With Challenge Comes Change!

CHALLENGE AND CHANGESometimes it feels like the closer I get, the slower and more challenging everything about my fitness & nutrition coaching programme feels.  And I forget how far I have come!  And I have a lot to be grateful for.  I got into my first pair of size 12 jeans in almost ten years this last weekend, my weight is in the healthy range, I am in pretty much the best shape of my adult life, and I am feeling great about the relationship with myself, and starting to really make headway on developing a healthy, nurturing relationship with food.  And when I put it down here it all sounds blissful and easy, but then there’s the more challenging reality of the last 12 months.

I have learned about flexible dieting, and learning to eat in a sustainable way that works for me!  And that has been great, but there have been days when my dinner feels like a science calculation made up of numbers, calories & macros, and I have had to work hard sometimes to enjoy my food.  But although it feels pervasive at the time, it is never permanent,  and I go back to enjoying the incredible food I have been eating…and have still lost 25kgs!

There’s been hunger…deep, emotionally-upsetting hunger, that makes me want to run screaming to the nearest shop and stock up on my trigger foods, particularly party packs of Doritos & tubs of ice cream!  I’ve had to develop new coping techniques and not jump into a food binge!  Because when I go there, I come out the other side remorseful, guilty and ashamed.  And I am learning through honesty, authenticity, openness, humility and courage that I am not the only person in the world who deals with my emotions through the misuse of food.  Working with Alex has helped me to improve that reactionary action, and tap into my healthy responses and resources when faced with stressful life events!  So, the hunger, like the eat-by-numbers, doesn’t stick around forever, but is just a passing feeling that needs to be confronted and understood, rather than trying to hide from it (in a BIIIIIG bag of spicy snacks).

So even in the fear and frustration, there has been immense learning.  Lessons that will stick with me long after the hunger and the irritation have faded.  I am learning to love and understand my body and appreciate what it can accomplish.  That’s never more satisfying then after an amazing workout at the gym.  Where I am focused, and feel strong and motivated.  When the sets simply peel off one after the other with seemingly little effort, and I am proud of the changing shape I see in the mirrors (which I have actually learned not to hide from).  And then there are those days when I want to stick  my finer in my coach’s eye and tell him that it’s too difficult, and I am too weak and that he doesn’t understand what it’s like to be me.

But those days too pass, and are neither pervasive or permanent, and the feedback I am getting from Alex is not personal.  One of  my biggest challenges through all of this has been learning to listen to feedback, rather than seeing it as criticism and becoming defensive.  It’s become evident that this has not only been something I needed to work on in the gym and as with other elements of my journey of the last 12 months’ have taught me so many things about myself and how I show up in my life.

I have had to really dig deep, adapt the way I see and feel about myself,  the way I perceive my life and my mindset, thought patterns, my emotions and environment.  I am able to look in a mirror and admire the consistency, practice and effort I have put in.   And the challenges I have faced have taught me an enormous amount about myself and how I see the world.  And with a coach like Alex in my corner, I have pushed forward rather than simply giving up when things got difficult.

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I’m a loser baby! And I love it!

I started my journey with Alex Campbell Transformation at the beginning of 2017…and it’s not over yet.  But I did want to take a moment to just share my experience, learning & results.

As mentioned in a previous post, I was 101 kilograms in August 2016, desperate for change, and just not getting what I looking for through unsustainable eating plans, expensive crash diets, disheartening & very expensive cleanses, ineffective exercise programmes and just feeling beaten and incapable.

Everything changed when I started working with Alex and to date my biggest learnings have been:

  1. There is no such thing as good or bad food – foods simply vary in the amount of nutrients and calories they contain.
  2. I do NOT need to restrict certain foods or food groups – I can eat the food I love, in a healthy, sustainable way.
  3. I am not a failure or a loser because I couldn’t lose weight – I needed an eating plan that I could stick to which takes my preferences, goals and choices into account.
  4. My body is not my enemy – I am learning to love, understand & care for my body rather than punish it!
  5. Exercise must not be punishment – I work out with a set of fitness goals to achieve results that make me feel amazing!
  6. Lifting weights won’t make me look like a man – I am starting to love the body that I see in the mirror as it changes, tones and builds muscle.
  7. I could not do it alone – working with a coach and an accountability partner has been what was missing all along!

