Maree, our Retreat MC, participant support coordinator and facilitator is here to share her thoughts about life and weight loss surgery.

 

OCTOBER

I've been doing a lot of work and researching the idea of vulnerability and shame.

For those of you that have come to a Healthy Living Retreat, will have been exposed to these topics and applied them to your own lives. My hero, Brene Brown has spent years researching vulnerability and she discovered that what underpins vulnerability is shame. I thoroughly recommend that you come to a retreat and dig deep into your own triggers to shame and stress and as you do, you can move forward having laid down the foundations to a happy and healthy life.

Over the next few months I will look at topics which affect our capacity for vulnerability.

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First up is creativity. I want to start with that because I'm working on writing and performing a new piece of theatre and it's a hugely vulnerable process. Questions like will people like it? Understand it? Will I look stupid on stage? Will people come to see it? What if I make a mistake? Am I good enough?

Creativity is a terrifying concept for a lot of people largely due to comments or limiting beliefs we have had since childhood. These limiting beliefs smother our capacity for artistry in some form or another. Being an artist is scary stuff. It's deeply personal and you never know how people will react to it. Heart and soul goes into creativity yet I've learnt it's probably the only unique contribution we will ever make in our lifetime. We all have creative talents but often feel too scared to explore them for fear of imperfection and judgement.

I've found my harshest critic is myself and not others. In fact it's often hard to accept the amazing compliments and feedback I've had on my artistry. Art can be fun, personal, a social commentary, a career choice and almost always food for the soul. I've been known to use art as a distraction from my problems and from delving into constant grazing. It's a gift we can all offer to others; whether it be craft, visual art, writing or live performance.

Next time you are feeling stuck in a rut, wanting a new hobby or desperately wanting to recreate a past passion, think creatively! It's REAL food for the soul.

Carpe Diem

Maree x

 

NOVEMBER

Hi and welcome to another month of musing, reflecting and journeying through life.

Let me ask you; how do you end your day?

Do you just jump in to bed exhausted and mindlessly wander to the dreamland? Or do you have rituals like having a cuppa or a skin regime you do nightly?

Some people write in a journal as a way of ending their day; reflecting on whatever came up for them. I like to sit out in my porch looking at the trees and plants and practice gratitude. Think about all the moments of joy in my day that I am thankful for. Now this sounds like an easy ask doesn't it? However, on days that are stressful or don't go as planned it is tempting to spend my energy focusing on what went wrong in my day rather than what was good and joyous.

We talked about vulnerability last month and this continues on again from that. It's vulnerable work to lean into the discomfort of our days and allow ourselves to feel what we need to and move on. Reflecting, journaling or practicing meditation, mindfulness or daily gratitude are all great ways of detaching ourselves from our day.

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So today; I went and had a CT scan and as I was going home afterwards I pondered on the process. The table I had been on was narrow. The machine, again quite narrow. I hadn't once worried about whether I was going to fit on that table or that machine, or even fit the gown I was given to wear. I was reminded of my MRI last month; I hadn't even questioned whether I would fit into their machines. There certainly was a time in my life when that wouldn't have been the case. I would have worried incessantly over fitting on or into any of it. Going away; the shame of the extender belt. The holidays where I couldn't participate in most of anything because of size, weight restrictions, and physical incapability. It all came back to me as I reflected on having a CT scan today. I fit. And so much so I hadn't questioned in my mind that I wouldn't be able to.

What a mind shift to pre surgery and 170 kg. I felt so grateful in that moment for my surgery and losing the weight. I don't have to live in a state of anxiety over whether I'm going to fit into something or somewhere. I know how vulnerable and full of shame I felt in not being able to; whatever that circumstance was. So much of my day and my thoughts were determined by my weight in some way or another. It's nice to not be so consumed by these thoughts of shame around my size.

Like most things, it was hard work to get to that place and I've had to unpack just about everything I have ever felt or believed about myself in order to get to this point. Today I was able to reflect on how far I have come. I don't feel defined by my weight anymore and there is space and serenity in my thoughts and beliefs where shame once sat.

