Posted in Nutrition & Lifestyle Coaching

What’s on the guilt-free menu tonight!?

This is a re-post from the website Alex Campbell Transformation where I wrote this post as part of the series on my personal transformation.

I have been following a flexible dieting approach to my diet for about 18 months and it’s never going to change!  After years and years of battling with food, self-esteem issues because of my weight and constantly losing and regaining weight, I have found my magic bullet.  And it is anything but that in reality…it’s really about the consistency with which I have applied it.

I have checked into My Fitness Pal every day for 585 days in a row and probably tracked for 580 of those days.  Yup, there has been the occasional day when I haven’t recorded the minutia of my daily intake and I am totally relaxed about that.  Unlike people may think I am not obsessed with my food tracking, it is simply something that I do to keep me from overeating and slipping back into my old habits when it comes to my diet.

This DOES NOT mean that I have been on a diet for 585 days.  After losing about 30 kgs over the course of about a year I decided to carry on tracking my food in order to keep  myself accountable when it comes to how much I eat.  The reason being that even at a much lower bodyweight I really do still want to eat…A LOT!  I feel like I am always hungry and in order to not go back to my starting weight of 101kgs,  I use calorie counting as a way of being accountable to myself and yet giving myself some semblance of freedom in which to nourish my body.

At the moment I am wanting to lose a few kilograms and because of that I am going to be focusing on a deficit intake of 1,600 calories/day, probably with one or two days at 2,000 calories.  I have an event in November that I want to look kick ass for, but since January I have eaten more at my maintenance calories than I have at a deficit.  So just because I am tracking my calories and macros doesn’t mean that I am dieting.  I LOVE food and we eat lots of it.  And the the upside of calorie counting is that the eating I do is GUILT-FREE eating.  Something which I NEVER imagined could ever be possible, especially in this lifetime.

I adhere to the idea that 80% of the food that I eat is nutrient-dense; whole food with lots of salads, vegetables, fruit, healthy fats and lean meats.  I have made really good friends with the trusty potato (who I feel has been given a very bad wrap over the years) and love all sorts of food which I would previously have seen as bad and not to be put into my body.  I eat homemade pizza on a regular basis because all the ingredients are weighed and measured and I can control the calories by knowing what’s going onto my plate and into my mouth!

Because the majority of the food that I eat is whole food, cooked in my very own kitchen, there is space for some of the other stuff so many people consider to be bad and unhealthy.  How can the bliss that a couple of squares of dark chocolate or a few fruit pastilles be considered bad for me!?  I mean if I count it as part of my daily intake and don’t overdo it, whats the harm!?  Of course I am not eating 2,000 calories worth of high-calorie, low-nutrient food, but I am giving myself the space to enjoy it here and there rather than NEVER being allowed to consider the dessert menu.

Spending years on deprivation diets and not being allowed to eat so may things was much worse for me.  This “absolutely-not-allowed-under-any-circumstances” approach to food and certain food groups led to a really nasty food addiction and a tendency to regain all the weight that I had lost the minute I was off the latest diet that I had been on.  Not one professional I worked with ever got me to look at my relationship with myself and the way that I used food, and I was too deep in the denial to believe that food was in any way masking my unease with who I was.  It really wasn’t about how healthy or unhealthy the food choice was, but rather the emotions and reasons behind the eating that were toxic for my body and my mind.

Working with a coach who really got me to understand what food is all about was revolutionary to me.  Food is not evil!  Carbs are not the devil!  Chocolate is not bad for me!  Burgers don’t need to be on the banned list!  What I did need to learn was that it’s a complex interplay between myself and the world around me.  It’s not about eating the chocolate brownie as much as it’s about why I am eating the chocolate brownie.  I have learned to nourish my body through the food that we buy, cook and eat.  I no longer punish myself by depriving myself of bad food and pushing unwanted, but oh-so-healthy food down my throat.  Who in their right mind actually enjoys rubbery egg-white omelettes and endless lunched of steamed chicken and broccoli!?

I don’t cry about the boring food I am forced to eat when I am dieting anymore!  I do give a lot of thought to what to eat and how to best prepare our food in a way that doesn’t turn it into a calorie bomb.  I guess some people may consider calorie counting for so many days a little excessive, but for the first time since I was 13 I am able to enjoy food and not live in fear of the supermarket, kitchen and dinner table.  More than that I am able to eat out and not feel the need to choose the healthy option off the menu, because I understand that going slightly over on my calories on the odd occasion really isn’t the end of the world.  I guess I have cultivated a growth mindset of abundance when it comes to food.  Rather than depriving myself at every turn to stay at my “ideal” weight I have come to understand that one big, un-tracked meal in a restaurant or a friend’s dinner party is not going to be the nutritional undoing of me.

