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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.

Posted in Be The Change, Life Coaching, Recovery Coaching

Are You Living Courageously?

Recovery Coaching

The theme of the week has been courage and vulnerability...and without sounding like one of Brene Brown’s PR team, it really does keep coming up over and over again with the individuals and groups that I coach.  And so often this last week, the conversations have gone to where people feel they need to show up courageously in their lives and be able to ask for what they need; emotionally, socially, spiritually, mentally and physically.  Being vulnerable as an eight on the Enneagram is extremely challenging for me at times, as this requires me having no control over what might or might not happen in any given situation and learning to be comfortable with that.  And believe me that scares the crap out of me on a good day, never mind a day when I am feeling a little insecure about myself.  And those days come even with all the tricks, tools and techniques I have at my disposal as a coach.

Of course, there are plenty of situations in any given day or week that require me to allow my vulnerability to be tapped into as a personal strength.  Whether this is asking my partner for support or love, reaching out to a colleague on a project or letting down my guard with the clients that I work with in the addiction treatment centre.  And when I do this, the most incredible things happen and I feel authentic and congruent within myself.  It’s when I feel spiritually connected to myself and the world around me, as if hooked up to the universe by a powerful force of love and acceptance.

Then all of a sudden I can be disconnected from this sense of presence and belonging, trapped in the crazy of my thoughts!  And try as I might, there are times when getting out of my head and into my body can be extremely difficult.  Personal development, conscious living and awareness are wonderful when I am plugged into the world through my executive thought functions in my prefrontal cortex, but when something short circuits in the inner workings of my brain and I suddenly go “offline” because of an event that has triggered me, it’s not always easy to come  back into my body and reconnect back into the universal energy.  That’s when having the mindsight to see what is going on, and how I am not doing what I know works, can just be frustrating!

There is no magic to any of this.  It’s about using those little tools and tricks that I’ve learned, and teach to others, consistently and patiently.  I’ve never professed to be a master at any of this, just another soul navigating the roads, avenues and boulevards of life.  I know that hitting the pause button between stimulus and response is incredibly effective – when I am able to find the sometimes elusive pause button. This doesn’t always happen! Of course there are times when I am able to catch myself and S.T.O.P. (Stop–Take Three Breaths–Observe–Proceed) which is one of Deepak Chopra’s little tricks to bring ourselves back into the present.

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And I have learned to T.H.I.N.K. more often, before I fire off a series of reactive retorts in the heat of the moment.  So I S.T.O.P. and ask myself, “Is it TRUE?  Is it HELPFUL? Is it INSPIRING?  Is  it NECESSARY? Is it KIND?” before being thoughtless with my words.  Often I don’t get past the true bit, and it’s a wonderful tool when I use it.  But as I have mentioned I am perfectly imperfect when it comes to keeping it all real, and of course there are times when I say and do things in that cowgirl-style of mine, having to go back later and sweep the debris off the saloon floor after the verbal gunfight!

The real power though, is if I allow myself to remain vulnerable with myself and the people around me.  I find it less likely that I am going to feel under threat from the people I interact with when I adopt this mindset.  That if I am courageous in my daily life and speak with a gentle compassion to myself and others, I have the ability to stay in my authenticity.  And the irony of it is that when I am being vulnerable and open, I feel incredibly strong.  By exposing my softness I am actually more protected than if I put on  masks, build walls and armour myself in preparation for how the world’s going to, maybe, fuck me over.

So, going back to my original thoughts; over the course of the week as this theme was discussed in the coaching groups that I facilitate, I realised that there are so many people letting down their fake personas of strength and infallibility.  Watching vulnerability and courage finding their voice in men and women who have long been silenced by the guilt and shame of addiction is nothing less than an honour and a privilege.  As mothers and fathers talk of breaking the cycle of substance abuse in their families and showing up for their children differently to their parents, I feel the genuine desire for change.  When individuals allow their truth to find a space and explore their deepest core beliefs and values, I am humbled by the tenacity of the human spirit.  Many times over the last week I have seen people share from places deep within them, bringing fears, insecurities and humility into the light, instantly diminishing their stranglehold on their hearts and souls.

And the more vulnerably I show up in this space, the more unspoken permission there is for real healing and growth.  When I am authentic and congruent, speaking my truth, others are shown that there are no rights or wrongs when it comes to being ourselves.  Rather that each and every person has the personal power to show up and be heard, seen and loved if they are ready to allow themselves to drop the shields we all carry and let their courage, authenticity and vulnerability guide them towards their true purpose in life, whatever that may be for them.

