Confessions Of A Late Bloomer. How I found wellness at 40.

As some you get deep into your Christmas indulgence, let me tell you what happened to me this year. In January I wrote here about how traumatized I was after visiting the doctor and coming to terms with the fact that I was overweight.

It’s now the end of the year, a few weeks after my fortieth birthday and I am in the best health of my life. My training story is probably not unusual so I won’t bore you with details but it has it’s own quirky milestones. I joined a gym in February after moving house but only started going in March because, procrastination. I hadn’t been in a gym in so long I didn’t recognize most of the machines they had on the floor. The last time I was in a gym mobile phones had five lines of text and polyphonic ringtones were a thing. I decided to get a trainer before I hurt myself, enter Monika Human.

After my initial assessment we set out a training schedule and I chose to train at 05:00 because I’d be up anyway and I thought it would be a great way to start the day. The first morning was a disaster. I didn’t eat before training and halfway through I didn’t know if I wanted to pass out, throw up or crap my pants. I   ended up on the floor of a toilet cubicle watching my life flash by and waiting for Satan to take me. He didn’t and I made it back to training the next day and weeks after that. My twin goals were to lose weight and live a healthy lifestyle so I can keep up with our daughter as she grows up. If you’re going to work with a personal trainer, find someone who you can relate to. Training is something deeply personal, you want somebody who is going to understand and motivate you when you’re at your most vulnerable. Monika has been that person for me and after four months I started training on my own. I was travelling for much of this year and this is likely the reason I didn’t progress as quickly as I would have liked.

I always knew that being healthy starts with eating healthy but I had been eating whatever I want for so long I didn’t realize the mental shift it would involve to make healthy eating a part of my life again. Monika designed an eating plan for me that I really had trouble following in the beginning with family and travel. The trick at home was to get everyone else eating healthy so I wouldn’t have to make separate meals for myself.  On the road was a different story. On my last trip I spent two months away from home and picked up some weight, don’t ask me how much because I couldn’t bring myself to step on a scale. I knew then something had to change, it was early October, I vowed that by December 31 2015 I would have hit my goal weight and fitness level.

I have experienced tremendous personal growth over the last ten weeks or so both physical and mental. Two weeks ago I surpassed my goal weight and whilst at the time I felt such a sense of accomplishment, it’s gotten better as I continue to lose body fat and get even healthier than I could have dared imagine just a year ago. Another thing I did the last year was interact with other people who are also on a wellness journey, two of them have been great motivators. One ran the Paris Marathon earlier this year and the other is currently training for a half Iron Man next year after having summitted Mount Kilimanjaro a few months ago.

I don’t know how I am going to test myself next year but the priority now is to at least maintain the goals I have achieved. Anything more is a bonus because being healthier at forty than I was in my twenties is a gift to a late-bloomer like me.

When A Mother’s Love Become’s A Son’s Crutch

The past few days have had me thinking a lot about how the way our mothers raised us influences us. More particularly, how it influences our relationships as men, with the women on our lives. The other day I listened to a radio discussion where the talkshow host asked, do women contribute to men thinking it is ok to abuse them? Put better, do women give men a pass sometimes when they are abusive thereby entrenching and giving subtle approval for such behaviour? It was one of the heaviest hours of radio I have listened to in a while and it has stayed with me since. For me the answer is yes, however unintentional, women by not calling men out when they are abusive is tantamount to giving tacit approval for such behaviour. However, this does not mean the woman who does so is to blame nor does it, by any measure, absolve the abuser.

Someone I follow on Twitter said “mothers are often the greatest defenders of their sons when they are accused of abuse”, I agree with this, having witnessed it more times than I can count. There is often a cruel irony here, the same abuser who beats his partner in front of their children loves his mother to death and prays for his daughters to never go through any form of abuse at the hands of another man. That’s a topic for another day, for now I want to talk about our mothers and their seemingly blind love for us men even when we do wrong. Women of my mother’s generation, those born in rural Zimbabwe of the 1940s and 1950s, were taught to be obedient to their husbands, caring to their greater family and nurturing to their children Though these lessons continue today, some see this as entrenching submission in woman and reject certain aspects of these teachings.