So I approach food with a far more joyful attitude these days.  I don’t dread eating out or going away for a few days, because I know that tomorrow is another day and that means I can tighten my eating plan and calories up a little if needed and not let things get out of hand.  That was my problem over so many years – the idea that I was either “on or off my diet”.  Being on a diet meant feeling deprived, miserable and pissed off.  While the opposite was to eat whatever I felt like whenever I felt like it, and still feeling miserable and pissed off with myself because of my lack of self-control and -discipline. Now I am far more responsible towards myself and approach food and meals from a present and grounded place.  I’d say I am responsive towards food rather than reactive.

I am not angry about what I should or shouldn’t eat.  If I really want to eat that delicious piece of cheesecake at the end of the meal (or instead of the meal), it’s my choice and I don’t feel like my choices are being forced onto me.  If I have a day when I eat too much then I simply balance it out with a day of lower caloric intake.  I never spend time and effort chastising myself for something  that I ate, especially since I probably really enjoyed it.  What’s the point!?  I know how to eat now and I know how to do it in a way that is sustainable and works for me.  Like I said the magic bullet…of consistency!

I’m not saying my way is the right way or the only way.  What I do know was that understanding what food is about has help me immensely in losing weight and keeping it off.  The minute I tell myself no, I seem to rebel against myself and go to the extreme.  So by giving myself choice and variety when it comes to food I am so much happier.  I have learned to respond so much better than ever before.  And it’s not just about food, but a lot of other areas where I used to be so much more reactive and self-defeating.  It’s a much healthier place for me to be than the place where I am constantly telling myself don’t, can’t, mustn’t, shouldn’t!

This place is more about me checking in with myself and finding out if it’s what I really want and need.  It’s about knowing and trusting that I have the skills and the tools to take care of myself.  It’s about being comfortable with colouring outside the lines when it comes to my eating and knowing that I won’t bounce back into my size 42 jeans in a weekend if I stay conscious and aware .

imagesI am writing this from a B&B in Calrens where I am spending a couple of days and I have enjoyed the delicious food that the little town in the Free State has to offer without worrying about whether or not I should be eating this or that.  It’s so freeing after years of feeling bad about eating the dessert or having a second cappuccino for the day.  I feel like I am getting to fully experience life without the crazy ideas I carried around about myself and food.  I am happier, healthier, stronger and more balanced than ever and that’s because of how I feel about myself and how I treat my body with kindness, love and allow myself to have a little fun when it comes to the food I eat.  So tonight I am going to enjoy my dinner and when I get back to Johannesburg tomorrow I’ll decide what needs to be done moving forward to the weekend.  I’m thinking before I start my deficit there’s going to be at least one pizza meal and maybe a piece of cheesecake at my favourite little bistro in Norwood.

 

Posted in Be The Change

Cross my heart! Hope to die? Stick a needle in my anxiety!?

I’ve been living with anxiety for as long as I can remember…and it sucks!! I’ve read the books, listened to the podcasts, incorporated the tools into my life, and the list goes on. I understand anxiety and I can talk about it in all sorts of different ways and yet when I wake up on one of “those mornings” almost nothing I know, understand or have learned equips me to deal with the feeling. As my eyes open I feel the steely grip of it around my stomach and the mechanical wings of robotic butterflies hammering against my chest. The thing is there isn’t always a reason as to why I should wake up to greet the day with the slightly acidic taste of vomit in the back of my throat, but hey, there it is!!

And no matter how I think or try to ground myself I am like a trigger-ball just waiting to snap at something and spiral into the depths of despair for no other reason than I am awake and the world is out to get me! Logical – No! Real – Yes! I have done the work around my disorder and have a plethora of tools and methodologies to use when it strikes, but when it’s a really bad attack nothing that I seem to know is enough to get me back into a space where I am able to tap into the wisdom, logic and executive thought processes of my prefrontal cortex – the part of my brain where all the good stuff happens. I know what it feels like to “flip my lid” as Daniel Siegel explains and go into that part of the brain where I am being held captive by my amygdala in a state of fight, flight or freeze. I have the “mindsight” to see what’s going on and yet my brain goes into runaway-train mode and I feel like a helpless heroine from a 1920’s train robbery silent movie.

And over the years it’s got better with all the personal work and learning I have done, consciously and consistently incorporating practices into my life to keep me present, grounded and tapped into pre-frontal part of the brain where I am thinking like a rational and reasonable human, and not reacting like an impala under attack by a pride of lions. And still there are days when the the world closes in around me and I am slave to the neurological processes of my ever-complicated grey matter!

What I am not trying to do here is excuse the fact that I become irrational, unreasonable and completely over-emotional in these times. The period between these attacks has got longer with the more practices and tools I use, but still it happens. And in these times not only am I freaked out and impossible, but I have a severely negative impact on the people around me. I become needy and seek affirmation and assurance from anyone within a twenty metre radius, but don’t necessarily believe the words that I hear. It’s really just a nasty emotional quagmire to be in!

