The Four Fundamental Principles of a Healthy Diet…On a Budget

For a diet to be effective, the following four principles need to be considered:

First and foremost, the diet needs to be tasty and enjoyable enough to be sustainable.  This is where most diets fail over both the short- and long-term.  Note, that I am saying that the diet failed – not the person.

For example, Alice hated her very low-carb, high-fat (no names mentioned) diet because she didn’t like eating so much (fatty) meat and she really missed her carbs.  She loved having fruit and oats in the morning and potatoes with her dinner as well as pizza once a week.  She felt the diet was a success however because she lost 5kgs in the four weeks that she endured the diet, before starting to eat carbs again.

Initially she ate sparingly and so was bitterly disappointed when she regained three kilograms in the first week that she stopped the diet.  Without going into too many details, this is about water fluctuations that occur when carb intake is increased or decreased.

To her horror, four weeks latter she had put on another 3kgs.  She was worse off than when she started a couple of months ago!  She felt like a failure.  Like she had failed to “stick to a good diet”.  The problem is that for Alice, this is not a “good” diet.  In her case, it’s a shit diet and Alice didn’t fail – the diet did.

The research is very clear  (read the article “What Should I Eat for Weight-Loss?”) that there are many dietary approaches that are both healthy and can facilitate weight-loss, and that people who lose weight and keep it off, are those that enjoy their diet enough to actually sustain it.  Otherwise results are short-lived and weight rebound is a bitch.

Therefore, the number one principle of a healthy or good diet is that it respects the individual and their personal taste preferences, tolerances and goals.

Secondly, an energy deficit is required for weight loss, i.e. you eat less energy than you burn.  It’s that simple.  Simple, but difficult.

The media bombards us with conflicting advice all the time.  Carbs are bad, fats are bad, protein is bad, and eggs are worse than smoking…blah blah blah!

Have a look at this article “The 18 Nutrition Myths of 2018” to see what I mean.

The biggest myth ever is that calories don’t count if you don’t eat carbs.  This is BS!  Calories always count.  Why do people often lose weight on low-carb diets?  Well, besides water weight dropping, by restricting carbs people often eat less calories overall.  No magic involved!

Following that, the diet needs to have sufficient food volume to satisfy huger, at least to some degree.  Hunger is the real enemy of any diet.  An example of high food volume is bunch of spinach, which is a lot of food, but it’s low in calories.

Satiety, which means satisfying hunger, is highest when you eat whole, minimally processed foods.  Think fruit, vegetables and meat.  They are filling and keep you full for longer.

Low satiety foods can leave you starving.  And starving can often lead to bingeing.  These are foods like bread, sweets and chocolate, pasta, fruit juice and other liquid calories, and even beer!

The thing to remember is that no foods need to be excluded from your diet.  Everything can be eaten in moderation.  It’s just that attention needs to be paid to hunger levels and how different foods satisfy these levels.  Restricting certain foods or food groups is generally a bad idea!

The fourth and final principle is that a good diet needs to provide you with enough nutrients for energy, health and longevity, and to support muscle mass.  Hopefully this is just common sense.

Besides eating enough micro-nutrients like vitamins and minerals, protein needs to be sufficient to maintain your muscles while dieting.  The idea of this being about losing as much fat as possible without losing much muscle.

In addition to eating enough protein, muscle retention also requires some resistance training whilst dieting.

So, with these four dieting principles in mind, let’s look at some meals.

BREAKFAST

  1. 3 eggs and a slice of high-fibre toast
  2. Protein shake made with water/milk, blended with banana & berries, and a teaspoon of peanut butter

LUNCH

  1. Grilled Chicken Salad with greens, tomato, onion, peppers, cucumber and limited amounts of healthy fats such as olive oil, avocado and medium-fat Feta.
  • Skinless, deboned chicken breasts are best, but on a budget you can buy chicken breasts on the bone or use a whole chicken.
  • Remember to remove the skin before cooking.
  1. Lentil and Chickpea Salad with tomato, onion, peppers, cucumber and limited amounts of healthy fats such as olive oil, avocado and medium-fat Feta.
  • Use a low-fat vinaigrette salad dressing, or some olive oil, lemon juice and fresh herbs to dress the salad.

