Surprised to see me?
Well, good to see you too!
It has been several months since I have written a post and I am not quite sure if I am writing in this very moment because of the need to do so as it is my preferred form of expression and I enjoy it very much. Or is it because of the sheer feeling that I really should show my face as I feel I will disappear if I don’t. Because so many tell me they notice my absence.
And I have been so absent… this whole year.
So, let’s see give it a go…
If I can summarise the entire 2021 in one word, it would have to be – “stuck”.
To explain it – I must start from the middle of 2021 and then jump straight to an end before I can talk about the beginning(s).
The middle of 2021 is the ugly part.
Financial worry exacerbated by COVID followed by debilitating lower back pain that has been chronic for nearly two decades, since my first childbirth, but it reached its peak end of this year. There were moments I would stand and freeze as if I made any move, I felt my body would snap in two.
It took 4 months of my husband’s persuasion before I finally booked an appointment with a highly recommended specialist whose clients range from anyone regular like myself to Olympians.
So, I went to see Joni last month.
We talked. A lot. All the way from my back pain beginnings nearly two decades ago when my first son was born. She gently examined my movements and, to her disbelief – my back went into a wild spasm right in front of her and I ended on the floor struggling to move. It was painful to breathe. This was the worst back spasm in a long time, if not ever. It took almost an hour to make a 2-minute journey from her office floor to the car.
And she barely even touched me.
But she was about to change my world.
For the first time ever, I was told that the real problem had nothing to do structurally with my spine or back muscles.
Chronic pain is very complex and multifactorial, and, after my first childbirth when lower back pain started – my soft tissues have become very sensitised, and my spine has become very stiff as I learnt to avoid moving the lumbar spine as a form of protection that backfired as the muscles became extremely overactive and in a constant state of contraction.
I was told my lower back was like a plank of wood with no movement and no nutrition getting to it.
I lost my love for exercise months earlier and I blamed pandemic, grief, and state of my mind for the lack of motivation, and I felt guilt for not doing anything. I blamed lack of exercise for my back pain.
But my body knew better.
According to Joni, I did not need any stronger abdomen, I did not need any more strength training and pushing myself. Being hard on myself. My chronic pain came from over sensitive central nervous system, so what I really needed was rest, lots of rest, to relax my back, to relax full stop, to give my back heat, to be gentle with it, to be kind to myself in every possible way, so I can bring balance to my nervous system and so that my back can recover from the current pain and only then we can start the process of restoring its proper function and movement.
So, I started taking baths and longer hot showers, increased my sleep from 5-6 hours a night to nearly 8 hours, doing breathing exercises to calm my anxiety and, only one month later – I am finally pain free. Well, almost completely pain free. But getting there for sure.
If 2021 has thought me anything from this experience is that:
- Seeking help is not a sign of weakness, but a necessary step to fast forward your results.
- Without the know-how, doing it yourself is a trap that leads to frustration and prolonged suffering.
- Even with the most expert help, the real work is done by us, in between the appointments, by following the advice and the plan (of an expert)
- One truly must have a deep desire for the change to happen and be prepared to do the work, this can not be optional as, otherwise it will not get done
- Body knows best, listen to it.
The beginning of the year always marks birthdays of both my sons and my husband’s. In between their birthdays is now also an anniversary of my mum’s passing as well as my mum and dad’s birthdays. Six key dates in six weeks make celebrations of all their lives clearly mixed with grief and sense of loss. And I hope I am getting better at breathing through it.
Last Year 2020, the year of pandemic, left me and, I know, so many others rather deflated, so, it was the first year I made a point of not setting any New Year’s resolutions for 2021, but just to try instead to be better each day.
Well, it went worse before it got better.
This roller coaster of emotions at the beginning of the year mixed with the continued effects of the pandemic has made me, once a very focused and authentic health coach of over 17 years, now addicted to certain foods and habits that were going against everything I believed in and was advocating.
Feeling like a fraud, anyone?
I skipped meals, I ate carbs I never used to eat, I gained weight, I slept very poorly, binged on Netflix… Well, I basically lost it. And I just seemed not to be able to turn it around.
This is the first time I am really talking about it.
I am admitting it to myself and coming clean to all those who felt my void.
I knew everything intellectually but failed to show up in action. My mindset was not in the right place.
And You cannot show up for others when you are failing to show up for yourself.
Not if you want to stay honest.
So, I slowly drifted as I lost the clarity of where I was going.
I stayed committed to the existing clients, but I stopped building. And we either build and grow or we go backwards. No such thing as staying still.
This scared me.
However, although I felt stuck, thanks to being solution driven, feeling stuck is not where I wanted to stay at.
I started my own journey of discovery, trying to understand what was going on. I started reading more, learning from different experts on health, nutrition, mindset, mental health, etc.
All was pointing to the fact that, in the light of everything that happened to me in the past, especially last two to three years, I no longer had a grip on my thoughts and emotions. Only recently I realised I lived in a state of chronic stress for some time. At some point even contemplating if my life insurance covered suicide. Only for a split second, but this thought scared me as my glass used to be always full.
