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 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 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 Recovery Coaching

What is Recovery Coaching?

From a Culture of Addiction to a Culture of Recovery

The power of any form of coaching lies in the coach’s ability to create and hold a safe space for a client to explore their ideas, needs wants and goals, in a solutions-driven, forward-focused manner.  The client is given the opportunity to build their self-esteem and confidence through being encouraged and supported to find answers to their unique life situations.  Recovery Coaching is no different in that respect.

Substance abuse and addictive behaviour disorders are issues that touch almost everyone I have met, either directly through their own personal experience or indirectly through family, friends and colleagues.  Mired in stigma, people are often afraid to reach out and seek assistance, imprisoned in their shame and guilt about how they might be judged.  Recovery Coaching is a model designed to empower such individuals, families, communities and organisations to move forward and develop a life that is productive, fulfilled and purposeful.  Due to the systemic nature of addiction, Recovery Coaching aims not only to assist the addicted individual, but to also work with those impacted by the situation.

As coaching unfolds with people, the focus of the conversation often revolves around issues such as family, relationships, career or study, and living authentically, rather than addiction.  As this niche coaching model is not meant to replace any of the other professions such as social work, counselling, therapy and inpatient treatment, it is used to help people rebuild their lives through the development of Recovery Capital, which is the unique set of internal and external resources that the client develops to support long-term recovery and wellness.

Through the session a client is asked powerful questions which gives them the opportunity to identify the available resources that they might already possess, as well as identify and focus on the development of additional resources to bring meaning and purpose back into their lives.  By growing emotional, social, mental, physical and spiritual Recovery Capital, the client is empowered to take personal responsibility for their past, so that they can begin to become accountable to themselves and others.  No two people’s resources are the same, but it essential that they are consistently topping up the Recovery Capital Bank so that it can be drawn on during challenging times, while creating a sense of achievement, fulfilment and connection in the process.

The Recovery Coach’s role is to build an accountability partnership with their client, so that he/she is given the space to uncover what is most achievable and sustainable given their personal situation.  Recovery Coaches are tasked with helping their clients shift to a solution during the course of a coaching session and series.  Developing rapport and trust with individuals and their support systems is an essential element of the coaching work, as an individual’s recovery has a rippled effect into their personal and professional lives.  The focus isn’t addiction, but recovery and how to move forward in life.  Acknowledging what has brought them to this point, but also honouring their journey moving forward, leaving behind a Culture of Addiction and moving into a Culture of Recovery.

As a Recovery Coach, it is imperative to allow the client to follow their own agenda, free of judgement, while they determine their needs, wants and values and work on plans to move into the next phase of their lives.  During the coaching series, many life and executive coaching tools are utilised to assist with planning, goal setting and problem solving, because committing to actions at the end of the session is a priority.  Developing healthy lifestyle choices is essential for those in recovery, because giving up destructive behaviours and developing new, healthy alternatives is where the majority of the coaching work lies.  As recovery and wellness grows, choice returns and the more Recovery Capital, tools and coping techniques are being developed, the more sustainable and long-lasting recovery becomes.  Spiritual principles such as honesty, willingness and openness then become the building blocks upon which recovery and wellness are built.

Because we’re all in recovery from something (not necessarily addictive substances or behaviours), engaging in coaching of any form, is a road to personal empowerment and growth.  Using models, techniques and tools that foster this is as relevant with individuals in recovery, as life or executive coaching is for others.  The agenda of a Recovery Coaching session still comes from the client, and the solutions that are arrived at are theirs alone, although sometimes the content of the session might be slightly different.  And the Recovery Coaching intervention can start at any point that a person identifies that they might require assistance around a certain behaviour.

Recovery Coaching is primarily about facilitating the shift from a Culture of Addiction where there is blame, justification and denial to a Culture of Recovery that is centred around responsibility, accountability and the practice of spiritual principles, where the victim is given the space to become the survivor.  And through this process a productive, contributory individual emerges in their own life and the lives of the people that surround them.

SELF REFLECTION ACTIVITY

So after reading this article, I’d like to invite you to spend some time thinking about which areas of your personal and professional life you might be living in a Culture of Addiction.  Do you work too hard, often at the expense of yourself and your loved ones?  Where are you blaming and justifying in your life in order to vindicate unhealthy behaviours?  Do you feel yourself playing the victim in certain situations?

Diagram Source: http://repository-intralibrary.leedsbeckett.ac.uk/

Once you have noticed where your challenges lie, think about how you can move into a Culture of Recovery by developing Recovery Capital to support you in achieving a more holistic approach to life?  The Wheel of Life is a powerful coaching tool which is used to determine which areas in life we might not be paying enough attention to.

Identify eight essential areas in your life and after reading the explanation, complete your own Wheel Of Life, and from there you will be able to get a really good idea of where you need to be developing some plans, actions and goals…and move into your personal solution using your unique set of resources to support that movement.

Life areas can include, but are not limited to some of the following:

  • Career & Business
  • Family & Friends
  • Romantic/Intimate Relationship
  • Finances
  • Spiritual Health
  • Mental/Emotional Health
  • Physical Environment
  • Fun & Recreation
  • Personal Growth
  • Health & Wellness

The Wheel of Life acts as a potential starting point in the coaching process by identifying where the client wants to work, and then focusing on the individual aspects moving forward, to create a fulfilled purposeful life of recovery and wellness.

Posted in Uncategorized

Being the Change…

So many thing have happened in the three years since I’ve become a full-time coach.  And in order to keep up with the ever changing world in which we live, I decided to give my coaching business a new look.  Recovery Coaching SA has been rebranded as Be The Change Coaching.  The reason behind this that as my coaching business has grown, and so have my areas of interest, personal development and expertise.

I’ve not only learned more about life, but I have also entered into a business collaboration with Alex Campbell Transformation, which specialises in nutrition and fitness coaching,  I have definitely had my challenges in those areas over the years, but working with a coach has been life changing and hence the decision to partner up in this area.

I am passionate about living my own authentic, congruent life, and have decided to also include more life coaching in my practice, as much of the work I actually do revolves around empowering people to live purposeful, fulfilled lives (whether or not they are in recovery).  Watching people learn about themselves, their personal needs, wants and values, and actioning and moving towards their aspirations and goals is both personally and professionally fulfilling.  I am blessed and grateful at having found a life of meaning and purpose in my personal recovery, which feeds my soul on a daily basis.

In the coming weeks and months, I will be blogging about life, recovery and lifestyle.  I’ll be sharing my personal and professional insights, and through this engaging with people who as passionate about change as I am.  Because in life I have realised that what lies between my present reality and my envisioned future is action.  So I will continue to be the change I wish to see and through that support and inspire others to do the same.