Posted in Be The Change

Braving the Wilderness…

26173302_1927914530556980_1642093532013202156_oI have just about finished listening to Brené Brown’s new book, “Braving the Wilderness“, and it has resonated so strongly with me from the very first chapter.  Listening to her talk about courage, vulnerability and authenticity never tires for me, as she talks to parts of me that I thought were mine alone.  The way she covers topics like boundaries, and how to love generously without judgement, inspire me to continue contributing wholeheartedly in the work that I do.

What it reminded me of is that it doesn’t matter if sometimes the lesson goes unlearned by the people in our lives, and that the most important learning is the one that we receive.  I have oftentimes felt so alone in the world, wondering if it was only me who thought I was being misunderstood, feeling too much and questioning the status quo, but listening to this book (which I want to buy and make lots of notes in) I now know that there are other souls just like mine that are trying to make a difference to those around them.  And sometimes that feels like swimming through syrup.  Wondering if there is any value in putting little bits of my soul out into the ethos…  And then I receive the lesson, not only through the words I am hearing spoken in the wider community, but from the lips of a client who is sitting in front of me, speaking exactly the same ideas and thoughts as I have been having listening to the book.  And once again I am reminded that I am not alone.  That the universe is scattered with individuals, families, groups, organisations and communities that are all braving the wilderness. 

This I endeavour to do this with compassion and authenticity in the coaching work that I do…mainly in the field of (addiction) recovery.  My greatest aim is to show up courageously in my personal and professional life, living in congruency with the universal truths of integrity, openness, patience, tolerance and forgiveness (to name but a few).  In this principle-centred approach to life I feel that I can find peace and presence, something that I feel like I have been chasing my whole life.  The funny thing is that I just need to stop and just be still, and allow the years of personal work to settle quietly around me, guiding me towards an inner stillness.  So much easier said then done!

A couple of weeks ago I started reading “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” which I bought nineteen years ago, have carried to various homes around the world, and only just opened now.  Maybe this was the perfect time for me to read it, as I realise that I have been living many of Stephen Covey’s teachings and practices for some time, and coupled with the more spiritual work of Eckhart Tolle,  Simon Sinek’s “What is Your Why?“, changed and developed my “Mindset” thanks to Carol Dweck, and the phenomenal book “Switch” by Chip and Dan Heath, I have somehow developed a wonderfully holistic little map book for my adventure of life.  I am not saying that I have all the answers, and sometimes when I dig into my head it is so full of clutter that I can’t find my spiritual road map.  But when I make sure that my mind is empty of the noise, my soul is clear and my intentions are pure, I am guided by my own inner wisdom in exactly the right direction.

Of course, there are times when I argue with my intuitive GPS and because of that end up lost and confused in the quagmire of indecision and self-doubt.  Learning to stop, take a deep breath and respond to situations has been a lifelong challenge for me.  I am more of the kick-down-the-door-guns-blazing kinda girl, and to hell with the consequences, (which I always need to go back and deal with later when the dust has settled).  But as my awareness and consciousness grow, I am able to experience genuine peace in my life, where I can simply sit on the sidelines and watch the drama unfold without becoming involved in it…of course those are the good days!  But to be honest these are not as frequent as I would like them to be.

So, this year I am committing my energy towards learning to be more present and grounded in my personal centre.  Where I am able to breathe through the anxiety and as Brené Brown puts it so powerfully, “lean into the joy, rather than pushing myself into worst-case-scenario mode.  I aspire to be wholehearted in my pursuit of adventure, however that may show itself this year, and go out into the wilderness with courage, vulnerability and a genuine commitment to support, love and empower those whose lives I may touch through my collaborations, partnerships, friendships and casual meetings.  And for those in my little tribe of much loved individuals, I hope to enrich and sweeten their lives through my words, actions and unconditional love.

Now I think I am going to go and have an afternoon nap…it feels like a loving thing to do.

Posted in Nutrition & Lifestyle Coaching

#whatadifferenceayearmakes

On Sunday, 8th January 2017 my life changed forever!  That was the first time I met Alex in the gym… You may have an idea of where this leads, but let me put you on the right track.  I was completely out of my personal comfort zone, feeling fat and unhappy in my gym leggings and overstretched vest, and extremely self-conscious standing in front of the full-length mirrors in the weights’ section of the local gym.  I was horrified at my reflection and did not know where to stand or what to do with my hands, or my personal discomfort.

