistency)

1 scoop of choc Protowhey

30g peanut butter

10g coconut oil

24g PB2

10g coconut flour

~100ml almond milk (I didn’t measure exactly how much but kept adding little by little to get the right consistency)

How to make them:

Put the dates or sultanas into the food processor and pulse until they’ve broken up into small pieces.

Add the peanut butter, oil and about 80ml of almond milk and pulse again until combined.

Pour in the PB2, coconut flour and protein powder and blend well. Open the lid every few seconds and scrape down the sides or add a dash of almond milk if needed.

Once combined, add the cauliflower and pulse through.

You should be left with a thick, cake-batter like consistency. If it’s too thick, add almond milk until the batter loosens.

Pour into a baking paper lined brownie tray and place in the freezer for 1-2 hours.

Slice into pieces (I got 8 serves) and keep in an airtight container in the freezer for up to two weeks.


Note: If you don’t want to have to freeze them, add a teaspoon of Xanthan gum or two tablespoons of psyllium husks during the flour and protein powder step.


Weight gain F’s with us all

The thing about being (reasonably) lean is, for most of us, it requires some sacrifice. I began a cut August 2015 before pushing my intake back up to maintenance in February. I’ve managed to maintain a fairly lean physique since then. Not stage lean. Not even really “she’s shredded” lean but reasonable abs and about 14% BF. Well, for me, staying at this kind of conditioning is a bit tiring and in the name of improvement, it makes sense to increase my food intake in order to build muscle and continue to make gainz. With a ‘Z’ because those are the real kind.

I’m no fan of weight gain. I find it hard to come to terms with. I’ve no doubt you do too. More than likely you associate looking and feeling lean with a perception that you are “fitter”, “stronger”, “more dedicated”, “more agile”, “a better dancer”. I made the last one up but you understand me.

In actual fact, your body fat percentage doesn’t tell you any of these things. All it says is that you can eat in a calorie deficit successfully for a certain amount of time, nothing more nothing less. Gaining weight doesn’t somehow make you less attractive or less fit or less desirable, in fact if you’re doing things the right way then more than likely, nobody but you will notice your weight gain anyway.

There’s no doubt that looking slightly less conditioned is a mind game but in the name of balance and a healthy relationship with food, it’s absolutely necessary. Weigh yourself once a week not every day (that’s stupid), take photos, use a measuring tape, set strength or endurance goals, do fun things, enjoy your food. You don’t need to be that guy/girl who is complaining about how much they struggle so much in “off season” and woe is me I just want to be lean again. Stop it. You’re brilliant at every stage. You could instead just be that boss who trains hard, eats well and enjoys the fact that they’re balanced enough to not give AF. Because truly, your BF% only matters to one person and if you don’t care then it matters to no one at all.

The nourishing things I do to recharge

I’m going to be honest with you, I’ve been really, really tired for about four weeks now. Not your usual work, social commitments, stayed up too late last night kind of tired, but that kind that involves a relentless eye twitch, falling asleep by 8pm, feeling emotionally drained kind of tired. I put it down to a combination of season change, low body fat, training probably a little too often, multiple interstate trips, work stress and the stress I create for myself inside my head.

I’ve never maintained this level of body fat for an extended period. I’ve never trained so hard while working full time and eating less. Chances are my iron levels are a little low (yours could be too, 1 in 3 women aren’t getting enough iron) and I need a magnesium hit. Plus, I’ve never been on so many planes in such a short space of time, which is exciting but really takes it out of you. I take my hat off to all of you ladies who do this on the regular because being a boss chick wearing a crown and making money ain’t easy (that’s the name of my new rap song, it’s a remix of Pimpin’ Ain’t Easy sung by a 20-something year old girl, it probably won’t make the radio).

Anyway, in the face of my need for 3pm naps, seriously sore muscles, food cravings and general lowered vitality I’ve implemented a few me-time, recovery undertakings to get myself back on track. These things can be done day-to-day and while they’re simple, they certainly make a big difference. Because if you’re anything like me, you don’t have the time for the three days of sleep or five days of relaxing holiday time to get you back in the groove.

A better nighttime routine

For me, this has a lot to do with what I do before bed. My evening routine usually includes a workout that goes until 7:30pm, dinner, shower and maybe a TV show. By the time 10pm rolls around I haven’t really unwound and I find myself only getting to sleep at 11pm. My body was screaming out for a better nighttime routine. So nowadays, I like to get home and eat. Then get on the foam roller, read or talk through my day with Nick, I’ll have a hot shower, drink about a litre of water and get into bed about an hour before I want to sleep. I feel like this makes me feel less like I work, rush, sleep and work again and more like the evening is my time.