And yet I never stop looking for ways to calm my brain and psyche, and develop new behaviour that is supportive of me being in a present, grounded space in my life. Among other things I exercise regularly, follow a healthy sleep and recovery regimen, eat a very balanced and nutritious diet, abstain from alcohol, narcotics and nicotine, journal, do plenty of personal spiritual, emotional and mental work, and follow a number of intellectual pursuits of a personal and professional nature. I am fully aware of my triggers and have a strong system, structure and scheduling process in my life. So it’s not like I am not aware of what needs to be done. The purpose of all of this is to support my well-being and personal recovery, and to ensure that my anxiety is under control on an ongoing basis, and yet I still get struck by the horrible debilitating disorder periodically!

Well, that was until fairly recently…let’s call it a month! And then I was introduced to the wonders of Acudetox otherwise known as sticking needles into one’s ears!? A method of using acupressure points in the ear to detoxify the body and enhance well-being. The reason I was interested to begin with was to help me wean off my prescription of Wellbutrin which could possibly have run its course and actually be adding to the anxiety, although there is no definitive evidence of this and confusing wording like “research suggests…”. On the morning of my first treatment I was having one of “those days” crippled by insecurity and my special brand of crazy thinking. When I get like this it’s like being an astronaut whose become disconnected from the spacecraft, floating around in the ether without any communication or oxygen, and knowing where I need to get to, but being unable to do so. I’m flailing in mid air, fighting the zero-gravity effect and feeling helpless!

So I arrived in a tearful and panicked state. All I really want in these times is to be able to pause and get back into a state of presence and calm, where I can reason, rationalise and respond to my life. I shared the space with my partner who is severely impacted when I am trapped in the anxiety spiral, and the practitioner quietly put the needles into my ears and then left me to sit for 45 minutes. I could feel the anxiety slipping out of my body as the minutes ticked by. To be honest merely being able to sit still when I am so anxious was a feat in itself, but something was happening. I could feel my prefrontal cortex coming back online so to speak and the irrational thoughts and fears ebbing away.

When the time was up and she had removed the needles I still felt the residual effects of my morning – it’s like an emotional hangover when I have a really bad bout. And although the rest of the day I still felt raw and uneasy, the following morning I woke up in a completely different space and time. There was nothing in my stomach or my chest…just a wonderfully peaceful empty feeling. And it was in that waking that I realised that even when I am not in full-blown attack mode, I actually live with the feelings of being anxious on a daily basis…it’s just my normal. Over the past fours weeks my world has changed considerably.

Although I have fleeting feelings of anxiety, my days are far more centred and manageable, and I have been having weekly sessions with the Acu-Angel.  I have been more present, grounded and calm than I have been in ages, even with a chaotic job and a lot of pressure in my life. I am dealing with my triggers more effectively and handling my stress in a far healthier way, and all has been well. Until through unforeseen circumstances I missed my last appointment and along with a special set of stressful circumstances, I had a day!! A horrible, dysfunctional day where nothing I did would keep my in the space of being a responsive, thoughtful woman. And it was in that day when I undid so much of the good I’d done in the previous weeks, I realised just how powerful the treatment I have been receiving is.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe that anything works in isolation. I don’t think that taking meds and sitting on the couch is going to create mental health and well-being, or that going to the gym will get me a great body if I don’t do anything else. I am sure that a combination of practices, habits and behaviour is what is needed to be in a state of holistic wellness. But wow! With all the work I have done over the years, I feel as though acudetox is the thread that pulls it all together. Because while I can be cerebral about my life and what needs to be done, it feels now as though there is something chemical and physical that the needles are taking care of. I don’t know enough to be able to fully explain it, but the feeling of aliveness, energy, well-being, peace and presence I have experienced over the past month or so is nothing short of miraculous for me!

Of course I will continue to use the sessions along with my practices and processes, but the combination is returning all sorts of incredible dividends. My days are calmer and more focused, my sense of self is more realistic and loving, my personal relationship is stronger and happier (as is my partner), and there is a new level of clarity and responsiveness in my professional space. So although I did have an atrocious day on Saturday, and there is some damage control to be done, I am relieved that if I continue with my treatment, these days will eventually be nothing more than a memory as I move into an exciting new chapter in my personal and professional life, free of the shackles that have held me back for what really feels like forever…

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We offer acudetox sessions at The Foundation Clinic, Oaklands with registered practitioner Kim Margolius every Thursday morning.

For more information about rates and to book a session, please contact Leigh-Anne on (010)900-3131 or email leigh-anne@thefoundationclinic.co.za

Posted in Be The Change

I didn’t say it would be easy…I said it would be worth it!

I love the work that I do (most of the time) and feel blessed to be able to work in a space where I get to support people in their personal processes.  In this process I get to be part of a my clients’ awakening as they move forward in their lives, but these connections sometimes come at a price.  As someone who works in substance abuse and mental health industry I am constantly giving of myself to others in the work that I do.  I show up as authentically as possible as often as possible and try and bring myself as courageously as I can in service of my clients.