Tonight I'm reflective and grateful. For all that I have been; for all that I am and for all that I am yet to be. I need not be defined by my story or my past shame. I am me and I am enough just because I breathe.

Maree x

 

DECEMBER

Hopefully we are all loving the warmth this summer is already showing us. I find when it's warm I just feel better, do you? I'm sitting outside right now looking at nature and listening to the chatter of the birds. It seems by the lushness of the plants and the sounds coming from the trees, nature too revels in the power of a lovely warm day.

Do you practice gratitude when you take a moment to sit and reflect on your day? What do you see around you and moments of joy that can be experienced by the everyday? It's so easy to get caught up in the stress of our day, whether it's in our jobs, our kids or our relationship, especially at this time of year. I know in my head I often blow anything negative up until they or I am the worst person in the world. When I sit back and reflect honestly about many of these I realise this is just the story I am telling myself. And this story distorts the more I focus on my limiting beliefs.

Those of you who have been on a retreat will know what I mean by limiting beliefs but for those of you who haven't, I will explain what I mean. Limiting beliefs is the negative self talk we have. About ourselves, our situation and the people around us. This negative self talk is rarely factual or truthful; rather an accumulation of stuff you believe about yourself. For some of us, that voice that pesters us can become deafening and so constant that we start believing it to the point that we have very little self-belief or confidence left. I've spent most of my life believing the lies I told myself. I never had any real self-belief and what others saw was very much a facade.

I never wanted to live like this yet I didn't know how to change my thought patterns. It took a long time, therapy and being vulnerable with myself in order to make change. One amazing technique I learnt at the retreat is to journal my thoughts and write down everything I was feeling and believing. I then re-read it later and often by then I have calmed down and am able to look at what I've written objectively. At times I've even laughed at my childish tantrum that has unfolded on paper. Suddenly the story loses its power. And I'm able to let it go.

So do you journal? Have you thought about it but don't know what to write. It's therapeutic in itself and remember to end in a positive. What are you grateful for? Just for today? Write them down or go outside and say them out loud perhaps. And ask yourself, in this moment, am I ok? And maybe, just maybe, you'll notice a change in mindset. Even just for today. Then repeat it again tomorrow.

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FEBRUARY

I hope everyone had a wonderful Xmas and that you were surrounded by family or loved ones. As Andrea wrote in the last newsletter, I was off travelling so I'm only getting the chance now to reflect on Christmas and New Year. More about my adventures overseas later and let's discuss this crazy and sometimes silly season a little bit more.

It's often a time of year fraught with stress or sadness for many people; those who have lost loved ones around this time or the stress that comes with financing Xmas. I fall under both categories and worked hard this year in not allowing my emotions to run riot. I wanted to stay in control of how I felt and reacted. I found that many of the stresses I have around Xmas are of my own making. I put too much pressure on myself to make everything right for my family. I've lost my parents and their anniversaries are both in December, so I tend to get more emotional during this time as grief rears its head each year. I have felt obligated in the past to make sure Xmas stayed the same for my children and those around me. Subsequently, I go overboard with gift buying and that's often left me short for enjoying summer in January.

In previous years I have baked traditional Xmas treats with the intention of giving them away; yet I have been known to make double batches of everything because I can't be trusted with the baking and eat too much of it. I have learnt that much of the stress and worry I have had in the past is unnecessary and there is a simpler way. This year I planned things differently to avoid the stress. I didn't do any Xmas baking. I pre-bought a lot of my gifts over the past 5 months leading up to Xmas; little by little, and was completely finished by mid December. I only bought for those I really needed to and didn't worry about getting everyone a gift. Rather, I went and spent time with friends and relatives, choosing connection over gifts. I spent less on gifts overall, not feeling obliged to get all that I used to. I spent time alone thinking and remembering my parents rather focusing on the grief of losing them. Smiling at so many of the memories I have of them has been a huge comfort to me because I still remember them and can honour that memory.