Our mothers in some cases suffered and continue to suffer abuse from our fathers and we likely grew up not knowing this was happening because as part of their nurturing role, our mothers shielded us from this. They protected us by taking all the flack so we would not have to. They protected us the best way they knew how, by literally putting their bodies on their line. They forsook careers so that they could be home with us when our fathers went to work. They would be home when our fathers returned, frustrated and angry at the world, ready to explode. We never knew what happened in the bedroom, what discussions were had and when they emerged, what bruises our mothers may have covered up. We never knew the trauma our mothers went through in finding out about our fathers’ infidelities or worse, their other families. Our mothers have such grace under fire that, as a child, you would never know the turmoil and anguish they were dealing with. Even if you did see something you were not supposed to, they still made every effort to shield us from being scarred by it. Bless them.

The cruel irony is that this low intensity warfare produced a generation of men who are in many aspects, exactly like our fathers. Too many of us are physically and verbally abusive, emotionally unavailable, lie, cheat and have other families. At the same time, we adore our mothers and cherish our daughters, ready to bring hellfire down on anyone who harms a hair on their heads or even thinks it. We have become our fathers and this must be such a disappointment to our mothers but they would never say. We perpetuate a culture of abuse on social media then turn around and play son, husband or dad of the year without missing a beat. The good news is, we can break this cycle for good in one generation. We live with the awareness that what we do is wrong but too often choose to take our partners’ silence as tacit approval when we know better. You should not have to wait to be called out when you can apologise, correct course and live your life, it’s called being a man. I just don’t see how it is possible to raise children to not perpetuate the same mistakes we make if they do not see us actively correcting ourselves. We can be the partners and sons our wives or girlfriends and mothers deserve. We can start by having this conversation as men before we turn our daughters into our mothers, the quiet strong, sacrificing woman who only lives for her children and in their defence quietly lives a life less than ideal with an abusive man.

Man Pains. Being A Man’s Man In A Changing World

It happens everyday in varying degrees, from the moment you first interact with other men until you go to bed at night, sometimes, it even persists into your dreamscape. That moment you see another man and quietly think to yourself, “now that’s a man”. The last time it happened to me was two days ago when the Springboks showed up to train at the gym I go to. Mind you, I wasn’t the only guy who got more than a little distracted from their workout. If you say you have never appreciated another man who is better than you in some way, physically, intellectually or economically, you are either in denial or you’re blissfully unaware. The latter is highly unlikely. It’s confession time and today’s topic is man-pains. It’s not quite a man crush nor is it perving because this is not about a particular individual, it is a fleeting appreciation, that glance at the next man that lasts a little longer than it should but ends there. Unlike chest-pains which just hurt like the combined fires of seven hells, man-pains are bittersweet.

As men we are conditioned to not express ourselves in certain ways for fear of being seen as effeminate, physical contact and complimentary language between us are often guarded or tinged with bravado. We constantly maintain that bro space, what goes on in our heads however, is something totally different and only rarely given away. I realised this after spending the better part of this year working out, after an almost eighteen year break. Spend enough time in a gym and you’re going to catch yourself looking appreciatively at the guy with the body you’re working towards and when you do, hoping to high heaven he didn’t notice. The irony is, the men who epitomise our physical fitness goals do this and more on the playing field all the time. we’ve all seen the goal celebrations that involve hugs, kisses and butt-cupping or is that butt-slapping? Whatever, my point is, if we weren’t so guarded around each other it may just do wonders for our self-esteeem, but beyond the occasional all-knowing mutual head nod, we don’t dare cross that line. Why? Because of a questionable sense of masculinity.

That last part requires more qualified minds than my own, that said, I think I’ve lived long enough to be able to throw my two cents in. What could possibly be wrong with being openly appreciative of a guy who is better than you in some way? He might just let you in on his secret and you can be great together, not together, together, but you know what I mean. Sharing is caring so share the love with a well-timed nudge or wink and end a life of self-inflicted man-pains, it’s not like you haven’t been looking already.