I was trying to divert my eyes from the mirror every time I was asked to face myself and “squat”!  It was not a happy day and every time I did what vaguely resembled a squat-like movement, I tried desperately not to notice the way my scrunched-up stomach looked in the reflection.  I didn’t have a clue and all I wanted was for that session to end so that I could run and hide in the change rooms.

I was not going to go ever again!  I’d find a way to cancel and I was sure that there were plenty of dead-relatives I could use as not being able to make the next session.  During those 45 minutes, I had convinced myself that gym was not meant for overweight beginners and that I should simply stay firmly put in my unhappy, fixed-mindset, change-is-the-devil head space.  Anyway, that would be far easier than going back to the gym – EVER AGAIN!  But Alex gently coaxed me through that endless session, and was kind and understanding of my awkwardness.  Pretty sure I am not the first person to experience these feelings, and he was aware and conscious.  In fact after a few sets of the dreaded squats, we moved onto something else a little more ego-friendly.

The reason I share this is because I have to believe that I am not the only person who stepped into a gym for the first time after many years of vowing and affirming that this was the January I was going to lose some weight and get into shape!  I am definitely not the only client who has felt geeky and uncomfortable in front of their ripped, muscly coach.  And I am most certainly not alone when I express that the experience was hardly one that I wanted to repeated…never mind in a couple of days.

But go back I did…again…and again…and again!  And the most amazing thing started to happen.  Firstly, I learned that Alex was anything but judgmental, and that his passion and purpose lies in supporting and encouraging his clients as they grow stronger and leaner.  I learned that he believes in being process- rather than outcomes-driven, and that much of the fulfillment he experiences in his work comes from seeing the changes that his clients achieve over the weeks and months.  I guess that would make sense in the way that an artist doesn’t start with a beautiful landscape or a mind-blowing masterpiece, but rather takes their time to create something from the tools and materials that they have around them.

0 (1)I have moved from being self-conscious to feeling a little more comfortable in my body as we’ve worked together.  And the results although amazing, haven’t been overnight!  The first months saw lots of big changes…kilograms and centimetres seemed to melt away under the fluorescent lamps, but of course these slowed down.  And I kept going to the gym, following my eating plan and altering my mindset and perspective about health and nutrition.  There would be days when I wanted to lie on the floor of the gym and cry because my body didn’t want to comply, or my knees (which have been bad since my showjumping days in high school) wanted to give in.  And I kept going back!

And the most remarkable things have happened!  I didn’t turn into a freakish looking version of myself with great, bulging muscles and manly features.  What did happen was that my body has gotten stronger, leaner and healthier.  And I am able to look into that very same mirror that so terrified me on Day 1 and really look the reflection that is there looking back at me.  It’s got some nicely toned, visible muscles and is still quite shapely, but in a much more sexy, feminine way then I imagined it would look.  So when I stood there last week on Monday, 8th January 2018, I was so proud and excited about how far I have come.

Thankfully I didn’t give up on that very first day because of the inner critic in me who wanted me to run off and hide because I wasn’t good enough, slim enough or strong enough.  Instead I have stuck  it out three to four times a week (well  most weeks) and  have learned to love, nurture and care for my body in a way I  haven’t ever done.  I’ve learned that exercise is NOT about punishing myself because I had a chocolate brownie, but that it’s about honouring the physical, emotional, spiritual and mental parts of self.  Of course there are days when the thought of getting into my gym pants is the last hings I want to do…and I ‘d rather lie around in my underwear and eat ice cream, but the truth is I have fallen in love with the new me over the last year.

The me that is self-loving and wants to do the best for me that I can do.  The new me who has persevered through the initial stages of getting my health back.  The new me who values fitness and exercise.  The new me who doesn’t  make excuses all the time about not having time, but rather makes and finds the time because I am worth it!  And it’s not that I am suddenly an arrogant, slimmer version of my past, overweight self, it’s more that I just really love the fact that I love me!  And that I got over myself and went back for that second and third and forth session with Alex, and all the sessions since then.

He wasn’t with me in the gym this year on my “gym-aversary” but I know he delights in the progress and changes I have made, the growth I have shown, and the values I have developed around myself, my health and my fitness.  Alex is still very much part of my process, and I rely on his knowledge,experience and accountability to see me through the next year of my ongoing transformation, because I have learned that this is not about reaching a final goal, but rather living a life where I am constantly striving for improvement and achievement.  All I can say is #whatadifferenceayearmakes.

