I have 5 sisters, and people always used to say we look SO much alike. I think its because we were all knees, ribs and elbows, and I suppose that if you look like one big elbow, or one giant, walking ribcage, it would be hard to tell you apart from another big elbow, or another walking ribcage, and so, as we are all knees, elbows and ribs… we do kind of look the same. At 5”9, Aliyah and I are the shortest, where as Nelly and Teraza clear 6 foot with ease.
As I child, I was told we all resembled a praying mantis. And then, when Lord of the Rings came out, it was Elves, and since Avatar came out, we are ‘Avatars’. In other words, we are all unusually tall, and unnaturally skinny.
In high school it was often presumed that I either came from a family so poor that I never ate, or that I had an eating disorder, because you could damn near strum my ribs like a gui-tar and I remember thinking I had some horrible form of cancer when I actually developed half a left boob, because it was about the only flesh on me.
I think a lot of people reading this might feel that we are very fortunate to have genes that mean we can eat pasta for breakfast and cheeseburgers for lunch and never put on a single gram, and yes, if you were going for the starved look without actually wanting to starve, you would have won the lotto with our genes, but as a young thing, I didn’t like it so much. I was called lollipop. You know LOLLIPOP, as in, a stick with a ball head on top?
In intermediate (middle school) I was called ‘E.T’ because my face was so hollow, that I looked like an alien.
When you are young, and haven’t been corrupted by the world of fashion and Ralph Lauren, and New York enough to know that sunken eyes, exposed ribcages and flat chests are actually all the runway rage it can be easy to start feeling incredibly self conscious about how you look, especially when everyone around you begins to benefit from the phenomena of puberty, and after all returning to school from summer holidays you find out that all your girlfriends suddenly have a waistline and cleavage, but you still remain the Pirates delight (Sunken Chest)
I was always too underweight to donate blood as a teen, though I believed in the principle of blood donation so much. The BMI charts said that I was ‘Severely underweight’ and the nurses often refused the offer of my extended arms, saying “Darlin, if we take any blood from you, there won’t be nuthin left of you!’
When I turned 18, I decided that I was going to change my body. Eating 2 giant serves of spaghetti each day wasn’t adding on even a single gram, and though I was already nearly 6 foot, I had never weighed in at over 58 kg and I decided that I would begin a strict strength training regime with a diet high in protein, protein bars and muscle milks, until I weighed in at over 60kg. Every morning at 5:00am, I would leave my flat and head to the aquatic center and swim laps in the pool before hitting the weights. I was so weak at first, that I was lifting the minimum weight available, and was not able to get through a single set because my arms would quiver and my knees would knock together, but as the days melted into weeks, and those weeks ran into months, my body grew in strength and slowly, and painfully, the weight began to increase. It was several months of hard work and focus before I finally saw the day where I weighed in, and had met my goal.
I will never forget the feeling of looking down and seeing the scales: 60.1kg.
I had done it. Months of discipline, training and self-control had seen me gain 2.1 kg, and I could not have been happier.
Oh how things change.
Shortly after, I met my soon to be husband (and then soon to be ex-husband) and my first son came into the world. Along with the DD breasts and the curvy waist-line, courtesy of my pregnancy, came a dramatic shift in my metabolism. After our son was born, we moved to Melbourne, Australia, the capital of good food and fabulous wine. We indulged in the food and drank freely of the wine and before I knew it I was accusing my jeans from shrinking in the wash and wondering why my face always looked so pudgy in photographs.
Hang on one dang minute! Was I getting….FAT???
Indeed I was.
How many months has it been since I weighed myself? I couldn’t remember! But I knew my clothes were too tight and even my watch didn’t fit on my wrist anymore and as strange as this concept was, I had to realise that the food I was putting in my mouth, and the lack of any form of exercise whatsoever was actually impacting my body and so one day I stood on some scales, you know, just to see how much weight I had gained since the last time I had weighed in, at 60.1 kg.
74.5 kilograms!!!!!!!! I threw a tantrum at the personal trainer from the upmarket gym, who had just weighed me ‘You need to check your faulty scales, because I am NOT 74.5 Kilograms!!!’
Oh but I was. And so despite the fact we had just moved to Melbourne city and didn’t have more than a few dimes to our name, I joined the most state expensive gym in St Kilda, Melbourne, and began training for 2 hours every single night. From 8pm until 10pm while my son slept, I punished myself on the treadmill and obeyed a torturous regime on the weights and though I hated it, and despised the pain every night of the week, I stuck to it until I was transformed into a superhuman freak.