While I travelled through third world countries this summer I was able to actively reflect on much of what's associated with this time of year. I was able to observe what it really looked like to have very little in life and still be happy and grateful. This was truly humbling to see and I thought how often we get it so wrong. How often is success, self worth or happiness measured by the size of our pay packet? Why have I felt the need for more stuff as a way of feeling fulfilled? Here I was looking at people who materially had nothing yet they seemed so rich in other ways. There's a lot I believe we could learn by sitting alongside people who have very little and life is hard. For one, it makes me feel very grateful for the life I do have and secondly it helps me question what is truly important to me? What can I live without. And inevitably the answer lies in less of the stuff and more to do with connection. It's the people in my life which give meaning to my life. Not the stuff I have or the money I make.

What gives meaning to your life? What can you live without? What are you prepared to settle for? Or not? I think pre-surgery I settled for the life I could barely tolerate, let alone enjoy. I constantly questioned myself, my place in the world and my own self worth. It's taken years of therapy to unpick my story and truly understand who I am and why I react and behave in certain ways. Since starting work at the FOHL retreats I have taken this further and think I understand myself pretty well now. I've unpacked my values and beliefs and now know my life is my responsibility. If I want my life to look different then I am the only one that can change that picture. It's up to me. And travelling through these third world countries solidified much of these feelings.

If you want to understand who you are more and want to make changes to your life, then consider booking a retreat. You won't regret it and you will even make friends with people on a similar journey to you. Go on. Because you are worth it xx

 

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MARCH

We invited family over for a lunch recently and I thought "we'll just use up what's in the fridge". I had a moment of panic when I doubted if there would be enough to feed everyone!  There was, of course, plenty, and the mish-mash of goodies made for a delicious lunch that suited the various ages and tastes. 

This got me thinking....How often do you find yourself wondering if you 'have' or 'are' enough? (Obviously I am referring to this as a metaphor rather than literally about food). Am I enough? Have I done enough? Have I said enough? Have I offered enough? And how often do you realise afterwards that whatever you are/gave/had/offered was enough? That all the worry and concern was like walking around with an umbrella waiting for it to rain? I call this foreboding joy. When things are actually going so well, that I start worrying about all the things that could go wrong rather than acting mindfully and enjoying the present for all it has to offer.

Do you find yourself thinking like this with your own weight loss journey: expecting the worst to happen and thinking that one day you'll find yourself having regained all you've lost? I know I have experienced those feelings and all they've done is either sabotage my success, or rob me of the celebration that is my WLS journey. I'm always telling others "they are enough, just because they breathe" and yet I too, find I have to say this to myself on occasions when my limiting beliefs (negative self-talk) wants its own platform. It can become deafening :(

That's where being present, still and focusing on my breathing actually helps as it calms my thought processes down and is a reminder to NOT live in the past or in the future, but rather in the NOW. That's all I'm guaranteed.

It's a daily challenge which I have to wake up and put into practice. I hope it's something that you are aware of too, as it's what could be robbing you of the magnificent "you", that you are. YOU ARE ENOUGH, just because you breathe. Remember the full stop that goes after each affirmation. I AM ENOUGH. I AM.

So, I wish you 'enough'. I wish you the confidence to take that next step trusting it will be enough xx

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APRIL

I’ve been pondering my WLS journey and there have been so many highs and a few lows along the way. My time spent at FOHL has taught me so much about myself. Mentally and emotionally I feel stronger; more resilient and I now treat myself with compassion and kindness rather than contempt. I feel like I have finally hopped off that darn shame train that ruled my life. Then I have to ask myself; where can I improve?

Because since giving up smoking a year ago I have regained weight and when I’m completely honest about my weight gain I feel shame. My negative self talk is getting louder as my weight has increased. I work facilitating a programme I believe wholeheartedly in, so why isn’t it working for me? Why am I gaining weight? What is going wrong? Then, even as I read this I can see a flaw in this argument. Why isn’t it working for me? Can you see where my thinking has distorted here? The programme, no matter how good, can’t do the work for me. What I have learnt is knowledge and the only one that can implement that knowledge into action is ME!!!

