Growing up, I really suffered with my body image. I found it hard to accept who I was!
I didn’t have a terrible diet and I wasn’t overweight, but when I looked in the mirror all I could see were (what I thought were) flaws. I began to obsess over everything I ate, which led me to become a vegetarian when I was 16; another obsession. Over the years I got sucked into a lifestyle of partying, as I think I created a false sense of confidence while under the influence. Looking after my well-being wasn’t my priority, I was too busy having “fun”!
Five years ago I had been training at a “regular” gym and was fed up with where I was in my life. I knew there was more to life than wasted weekends and hangovers! Some friends (now my coaches) started training us in the park in Clongriffin – it was called Operation Sandbag and the training consisted of movements based on CrossFit, carried out with sandbags (as we didn’t have barbells then). It was so hard and I wasn’t used to the immense pain post-training; my body was in shock! However, I was instantly hooked, this was exactly the motivation I needed to make changes. At first I didn’t take it too seriously, I loved keeping fit but only trained 2-3 days per week. I went travelling, and took a few breaks over the years. In February 2013 something clicked and I really put my foot on the accelerator and got stuck into the training – I upped my training to 5 days a week and decided I definitely wanted to compete. I think it was at this point I felt that I was able to push myself as far as I could go as I had previously struggled with this for a long time!
Last year I competed in two CrossFit competitions, which was a massive milestone for me. I remember at the first one, standing on the stadium grounds in Waterford and just thinking how crazy it was that I was actually competing! It wasn’t my finest moment; I struggled a lot but I was so happy that I did it. I learned so much from that competition that I knew exactly what I needed to work on in the gym for the next one! I feel I have a better grip on training now. I do weightlifting 2-3 times a week, an intense conditioning workout 1-2 times a week, a weekly yoga class, and now I’m trying to incorporate a run in there aswell, although I’m so crap at running so this is a massive challenge for me (I always feel like a pug lol!). I know it’s important to work on my weaknesses though, and I’m looking forward to running more with the lovely weather (hopefully it sticks around!).
Now onto my diet – let’s be real here – I love food! I have a terrible sweet tooth and I definitely think I was a fat Italian man in a former life! My Mam was a fitness instructor while I was growing up, so she influenced me a lot with her healthy eating, then as I became a vegetarian I learned a lot about nutrition. I was a vegetarian for 10 years and actually became pretty ill towards the end, as I had a bad B12 deficiency and had to get injections every week, in addition to eczema. I still didn’t eat meat when I started training in CrossFit, and although it just didn’t suit the high intensity training I was adamant I could stick with my way of eating!
Naturally with CrossFit you get introduced to the Paleo diet and I loved the sound of it…apart from the small issue of me not eating meat! So what did I do? I tried a Paleo-veggie diet, resulting in a big weight loss and constant hunger and irritability (hanger as I call it!). I definitely felt like I was lacking in essential nutrients. It was then that I decided to make the biggest change of my life and start eating meat again. I won’t lie – it was so scary! However It was the best decision I’ve ever made, and to this day I can’t believe I was a veggie for so long (and that I thought Quorn tasted like chicken!). When I began eating meat I did go 100% Paleo for a while but it just didn’t work for me and I felt it didn’t help with my performance. I now eat a more balanced diet and as you can see from my pictures, this is working for me. Since re-introducing foods like oats and rice, I feel more toned, I feel better fuelled for workouts and I’m not hungry all the time!
Starting up the “Primal Piggy” blog really helped me to further my interest in food and nutrition, and allows me to be creative with my food, meaning I never get bored of eating clean. It started as a hobby and has really taken off, I still can’t believe the amount of interest it gets now! I work really hard to stay informed and update PP regularly; on my days off work you’ll find me in the kitchen creating healthy, seasonal meals and snacks that anyone can try.
It has really been a journey to get where I am now, but I feel we wouldn’t be who we are I can without the little mistakes or flaws. Fitness has done wonders for me and my confidence and honestly say I am 100% comfortable in my own skin. I feel we can be so harsh on ourselves and always focus on the bad parts, but don’t ever forget to remind yourself of all the great things you have achieved and what great assets you have! Social media makes it easy for people to compare their lives to others as we see more of people than ever before, and only what those people want us to see.
This can have some long-lasting, damaging effects on our self confidence…
Primal Piggy’s advice: Don’t compare yourself to others, learn to love what you have and enjoy your own unique journey!