My Weight Loss Journey
Today I reached my goal weight (well last month)! There was no fanfare, no sudden waking up this newer, better version of myself like I had always imagined I might be. I still look in the mirror and see the bits of myself that I don’t like. In fact, I actually surpassed my goal, because this wasn’t even my original goal. I got to that one ages ago and decided that wasn’t enough, so I created a new one, reached that and decided it wasn’t enough, so I thought I would shoot for the stars and go for that elusive weight that even as a teen I thought was unattainable but the “perfect” weight for me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not unhappy with the results, and I’m so very proud of myself, after all I’ve lost over 26kg! I am the lightest I’ve ever been since I was a teen, since I can even remember to be honest. I have struggled with my weight for most of my life really. I can remember being quite lean as a child up until around age 8. That was an awkward time for me in my life, and I suppose I equated the weight gain with my popularity, and deep down I think I always thought that maybe it was the reason I wasn’t more or didn’t have more. I thought that by losing weight I might be happier, more popular, more confident, etc. But underneath the external circumstances (the fat on my body), I am still me, and I didn’t need to lose weight to be have all of the above. I have great friends, a great career, have had great adventures and in the past even great loves. So the real focus needed to be not just on my weight but also on my thoughts about it.
Over the past 6 months, alongside the work I have been putting into losing the fat on my body, I have been working almost equally as hard at losing that negative self-talk. Because my thoughts create my feelings which will dictate my actions and then the results. For example, if you have thoughts that you’re not good enough, you might reach for something like food to make you feel better and numb the feelings of “not enough”. This can then create new thoughts of being not good enough as a result of the increased weight and so the cycle continues.
I had tried every diet under the sun, and I would have success for a period of time, but the weight always came back and would come back with a vengeance. This was because I was restricting myself from a place of hatred of myself and my body, rather than from a place of love for my body. So I would ultimately end up feeling like I was missing out, and would then go overboard to feel “normal” again. I would have thoughts like “why can’t I eat like a normal person and eat what I want?”. After failing one diet and swinging back in the opposite direction, I would try even more extreme things, and I would get great and fast results. But then I would fall back into old patterns all the while telling myself “it’s OK cause you can just do (add diet or fast or cleanse) again and lose the weight, it’s easy”. But it wasn’t easy, my poor body must’ve gone through hell! Afterall, it was only doing what it was evolutionarily designed to do! My body was reacting in a very normal way to the foods I was consuming like refined sugars and flours. These foods are addictive in their nature because they are concentrated versions of foods, and our bodies are wired for survival, so when given a concentrated version of a food and it’s going to give you all the feel good hormones and wire you seek more of it. Then add to the mix my cycle of punishment with restriction, and my brain felt my body was under attack and became further wired to seek out rich foods for survival. And in order to prepare for the next time I went through some kind of famine (restrictive diet) I would add fat to my body to store energy, and to also encapsulate and protect myself from toxins I’d been consuming in all the junk food-like things I was eating. Then come the hormonal changes! With extra adipose tissue (fat stores) on your body, you create more of a hormone called leptin. Leptin is the hormone that tells your body that you’re full. So if I have more fat and therefore more leptin, I shouldn’t want to eat more right? Wrong unfortunately. Just like if you lived alongside a busy highway, you soon learn to tune out the sound of the traffic. So when you are creating so much of that leptin hormone, your body learns to tune out the signals from it and you become resistant to it. Leptin resistance can then lead to pre-diabetes and Type 2 Diabetes Melitus. FAR OUT our bodies are so complex and intelligent! When I realised this (as a Chiropractor I already knew it intellectually) I had so much more compassion for myself. I realised my body was so smart and just having a very normal response to an unhealthy stimulus. My body wasn’t working against me, it wasn’t something to be hated, it is so incredibly intelligent that it just did what it needed to do to survive!
So was my mind the enemy then? Nope! It just responded to the environment I was in at some stage in my life (or repeatedly) and wired me for survival, even when my environment had changed. Our brains are designed to run us as efficiently as possible. Do you remember how mentally tired you were or were the last time you were trying to learn something new? When I was living in Italy, I was absolutely exhausted by 10pm every night because my brain couldn’t handle any more Italian. It needed to curl up into a little ball and just be surrounded by comfort (English speaking TV and Fererro chocolate haha). Learning something new takes a lot of work, and our brain likes to be efficient. So much so that sometimes even after you move home, you accidentally find yourself driving the wrong way home, because you learned that pattern to a point where you didn’t have to think about it, and so it just went on auto-pilot when you were tired or occupied elsewhere your brain took over.
Last year I got to the heaviest I’d been in at least 11 years. COVID came up and I had to change my entire life plans. No more moving to Italy, no more locum work and then I added to that the stress of starting up Salt Chiropractic in South Brisbane in the middle of a global pandemic. I fell back into my comfort food zone. Despite deciding a few years ago to never do any extreme diets again I opted for an extreme protocol I’d been eyeing off for a long time by a naturopath and nutritionist I really respect. And after a colleague had tried it, I decided I had nothing left to lose (except a lot of fat), I was currently fighting a losing battle. Something had to change. It’s a funny thing dieting, people will often say things like “that’s not sustainable”. Well you know what else isn’t sustainable? What I was already doing! I needed to drastically change not just my diet, but how I thought about food and myself. If I wanted to change the circumstance (my weight) then I had to change the actions and to change that I needed to change my thoughts; the thoughts I had about food, and about myself. \
While the protocol I followed was very strict and very restrictive it was done in a way that wasn’t from a place of punishing myself or hatred toward myself. It was about learning to listen to my body. And I can tell you, when I wasn’t buffering with foods to numb the emotions, I also had to face them, and they really weren’t that bad. An emotion can’t hurt you, it’s just a sensation in the body. Yet we spend so much of our lives trying to avoid feeling things. Or at least I was. So removing myself from my food buffers allowed me the space to work through some of my thought patterns, while the protocol helped me strip the weight off and help me be more in tune with my body and what foods were serving me, and which ones weren’t. I have learned so much, and the scientist in me was very strict about following the protocol and also got DEXA scans done throughout so I had very accurate objective measures.
If you are interested in the protocol I followed then you can check out Cyndi O'Meara's great work over at www.changinghabits.com.au - I followed her Fat Loss Protocol and did 2 rounds of it while maintaining my weight between. This is not an endorsement, each individual is different in what you need. And I get no kickbacks from this.
And if you're interested in some of the mindset stuff around weight loss, 2 podcasts I listen to are "The Life Coach School Podcast" by Brooke Castillo and also "Brain over Binge" by Kathryn Hansen