For the eight years I worked at Freyberg Pool & Fitness Centre (1996- 2003), Mary was the first person waiting for the gym to open 3 days a week.
Every six weeks, I designed a new and progressively complex intensity programme. Mary’s movement periphery increased- as did her strength and fitness- yet she did not lose any body fat from her 1.57cm, 80 kg frame, with a body mass index score of 32. Obese. Strange. The textbooks and glossy magazines say fat should be dropping off.
Mary had a weight problem from the age of 5 onwards until her peak of 80 kg. Some 35 years later, she went to a nutritionist and still no fat loss. Nothing. Mystery.
It took the crisis of having her ex-partner die suddenly for Mary to reflect on her life. She was unhappy in her work and, as she had immigrated to New Zealand from England two years previous, she had only a small support network. Mary realised that she was not honest with her food habits, as she sabotaged herself by eating a big bag of chips every night. The chips were an addiction to carbohydrates and an emotional crutch. (Emotional eating sets up an addiction to carbohydrates that increases fat storage and at the same time depletes your stress resistance hormones and feeds a vicious cycle of the drive for carbohydrates.)
Stress makes it difficult to lose fat, even in the presence of regular exercise and eating real food. Mary needed a purpose greater than her dress size to focus her exercise programme on and create some happiness in her life.
Below is a summary of what transpired because of her crisis.
1. Lifestyle: As a result of her improved health as measured by the BMI score, Mary’s body reflected her athletic lifestyle. She gained confidence, left her unhappy job, and developed a life she loved.
2. Intention: She recognised her denial and changed her attitude from negative to positive. (This was my biggest contribution.) Mary also went on to share her success and mentor two people to compete in the same swim a year later. Mary says, “If you believe in yourself and think positively, anything is possible.”
3. Food: She joined the Weight Watchers community to become aware of the consequences of food choice.
4. Exercise: She set herself a goal of completing a 5.6km ocean swim and focused her training on achieving this some 11 months later.
Mary lost a safe, healthy, and sustainable 1.5 to .5kg per week for 5 months, resulting in a healthy BMI of 24.3.
You can see how the four L.I.F.E. solutions are holistically entwined. They cannot really be separated into black and white compartments, although people do, and the more they specialize, the more they lose sight of the big picture.
Any person who really, really wants to lose fat long-term must understand that you need to build a foundation of health before you can burn off fat with fitness and performance training. Building health requires lifestyle, intention, food, and exercise change. You can choose which solution to start at and cycle them all in and out as circumstances permit and dictate.
The first month focuses on building a foundation of health, how you feel, and what results you get in the first 30 days, which provides a baseline for the next 30, the 30 after that, and then the rest of your life.