Posted in Nutrition & Lifestyle Coaching

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Posted in Nutrition & Lifestyle Coaching

Some Days I’d Rather Gargle Scorpions!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in 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 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.