And as I have learned I have also been consistently moving in the direction I want to be moving in…  Okay there have been some very frustrating plateaus and the feeling that I am stuck, but then I look at my charts and see that all in all over the last nine months I have made steady, consistent progress!

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Aug2017-1

I have lost over 18 kilos since I started in January (I am currently 76.9 kilos), as well as 73cms (hips, waist & thigh), and I am getting stronger, leaner & healthier.  Of course there are challenges, bad days, periods of self-doubt and feeling overwhelmed, but I am undoing entrenched behaviours and attitudes towards nutrition and fitness that have been in place most of my adult life…  I am learning new behaviours and habits that are supportive of total health & wellness, not simply changes reflected on the scale or tape  measure.

12 months_Fotor.jpgI am stronger, more confident and far more self-assured than I  have been in many years, and I know that for the first time I have found an approach that works for me!  I am learning to believe in  myself again, and have changed my core beliefs about food, exercise and self-worth in a way that will support me in the long-run, rather than simply losing the weight (which I inevitably find again!).

And I could not have done it without Alex and his amazing style of coaching & training.  A coach that values each and every client, and does not use a one-size-fits-all approach, but tailors programmes to fit individual needs, wants, goals and preferences.  Thank you Alex…I am truly grateful.

 

What makes you vulnerable makes you beautiful…

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There’s been a really great response to the pictures and posts around my previous post What Happens Outside the Comfort Zone?  The support has been immense and I really do appreciate it.  At the same time, I’ve been thinking about my core beliefs about myself with regards to my weight challenges over the years.

It still makes me feel sad when I think about the different types of responses I have received in my life, simply based on how I look!  After all, I’ve always been me no matter what the scale says and what size my jeans are.  I was never in denial about my weight and how unhealthy it was, but I have spent most of the past 20-something years looking for weight-loss solutions or actually being on diet.  No matter how I look, I’ve always been aware of my unhealthy relationship with food.  As a person in long-term recovery, I am well aware of what addiction’s all about.  And it’s not simply about overindulging, having no willpower, being unaware of my habits and blissfully ignoring the consequences of addictive behaviour patterns

It’s about the inability to stop eating once the binge has started.  It’s about a lack of control.  It’s about using food as a reward or an escape.  It’s about blame and justification.  It’s about the guilt and shame that results from a binge.  It’s about negative core beliefs and the unhealthy thoughts, words, actions and behaviours that are a result of these thoughts and ideas, and the pattern goes on.  It’s not about lacking self control, it’s about having a distorted view of self.

Coaching has been the missing piece in my nutrition and fitness puzzle.  Because weight-loss needs to be supported by a programme or process that works on changing thoughts and ideas, building self-esteem and -efficacy, about understanding nutrition and creating strong, sustaiable habits.  It’s not simply about shedding the kilos, it’s about reinventing the way I think about those kilograms and centimetres, and myself.  In the coaching process I have learned to see myself as worthy of fitness, health and wellness.  It’s about believing I deserve to be in shape, because it’s self-loving.

And I have fully accepted this time that it’s also about HARD WORK!  There is no miracle pill, no perfect diet, no revolutionary eating plan.  It’s about consistency, patience, routine and practice.  It’s really no different to my recovery from substance abuse.  It doesn’t happen overnight just because I am ready for it.  It’s about learning tools and skills, habits and behaviours that are supportive of health and well-being.  And saying that comes with a big dollop of humility, because as a coach I know this…I just needed someone else to coach me and work as an accountability partner in this journey.

