worth fighting for
A guest blog from Claire Desroches
It seems that resolutions are made to be broken, and that failing to use that gym membership or to follow the latest diet attempt are light-hearted topics for the office lunch hour. So how can someone be female, train in martial arts... and be vegan? Claire explains why demanding commitments can lead to success and fulfillment. "We don't have any vegetarians in the class, right?" Several hands go up
"Oh my goodness - it's an epidemic!"
As this comment, from my Brazilian jiu jitsu coach, was laughed off by both non-vegetarian and vegetarian teammates, I wondered how they would all react - the same people who marvel at how much stronger I am than I look - if they knew I had consumed no animal products for the last four years. Luckily, those sorts of comments never bother me - not just because I am stronger than many females at or above my weight (and stronger than a few men), but because I truly believe in the benefits and sustainability of my lifestyle. It is the importance of self-belief that I want to write about today.
I learnt quite early on what motivates me to succeed. One element is the fear of regret, which is very distinct from a fear of failure. I don't mind making mistakes or the wrong choices, but I can't deal with knowing I had the opportunity to make the right choice, and threw it away due to outside pressure or laziness or whatever it may be. Another component of my motivation is a strong sense of loyalty and belonging; I cannot be the one to let my teammates down, whoever those teammates may be. In this case, my team is the vegan community.
Having a worldwide community at my fingertips has made all the difference to helping me succeed in what I want to achieve. People who have never met me will applaud my successes, and console me over my shortcomings, just because we both share the same lifestyle - that creates enough of a bond that we can empathise with each other. So I know it is worth being as fit and strong and technically skilled as I can be - for my own sense of achievement and development, but also so that I can make my community proud. I am now a self-employed personal trainer, dedicated to inspiring people to listen to their bodies in order to feel healthy and fulfilled. Quitting my full-time job and taking a leap of faith to set up my own business took a lot of self-belief, which again I attribute to the commitment that has helped me sustain a healthy plant-based diet, and regular training routine.
Aside from personal anecdotes, I do believe we are talking about developing the power of the mind. If you have something you believe in, something you fight for, it creates the sort of determination and single-mindedness that is needed to train hard and consistently, to follow a healthy diet, to get to bed early when your favourite show is on TV so that you can feel fresh and happy the following morning, to do whatever it takes to achieve your goals. The mind is a powerful thing - but like many other things, if you don't use it, you lose it!
In my case, being vegan is what has given me the strength to make other sacrifices for my commitment to being healthy and active. For example, I used to think that I prepared all my food and snacks in advance because I couldn't pick anything up to snack on whilst I was out and about. Then I realised that wasn't it at all - admittedly, I had picked up the habit from being vegan, but the reason I kept doing it so systematically was because I wanted to eat healthily at all times! Let's face it, you can always get chips or salad to fill your stomach, but it's not necessarily going to fuel a successful training session. Although this seems obvious, I don't think I would have taken responsibility for making more healthy and ethical choices, had my mind and willpower not already been strengthened by my belief in veganism.
Likewise, a member of a weekly circuits class I teach was explaining to another member that it was "easy to lose weight?". I had to step in and reassure the poor woman - who looked very disheartened at the implication that she wasn't trying hard enough - that it wasn't so easy. The theory and mechanics of it are easy, but in practice, when you are balancing work and maybe a family and everything else that goes on in life, it can be challenging.
What I am trying to say is - if you fight for what you believe in, success will flow from there. Whether it is cutting down on meat, ditching your whey protein shakes for plant-based protein, resolving to prepare your own healthy snacks to take to work each day, or setting yourself stricter bedtimes, not only will you benefit directly from the change itself, but you will be able to enjoy the satisfaction of knowing that you are doing everything possible to be healthy and happy. You will discover a strength of character and a willpower within yourself that you may not have known was there - or you may discover new heights to it. Trust me, once you find that bit of you that says, "This is me, this is who I am, and this is how I live my life, you can make any changes and adjustments to your life that you need, in order to feel healthy and happy. And when you do, let me know, as a fellow member of the healthy, compassionate, and happy community!"
Claire is a qualified personal trainer, massage therapist, and founder of Great Expectations Fitness. She has been strength training and running for eight years, and has trained in various martial arts for six years. She currently trains five to six times a week to compete in Brazilian jiu jitsu, and writes about her experiences at Great Vegan Expectations.
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