But this doesn’t always work in my favour and there are times that the parts of my life I use in the learning are used against me by clients who are in a different parts of their journey.  And that is part of what I do…it doesn’t always go well and sometimes it’s just downright awful, but that’s the nature of the work that I do.  I have chosen to be in this world where I am sometimes open to anger, vitriol and projection.  I’ve done my personal work and I know when I have to stand back and just let the work happen without me.  It’s difficult to quiet my inner critic in these situations and allow the process to unfold, but it’s essential for my sanity and well-being.

At the moment I am in one of these situations.  Not only has there been a difficult situation in my work space, but I have also had an exceptionally stressful few months.  So I have had to put myself first and step away from my professional life.  On the one hand it is exactly what I need to do, but on the other hand it’s been a really bitter pill to swallow.  I need to take care of myself emotionally, spiritually, mentally, physically and socially and for this process to happen I need to be in a safe, loving space.  One of my biggest challenges in life is to practice self-love and right now I have no other choice but to do this.  I am having to show up authentically and courageously for myself for the time-being rather than the clients and patients that are such a high value for me.

So what s unfolding in my life at the moment is a real integration of the teaching and facilitation work that I do at the clinic.  I am having to put down some very strong boundaries at the moment in order to protect my recovery and wellness.  Working in the addiction space means that conflict, crisis and chaos rule and it can be hard to find balance and perspective when I am entrenched in the environment.  In order to build up my personal recovery capital I have to put myself into a mindset where I am practising humility about what I can and cannot achieve both personally and professionally at the moment.

The humility to embrace that I really am just human and that I cannot expect myself to always be able to show up in the messiness of the work that I do without taking time and making space for my own work, healing, fulfillment and goals.  Perhaps I also need to have the “mindsight” to remember that I have already battled a lot of my personal demons and that some of them still lurk in the shadows waiting for an opportunity to pounce into my life, especially when I am feeling drained and burned out.  The one thing I do know is that no matter what happens in my world I am living firmly within the universal principles of honesty, integrity and willingness to see when I need to focus on what I can control in any given situation, and what is complete outside of my control.  And that’s very hard for an “eight”.

I have never claimed to be perfect, I know that I make mistakes and I am aware of where I need to work in my various personal and professional roles.  My growth and development is ongoing and something that I consciously work on daily, weekly, monthly and further into the future.  Most of the goals, plans and actions I focus on are of the relational nature; with myself, the important people in my life, my clients, and the larger world around me.  Sometimes I get these interactions right and sometimes they don’t work out so well, but I am constantly striving to improve the way I connect with myself and the world.

Like most people I come across I am simply trying to be a little better than I was yesterday, and make some mental notes and commitments as to how I can show up authentically, courageously and congruently in my life, my relationships, my work and my community.  So this afternoon I will spend some time looking at my upcoming week, setting out some intentions as to where I can do better in my life and focusing on the areas that fulfill me as well as the areas that challenge me.  I am aware of my “bright spots” in life, but I am equally aware of what needs to be addressed and looked at with an openness and willingness that is sometimes hard when it comes to self-reflection.

I didn't sat it would be easy... I said it would be worth it

But in order to do the work that I do with others, I need to be able to do the work on myself.  Not always easy.  Not always pretty.  But always, always necessary…and always worth it!

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Nutrition & Lifestyle Coaching

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.

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Posted in Be The Change

There will be no white flag above my door!

Flyer 1.jpgI am passionate about the work that I do as a coach and for the past four years have been blessed to be part of the team at The Foundation Clinic in Johannesburg.  The clinic is a substance abuse treatment and recovery centre that has not only been part of my professional growth over this time, but has also deepened my personal recovery and growth in ways that cannot be measured.  I have seen so many people walk up the stairs of the clinic broken, shattered and empty and watched those same people leave with new hope, promise and possibility.

Sound like fulfilling and purposeful work?  It is!  And I am blessed to see people move from illness to wellness on a daily basis.  The problem is that treatment is expensive, and in our quest to help as many people as possible, we have sometimes made people decisions rather than financial ones.  Often waiving shortfalls and payment gaps on the medical aids so that we could help someone who really needed it.  And these decisions have seen us fall into something of a dire situation.

Because when we forgo shortfalls, we also forgo income that is needed to keep the clinic running.  So, I guess by putting individuals first, we’ve come short in a business sense.  The place needs some TLC and aesthetics have a huge impact on future clientele who are planning to undergo treatment, because before they get to know us and experience the ethos of the clinic all they can see is what’s right in front of them and it’s not looking as good as it should.

I feel sad and depleted at the idea of seeing the people that desperately need help with substance abuse disorders go untreated.  But it also makes me feel helpless when the bills are not being met and the staff not being paid.  The commitment from the team is unparalleled and the passion that they bring to their jobs unequalled by any organisation that I have worked in.  I am proud to be part of the organisation, even with it’s peeling paint and basic bedrooms.  But I  know that there needs to be change and this takes money.  And the best way for us to generate the income we need is to fill the clinic.

