When Nicola got in touch asking for help she was desperate to gain control of her life. At over 18 stone, she wanted to lose the weight she’d lived with for years.
“I just want to feel… worthy”
Her confidence had made a comeback – “I feel like I’ve found myself again!”
Though her weight was the catalyst for change, it didn’t really come up in conversation after the initial consult. We got to work on the underlying patterns running her life, and it was some weeks later before the ‘how much weight?’ question surfaced.
In 5 weeks Nicola had dropped from a size 20/22 to just inside size 16. Today she is 5 stone lighter than when we first met.
Her achievement wasn’t the result of a crash diet or unsustainable habits. Months later, she still eats a diet that suits her and allows her to indulge a little now and then. As she approaches her 50th birthday, she knows she’s come too far to not get ‘back on that wagon’ again.
Fundamentally, she has made a shift in her thoughts and habits. As you can imagine, this has benefitted every area of her life, not just the clothes she’s now able to fit into.
Nicola has kindly given me full permission to share her inspiring story. Between us, we have asked and answered the questions we feel would be most helpful to others. Let’s get to it!
O: When we first spoke, you said you wanted to feel confident again, to feel worthy. What were the key reasons you didn’t feel that way?
N: The way I looked. I felt unattractive, unloveable, shameful. Life just felt out of control. I had no boundaries.
O: How did you feel in your body at that time?
N: Lethargic. Tired all the time, was out of breath a lot. There was an underlying sadness to life. I had massive sugar highs and lows. My joints ached, my ankles and back. I had to hold onto the stair rail to get downstairs on a morning. I even felt pain rolling over in bed.
O: Why did you get in touch when you did? What made you think “I’ve got to do this now”?
N: Well, I was about 80% sure I had to do it. The cycles of my trying and failing, the period of time between being on the wagon then falling off it, were getting shorter. It was also harder to get back on the wagon again once I’d failed. The thought of the effort required to make change was increasingly overwhelming. It was all too complicated.
O: I like my scales. Right at the start, I’d asked you on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the most) how much confidence you felt on average and you said a 3. What would you say it is now and what do you put that down to?
N: An 8 now. I feel in control! I’ve lost the fear I had of other people’s opinions or being a failure. Because I look and feel like I want to, there’s a knock-on effect on the rest of my life. I enjoy being able to wear my clothes again. Physically I feel 100 times better!
O: Doing things when we don’t feel like it is one of THE BIGGEST battles people face in making change. In the early weeks, you faced some moments of real struggle with your decision to have a consistent exercise habit. How did you persuade yourself to go for those walks?
N: I just knew that if I didn’t, it would affect the other decisions in the rest of the day around food. I’d also feel disappointed in myself. It worked. Every time I went for a walk, I felt so proud of myself for doing it. On some days when I felt under the weather, by the time I came home I felt like a different person. My mood had gone.
O: It wasn’t all straight forward whilst going through this process was it? You faced some BIG life situations that historically would have been emotional triggers.
The Kitchen Moment. After a tough situation one day, you'd indulged in something you fancied. I remember you telling me that the next morning when you went down into the kitchen "it could have gone either way". What thought process happened there in the kitchen? N: Again, I became aware I had a choice and that what I decided to do would affect the rest of the day. With each 'kitchen moment', the next one became slightly easier to get over.
when you do the right thing, there will be NO ONE to congratulate you. There will be no fanfare! It will not feel like you did anything great even though you did”.
As well as conditioning her mind and body to respond to regular exercise and better eating, I wanted Nicola to have confidence ahead of achieving her desired body goal. We explored what else in life could give her confidence and what had prevented it. Feelings of ‘not enough’ had often become triggered during everyday interactions with others.
O: You identified that there were many times in a week where you’d have spoken up had you been more confident. I set a spot of homework along the lines of a book I’ve also recommended on social, Rejection Therapy. I encouraged you to speak up in as many situations as you dare, knowing you may get a ‘NO’. Your initial response made me laugh “that sounds horrendous Olivia but I’ll give it a go” and you did! Can you share how helpful that was and what you took away from the exercise?
N: It really put my fear into perspective. It made me realise that there was nothing holding me back but my fear of what others might think. One drive home from our session I remember thinking about a question you’d asked me:
“what reason do you have not to feel confident?” I couldn’t think of any. There was NO REASON not to feel confident.
O: With your eating and exercise under control, you decided to use your new habits to stop smoking. How often had you been smoking and how did you do it?
N: The smoking I knew I had to quit because I had a horrendous cough! I hadn’t tackled it as so often people gain weight, but I felt confident that I could do it. I took medication which over time, stops the physical craving side of the addiction but the habit side was still to overcome. I’m two months stopped now and near the end of the medication. Although I still sometimes think about smoking I know I have to tell myself I’m not going to do again.
O: How many years have you tried to get to the place of sustaining the changes you have in your life today?
N: All my life! But in terms of my body looking and feeling like I want it to, 10 years.
O: What has been most helpful out of our sessions together?
N: The idea of parenting myself. It was enlightening. Just because I can have something, doesn’t mean I should. I’ve now told my kids about parenting themselves:)
– Accountability. Knowing we had a meeting scheduled kept me on track.
– The impartiality too which you tend not to get from people close to you.
– Knowing you’re there for me. The weekly emails, even though I didn’t need to reply, they’d just set me up at the start of a new week.
– I also know I got the most out of the sessions because I came prepared. I reflected on our sessions after we’d had them and then would think about upcoming sessions and what I wanted to discuss.
– All your recommended resources from the heart-rate monitor to books, podcasts, people to follow on social etc.
O: What value is now added to your life?
N: I’m actually living life! I enjoy getting out of bed in the morning. I’m physically and mentally more able, I feel confident, strong and have a bigger picture clarity now. I have the tools to manage my problems. I’ve gained a more even perspective on life. I don’t feel swamped any more because I know I’m in control.
I’m feeling I want to do things I’ve not wanted to since I was in my teens! It’s corny I know, but I literally do feel that the world’s my oyster.
Thank you again to Nicola for allowing me to share her story. If you’re inspired, do leave a comment below – I’ll make sure she sees them all!