Sitting on my sofa one evening in January, I put together a short video and crossed my fingers that it would be good enough to win the competition I was entering it into. Luckily for me, it was. Also luckily for me, that video hasn’t been made public.
I’d responded to a call for entries to find two Feel Good Champions for the London Borough of Waltham Forest, my home. It looked like an opportunity too good to miss: free local gym membership for a year and regular progress checks with staff, in exchange for sharing updates and encouragement with the residents of Waltham Forest via social media and the hashtag #FeelGoodKickStart. I imagined that winning would be like taking part in my own “A Year to Save My Life” (albeit probably without Jesse Pavelka) and was incredibly excited (nervous) when I found out I’d won. I’ll admit I was disappointed when it was confirmed that there would definitely be no Jesse, but you can’t have it all.
It’s now early May and the first three months are done and dusted. Have I made the most of this opportunity? Probably not. Have I made progress? I’d definitely say so.
But let me pause for a moment and rewind. How come I even won?
The most obvious reason why I had a chance of winning is that I made a video and entered the competition. The second, less facetious reason, is that I told part of the story of what’s happened in my life over the last couple of years; how I’d gone from someone who was fairly active and actually went out and did things, to someone who was almost completely inactive, totally antisocial and more than just averagely unhappy. This story is for another time, because it’s not mine alone.
Like a lot of people, I know what I should and shouldn’t be doing to be fit and healthy: move more, eat well and stop relying on junk food. The problem is that knowledge doesn’t necessarily lead to action, especially when it feels like your body and soul have been passed through a wood chipper, steam rolled and peeled off the floor to be stuck back together with masking tape. I’m aware there are people who find that a life of healthy eating and activity comes easily, and that this would never be jeopardised by even the most traumatic of events. I reluctantly admire these people, but that isn’t familiar to me.
I’ve always struggled with food to a degree that many people have found incomprehensible (I was scared of almost all food as a child, developed a keen reliance on laxatives as a teen and, in short, do not consider food to be anything but the self-saboteurs finest weapon; I regard it as neither friend nor fuel). I’ve also struggled with sporting endeavours, despite having a parent who has been committed to sport and exercise their entire life. Being voted Sports Captain on my first day at secondary school was terrifying: I knew I could only let the class down. In short, I’m one of those people who teachers would say oozes potential — but not much else.
Which brings me back to winning this competition. It was fantastic to win, but I was also aware that it’s the sort of thing that could very easily send me into a tailspin that would lead to inertia. I know myself so well that I even tweeted:
And it’s true. I’m certainly not blessed with the virtue of patience, and I’m sure it’s one of my core beliefs that exerting myself more than I have done in recent years for, let’s say, a mere hour, should lead to me being rewarded with noticeable and impressive results to both my physique and fitness. But that’s obviously not how this game works.
Making changes in life can be hard. Making changes in your life after it feels like you’ve been thrown around by a bull (or twenty) can be even harder. This is why winning the competition was only the start, not the prize. This is why, when I look at the progress my fellow Feel Good Champion, Ade, is making, I feel like I’m letting the side down. But this is also why I’m writing about it.
My aim isn’t to end this year 1000 kilos lighter or with a new-found passion for extreme sports. My aim is to survive, to improve and to learn — in my bones, not just in my head — that patience, consistency and balance are essential.
The longer I’m on this #FeelGoodKickStart journey, the more I begin to understand that there’s actually no destination; it won’t suddenly end after a year. This is just the start. I have to make the most of it, and then I have to keep doing it.