By the end of our time in Victoria, I was so fit, so strong, and my body was so toned, that jam jars would open before me out of pure fear of my strength. I was 110% lean muscle and the strongest I have ever been in my life. The weight was gone, but even better than that; I was fit, strong, and incredibly healthy. My skin had a glow to it, my body would erupt in muscle every time I picked up my son, and I was probably at the very peak of fitness possible. Fast-forward 7 years, through 1 divorce and 1 buggery break up, add a daily serve of pasta and a shameless addiction to white wine and a lifestyle almost totally void of exercise and ladies and gentleman I have once again been accusing my jeans of shrinking in the wash and wondering why my face looks so pudgy in photographs.
I chose to rationalize my recent clothing purchases, by thinking ‘I just want new things’ when in actual fact, I had to buy new clothes because NONE OF MY OLD CLOTHES WERE FITTING!
Oh how the tables have turned.
So today, after months of avoiding the truth, I asked my neighbor if I could borrow her scales. How bad could it be? Have I gained 3kg? Perhaps 5kg? Surely no more. As my regular weight is 59 – 59.5kg, I figured that I was going to be at about 65kg…66kg at the most. I had, after all, been no heavier than that since pregnancy.
71kg. I’m sure I banged my head pretty hard as I passed out and crashed to the floor in horror.
It seems as though the normal laws of biology and physiology have caught up with me, therefore, if I stuff my face with Viking size servings of cheesy pasta every single day and wash it down with white wine, and then never work out, I might actually gain weight. Incredible.
Turns out though, that at 71kg, my body actually decided to hit puberty and I now have boobs. They aren’t the DDs I enjoyed playing with right through both my pregnancies, but they are definitely boobs, and they even bounce when I run. Its amazing. I jiggled them for my sister over Skype the other night and even she had to admit that yes, my ribcage was wearing two new dumplings and I was a real life woman.
The excitement of this new physical development was somewhat overshadowed when I picked my son up from school on Friday afternoon. I was unusually early. I hate being early. It means I run the risk of actually having to talk to some of the other parents. So I found a corner to back into and tried to look anti-social so that no one would talk to me. Then this creature appears from around the corner. I think it was a woman, but I couldn’t be sure because its body was so sleek and perfect, like a cougar. It was wearing lycra leggings that were so tight that it if had even one single stretch mark on its perfect surface, you could have seen it through the fabric, but no such luck, the skin under the leggings was flawless. It walked towards me and my face contorted in disbelief that things like this exist outside of magazines and as it passed me I squinted my eyes and scanned over it from head to toe and yes, it was definitely human. But how could it be! It was then in front of me, tip toeing past the schoolbags. No, not this one, no, not that one, Ah, here it is, the right bag’ It bends over to pick up the bag and its backside looks as if some genius had just spent most of the day airbrushing it. Then the bell rings and children pour out of the classroom and one pretty little girl comes through the doors and see’s the creature and seems to smile with a familiarity and the words flowed past her lips in slow motion ‘Mummmm-mmmmy’ SONOFABITCH!!! It’s a MOTHER!?!?
Oh yes. I remember now. I remember her from last year. She has a son in my eldest sons year. But last year, just before school broke up for summer holidays, she didn’t look like this. She was just your regular mum in size 12 jeans and a singlet top like the rest of us. WHAT HAPPENED TO HER! Seems like she spent the summer getting amazing. Thats all it took too. One summer, a few months of hard work, probably eating good food, probably not drinking toxic levels of white wine, probably taking care of herself, and now look at her, she is an easy 10/10 and her thighs look strong enough to strangle a thick neck, pony-tailed trucker.
So that was Friday. I have had a few days to chew this over, and after pondering the fact that this woman exists in real life, and that she didn’t look like that a few months ago, and that she has children, these are my thoughts: I don’t care how vain this sounds, or how self centered and selfish these words sing: I want to have a strong, fit, healthy, sexy body too. I want to have thighs that could strangle like an anaconda. And not DESPITE the fact I have two children and am approaching 30…ESPECIALLY now that I have 2 children and am approaching 30!!! Because I brush past dozens of mothers every day that are like me, either approaching 30 or have already crossed that line, and have 2 children, but you know who else has 2 children? ELLE MACHPHERSON. Have you googled this woman lately?
