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!

Aug2017

Aug2017-1

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

Learning to Colour Outside the (Dieting) Lines…

It’s been a while since my last blog post in April, but life gets pretty hectic at times, and I became spread a little thin and all over the place.  But even these challenging times have a lesson or two in them and I have taken some time out from work to consolidate, refocus and move forward in some of the more important areas of my life.  And my health and wellness has become an extremely important value to me over the last six months.

That doesn’t mean, however, that it’s all been easy sailing.  There have been some stormy waters to navigate both personally and professionally, and this makes living in a calorie deficit, still adapting to strength training and trying to develop strong, life-changing habits around nutrition and fitness, really trying and frustrating on some days.

Since my last post, I have continued to work with Alex on flexible dieting and strength training, and I have made more progress…I’m almost 21 kilograms down (fifteen of them since starting with Alex in January) and have lost 73 centimetres (in my waist, thigh and hips).  Alex keeps assuring me that the results are what he’s looking for even though I would like things to be happening a bit quicker!  I guess that’s the kind of unhealthy pressure I tend to put on myself.

And this is something I am also focusing on at the moment, my mindset, which I am trying to change from outcomes- to process-driven.  So this week, following Alex’s advice, I have decided to take a diet break for seven days (my daily calories will increase from 1,600 to 2,000) and I have agreed NOT to weigh myself the entire week.  I am also trying to understand and action the idea of moderating my gym workouts…not trying to always push myself to my personal limits…  And that’s a tricky one. My black- and white-thinking (which I am constantly trying to break) makes it difficult to dance in the grey areas of sometimes it’s okay to not be able to give it 110%.

And these are my new lessons as I head to the six-month mark.  When I look at the progress photos which visually remind me that I am moving forward, I see a HUGE CHANGE from where I started at 101kgs in September last year.  I need to be more self-loving, kinder and gentler with myself, because this is not the end and there is a way to go to get to where I want to be.  I need to stay focused, but be prepared to consider the ideas of moderation and long-term outcomes a little more, while truly embodying the learning, knowledge and principles that I have been introduced to over the past 180 days.

This week’s plan is to take a deep breath, give myself the love and credit I deserve, and let myself explore and experiment a little more with uncertainty around my thoughts, ideas and behaviours that are being (emotionally) pushed at the moment. I am going to see it as adventure into unknown territory, without a scale, but a lot of trust and openness to how this might be good for me in the long-run.  After all, maybe it is time for me to colour outside the “dieting” lines a bit more…

Written by: Leigh-Anne Brierley

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