I want to inspire people…

I want someone to look at me and say, “because of you I didn’t give up.”

When I made it to the 50kg goal a while ago, the owner of my gym asked me to write a testimonial for his website. I wasn’t keen – I still hold on to a lot of shame about even having to undertake this journey – but he said he thought people would be inspired by my story. He also said I could be anonymous… guess I’ve blown that now.

I’d never thought about being inspirational. This was something I had finally felt motivated to do, and it was for a very personal set of reasons – I hated myself and my body, and I knew I was going to make myself sick if I didn’t do something to change. I remember saying to him at the time I hadn’t done it for anyone else, I’d just done it for me.

It took me a long time to even feel proud of what I was achieving. I was dogged and determined in my approach, but it felt like it was punishment for years of “bad” living. It’s only recently that I’ve been able to talk to people about what I’ve done, and acknowledge and feel proud of what I’ve managed to achieve.

So it was pretty special today when my little brother told me he was proud of me.

We spent the day driving up the coast to go to a funeral. Not the most pleasant of excursions, but it gave us hours in the car together. We talked about his kids, our work, the rest of our family – all the regular stuff. And then on the way home we worked our way around to diet and exercise.  He’s put on some weight lately, and he is finding it really hard to do much about it between long hours at work and a busy family life. He started asking about what I was eating, how I was exercising – how I’d “done it” – and how he might be able to change things around to fit into his life.

And I felt inspirational, right there.

When I was at the gym tonight, my mind kept wandering off thinking about who I’d found inspirational when I started. There were lots of people who were supportive – my trainers, friends, colleagues who all went out of their way to encourage me, especially at the beginning when it was really hard – and thank you to you all. But actual inspiration? Really that was just one person – my friend Marie. She’d lost a lot of weight, and more impressively, has kept it off.

Marie and I had worked together years ago, and when I came back to Sydney, she encouraged me to join her gym. And it was her success that inspired me to face my fear and call Jace, go and meet him, and go to my first session. She has supported me ever since, but part of getting through the door that first time was the inspiration that I took from her story – the belief that she gave me that this might be possible.  What I saw in Marie’s story was someone like me, who had done the thing I so wanted to be able to do.

Google tells me that inspiration is defined as the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, esp. to do something creative. Marie’s success made me believe I could do something, that I could make a change, that this time it could work.

Because you can know all the statistics and the facts, you can know you should do something, you can even know how and where to do it, but sometimes what you really need is to know is that someone else has been there before you – someone real, someone like you – and that it’s possible.

So, I’ve decided to breathe deeply, and get more comfortable telling my story, because maybe it will be the thing that makes someone else feel that it’s possible for them too. And wouldn’t that be a cool “new normal”.

I’m also on twitter.

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Losing weight over the phone

We hear it in the news all the time.  In western countries, obesity rates are rising. Dramatically.

In my own country – Australia – over 14 million people are overweight or obese (Monash University Figures). That’s from a population of 23 million.  And there’s lots of reasons for it – cheap, fast and plentiful energy-dense food. More screen time. Busy lifestyles. Less need to move.

Those Monash figures go on to say that if weight gains continue at the current rate, by 2025 close to 80% of Australian adults will be overweight or obese, and that it has become the single biggest threat to public health in Australia.

I’m a pretty lucky person. When I finally decided to get serious about losing weight and getting fit and healthy, I had the resources available to get the help I needed. I joined a good gym, I got a good trainer, I had a group of supportive friends around me. I also knew how to cook, and I’m educated enough to at least know the basics of good nutrition.

But not everyone is so lucky. Like most health indicators, obesity is linked to disadvantage. That means there are a lot of overweight people out there who can’t afford the kind of interventions that I paid for.

Now – I know I had the knowledge to do it on my own. But it was a long haul. I’m a pretty determined person, but I know that at some point on a bad week I would have gotten a bit disillusioned, decided it was all to hard, and consoled myself with a bag of chips, a pizza and a tub of icecream. So would have ended another diet and fitness regime. It had happened before.

Knowledge by itself just isn’t enough. There needs to be a supportive element. But how do you produce that in a way that is accessible to the numbers of people we’re talking about?  How does a health system – which even after massive injections into preventive health over the last five years, still only spends around three percent of the budget on prevention – afford interventions that support so many people to lose weight? Especially when the external environment is working so hard against it.

I read an article this week that gives me some hope. This group telephone intervention would be relatively inexpensive to run, and the results show it was even more effective than individual telephone support, because of the encouraging environment created amongst participants over time.

Now that’s not the whole answer by a long shot, but it is encouraging to see some work being done on interventions that are cost-effective and easily replicable.  Because if we don’t start doing something, as a community we are not going to be able to afford the health bill.

I’m also on twitter.

(I would also like to acknowledge Heather Frey and Lori Shemek for their twitter support, freely given. A couple of timely messages of encouragement, which may not have seemed like much, but were truly appreciated.)