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The festive season is over and your pants are tighter than your wallet. What went wrong? AGAIN?

3 Jan

Suzanne’s Perspective

The feasting , I mean *festive* season has come to a close.

Did you feast?

To be more accurate, despite promising yourself to take it easy this year, did you feast like there was no tomorrow, while promising yourself you would start your diet in January?

Now that January is here, are you still reaching for the pies because you are depressed about the enormity of the task ahead and too broke to afford a gym membership/buy healthy food anyway?

What went wrong?

Again?

For most of my adult life I have resented the festive season.  I feel out of control, as though the world is trying to force feed me, like a Christmas goose being fattened up for slaughter.

Despite what  glossy magazines tell you about how to ‘choose this instead of that’,  I have yet to find a non offensive way to insist on getting a blob of cottage cheese on a crispbread (‘cut the crispbread into small squares and layer them between the cheese! It will still feel decadent!” they promise) when the host of the third party in as many days, offers me a tray of mini pork sausages stuffed with cheese, wrapped in bacon, while shoving a fruity sugary alcoholic drink into my other hand.

Oh alright then, I will eat it all...

Perhaps there has been a magazine article written on how to artfully offend your friends, I have yet to read it.  If I was to demand a low fat snack at a party while rejecting the proffered offerings, I am quite certain I would not be regarded as sensible and empowered – I think it’s far more likely I would be called, smug, fussy and downright ungrateful.  To my face.  Possibly followed by that fruity drink and a dollop of spittle.

The trouble with asking for a paper towel on which to dab the excess fat off a double fried chocolate fat nugget, or eating half the food you have been served and piously pushing your plate away, or pouring half your cocktail down the sink and topping up your glass with water – if this is not obvious – is that it is RUDE.  Your host has spent hours preparing the feast and probably a fair amount of cash on the ingredients.  In addition to this, the meal, if it is a small party or family get together, was probably prepared with your tastes and preferences in mind.  Your sister saw how much you enjoyed the fat nuggets last year.. you asked for seconds!  That’s why she made them again this year… specially for you… how easy then, is it to push them away when they are proudly offered?

Not easy at all, you admit, unbuttoning another button of your jeans.

Imagine a world in which you could feel safe going to dinner parties in December knowing you would not have to eat anything which fell outside of your healthy eating plan.  Imagine not even being offered these things at all, not because you have been excluded, but because these things were not even prepared, based on your attendance.  Imagine a world where not preparing these items did not make your host feel resentful, but instead made them feel considerate and open-minded.

Welcome to the world of the belief system motivated vegetarian.

Think back on the last time you hosted a vegetarian.  When you decided to include this person on your guest list you already knew a few things about them.  You knew they did not eat meat for religious or other personal reasons.  You knew with certainty this was not a point for compromise or negotiation.  Did you then, insist on serving only meatballs, even when this guest was the only vegetarian at the table?  No you did not.  Instead you created some fancy sundried tomato-balanced on a soya bean starter (which everyone, seeking to appear evolved and tolerant of the veggie eating guest, raved about) and also probably served a vegetarian lasagna which it took you twice as long to make as a steak pie would have, necessitating a trip to three different stores just to find aubergines.

On top of that, I bet you felt rather smug about it.  It was probably easy to say to your brother Peter (known for only eating meat and potatoes) – “It will be a meat free evening tonight Pete”.

As the host you felt splendid about it – what a great chance to show how liberal and cosmopolitan you are.  Meat free?  Oh.. that’s easy!  That is just the type of flexible and inclusive host I am!

The same accommodations are made for diabetics and alcoholics and they are made just as happily.

So why then can a dinner party menu not be planned around the guest (or guests, which is more likely) who are trying to slim down or manage their weight over the festive season?

Here are a couple of reasons :

*We don’t declare our dietary requirements upfront.

*If we do declare our dietary requirements, we do it WRONG.

*We don’t follow through.

*We are secretly pleased we didn’t have to follow through.

Everyone knows who the vegans, vegetarians and diabetics are.  People who have specific dietary requirements have learnt that it does not serve them to stay silent.  It is not uncommon to meet a new colleague in the workplace and to have them introduce themselves as, “Hi, I am Johno, the new Accountant and I am a vegan”.   If you didn’t already know and you invite one of these people to a party, they will not mind reminding you either, several times if necessary.

