Time to make some changes.

 

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Change. We all go through it whether we are ready or not. It’s programmed within us to adapt, to allow for change and to react. It can be scary, it can also be enlightening and liberating, or it can be in the form of a huge hurdle that seems almost impossible to overcome.

I have been a little quiet the past few months dealing with my own changes and most importantly, learning how to change myself to be happier and more appreciative of myself. I inadvertently stopped blogging, posting on social media and even stopped looking at myself in the mirror. I felt disgusting in my own skin, and for someone who has gone through so much health wise and changes with their body – this was the final straw for me.

After my last BB competition in July last year where I didn’t look my best because of stress catching up to me at the very last minute, making my body do some crazy things and holding a crazy amount of water and fat – I blew out. Now for those who don’t know what I mean by ‘blew out’, I ate anything and everything in sight as soon as I stepped off the stage. I still went to the gym and hit some impressive numbers with my lifts (probably the only bonus of this horrible time for me) but I was hurting so much inside and felt absolutely useless and like a disgrace. I had dieted for 20 weeks and then just threw it all away and gained so much weight I no longer recognized myself. I hated what I saw in the mirror. I hated myself for what I had become.

I was downright depressed. I had Chronic Fatigue settling in, my glandular fever was making a comeback and my Ostomy was flaring up with horrible irrigation as a result. My health both mentally and physically was appalling. I had spent just over 2 years repairing my digestive system and regaining my menstrual cycle after not having it for 6 years since falling ill, and I felt like I was the biggest failure as a result of my epic food binging.

I had every intention to compete at the Arnold Classic in March but it just was not my time, and was not for me. I could not put my body through any more drastic dieting or excessive cardio. I realise now that my heart wasn’t in it either and I wanted to compete for all the wrong reasons – Bodybuilding for me is all or nothing, and if your mind isn’t in a good place then competing is off the table. This is also why I have zero plans to compete again in the near future. I simply do not have that fire or passion that I had for my first competition prep, and until that fire ignites within me again I will not be putting myself through another arduous process.

Fast forward to today, where I have completed changed my nutrition and training habits, and have taken responsibility for it as I now look after myself. I now follow IIFYM (If it fits your macros/flexible dieting) and track everything I eat and it has been the best thing I have done for myself in a long time. I don’t eat excessive amounts of junk food, but rather I eat more volume in my food and variety. I have the choice without feeling guilt to eat a burger and chips as long as it fits. I went from a standard ‘high repetition’ training program back to lifting heavy and working my strength back up – I am now lifting for me again. I have changed from doing all the things that didn’t really make me happy, to doing things that make me excited to wake up in the morning and to go to the gym and to no longer avoid coffee dates with friends or steering clear from a blueberry bagel. I have changed the way I see myself and the way I see food and it really is a beautiful thing. (If anybody wants help with IIFYM or training let me know – preacher over here!)

I changed my job as well in the past 2 months. I had a job that allowed me to travel and work in countries like China, Thailand and Malaysia but the hours and demanding workload meant that I had no time for my partner, friends and family or most importantly myself. I now work for the University I studied at and I am so happy there in my new role. I had to change my work mentality and understand that I will no longer see my ‘work family’ every day who I had grown very fond of over the past 3 years, and realised that it was now time for me to grow professionally in a male dominated field with most people being double my age.

In the past few years I have experienced a lot of change. Some of it good, some of it bad and some of it… I still don’t know how to feel about. I had to change my attachment to people because it became all too clear that some people no longer served me and I valued our friendship more than they did. Yes it sucked. It really did. I changed the way I saw myself and what I thought I deserved. I changed my circle and those I held dear and close. What once was large, is now small and refined – somedays I get a little upset that I no longer have a large circle but other days I am more than content with those I have around me.

In order to change, we must identify what surrounds us and what is no longer doing us justice or making us happy. Happiness and wellbeing are so damn important and I cannot stress enough the importance of being happy and healthy on the inside before you see the changes on the outside – not just the physical, but what you emit.

I’ll do my best to write more – sorry I have been MIA. Changes were happening 😉

IG: @_kaitb E: kaitland.burrows@live.com

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Celebrating a decade of living

Ten years ago today, marks the day I first contracted Salmonella food poisoning. It’s also the day that I learnt to appreciate the power of my own strength, and became well aware of the faults in the medical system and the faults in people around me. Little did I know that eating out at a fast-food company that begins with the letter S and ends in Y (Fill in the blanks!) would completely change my outlook on life and change my health for what some would consider the worse – but I see it as the best thing that could’ve happened to me.

