Welcome to my first blog in a Health and Wellbeing series which looks at what ‘feeling good’ means to all of us.
Back in January I wrote a blog all about my personal journey but rather than go on about my experiences, I’m keen to share other people’s stories. I want to gather together the experiences of different people with varied interests in the hope that we can inspire or provoke better discussions about physical and mental wellbeing – for everyone.
My first interview is with Tayla Hunter. Tayla is a Crossfit champ and has recently placed first in her first Bikini Body Building competitions. Tayla and I worked together a long time ago at British Home Stores and I have been in awe watching her health and fitness journey unfold on social media. You can check it out on her Instagram: @Taylahunter_.
Tayla’s level of commitment to her own self-care is pretty inspiring so I was eager to find out more about how she achieves this in a world that’s centred around junk food and junk thoughts. When you look at a photo of Tayla today – it’s hard to imagine that this person was ever ‘just like me’: someone who was intimidated by the gym, unable to focus, and dealing with disordered eating. But like all of us, Tayla’s journey starts right at the beginning:
When I turned seventeen, I joined the gym. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I was too scared to touch any weights as I felt really intimidated in the gym and had absolutely no confidence in myself so I stopped going.
So how did Tayla go from having no self-confidence to competing in Crossfit and bodybuilding competitions?
After giving up on the gym the first time around, Tayla continued to struggle with her body image and unhealthy patterns of eating. It was only when she went to study in America and gained weight that she decided she’d had enough:
I felt really low about myself and totally shut myself off from the world.
Tayla made the decision to put herself first and started teaching herself about training and nutrition. It started off simple: googling ‘leg day’ or ‘shoulder day’ to discover more about weight lifting. Fast forward a few years, Tayla was training hard and eating well.
But how do you sustain something like that? I know from personal experience that motivation is easier when you’ve got a big goal to work towards but quite quickly consistency and dedication can turn into bad habits and laziness. After losing the weight, Tayla felt like she plateaued and was bored of training on her own so in 2017 she joined Crossfit BIA 2.0 in Kilmarnock and fell in love.
Coach Scott Dickson pushed me out my comfort zones, got me lifting heavy weights and pushed me to be the fittest, fastest and strongest possible version of myself.
Within a year of starting Crossfit, she entered the Rainhill Trials competition in Manchester with no expectations other than taking part:
I worked my butt off training six times a week (sometimes twice a day). I was super nervous on the day of the competition as I was up against some females who had been training for years.
However, Tayla defeated her own expectations and placed first on the day.
From an outside perspective, one of the key questions I had about Tayla’s journey was how she stays motivated. It’s so easy nowadays to get distracted with a bombardment of emails, scrolling through social media or trying to keep on top of housework. It’s difficult to make your health a priority. Tayla’s advice is fantastic and something that I think anyone can incorporate into their routine, including a sloth like me.
I write myself a power list every day of 5 things I want to achieve by the end of it and since I’ve started that, I’ve became so much more productive.
I love lists and think the idea of a ‘power list’ is inspirational. It made me ask myself ‘what would empower me today?’ This might be fitness goals like achieving a personal best on a particular weights machine at the gym or mastering a new pose at a yoga practice. But a ‘power list’ could include anything that makes you feel good. Eating a nutritious meal? Taking five minutes to meditate? Calling a friend to catch up?
At the end of the day, fitness should be about self-care and self-love. Something Tayla herself has struggled with. Like many young women, she has dealt with “disordered eating patterns and body dysmorphic behaviour” from a young age. Wellbeing is ongoing and ever-changing, I don’t think anyone gets it right all of the time but Tayla says education is her number one tool for combatting self-doubt and negative habits.
I began to further educate myself thoroughly on nutrition and exercise. Listened to podcasts, read books, opened my mind and started to believe, that with the right tools, I could make a positive change in my life. I’m now clued up on foods, exercise and fitness. And I’m now in a much healthier and happier place. What’s best of all – I am not controlled by food anymore and I don’t exercise purely out of ‘guilt’. It’s been a long process for me, but with consistency came change.
That’s a beautiful thought: eating to satiate your body, not being controlled by cravings or fad diets, and exercising because it feels good not because you want to burn off the pizza you ate last night.
So what’s next?
Tayla refuses to get complacent and since our interview she placed first in the Nabba Scotland Bikini Figure 2019 and PCA Scotland Bikini Trained 2019. In the future she would like to start her own personal coaching business.
“I’m so passionate about health, wellbeing and fitness and I know that I can help others in their own journey to a place of healthy body and healthy mind. I’m not at the point in my life right now where I feel I am able to provide the best service due to my own training commitments, but when the time is right, I’ll be ready to give back to those who have supported me throughout my own journey.”
Well, I for one, have been inspired by Tayla’s journey. I don’t think I’ll ever be a Crossfit champion or entering bikini competitions but Tayla’s story proves that if you educate yourself and you work hard enough, you can achieve anything. I’m excited to see what challenges she takes on next!
Tayla’s top tips
- With consistency comes results
- Changes don’t happen overnight – you need to be patient with your body.
- Log your training sessions – what did you do that day? How many sets and reps did you do? Did you lift heavier than last time? Did you run a little faster than last time? If so… your improving!!
Don’t over complicate things
- Baby steps – even if it is just tracking your steps on your phone at first. You don’t need to join a gym straight away.
- Find something you enjoy doing whether that’s a Zumba class, a spin class, a running club, Crossfit, swimming etc
‘Diet’s’ don’t work.
- You need a change in lifestyle in order to make sustainable progress.
- These fad diets set you up for failure straight away from the beginning.
- Follow a lifestyle that you can be consistent with – It’s all about balance – eat nutritious foods, train hard too but also have that chocolate bar if you want it and don’t feel guilty about it. Life is for living.
- Stay away from the magazine ’14 day bikini body’, diets and the devil herbal drinks and fat loss shakes – they do not work – they are a temporary solution that will not allow sustainable progress!