It’s so hard for me to write this post, because I feel exposed and vulnerable and that’s not a comfortable space for me to be in.  But my need to do what needs to be done to help save this business outweighs my personal discomfort.  I just feel like the recovery community in Johannesburg would be poorer without the clinic to run support groups, community meetings, in- and out-patient programmes, and be an empowering space for the creation of #recoverycapital.

This is  not about me and my job, this is about fighting for something that is REALLY worth fighting for.  The Ubuntu Addiction Community Trust (U-ACT) has worked with hundreds of individuals in communities and organisations across South Africa to assist and empower those challenged by substance abuse.  The team has trained recovery coaches to become resources in their own communities and support the individuals and families that are stricken by the drug culture of this country.  And much of this work is done pro bono, because the people that need the help most are those that can least afford it.

I have to admit that I do feel resentful at times when I look at the work that this organisation does in return for very little at the end of the day.  It’s made me question the fairness and equality of the system more than once, because the work that is done is life-changing for so many people.  But then I remember that I need to be grateful for the opportunity that I get on a daily basis to touch and change peoples’ lives as they learn to know and love themselves again, and so on I go, because I am not ready to throw in the towel just yet and walk away from a place and a team and a purpose that feed my soul and allow me the chance to really live life every day.  Even though the challenges are immense, the rewards are far greater than can be measured by any bank balance.  There will be no white flag above my door and you can take that to the bank!

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If you are in the position to assist either on an individual, organisational or corporate level, please visit our funding page for more information on how to help.

THE FOUNDATION CLINIC REVIVAL: BACK A BUDDY!

If you would like to chat about helping out or making an donation in the form of renovation materials, please contact me on (010)900-3131 or leigh-anne@thefoundationclinic.co.za

Posted in Uncategorized

Now that I’ve stopped…how do I stay stopped!?

An oldie but a goodie! I loved this post and still talk about this topic on a very regular basis in the work that I do as a Recovery Coach. Enjoy.

Sober Something

rope_bridgeI originally wrote this post for The Foundation Clinic, but wanted to share it here on my personal blog.  I hope you enjoy the post.

I meet so many people who have stopped!  Stopped drinking..stopped using drugs…stopped addictive behaviour…and they truly want to stay there.  But there is a vast divide, the Grand Canyon of good intentions, that separates wanting and doing.  I want to live a fulfilled and purposeful life, is a far cry from attaining that life.  It’s a great start, but in between the wanting and the doing is where the real work lies.  Who doesn’t want mature, healthy relationships with their spouse, kids, family and friends!?  A great job that you look forward to, even on a Sunday evening!?  Meaningful interests, hobbies and pastimes, that bring fun, adventure and balance into the everyday!?

There are not a lot of people who I  know that don’t want these…

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Posted in Nutrition & Lifestyle Coaching

Some Days I’d Rather Gargle Scorpions!

So I have been on my transformation journey for about 18 months, most of them spent working with Alex and there are some things that I have learned along the way.  I’ve started to master some of the basic concepts of sustainable weight- and fat-loss and strength training, and seen some nice changes in my body.  I have done things in the gym that I would never have imagined doing, like squats and dead lifts, and all sorts of hip thrust variations.  I’ve had good days, great days, bad days and positively crap days when it comes to my eating and training, and I have kept going forward.

I am sitting at home this morning nursing a slightly bruised body after falling down a small flight of stairs on Friday morning.  More like tumbling down them in a heap and smashing my phone in the process.  Ego and knees slightly bruised, body feeling sore and tender, and of course there were plenty of people around to witness it.  I never act out my clumsy in quiet streets or hallways, always saving this sort of thing for an concerned audience.  But that’s not what this post is about.  This post is about what it has really taken to get me to where I am in my process and how I deal with the little setbacks.

I really did have that feeling of wanting to be in the gym this weekend.  It’s when I get to have a training partner and share the time with someone which helps to motivate me and keep me accountable.  It’s that weekly dose of fitness connection that keeps me going through the week, focusing on the advice and information I have gained from working out with someone who is a lot more experienced and knowledgeable than I am.  It’s tricky for me to keep my motivation up when it comes to getting to the gym on a regular basis…even after more than a year I am still just going through the motions on certain days to get to the point where I am handing over my access card to the receptionist.  Wake up…drink coffee…check emails…put on gym clothes…make and pack lunch…remove self from house…get into car…drive to gym…hand over access card. Phew, I made it!!