I’m practising, I’m being consistent, I’m showing up and doing the work.  Not talking about doing, but actually doing.  And instead of giving up when there are setbacks such as a little weight gain, plateaus and days of hunger, I have relied on myself and reached out to my coach.  And There are days that are extremely trying (the ones when I want to jump into a party-pack of Doritos) and those when I feel like this is the simplest thing imaginable.

And I am learning to love myself a little more every day.  Not just because of the way my body is starting to look, but also because I am being honest, courageous, open and patient.  I have begun to feel as though I deserve to look and feel great, be healthy and fit, and live authentically and congruently in my personal power.  And for that I am extremely grateful.

Have a look at Brene Brown’s Video “The Power of Vulnerability” which has become one of my go-to TED TALKS.

What Happens Outside the Comfort Zone?

Leigh-Anne B&A_FotorI’m proud of my weight-loss and how much my body is changing, but at the same time there are a couple of things that I’m going through which are a bit trickier! Like posting these pictures on the internet!!

Seriously, I am experiencing frustration with my training and feeling weak and fatigued in the gym.  It felt like it was all going really well, that I was getting stronger and suddenly my body seems to be fighting me every time I go to the gym.

On certain days, I have chosen the treadmill and an uphill walk (my very worst type of exercise) over the strength training, but Alex assures me that this is all completely normal and that I need to learn to listen to my body and give it what it needs.  Whether that is rest, recovery or even more food!

I’ve been in a calorie deficit for most of the last six months and recently started to feel the diet fatigue setting in.  In the past even though I am not where I want to be, I would have thrown in the towel and called it a day.  This time, Alex has put me on a month of maintenance.  I get to eat more and it’s been pretty liberating to realise just because I am feeling a little overwhelmed, doesn’t mean I have to go in completely the opposite direction, give up and feel like a failure.  So, I have a little more caloric wiggle room, and those extra 500 calories are like a gift from the food gods.

During the last half year, I have felt liberated with the flexible dieting approach to weight-loss and never really felt deprived of too much.  I’ve had most of what I enjoy eating, even though in smaller, controlled quantities, and I’m learning that I don’t need to eat a party-sized bag of Doritos to get my little fix and that biltong and ice cream don’t need to be bought and eaten in bulk to be enjoyed.  I’ve started to be less terrified of food and what it does to me, understanding that weight changes are not always about fat gain.  And I feel absolutely no guilt, shame or fear when I eat my weekly pizza, topped with fresh ingredients (including meat & cheese).  One of the major benefits of having a nutrition and fitness coach is that I have a far better relationship with food and a much better attitude towards exercise.  And this all results in growing self-confidence, body awareness and love, and feeling leaner and stronger.

Along with this maintenance period my body is going to have a chance to feel a little less of the strain of long-term dieting.  Some people would say that being able to eat the occasional chocolate, ice cream or sweets is cheating, but when it’s included into my daily calories it just means that I simply replace some voluminous, nutrient-dense foods on that day to allow for the more calorie-dense foods.  I still eat the same amount of carefully planned and tracked calories, but I get to have a treat on some days (rather than a cheat!).  for the most part I do eat mostly nutrient-dense, whole foods that give me enough energy and fulfilment to get through my hectic working day, as well as allowing me to work out four to five times a week.

I’ve wanted to change my body and my relationship between myself and food for so long, that the discomfort I feel sometimes is actually worth it, even though it doesn’t really feel like it at the time.  I mean, I didn’t get to be thirty kilograms overweight in a year, so if it takes me 18 months to be healthy and strong, it seems like a very small price to pay.  I haven’t been kind to my body, and learning to love myself and the way I look, take care of myself and practice self-love, -care and -compassion are new to me.  I guess just because I am paying my body all this attention suddenly doesn’t mean it’s not going to feel sore, weak and hungry at times.  Practicing patience, acceptance and humility are what’s needed to get me through this uncomfortable period while I nourish myself and my muscles, joints and bones.  I aim to enjoy the rest of my maintenance month and give my body the chance to just rest a little, not lose any weight and give it a little more positive care and attention.