So now that I’ve acknowledged that what can I do?

What I’ve learnt is this: ditch the shame and judgement around me gaining weight for a start. Next step is acknowledging it and accepting what has happened. I can choose to change the lens on how I view what has happened. I have made a commitment to healthier living by giving up smoking.

That’s self care. I can be pleased with that.

Next step is choosing to do the next best thing regarding my health and my weight. So I figured I would walk my talk and use the tools I’ve learnt. I have made a plan. I’ve written that plan down. A simple plan with micro actions that can set me up for success; not failure. This involves setting up an early morning routine which includes some meditation and exercise. Then shower, breakfast and sit down to write/work. Now, there is nothing too stressful or onerous about this plan. And it’s a plan that sets me up for the day. And I’ve noticed with a healthy and constructive early morning routine I have made better, healthier choices food wise. That’s the bonus of implementing a plan. Weight loss isn’t the sole focus but rather choosing self care has a flow on effect.

So I choose self care and compassion rather than beating myself up. I choose to take action. I chose to make a plan. And each day I choose progress. I am choosing to have the best life I can. I choose me.

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MAY

Last month I shared with you my battle with regain and my feelings of shame associated with it. There was something really powerful about acknowledging to you all how I had been feeling. It was acceptance.

I decided at the time to implement a plan to address some of the complacency which had led to the regain; lack of routine around meals, exercise, self care and work. Now I realise a plan is just that and without action it just ends up being a rather wistful wish list. I used acceptance once again. I accepted, without shame or judgement this time, that I am the captain of my ship and it’s up to me to stay on course. Veering off in the wrong direction won’t lead me the way I want to be heading. And only 'me' can take control.

It seems simple enough and it is I guess; I’m responsible for my actions. No one else. Go figure! And that by gently and compassionately tweaking my behaviour which included the negative self talk, I felt in a better position to make healthier choices. I have been moaning for months how I had noticed I was gaining weight yet nothing about my behaviour showed I was actively doing anything about it. Lightbulb moment for me! And so I set about making a few changes.

Now I haven’t started running or anything rash like that. Heck no! But I committed to doing 10,000 steps a day. That combined with some meditation, journal writing and concentrating on three high protein meals a day, I have seen a shift. In weight, pain, mood and focus. I have clarity again. It feels a lot like when we spring clean the house. Everything is fresh, renewed and feeling great. That’s not to say I think I have it all figured out and am now bulletproof. It means I’m making decisions based on self care rather than punishment. It means me being the observer of my thoughts, feelings and beliefs rather than the persecutor. It means aligning my actions with my values and that feels wonderful. It means walking my talk. It means accepting myself as not perfect and knowing I’m still worthy. It’s really just about noticing how I care for myself.

I’m proud of the progress I’m making. Yes I have got to the weight goal I set but I think more importantly, I’m proud of the mature way I stopped, observed, recognised, accepted and committed to making some changes. My physical and emotional health thanks me for it. I feel whole again. And I feel like I am enough just as I am. And that people, feels pretty wonderful. I do hope this encourages some of you who are struggling right now. There is always hope. And choosing to do the next right thing. 

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JUNE

Do you find dark, dank days depressing? Wet and windy outside; with no sign of reprieve? I often feel melancholy and unmotivated. In the past when I’ve felt down or depressed I have behaved in one of two ways; I succumbed to the black hole or I tried to push it away by numbing myself with food. Neither behaviour proved effective in maintaining a positive mindset. And this year as the winter days set in, again, I started to feel that familiar wave of melancholy. But...I made a choice to try something different. This year I took control. I accepted it. I didn’t judge the feelings I was having, nor did I push them away. I implemented the knowledge I have learnt with my therapist using Acceptance Commitment Therapy. David also teaches this valuable tool to our participants at the FOHL Retreat. I will share with you how I used ACT to feel more in control.