Nourishing food

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with increasing your food during periods of fatigue. I tend to aim for 10% more carbs and 5-10% more fats. I also like to make sure my iron intakes are up to scratch, because if you’re weight training 4 or more days a week then chances are your iron levels are taking a hit. I get my iron boost from beef. A rump steak after a long day with mushies and green beans is one of my faves. Or sometimes we lovingly slow-cook chuck steak or brisket in the oven and serve it with a teriyaki sauce and lightly stir fried veg. When I’m feeling fatigued I always check in to make sure my beef intake is adequate (it’s probably my favourite source of protein), I aim for around 3 times a week and I notice a big difference when it is. And guess what? Australian Dietary Guidelines say you should be eating red meat like beef 3 to 4 times a week anyway.

Not ballin’ out all the time

And by ballin’ out I mean, not going so hard when it comes to exercise. Our bodies are amazing things and while pushing them to the limit might make you feel really awesome most of the time, sometimes it’s seriously okay to cruise along at 60% effort. In fact, easing up in the gym, doing shorter sessions, lifting less, decreasing your cardio output and taking an extra rest day every week is not only going to help your recovery but it will also allow you to get a lot more out of your body in the near future. I’ve swapped a lifting sesh for a yoga session and I’m taking a second rest day every week until I feel like I’m ready to go again.

Doing all those little, lovely things

When you can, spend an afternoon under a blanket with a good book, sleep in, get a massage, get a pedicure or a manicure, eat the ice cream, the burger or the doughnut, meditate (even just for 5 mins), take a walk outside, spend time with good people, take a nap and invest in a magnesium supplement to help your muscles relax.

Letting go of destructive practices

I feel like I’ve come a really long way in the past five years when it comes to my relationship with my body and myself. I’ve learnt over the years that in order to really move forward, you need to leave all destructive practices behind. If you can’t rid yourself of habits and adopted idiosyncrasies that you’ve held onto out of self-hatred, then part of you is always going to be bogged down.

One practice that I left behind played a big role in repairing my relationship with food. After extremely restrictive dieting I decided it was a good idea to go vegetarian. It wasn’t for ethical reasons like many of the vegetarians you might know, it was simply because I attached vegetarian food with being “healthier” and overall, lower calorie. If I had an excuse for why I couldn’t eat meat, then I could avoid the inevitable awkwardness of my strange food tendencies around others. So for almost two years I ate no meat whatsoever.

Meanwhile, I was doing up to 15 hours of cardio based exercise a week and punishing myself with late night runs after days when I thought I had overeaten.

I was exhausted.

In fact, it was only once I started experiencing a recurring dream about devouring a delicious juicy, iron-rich steak that I came to the conclusion that enough was enough. I wasn’t eating a well-rounded diet rich in whole protein sources; I was living off salads, rice and dairy products. I had trouble concentrating, I was experiencing terrible mood swings and my performance in the gym was deteriorating at a rate of knots.

So one day I expressed my concerns to my dad. You’ve never seen somebody’s eyes light up as his did. He’d been clutching at straws for vegetarian meal ideas for the better part of a year and my admission that I needed red meat in my life was like music to his ears, I’ve no doubt.

Dad cooked me a rump steak to medium rare perfection some days later and while I admit that I felt some anxiety in the lead up, I’ve never looked back.

The results of adding an iron-rich protein source like beef to my diet was incredible -the change in my gym performance was noticeable almost immediately. Going from dizziness and post-workout headaches to beast mode, my endurance, my energy levels and my strength increased noticeably. The changes weren’t just physical though. I had basically obliterated a fear. I felt more confident, I felt happier and I no longer felt this anxious cloud that had consumed me for a long time.

These days, I fuel myself for performance, for health but most of all for happiness. I love big bowls of food created for the purpose of enjoyment and fuelling an active lifestyle (zucchini noodle Bolognese and pulled beef bowls with rice and veg are two of my faves). Fearing certain foods is entirely unnecessary. Eat a diet that nourishes you; eat foods you enjoy, because honestly, deprivation is only conducive to unhappiness. You aren’t doing yourself any favours.

And as for those destructive practices, let them go. Ask yourself if the choices you’re making for your health and fitness make you happy. If the answer is no, it’s time to change your methods.


