Fitness Inspiration Interviews & Stories Wellness

Interview | Rhian Lindley From Sugar Coated ME

There are so many inspirational people out there with stories to tell, and Chasing Zest wants to give them a voice. At least once a week, we will interview somebody who embodies the Chasing Zest spirit; someone who steps out of their comfort zone, motivates others, and who demonstrates the importance of mental as well as physical strength.

This week’s dose of inspiration comes in the form of Rhian Lindley. You may have read about Rhian in the local press here in the UAE recently. Once you’ve heard her story, it’s easy to see why her journey is being followed by so many people. A mother of three children, Rhian has literally pulled herself back from the brink after struggling for so long with weight gain and its associated chronic health issues, including Depression, all of which saw her slip into a vicious cycle.

We first heard about Rhian via our nutrition and wellness expert, Heidi Jones. When Heidi told us how Rhian had successfully reversed her Type 2 Diabetes and was continuing to improve her mental and physical health whilst rediscovering the outdoors, we knew that she was exactly the kind of person whose story we wanted to tell. Read on to find out how Rhian discovered the path to health and happiness.

Beating Diabetes And Embracing An Active Lifestyle In Dubai

beating diabetes and embracing an outdoor lifestyle in dubai

Have you always lived an active, outdoor lifestyle?

No, quite the opposite. All of my hobbies, such as playing the piano, reading and writing, involved hours indoors, always seated. As an adult, I had a sedentary office job and activity was something that I did because I had to – to burn calories!

I started working with Heidi Jones in September 2016. I was morbidly obese, physically unfit, suffering from depression, battling an underactive thyroid and had just had a Diabetes diagnosis. Heidi was the catalyst for my change in lifestyle.  As I worked with her on my health and overall well-being, I realised how much being surrounded by nature nourished me and made me feel happy. Not only was it getting me moving but I got a real sense of calm from being outside surrounded by the elements.  I started walking on the beach during the early mornings. These were very short walks of about 2000 steps – at a weight of 110kg, I had to start small. This developed into a real love for being outside. I got back on my bike and began cycling again. Being outside really invigorated me and made me realise what I had been missing.

beating diabetes and embracing an outdoor lifestyle in dubai

What motivated you to become active and when/where was your first event? 

The need to improve my health motivated me. I had become unrecognisable to myself, both physically and mentally. I knew I had to make a change.  There was no specific sport’ that I focused on. It was really all about moving. 

My first real event was a 5km run in April 2017.  I know 5K isn’t far but for someone who once struggled to walk 2000 steps and had never run before, it was huge for me.  It was also a real example of my mental strength and desire to change. I tried every excuse in the book to talk myself out of doing it. Crossing that finish line with a respectable time of 37 minutes was very emotional for me and a real turning point where I started to believe that I could actually do this – I could achieve my goals.

What is it about exercise and adventure that appeals to you? 

The open air. The time alone to think. The ability to totally lose myself in the rhythm. And the challenge of the unknown. The fear of trying to do something that I have never done and the mental and physical struggle to get there. It’s no longer about burning calories!

beating diabetes and embracing an outdoor lifestyle in dubai

What do you consider to be your proudest achievement or moment? 

Reversing my Type 2 Diabetes diagnosis.

How does it feel to have overcome obstacles and your own fears? 

I feel unshakeable. I feel strong and incredibly proud of myself. And I have a desire, a real thirst for life… that had disappeared. I no longer feel bored. I feel excited and invigorated to keep going and always strive for more. Always try something harder.

beating diabetes and embracing an outdoor lifestyle in dubai

Mental strength can be equally as important as physical strength. How do you cope when things get tough? 

I have developed a few success rituals over the last year. I always glean at least half an hour of silence every morning before my family wakes up to meditate and journal. I focus on my goals and reflect daily on what is going well and what I can do to improve. I set myself small goals on the journey to the end goal and plan rewards along the way. I also practice positive affirmations – I find I need to challenge that “self-doubt” inside me… my “why bother” monster.. and give myself a good talking to frequently.

beating diabetes and embracing an outdoor lifestyle in dubai

I always used to struggle to justify time for myself on the basis that my family need me and if I needed to spend any money on myself…well I would just see that as a waste. This stems from childhood, where traumatic events led me to believe that ‘I just wasn’t good enough’,  and I am a firm believer that we become what we believe.  I work every day on changing my beliefs, and slowly I am starting to feel worthy of everything and allowing myself to be happy. One of my favourite affirmations is “you are enough”. As a perfectionist I was never enough for myself – no matter what I did – a fixed mindset held me back from doing so many things.  Not anymore.

What are your biggest challenges when training, and what do you find the most difficult about maintaining an active lifestyle? 

I suffer from extreme fatigue and I really struggle to keep this under control. It is related to a chronic medical condition I have suffered with since I was 18 years old – Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (which of course is linked to depression and a variety of other ailments, and totally slows down the body’s metabolism).  And even though I take medication to manage it and I have changed my nutrition to ensure I get all of the correct nutrients, some days it is too much. Quite often I have to take a nap in the middle of the day to get me through.

I am finding this very frustrating as my body wants to move more and my mind is active, but the lethargy can be debilitating. I am learning more and more about managing the condition every day and I hope that through a combination of nutrition, well-being, exercise and a leaner body, the fatigue and the need to sleep will subside, giving me more time to do things!

beating diabetes and embracing an outdoor lifestyle in dubai

What are your favourite places to train and generally be outdoors? 

I love the 14km walk down on the beach in Jumeirah and being near the water.

I also enjoy hiking in the Lake District in the UK or in the Brecon Beacons or Snowdonia National Park in Wales. Here, you are totally surrounded by nature and the views are very dramatic – it makes me feel alive.

beating diabetes and embracing an outdoor lifestyle in dubai

How does nutrition play a role in your training and performance? 

It plays a huge part in fueling my body and my mind to have enough energy to train and to feel focused and have clarity for my goals. I eliminated sugar and gluten when reversing Diabetes and I am also a firm believer that gluten plays a part in the depression I have suffered over the years. I have to focus on getting my nutrition right to ensure my metabolism works as efficiently as possible and to ensure clarity of mind and overall well-being. I wish I’d learnt all of this 20 years ago.

Do you think that staying active and being outdoors as much as possible has a positive effect on your well-being?

Absolutely. When I am outdoors I feel calm and at ease with myself. Any worries or anxieties just seem to slip away as I focus on my surroundings and the vastness of nature. Feeling at one with the world is very important to me. It gives me a real sense of belonging and grounds me.

beating diabetes and embracing an outdoor lifestyle in dubai

What would be your advice to our readers who are thinking about a change in lifestyle?

Do it now. No matter how small – it’s a start. And don’t feel intimidated. Everyone started somewhere.

What’s the next challenge that you hope to conquer? 

I want to complete the Dubai 92km cycle ( I entered in 2014 and talked myself out of it) and I would like to complete my first 10km race before the end of the year. Triathlons have always been of interest to me too – but that’s a goal for next year…baby steps.

beating diabetes and embracing an outdoor lifestyle in dubai

Thank you, Rhian! To follow Rhian’s journey, you can find her on Instagram or Facebook. You can also get regular updates via her website.

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