Doubts And Worries

My new eBook, 100 Days of Mind Food For Weight Managers,  is only days away from being released. It’s a few weeks later than expected because of all sorts of hold ups and I’m more than a little impatient to see it go live now.

As I set out to write it I was full of enthusiasm and excitement and I very quickly got down to work and assembled the writing I had already done for various newsletters over the eight years or so I have been doing this work. I could see clearly how it all fitted together – or so I thought – and how I could present it so it built into a coherent book that people would enjoy reading and using. But then I stalled, I hit that brick wall of doubt and worry.  The more I did my research the more I saw that other writers in this field had endless university qualifications – I have some in Modern Languages and Counselling but they’re not quite the same as a Ph.D in Applied Psychology and many years of academic research in my head. I literally ground to a halt in my writing wondering if I was doing the right thing at all and if I was the right sort of person to even be writing this sort of book.

It’s ironic that with my own counselling training I could not see past the crooked thinking that engulfed my mind. Sometimes when we are so close to our own problems we only see what appears to be right in front of us and discount the evidence that is all around us. Paradoxically by not talking about my worries all the answers came to me in my supervision session with Mary, my own therapist supervisor, the person I explore my work issues with and who ensures that I continue to practice in a safe and ethical way.  We were examining some of my case work and she reminded me of my previous career as a writer stretching back over twenty years and the depth of my counselling work and experience in this field in relation to work I was engaged in with an individual client. Two colleagues also commented around this time that their own clients loved my writing in their newsletters and that it made a real impact and helped their clients make changes in their lives. Over the period of a few days my confidence in my own writing and the message I wanted to share came back – it hadn’t really gone away, I was just ignoring the fact that it was there in front of me.

I quickly moved from “I can’t” to “I can”, the doubts and worries not totally gone but shrunk to more realistic proportions and as I did that my fingers rattled over the keyboards and new writing appeared quickly and fluidly as it tends to do once my mind is fully engaged with a project. A friend who is an artist says something similar about his painting when he is in “the zone”. The work appears, not without effort but without struggle and something inside you knows it is right and so it was as my book took shape.

I set to and in just a few days restructured the book and it came out all the better for it and I could clearly see the work left to be done and completed it over the next few weeks. The people who proof-read and edited it gave me very positive feedback and, much encouraged, I can see now that there is place for a follow up book, or maybe two, which will build on what I have already written. For the first time in what seems like a long time, my writing again has central place in my life. It fulfils a deep need in me to create something and share what is important and I hope it helps the people I work with be happier and healthier.

Pushing away those doubts and worries that sapped my own energy reserves has certainly left me happier and healthier. When you’re beset by your own worries and doubts, look around you, speak to people you trust and check if those worries are real. Try and make sure you’re not ignoring evidence that proves you can do what you is important to you. Just a small change in perspective can help you take steps forward to make your life better too.

I’m working on a completely different book at the moment, a compilation of dog stories which will be called “Tell Tail Tales”. A proportion of the profit will go to the rescue centre in Dumfries where one of my own dogs came from and I am very much enjoying putting it all together.  Watch this space for news of my writing and those of you that know me, give me a nudge if you think I’m worrying and doubting my own ability. Oh and if you have a great doggy story of your own you’d like to share, get in touch at markthecounsellor@sky.com

myofficeinthesunWorking outdoors at our home in Kippford

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A Chance Encounter

This is one of the stories I was given for my new book of Dog Stories – which I would like to call Tell Tail Tales…

markandskipI was exercising my two dogs in the local park recently. They are my very first dogs and I freely admit that I’m not the best trainer. My dogs are brothers and sometimes a law unto themselves as they run around madly playing with each other ignoring every other living soul around. I love to watch this carefree play but I’m aware that sometimes other people see two naughty dogs misbehaving so I’m careful where I let them off the lead when they are in the mood to be a little bit mad.

This particular day there was one other person in the park, a man in his forties looking as though he’d been dealt the poorest of hands in life and he was with a staffie cross. He came over to me to assure me that his dog would do mine no harm, not that I thought it would but I recognised that some dog owners might have their doubts. He sat down on the bench next to me while my dogs played around his.

Sometimes we see in others something that touches us deeply. I saw that this man had never been properly fed, heard in the tone of his voice that he had spent much of his life alone, perhaps not lonely but alone all the same and that in many ways he did not fit in. He wasn’t the sort of person that I, or others, sought to spend time with but he did not scare or worry me as he talked. He explained he had not long moved to the area from the other side of the city and had more or less inherited the dog with his property. He called the dog over and as it turned I saw that its side was marked. It had the most horrendous scars, scars that could only come from the very worst ill treatment.