DINNER

  1. Homemade (Extra) Lean Mince Burgers and Oven-Baked Chips
  • Make your own burger patties and bake some pre-boiled thick-cut chips. And of course, a burger’s not a burger without a bun!
  • Chicken mince also makes a great homemade burger.
  1. Beef Shin Curry with onions, peppers, carrots and butternut is an excellent, budget-conscious meal.
  • You can also use any other lean meat like chicken or legumes like chickpeas, lentils and a variety of beans, and tofu.
  1. Grilled Lean Meat, Homemade Oven Chips and Creamed Spinach
  • Any grilled meat is great for dinner and you can bake, boil or mash your potatoes.
  • Sweet potato and butternut also make great oven-baked chips.
  • Lightly pan fry your spinach with onions and garlic and then crumble in some feta for a great healthy side.
  • Stir-fried cabbage, baby marrows, carrots, peppers, onions and mushroom are also a nutrient-dense side with you lean protein.

SNACKS

  • Fruit
  • Peanut butter on toast
  • Fruit shakes with berries, carrots, banana, celery, spinach, etc.

Practical Dieting Tips

  • Avoid adding EXTRA sugar, salt and fats to your meals (for taste add the minimum you need for tasty meals)
  • Limit liquid calories like cooldrinks, fruit juice and energy drinks
  • When in doubt eat lean meat with vegetables and/or fruits
  • Avoid snacking
  • Avoid trigger foods (if you can’t moderate it then avoid it all together)
  • Only eat at the table
  • Find healthy ways to distract yourself from eating
  • Clean up your food environment and get rid of the high-calorie snack foods in your cupboards
  • Treats keep you sane and make dieting sustainable when eaten moderately (the occasional block or two of chocolate or a bowl of popcorn will keep you on track!)
  • Have a supply of rescue/emergency food around like peeled carrots and celery sticks, and fruit. But remember to ask yourself, “Am I really hungry?” before eating off plan.
  • Planning! Planning!  Planning!
  • Food is not a reward for exercise.
  • Exercise is not a punishment for eating too much.
  • Keep daily activity as high as possible (if you have a tracker go for 10,000 steps)
  • If keeping a food journal/diary, consider tracking for caloric awareness (if you learn to do this you will develop a really good awareness of the caloric value of food).

Shopping List

If you can afford it and don’t have one, invest in a George Foreman (or similar) health grill.

Buy these items in bulk:

  • Skinless, boneless chicken breasts (preferable), but look for good deals or you can use chicken pieces (breasts, thighs) that fit your budget.
  • Good quality protein powder
  • Low-fat milk
  • Eggs
  • (Extra) Lean mince (or buy normal mince and cook off the fat)
  • Pilchards/sardine
  • Chicken livers
  • Vegetables (include lots of leafy greens and don’t forget potatoes, sweet potatoes and butternut)
  • Fruit that’s in season

Include these for taste and satisfaction:

  • Medium-fat feta cheese (look for specials)
  • Low-fat salad dressing
  • Sauces (tomato, sweet chilli, peri-peri, tabasco NOT mayonnaise)
  • Brown rice
  • High-Fibre bread
  • Low-fat yoghurt (mixed with seasonal fruit for a delicious dessert)

For a FREE consult in how to apply these principles in your diet, complete the form below or email me at alexcampbelltransformation@gmail.com

What’s on the guilt-free menu tonight!?

I have been following a flexible dieting approach to my diet for about 18 months and it’s never going to change!  After years and years of battling with food, self-esteem issues because of my weight and constantly losing and regaining weight, I have found my magic bullet.  And it is anything but that in reality…it’s really about the consistency with which I have applied it.

I have checked into My Fitness Pal every day for 585 days in a row and probably tracked for 580 of those days.  Yup, there has been the occasional day when I haven’t recorded the minutia of my daily intake and I am totally relaxed about that.  Unlike people may think I am not obsessed with my food tracking, it is simply something that I do to keep me from overeating and slipping back into my old habits when it comes to my diet.