I was coming into this day not knowing how to feel; I was a basket case of emotions. Happy and proud one minute but sad and angry the next. My partner told me to take it all in and to just appreciate today for what it is – pretty good advice. Reflecting on everything that has happened over the past ten years has made me realise that I am all the better for what was thrown at me. I now wake up everyday with purpose and live a life where the options are limitless. I take nothing for granted and appreciate even the smallest of gestures and the little things that often go unnoticed. I am a better, stronger, more determined young-woman and I do not hold any animosity for the cards I was dealt with.

I may never be able to go camping, eat popcorn or go sky-diving but if there’s one thing I know for sure, it is that my zest for life is more prominent than most and I will never say no to an opportunity.

So, I leave you all with the ten lessons I have learnt over this past decade. I hope you can learn and take something from them.

One: Always trust your gut (Pun intended!)

Two: Put yourself first at all times

Three: The relationship you have with yourself is the most important one you will ever have. Be kind and love yourself.

Four: Make time for those who make time for you – you are not a one-way street.

Five: Go for your goals no matter how ridiculous they may seem to others.

Six: You are capable of a lot more than you think.

Seven: Let people in.

Eight: It’s okay to be vulnerable (every once in a while)

Nine: Surround yourself with people you can gain something from.

Ten: Never back down.

 

Metamorphosis. 

  

Looking back on these photos, it’s hard to believe that I am that same girl. 
I would struggle to walk up a flight of stairs without having my legs give way beneath me. I would ingest enough laxatives for forty people daily and even sometimes that wasn’t enough. I would be high as a kite on Valium, even at school and they were probably my best days. I was weak, strung out on medication and I had no idea if I would wake up the next day. I was unable to eat anything high in fiber, and that included any green vegetables and most fruits. My diet consisted of whatever I could tolerate that day without making me sick. Starchy carbs, biscuits, chocolate, soup or some days I would have nothing but flat lemonade. 
Today, I am healthier and stronger than most people. I live, eat and train like an athlete. Every session is treated like its my last, and every day I feel the need to appreciate it that little more. 
I eat a diet rich in absolutely everything. I’m now able to eat every type of green vegetable known to man without my body doubling over in pain. I owe this all to Maria. 
I refuse to waste time on the mundane and those who offer me nothing in return, for I know all to well life can be short and it can’t be wasted. 
I honestly can’t imagine my life without my Ostomy. If anything it gave me a life that has been nothing but rewarding and an absolute roller coaster with more highs than lows. Would I have joined a gym and started competing in IFBB bikini shows? Would I have the confidence I have now and walk with purpose? Would I have pushed myself in University and landed a career that I am in right now? 
Who knows?! But if there’s one thing I’m sure about, it’s that I wouldn’t trade my life in for anything. My Ostomy has given me a life that is nothing short of amazing. It gives me reason, hope and most importantly more time on this earth to spend with all those I love and hold dearly. 

Block out – Part I

The human mind is an amazing machine. It has the ability to switch on, and switch off at any given moment; whether you’re unfortunately third-wheeling and being part of a boring, mundane conversation or you are trying to suppress a memory or a thought… or better yet, the pain you feel when you’re on your last set of a heavy lift.

Pain. It’s a pesky four-letter word that each and everyone one of us will feel in our lifetime – some more than others. It can be physical, emotional and also psychological; and at times they all co-exist and feed off one another, creating a mass of energy that can be unbearable and unmanageable for some. It can drive you over the edge (literally), it can influence your decisions and take over your life. It can also be fatal, tragic and downright debilitating.

This is a topic I never talk to anyone about; my own pain and my ability to completely eradicate any memory or feeling of it with a single switch-off. I have lived with chronic pain, day-in and day-out for almost ten years, since I first fell ill with Salmonella. In the early days, for the first two years, prior to diagnosis I would compare it to a constant stabbing pain. Picture having your intestines clenched with an iron fist and not letting go; and if it did, it would only grasp again with more force and power behind it. Doubled-over in pain, with your spine being completely rounded daily and unable to stand upright without having tears well up in your eyes. I have felt the absolute anguish of my body deteriorating and giving up on me; however, mentally I was able to continue to carry myself and continue to push on.

