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

The Cost of Having a Banging Body!?

When I started my journey proper in December 2016, I was weighing in at 101kgs and was miserable, lacked anything resembling self-confidence and couldn’t (or wouldn’t) find any time in my life to take care of me!  And so it was with that mindset and value system I started the process of getting healthy, lean, strong and moving towards my imagined idea of what I wanted to look like at the end of the journey!  Lean limbs, flat stomach, visible abs, skinny ass…yup, that’s what I saw when I closed my eyes and thought about my body in the not-too-distant-future.

Alex, my coach, was indulgent and would gently try and explain to me that there was a price to be paid for this body that I saw myself in,  and given my genetic blueprint, there might be some things that were just not 100% realistic.  First of all, I do not have skinny-ass genes or the long, lean muscles necessary to give me the look that I thought I was going to get through sheer determination, healthy eating and a solid workout routine.  I’d balk at the pictures he showed me that were completely different than what I had in mind and I’d shy away from the look he had in mind.  The truth is that as the professional he has a much better, informed idea of what is impossible, but I just wasn’t ready or able to hear what he was saying.  What did he know anyway, right!?

When I got to the six-month mark I was seeing considerable changes in my body and I was happy with them!  Did they mark the half-way mark to my final banging-body destination!?  My legs looked different, but not in the long, lean muscle way I had imagined.  However, I was slowly growing more partial to the strong-girl look.  I wasn’t ballooning into a female version of Johnny Bravo.  The fat was disappearing and there was some muscle definition.  I had to start rethinking my wardrobe too.  It was full of clothes that were way too big for me, but I wasn’t ready to invest in a new clothing line as I wasn’t yet where I wanted to be.  By June I had lost about 15kgs and was feeling pretty good about myself, but what was with the stomach!?  It certainly wasn’t even close to resembling a wash board!!  And so much for the disappearing butt!  In fact it felt like instead of it getting smaller, it was simply getting harder!!

The months rolled by and the scale weight changed considerably over the next six months.  I was now wearing a size 12 rather than a 16/18, I had invested in a little new clothing and was happy with the idea of wearing a bikini (in public!) for the first time in about ten years.  And instead of freaking out about the upcoming trip to the coast, we decided that I would go onto a maintenance phase, increase my calories and have a nice break from the rigors of a calorie-deficit.

So I went away and I ate at maintenance for a month.  And the amazing thing was that for the first time EVER I did not start putting on weight, and was becoming more and more comfortable in my new shape.  When January arrived, as one does, I decided I was going to push forward on my weight-loss and body transformation and get to that illusive end point!  What I was starting to already realise (something that Alex had know all along) was there is NO SUCH THING as an end to the “how I want my body to look” process.  Because as my body has changed, so have my ideas of how I want it to look.  Gone are my illusions of long, slim legs and a washboard stomach.  To be blunt – screw that idea!

Because to be honest…it’s just too much hard work!  I am talking about being healthy here and not obsessive.  I don’t subscribe to be whatever size you want if it is not in line with the standard health markers.   I certainly have never wanted to drop dead  from something I could have had some control over.  Over the last year my cholesterol has dropped from 6.9 to 4.2 and that was such an enormous achievement for me. Another indication of health and wellness that is not reflected on the scale.  Knowing that my organs are not buried under a layer of suffocating fat and that my blood runs freely through my system are quietly reassuring thoughts.   For the first time since joining my medical aid I was not terrified at the prospect of competing my annual health check, with the nurse kindly advising that it would be a good idea to think about losing some weight.  I felt confident and happy about my health and went home proudly waving my scores.

So back to the idea of hard work!  Look, I am not scared of a little hard work and along with patience and consistency that’s what it’s taken to lose all the weight, change the way my body looks and not rush to the nearest fridge and start eating my way back to 101kgs!  It’d probably be 110 kilos this time.  I spent the beginning of the year on maintenance for a number of reasons and here they are:

  • It was an incredibly stressful time at work – I work in a substance abuse (addiction)  treatment and recovery clinic.
  • I wanted to eat more to fuel my work outs and build some muscle (so much for the lean, skinny look).
  • Dieting is just fucking hard and having discovered I could eat more and maintain my weight was an extremely exciting discovery that I was enjoying.
  • I hate being hungry…it makes me impossible and cranky, and I love food!

At the beginning of April I decided to go back onto a deficit and trim down some of the excess body weight and fat that I am still carrying.  And it’s been these last few weeks on top of the previous 15 months that made me finally realise the high costs of having a really really great body!  The type of body that those genetically blessed, perfect butt and stomach, Instagram models have, does not come cheap!  I am guessing that there might be some sort of under-the-counter supplements, incredible genes, lots of strength training, periods of bulking and cutting in preparation for that perfect photo that I am just not motivated enough to do.

I am not having a go at them and I am NOT fit shaming, I have just come to understand that I would rather eat the chocolate brownie once a week and miss the occasional workout than obsess on whether I have a flat, taut stomach and a butt that doesn’t wobble.  This deficit period is feeling really challenging for me, because although I have not got to the point that I had envisioned all those months ago, I do feel really sexy in my skinny jeans.  I am going to keep going, but I know now that my ideal body is just way out of my motivation and commitment budget, and I am okay with that.  SO I have rethought about what my ideal body is.  And it goes something like this:

  • I have heavy set legs with lots of muscle that are never going to be slim and long.
  • A butt that gets the occasional admiring look from people that admire the more rounded look.
  • My curves are sexy and the outer manifestation of the authentic, courageous woman that I strive to b
  • I actually have a bit of an hourglass figure and I am learning to embrace my look.
  • I have the genes and the muscles that I have, as well as the metabolism, and I need to work with that as much as possible rather than fighting it.

