Some Days I’d Rather Gargle Scorpions!

So I have been on my transformation journey for about 18 months, most of them spent working with Alex and there are some things that I have learned along the way.  I’ve started to master some of the basic concepts of sustainable weight- and fat-loss and strength training, and seen some nice changes in my body.  I have done things in the gym that I would never have imagined doing, like squats and dead lifts, and all sorts of hip thrust variations.  I’ve had good days, great days, bad days and positively crap days when it comes to my eating and training, and I have kept going forward.

I am sitting at home this morning nursing a slightly bruised body after falling down a small flight of stairs on Friday morning.  More like tumbling down them in a heap and smashing my phone in the process.  Ego and knees slightly bruised, body feeling sore and tender, and of course there were plenty of people around to witness it.  I never act out my clumsy in quiet streets or hallways, always saving this sort of thing for an concerned audience.  But that’s not what this post is about.  This post is about what it has really taken to get me to where I am in my process and how I deal with the little setbacks.

I really did have that feeling of wanting to be in the gym this weekend.  It’s when I get to have a training partner and share the time with someone which helps to motivate me and keep me accountable.  It’s that weekly dose of fitness connection that keeps me going through the week, focusing on the advice and information I have gained from working out with someone who is a lot more experienced and knowledgeable than I am.  It’s tricky for me to keep my motivation up when it comes to getting to the gym on a regular basis…even after more than a year I am still just going through the motions on certain days to get to the point where I am handing over my access card to the receptionist.  Wake up…drink coffee…check emails…put on gym clothes…make and pack lunch…remove self from house…get into car…drive to gym…hand over access card. Phew, I made it!!

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And then once in the space, I start to feel a trickle of motivation which builds as I move through my programme.   ACTION…MOTIVATION…INSPIRATION.  I keep thinking that maybe one day I’ll wake up and not be able to contain my excitement at the thought of going to the gym to do my workout.  But those days only strike occasionally.  The thing is that once I get to the gym then I am normally happy to be there, excited about my workout and willing to push myself to get the best out of the time I possibly can.  It’s just about getting there!  Okay, there is that occasional day when my energy is low and my body feels weak that I’d rather be chewing glass and gargling scorpions than attempting a set of RDLs, but those don’t happen to often, and are normally about stress and lack of sleep. I just find it so confounding that I still can’t simply get up, no mess, no fuss, and take myself to the gym.

ACTION…MOTIVATION…INSPIRATION. So instead of beating myself up about this resistance I have, I am trying to understand what it’s about.  The truth is that I am really happy with the way my body is starting to look.  I thought I wouldn’t like having a more muscly, toned body, but I do.  I like the feeling of being stronger and I definitely like being leaner.  So what is it about?  Maybe it’s just so many years of bad habits and fixed mindset that I just need to keep doing what I do?  Or perhaps it’s about reprogramming the way that I have felt about diet and exercise for thirty years!?  That instead of it being something loving and nourishing for my body, mind and spirit, I have seen it as punishment for overeating and being lazy.  A way of reprimanding myself for what I had done wrong when it came to food and exercise.

Eaten too much?  That’s 60 minutes on the treadmill!  Missed a workout?  That’s an extra 10 lengths of the pool!  Low energy workout on Saturday?  Double reps on Sunday!

I suppose I can hardly blame my brain for being a little adverse to the idea of going to the gym on a regular basis.  There are just not enough positive neural pathways associated with being there.  And then of course there are all those crazy autobiographical memories, associations and perceptions around food and how I used to punish myself mentally, emotionally and physically when I did something wrong!

Even as I write this post I am getting a better understanding on how many layers and years of negative behaviour, memory, habits, perceptions and associations I still have to cut through.  Of course I am constantly laying new neural pathways that are grounded in positive, self-loving actions, but I guess that it might take a little longer than just a year to get me to where I am bouncing out of bed in the semi-light of dawn to skip off to the gym.  What I am asking myself right now is how I can make it more of a fun experience so that there is more reward associated with the action?  Maybe it’s time for a couple of new workout tops so that I feel a little sexier when I get to the gym, rather than the raggedy old, far-too-big, tops I am wearing at the moment.  I am tracking my movement on a daily basis and that’s something that makes me feel accomplished and motivated, but there needs to be more positive associations.

So, maybe something as simple as a couple of new shirts and a decent workout bra will make me feel a little more inclined to take the actions that I take in the morning to get me there!?  The truth be told, I feel a little shopping coming on…and I’ll see how that makes me feel when I am getting ready to go and lift heavy stuff in the mornings.  I’ll let you know how it goes!  ACTION…MOTIVATION…INSPIRATION! 

 

The Greatest [Weight-Loss] Love of All…

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.

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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.

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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.

There is no magic, weight-loss bullet…no matter what people say!

