Weight-loss is a Team Sport!

Nobody said weight loss was easy!  Well, no one I ever met or spoke to anyway…  Okay, maybe those lying, cheating, stealing fad diet people who promise you incredible results without any work.  But I know from personal experience that that’s just bullshit!!  Just because there are small numbers of people who did get results from some crazy desert cactus super fruit capsule taken six times daily at great expense, doesn’t mean it’ll work for everyone!  I have spent thousands and thousands and thousands of rands trying to get into shape, lose weight, maintain the loss, build some muscle and just feel better about myself!

I could probably have put all the money together in a big stack and done myself a watered-down version of the Demi Moore body transformation technique.  But sadly I was too desperate too many times, wooed by the shallow promises of the before and after photos of something I’d come across late at night on some website promising all sorts of miracle results.  I know how it feels to be desperate and scared about my weight and health, and so I found myself on the fad-diet-roller-coaster-detox-ultimate-cleanse-and-weight-loss plan.  The more sad and desperate I would become with every failed attempt to get the results and then even more elusively, hold onto them.  Even for 3 – 6 month period.  Inevitably I would start gaining the weight back within weeks of finishing the next super-cleanse, prepacked calorie-controlled lunch-box diet.  Injections, supplements, potions, pills and other weird approaches drained my bank account along with my self-esteem and ability to see the situation clearly.

Oh I could go on, but I think that the idea is clear.  And I know with certainty that if you are reading this post you have been there too!

If you have followed my blog posts you’ll know that it’s been an amazing period of mental, emotional, spiritual and spiritual change for me.  In not only how I look, but also how I think.  And I don’t just mean about food…I mean about me.  But that’s been covered in a couple of the other posts I have done recently.  This one is more about me coming to the realisation that weight-loss is a team sport!

Going it alone is just pure drudgery and pain!  The beauty of flexible dieting is that it isn’t about being out in the  food desert of deprivation.  This approach to eating is something that is completely 100% possible for you and your people.  Even though my partner and me have different calorie allowances, we eat fairly similarly at dinner and over the weekend, and our other meals are where the difference lies.  Sometimes it’s also in the extras that he eats more of and I have to eat a little less, but doing something like this together makes it so much easier.  So if that means I have to go without the roti, sauce, bread, etc. I am okay with that since there are so many other benefits to working on our eating plan together.

The big one is evening meals actually happen.  In my previous life as a shocking eater that was NEVER a given.  It always seemed like too much of a schlep to cook myself a decent meal.  I’d often just have another sandwich for dinner or a ready-made meal.  On the odd occasion I’d make the effort to cook something that was nutrient-dense and not a calorie bomb of prepacked preservatives and watered down nutrients.   I cannot remember once in the last year or so (except when we have gone out occasionally) that we haven’t cooked a meal.

Another bonus is that I get to spend time in the evenings with my partner while we cook together.  So not only is dinner about sustainable, healthy eating, it’s also about quality time with my guy.  Quality time also happens to be my love language, so I get to eat well and feel loved all at once.  I know that I am blessed to get this time with him and a lot of other women are in the kitchen, flying solo at the end of a long day of work, kids and all that other stuff that working women do.  As a coach I see them starting to resent this time in the kitchen rather than asking the family to take part in the prepping and cooking.  It’s one of those things that is hard to ask for, but even one or two evenings in front of the stove with a little family involvement would surely make the task less tedious.  I mean if we really want or need something from the people in our lives, we also need to learn to ask for it.

Sharing the planning, shopping, prepping and cooking really does go a VERY long way to making it enjoyable and sustainable when it comes to eating well.  And what the flexible dieting approach allows for is normal food, prepared and cooked in a calorie controlled way.  So meals like pizza are a very real possibility as long as ALL the ingredients are measured and weighed.  Cheese  burgers are made with extra lean mince and homemade oven chips.  Of course we eat LOADS of salads, vegetables, lean meat and healthy fats.  We use low calorie dressings and everything is pre-approved before it makes it into the fridge, freezer or cupboard.  As I type this it does sound just a tad obsessive, but the truth is that it is a sustainable system that truly works for us both.

It’s not as much about being obsessive as it is about being aware!!  Because once something finds its way into the kitchen it’s GAME ON!  If there are apples in the fruit bowl then that’s the snack when I get hungry.  If there’s a packet of crisps or biscuits they don’t stand a chance around me still.  So it’s about creating a healthy, controlled environment.  There is normally a selection of chocolate in the house, but there’s accountability when it comes to those.  Bread is kept in the freezer so that it’s less of an easy, go-to snack when I am feeling tired and hungry.