This DOES NOT mean that I have been on a diet for 585 days.  After losing about 30 kgs over the course of about a year I decided to carry on tracking my food in order to keep  myself accountable when it comes to how much I eat.  The reason being that even at a much lower bodyweight I really do still want to eat…A LOT!  I feel like I am always hungry and in order to not go back to my starting weight of 101kgs,  I use calorie counting as a way of being accountable to myself and yet giving myself some semblance of freedom in which to nourish my body.

At the moment I am wanting to lose a few kilograms and because of that I am going to be focusing on a deficit intake of 1,600 calories/day, probably with one or two days at 2,000 calories.  I have an event in November that I want to look kick ass for, but since January I have eaten more at my maintenance calories than I have at a deficit.  So just because I am tracking my calories and macros doesn’t mean that I am dieting.  I LOVE food and we eat lots of it.  And the the upside of calorie counting is that the eating I do is GUILT-FREE eating.  Something which I NEVER imagined could ever be possible, especially in this lifetime.

I adhere to the idea that 80% of the food that I eat is nutrient-dense; whole food with lots of salads, vegetables, fruit, healthy fats and lean meats.  I have made really good friends with the trusty potato (who I feel has been given a very bad wrap over the years) and love all sorts of food which I would previously have seen as bad and not to be put into my body.  I eat homemade pizza on a regular basis because all the ingredients are weighed and measured and I can control the calories by knowing what’s going onto my plate and into my mouth!

Because the majority of the food that I eat is whole food, cooked in my very own kitchen, there is space for some of the other stuff so many people consider to be bad and unhealthy.  How can the bliss that a couple of squares of dark chocolate or a few fruit pastilles be considered bad for me!?  I mean if I count it as part of my daily intake and don’t overdo it, whats the harm!?  Of course I am not eating 2,000 calories worth of high-calorie, low-nutrient food, but I am giving myself the space to enjoy it here and there rather than NEVER being allowed to consider the dessert menu.

Spending years on deprivation diets and not being allowed to eat so may things was much worse for me.  This “absolutely-not-allowed-under-any-circumstances” approach to food and certain food groups led to a really nasty food addiction and a tendency to regain all the weight that I had lost the minute I was off the latest diet that I had been on.  Not one professional I worked with ever got me to look at my relationship with myself and the way that I used food, and I was too deep in the denial to believe that food was in any way masking my unease with who I was.  It really wasn’t about how healthy or unhealthy the food choice was, but rather the emotions and reasons behind the eating that were toxic for my body and my mind.

Working with a coach who really got me to understand what food is all about was revolutionary to me.  Food is not evil!  Carbs are not the devil!  Chocolate is not bad for me!  Burgers don’t need to be on the banned list!  What I did need to learn was that it’s a complex interplay between myself and the world around me.  It’s not about eating the chocolate brownie as much as it’s about why I am eating the chocolate brownie.  I have learned to nourish my body through the food that we buy, cook and eat.  I no longer punish myself by depriving myself of bad food and pushing unwanted, but oh-so-healthy food down my throat.  Who in their right mind actually enjoys rubbery egg-white omelettes and endless lunched of steamed chicken and broccoli!?

I don’t cry about the boring food I am forced to eat when I am dieting anymore!  I do give a lot of thought to what to eat and how to best prepare our food in a way that doesn’t turn it into a calorie bomb.  I guess some people may consider calorie counting for so many days a little excessive, but for the first time since I was 13 I am able to enjoy food and not live in fear of the supermarket, kitchen and dinner table.  More than that I am able to eat out and not feel the need to choose the healthy option off the menu, because I understand that going slightly over on my calories on the odd occasion really isn’t the end of the world.  I guess I have cultivated a growth mindset of abundance when it comes to food.  Rather than depriving myself at every turn to stay at my “ideal” weight I have come to understand that one big, un-tracked meal in a restaurant or a friend’s dinner party is not going to be the nutritional undoing of me.

So I approach food with a far more joyful attitude these days.  I don’t dread eating out or going away for a few days, because I know that tomorrow is another day and that means I can tighten my eating plan and calories up a little if needed and not let things get out of hand.  That was my problem over so many years – the idea that I was either “on or off my diet”.  Being on a diet meant feeling deprived, miserable and pissed off.  While the opposite was to eat whatever I felt like whenever I felt like it, and still feeling miserable and pissed off with myself because of my lack of self-control and -discipline. Now I am far more responsible towards myself and approach food and meals from a present and grounded place.  I’d say I am responsive towards food rather than reactive.

