Monday, April 11, 2005

A Personal Triumph

As our long-time readers know, I am deeply concerned with the obesity rates -- the numbers just keep getting higher in spite of all the talk about the Atkins Diet, the Zone Diet, the South Beach diet, etc. The fact of the matter is that millions of people are eating themselves into an early grave. What a shame for their loved ones. Somehow, the challenge of healthy eating seems to be insurmountable for many. To try to understand what it takes to overcome that hurdle, I want to share the story of someone who, with the help of a personal coach, actually lost 150 pounds and has kept the weight off for a year. Kate's story was inspiring to me -- I hope it is to you as well...
KATE'S STORY
By the age of 16, Kate weighed 300 pounds. She is now 27 years old, less than 150 pounds (at 5' 7"), runs between three and seven miles a day and takes a kickboxing class every week. How did she lose the weight? The short answer: Eating right and exercising. The full story is more complicated. Kate will tell you that she knew how to lose weight her whole life. At her heaviest weight, she knew that she was eating more food than was healthy and that the food she was eating was fattening and had little nutritional value. She also knew that her sedentary habits were contributing to her obesity. Kate, like so many others, knew the rational facts about what she was doing to herself, but she was struggling with the individual day-to-day choice of enjoying a scoop of ice cream or just saying "no."
THE KEY TO HER SUCCESS
Kate turned her situation around after she started working with a life coach who helped her gain a new perspective on the choices she was making. Lauren H. Zander, principal of The Handel Group, a consulting firm that helps companies transform the way they operate, has helped hundreds of people achieve what they thought was unachievable, including significant weight loss. The key to get people to lose weight? Zander says there are five basic points...
*Get support. Getting support is the most significant action you can take, since it is easier to keep your word to another person than it is to keep it to yourself. (Remember all of those New Year's resolutions?) Kate used a personal coach as the "keeper of her promise." But you can enroll a family member or a friend to be your "healthy living coach." Another good support resource Zander recommends is Overeaters Anonymous (www.oa.org), in particular, its "Gray Sheet Program." While OA does not require its members to follow any particular food plan, its Gray Sheet Program comes from OA's early days, when the food plan was printed on a gray sheet of paper.
*Recognize why you are eating. Many overweight people spend their lives eating in order to numb themselves. Food acts as a shell of protection against dealing with the real challenges in life, including the emotional ones. While those issues need to be dealt with directly, it is important to be aware of what is going on in your life when you "fall off" the food wagon. Talk to yourself and to your coach to identify what pain you are trying to ease with food. By facing the core issue, you won't need to medicate it with feel-good food. Keep in mind that a momentary breakdown is not a reason to quit. You probably will have moments throughout your life when food seems to make you feel better. Moments are okay -- as long as you get past them.
*Tell the truth. At 300 pounds, Kate was not only ashamed of her body, she was ashamed of eating the food that got her to that weight. She would avoid eating in public, and instead, would eat in hiding. Be honest with yourself and your coach about the quantity and quality of the food you are eating and the amount of exercise you are doing. "Tell the truth about the dozen doughnuts you ate in the middle of the night," Zander says. Through honesty, you can be clear about your choices and your patterns. It also allows you to give up the shame that accompanies overeating and being overweight. Zander never judges her clients for overeating. Rather, she helps bring to their attention how they are hurting and punishing themselves. Telling the truth feels good and creates the foundation to see results.
*Have integrity. Work with your coach to set up a series of rules to live by. These can include a specific daily calorie range (Kate's was between 900 and 1,350)... "forbidden" foods... a set number of "sweet treats" a week as a reward... foods that are required (e.g., three fruits or veggies per day)... exercise commitments, etc. To make the rules stick, there have to be consequences that go into effect when a rule is broken. The consequence must be painful enough to force you to think about actions before you take them.
Examples of consequences: No treats for a week... paying $5 into a kitty that gets donated to a charity that you don't believe in (the consequence must be painful to you)."Allow your structure to evolve," Zander advises.
*Believe in yourself. Success has a snowball effect. When you believe in yourself, you see results. When you see results, you believe in yourself. When Kate made and kept her promises, she started losing weight immediately. Even when she had slips, telling the truth allowed her to love and trust herself again.
While many people say they have tried repeatedly to lose weight many times and it just doesn't work for them, Zander insists that they just need to "find what they are willing to get off the couch for." Anything is possible, she says. "Believe in miracles and do the work." Zander admits that it is not easy -- but it is possible. Kate adds: "I am not different or exceptional. I am just a regular human being. It took work to lose 150 pounds. At 300 pounds, I might have told you it would take a miracle to get where I am. Today, I believe in miracles."

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