It’s just so much easier to work as a team to eat right.  We eat in a way that we both enjoy and that takes our calories and macros into account.  We eat in a way that is satisfying and delicious.  Of course there are certain foods that we only eat occasionally, like a slice of cheesecake (something I adore) or Crispy Duck from our favourite Thai restaurant (can’t even imagine how many calories there are in that!).  We eat big, nutritious portions of food…none of this picking at little portions of wilted lettuce leaves and unappetising steamed chicken breasts and brocoli.  I’ve tried that approach and it just isn’t sustainable in the long run.

What I have learned about dieting is that it is best done in a supportive environment.  Which means that meals have to be good for everyone, because who wants to cook separate meals for everyone anyway.  And then stare longingly at the food you’ve prepared for the other family  members feeling miserable and deprived.  No of that thank you very much.  After all, how can you possibly stick to anything in the long run when that’s how you feel anyway!?  So eating together as a family or a couple is a very important part of sustainability!  Looking forward to meals rather than dreading another boring meal is an essential part of achieving and maintaining the results you are looking for.

So making and eating food and meals something to love and enjoy, rather than trying to pretend it doesn’t exist is really hard for a lot of us!  But what I have learned is that I don’t need to be scared of food, I just have to be conscious and aware of what I am eating.  I need to be mindful of my calories and don’t think intuitive eating is ever going to be something I get right.  So I may just have to  continue counting, tracking, weighing and measuring for now, but when the trade off is delicious food that makes me satisfied and happy, it actually feels like a no brainer!  It’s just something I do now.  And for that I have not put back any of the  30 kilograms I’ve lost.  I am not quite where I want to be, but I’ll get there when I am ready, because after all my years of yo-yo dieting being able to maintain my results is a huge victory for me.

So I’m going to leave you with this:

  • Don’t fall for ANY of the food diets out there that promise overnight results!
  • Don’t give up any foods or food groups unless you really cannot eat them (i.e. you have an allergy or intolerance!).
  • Get your people involved in the food side of life – shopping, planning, cooking and prepping.  Weight loss is a team sport!
  • Make cooking and eating about quality time with your partner and family.
  • Find an eating plan that works for you and is sustainable in the long run.
  • Remember that losing weight is only one part of the process!  Maintaining the loss is the other side of the weight-loss coin.

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.

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.

The five most important lessons I have learned…from my food addiction.

0 (1)Looking at myself in the mirror or glancing down at my legs I hardly recognise myself at times, which is a weird experience.  Sometimes when I look at my jeans I wonder how I am ever going to get into that size 12 rather than the former size 16/18 I was wearing this time last year.  And even the 12s are getting a little big!?

Sometimes when I browse through the clothes stores (no shopping at the moment) I will look at a dress or outfit and wonder if they’ll have it in my size or if I’ll fit into it…and then remember that my body has shed almost sixty 500g blocks of butter in the past year, and of course I will!  Shopping has always been a horror experience for me, taking a range of clothes to the change room only to discover that even the size 18 is a little small in some part.  Avoiding full eye contact with my reflection because I was embarrassed by my own self…thinking that I was lazy and useless to not have been able to stick to yet another diet plan and lose the weight that had crept on over the previous 12 months or so.

One of my biggest realisations over the course of my process has been that a big part of my inability to successfully complete a programme comprised of a couple of elements:

  1. The diet was restrictive and unsustainable, eliminating whole food groups which I love (insert carbs here).
  2. The expectations I placed on myself about the results I was going to achieve and the time frame I was going to achieve them in were completely unrealistic.
  3. The mindset I had around nutrition and exercise where fixed, which resulted in seeing every little slip, scale gain and  plateau as a failure and a chance to give up.
  4.  I did not know how to create accountability around my process, because if I couldn’t get it “right” that must mean I was lazy and incapable.
  5. I just didn’t love myself enough to see it through to the end!

Nothing earth shattering there! And what a load of complete and utter BS!  I have come from the school of dieting that is all about getting on a diet and sticking to a diet until you have achieved the required results.  No erring!  No mistakes!  No excuses!  If you are following the plan/programme, sticking to the instructions and eating the food you are supposed to you WILL LOSE WEIGHT.  So if I was doing all that and wasn’t getting the required outcomes then I  must have been doing something wrong.

Often after a great start of weight loss, I would quickly plateau in my scale losses.  I would become disheartened and frustrated that nothing was changing, and when I would ask the programme leader, dietitian, nurse or facilitator I was working with what was going on they’d always answer with a raised eyebrow and something about “Sticking to the programme!”  These comments and attitudes would leave me feeling uncertain and then I would start to question myself…my will power…my inability to do it right…my frustration at feeling deprived and unhappy…and sure as anything I would  be throwing in the towel and back to my old ways!