When faced with such emotions, some turn to alcohol or some other substance or worse – instead, I was eating my way out of it. When you think negatively, you change the biochemistry of your brain as well as your body.
I was thinking differently than I used to, my mindset was unrecognisable. And this stress and anxiety was showing up as a food/ sugar addiction as I could not resist some trigger foods and was gaining unwanted weight.
Luckily, I was between an early and middle stage when I gained this awareness whilst many people go through it for so long that they completely lose control, which is followed by psychological, social as well as medical effects and consequences. And they are completely unaware of what is going on.
They go from one diet to another, not realising that what they have is an addiction and that most diets are simply not equipped to help them long term as it takes way more than just a meal plan or diet per se to achieve complete food freedom.
Do not even get me tarted on how many meal plans I have seen around are questionable as they fail to provide the right balance of nutrients as well as fail to eliminate ingredients known to feed the addiction.
The silver lining of my research was the realisation that the food addiction is real and is the reason why some of my own clients are struggling.
But I learnt that there are two sides to it.
While I believe I have a great plan for my clients that addresses nutrient balance and food cravings and other issues linked with the substance addiction part, i.e. processed food addiction, helping them feel better physically – I had no tools or even an understanding that that was not enough for at least half of my clients.
It is not enough because for many of them it is the addiction to the process itself of consuming those trigger foods that is the other part of the problem – the addiction to the actual behaviour and what it represents.
This is where the right plan and support will help you also develop peace and freedom around food. When you gain your sanity. When that maddening internal chatter of always wanting more is extinguished.
This was a big insight. “Huge!”, as the Pretty Woman said.
It no longer was just about me.
I felt I was at a start of an exciting journey where I had no option but to dedicate myself to learning all I could about the addiction to the actual behaviour side of overeating and food addiction. It was clear to me that was the main cause of why so many fail or get stuck even after following a great programme that has been personalised for them.
Suddenly, I no longer was looking at my downfall in 2021 as a failure, but the best thing that has happened to me as it led me on a journey that felt like a destiny, it helped me find answers and allowed me to grow from it and, eventually, it will help me make bigger impact in the future.
So, out of frustration and feeling stuck, new, and exciting path opened.
I became a student once again and, over the course of ten months, I qualified as an Advanced Clinical Weight Loss Practitioner, Cognitive Behavioural Technique Coach as well as The Food Addiction Coach. And I gained a few other minor certifications.
The more I learnt, the more I realised how little I knew.
I did all that while I was dealing with the above-mentioned chronic pain and anxiety on a daily basis as well as battling with food cravings and lapsing. Also, daily. Feeling like a fraud. But the excitement kept me going, despite the frustration.
Of course, it is not enough to know things just at an intellectual level.
No change happens at that level. But, the awareness is a great start.
I had to accept and love this new me before I could help myself. Because new me needed to be loved more than ever for things to change. I had to tell myself this often. Especially when I did not like myself at all and doubted everything.
Part of that love was to seek help. Reluctantly, I did.
And it wasn’t until Joni unmasked the source of my problem, my fight and flight response to my circumstances that I now know was the cause of my chronic pain and ultimately my hormonal imbalance and my erratic eating – that is when I finally knew the true meaning of hope. Not just for my chronic lower back pain, but if I mastered my emotions, I could bring balance to everything else.
This is when it all came together for me and I was thankfully, with all these new insights gained in 2021, on the right path to recovery.
Because it is not about the food, but the fact that I ate to feel better, to escape from something or to protect myself. Which, of course, is short lived, but it does not stop us acting irrationally as well as causes the vicious cycle of the same.
Year 2021 was the year when I had to disconnect to find the true connection again. It was a year when I got stuck, but also a year when I found answers and clarity to my path too.
If I am to define 2022 in one word, I want it to be “Reboot”. Reboot to a better version of me, to a transformed me thanks to all the lessons and blessings of this year. Reboot to my lifestyle because lifestyle is truly everything. How we are thinking, sleeping, hydrating, moving, and eating will determine whether our body, brain and mind will function optimally or not.
Also, a reboot to how I show up to my existing and future clients. Not to mention a reboot to how I show up to those I love.
And I must keep up with this burning desire to show up as a better version of myself because the drive must always come from within us. No one else can keep us going. Others can only get us started or keep us in check to a certain extent. But, most of it – we walk alone.
Well, I am excited as I can, once again, be at the giving end. Once my well is full.
So, with a clearer path, it is easier to set goals and resolutions for the New Year 2022 and make them linked to the journey where we wish to see ourselves over the next 10, 20, 30 years.
One single year is only 3% of the future 30 years, so, make it a steppingstone to a greater vision of the future.
Pandemic might have taught us that plans can change out of our control, but we can always be in control of our thoughts, mindset and we can learn to feel different emotions about ourselves, our life, and circumstances.
This will ultimately be the difference between the success and what is only perceived as a failure, but perhaps it is time to finally see failure as an opportunity to learn and grow from it, then to pick ourselves up and start again.
We would not know light if we did not know darkness.
So, always look for silver linings.
My wish for you is a better version of you in 2022, whatever that is for you.
(P.S. BTW, just so you know, I really enjoyed writing this and it was for me as well as for you. 😊)