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And then once in the space, I start to feel a trickle of motivation which builds as I move through my programme.   ACTION…MOTIVATION…INSPIRATION.  I keep thinking that maybe one day I’ll wake up and not be able to contain my excitement at the thought of going to the gym to do my workout.  But those days only strike occasionally.  The thing is that once I get to the gym then I am normally happy to be there, excited about my workout and willing to push myself to get the best out of the time I possibly can.  It’s just about getting there!  Okay, there is that occasional day when my energy is low and my body feels weak that I’d rather be chewing glass and gargling scorpions than attempting a set of RDLs, but those don’t happen to often, and are normally about stress and lack of sleep. I just find it so confounding that I still can’t simply get up, no mess, no fuss, and take myself to the gym.

ACTION…MOTIVATION…INSPIRATION. So instead of beating myself up about this resistance I have, I am trying to understand what it’s about.  The truth is that I am really happy with the way my body is starting to look.  I thought I wouldn’t like having a more muscly, toned body, but I do.  I like the feeling of being stronger and I definitely like being leaner.  So what is it about?  Maybe it’s just so many years of bad habits and fixed mindset that I just need to keep doing what I do?  Or perhaps it’s about reprogramming the way that I have felt about diet and exercise for thirty years!?  That instead of it being something loving and nourishing for my body, mind and spirit, I have seen it as punishment for overeating and being lazy.  A way of reprimanding myself for what I had done wrong when it came to food and exercise.

Eaten too much?  That’s 60 minutes on the treadmill!  Missed a workout?  That’s an extra 10 lengths of the pool!  Low energy workout on Saturday?  Double reps on Sunday!

I suppose I can hardly blame my brain for being a little adverse to the idea of going to the gym on a regular basis.  There are just not enough positive neural pathways associated with being there.  And then of course there are all those crazy autobiographical memories, associations and perceptions around food and how I used to punish myself mentally, emotionally and physically when I did something wrong!

Even as I write this post I am getting a better understanding on how many layers and years of negative behaviour, memory, habits, perceptions and associations I still have to cut through.  Of course I am constantly laying new neural pathways that are grounded in positive, self-loving actions, but I guess that it might take a little longer than just a year to get me to where I am bouncing out of bed in the semi-light of dawn to skip off to the gym.  What I am asking myself right now is how I can make it more of a fun experience so that there is more reward associated with the action?  Maybe it’s time for a couple of new workout tops so that I feel a little sexier when I get to the gym, rather than the raggedy old, far-too-big, tops I am wearing at the moment.  I am tracking my movement on a daily basis and that’s something that makes me feel accomplished and motivated, but there needs to be more positive associations.

So, maybe something as simple as a couple of new shirts and a decent workout bra will make me feel a little more inclined to take the actions that I take in the morning to get me there!?  The truth be told, I feel a little shopping coming on…and I’ll see how that makes me feel when I am getting ready to go and lift heavy stuff in the mornings.  I’ll let you know how it goes!  ACTION…MOTIVATION…INSPIRATION! 

This is a repost from the original written as part of my Alex Campbell Transformation series…

Posted in Life Coaching

On Particularly Rough Days…

I am  actively working on myself…and have been for some time because what I know to be true is that there is no end point to the work that I am doing.  No final destination or goal that can be achieved where I get to sit back and say that I have accomplished what I set out to do in my personal work.  The truth is that the more work we do, the more I realise there is to be done.  Okay, maybe calling it work makes it’s sound like a required tedium.  I love the process of getting to focus and experiment on myself – even when it’s difficult.

This afternoon I was having a quiet, pensive conversation with a friend of mine who is a true inspiration to me and has been an essential part of my spiritual, emotional and mental growth over the years.  The conversation was about important things that are going on in our lives, not just a chat about the weather, and we inevitably started talking about where we with ourselves and our more challenging situations.  The word acceptance kept coming up from my side of the conversation.  Acceptance about where I am in my life with regards to a couple of personal financial challenges that I have been facing.  Because the thing is that I am being extremely proactive in building my business and creating new opportunities in the work that I do.  It’s not like I am sitting on my couch and waiting for business to fall into my lap.

My Wheel of Life looks amazing at the moment.  Well except for that like wedge labeled “financial”, but that’s where the acceptance is being practiced (or is it tested) at the moment.  Acceptance in the fact that the situation is not permanent, and it’s definitely not personal (one of the habits/skills I am focusing on learning and deepening).  And also practicing the spiritual principles of faith and believing that the hard work will pay off.  That like my recovery, my body transformation and my relationship, consistency is the key to success.  Well one of them anyway.  That if I follow my path with courage and passion, the rewards will follow!?

I’m not talking of financial success, but wealth that is measured in other innumerable ways.  Riches that comprise of gratitude, love, acceptance, wisdom and understanding are actually abundant in my professional and personal life.  But there are times that I find the world a very complex, confusing place and then I start to forget that wealth and success are not merely about money and financial stability, but also about the universal truths of integrity, honesty, compassion and kindness.  That success is about honouring my values of education, knowledge, service, connection and adventure, in a way that touches the lives of the people that I work with.  That being given the privilege of holding a space for those who are ready to find their true voice and live with courageous vulnerability, is nothing short of a daily gift.