I am not angry about what I should or shouldn’t eat.  If I really want to eat that delicious piece of cheesecake at the end of the meal (or instead of the meal), it’s my choice and I don’t feel like my choices are being forced onto me.  If I have a day when I eat too much then I simply balance it out with a day of lower caloric intake.  I never spend time and effort chastising myself for something  that I ate, especially since I probably really enjoyed it.  What’s the point!?  I know how to eat now and I know how to do it in a way that is sustainable and works for me.  Like I said the magic bullet…of consistency!

I’m not saying my way is the right way or the only way.  What I do know was that understanding what food is about has help me immensely in losing weight and keeping it off.  The minute I tell myself no, I seem to rebel against myself and go to the extreme.  So by giving myself choice and variety when it comes to food I am so much happier.  I have learned to respond so much better than ever before.  And it’s not just about food, but a lot of other areas where I used to be so much more reactive and self-defeating.  It’s a much healthier place for me to be than the place where I am constantly telling myself don’t, can’t, mustn’t, shouldn’t!

This place is more about me checking in with myself and finding out if it’s what I really want and need.  It’s about knowing and trusting that I have the skills and the tools to take care of myself.  It’s about being comfortable with colouring outside the lines when it comes to my eating and knowing that I won’t bounce back into my size 42 jeans in a weekend if I stay conscious and aware .

imagesI am writing this from a B&B in Calrens where I am spending a couple of days and I have enjoyed the delicious food that the little town in the Free State has to offer without worrying about whether or not I should be eating this or that.  It’s so freeing after years of feeling bad about eating the dessert or having a second cappuccino for the day.  I feel like I am getting to fully experience life without the crazy ideas I carried around about myself and food.  I am happier, healthier, stronger and more balanced than ever and that’s because of how I feel about myself and how I treat my body with kindness, love and allow myself to have a little fun when it comes to the food I eat.  So tonight I am going to enjoy my dinner and when I get back to Johannesburg tomorrow I’ll decide what needs to be done moving forward to the weekend.  I’m thinking before I start my deficit there’s going to be at least one pizza meal and maybe a piece of cheesecake at my favourite little bistro in Norwood.

 

Eat the food you love! Love the food you eat!

I started working with Alex in January 2017.  In January 2018 I was 30 kilograms lighter, much much stronger and more toned.  I actually have muscles and I really like the way my body looks and feels.  Flexible dieting has been an absolute win!  Not only have I lost about 30% of my body weight, I have also got such a great relationship with food these days.  Like any relationship though it takes work, patience, understanding and has its challenges, but it’s such a turnaround from where I was this time last year.

I do count calories, but coming out of a lifetime of food addiction and a very unhealthy set of nutrition, health and exercise habits it works for me!  Using My Fitness Pal has been a really great way to stay accountable to myself and learn about macros (protein, fat & carbs) and calories.  I am not obsessed, but I am so aware.  And the beauty of calorie tracking is that I get to use my calories in a way that works for me.

Instead of seeing food as good or bad, fattening or healthy, allowed or restricted, I have learned to see food as food!  What I do know for sure is that cooking at home is such a win when it comes to being able to control calories.  And since we love cooking we get to eat really nutrient-dense, whole foods put together into delicious meals most nights.  Because we cook there is not really anything that can’t be made in a way that doesn’t fit in with the calorie targets.  Okay, I am on a maintenance phase at the moment, which means I am taking a break from dieting and eating more calories, so there is more wiggle room, but there’s always space for food that I would have called “bad” or “junk” in the past like pizzas, hamburgers and chips.

Homemade cheeseburgers and oven-baked chips are a weekly staple, made from scratch and way better than anything from the drive-through.  Our pizza evenings are something I love…the only part that’s from the supermarket are the tomato bases, but the rest is weighed and measured so that we get to enjoy these about once a week.  And the pizzas we make come in around 750 calories, which is less than a takeaway Margarita.  There’s also lots of big-ass salads, colourful stir fries, steak dinners and when it’s colder curries, peri-peri chicken livers and stews.