Posted in Nutrition & Lifestyle Coaching

The Greatest [Weight-Loss] Love of All…

This was originally posted on Alex Campbell Transformation as Alex is my nutrition and fitness coach, and an enormous part of my process.  Without his support and knowledge, I would never have achieved these incredible results!

A couple of weeks ago I was away at in the Eastern Cape.  A much-deserved break from the frenetic pace of Johannesburg and the intense year I have had.  But I want to focus on my year in light of my weight- and fat-loss, new exercise regimen, changing mindset around diet and exercise, and some of the learning that I have experienced.  If you’ve read any of the other posts I have written over the course of this year then you’ll know I have lost about 30kgs since late 2016, shed dozens of centimetres, and found a new value and focus around health, nutrition and well-being.

And it’s not that this time I was introduced to anything too revolutionary, I simply changed my mind about what it is all about to lose the equivalent of sixty blocks of butter!  I didn’t have to learn to cook in a different way, avoid certain foods or entire food groups, kill myself in the gym, or spend all my money on meal replacements, supplements or diet aids.  What I did have to do was get some perspective!  I needed to find a well-balanced approach to losing the weight and keeping it off.  And I have found that way with the help of Alex and “Flexible Dieting”.  Basically this means that I count calories with the help of the My Fitness Pal app, make sure I get sufficient protein, fats and yes, even carbs, and have a strength-training programme that supports fat-loss and muscle gain.

I HAVE NOT GONE WITHOUT! What I have learned is that healthy weight-loss takes time.  And it’s not about the time the weight takes to disappear, it’s about the time it has taken me to understand my relationship with food, change my thinking around diet and exercise, develop some new skills and habits, and do all this is a way that is self-loving and sustainable.  And being enjoy the occasional chocolate brownie, pizza or other delicious treat while I am doing it.  It  hasn’t been about avoiding anything really…well except maybe for those party packs of Doritos that I would binge on in the height of my lonely, Friday night food addiction days!  I have learned how to eat in a way that means nothing is really off the table.

But it wasn’t really about the food, it has been the biggest lesson in self-love.  I have always been able to blame my weight on outside forces!  Too busy to get to the gym, too tired from work to shop, cook and eat properly, too exhausted to try another diet…  And then justify my choices and feelings of failure by insisting that people shouldn’t love people for the way they look!  And on and on and on…

The real truth was that I didn’t love myself nearly enough to find time for me.  And of course I was way to busy helping others to make the time…a partial “truth”, but an avoidance nonetheless.  Because as a coach working primarily in the field of substance abuse treatment and recovery, taking care of myself is essential.  But avoid myself I did, making all sorts of excuses about how it just wasn’t the right time.  The truth is that losing weight is not just about the food we eat and the exercise we do, it’s also about how  much we value ourselves.

In 2016 I spent time working with a wonderful coach, which was definitely the start of the process.  We spoke of awareness, intention, values and self-love, and how all these were directed by the critical inner voice that has always been so loud, abrasive and just downright mean in my case.  The “you’ll never be good enough” voice that echos from my childhood.  And wherever that voice was born, its words have always been laced with loathing, hatred and self-deprecation.  As we spoke of personal worth, intrinsic values, core beliefs and how we show up in the world, I started to have a very different feeling about myself and my body.

0 (1)I was allowing the inner critic to become the outer manifestation.  I started to realise that I was somehow punishing myself with my own form, and giving myself reason to dislike my human body.  It wasn’t about whether anyone else loved me, it was about whether I loved myself.  And I don’t mean in the mean-girl, bitchy way, I mean in the gentle, nurturing way.  So, instead of looking at my need to lose weight as aesthetic, I started to see it in a more holistic, health-based way.  The fat wasn’t just what was visible,  it was also growing around my internal organs, affecting my longevity and putting me at risk of weight-related dangers like diabetes, heart attack and strokes.  That was when my focus began to shift…slowly at first, but the momentum built pretty quickly, as did a series of events and choices that have changed the entire path I am on.