People who are on a healthy eating plan are less eager to declare their requirements so blatantly for fear of scorn and derision.  If we are completely honest we must also concede that we sometimes do not describe out dietary requirements because we already plan to fail them and do not want to have to explain ourselves when the person who we outlined our carb free eating choices to in detail sees us grazing a family size box of doughnuts at the office a few days later.. but that is another blog altogether.

hmmm... I think I will pretend I want the carrots and then allow myself to be 'forced' to eat the pie...

Vegetarians and Vegans are not immune to scorn and derision.  They will tell you that when they first come out the soya closet into the meat locker which is the world in which we live, they are interrogated and questioned like criminals.  It only hurts the first couple of times though, and people do then eventually get over it and accept it.  Vegetarians and Vegans feel strongly enough about their choices and are prepared to face this sort of pain in order to reap the rewards waiting on the other side – evenings of dining without awkward moments or social pressure, without compromise or confrontation.

When followers of a healthy eating plan do manage to find the courage to come clean upfront they often hamstring themselves by apologizing or sounding ashamed about it.  The knee-jerk reaction of the person on the receiving end, when they hear ; “I would LOVE to enjoy your delicious lemon meringue pie again this season, but sadly, I am on a diet”… is to respond with, “you don’t need to diet darling! We all love you just the way you are.. don’t be silly.. one piece of pie won’t hurt you!”.  Both host and hosted disempowered… and you have only yourself to blame.  Listen to how different this sounds : “You are such a wonderful host so I thought I better let you know as soon as possible so you understand and are aware that I wont be having any of your lemon meringue pie this year; I don’t eat sugar”.

Case closed.

When a vegan gets to a dinner party and a bleeding slice of meat is served up to them, they don’t eat it.  They don’t guzzle it down while whispering to their partner that they ‘don’t want to make a fuss’.  They don’t eat it, even if it causes an awkward moment.  They know their abstinence is a sure fire way of underlining their dietary preferences to ensure it won’t happen again, and the hostess will probably be mortified when realizing the mistake and knowing the guest will go hungry.  They don’t feel bad in the slightest because they know they have explained their choices several times. They feel quite comfortable pushing that plate away.

The difference, the very big difference, is that the vegan was not secretly hoping they would get the hard choice taken away from them and get ‘forced’ to eat the meat.  The vegan is truly comfortable and satisfied with their eating plan.  They own it.  They are fully in, not balancing on a knife edge, hoping for a push to topple them and give them an excuse to abdicate from the choice and responsibility of eating too much of the things they said they did not want to eat this season.

So there it is.  Nobody force fed me this festive season, or any other festive season.  If I feel I have been fattened like a goose for slaughter, I need to acknowledge it is I that am holding the feeding tube.

Is it not time healthy eaters took on an empowering term of their own?  I am a….”X”… sorry.. I cannot eat that.   A friend suggested the term “Spartan”, or I suppose we could stick with “dieter”.  I am not satisfied with either as I would prefer to move away from anything which references deprivation or self pity.  We need something which spells it out in the same way Vegan spells it out.

I need to think more on it.  If anyone has any suggestions, I would love to hear from you.

ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT : Fed Up! Group Sessions

2 Feb

The Fed Up Manifesto :

“I am FED UP with a world which measures my worth in kilograms.  I am FED UP by the ways in which I have reacted to these measures and judgements in the past.  I am FED UP! Today, I am moving forward, taking charge, and claiming my right to life, love and happiness.  Right NOW”

Date : Tues 1 March 2011

Time : 6 to 9pm

Place : Group Lounge, My Coaching Office, Melville, Johannesburg

Session Topic : Weight Loss Surgery

A frank discussion on elective weight-loss surgery.  An opportunity for clarity and enlightenment for anyone who is considering a weight loss intervention, anyone opposed to this surgery but seeking with honest intent to understand it, or anyone conflicted on the issue. The discussion will be facilitated by myself (Suzanne ‘Soo’ Patterson), an NLP Life Coach.  All attendees will have an opportunity to participate, without pressure to communicate beyond their comfort level.

This group is for you if :  You are a woman.  You currently struggle with your weight AND/OR you have struggled with your weight in the past and still consider your relationship with food to be complicated and tenuous AND/OR you consider yourself a food addict AND/OR you are in a relationship with a food addict AND/OR you are part of the loving support system of a food addict.

