The Five Whys

Well it’s Tuesday as I type this and my fridge is healthily stocked and I’m drinking my green juice, which means it must be time for an update on “New Year, Same Old Me, But Trying Hard to Make Some Lasting Changes”. The juice really is quite green, but it doesn’t taste all that bad. Kale (it’s not as trendy as it used to be, so you don’t need to roll your eyes quite so much), an apple, a plum, green melon, some walnuts, turmeric, spirulina (natural algae – full permission to roll your eyes – a supposed nutrient-dense, high-protein “superfood”). It is extremely green. And some extremely overpriced macha green tea powder. For the liquid I used ginger water which Hubby made last week by boiling raw ginger. Simple as. If one thing’s for sure, being healthy is expensive and labour intensive!

Last week I spoke about how difficult it is to achieve goals when they are vague and not clearly defined. The second part of my Sleek Geek challenge was all about making these goals more concrete and ensuring you have a clearly defined reason for change, otherwise it will be virtually impossible to make it stick. To do this, you really need to dig deep and start asking yourself some serious questions about what it is that you value in life, and why; what kind of person do you want to be, and why? Are you currently living according to those values? Chances are you’re not, or you wouldn’t be in this position (unless you’re just reading this purely to follow my journey – which is ok too 😊). In this modern age it is very common for people to feel unfulfilled in their jobs, and even in their lives as a whole. As though they are not living their life’s purpose. They are falling short of the mark somehow. This is not what they thought their lives would be. Very often, this is because their life is not in-line with what they value.

Bestselling author and esteemed life-coach Robin Sharma has a saying that “Your schedule doesn’t lie”. He believes he can look at your schedule and automatically tell what it is that you value because those will be the things that you prioritise and place importance on in your day-to-day living. If you say you value family but your schedule doesn’t allow for any family time, then either you are lying, or you are living a life that is not in-line with your values. Human behaviour specialist, Dr John De Martini similarly believes that to get to the core of your value system you need to examine your life and be honest about how you spend your time, energy, and money. What are you most passionate about? What dominates your thoughts? In what areas of your life are you most organised? When you are truly honest with yourself about these questions, you might find yourself surprised by the answers, and that’s ok. It’s ok to change your value system, as long you’re prepared to change your lifestyle to align with it.


Know your why

Knowing what’s important to us and why gives us direction and purpose. As with change being a skill that needs to be practiced, if we really want lasting change in our lives, we need to get to the bottom of why we want that change. And I’m not talking about “I want to be skinny” surface reasons here, I’m talking about the really deep, “five years of therapy” reasons. To do this, Sleek Geek recommends a process called the Five Whys.

Five whys

You begin by identifying what it is you want to achieve. You then ask yourself why you want to accomplish this. You then further the process by again asking why, interrogating your previous answer and asking why that reason is important to you. You ask three further “whys”, each time questioning your previous answer until you have gotten to the bottom of why that thing is important to you, what difference it will make, why it will matter. Once you have your real “why”, which is distinct and very personal to you, you will have something very concrete to hold onto when the going gets tough.

So here are my Five Whys for why I want to make some serious lifestyle changes this year:

What do you want to achieve? Overall improved health and fitness.

Why #1 I want to feel better about myself.

Why #2 I want to give myself the best chance at life, where I have a positive body image, and better self-esteem; and can give myself a better chance at a higher quality of life.

Why #3 I feel like I have more to offer the world and my health problems are holding me back from being a better wife, a better writer and a better person.

Why #4 I want to live a good life for as long as possible, where I can positively contribute to those around me and I need my health to be able to do that.

Why #5 If I don’t make significant lifestyle changes there is a very real chance I will encounter even greater health problems in the very near future and I will never be able to accomplish my dreams of having a family or publishing a novel.

So, there we have it folks. If Why #5 isn’t enough motivation to put down the chocolate and go for a walk around the block, I don’t know if anything ever will be. You don’t get much more dramatic than that.

Chief Seattle


New Year New Me – Bleh!

I think it would be pretty fair to say last year was a tough year for myself and Hubby. In many ways I came full circle. I started the year in a mental health clinic, balancing my epileptic medication as side-effects from my seizures were causing crippling depression, and I finished the year in hospital having a shoulder operation to fix a debridgement of my rotator cuff – something that took over six months to diagnose. I spent much of the year in doctors’ rooms, including two other hospital stays, I went for many scans and x-rays and swallowed a lot of pills. I lost my best friend to suicide. I felt like joining him more than once. I cried. A lot.

But I also had an amazing 30th birthday party with all my best friends, a jumping castle and a homemade birthday cake with mirror glaze icing and a ninja turtle on top – courtesy of Hubby’s hard work. We had an amazing overseas holiday for my Big Bruv’s wedding in Glasgow where we also managed to squeeze in an Emeli Sande concert, a Russell Kane standup show and a stay in a five-star hotel in the heart of London (generous belated wedding gift courtesy of my Aunt). We welcomed two beautiful kittens into our family, Gazza and Seba, and have watched their individual personalities develop with amazement and amusement. I tasted the most amazing cheesecake ever. We finally finished the 150-metre “buy in bulk and save” tin foil that we bought about two and a half years ago (a proud moment). We got to visit the in-laws twice, which always involves sand between my toes and a special feeling in my soul that only the sea can awaken. I strengthened the friendships worth keeping and loosened ties that were weighing me down.