My sneaky tips for saving macros

I quietly regard myself as the queen of macros. I can’t make all the delicious foods fit everyday but I can make one or two fit most of the time. Because I have skills but mostly because I plan ahead. If you want to eat a big meal later in the day, you’re struggling with satiety or you simply want something delicious to fit your macros at the expense of the rest of the day, I’ve got some suggestions for you…


  •  I love coffee. Sometimes much to my despair, I can’t fit a cappuccino in my macros. I’ve made good friends with my barista (her name is Tina she’s the best) so I ask her to make me a long black, froth the milk and put chocolate on top so it tastes similar to a cappuccino with half the milk. I’m pretty sure Tina sees me coming and murmurs “not this picky bitch again” but it’s worth it.


  • Cauliflower rice. Filling, amazing and the best. Blend cauliflower to a rice consistency in a food processor then cook in a hot pan with a little oil, turmeric, cumin, paprika and salt.


  •  I stole this one from a friend but I’m claiming it as my own. Mix 24g of choc PB2 with 15g of Nutella and it tastes like it’s just Nutella, with half the calories.


  • Mix stewed apple with all bran, yoghurt, cinnamon and sugar free syrup for something that tastes like apple pie. It’s good for those times when you’re close to tears because you just want dessert and cakes so badly and life is so unfair.


  • Ask for your takeaway Grill’d burger with no mayo and put on your own low fat Mayo or extra avocado at home.


  • Take advantage of calorie free (kind of) drinks. BCAAs. Tea is also good. There’s a Chai tea you can get from Woollies that is infused with vanilla. Buy 30 boxes and keep them in all the places you frequent. People will be like “why is all this tea here in the corner of the office?” and you’ll be like “I leave it there so I don’t say rude things to my colleagues”.


  • Really hungry? Two words. Huge salads. As big as your head. You’re going to need to buy a bigger bowl. Do you know how many calories are in a whole head of lettuce? 15. I’m serious. Go buy all the lettuce at your nearby supermarket, douse it in balsamic, add some other things and just eat all the salad. Because you do make friends with salad. The Simpsons were wrong.

How to make weight loss really, really hard

There’s a fantastic tweet by Astrophysicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson that I saw a couple of years ago. He wrote:

A weight loss book written by Physicists would be one sentence long: “Consume calories at a lower rate than your body burns them.”

Brilliant! Yet, despite the fairly straight forward process that is weight loss, many people still complicate it. So if you want to make dieting really, really hard and end up crying among a pile of the wrappers from all the chocolate bars you ate out of frustration, make sure to do the following.

Have no flexibility whatsoever

Eat the same six meals every day and never allow yourself to have treats. Except for once a week when you eat all of the foods you wish you were eating in one sitting and wonder why your weight loss is stalling.

Why shouldn’t you do this? Because variety is not only necessary for good nutrition but it’s also necessary for a healthy mind. No matter what you’re dieting for, you don’t need to eat the same thing every day, you can eat things that aren’t chicken and broccoli and you can have a treat every day. Additionally, cheat days or cheat meals are really just an opportunity for over eating and in my opinion, support an unhealthy relationship with food.


Avoid food groups

If you’re looking to make dieting a bit more difficult, cut out food groups. Avoid dairy, fruit, sugar and nightshades because a bodybuilder told you they impact weight loss.

Why is this ridiculous? Because outside of allergy or intolerance you really don’t need to avoid any food or food groups in order to lose weight. On top of that, cutting out a certain food is like me telling you not to think about pink unicorns. I bet you I can guess what you’re thinking about.


Don’t track your macros

Just eat clean. If weight loss stalls, eat cleaner.

Why not? This one is pretty self explanatory. How do you know you’re on track with your goals if you aren’t actually tracking your intake? Tracking your macros makes reducing your calories when weight loss slows down a simple process. If weight loss comes to a halt, simply reduce carbs and/or fats. Plus, what even is eating clean and how do I eat cleaner? The definition is hazy.


Make sure to do lots of unenjoyable weight loss rituals

Drink lemon in water first thing in the morning to get the metabolism revving, hit up infrared saunas, do fasted cardio, eat tilapia to thin the skin, avoid salt altogether, don’t drink too much water.

Why not? Because all of these are myths and completely unnecessary for weight loss.


Do lots and lots of cardio

Preferably steady state, preferably for hours and hours everyday. Keep adding more and more cardio and feel really tired.

Why not? Because it isn’t necessary. Eat in a calorie deficit. Use cardio as a tool to aid weight loss. Introduce it bit by bit and favour HIIT over low intensity steady state. Hours and hours of slugging it out on a cross trainer is a serious waste of time.