I was a chronic user of Valium/Diazepam, which is part of the ‘opiate family’ of painkillers likened to heroin. I took it every day for possibly a year and a half even when I was attending school – I don’t think I could’ve made it through the day without it. I was high as a kite most days, or very quiet and subdued. I would go from giggling uncontrollably at myself tripping up the stairs during school mass, to being the most placid and calm person in the back of the room not saying a word – my emotions, needless to say where all over the place. However, I never felt any pain. My mind was clear and I was able to make it through the day without having dark thoughts or wanting to gouge my stomach out.

I felt free. Alive. Human.

I guess I formed an addiction, or a reliance rather on them. I became dependant. The very thought of not popping a pill every day would cause me anxiety. It was the only thing keeping me mentally sane. Looking back, I know it wasn’t the best thing for me; but at the same time I think it is a large part of why I am here today. It helped strengthen my mind, learn to block-out pain as I became used to the ‘clouded’ airy-fairy feeling. The day I stopped taking them was not by choice. It was the day I had my permanent Chait Caecostomy surgery.

A lady from the Drug & Alcoholic Association visited me as I woke up from surgery and had asked for a valium. After violently throwing up waking up from surgery, sheets absolutely saturated in blood and feeling like my whole right side was on fire I just wanted to block out the pain like I always have. She gave me a counselling session as I was trying to wake up, all groggy and trying to absorb what had just happened to my body. She took the valium away from me and said I will never be needing this again. She probably saved me from a permanent addiction – but I did hate her for a good solid fortnight before I got over it!

When I had my surgery and was told I would no longer have my miracle drug, I decided to go cold-turkey. I had no painkillers whatsoever post-surgery; not even an aspirin. I told myself that then and there would be the time that I turn my life around. I gave myself a good, hard talking to and from then on I became the master of suppressing emotions and pain.There would be no more hurt, both physically and emotionally. I would no longer rely on medication to heal myself. I would do it on my own through sheer willpower, and a mind over matter approach.

When you feel like it’s all too much, like you can no longer continue to push on through whatever you’re going through I want you to remember that you are a lot more capable than what you think you are. The mind is there to be utilised to your advantage. It can be moulded, shaped and used as a tool to block-out demons and all that do you harm.

More on this soon…

When You Step off Stage and the Tan Eventually Fades

It seems like every day we are constantly told that we are simply not good enough. We have people on one side telling us we are too skinny, others telling us we are on the larger side and then there are the haters who think that if you’re a female with some muscle mass that you’re going to evolve into Wolverine overnight.

I have been labelled everything mentioned above. It’s as though others think they have the given right to be callous and share their nasty opinions when it’s unwarranted and completely unnecessary.

When you undergo a body transformation of whatever kind it may be – losing weight to fit into that cute bikini for summer, gaining some weight to feel better from the inside out or losing fat and gaining lean muscle mass – it’s not only your body that goes through some significant changes, it’s also your mind. Without the mental capacity to push yourself through some gruelling workouts when on a low-carbohydrate diet, with your body tight from yesterdays workout you are ultimately setting yourself up for failure and disappointment. This then progresses to the mental games that your mind likes to play. You may make excuses for missing a training session, miss a meal or think you deserve a deliciously greasy burger because you have earnt it; when in fact these will all set you back and will then progress to feeling guilty and a vicious cycle then occurs.

During comp-prep I am on the money. I train with vigour, deep intensity and with purpose. I know that in 15 weeks I am stepping on stage in a tiny, red bedazzled bikini in front of a crowd of strangers being judged purely on my appearance and aesthetics. My diet is spot on and I stick to it religiously. Each meal is weighed right down to the gram and I carry my five meals with me everywhere I go, and will eat wherever I am – even whilst driving or at a concert. It’s a disciplined sport and I am a goal-orientated person. If I set myself a task I will complete it to the best of my ability, even if it means juggling a lot of commitments at once the job will always get done.

Like most competitors, I do suffer from post-comp blues as they call it. It’s a time where you come off a complete ‘high’ from having competed and looking your best and feeling like a million bucks, to then coming back down to reality and feeling at a loss. What do I do now? What do I have to work towards now? What most people do not understand is that you cannot remain stage-lean all year round – Unless you are my coach Maria Andriano who has a phenomenal physique that she maintains year-round and is incredibly disciplined, more so than anyone else I know.