And yet I get caught up in the challenges of daily life and forget to be grateful for the remarkable space I get to work in.  Where I get to work and walk with people who are reinventing themselves, their relationships and their purpose in life.  Those seeking out their true sense of self so that they can move forward with congruent integrity.  I get to learn about lives that are so different from mine and no amount of reading could ever bring me the knowledge and insight I get from being part of my clients’ processes.  These are the blessings that I need to remind myself of when I am feeling overwhelmed by the business of life.

I never profess to be some sort of expert in the field of human behaviour, able to apply all the learning and tools to my own life in an effortless way.  My personal process is a collection of triumphs and challenges, situations that go swimmingly and others that teeter on the brink of disastrous.  At times I can be as present and centered as an enlightened being, only to be knocked out of my moment by something completely trivial.  And then spend ages trying to refocus and breathe in a way that resembles normal.  The reason I am saying this is because what I do believe is that there are no experts when it comes to how to live life.  There are just those who are much much better at it than use mere mortals…the Dalai Lama, Eckhart Tolle, Deepak Chopra and other such spiritual masters being on the high end of the “I get this life thing” continuum.

I have had hysterical calls in the middle of the night from people who present very differently in their professional lives as business people, lawyers, executives and leaders, and their lives or those of their loved ones are in in a state of messy.  What this has shown me is that we are all just people trying to make sense of the inexplicable situations that life throws at us at times.  And we may be equipped with all sorts of skills, tools, practices and habits, but that doesn’t mean we hit the mark with our behaviour every time things go awry.  It’s one thing to observe and assist in other peoples’ lives and a completely different situation when it is happening to us.  So I have to remember that humility is an essential spiritual ingredient in my personal and professional life.

Because in my own life I don’t get to be the coach, I just get to be the woman.  That I also get triggered and scared, and there are things that upset my equilibrium.  Just because I know how which tools and methods to use when feeling upset, angry and reactive doesn’t mean I always get it “right”.  There are times that I lose my temper, react rather than respond, and even say something mean and thoughtless.  And just like everyone else I have to take myself back into the situation after losing my shit and apologise for being insensitive or irrational.  In fact often knowing what I should have done makes screwing it up even harder.  But that’s the inner critic coming out to have a loud word in my ear!

I guess what I am trying to say is that I really am just trying to navigate through this world as best I can.  That there are days when I just don’t get it… Days when I find people and communication complex and confounding.  Days when I want to slip under my bed and pretend that I am hiding from a fire-spewing dragon.  Days when even my best efforts end up not working out like I had hoped or planned, all communication missing the mark and pretty much it all just being a huge SNAFU!  And it is on these days in particular where I need to stay in my authentic self and just let the chips fall where they may, even if that is in a big messy pile all around me.  Only then can I start to catch my breath and my bearings and decide on the way forward.  Where maybe I have to shallow my pride and take responsibility around the part I have  played in the dysfunction.

I’m not saying that this is an everyday event, but what I am trying say is that it happens.  No one has a perfect score card when it comes to good days!  And on particularly rough days when I’m sure I can’t possibly endure, I like to remind myself that my track record for getting through bad days so far is 100%. And that’s pretty good.

Rough Days

 

Posted in Be The Change

You’re Just too Good to be True!?

Call Valentine’s Day whatever you like, but I have to be honest that I like a little bit of romance…  Of course, I don’t think we should wait for the price of roses and teddy bears to increase 1000% in order to be able to show our person that we love them, but I really love the idea of a day that’s all about love.  I genuinely believe that the world would be a better place if we spent more time engaged in love; self-love, romantic love, love for friends, family and colleagues; but for now, let’s talk about the romantic, intimate kind of love that we all seem to be so focused on so much of our lives.

Memories and moments are created around love…first love, first kiss, first date, not necessarily in that order.  Birthdays, weddings, funerals and anniversaries are essentially a celebration of love and connection.  And almost every song I’ve ever heard has been about some kind of love…  But what is it to truly be loved?

I’m no expert in the matter, having spent much of my twenties and all of my thirties as a single-something.  There’s was other stuff going on in my life at the time, like travel, drinking, adventure, drinking, partying and drinking, and that’s not the ideal situation in which to find true love as I learned.  I fell in love many Friday nights, only to see that maybe that’s not exactly what it was in the stark light of a hungover Saturday morning.  And so passed the time.  With me always secretly hoping that just one of those encounters would develop into something – anything – resembling a real, loving relationship.  But alas that was not to be my rom-com happy ending.

And for many years that was where my ideas of love and romance were born – by watching movies.  I also stopped drinking when I was 35 and then any interaction with the opposite sex was whittled down to some very nervous, awkward conversations and exchanges as I relearned to socialise without the help of alcohol.  Never one for half measures I chose sexual celibacy while I worked on myself and how I’d like to show up in my next relationship.  I was later to learn that the only way to get relationship-fit is to be in a relationship and that five years of celibacy is more caustically referred to as being sexually anorexic…not profound personal development as I thought.

