A couple of weeks ago I was away at in the Eastern Cape. A much-deserved break from the frenetic pace of Johannesburg and the intense year I have had. But I want to focus on my year in light of my weight- and fat-loss, new exercise regimen, changing mindset around diet and exercise, and some of the learning that I have experienced. If you’ve read any of the other posts I have written over the course of this year then you’ll know I have lost about 30kgs since late 2016, shed dozens of centimetres, and found a new value and focus around health, nutrition and well-being.
And it’s not that this time I was introduced to anything too revolutionary, I simply changed my mind about what it is all about to lose the equivalent of sixty blocks of butter! I didn’t have to learn to cook in a different way, avoid certain foods or entire food groups, kill myself in the gym, or spend all my money on meal replacements, supplements or diet aids. What I did have to do was get some perspective! I needed to find a well-balanced approach to losing the weight and keeping it off. And I have found that way with the help of Alex and “Flexible Dieting”. Basically this means that I count calories with the help of the My Fitness Pal app, make sure I get sufficient protein, fats and yes, even carbs, and have a strength-training programme that supports fat-loss and muscle gain.
I HAVE NOT GONE WITHOUT! What I have learned is that healthy weight-loss takes time. And it’s not about the time the weight takes to disappear, it’s about the time it has taken me to understand my relationship with food, change my thinking around diet and exercise, develop some new skills and habits, and do all this is a way that is self-loving and sustainable. And being enjoy the occasional chocolate brownie, pizza or other delicious treat while I am doing it. It hasn’t been about avoiding anything really…well except maybe for those party packs of Doritos that I would binge on in the height of my lonely, Friday night food addiction days! I have learned how to eat in a way that means nothing is really off the table.
But it wasn’t really about the food, it has been the biggest lesson in self-love. I have always been able to blame my weight on outside forces! Too busy to get to the gym, too tired from work to shop, cook and eat properly, too exhausted to try another diet… And then justify my choices and feelings of failure by insisting that people shouldn’t love people for the way they look! And on and on and on…
The real truth was that I didn’t love myself nearly enough to find time for me. And of course I was way to busy helping others to make the time…a partial “truth”, but an avoidance nonetheless. Because as a coach working primarily in the field of substance abuse treatment and recovery, taking care of myself is essential. But avoid myself I did, making all sorts of excuses about how it just wasn’t the right time. The truth is that losing weight is not just about the food we eat and the exercise we do, it’s also about how much we value ourselves.
In 2016 I spent time working with a wonderful coach, which was definitely the start of the process. We spoke of awareness, intention, values and self-love, and how all these were directed by the critical inner voice that has always been so loud, abrasive and just downright mean in my case. The “you’ll never be good enough” voice that echos from my childhood. And wherever that voice was born, its words have always been laced with loathing, hatred and self-deprecation. As we spoke of personal worth, intrinsic values, core beliefs and how we show up in the world, I started to have a very different feeling about myself and my body.
I was allowing the inner critic to become the outer manifestation. I started to realise that I was somehow punishing myself with my own form, and giving myself reason to dislike my human body. It wasn’t about whether anyone else loved me, it was about whether I loved myself. And I don’t mean in the mean-girl, bitchy way, I mean in the gentle, nurturing way. So, instead of looking at my need to lose weight as aesthetic, I started to see it in a more holistic, health-based way. The fat wasn’t just what was visible, it was also growing around my internal organs, affecting my longevity and putting me at risk of weight-related dangers like diabetes, heart attack and strokes. That was when my focus began to shift…slowly at first, but the momentum built pretty quickly, as did a series of events and choices that have changed the entire path I am on.
I started exploring my core beliefs about myself and my values around living (and dying)! Did any of this have anything to do with will power, time, effort and commitment, or was it simply that I didn’t give enough of a fuck whether I loved a long, healthy life, or dropped dead at the age of 44? After all I didn’t have kids, wasn’t in an overly committed relationship, and was struggling to get professional traction. But something deep inside me must have been awake to future possibilities, and started to speak out in a kind, determined voice that this wasn’t my fate and that it didn’t have to be my story.
I fumbled around for some months with a dietitian who I couldn’t get honest with, and wasn’t really showing me anything new. And then something magical happened… I started to make myself vulnerable to the idea that there was more to this then simply calorie-cutting and a better exercise approach. That it was time to drop the idea that if I was bigger (literally), that people would be intimidated (or revolted) by my weight and size, loud voice and bossy demeanor. That the time had come to get real and courageous in my life, and start letting down my guard. As an Eight on The Enneagram, I am prone to this kind of behaviour when I am unhealthy (emotionally, spiritually and mentally, as well as physically), using overt bossiness to make my presence felt.
What I began to learn, was that the hardest part of losing weight is not what I was eating. Along with the disappearing kilograms, I needed to develop a new idea about who I am. I have seen this with my clients who have a long history of substance abuse, and the fear that comes with having to create a new, healthy identity. I couldn’t hide behind my overweight body anymore, and use it as a shield against the world, which I often find cruel and dispassionate. I had to start showing up differently, and that has been my greatest challenge this year. Learning to love myself more, believe that I am deserving of a healthy body, accept and cherish the love of a man who looks past the physical, and becoming a better form of myself has been an emotional roller coaster.
Of course I am still essentially the same me, though a spiritually, emotionally, socially, mentally and physical version. I have learned not to hide behind my excuses of being undeserving. And I feel proud of the work I am putting into me…whether it is the food that I cook, the training that I do, the sleep that I ensure I get, or the way I am trying to show up as a woman. Of course there are times when I get it all horribly wrong, because as I have become more vulnerable, I have leave myself a lot more exposed to the world.
This means that there are times that I don’t get what I want, but at least I am learning to ask for what I do need. My weight-loss has been about wanting to be part of the world, not because losing weight has made me more acceptable, but because it ensures that I will probably live a longer, healthier, more self-loving life.
I no longer try and hide in the folds of my own body, but step forward a lot more, even though I don’t always get picked for the team. I constantly push myself to show up in a growth mindset, being courageous and vulnerable, even though the chances of getting hurt or rejected (my biggest fear) are so much higher. And there are times that I fall flat on my face, but the way I see it right now in my life, “sometimes I win and sometimes I learn”.
And I have learned a helluva lot about myself this year, some of which have been some difficult lessons. I am grateful and blessed as I move forward to 2018 with a healthier body, a much-improved self-worth, and a knowing that if I value myself and my contribution enough, then I can achieve what I set out to do in the coming year.
As always thank you to Alex Campbell for the part he plays in my ongoing process of learning, growing, accountability and health.