The thing about cooking at home is that we are in control and there’s lots and lots of nutrient-dense, delicious whole foods in our meals.  Certain sauces are also surprisingly good value if they are used well.  Love some tomato sauce with my chips, and I am not a fan of salad with no dressing.  But from the bottle to the measuring spoon to the plate and everything stays on track!  Our kitchen scale is always in use and it is quite habitual at this point to simply weigh things out before they are cooked and eaten.  To be honest as someone who likes certainty and control, eating in this way has made me feel safe and certain!  It gives me the structure and the system I need to not expand too much time worrying about my choices.

I simply plan, track and eat.  And often there’s a little space (not more than 20% of my calories) for a treat. I remember a year ago having a mini, mental meltdown when Alex suggested eating a Kit-Kit!  How on earth could I eat chocolate and be on a diet!?  Well, I have learned that chocolates will not make me fat if they are part of my calorie allowance.  In fact they make dieting feel, dare I say, fun and exciting!!  I have learned about balance…about not being afraid of certain foods…to not see some food groups as the devil’s spawn sent to entice us into unhealthy eating behaviours…to enjoy all the food that I choose to include in my daily and weekly eating plans.

So I don’t go without and because of this I don’t see dieting as a punishment for my previous bad eating habits.  I see food as something I get to relish and that nurtures my body, mind and spirit.  I look forward to cooking in the evenings, because it’s all about eating the food I love and loving the food I eat.  Gone are the days when I pushed steamed broccoli and dry grilled chicken breasts around my plate feeling deprived and sorry for myself!  Stared longingly at the dessert menu, feeling like a victim of bad genes.  Thought that the muesli was a far “healthier” breakfast when I could actually have the eggs and toast for fewer calories.

I love food and I love eating and flexible dieting has given me the knowledge and the space to really grow this love.  A healthy, adult love that is not marred in guilt and shame like it was when I was hiding my eating habits.  Okay, sometimes I still stick my finger in the peanut butter jar and forget to count something I didn’t plan to eat, but then I simply move on.  It’s so wonderful to not see the way I eat as black-or-white, win-or-lose, right-or-wrong…and that food is not the enemy.  In fact the only enemy in this whole thing can be me and the way I choose to look at food and exercise, which I talked about in my post “#whatadifferenceayearmakes“.

Flexible dieting & strength training

I look and feel great, and I can say that with a belief that I have never had when talking about my body.  I like what I see in the mirror, even though there are still areas that require some work and a few kilos that I am planning to lose after this diet break.  This phase is about giving my body a break from the rigors of dieting and allowing it time to settle into its new weight and just get comfortable in this zone.  Alex really understands all the science and study around this and it does get a little confusing for me, but I trust him as my coach and accountability partner, and he has really proved that he knows his stuff.  So, I am more than happy to follow his guidance and enjoy the downtime.

I’ll go back into deficit and get to the place I want to be, but I don’t feel the urgency anymore and look at my body as a process and not a final destination.  It’s such an incredible feeling to not be totally caught up in the results, but to see this as being a learning and discovery that I am going through.  It didn’t take me 18 months to get out of shape and I am enjoying the process of accepting and living in my body, rather than fighting against it all the time.  So if my system needs a little break to just settle and that means I get to eat a little more food, then I am all in!!

#whatadifferenceayearmakes

On Sunday, 8th January 2017 my life changed forever!  That was the first time I met Alex in the gym… You may have an idea of where this leads, but let me put you on the right track.  I was completely out of my personal comfort zone, feeling fat and unhappy in my gym leggings and overstretched vest, and extremely self-conscious standing in front of the full-length mirrors in the weights’ section of the local gym.  I was horrified at my reflection and did not know where to stand or what to do with my hands, or my personal discomfort.

I was trying to divert my eyes from the mirror every time I was asked to face myself and “squat”!  It was not a happy day and every time I did what vaguely resembled a squat-like movement, I tried desperately not to notice the way my scrunched-up stomach looked in the reflection.  I didn’t have a clue and all I wanted was for that session to end so that I could run and hide in the change rooms.