I have never had a real issue with binge/emotional eating until July this year, or if I did it certainly amplified tenfold. This is me being completely honest and frank. No smoke and mirrors here, I am being very black and white with no grey in between. My first comp was the standard ‘rookie’ error thinking I could eat what I wanted and still train and keep my body in check – boy was I wrong. My binge eating spiralled out of control before I got a good handle of it and dropped some weight for my overseas holiday at the end of last year. I used the extra food I had been shovelling down my throat to fuel some really good lifts and pack on the much needed muscle mass I have now so it did have its pros and cons.

My comp in July of this year was possibly the most difficult prep for me. Training, diet and motivation are easy for me. I am an incredibly motivated person as I mentioned before, but life threw me some serious curve-balls this time around and it played some serious mental games with me after competition. I began emotional eating. I was in a car accident two weeks before comp and being under 25 years of age I was slapped with hefty insurance excess leaving me in debt. I was having difficulty in my private life and it was showing on my body with what I was eating, which leaves me where I am today back on the ‘muscular thick’ side like I was post-comp last year.

I am not proud of overeating, but I am also not ashamed or embarrassed by it. What’s done is done. I cannot go back in time and un-eat all the food I have consumed, but what I can do is work towards healing my mind and my body and this is what I am doing right now and I feel that I am accomplishing this ongoing task. Once again, I am going away in 9 weeks at the end of the year where I plan on donning a bikini on the beach and looking mighty fine whilst doing so. I have set myself a goal and I am going to stick to it. I will treat it like a comp-prep and use it as a means to drop some weight before I do choose to compete again next year which will make it less taxing on my body with having to drop a smaller amount of fat through intense diet and training rather than a large amount like I did last prep.

I will be accomplishing this mini-goal I have set myself with my coach Maria Andriano tweaking my diet and training programs to suit my needs and help me reach my goals in a holistic and natural way. She knows what foods work best for me with my trusty bowel which chooses to be erratic with its tolerances and intolerances with food, so I have full confidence and faith that we can drop the much needed weight to get me to where I want and need to be before I start prep again. My training will be done at a place that should be called my ‘second home’ but let’s face it, I spend more time there than I do at my actual home – City Gym, Darlinghurst! There’s nothing better than walking through the doors at 5am and being greeted with a smile from the team of staff who don’t even ask for my membership card, I just walk on in like I’m part of the furniture. As always, City Gym will be my domain for making the changes to my physique that I have set myself.

To anybody else stuck in a rut with their body image, I urge you to set some goals. Short term goals are great in the lead up to your final goal which may be just fitting into a cocktail dress or looking your best for a photoshoot. If you’re anything like me, setting goals will help you tremendously and when you ‘accomplish’ a goal you have set for yourself, it definitely will urge you to keep on pushing and continue onto the next one.

Don’t give up. Put your trainers back on and hold your head high regardless of what others are saying. There is no need to hang your head in shame for over-indulging, all it will do is make you feel worse about yourself and even more of a recluse, and this is when the mental games will begin again and again. Over and over.

Walk with purpose. Move with intensity. Look intently. Speak with confidence. The rest will all follow suit, and fall into place.

Remember, it’s not a sprint.

Shape Magazine Article!

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I was contacted a few months ago by the editor of Shape magazine Australia, Alison Turner for an interview as she saw a post on Facebook that City Gym (the gym I go to) posted about me and my journey thus far.

Never in a million years did I think that I would be contacted for an interview, let a lone have a full back page photo and article dedicated to me! Wow! I can’t even put into words the feeling I got when I purchased the magazine and flicked through the pages and saw little old me. I was beaming with pride!

Please go out and buy it if you want to have a read, or for my international followers if you would like a copy let me know!

Here’s hoping for a cover next time 😉

My Ostomy Story

#WOD

I honestly cannot remember what it was like to live without an Ostomy. I guess you could say I wasn’t really living; my life beforehand was not memorable by any means. Today, well… I’m making a difference.

In honour of World Ostomy Day I have been asked to share my story with you all. If you have read my blog in it’s entirety thus far you would know how I fell ill in the first place and have an insight into my story with my ‘Chronicles’ which is part of an ongoing series (more to come, my journey pre and post surgery get’s a lot worse!). So I figured, I’ll do this a little different and share what having an Ostomy means to me, and my emotions and feelings surrounding it.