I am committed to dropping a little of the excess, but I have learned to love and respect food in a way that I approach my meals with joy, and I very rarely experience fear, guilt or shame at what passes my lips.  Part of my ongoing work around my transformation is largely about self-love, compassion and learning to nurture and nourish myself.  Sure I would be happy if my body looked like an IG Fitness Model’s, but then again I don’t really think that I want to pay the high price of having such banging body.  I kinda like my new body, even though it’s not perfect it is the product of hard work, commitment, dedication and consistency over the past 15 months.

I guess I am more of a Golf girl than a BMW one anyway.  I just know what I can and can’t have for what I prepared to “pay”.  And just in case you were wondering, I actually think that for 45 my body is pretty fucking banging.

New Leigh - Before and After

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!!

365 Days of Becoming the New(er) Me…

Change is never easy…not when it comes down to it.  We can talk about change, envision change, even set out to change, but then we have to do the work!  I have been challenged by my weight for most of my life and I have always been doing something about it.  The thing is I never got to where I was going and then managed to stay there.  Starting to make changes is very different to actually changing…

bethechangeBecause no matter how fantastic and well thought out our goals are, that’s not where the work lies.  It’s in the actual doing where the success and accomplishment lies.  Of course that makes perfect sense, but I’d often miss that.  I love to goal set – always have!  What I have come to understand over the past year was that when it came to my health & fitness, I wasn’t much of a goal-getter.  I’d always start my diets and fitness endeavours with all the motivation in the world, but never seemed to be able to follow through.  I’d give up when faced with the smallest of setbacks, plateaus, scale gains or any real discomfort.  I’d make all sorts of excuses as I gave up as well…too hard, too busy, too restrictive, boring, unsustainable, and on and on the list would go.

What I have learned over the last year is that change takes time.  There is no quick fix around developing new values around health, fitness, well-being and lifestyle.  And what strikes me the most is that in most other areas in my life I have always accepted and understood this.  Being in long-term recovery from substance abuse, I know that we don’t simply wish change and there it is…  It’s about consistency, practice, trial-and-error, winning and learning.  And yet there was always a huge, mental block for me when it came to my body.

And the obstacle in  my way was not about the diet plan or the workout routine, the obstacle was me.  The idea that I achieved my goals meant that I had to sustain them.  That means internalising the learning, and making health and fitness a priority in my life.  It means not being able to moan about this or that stupid-ass diet that didn’t work, it means ongoing work and commitment to sustaining the success.  Phew, and that is where the real work has been.  It’s great to be complimented on my achievement, but now it’s about following through.  If I want to continue to be successful in this part of my life I have to work to stay here.  I have to embrace the new habits, skills and behaviours and really ground them in my life.

No more excuses, justifications and blame.  No more self-pity parties and illusions of being the victim.  It’s easy to fail at the things we set out to do.  I fail, it’s over.  For me failure is effortless!  But to become good at something takes immense amounts of energy, dedication and consistency.  So what the last year has shown me is that if I want to succeed in this area of my life, it’s really just about doing the work.  Not sexy, not earth shattering, not miraculous.

I always imagined that losing weight and getting into shape had some sort of magic formula that only a few were given.  They were part of some secret club that shared it with those exclusive members who were let into the inner sanctum of weight loss!  And of course they had it easy, because my case was special.  I wasn’t like everyone else trying to get leaner, stronger and healthier.  My challenges with my weight were unique and no one could possibly understand or relate to my situation.  What I realise now is that there are no weight-loss, secret societies.  Yes, there are some people who are genetically blessed with better metabolisms and/or body composition, but they still have to work if they want to stay fit, health and in shape.  You don’t get to sit on the couch eating whatever you like, never exercising, just because your metabolism works a bit better.

I’m not one of those people.  I have abused my body over the years with the constant yo-yo dieting, insane diet regimens, all-or-nothing approaches and now it’s time to be gentle.  I have learned that I need to work with, nit against, my body.  I need to take time to love and nurture myself through the food that I eat and the exercise that I do.  After 30 something years of all of this craziness, I now know what I need to do.  And the last year is not very much when I look at it in the context of life.

So I follow the plan that is taking me closer to my goal, learning to embrace the process of change and growth.  I am learning to listen to the voice that takes care of me, rather than the critic that is quick to reprimand and chastise.  I see food as fuel and I love a good treat (not cheat) when my plan allows for it.  I don’t go to the gym to punish myself, but to build myself up.  I now understand that this is a process and a lifestyle that I choose – not one that has been forced upon by the outside world.  I have learned to embrace my new, still growing, values of health, well-being, fitness and strength, and that 12 months really isn’t that long given where I was.  It didn’t take me a year to get out of shape and I now accept that it’s going to take more than these first 365 days to get to where I see myself.  And that is ever-changing too.

#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.

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.