The man sitting next me explained that the previous keeper had tortured the dog with a three bar electric fire, pressing the fire into the dogs flesh and the wounds were raw and untreated when he took care of the him. And “took care” is exactly what he had done. He changed dressings daily for six months, fed the dog by hand and tended to him. As my dogs played madly in the park, I could not help but compare the quiet exchanges between the man and his companion. Without any words I could see the two were made for each other and in nourishing the dog, this malnourished man in all senses, had nourished himself too for what he had undertaken had been returned one hundred fold – the dog adored him and in some way completed him.

In that quiet moment I learned a lot. Sometimes things are meant to be. Sometimes horrendous cruelty brings healing beyond all expectation and a small dog fills a gaping hole in a life that has barely been lived to bring deep fulfilment. The simple kindness of the man sitting next to me towards one small animal filled my morning and as I called my dogs and stood up to leave, I wished them both well. This man and his dog taught me all I needed to know that day about the importance of life and the meaning of love.

Mary

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Look Out For Your Supporters

An article from my book coming out soon…

As we make a life-style change there will inevitably be people who want us to stop and I call them saboteurs. Those people who we allow to interfere in the achievement of what’s important to us? The voices that we listen to that, although well-meaning in most cases, are telling us our dreams are meaningless? What have you done about them?

One question to ask yourself if you haven’t done anything yet is “how long are you going to allow other people to run your life?” It might sound harsh and perhaps it is but someone has to ask these questions. At the very least I would hope you would put some space, even if only temporarily, between yourself and your saboteurs.

As always there are two sides to everything and no doubt there will be great people supporting you in what set out to do. Sometimes, however, your support comes from the most unexpected directions when you least expect it. It pays to look out for this when it happens because it makes up for all those saboteurs that you encounter.

I’d like to share a true story a colleague, who does some of this work too, told me many years ago when I first set out to be a counsellor. She worked as a sole female in an all male environment in a state of the art technology and engineering company. She had been clinically obese all her adult life and had struggled to manage her weight on and off for several years. She found a weight reduction programme that worked for her and along with a sympathetic counsellor managed to begin tackling the issues that had caused her to over-eat and gain weight.

As the pounds came off her appearance began to change but her male work-colleagues said nothing. They didn’t even comment. Still the pounds came off, 40, 50, 60 pounds and more. And not a peep was uttered in the office about this lady’s weight. She felt more than a little annoyed. Not one single man appeared to have noticed. She discussed this over several sessions with her counsellor and together they came up with a plan. What was decided was that my colleague should wait until everyone went to their lunch break and then tackle whoever was left behind and find out what was happening – because as it happened there were usually one or two people who didn’t go to the on-site restaurant for lunch.

The day came and at 12.30 everyone except my colleague and one single man went away to lunch. Plucking up all her courage, my colleague asked the lone surviving male “Haven’t you guys noticed my weight?”

To her great consternation he burst out laughing. Indignantly she shouted at him “It’s not funny!” (There may have been an expletive or two there but I’m sure you get the gist.) He apologised and invited her to sit down next to him. He opened the drawer of his old-fashioned desk and pulled out a sheet of photocopied paper which appeared to be some sort of calendar. He pointed to that day’s date and his name was written against it. “I’m on duty” he said and proceeded to explain that when my colleague had explained that as part of her programme that she would not be eating in the restaurant the men had drawn up a rota so that she always had company over the lunch break. Sure enough as she thought back, she had never spent the lunch break on her own. He went on to explain;

“Every other time you did something about your weight, as soon as we said you looked great, you stopped. So this time we got together and decided that we’d do something different and not say anything until you told us you were happy with your weight.”

My colleague admitted to having tears in her eyes at this point and realised that by keeping quiet the team of men she worked with had supported her in a way she could never have imagined or ever asked them herself to do. The support had come from where she had least expected it and it had been freely given in the expectation that she would be successful in achieving the 8stone (112lb) weight reduction that she had.

Shortly after this my colleague had her long hair cut really short and the same day also got fitted for a new bra. The next day she went into work, stood by the door and asked “What do you think guys?” as she did a little twirl expecting them to comment on her fashionably short hair.

“Fantastic tits!” was the shout from the back of the room. Well guys must be guys I suppose and you can’t have everything!

Look out for your support and remember to say thank you when you find it.

