And 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.