I started exploring my core beliefs about myself and my values around living (and dying)!  Did any of this have anything to do with will power, time, effort and commitment, or was it simply that I didn’t give enough of a fuck whether I loved a long, healthy life, or dropped dead at the age of 44?  After all I didn’t have kids, wasn’t in an overly committed relationship, and was struggling to get professional traction.  But something deep inside me must have been awake to future possibilities, and started to speak out in a kind, determined voice that this wasn’t my fate and that it didn’t have to be my story.

I fumbled around for some months with a dietitian who I couldn’t get honest with, and wasn’t really showing me anything new.  And then something magical happened…  I started to make myself vulnerable to the idea that there was more to this then simply calorie-cutting and a better exercise approach.  That it was time to drop the idea that if I was bigger (literally), that people would be intimidated (or revolted) by my weight and size, loud voice and bossy demeanor.  That the time had come to get real and courageous in my life, and start letting down my guard.  As an Eight on The Enneagram, I am prone to this kind of behaviour when I am unhealthy (emotionally, spiritually and mentally, as well as physically), using overt  bossiness to make my presence felt.

What I began to learn, was that the hardest part of losing weight is not what I was eating. Along with the disappearing kilograms, I needed to develop a new idea about who I am.  I have seen this with my clients who have a long history of substance abuse, and the fear that comes with having to create a new, healthy identity.  I couldn’t hide behind my overweight body anymore, and use it as a shield against the world, which I often find cruel and dispassionate.  I had to start showing up differently, and that has been my greatest challenge this year.  Learning to love myself more, believe that I am deserving of a healthy body, accept and cherish the love of a man who looks past the physical, and becoming a better form of myself has been an emotional roller coaster.

Of course I am still essentially the same me, though a spiritually, emotionally, socially, mentally and physical version.  I have learned not to hide behind my excuses of being undeserving.  And I feel proud of the work I am putting into me…whether it is the food that I cook, the training that I do, the sleep that I ensure I get, or the way I am trying to show up as a woman.  Of course there are times when I get it all horribly wrong, because as I have become more vulnerable, I have leave myself a lot more exposed to the world.

This means that there are times that I don’t get what I want, but at least I am  learning to ask for what I do need.  My weight-loss has been about wanting to be part of the world, not because losing weight has made me more acceptable, but because it ensures that I will probably live a longer, healthier, more self-loving life.

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I no longer try and hide in the folds of my own body, but step forward a lot more, even though I don’t always get picked for the team.  I constantly push myself to show up in a growth mindset, being courageous and vulnerable, even though the chances of getting hurt or rejected (my biggest fear) are so much higher.  And there are times that I fall flat on my face, but the way I see it right now in my life, “sometimes I win and sometimes I learn”.

And I have learned a helluva lot about myself this year, some of which have been some difficult lessons.  I am grateful and blessed as I move forward to 2018 with a healthier body, a much-improved self-worth, and a knowing that if I value myself and my contribution enough, then I can achieve what I set out to do in the coming year.

As always thank you to Alex Campbell for the part he plays in my ongoing process of learning, growing, accountability and health.

Posted in Nutrition & Lifestyle Coaching

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.

LEIGH 3 monthsThe 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…

Posted in Be The Change, Nutrition & Lifestyle Coaching

Want a Chocolate? Have a Chocolate!?

Dreams_ActionAnd who would be surprised if I said that the biggest challenge in my recovery recently has not been relationships (although there have been a few major changes there), work (also a stressful, chaotic space at the moment), or my personal growth and development (the Enneagram work I am doing has been enormously grounding), but rather my health & fitness…AGAIN!

I was looking back through my posts and in “It’s not the substance that’s the problem…” I talk on this very issue with such hope and optimism.  At the time I was on a very extreme medically-assisted diet, and I was doing great!  I was on the pink cloud of weight loss and completely unconcerned about how I was going to sustain the drastic, low-calorie approach with daily supplements and self-administered injections…I really had no intention of thinking it through as the kilos dropped off.  Which is not unlike the same phase that many of my clients go through in early recovery.  This is great!  I feel great!  Everything’s great!  BANG!!! I just ran into a wall.  And surprise, surprise that is exactly what happened to me.

I had a bad financial run at work, the injections, weekly consultations and supplements became too expensive, I was battling with the 650 calories a day and extreme hunger and I just became plain miserable.  On top of that I was “not allowed” to exercise and I’ve never needed much encouragement to avoid the gym.  Needless to say I relapsed into old behaviours, and about 14 months later I had regained the 15 kilograms I had lost and a couple extra.  So there I was back in the same place, feeling guilt and shame, battered self-worth and considering myself a complete failure, with a cupboard full of clothes that didn’t fit properly.