If I think back to just over a year ago, I can hardly comprehend the changes that have taken place round my health and wellness.  How my nutrition and fitness values have morphed and grown.  And how much  more of a priority I am making myself and my needs.  I haven’t become selfish and arrogant, in fact I think it’s the opposite.  As I have learned to eat better, exercise better and treat myself better, I have been humbled by just how much commitment and dedication is given by the people who are healthy and in shape.  It’s a process of honest hard work and action (not luck!).  It’s about consistency and structure (not chance!).  It’s about wanting it more than we want to make excuses about how we’re different.

Early on in my coaching with Alex he introduced me to the idea of a “special snowflake”…that belief that my challenges are so different and unique to everyone else’s when it comes to weight- and fat-loss.  That no matter how much work is required, the reason that I have been unsuccessful is because I am a special case.  My genes, hormones, bone structure, metabolism, bad knees and injured shoulder limit me being able to achieve my nutrition and fitness goals!  I need a team to diagnose and treat, advise and recommend, point me in the right direction and kick my butt when I stray.  I was HORRIFIED by the concept…that was NOT ME!

And then as I started to move through the coaching process, I quickly started to realise that’s exactly what I was.  I was so buried in my fixed mindset about nutrition and fitness, that I was making all those excuses and more.  What it basically boiled down to at the end of the day was that I had a million excuses as to what I wasn’t able to achieve and maintain my goals, and very few as to what I needed to do and be in order to get what I wanted.

I envied other women who were “genetically blessed”, rolled my eyes at those who tirelessly committed to their training and eating plans as being “obsessed”, and judged people who chose to eat well as missing out on “life’s simple pleasures”.  Because they could’t possibly understand or relate to how it was to be me with my busy life that just didn’t allow any time for the gym or healthy planning, shopping or eating, never mind a little self-love and recovery.  So much blame, justification and validation of my poor eating and exercise behaviours.  And always the harsh, critical voice in the mix telling me that I was lazy, useless and undeserving…when it wasn’t making excuses.

What I have learned over the last months is that there is NO MAGIC BULLET to weight loss, fitness and health.  No one is that extraordinarily blessed that they simply walk past a gym and get into shape.  That they can eat whatever they like and be toned, sexy and healthy.  And that it is so much easier for them than me.  So I have learned to have some real humility in this journey and take some proper personal responsibility and accountability around it all.

The toughest lessons have not been the nutrition/food lessons (I have learned loads about that over the years of dieting, cleansing, detoxing, starving, fasting, restricting foods and living in misery).  The toughest lessons have been around my fixed mindset, lack of self-love, not listening to my body, under-valuing my body and my health, and denying that I do have certain limitations (though not nearly as many as I had led  myself to believe).  I also  learned that when something is important enough I will make the time to ensure that it gets prioritised, and that I can’t think anything to completion – I have to actually do something about it.

Stocking the fridge with healthy food is not going to get me in shape…planning and cooking is what is needed.  I cannot calculate how many times in the past I filled the fridge with healthy, nutritious food only to watch it rot and get tossed out.  Scheduling gym into my diary is not the same as actually showing up at the gym.  Writing goals and actions into my weekly planner, is not enough without the steps and the actions to actually achieve them.  Buying the books, subscribing to the emails and courses, and visiting the dietitian or doctor, is not the same as doing the work.

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I had myself fooled for so long that I was different and that’s why I wasn’t able to succeed in my health goals.  I was not prepared to admit that is was not because I was not doing the work.  And over the last months that has meant going to a place where I haven’t ever really wanted to go…  Getting honest with myself about what food and being overweight were for me.  An escape from personal, emotional and spiritual pain.  If I stayed fat and unhealthy I could hide behind that mask.  If I did the work it would be painful and raw, and mean that I had to look at what the food, detachment, the lack of self-love and the need for self-deprecation were all about…

And believe me it’s been bloody and messy and emotional and scary…

But inside me I have discovered a woman who is vulnerable and yet so strong.  A woman who doesn’t need to be afraid of the world and the rejection and judgement it may (or may not) dish out.  Using my body as a way to protect me from hurt is not as empowering as using my words and my authentic voice.  Now I don’t have an excuse to hide behind myself…now I really need to show up.  I don’t get to blame people for not loving me because of how I look, I need to accept that it’s about what’s I put into the world that makes me lovable or unlovable.  I feel like I have stepped out of my armour for the very first time with the intention of leaving it behind me to rust.

In the past I kept it oiled and shiny, just in case I needed to slip back into it…and I went back time and again, believing that people just didn’t get me.  I think that the truth is sometimes I just don’t get people.  But hiding behind myself no longer serves me in any way, and I deserve to feel accomplished and proud of myself, my worth, my achievements and body.  It’s okay to want to be fit and strong, and there is no shame in being confident and self-assured when I walk into a room.  Not because I am “genetically” blessed, but because I  have worked really hard to get through  my limitations and challenges, and discover that I am worthy of love and acceptance.

I really couldn’t have done it alone, and Alex has been instrumental in his wisdom and support.  But at the end of the day it has been me who’s moved myself into a growth mindset, explored my fears and insecurities, and me who has give myself permission to be fulfilled and at peace in my own life, in a body that I am learning to love more and more as I learn to accept and love myself.

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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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