I have lived in an uncomfortable comfort zone for many years and need to remember that “Outside the comfort zone is where the magic happens”.

By: Leigh-Anne Brierley

Learning to Colour Outside the (Dieting) Lines…

It’s been a while since my last blog post in April, but life gets pretty hectic at times, and I became spread a little thin and all over the place.  But even these challenging times have a lesson or two in them and I have taken some time out from work to consolidate, refocus and move forward in some of the more important areas of my life.  And my health and wellness has become an extremely important value to me over the last six months.

That doesn’t mean, however, that it’s all been easy sailing.  There have been some stormy waters to navigate both personally and professionally, and this makes living in a calorie deficit, still adapting to strength training and trying to develop strong, life-changing habits around nutrition and fitness, really trying and frustrating on some days.

Since my last post, I have continued to work with Alex on flexible dieting and strength training, and I have made more progress…I’m almost 21 kilograms down (fifteen of them since starting with Alex in January) and have lost 73 centimetres (in my waist, thigh and hips).  Alex keeps assuring me that the results are what he’s looking for even though I would like things to be happening a bit quicker!  I guess that’s the kind of unhealthy pressure I tend to put on myself.

And this is something I am also focusing on at the moment, my mindset, which I am trying to change from outcomes- to process-driven.  So this week, following Alex’s advice, I have decided to take a diet break for seven days (my daily calories will increase from 1,600 to 2,000) and I have agreed NOT to weigh myself the entire week.  I am also trying to understand and action the idea of moderating my gym workouts…not trying to always push myself to my personal limits…  And that’s a tricky one. My black- and white-thinking (which I am constantly trying to break) makes it difficult to dance in the grey areas of sometimes it’s okay to not be able to give it 110%.

And these are my new lessons as I head to the six-month mark.  When I look at the progress photos which visually remind me that I am moving forward, I see a HUGE CHANGE from where I started at 101kgs in September last year.  I need to be more self-loving, kinder and gentler with myself, because this is not the end and there is a way to go to get to where I want to be.  I need to stay focused, but be prepared to consider the ideas of moderation and long-term outcomes a little more, while truly embodying the learning, knowledge and principles that I have been introduced to over the past 180 days.

This week’s plan is to take a deep breath, give myself the love and credit I deserve, and let myself explore and experiment a little more with uncertainty around my thoughts, ideas and behaviours that are being (emotionally) pushed at the moment. I am going to see it as adventure into unknown territory, without a scale, but a lot of trust and openness to how this might be good for me in the long-run.  After all, maybe it is time for me to colour outside the “dieting” lines a bit more…

Written by: Leigh-Anne Brierley

Tips & Suggestions from a Novice Flexible Dieter

HB - FaceBook Post-page0001As I move towards my weight-loss and fitness goals there have been some tricky times, trying to figure out what #FlexibleDieting is all about, how to master using the My Fitness Pal app for calorie- and macro-tracking and just how to keep myself on track…  There are days when 1,600 calories seems like an effortless accomplishment and others when it just isn’t as enthralling to be living in a calorie deficit.  So as I have progressed I have been putting together a list of tips and suggestions that can possibly help other novice Flexible Dieters and make things just a little easier as you become familiar with the approach and things that have made my process far more manageable.

