If you have tried every ‘diet’ known to man, yet found yourself wearing the same size jeans (often on the snugger side) and feeling a little more jaded with life, then this may be a story that will tickle your fancy.
This is my journey, which began with one random email titled ‘The thought of the day’. It basically read ‘If you keep doing the same thing, over and over again and find it’s not working - stop! try something different’. It took me forty years to stop!…. and now I am doing something different. Finally, I found my answers and made the change.
Not just a little change, like only having one biscuit instead of two at morning-tea, or drinking alcohol on weekends - but a permanent physical, mental and spiritual change. And by spiritual, I mean whatever you believe gives you inner strength – for me it is yoga.
Four years ago, if asked to describe myself in 100 words or less, I would have really struggled. Reluctantly, I would have written ‘A passionate, creative woman, dedicated to her family and friends. Unhealthily consumed by her work and her weight. At times suffers boughs of self-loathing and severe depression. Addicted to chocolate and champagne and enjoys all the wondrous rich food that life had to offer. Emotionally charged who constantly wears her heart on her sleeve and consequently a habitual emotional eater. Simply put, any emotions - happy, stressed, depressed, it all leads to sweet, sugar infused delights, usually of the chocolate variety.
Fortunately, this is not how I would describe myself today. I am still a passionate and dedicated woman, but I am now inspired by a new way of thinking and feeling. It is about my inner health, a positive mind, a strong body and an understanding of what and why I am eating. The result is a lot more smiles, and not any smile, but a smile with the eyes, kind. 🙂
If you were asked to describe yourself in 100 words or less, would it be an answer you would be proud of? or would you want to change it.. and really change. I may be able to help you through your journey - email me anytime.
My ‘diet’ journey
There is probably not a ‘diet’ I haven’t tried. If you name it, I could tell you a funny story.
I think it began in my late teens and spiraled from there.. I tried my hand with the grapefruit diet, cabbage soup diet, low-fat, no-fat, no dairy diet, shake diet, high protein, calorie counting diet, no carb diet, fat blast diet, 12-day diet, pop a few pills diet. I can laugh now, because they were never conducive for a long term commitment or lifestyle adoption. They were all short lived, where I would fall back to my normal erratic eating patterns and square one.
The pinnacle of my weight gain was the during my two pregnancies. I had suffered constant morning sickness which mentally allowed me to eat rubbish. More often than not, comfort food made me feel a little better. My downfall was hot chips with chicken salt, and strangely - cheese, beetroot and gherkin sandwiches. With my second child it was steak, I just couldn’t get enough and this was coupled with mashed potato. By the end of the three years, I put on almost 35kgs.
Perhaps in my eyes, having a beautiful baby bump in my belly masked what was really happening to rest of my body. I would say to myself ‘Its ok… I am pregnant - I’ll take it all off once I have had my babies’.
Who was I kidding? Thinking that way, was a recipe for disaster, because once my baby girl was born, I was left with a body I refused to acknowledge and look at. I would buy clothes that would cover me from head to toe. All I wanted was the largest size they had. I didn’t really care what it looked like, or if it suited me. It served as a functional piece of clothing. It kept me warm and covered. I was at my lowest point, mentally and physically and with a new baby that wouldn’t sleep, I snacked when I could on convenient food and chocolate. Fortunately, I did manage to lose most of the baby weight, purely through exhaustion of running my own business. I was also unable to excuse my diet on being pregnant.
Three years later I had another beautiful baby girl, I was a little more careful about my diet, however 20kgs extra had managed to engulf me yet again.
I had often heard myself saying - ‘I am larger than I would like, but I have had two babies’…. The most ridiculous thing was, my girls were now 6 and 3, they were hardly babies. Time had somehow got away from me and now was the time to have a reality check.
Having had my girls in my late thirties, I was also well aware of being an older mother. I never wanted to be considered that middle aged woman who was sporting a middle aged spread. Yet, here I was, making my own excuses for my lack of physical pride and poor body image. Ironically, I was determined to be an active mother, involved with my children’s life. Yet I wasn’t at all, well, not as much as I would like. Mostly, because I was very self conscious and had very little self esteem.
why such a drastic change?
As you read my journey, it will become clear that the road I had been travelling was not only unhealthy, but it was an unsustainable.
This is a snapshot of a typical spiralling chain of my daily events:
A stressful day would lead to a need for one square of chocolate, then maybe another, then progress to a whole line…(..depending how my deadline was going). An hour or two later, maybe another hit. This would follow with internal self-beating of guilt and disappointment for the lack of self discipline… I would say to myself ‘ I’ll start my new diet tomorrow, or on Monday, or it would be my new years resolution.. Of course I would be good for a couple of weeks, then temptation and emotions would come into play. Maybe it was a deadline, a crazy day, screaming children… something, that I naturally band-aided with a glass of champagne or a square (or two) of chocolate. Depending on the severity, it would be both.
There is a lot to be said for the age-old saying ‘guilty pleasure’ - it resonates true to me with chocolate. It was a weakness and yet at the same time my saviour. In my mind it took the edge off everything, allowing me a ‘business as usual’ attitude. I don’t think this attitude or lifestyle is unusual in our fast paced world of a woman juggling a career and family. This often leads to eating on the run and unhealthy food choices.
For me this way of living wasn’t what I wanted. I had completely lost control and hated what it was making me - unhealthy, unhappy, lazy and older than my 41 years. Weekly migraines had consumed my existence and impacted on my families lives. I would refuse to look in the mirror at myself, once I did there was the realisation that the only person that could make any change was me.
I began researching, reading as much as I could put my hands on.
A read about the Gerson Therapy, the lifestyle change that Dr Gerson developed for his own debilitating migraines. So inspired, I set out to make that change. I needed to make food my friend, my healer and not my counsellor.