And so began the process all over again…  I don’t understand the science of nutrition or what’s really going on with my metabolism, so I once again I deferred to an expert.  Motivated, willing and more than a little desperate I booked a series of appointments with a dietician.  I mean, after all, I have been on Weigh-Less, Atkins, Scarsdale, low-fat, high-protein, no-this and no-that diets, with more than a few medical diets, and a period of starvation, so I thought I’d try something new.   But at the end of the day it’s all exactly the same…a completely unsustainable approach to eating that fills my kitchen and bathroom with another set of ingredients, most of which I am not particularly enamoured by, and a stack of supplements, vitamins and concoctions that  don’t come cheap.  And after weeks of minimal weight loss, I am left feeling despondent and frustrated, with the implied narrative that if I had more willpower and discipline, I would be doing much better, “But don’t worry just try harder this week!” Try harder than what?

And of course, the determination that was there in the beginning starts to rapidly wain and I still cannot fit into my clothes (or afford to buy new ones).

By December 2016 I was so fed up with empty promises and weight-loss failures, I was more than ready to throw in the towel completely and work my way towards a size 20.  But then something amazing happened…  A client that I had  been working with offered to help me, by looking at everything food, nutrition, diet and exercise from a completely new perspective.  And instead of telling me what to do or how to do it, he simply explained that there was another way!  And then he started to work with me in an open, honest accountability partnership.  With the use of “My Fitness Pal“, weight and measurement tracking and certain targets around nutrition, we began the process.  And instead of being prescriptive and authoritative he began coaching  me around the emotional, physical and mental aspects of healthy diet and exercise.  The diet is a calorie-controlled diet, but with the use of technology the process has become remarkably simple and sustainable.

Want a chocolate?  Have a chocolate!  Just remember that it means you might have to eat smaller quantities of your other food during the day.  So it’s about sometimes being able to have that little treat, without feeling guilty about “cheating”, while at the same time starting to develop a really healthy mental and emotional relationship with food.  Instead of seeing food as good or bad, it’s simply food, with a certain amount of calories, carbs, protein & fats.  Either I have the available calories to eat it or I don’t.  It’s been a liberating few months, coupled with almost daily exercise as I am coached and educated around nutrition and exercise.  Not once have I been sent to the treadmill for an exhausting 45″ power walk, but have had the opportunity to do short(ish) workouts using weights and machines.

The results have been amazing as the centimeters have started to fall off, my clothes have been brought out of the “skinny clothes” cupboard, and I have a completely different sense of self.  I feel more intentional, self-assured and grounded as my body awareness deepens.  I am not constantly obsessed by what I can’t eat and am now working with myself from a space of compassion and self-love.

And as I go through the process, once again I see how without the right environment & resources, it’s really challenging to get well and stay well.  The right  kind of support system plays an essential role in recovery and wellness, because getting healthy is one things, staying healthy is something else entirely.  Education and understanding are proving to be invaluable tools for me, rather than simply being handed a formula and told to stick to it.  Being given a degree of flexibility and not being told to give up my daily cappuccino has been revolutionary.  There’s balance and accountability, and I am starting to see exactly how essential these are to me in most areas of my life.

So, instead of feeling stressed and deprived, I feel grounded and supported.  Rather than feeling judged and criticised I am feeling accountable and responsible.  And unlike all the other times I have felt self-loathing and shame about previous failures, I know feel understood and personally empowered.  I have been given the space to get honest about my relationship with myself around food, body image, health and fitness and it’s been a game changer.  Knowing the power of the coaching model it’s actually not that surprising really, but as with anything else that we want to change, it starts with an honest conversation and a willingness to make the necessary changes to move forward in life.  And for that I am extremely grateful to Alex.

For more information about Alex Campbell Transformation, email alexcampbelltransformation@gmail.com or visit Alex’s Facebook page.

 

Posted in Uncategorized

What Makes You Vulnerable Makes You Beautiful…

1vulnerble

There’s been a really great response to the pictures and posts around one of my more recent posts on Alex Campbell Transformation, 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.

This TedTalk by Brene Brown on “The Power of Vulnerability” has changed my core beliefs about myself and learn to love myself in an authentic, empowered way.

Posted in Uncategorized

Nothing Changes if Nothing Changes!