These are not expert tips or advice, simply a few learnings I have developed for myself…

Tips & suggestions from a novice Flexible Dieting…using My Fitness Pal

  • Track and eat, rather than eat and track!
  • Give some thought to your meals for the week, so that you can plan and shop…don’t leave things to chance so that you end up without ingredients to cook or prepare meals.
  • Plan and track your meals for the following day each evening so that you can take lunch to work, and you know what is on the menu for dinner when you get home (and that you have what you need).
    • Keep your essentials in stock such as marinated chicken breasts, lean mince, fruit and veg, protein/whey powder, eggs, popcorn, bread & pita bread (in the freezer), etc.
    • Don’t put temptation in your path…try and keep uncooked, high-calorie foods out your kitchen. If you are planning to include a little chocolate or some other treat in your day plan for it and only buy what you are going to eat.
    • If you are going to have a high-calorie dinner (such as an Andiccio’s pizza) plan for it, as you will probably need to restrict your calories during the day (depending on your calorie target).
  • There are NO SUCH THING as good or bad foods, only nutrient-dense or calorie-dense foods.
    • Nutrient-dense foods will keep you full for longer, so save calorie-dense food for later in the day!
    • Carbs are not bad! Sugar is not evil!  Dairy is not fattening! But always in moderation and within your calorie- and macro-targets.
    • Include some of your favourite foods (in moderation if calorie-dense) everyday…There is NO NEED to deprive yourself which is NOT sustainable over the long-term
    • Focus on mostly nutrient-dense foods and leave a little space for calorie-dense foods on certain days as a treat (e.g a kit kat J)
  • Be flexible with yourself and avoid becoming too rigid within your tracking [calories first, protein next, then be flexible within carbs and fats to make up the balance] and you’ll feel satisfied and healthy at the end of the day!
  • Track accurately:
    • Use a digital kitchen scale for weighing food
    • Use green-tick foods on MFP
    • Use DCSN or USDA entries where possible on MFP
    • Use grams/ounces rather than cups for measurements
    • SCAN foods using MFP app for increased accuracy
    • Most big restaurant franchises (e.g. Spur, Andiccios, Nandos, Starbucks, etc.) have nutrient information on their websites which can be entered into MFP.
    • Save your favourite meals or dishes on MFP for ease of use (e.g. homemade lean mince hamburgers, creamed feta spinach, chicken & salad pita, etc.)
  • Eat your first meal later in the morning [if not training first], and then spread food out during the day. Try and keep some calories for a banana before bed [it helps with hunger and sleep!]
  • Allow calories for a snack, protein shake, or pre-workout drink if you are planning to train after work and before dinner so that you have energy for your workout.
  • Eat protein in the morning [e.g. boiled eggs] rather than carbs as it’ll keep you satiated for longer.
  • Plan and prepare for diet breaks (with your coach) which are incredibly helpful in keeping motivation high, stress low, results on track and enjoyment going…
  • Eat and prepare 90% of your meals at home, and plan for meals that are away from home (or have a non-tracking day which you can discuss with your coach).
  • Develop a growth mindset around nutrition and fitness:
    • A slip is not failure but an opportunity to learn and move forward!
    • Dieting does not need to be black and white.
    • There are NOT good or bad foods, only nutrient- or calorie-dense and nothing is “forbidden”- moderation is the secret!
    • Learn from those that are successful – ask experts, speak to your coach, follow professionals & join groups on FaceBook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.

The more I use these little practices, the more habitual they become and the less thought and effort goes towards making decisions, and staying motivated and focused on my eating-plan and weight-loss goals.  The benefits of not restricting myself, allowing myself some wiggle wrong and being gentler on myself as I go through the process have been so different and more sustainable than ALL THE OTHER diets I have ever been on!  And as I mentioned in my first post, Nothing Changes if Nothing Changes, there have been a lot of those.

And of course the more weight-loss and muscle-gain I achieve the more my self-confidence improves and the more committed I become to my desired outcomes.  Though to be honest, the ideas I had have changed somewhat over the last few months.  I have learned to accept what I can and can’t achieve, given my body type, age, genetics, etc. but having a coach has been the one thing that stands out as being the biggest difference this time around.  Although, being able to eat the occasional pizza, Kit Kat and post-workout chocolate muffin cannot be ignored!