I made the change
The change I made was a very conscious, deliberate and well researched decision, originally started to help alleviate my migraines, however it quickly became clear it was much more. My body began to thank me, in more ways than one.
I chose real food eating - fresh food, vegetables, fruit, seeds, nuts, small amount of white meat and fish. I also adopted, no sugar, processed food, grains and dairy, except for the occasional goat’s feta. I started religiously having raw vegetable and fruit smoothies and homemade snacks. As a celiac, grain free suited my inability to process gluten, regardless of this fact, I would have chosen this alternative.
My new routine quickly included trips to my local health food shop, Farmer’s markets and ‘Google-ing’ new recipes. The new recipes I was searching for, needed to be family friendly too, or at least partly, as I wasn’t keen on cooking two complete meals. A door had been opened, I was learning about food that I had no idea how to cook, its taste, which was both exciting and scary. Silly really, as what was the worst that could happen? screwed up faces and untouched plates? Hmmm. Well yes, a few experiments have filled bins! However, looking at the big picture, I am sure there will be many more of these experiments that won’t get the tick of approval, I can’t expect a win everyday. .
I could not return back to the way I was, especially knowing what I now know about nutrition, and the way I now feel. I went from having one migraine a week, to less than one a month! I didn’t need any more proof, that in itself was enough of a life changer. I was no longer spending endless days in bed with copious amounts of painkillers, unable to sleep, eat or work. If this wasn’t enough I was losing weight at a steady pace and practising yoga most days at home. What I realised was that I was feeling good, really good.
People began to notice, and commented ‘Your skin looks clear, you have lost weight, you look healthy, what are you doing?. It quickly became, ‘Show me.. email me all you know…’ This excited me!
I guess I was all of those things, and its actually OK to say that. Being happy within, does take some getting use to, however being content to look in the mirror takes a little more. As clichéd as it sounds, starting with loving yourself, has a tremendous flow on effects to all aspects of your life. It is not in a vain or egotistical way, it is more in a content and accepting way.
A little about me
I grew up in the seventies, for me it was listening to ABBA and Neil Diamond. It was lip-syncing to Mama Mia with my hair brush while watching Countdown. It was running through the sprinklers on hot summer days with a sunnyboy icy poles, while lawnmowers worked in unison on Sunday afternoons.
I grew up in Canberra deep within suburbia, where the norm was blue-collar white families. My sister and I were a mix of Filipino and Australian, which was a little unusual in those days. It is unlike the multicultural society we know today, a nation overflowing with vibrant cultures, traditions and amazing food from all over the world.
Attending the local school with Asian features, thick brightly coloured glasses and chubby cheeks - was not a recipe for flying under the radar for kids and their jokes. One taunt I do remember was from a red haired boy yelling ‘go back to the wharf’. Puzzled with this strange comment I quizzed my parents, unable to answer said ‘Just ignore him, he doesn’t understand what he is saying’. It wasn’t until years later that I remembered his words, and hoped that he was now wise enough now to distinguish and understand such an insult.
My ideas of self came to light when I was in 10 years old with a visit to the Doctor. My Mum was concerned that I had developed bright red lines on my stomach and was searching for some answers. He confirmed they were actually stretch-marks… Stretch-marks, at 10! (I know.. I hear you say). As a fix I was given very expensive Vitamin E cream, and told not to eat so many biscuits. He said tongue in cheek, ‘You’re the kind of kid that looks at donuts and gets fat’. I think my battle began here, embarrassed of my stomach and being told that I was indeed a fat kid.
It would continue for the next 30 years, where even as a 12 year old I was paranoid of people seeing me, I would incessantly be pulling at my school uniform, to make sure it was covering my little rolls of fat on my tummy. Shyness and the feeling of inadequacy literally consumed me. It fuelled the beginnings of my fight with emotional eating, and the start of a lifelong habit.
Later, attending an all girls private high school opened my eyes to the inner workings of teenage girls. Although looking back, I guess it was like any other group with excessive oestrogen and hormonal instabilities. It was where bitchiness and cruelty was rampant and as I was neither smart, cool or rebellious, I was probably an easy target for baring the brunt of ridicule, especially as my response was often ‘shut up’, which was neither clever or witty.
As a young girl, ignoring was hard. It eats at you, no matter how tough you think you are, it does get to you.
The yoyo-ing of weight and the constant state of being on a ‘diet’ plagued my mind and my entire twenties. This was coupled with self destructive relationships and further self loathing. It continued for almost a decade with a serious eating disorder and depression. This was not a state which was conducive to living a healthy lifestyle one of self appreciation and nurturing.
It was not until my thirties, after I met my husband and had children of my own, that the realisation that I needed to lead by example. I felt an overwhelming worry that I was an older mother and to keep up with my young children, I needed to be fit, healthy with a positive attitude for life, health, food and body image.
I do know there is nothing unusual about my upbringing, schooling or kids taunts and bullying. It is part of life, it is really how you learn from it that matters.
I was a slow learner, but I am now in a new place, that I could never have appreciated until now. What is important is that we remember our experiences but not allow to shape our choices to more forward in a positive way.
It took me 30 something years, to realise that I was actually ok and that I am not defined by my outer shell, but what is within.
The reason for sharing my story in such a public forum, is that if I could help change how one person feels about themselves, sooner in their life journey rather than later – I would feel like my time here was meaningful.
Feeling good on the inside and outside is important. What you put out into the world, can make a difference, no matter how small.
It was my forty first year that I made the change, perhaps considered a midlife crisis of sorts, I didn’t care, it was working!. It was a change that I didn’t realise would make such an impact on myself and others around me.