She is 49. F-O-R-T-Y N-I-N-E!! and she has the body of my 17 year old sister! Okay, okay, she is a supermodel, I get it, but there is actually no unique, freak of nature skeletal system that causes these woman to have such beautiful bodies. It’s a combination of hard work every single day, and treating their body with enough respect to feed it with quality foods and drink enough damn water. Its not ROCKET SCIENCE. I know this first hand from that time when I joined the gym when I was a new mother of a 10 month old baby and for a few months ate quality food, worked out like an animal and drank water and just like magic, was suddenly the proud new owner of a banging body. So here I am at a cross roads. I am ankle deep in this new chapter of my life where I am exploring what it means to re-write my future with good things and healthy things and there is no way I am going to come full circle if I neglect my temple… my body. So now that I have had this shock to my system, this 10kg + weight gain, I do only have 2 choices: Either I accept this for myself, and continue to let myself go, knowing no one would really dare criticize me for not looking 100% all the time (because I have 2 children and this seems to be used as a hall pass by some people in the general public to stop giving a damn about how you look or how you feel about yourself) OR I could nip it in the bud right now and turn the tables once again and care enough about my future self to put in some long hours and a bit of blood, sweat and tears and claw back some of the health that I have sacrificed in the last few years, because at the end of the day, this isn’t about how I look necessarily, this is about being strong, and healthy and fit. The body you achieve as a by-product of that is just that, a by-product. So I have another experiment to conduct on myself, and this time its physical. And let me just say right now, before y’all get your knickers in a bunch, I know I’m not fat ok? I know that. I know that by many western standards, I would still be considered slim, and I know that my BMI is within healthy ranges, and that my blood pressure is damn near perfect. And I am grateful for that, but remember what this is all about? This whole 1000 single days is about doing whatever it takes to become the best possible version of myself that I can, and that has to involve a physical aspect too. I am proud to say that about 4 months ago, I quit smoking after being addicted for nearly 14 years. Yes, yes. I am still proud of myself for that. I also began running, which if you have been following my story, you will know I HATE. But I still do it. Because I know its good for me. But you know what… its not enough. I want to know how I would feel if I trained my body like I did when I was in Melbourne. I want to take this average body, and see what I could do with it if I trained it relentlessly for one solid month. And you know what else? I want to have a banging body. And one day, after this 1000 days, when I meet a good man, I want him to think I have a banging body, and you know what? I’m allowed to want that. And if I am the one that watches every crumb that passes my lips, and drinks water like I should and runs even though I hate it, and strength trains even though I can barely find the time to sleep as it is, then i’ll deserve to rock every cm of the hot body I achieve, and I don’t even care how vain that sounds because i’m not the only one who thinks like this, and i’m just being honest.
And so, ladies and gentlemen, I give to you: Ness’s month of pain for gain. I have stolen the name from a dear friend in New Zealand: Kyle Lomas. He was the male version of me: Enjoyed his drink more than he probably should have, and found the convenience of fast food….well… too convenient. Out of all the people I know, the LAST person I would have expected to suddenly turn his whole life around on a dime would be him. And yet, one month ago, this website appears before me ‘Kyo’s Month of Pain For Gain’ and the opening line is this: I am going to take a much healthier approach to life for one whole month. It doesn’t sound like much, but what you must understand is I am one lazy sonofabitch. I don’t like cooking, I gym on an extremely casual basis, and I don’t play any kind of sport. For the next month, this is all going to change. I’ll be trying to eat 6 meals a day, I’ll be hitting the protein powder and weight loss supplements, and I’ll be gyming at least 4 times a week. Shit is about to get real.’ How many times have we heard similar words from friends? Especially as we approach a new summer. And we all roll our eyes and smile and nod saying ‘yes dear, you go ahead, im sure you will do so well’. But Kyle, as much as he really was a lazy sonofabitch, actually meant business. Day after day after day after day, he stuck to it. No alcohol, no takeout, healthy eating, and a decent workout several times a week, and last Wednesday was his day 30. He stuck to it, and he looks like a new man. So it was his testimony along with that visual of that creature I saw outside my sons classroom on Friday that has been instrumental in me deciding to play a little game of self harm, and therefore, today is day 1 of Ness’s month of pain, for Gain. No alcohol, no cheeseburgers, no pasta, a 30 minute run PER DAY, 30-60 mins of strength training every second day.
I want to be living proof that in one month you can change the entire shape and fitness level of your body, because boys and girls, the human body is an extraordinary machine, and responds alarmingly well to a great diet, water and physical exercise. So. Here we are. We are at the part of this story where I do: The body shot. In order to truly measure the success of the next month, I have to remember what I started out with. Therefore, with all the difficulty, self consciousness and cringing in the world, I give you: My before shots…
While I will keep you updated regularly on how my month of pain is tracking, I will not post any more photos until day 30, because I am hoping that the contrast will be significant. So dears, please think of me today as I embark on this physical experiment. Its not going to be easy for me.