Written by Leigh-Anne Brierley

Flexible What!?

When Alex introduced me to the idea of flexible dieting late last year I was completely bemused.  How could I possibly continue to eat what I loved, still lose weight & fat, and gain muscle…  I thought he was trying to BS me into another fad, detox, cleanse, miracle diet that could not possibly be science- or evidence-based.  But since I had nothing to lose (except 28 kilos) I agreed to work with him and all I can say is WOW!

Since early January 2017 I have been following a flexible dieting plan and the results have been amazing.  After struggling to lose about 5kgs in the last three months of 2016 under the advice of a dietician, I was despondent and ready to give up as I mentioned in a previous post, “Nothing Changes if Nothing Changes”.  Alex has coached and guided me as I’ve learned to track calories and nutrients, developed meals and menus comprised of food that I enjoy, and has really helped me work through my black-and-white, good-food-bad-food mind-set.  It’s been challenging at times, but having an accountability partnership has been a huge part of the ongoing success.

I’ve begun to understand that nutrition and dieting doesn’t need to be a restrictive, punitive attack on myself, but it can be a lesson in self-love and body-awareness.  For me it’s also been a developing a healthy set of practices and habits around food and how I buy, plan, cook and eat it.  I have started to see how important my mental and emotional relationship and attitude to food is, and how I need to develop and maintain a healthy attitude in this regard.

Being very rigid in my approach to dieting over the years has not worked well for me…deprivation, resentment and unhappiness during my dieting phases means that I have inevitably failed to lose the weight and been left feeling like a failure, with no willpower and even less self-esteem.  To then spend months or even years back in the denial of “If people really loved me my weight wouldn’t matter!”  The crux of the matter was that I was battling to love myself, beating myself up for my inability to stick to diets that had seen thousands and thousands of people (apparently) get thin and stay thin!

Flexible dieting has allowed me to experience the other side of the dieting coin…  The one where although there are certain limitations and restrictions (mainly around my chosen calorie tracking), I have been eating fulfilling, enjoyable meals, rather than spending the last few months picking through mounds of endless salads and chicken stir-fry.  Rather than dreading what I won’t be able to eat at the next meal, I have started to reconnect with my body and the food I choose to put into it, rather than seeing food as good or bad.  If I eat nutrient-dense food I get to eat more during the day and feel fuller for longer.  But if I choose to eat a Kit Kat as a snack or a Pizza as a meal, then I simply have to account for that and be a little stricter with my intake for the remainder of the day.  And like any eating or diet plan there are days when I feel hungrier than others, even a little frustrated or disillusioned, but then I have my coach, and my charts to have a look at which have gone a long way to making me feel focused and motivated.

Weight - 29 AprilOver the past 110 days, I have lost 11 kilograms, gained muscle and strength, and lost 62 centimetres in my waist, hips and thighs.  My clothes are at replacement stage and I feel confident and comfortable in my own skin.  Not because I have fully achieved my weight-loss and fitness goals, but because I have taken back control in this ever-daunting area of my life.

Average Weight - 29 April

And as you can see from the data we have captured and tracked, it hasn’t always been a smooth, linear achievement.  There have been some plateaus and even a week here and there where there was a bit of a weight gain.  But I have learned to be friends with my scale (most of the time) and understand that weight fluctuates with my moods, my stress, my cycle, water retention and a host of other things, and that just because the scale is slightly up for a week here or there is not the end of the world.

Measurements - 29 AprilAnd that if I remind myself from a growth mind-set point of view, that a small setback is not a failure, but rather an opportunity to reflect and learn, then the habits and the attitudes I am developing become even stronger and more embodied.

The restrictions I am willingly following at the moment around my daily 1,600 calories are interspersed with 2,000 calorie maintenance days to give my body and mind a little respite.

