Ten years ago when Sex and the City was the guiding force of all the single ladies, my girlfriends were all reading 'The Rules', yet another self help book teaching women how to bag a husband by being super mean and keeping them keen. Women everywhere were not returning calls for days and acting positively aloof even when a dinner date left them breakdancing in their head.
I tried it and failed - it's just not in my nature to be that cool. I couldn't see the point in playing games. I'd return calls promptly and politely think 'do unto others' and struggle to say no to a date with someone resembling Shrek. I think I heard recently that both authors of this book - whilst very rich - are now divorced.
A year later, whilst disembarking from an overnight flight from Hong Kong, I made a bold move that changed my life forever. Perhaps it was too much 'Sex and the City', perhaps it was the valium I'd taken hours earlier, perhaps it was just because our paths were meant to cross at that very time. Approaching 6am I saw a young man, waiting in baggage reclaim that I knew I just had to talk to. In that moment, I knew that not only was he devilishly handsome, but that he was kind, intelligent and funny. You can tell so much about someone before you even meet. Okay, and he flew Club. Judge a book by its cover, that's me.
I thought of 'The Rules' and defied them anyway. As he collected his bags and walked away, I abandoned my trolley and made a mad dash in 4 inch heals to stop him. "I think you've forgotten something" as I hand him my business card, which now a decade old, is still in his wallet: 'Louise Maynard, Personal Trainer'. The rest reads like a cringe worthy Richard Curtis movie and was privy only to those that attended our wonderful wedding a year later.
Often I think how lucky I am and how my life now is all linked to that split second decision; our three little girls that rock our world, the company we run together, the adventures we continue to have, the home we live in. All of it was born out of one little moment, a whispering impulse that I could so easily have not listened to. Fortune does indeed favor the bold.
Despite my apparent disregard for rules, I am not typically a rule breaker. I enjoy the structure and control that I get from setting and sticking to a set of principles. I seem to have a rule for everything these days - partly a way to cope with motherhood, running a business and having a decent life in between. No biscuits in bed, family breakfast at 7am, food shop on Mondays and Thursday, no booze on school nights. It's just easier that everyone knows what to do and when so that life runs smoothly and I don't have the stress levels of a Greek investor.
It's why I am an advocate for rules in the world of weight loss. Typically loosing weight is the easier part, maintaining the new and improved model is far harder until you set 'The Rules'. It may sound dull but I honestly believe there is nothing more boring than not being able to wear what you want, when you want (except perhaps listening to you talk about that diet that you're always about to start). Life's just better when you feel good abut yourself and you're more likely to have spontaneous frolicks too.
Last week I had lunch with a girlfriend - who whilst I love her, does drone on about her weight and does nothing about it. 'You're so lucky - if I ate that I'd be shopping at Evans and look at you - it's not fair", as I polish off some crème caramel washed down with a glass of Cloudy Bay. Of course what she couldn't see (and she wont get the skinny until she does) is that I've been busting a gut training two hours a day since I gave birth and been eating like a supermodel for the last twelve weeks. Now I'm at my goal, 'The Rules' are that I've the discipline of a Victorian housemistress eighty percent of the time, but when it's 'worth it' I'll tuck in and enjoy it with the rest of them. It's the only way to have your cake and eat it too. It's a complete myth that some people can eat what they like with little consequence- it's just what you chose to see.
"It's so hard for me to lose weight", she bemoaned. "Nothing works" she sighed. I'm not being smug as I really have been there but you have to change your frame of reference. It was hard for me to lose weight too, but you have to suck it up and do it anyway. Just because I made it to the top of the mountain, doesn't mean I didn't get frostbite - I just really, really wanted to reach the summit.
Choose what you do wisely - it needs to get results but not be so tough that you can't turn it into a lifestyle at least 80% of the time. Stop looking for 'The Diet' that works for a month. They all work for a month or so, just some are more effective than others and some don't take a genius to work out that you're less likely to be doing it in ten years. A 'good diet' is one you can stick at and doesn't insist you do anything just weird. If you think it's kind of stupid to starve yourself twice a week and eat what you like for five, it's probably a good idea to listen to it, despite what everyone else is doing. You have to consider when you're being sold a bad idea.
You've got to get 'The Rules': make them wisely and practice them until you they become part of who you are. When you learn the way to balance it, you can really have it all.
Also accept that some rules will change for the better over time. For me, I don't speak to strange men at airports anymore and if my husband suggests a weekend away via email in the office, I don't reply for a few days and act a little aloof.