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Fake It Until You Make It

Many of you will know that much of my work is helping people manage their weight better. This article was prompted by that work.

muhammedaliI remember working with a group of clients and we were talking about self-confidence and how being able to be more confident in refusing unwanted food often appeared to be difficult. One member of the group I was working with, we’ll call him Dave, said it was almost like he had trained the people around him, his friends and family, to feed him and bring him presents of food and drink. He found it incredibly difficult to even imagine changing this and saying No to what he perceived were acts of kindness.

I then asked him if he had come across a situation in his life before where he lacked confidence to act in the way he wanted to be and if he had managed to overcome it. He sat quietly for a short while and then a beaming smile broke out across his face and he began to explain exactly how he had accomplished something.

As a teenager he had always been shy with girls so the whole dating “thing” was a nightmare at first. His best friend, Phil, always seemed to have the right lines and was never short of girls to go out with. Dave grinned and described to the other men there what he did. “I just pretended to be Phil,” he said. “Not to the girls, but just in my head. I used to think of the stuff he would say. I watched what he did when he chatted girls up and I copied it. It was really hard at first and sometimes I messed it up but I soon got the hang of it.” And before long Dave was being Dave, doing it his own way and not pretending to be Phil.

And the moral of the story is that sometimes you really do need to fake it to make it. It’s not about deceit or telling lies but copying the successful tactics of people you know and admire so that you too can be successful in what you set out to do. It’s a way of learning that you do have the skills and the knowledge inside you to be the person you want to be and faking it for a short while lets you practice and find a way of doing what is important.

As you read this, think of a friend who manages difficult situations well that you struggle with. What sort of things do they say and do in these situations that you find difficult? How do they do what you find almost impossible. How can you pretend to be more like them and fake being better at what you want to achieve for a while until you really can do it for yourself? Jot down your thoughts in a notepad. You may be surprised what you discover.

Practice some of this “fakery” over next week and come back to your notepad to record the results.

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The Washing Up Fairy

Or how I learned to change my negative self-talk and love the washing up

washingupThose who know me well know that I don’t like housework, and washing up is no exception.  Up until a few years ago, I would regularly leave the washing up each night.  My thoughts would be something along the lines of “I don’t want to”, or “It’s not fair, why should I have to do it?” (you could almost see me stamping my foot!).  So I would go to bed and then still be faced with the same pile of washing up the next morning.  And by then it seemed 10 times worse. Somehow I had hoped that the washing up fairy would come during the night and clean my dishes.  Magically, I would wake up to a clean and tidy kitchen, without having to do anything at all. 

Then I discovered, how to challenge and change my negative and unhelpful self-talk.  I realised that the washing up fairy does not exist and that as much as I didn’t like doing the washing up, I liked getting up in the morning to a kitchen full of dirty plates even less.  I started saying “I could leave the washing up, but I prefer to do it tonight rather than in the morning”.  So now I wash up most nights before I go to bed and I don’t mind doing it at all, as I love waking up to a clean and tidy kitchen. (Importantly here, I don’t beat myself up for not doing it on those nights that I am too tired or to busy, I just reconcile myself that I will have to do it in the morning).

When I work with weight management clients, preference or choice is such a powerful tool.  Often we have similar thoughts around food, for example “it’s not fair, everyone else is eating it, why can’t I?”, or “I can’t have it, I’m on a diet” and then we over consume.  Maybe we subconsciously hope that the weight loss fairy will come over night and magically remove the excess calories and fat from us, so we wake up slim without actually changing our habits or doing any work.  I am guessing, though, that the weight loss fairy is as non-existent as the washing up fairy. So maybe if we change our thinking to “I can have whatever I want. I am choosing not to, as I would rather maintain my weight”, we might not eat as much. Try it and see what happens… It might just change your life.

washingupfairyby Deborah Cripps

 

 

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Lucy’s Message

Lucy, who wrote this, is the niece of one of my Facebook friends. I work with people struggling to manage their weight and she says beautifully what it feels like to hear cruel, bullying jokes on the radio and television.  It really doesn’t motivate people to get thinner.

I agree 100% with what she has to say.  Please read.

So time for a emotional status update.

Just watched another show where overweight/obese people were the butt of their jokes. Yes obesity is an issue in the modern era but that doesn’t give people the right to demonise a whole section of society. Even I have noticed that I hear a lot more jokes about people’s weight as I have lost it myself which makes me wonder what was said about me. Not a day goes by when I don’t read something which is blaming obese people for all the for the world’s financial woes (OK, I may be exaggerating here but not by much). Most of you will have known me when I was at my biggest. I struggled with my weight for 16 years, and I still do.