I am steadfast in the (newly acquired) knowledge and understanding that this is going to be a way of eating that will be easy to sustain and maintain once I have reached my envisioned weight range.  Then, depending on where I am physically, emotionally and mentally around nutrition and fitness, I will re-evaluate how I look and feel, and adapt from there.  Maybe I’ll want to be a little stronger or a little leaner, but with what I am learning through this process, I know that it doesn’t all have to be decided today and my goals and aspirations can also be a less rigid, and like my diet plan, a whole lot more flexible.

Written by: Leigh-Anne Brierley

Flexible Dieting | It’s Not Just Black or White!?

So it’s been three months of really focusing on my nutrition and fitness, and I am definitely seeing and feeling the results as I mentioned in my previous post.  And then suddenly at the end of month two it all became a little overwhelming.  I didn’t actually notice what was happening, but Alex did!  He’d been commenting on my stress levels and the work pressure I was under, along with the training intensity and the calorie deficit.  And I resisted!!

He’d prepared me from the beginning that there would be diet and training breaks at times, to allow my body and mind to rest and recover.  I pushed back, not understanding that it is important to give my system a chance to “take a deep breath” and just refuel a little.  And because he explained it to me and supported me through the process, I was able to come to terms with the idea that I would be eating more calories for a few  weeks and spending a little less time in the gym.  It was difficult for me to grasp as I saw it as “falling off the diet wagon”, rather than taking a hiatus before starting the process again.  For someone who has always followed rather rigid, regimented diet plans, I have had to be very gentle with myself over these past 21 days when I got on the scale every morning.  It felt like I was cheating on my diet, even though Flexible Dieting does allow a little room for certain foods that some might consider dieting and nutrition no-no’s!  Dieting and food has always been so black-and-white for me!  No wiggle room to enjoy the process and actually learn a little along the way!

But the diet break has taught me that even though I was not eating as few calories as I have over the previous months, it was still extremely important that I was intentional and aware of what I was eating.  I have continued to plan, log and track my meals (which has become an effortless daily habit on My Fitness Pal).  I have got up every morning and weighed myself, and the scale has actually been kind to me over the last three weeks.  A 100 grams here and there, but nothing as drastic or terrifying as I had imagined over the first two weeks, and even some weight loss over the third week of the break.  The numbers did not shoot up with the extra calories, and the break has done exactly what Alex said it would…  Lowered my stress levels and allowed me to better cope with my personal and professional challenges, given my body a bit of recovery time and shown me that the increases in nutrient-rich food was not going to take me back to square one, as long as I was consistent within the break period.

So on Monday I went be going back to my 1,500 calories a day and I am once again feeling focused and motivated to reduce my weight and body fat.  I’m more than likely going to miss the extra calorie allowances, but I’ve been informed that there will be another break within three to six weeks, which is something to look forward to while I continue working towards my goals, develop healthy eating and training habits.  And this makes the journey I am on feel far more sustainable then previous programmes where I was simply given a goal weight and told to keep going until I got there…I rarely did!

mindsetThe flexible approach is giving me space to anchor my new behaviours, habits, thoughts and ideas around nutrition and exercise and to challenge some of the old, destructive ones I have developed over the years.  I  have a compassionate, self-loving and exciting relationship that is growing and developing around myself, and how I engage with food and exercise.  It’s been revolutionary for me, and I don’t feel trapped within the cycle of the ever-restrictive, always distressing, no-end-in-sight diet plans I have chosen before.  And because of this I am in no tearing hurry to get to some quantitative weight loss figure, but rather enjoying the experience and the process, as I feel myself shifting to a growth mindset in this area of my life, where I have always been so fixed in my ideas, beliefs, thoughts and behaviours.