This is a post that I wrote earlier this year and is part of an ongoing blog series on the website ALEX CAMPBELL TRANSFORMATION

BetheChange2-01.jpgSince the age of 14 I have been subjecting myself to a series of diet plans, eating regimes and weight-loss interventions.  These include Weigh-Less, Atkins, Low-Fat, Low-Carb, medically-assisted programmes, Slender Wonder, Herbalife, Dietitian programmes and all sorts of combinations thereof.  And yes, I’ve lost weight and inevitably gained it back (with a little extra for prosperity) to the tune of probably 100kgs, until the point of desperate hopelessness where I was ready to push through to a size 20 and be done with it…  The prescriptive nature of the programmes and a real lack of understanding about how the process actually works has been a constant stumbling block for me.

My unhealthy relationship with food over the years, periods of binge eating and complete starvation have led to awful guilt and shame around my eating habits, body image and self-esteem.   I felt defeat and self-loathing every time I was unable to stick to the plan, beating myself up emotionally and mentally at my inability to be able to “get it right”.  And inevitably this would lead to me seeking comfort in the fridge or the chip bag!  And then the cycle would repeat itself.  A “slip” would more often than not lead to a full-blown “relapse” and the weight-gain journey would begin once again.

For anyone who has not battled with food issues and weight challenges, this might be difficult to comprehend.  It’s got nothing to do with willpower, eating less and exercising more.  There have been diets when I was eating 650 calories a day and staying committed to the process until it became completely unsustainable due to emotional, physical and mental fatigue, lack of financial resources (eating that little costs a lot of money for supplements and appetite control) and feeling miserable about not being able to eat.  For me it has been about not understanding what I am doing, not being given the right kind of support and feeling like the dieticians, doctors, programme leaders and experts are not really that invested in me achieving the required outcomes.

So after years of failed attempts and a plummeting self-belief that I was ever going to be able to have a half-decent chance, I started working with Alex, of Alex Campbell Transformation.  He introduced me to the concept of Flexible Dieting, #IIFYM and macro-counting (these are terms I think should be linked to your posts or easy-to understand articles for the “beginner”).  And even though it is about calorie-counting, using the My Fitness Pal App makes that easier than paging through my most recent diet-plan manual and trying to figure out what I am “allowed” to eat.  Instead of feeling deprived and constricted, I get to eat delicious food within the calorie limits, while ensuring that I get enough of the right nutrients.  There’s even room for the occasional, guilt-free chocolate, pizza or homemade burger and chips.  And I am only eating 1,500 calories a day!

Over the past two months I have lost over 6kgs, but even better than that is that I have lost more than 50cm around my waist, hips and thigh.  I have been spending time at the gym, but rather than slogging it out on the treadmill for hours, I am doing short strength-training sessions and am noticing enormous changes in my body.  Not only that, but I am feeling an incredible sense of wellness and in the way I was showing up in my life on a daily basis.  Normally when I am on a “diet” I am grouchy, miserable and feel very deprived; the focus of my day on the things that I can’t eat and dreading another boring, tasteless meal.  So, I am feeling grounded and motivated, and the nutrition coaching and support I am receiving is making me extremely accountable and in control of my programme (and progress).  Although when I am unsure I have the support of a coach to keep me on track and dispel my fears around whether I am doing it “right”.

There’s space for conversations about food, mood, stress, sleep and exercise.  I am not simply being TOLD what to do, which has given me the chance to own this programme and allow my ideas, experiences, and challenges to be part of the process.  Alex is always available to offer input and support, as well as introducing me to great education and information sources, as well as blogs and FaceBook pages that are in-line with what the programme approach entails.

After more than two months of eating a fairly low amount of calories, attending the gym regularly and getting back into the kitchen (which I am loving), I feel more motivated than ever to push towards my health and wellness goals, that are not simply physical, but also mental, emotional, spiritual and social. This approach feels sustainable and individualised, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach which has never been sustainable for me in the past.  I feel hope and positivity where just a few months ago there was one of defeat and futility.  And for this I am extremely grateful and thankful to Alex Campbell Transformation for the knowledge, expertise, support and no-BS approach.

I will continue to write about my personal health, wellness and body transformation as the weeks and months unfold.  I know there are no magic potions and quick fixes, but with support and accountability it feels like I am on the right path to exactly where I want to be.

For more information about Nutrition & Fitness Coaching, please visit my partner website: www.alexcampbelltransformation.com