What I did do during that time was to really think about what I was looking for from a partner.  The kind of guy that I wanted to share space and time with, and who I was prepared to be vulnerable, authentic and congruent with.  And around 40 I met a guy who I thought was that guy, but after three years I realised that I was never going to be his priority and there were a dozen things that came before me on the emotional, mental, social, spiritual and physical to-do list.  I walked away at the right time after fighting to be seen for the last 12 months of the relationship and am exceptionally grateful to him for the lessons I learned.  One of the biggest was that being really seen by the person that said “I love you” was a non-negotiable for me.  And I mean really seen…

I learned that I needed to be considered, the be respected, to be prioritised and to be acknowledged.  Not simply by words, but most definitely in actions.  With my love languages of quality time and acts of service that means I’d rather he stood with me and cooked dinner after doing the grocery shopping than buying me an expensive meal.  And the most life-changing lesson I learned was about self-love, because if we don’t love ourselves then how can we possibly ask and expect someone else to love us.  It’s really difficult to love someone who doesn’t see their worth and what they bring to the world…

So, the relationship ran its natural course and I walked away with the intrinsic knowing that it was the most self-loving thing that I could possibly have done.  And walked into the most unexpected relationship I never saw coming.  It’s a complicated story, but what I have learned over the time we have been together is what it truly means to be loved…and it’s nothing like I expected it to be.

It’s been a whirlwind, in the style of a typhoon, that bends strong, preconceived ideas to the limit and breaks false beliefs that have no place in a relationship.  But for the first time in my life, I know how it feels to be part of something genuine and authentic when it comes to love.  I know what it feels like to have someone courageously and vulnerably tell me how they feel, rather than dribbling out the sentiments when the right amount of time has elapsed.  Being really seen by a man for the first time has been an amazing, yet overwhelming experience.

No one in their forties can hope to come into a relationship unburdened by past experiences, and what I have come to learn is that’s what a real relationship is about.  It’s a beautifully messy meeting of minds, hearts and souls, so totally perfect in it’s imperfection.  It’s about a deep knowing that the person in front of you will be there for you when you need them the most, and that they’ll hold your hand just to be there holding your hand on a difficult day.  But they will also challenge the hell out of you and call you on your bullshit and incongruity immediately as they see it.  They won’t give you a free pass to project your bad day onto them, but they will love you unconditionally for who you are and forgive you those silly outbursts that were brought on for no apparent reason, or maybe some over-inflated life situation.

Only living with a man for the first time in my forties has come with a whole special set of hockey-stick learning curves.  I thought we’d just slot into cohabitation effortlessly, knowing where we belonged and who did what…I was a little left of reality.  And it took time some time to figure it all out.  I honestly didn’t know the household chores, duties and responsibilities needed to be discussed…that never happens in the movies!!!  I guess I was completely naive…surely love would simply allocate shopping, cooking and cleaning to the right person and we’d live blissfully in our universally-assigned roles.  Who knew that men didn’t simply assume the “take out the rubbish” and “change the light bulbs” role!?

What I have learned in this time is that the only way to work all this stuff out is to talk it out, which was “unromantically” surprising to me!!  Wasn’t moving in together and being in love just some exciting series of moments and memories??

#tbtBut in all the logistics of it, I have come to know what it means to be truly loved.  That a disagreement over the most trivial or important of issues does not mean that the relationship is going to disintegrate in a couple of minutes or hours.  That the stress of daily life continues, but that there is someone there to come home to and feel the feeling of real safety and certainty.  To know beyond knowing that if that horrible lump in your right breast were to turn out to be malignant, that he’d be there with you every single step of the way.  And yet, it doesn’t mean that he’ll accept bad behaviour or put up with endless rounds of ineffective communication.

So yes, there are the fairy-tale parts to the love, the magical moments of blissful synchronicity where it feels as though our souls are locked in wordless conversation.  There is connection, togetherness, deeply felt emotion.  And there is action…lots and lots of doing, talking and showing up to express our love to one another in an everyday, moment-to-moment kind of way.  There’s also all the messy stuff that makes a grown-up relationship.  The missed conversational nuances at the end of a long, hard week that sometimes lead to silly arguments.  The misconstrued, unintended projections that happen from time to time, and really piss the other person off.  Yet none of that can ever take away from how it is to truly be loved.  To stand in the chaos of life with a deep, knowledge and certainty that I am seen and loved for being exactly who I am (as long as I am working on the not-so-okay stuff).  And that’s much better than being in a Hollywood rom-com any day of the week.  To look into the eyes of the person who truly loves me and know that everything is exactly as it is supposed to be and that no matter what comes up he’ll be there with me; maybe holding my hand, maybe kicking my butt, but he’ll be there and that’s how it feels to be truly loved.

 

 

Posted in Nutrition & Lifestyle Coaching

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.