Special Guest : Heather (my sister and co-blogger here) (37 yrs) – 3 months after lap-band surgery

Fed Up is NOT a slimming club.  Fed Up is a confidential on-going support system for women struggling with issues related to food addiction and self esteem.  The Fed Up Sessions have a group therapy structure, and offer encouragement and therapeutic advice in your journey to self-awareness, victory over your addiction and the issues which underlie it.  You will NOT be weighed, you will NOT be measured.  You will not be asked to leave the group if you do not lose weight.  You will never be shamed, over praised or treated like a child.  You WILL be heard, understood, and given an opportunity to vent, facilitated by a kind a gentle process.

To book contact me, Soo Patterson 071  177 7030 or email talktosoopat@hotmail.com.
To preserve the group dynamic, places are limited.  R80 per person, includes 3hr group therapy session, session notes, Coffee, Tea & Biscuits.

Bands and Ties and Other Things Which Bind

24 Jan

Suzanne’s Perspective

At the end of last year, my big sister (in all the ways that count, and some that don’t) underwent a surgical procedure, and had a weight loss device – a lap band – inserted.  She now has a teeny little inner tube circling her stomach, which when inflated will squeeze tighter and more efficiently than any iron-fisted willpower she has been able to summon to date and limit the amount of food she can comfortably eat in one sitting.

Inside my 15 year-old sister (pictured here) was always a fat person, fighting her way out. Slim and pretty, but in her mind fat and clumsy. Hiding under bulky shorts, arms covering a belly she didn't have. Eating until years later, her outside matched her inside.

Two earth-shattering, conscience jarring, where-the-hell-do-you-stand-on-anything-actually parcels of life found their way to my door step at the end of last year.  Both of them, in terms of my contribution to this blog, struck me dumb.

Continue reading

the risk of unprotected life – a poem

23 Aug

(a poem by Soo, written in April 2010)

I made a suit
To protect my core
I made it better than before
My early suits were full of fail
Malfunctions on a epic scale
The first I knitted from whipped cream
It tore apart I blame the seams
I got the second off ebay
I went uncovered for a day
I smiled at someone on the way,
To fetch my suit late in the day
It wasn’t ready when they said
So I decided to get hitched instead.
The risk of unprotected life
From smile to lust to love to wife
Then wife to smile to on my own
With burnt fingers better suits are sewn
This time lined with kryptonite
But also sexy sleek and tight
Last week it caught on a 6ft nail
Another cautionary tale.
For a second I thought I wanted that
But this will do
I am intact.

well suited

Protective layers.  It is not only my sister who understands the concept.

Poetry.  Try it.  Not just for geeks and pretentious asses, and often a way to get whats in.. out.

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The ties which bind

15 Aug

Suzanne’s Perspective

I sometimes allow things to become important to me, when they help me, to get through a difficult situation.

Like shoe laces.

When I climbed Kilimanjaro six years ago I realized, after the first excruciating day, that I was not going to make it through the pain and the unending monotony of it, if I allowed myself to focus on the number of kilometers I still needed to cover to reach the summit.  It also wasn’t helpful to calculate how many hours remained of marching at a pace set by men stronger than me, none of whom were my friends.

I figured out what I needed to concentrate on, were the little things, which didn’t scare me.  I needed to concentrate on them, and do them well, while blocking out the rest.

do it carefully. do it well.

I really liked my professional, waterproof and climate tested hiking boots.  They were the most expensive I could afford, and they came with brown and black woven laces – thin, long and strong.  Putting on my boots and tieing those laces became a ritual, at the start of every day on the mountain.  I would do it carefully, I would do it well.  I would tie a perfect knot and secure it tightly.

At the end of another day of marching over slippery rock with the snow and the wind beating the will and personality out of me, I would fall into my tent and end my day as I had started it – with those laces – with that ritual.  The knots would still be there.  Tight and true.  The laces seemed unbothered by my ordeal.  Ready as always in the morning, to face another day.

On the way down from the summit (achieved, but immediately overridden by the remaining task ahead), I got separated from the main group with one other hiker.  I found myself sheltering behind a large rock from the weather, feeling hysterical and exhausted, staring at those laces.  The knots were still tied tight and true, and for a moment I imagined being found that way.  Her boots survived, her body didn’t! They could have pulled them right off me and put them on their own feet, and those laces would have complied and endured, passively dealing with everything dealt them, so much stronger and more durable than me.  Thinking about wasting my lovely new shoes and their hardworking laces distracted me enough to take a breath, get over myself and my hysteria and to allow me to continue, and to hike another 12 hours more, to the final camp, and another 8 more hours after that on the home stretch.  We finished the ordeal singing and smiling, my laces and I.