I actively visualised depression taking on a form and knocking on my front door. It’s often referred to as the Black Dog so it made sense to me to see it as a large black dog standing upright at my door. I opened the door to it and had an imaginary conversation which went a little something like this:

Oh hi! It’s you again. I notice round about this time every year you turn up on my door. Well, come in if you want and take a seat over there on the couch. I need to have a talk to you about a few ground rules I’ve made and that you’re going to have to adhere to if you’re planning on staying. You can stay if you want, but I have things to do and am too busy to sit here entertaining you all day and night. I don’t mind you staying, but I’m in charge around here and you’ll have to sleep in the back room and follow the rules. In the past, I’ve noticed that you like to take over and run the show around here. This time it’s different....

It sounds a little silly when I wrote it down and read it, but it worked for me; I was able to accept feeling melancholy without judging myself for it. I noticed it and adjusted my actions based on acceptance, compassion and self care. The difference has been quite profound to how I’ve responded. I actually feel quite powerful and rather clever. In accepting the existence of the black dog in my life, I was able to keep it at bay and not let depression control me. I have made positive steps in my day to day that I know keep my brain and body active which help maintain a positive mindset. Each adjustment I made has been a healthy choice and I feel proud of myself. 

Suddenly on reflection, my days don’t feel so dark and dank. I can see the light in each day, and I can be grateful. 

I hope you too are grateful and living each day with light and love. 

I can’t wait to see so many of you at our July workshop in Hamilton and I’m excited about us all dressing up for our Winter Wonderland Ball. 

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AUGUST

I’m still revelling in the success of our Weight Management Workshop. So many wonderful people soaking up knowledge and the fun we had celebrating our weight loss surgery journey that night at the ball. It was lovely seeing so many people dress up and comment that it was a first time for them. That they had never been to a ball before and for some it was the first time in a dress. It got me thinking about how much we miss out on or exclude ourselves from, when we are overweight. It was a sad reminder of how unworthy I felt at my heaviest. How I never believed in myself or thought I wasn’t worth celebrating. I remember the panic I felt when I had a formal event to go to; what would I wear? What on earth am I going to get to fit? And then there’s the shoes! They were the worst as my feet were so swollen and literally nothing fitted; I had resorted to wearing jandals or crocs for years. The shame of it! 


So it was a magical experience for me to witness so many people celebrating themselves at our Winter Wonderland Ball, in their amazing outfits and everyone looked glorious. It will be a golden egg moment for me for sure. There were so many golden egg moments that day and I’m grateful to everyone’s amazing comments and feedback throughout the event. Every part of that day gives me the warm fuzzies. Delicious. I feel like I’m living my purpose and it’s all meant to be. Everything I have gone through has led me to where I am now and all that feels worth it and meant to be. I’m grateful for everything that I’ve learnt and to everyone that acted as my teachers. I get to pass on my knowledge and experience as a result. What seems previously random and accidental now looks to be a part of a bigger, well orchestrated plan that has me now working alongside Andrea and David. I’m so grateful to Andrea for having faith and belief in me. I’m grateful to David for being my surgeon and even more grateful to him for marrying Andrea. It’s been her vision that has built our post operative care package into what it is now.

There were many people that commented to me at our workshop that wished they had been ‘Schroederville’ patients from the start; that the care and fun we have is extraordinary. And that I think is worth celebrating. Along with so many other aspects of this weight loss surgery journey. So take a moment out of your day and reflect on all that you’ve accomplished since having surgery. How many non scale victories you’ve had as a result. Whether it’s being able to fit into a aeroplane seat without an extension belt; to doing a sky dive or like me, just being able to fit into shoes again. And then there are the life saving benefits we can celebrate. Adding years to our lives, going off blood pressure meds, no longer being a diabetic and being more physically mobile. While slim fitting clothes are nice, it’s the years added that’s the major turnaround for many of us. It has been for me and definitely something I don’t take for granted as I may not still be alive if I hadn’t chosen weight loss surgery nearly 10 years ago.

So I celebrate this journey everyday when I wake up and before going to bed. The lessons I’ve learnt and the people I’ve met have all been part of this incredible process and for that I’m truly grateful. So what are you going to celebrate today? Hopefully it’s you.

 

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