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

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.

The highs and lows of strength training in the “scary man section”!

4newNine months ago when I started working with Alex as my fitness coach I was terrified by the idea of weight training!  The thought of the “scary man section” at the gym, weights and muscles was not something I was remotely excited about.  I’d always had this idea of being slender and toned, I didn’t want to be big and built.  And here was my coach telling me I was going to be building muscle.  I was not seeing it from his perspective.  He had his work cut out for him!

Okay, I’ve always hated cardio, hammering it out on the cross-trainer and the treadmill has never been my thing.  But when given the alternative of complicated weight training workouts, I was almost receptive to the idea of being strapped to a treadmill or sent to a spinning class.

The process started slowly, and Alex patiently explained the benefits of strength training – over and over again.  I had a vision of biceps that developed overnight and overly strong thigh muscles.  My legs were big enough already – they did  not  need to get any bigger.  All I was interested in was a flat stomach and much slimmer legs.  It took me a while to understand that the fat was not simply going to  be replaced by muscle, but that I was going to build muscle and lose the fat.  That fat is far more voluminous than muscle and I was not going to turn into a 95kg body builder.

Slowly I was introduced to the basic movements, which are far more difficult to do than they look, especially when I watch the pros that I follow on FaceBook and Instagram. Alex has helped me to understand proper technique and movement, and my body started to respond.  Slowly (and sometimes painfully) at first while I learned how to squat, lunge, leg press, dead lift and use the other equipment in the gym.  And instead of muscles starting to spring up, the fat and centimetres (hips, waist & thigh) started to fall away.  Untitled

The initial months of my training consisted of learning how to do things right – Alex is a stickler for correct technique, form and movement that’s not going to cause injury.  And funnily enough as my body began to change, I became more excited about the strength training.  It was motivating to see my form improving and how my body was responding.  Small improvements in the sets, reps and weight I was doing began to push me to do better. And I was not turning into a female version of Mr. Universe.  Suddenly I wanted to look less like the skinny, Hollywood waifs, and more like the women competing in Cross Fit events.

I have started wanting to be strong and lean, with a great ass and a toned stomach, not skinny and weak.  And after nine months, I look at the training completely differently…and I actually fee quite at home in the “scary  man section” at the gyms I workout at. I have a different idea of how I want my body to look and the kind of shape I want to have.  I’m far more interested in being stronger than I am in being thinner.  And that idea is constantly changing as I see my work paying off.

Of course it’s not always easy.  Sometimes I get caught up in thinking and working towards outcomes goals (mainly some preconceived scale weight I have randomly plucked from the ethos), rather than those focusing on my behaviour.  There are times when my body feels weak and spongy, and not that keen to lift, press or push anything that weighs more than a couple of kilos, but after a day or so, I am ready to get back to it. I am not in the gym more than 4 or 5 times a week, and sometimes less than that.  It doesn’t happen at the expense of everything else, and I have learned to be more self-loving and gentle when I don’t make a scheduled day’s training.  My mindset around the entire process has changed…

I don’t give up on a week’s training, because I missed a day here and there.  I simply refocus and move forward.  And that’s a huge shift for me.  Missing a day in the past was all I needed to put my exercise on hold.  But because I am more focused on behaviour I am better able to see a missed day for what it is.  Sometimes extra recovery time, sometimes rest, sometimes because I am just too busy at work.  Now I don’t chastise myself for being useless, lazy and procrastinating… I give myself the reward of time or rest, and don’t get caught up in a negative thought cycle about myself and my fitness programme.

And as for my muscles…well they are definitely not bulging out of my jeans and T-shirt. Rather, they are growing and strengthening quite nicely, and I am really happy about how they look (especially when they are working out).  I feel confident and self-assured in the gym now, even happy to ask the guys in the gym if the equipment is free.  Okay, I am still a little self conscious when it comes to hip thrusts, but I am getting there.  And one of these days I’ll even feel good enough to do lunges across the weight floor (at Old Eds Virgin Active).

So onward I press, push, pull and lift to a body and mind that are healthy, aware, strong, supportive and in line with my growing value of long-term fitness, health and wellness.

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.