Every single day is a battle for me, not to buy and eat that whole share bar of chocolate, scoff that entire tub of ice cream, visit McDonalds just because there is one there and have it as well as my normal meals. My eating was out of control and I don’t think anyone can comprehend how much I used to eat, even I think back and can’t believe it. I also still lose the battle, more often than I’d like. If you have a problem with your weight and food it is awful. Food is what gives you comfort but it is also what is causing the problem in the first place. It is the ultimate love – hate relationship. There were times when all I could think about was being alone so I could eat and not feel judged all the while hating myself for doing it. The next time you go to make a fat joke at someone’s expense think about the battle they may be going through. Weight loss is about eating less and moving more but you cannot begin to imagine the emotional aspects of it. I don’t know enough about it to make a comparison, but think about whether or not you would make fun of someone with anorexia. Or tell someone with anorexia that all they need to do is eat more. I’m sorry that if you think that is controversial but that is how I feel about it, I think both ends of the spectrum have an awful battle.

However I consider myself lucky that I developed gallstones and really high blood pressure, it gave me the kick up the backside I needed. So after 2 years I finally managed to achieve a reasonably healthy weight and I hope blood pressure too. I’ve also rediscovered my love of running which gives me the incentive to eat healthily but also helps keep the weight down. Other people aren’t that lucky, they can’t find the motivation, they can’t get out of the rut.

I know I post a lot of before and after pictures on Facebook but there is a simple reason for this. I will admit it is for me. It is to help me see that I have been successful because even after going from a size 26/28 to a 12/14 I still feel like a big person, I can’t see the change in myself. So thank you for putting up with my posts and the encouragement you give me. This year as I am coming to the end of my weight loss has probably been the hardest year of all for a number of reasons. I have had many low points this year. Being so overweight for over a decade takes its toll on your body, I have the body of an 80 year old at the age of 30. After not particularly liking myself and wanting to hide away from the world I have started to try and build a life for myself. It is hard to expect other people to accept and like you when you can’t even accept or like yourself.

Nevertheless I am getting there, with some help. I have a wonderful group of people I have met through running Vikki, Barrie, Klara, Marion, Caroline and the list goes on. Also the encouragement from those in Mallaig who have seen me running and losing the weight, some of them I don’t even know but will still congratulate me.

So there we have it. I’m not normally one to speak from the heart but I hope you now have some insight into how it feels to have a weight problem, I know I’m not alone.

 

 

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Brief Encounter

briefencounterFellow dog owners will know that you meet people out walking who become more than just casual passers-by but very often you don’t know their names. They simply become Beano’s dad or Ozzie’s mum. Often you exchange more than the time of day with these people as you walk along and your dogs play and you realise after a while that although you don’t know their names you do know a lot about their lives.

Our brief encounter yesterday was with just such a dog owner, someone Jason and I had talked about several times over the last months as we had not seen her for some time. Last time we had met she was having treatment for breast cancer and was delighted her eyelashes were growing back in but was still somewhat jealous of our short hair as hers was patchy and in her own words rather unfeminine. Not seeing her for such a long time we had assumed the worst and feared the cancer had claimed her. So it was a delight to see a woman the picture of health looking fantastic with a shock of blonde hair out with her dog. The reason we hadn’t seen her it transpired was that unfortunately she was no longer Orla’s mum but was now Quigley’s mum. It was Orla who had become ill and died.

We chatted and caught up on our respective pieces of news and Quigley’s mum asked if we had heard about Molly’s mum,  a mutual dog walking friend of ours. We hadn’t seen Molly’s mum for some time either and had wondered if she was OK. “She committed suicide several months ago” we were informed. In some ways I was not surprised although when you hear of someone taking their own life it is always a shock. Molly’s mum suffered from ME and it often left her isolated and depressed and I had missed seeing her on the beach close to our home in all weathers walking her spaniel.

As Quigley’s mum said “It is ironic when I had all the drugs available in my home to end my life and I was fighting so hard to keep it and someone who lives just round the corner from me was desperately planning to end their own”. I cannot begin to imagine the torment that drives a relatively young person to end their life and I make no judgement on her decision. But it is hard because the person I remember, despite her physical problems was often full of laughter and had a mischievous sense of humour. However, she had rehomed Molly so had obviously made a firm and careful plan to end her life and I have to accept that was her decision.

A brief encounter tinged with great sweetness to find someone was still very much alive and deep sadness for the loss of another who had come into my life and left too early.

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