April 29, 2015

I had an interesting chat this morning with a woman on her weight loss journey. Her history is one of many tried and failed weight loss attempts over the past 20 years, with the result that she’s gained about 25kg since her mid-30s. That’s about 1kg per year.

For most of us, if we gain 1 kilo we’re not too concerned and this is how it should be. That gain could be due to any number of things: changes in sleep, stress, and hormones play a sometimes major role, while obviously diet and exercise contribute. If the gain is just 1 kilo per year, there’s no problem, right?

In the case of the woman this morning, 1 kilo per year has become a 25 kilo problem, and it’s a problem she has been battling on and off with different dietary approaches, sometimes large amounts of exercise and, most tellingly, a failure to take responsibility for her own choices.

She admitted that over the past 20 years, she has tried many strategies and programs, and each time has relinquished personal responsibility in favour of just trying to follow the guidelines. In short, she was not really thinking too much about what she was doing – or why – or on the effects she was noticing in her body.

In the past couple of weeks, she had a driving holiday with her husband. This started off well: she was organised with snacks for the drive, accommodation was booked, and everything was in place. Due to a series of unrelated circumstances, her good planning could not last and she had to make decisions and take personal responsibility for those decisions.

She started noticing things about her body that she never had before. When eating some typical snack foods while travelling, she felt ‘blah’ – and you’ve got to imagine the face that goes with this description. She was not happy just remembering the feeling these foods caused in her body.

Her gastric reflux, which had been stopped being a problem to the extent that she wasn’t taking medication, returned with a vengeance. She realised that this health problem was caused (and relieved) by dietary choices.

As a cancer survivor, she has been researching the effects of diet on cancer and has seen convincing evidence that sugar feeds cancers: again, a dietary contributor which can be controlled.

These dietary choices also had an effect on her weight. Six weeks of good choices was almost undone by a one week holiday.

The good news is that the combination of negative outcomes turned on a lightbulb. She realised that she had the power to make her own decisions. She was not being force-fed the bad choices, and the good ones were not forcibly withheld. She could choose.

In the week since returning from holiday, she made the choice to focus on making the best choices for her body. She’s feeling better, is again off her reflux medication, and her weight is now back to where it was before her holiday.

The best result of all? The power to decide. She can decide to feel awful and suffer through health concerns, or she can make a different decision. She’s choosing the latter.