I was not going to go ever again!  I’d find a way to cancel and I was sure that there were plenty of dead-relatives I could use as not being able to make the next session.  During those 45 minutes, I had convinced myself that gym was not meant for overweight beginners and that I should simply stay firmly put in my unhappy, fixed-mindset, change-is-the-devil head space.  Anyway, that would be far easier than going back to the gym – EVER AGAIN!  But Alex gently coaxed me through that endless session, and was kind and understanding of my awkwardness.  Pretty sure I am not the first person to experience these feelings, and he was aware and conscious.  In fact after a few sets of the dreaded squats, we moved onto something else a little more ego-friendly.

The reason I share this is because I have to believe that I am not the only person who stepped into a gym for the first time after many years of vowing and affirming that this was the January I was going to lose some weight and get into shape!  I am definitely not the only client who has felt geeky and uncomfortable in front of their ripped, muscly coach.  And I am most certainly not alone when I express that the experience was hardly one that I wanted to repeated…never mind in a couple of days.

But go back I did…again…and again…and again!  And the most amazing thing started to happen.  Firstly, I learned that Alex was anything but judgmental, and that his passion and purpose lies in supporting and encouraging his clients as they grow stronger and leaner.  I learned that he believes in being process- rather than outcomes-driven, and that much of the fulfillment he experiences in his work comes from seeing the changes that his clients achieve over the weeks and months.  I guess that would make sense in the way that an artist doesn’t start with a beautiful landscape or a mind-blowing masterpiece, but rather takes their time to create something from the tools and materials that they have around them.

0 (1)I have moved from being self-conscious to feeling a little more comfortable in my body as we’ve worked together.  And the results although amazing, haven’t been overnight!  The first months saw lots of big changes…kilograms and centimetres seemed to melt away under the fluorescent lamps, but of course these slowed down.  And I kept going to the gym, following my eating plan and altering my mindset and perspective about health and nutrition.  There would be days when I wanted to lie on the floor of the gym and cry because my body didn’t want to comply, or my knees (which have been bad since my showjumping days in high school) wanted to give in.  And I kept going back!

And the most remarkable things have happened!  I didn’t turn into a freakish looking version of myself with great, bulging muscles and manly features.  What did happen was that my body has gotten stronger, leaner and healthier.  And I am able to look into that very same mirror that so terrified me on Day 1 and really look the reflection that is there looking back at me.  It’s got some nicely toned, visible muscles and is still quite shapely, but in a much more sexy, feminine way then I imagined it would look.  So when I stood there last week on Monday, 8th January 2018, I was so proud and excited about how far I have come.

Thankfully I didn’t give up on that very first day because of the inner critic in me who wanted me to run off and hide because I wasn’t good enough, slim enough or strong enough.  Instead I have stuck  it out three to four times a week (well  most weeks) and  have learned to love, nurture and care for my body in a way I  haven’t ever done.  I’ve learned that exercise is NOT about punishing myself because I had a chocolate brownie, but that it’s about honouring the physical, emotional, spiritual and mental parts of self.  Of course there are days when the thought of getting into my gym pants is the last hings I want to do…and I ‘d rather lie around in my underwear and eat ice cream, but the truth is I have fallen in love with the new me over the last year.

The me that is self-loving and wants to do the best for me that I can do.  The new me who has persevered through the initial stages of getting my health back.  The new me who values fitness and exercise.  The new me who doesn’t  make excuses all the time about not having time, but rather makes and finds the time because I am worth it!  And it’s not that I am suddenly an arrogant, slimmer version of my past, overweight self, it’s more that I just really love the fact that I love me!  And that I got over myself and went back for that second and third and forth session with Alex, and all the sessions since then.

He wasn’t with me in the gym this year on my “gym-aversary” but I know he delights in the progress and changes I have made, the growth I have shown, and the values I have developed around myself, my health and my fitness.  Alex is still very much part of my process, and I rely on his knowledge,experience and accountability to see me through the next year of my ongoing transformation, because I have learned that this is not about reaching a final goal, but rather living a life where I am constantly striving for improvement and achievement.  All I can say is #whatadifferenceayearmakes.

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.

Leigh - 1 year.jpg

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.

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