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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m a loser baby! And I love it!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

What makes you vulnerable makes you beautiful…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Happens Outside the Comfort Zone?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By: Leigh-Anne Brierley

Not Getting the Results You Want!?

davFrom spending hours in the gym every day, I am able to observe many people training either by themselves or with a personal trainer.  There are definitely some proficient trainers, but there are also many that appear clueless and outdated in their training approaches.  Almost just making it up as they go along!?

It’s called exercise science for a reason!  There are scientific principles that should be applied to develop a strength-training programme for an individual.  Important considerations include, but are not limited to:

  • Goals,
  • Training history,
  • Genetics,
  • Diet,
  • Lifestyle,
  • Athletic capabilities, and
  • Training preferences.

Exercise technique is important to maximise results and minimise the potential for injury.  However, this seems to be mostly ignored by those in the gyms.  Time and again I see the most odd “exercise” movements being invented and I struggle to fathom how and why this is happening!?  It’s certainly very creative, but much of it is practically useless when trying to achieve strength and physique goals.

And this is what I see from trainers and people considered to be in good condition!  You may assume that someone who is in good shape must know what they are doing…  This is sadly not true!  Some people are simply genetically blessed and were in good shape even before they walked into a gym.  These are the same people who tend to get great results even whilst training “badly”.  And never forget that some use performance-enhancing supplements and/or drugs to get the results that they do.

The Bottom Line is that copying someone who is already in shape is generally a bad idea, because you cannot be sure of how they got there.  If you are not genetically blessed you will need to have an individually-structured and optimised training programme relevant to your goals and abilities.  A training programme that is based on the scientific principles of strength training.  And unfortunately if you don’t approach your training in this way – nothing is going to change!  You’ll simply be “spinning your wheels” and ultimately be getting nowhere, and then it really is only a matter of time until you give up.

It’s important to remember that at the end of the day, the MOST IMPORTANT factor of any training programme is personal preference.  In other words, the optimal programme for you is the one that will actually want to do and be able to stick to in the long run.  If this sounds interesting  let’s get together and have a chat, and together we can develop an individualised training and nutrition programme that works for you.

For more information or to book an introductory session, please complete the form below or contact me directly via email: alexcampbelltransformation@gmail.com or by phone: (061)436-7499.

 

Tips & Suggestions from a Novice Flexible Dieter

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Leigh-Anne Brierley

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Leigh-Anne Brierley