My old ways included self-deprecation for being so useless, criticising myself for not being focused and motivated enough, considering myself a loser because I just couldn’t see anything through.  And back I’d go to eating for all the wrong reasons.  The problem with any sort of dysfunctional eating behaviour, is that abstinence is not an option!  Unlike substance abuse, we can’t simply give up eating.  So, I would abuse food in the same way that I abused alcohol.

Depriving myself of anything nourishing or healthy when it came to what I put in my body.  Hiding my eating habits from my family and friends, which included chronic binges that left me feeling sick, guilty and ashamed (not unlike the way I would abuse alcohol in my twenties and early thirties).  The Friday evening shopping ritual was like a visit to the bottle store, piling my trolley with the most highly palatable food I could find and the I’d isolate over the weekends and eat, to the point of physical sickness.  I wasn’t bulimic because it didn’t happen every weekend, and like with drinking I could go for days without being dysfunctional.  But then the urge would strike!

This usually happened when I had nothing planned for the weekend, and I was feeling lonely or excluded, I had not been taking care of my stress, or I was just feeling I needed a reward for a long, hard week.  I’d get home and unpack all the food onto my kitchen counter and plan how I was going to eat it.   How I would have a little of this and one of those, maybe a small bowl of ice cream and just a few of the potato chips.  And it would start of well enough, just like the first couple of drinks in the years gone by.  But then something would happen and my brain would take over, and I would be lost in a hopeless cycle.  I would tell myself that I was only going to have one more brownie and leave the rest for tomorrow, only to end up eating the whole pack and then feeling immensely weak and out of control.  And so it would go until the food was finished or it was all in the bottom of the toilet.

This pattern of eating really got intense over the last few years leading up to when I started to identify that I was actually dealing with a cross-addiction in my life.  As a coach working in the field of addiction recovery, it was an extremely difficult realisation to own that I was abusing food in the same way I had abused alcohol years previously.  I was no longer eating for enjoyment, nourishment or reward, I was eating to punish myself, to hide away and to release negative emotions.  The similarities were difficult to ignore and the consequences were just as negative.  Feelings of self-loathing, isolation, emotions ranging from helplessness to rage, guilt, shame and a tattered self-esteem.

Ever move I made I was conscious of how I hated my body.  I was unable to walk into a room without feeling like everyone was judging me for being fat and lazy, because I was unable to control myself and stick to a diet, lose some weight and get myself into a gym.  Every week I promised myself that I was going to make changes, only to end up slipping off to the kitchen to eat slices of cheese behind the half-closed fridge door!  Not that there was anyone to see me doing it.  It all felt so dark and secretive, so damaging and yet even with a set of tools and practices, I felt powerless to do anything about it.

The challenge with certain addictions though is that the only option is moderation management.  Learning a way of reducing the harm that I was doing to my body, mind and soul through this destructive behaviour, was going to be my only way out of it.  Learning a new set of habits, skills and behaviours that were supportive of change; long-term, sustainable change.  And then I reached out…and like with any recovery that was the beginning of finding my way forward.  I didn’t get the right support for me off the bat, but I did start to make changes.  But what I did get right is that I started to get honest!  I stopped talking about the food and I started addressing my intentions and underlying motivations around the way I used food.  Making changes to my narrative was an essential part of the process, and learning to listen to the quiet, gentle inner voice rather than the angry, destructive critical one became a turning point for me.

In September 2016 I had a real breakthrough with my personal coach when I started to explore how I spoke to myself, and it was there that the real change started to happen.  I wrote about this in my blog post “How Do You Speak to Yourself?” and that was the day that I realised that the only way I was going to move forward was to do something new and different.  Something that I hadn’t tried before…  And so began my real recovery into finding and loving myself.

And after 12 months what I have learned is this:

  1. An eating plan can be as inclusive and exciting as I choose it to be, with all the food groups, and yet healthy and sustainable.  Thank you Flexible Dieting!!
  2. The expectations I place on myself are controlled by me, and need to be realistic, achievable and self-loving; only then can I expect to achieve them.
  3. That if I embrace a growth mindset in my life, then everything becomes a learning and an opportunity for growth and development, and there is no beginning or end just the process I chose to follow.
  4. I have created accountability and support through allowing myself to be vulnerable and reach out, because there is no right or wrong, just finding a way that works for me.
  5. And my biggest learning has been that I am deserving of the love and attention that I give to myself.  That the choices I make are ones that nourish and fulfill my bod, mind and soul, and I am worthy of making those choices and loving myself!

My name is Leigh-Anne and I am a recovering food addict and a flexible dieting convert…

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.