I wake up everyday with a fire in my belly. I want to live. I want to succeed. I refuse to lead a life that is nothing less than extraordinary, one that does not inspire or motivate others to do the same with their every day life. I cannot sit still and let ‘life pass me by’ as cliché as it sounds, and this will never be me. When you are told to say goodbye to your family and friends, because you have a mysterious illness that nobody knows how to treat and your body is deteriorating; eating itself to sustain and function when there’s not much left of you – you have two options; fight or flight. I chose to fight.

I fight every day a battle that is ongoing, but one that I am absolutely succeeding in. I face my demons on the daily, whether it be the voices in my head telling me that ‘it’s okay to rest and sleep’ when in actual fact, I’m afraid to sleep. I do not like thinking that I could go to sleep and miss out on hours, minutes or even seconds of leading a life that I have been blessed a second chance with. I survive on minimal sleep for that reason and I still have a spring in my step, a smile on my face and a heart full of warmth to share with anybody who comes in my presence.

The thought of sleeping-in when I could be awake, not even doing anything makes me agitated. I need to be alert, up and awake otherwise my anxiety sets in and my mind plays games on me. I have spent too much time bedbound and in the confines of a sterile room that reeks of disinfectant and has no warmth, both metaphorically and literally speaking. Staying in bed for me means I am regressing, it means that I am stagnant and immobile. I will not ever be like that again.

I have nightmares sometimes of getting really sick again, and honestly I sometimes have nightmares of me getting Cancer for reasons unknown to me. I think this is all because of my thirst and hunger to live. I feel like I have so much to offer, gain and give to others that I am terrified of falling ill again. Physically, I am confident I can push through if something were to hit me again, but mentally is another story.

Not every day is a good day. I exude positivity and strength, but we all have our bad days that fortunately for me are very few and far between. Some days I want to rip my Chait Tube out if I have had a very bad irrigation leaving me full of water and in pain. There are times where I may have a leak and have faecal water running down my leg, and that absolutely kills me when I’m out in public wearing white (Don’t know what provokes anybody to wear white!) or just in general. But then there are times when I can’t help but smile and think ‘oh well!’ – so what if I have spent 4 hours on the toilet and I’m still not empty, at least I’m alive. Who cares if I have ruined yet another dress or if I need to rush to the nearest washroom to clean myself up – at least I can walk around and enjoy time with my loved ones.

I used to worry about finding a partner, somebody to appreciate and accept me at face value, for all that I am and all I am worth. To not look at me in a different light, and see my Ostomy as a fault or something they wish I never had. I’ve had past relationships where my Ostomy was made out to be a burden. There would be comments about me having to irrigate when they wanted to go out and do something at a certain time, or they would make comments about my clothing and my decision to not change what I like to wear because of something that keeps me alive. Looking back I realize it was my insecurity and inability to find a decent man to be by my side that lead me to these thoughts and feelings. Today this is not the case at all. I am happy, so very damn happy.

Going through life-changing surgery means you will lose some people in your life, and grow closer to others. I keep my circle very close, and my girls who are in it today do not treat me any different and I love them all the more for it – you girls know who you are. Changing my lifestyle and becoming a bodybuilder was by far the best decision I have ever made in my life. If I only ever make one good decision in my lifetime, I’d be glad for it to be this change. I used to hate my body. I hated the way it looked and felt. My dream was to have abs – just like most of the population, however mine was to prove to myself that I could still have a sexy stomach even with my Ostomy. My coach gave me the tools, support and love to accomplish this goal and she has stood by my side through a lot of ups-and-downs. I have also gained a fantastic group of strong, empowering friends who support me the whole way with all my goals. I am truly grateful.

I choose to live a life worth knowing. One that I can share with people and not be telling a mundane, boring and lifeless story that just about anybody, and everybody knows. I choose to live, to survive; to be the best person I can be and to help others who are in need of guidance and support, whatever it may be for whatever reason. My Ostomy gave me my life. I was reborn on July 2nd and I am all the better for it; it was my destiny to have eaten the nasty food that made me sick in the first place and I have accepted this.

If there is one thing I ask that you take from this post, I ask that you continue my legacy even if it is just telling one person what an Ostomy is, whether it be by sharing my post/blog on Social Media, or verbally. That would truly make my day.

Happy World Ostomy Day.