That’s my strapline and, when it comes down to it, it is... way more than I realised when I came up with it. But we’ll come back to that in a moment.
What’s the most important thing that you, as a woman, can do if you want to lose weight? If you’d have asked me that back in 2017/18 I’d have said “Cut back on carbs”, no doubt about it. Cut back on carbs, bring down your blood sugar and get your insulin under control. And while you’re at it, sort out your stress levels (because stress hormones contribute to belly fat), add time-restricted eating into the mix and make sure you get enough sleep. Oh, and exercise, don’t forget exercise – you’d have to do loads for it to translate into weight loss BUT it is great for your physical health, mental health and bone density.
But these days I’ve changed my tune. Yes, those things ARE important, every single one of them. They all have a role to play in weight loss. And yes, I cover them when working with groups and private clients, along with habits, planning, hunger, fats, fibre and all kinds of other things. BUT, and here’s the thing, you won’t make lasting progress, or any progress at all in some cases, unless you get yourself into a place where you can prioritise your own needs, put yourself first and make it all about you, at least some of the time. You need to open that particular door before you can access any of the others.
I tend to work with women in their 30’s, 40’s and 50’s – busy ladies with a lot on their plates: children, husbands and homes to look after, parents to support and care for, jobs to do and community commitments to meet, all of which have meant that over the years their own needs have ended up very low down the list, bottom of the heap even. They take the hit time after time and have got themselves into routines where they fill up on easy food, run around after everyone else and get to a point where they’re so exhausted that they can’t even contemplate good ways of getting fit, let alone do it.
Exhaustion, low energy and low mood are frequent accompaniments to the additional kilos that clients are carrying. Pre-diabetes, diabetes and high blood pressure also feature. These are manifestations of habits and a lifestyle that need changing if things are to improve. And while it would be very easy to whip out a diet and push it over and over again, there’s far more to it than that. Every single client is different but the vast majority have one thing in common: a failure to prioritise their own needs.
And that’s where the oxygen mask comes in (think pre-flight safety demonstrations!) – as corny as it may sound, it’s absolutely true that we cannot care for others unless we look after ourselves first. And that can be difficult for lots of women. It involves understanding the concept, taking it on board, embracing it even. It also involves rejecting guilt, working to change existing routines and finding ways to chill out. And then actually doing it all. It’s a bit like treating an illness – you can either deal with the symptoms OR you can tackle the underlying causes… it’s the latter that will result in lasting changes.
So once again, what’s the most important thing that you, as a woman, can do if you want to lose weight? Prioritise your own needs and take care of yourself, that’s my answer these days. Not one that I learnt during my training, and certainly not one that I was expecting. It’s the answer that I’ve seen time and time again, particularly when working with groups. Not only because it’s how my ladies lose weight and keep it off, but also because any failure or inability to do so means that they don’t.