By Leigh-Anne Brierley

Nothing Changes if Nothing Changes

change1Since the age of 14 I  have been subjecting myself to a series of diet plans, eating regimes and weight-loss interventions.  These include Weigh-Less, Atkins, Low-Fat, Low-Carb, medically-assisted programmes, Slender Wonder, Herbalife, Dieticians’ programmes and all sorts of combinations thereof.  And yes I’ve lost weight and inevitably gained it back (with a little extra for prosperity) to the tune of probably 100kgs, until the point of desperate hopelessness where I was ready to push through to a size 20 and be done with it…  The prescriptive nature of the programmes and a real lack of understanding about how the process actually works has been a constant stumbling block for me.

My unhealthy relationship with food over the years, periods of binge eating and complete starvation have led to awful guilt and shame around my eating habits, body image and self-esteem.   I felt defeat and self-loathing every time I was unable to stick to the plan, beating myself up emotionally and mentally at my inability to be able to “get it right”.  And inevitably this would lead to me seeking comfort in the fridge or the chip bag!  And then the cycle would repeat itself.  A “slip” would more often than not lead to a full-blown “relapse” and the weight-gain journey would begin once again.

For anyone who has not battled with food issues and weight challenges, this might be difficult to comprehend.  It’s got nothing to do with willpower, eating less and exercising more.  There have been diets when I was eating 650 calories a day and staying committed to the process until it became completely unsustainable due to emotional, physical and mental fatigue, lack of financial resources (eating that little costs a lot of money for supplements and appetite control) and feeling miserable about not being able to eat.  For me it has been about not understanding what I am doing, not being given the right kind of support and feeling like the dieticians, doctors, programme leaders and experts are not really that invested in me achieving the required outcomes.

So after years of failed attempts and a plummeting self-belief that I was ever going to be able to have a half-decent chance, I started working with Alex, of Alex Campbell Transformation.  He introduced me to the concept of flexible dieting and habits-based nutrition.  And even though it is about calorie-counting, using the My Fitness Pal App makes that easier than paging through my most recent diet-plan manual and trying to figure out what I am “allowed” to eat.  Instead of feeling deprived and constricted, I get to eat delicious food within the calorie limits, while ensuring that I get enough of the right nutrients.  There’s even room for the occasional, guilt-free chocolate, pizza or homemade burger and chips.  And I am only eating 1,500 calories a day!

Over the past two months I have lost over 6kgs,  but even better than that is that I have lost more than 50cm around my waist, hips and thigh.  I have been spending time at the gym, but rather than slogging it out on the treadmill for hours, I am doing short strength-training sessions and am noticing enormous changes in my body.  Not only that, I am feeling an incredible sense of wellness and in the way I showing up in my life on a daily basis.  Normally when I am on a “diet” I am grouchy, miserable and feel very deprived; the focus of my day on the things that I can’t eat and dreading another boring, tasteless meal.  So I am feeling grounded and motivated, and the nutrition coaching and support I am receiving is making me extremely accountable and in control of my programme (and progress).  Although when I am unsure I have the support of a coach to keep me on track and dispel my fears around whether I am doing it “right”.

There’s space for conversations about food, mood, stress, sleep and exercise.  I am not simply being TOLD what to do, which has given me the chance to own this programme and allow my ideas, experiences, and challenges to be part of the process.  Alex is always available to offer input and support, as well as introducing me to great education and information sources, as well as blogs and FaceBook pages that are in-line with what the programme approach entails.

After more than two months of eating a fairly low amount of calories, attending the gym regularly and getting back into the kitchen (which I am loving), I feel more motivated than ever to push towards my health and wellness goals, that are not simply physical, but also mental, emotional, spiritual and social. This approach feels sustainable and individualised, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach which has never been sustainable for me in the past.  I feel hope and positivity where just a few months ago there was one of defeat and futility.  And for this I am extremely grateful and thankful to Alex Campbell Transformation for the knowledge, expertise, support and no-BS approach.

I will continue to write about my personal health, wellness and body transformation as the weeks and months unfold.  I know there are no magic potions and quick fixes, but with support and accountability it feels like I am on the right path to exactly where I want to be.

Leigh-Anne Brierley