I put my boots in my cupboard after returning home.  I left them, still caked in the blood of a faraway land.  It made me happy to see them standing there whenever I reached for another more practical pair of shoes.  It reminded me of the adventure we shared together.

A year and a half ago armed men held my mother and I up in our home. While one man held a gun on us, another went upstairs to my bedroom to find something to tie us up with.    He returned with two long thin brown and black laces he had pulled from my hiking boots which he had found in the cupboard.  Those laces were as flexible as they had ever been on the mountain as he looped one around my wrists and bound my hands behind my back.  I felt them burn into my skin as he pulled them tight with a jerk, in a similar way to how I had tied my own knots on those mornings when I was trying not to think about the day ahead.

He bound my mother with the second lace, and those knots were true.  They held so fast and tight that we both enjoy nerve damage to this day.  Our captor had found a small thing to do.  He had done it carefully and he had done it well.

When help finally arrived I was the one who cut those laces away from my mother’s hands where they had bitten in deep enough to bleed, after having my own cut away by a response guard.  Those thin strong laces were hard to cut though, and I suppose I could have tried to untie them, to save them, if they really did matter to me in the way I thought they did.

Instead I let them fall to the ground and didn’t look at them again.  I focused instead on my mother and the pieces of our broken world.

In the days which followed I was able to turn to friends who I never knew the value of, until I saw them shine for me, under the worst of circumstances.

I sometimes allow things to become important to me, when they help me, to get through a difficult situation.

Like the people who love me.

We can achieve amazing things on our own, with just the strength of our will.  We are particularly good, if we allow ourselves to be, at attaining goals which we have set for ourselves – like climbing mountains.  I put myself in that place, and I wanted to get to the summit very badly.  I wanted to prove to myself I could.  I used the knowledge I had regarding my own wiring, to help me attain my goal.  I am the type of person who works best if I am able to eat my elephant in small chunks.  I am the sort of person who is validated by achieving small goals consistently (surviving a day of hard hiking), which give me the confidence to work towards bigger goals (getting to the top of the mountain).  I am the sort who enjoys routine and structure – things I can rely upon – (tying my shoes the same way each morning to start my day) which provide a framework for coping with other things which by their very nature are less predictable and reliable (the rocky road to the summit and getting separated from the group).

I was very proud of my achievement, and in no small part due to the fact that I had relied upon no one but myself to get it done.  No one had helped me train.  No one had booked my trip.  No one had stood at my side encouraging me.  No one had hiked it for me.  It was proof to me at the time, how I was capable of doing anything I put my mind to.  On my own.  With or without the help of others.

But what about the challenges life throws you, for which you have not planned?  What about the goals you wish to achieve just as badly, but which you didn’t set or wish for yourself? (like making it through a hostage situation alive).  Life does not always provide you with a reliable and secure framework in those situations.  It becomes incredibly difficult to eat the elephant in chunks, when you don’t know the size of the elephant, or if there is another elephant right behind that one.

you have tied me up, not controlled me.

My coping mechanisms of the past – do these things, in this order – were no longer valid when I found myself on the other end of a gun.  Working towards your own goal is empowering.  Being a part of someone elses requires a new approach one in which the outcome is not guaranteed simply because you worked really hard to earn it, or because you did everything right.

The things I had controlled in my mountain climbing challenge, (which up until the hostage situation I had called the hardest thing I had ever done in my life), were controlling me in the next one.  Those darn laces.  Just pieces of string in the end.  A one hour at a time approach wasn’t going to help me either.  Bravely enduring did not ensure a happy ending.

Someone died that night.  You can do everything right and still not get the result you want.

I have learnt all I can control about that night is my reaction to it.  I am able to put it behind me knowing we all did the best we could.  I do not consider myself a powerless victim of my circumstances, but I also no longer think I am the sole true master of my universe.  I own my behavior that night, but I cannot own the behaviors of the men who held guns on us, motivated by their own goals and needs which were in opposition to mine.  I am strengthened and comforted by my family and friends, and I need them for doing many things more important than climbing mountains.

I am part of an ecosystem of cultures and personalities.  It keeps its balance by giving us all a bit of the good and a bit of bad, and we need to gear up and cope with it.  Life is not vindictive, nor is it kind.  It is.

I am comforted by being both powerful and weak at the same time – being human, and I will keep doing my best.

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