So, when people on social media are all about “Can’t wait to see the back of 2017!”, “2017 sucked, bring on 2018!”, I can’t help but think, “Did it really suck? All of it? Enough to be wishing time away?” Because the saying goes that life is short, but in truth, it’s the longest thing any of us will ever have (that we know of for sure) and it seems awfully tragic to wish any of it away, even the painful parts. There’s also this weird phenomenon that I’ll call New Year New Me, where people seem to think that when the clock strikes midnight and the date changes from December 31st to January 1st, everything will magically change and all that was wrong in 2017 will magically disappear. Everything they struggled with in 2017 will no longer be a challenge; any and all trials and tribulations will suddenly become completely avoidable. But the truth is, who you were yesterday, is exactly the same person you are today. Literally the only thing that’s changed is the date. And you probably have a hangover.

So, this is the point at which you start to talk about New Year’s Resolutions. Those grand, vague empty promises you make to yourself about the person you’re going to become this year, so that if 2018 turns out to be just as shit as 2017 was, at least you’ll be able to turn that shit into compost and grow some freaking flowers in it, cos that’s the kind of optimistic, proactive, energetic, go-getter you’re going to become. Problem is, you have no idea how to become that person. You’ve identified the destination, but you have no road map for how to get there. So, before you know it, it’s December 31st and your social media posts are looking oddly familiar: “Can’t wait to see the back of 2018!”, “2018 sucked, bring on 2019!” And you’re wishing even more of your limited time on this earth away.

Right, now let me step off this soap box before it crumbles under my considerable weight. I too have been that person, making my fair share of New Year’s Resolutions, usually revolving around wanting to lose weight and getting fitter and healthier. I’ll usually throw something extra in about wanting to read more and write more – pursue those things that make me more me. But I inevitably spend another year on the couch, watching series, eating healthier perhaps and going for the occasional walk, but also stuffing my face with junk food and before I know it another year has passed me by and I still feel uncomfortable in my clothes, I still can’t walk up the stairs without feeling out of breath, the first draft of my novel has still gone unedited and the pile of books I haven’t read has quadrupled in size.

But this year I’m determined to make things different. Because this year I’m going to have a road map. No more vague destinations in mind, but clearly defined landing points, right down to the GPS coordinates, with exact instructions on how to get there. I started off by signing up for the Sleek Geek 14-day challenge (it was free – yay!) and I have learnt quite a lot so far:

Shift in Mindset: Change is a skill and requires practice. You can’t change overnight, it requires deliberate and consistent action in the right way and the right order, over time. Practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes permanent. As you would build on any skill, if you want to make a change, you have to practice getting better at making changes. So, don’t start off huge with a “I’m going to lose 20kg”. That’s basically equivalent to someone who has never touched a piano in their lives saying I’m going to learn to play Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” flawlessly by Friday. Pick a low hanging fruit. Something small, simple, and repeatable that you’re guaranteed to succeed at. It doesn’t matter what it is, it just matters that you succeed with it. This will help you to practice change. I have chosen a few that I plan to build on once I have (hopefully) achieved success with these in the coming weeks:

  • Take my multi-vitamins and supplements every day (I have a tendency to forget).
  • Drink 2 litres of water every day.
  • Sit outside for at least fifteen minutes every day.

I think that’s a good place to start and a good place to leave it for today. I plan to post throughout the year on my lifestyle goals and their progress. Let’s see how well I do on that ‘resolution’. A prosperous 2018 to you and yours!

The Newlyweds Do Christmas!

Throughout my childhood and well into my adult life my family had two Christmases. One on the 16th of December (a public holiday in South Africa, celebrating reconciliation) and one on the 25th. The 16th was for friends – the type of friends who are more like family – and was probably my most favourite day of the year. Nothing but laughter and joy, delicious food and hysterical games. It was an honour to be invited and some years people ended up having to bring their own chairs to sit on, we were that packed to capacity. However many people were coming, my mum always managed to find the perfect turkey – one that was both big enough to feed everyone, yet would still fit in our oven. She roasted potatoes and various other vegetables, she made stuffing and gravy from scratch and she baked mince pies and proper Christmas pudding that you could set alight and everything. All of this in our very small kitchen in the thirty-degree summer heat of Johannesburg in December.

And then on the 25th she did it all again for just the four of us.

I like to think I have always appreciated my mum and recognised her brilliance – particularly in the kitchen. But this festive season my admiration has reached new heights. For this festive season Hubby and I hosted for the first time ever and I have never worked so hard in all my life – even though Hubby did most of it! If it’s edible we had it there to be eaten. If it has walked, swum or flown over this earth of ours, it was on the table ready to be eaten. We had smoked salmon and Parma ham entrees. We had bacon encrusted turkey and a citrus glazed gammon, with help from Hubby’s brother we had beef fillet and roast lamb, we had potatoes, parsnips, roast veg, salad, gravy, two types of stuffing and we had trifle.

But let’s bring the focus to my contribution… most importantly, we had a tidy house. Anyone who knows us and has ever visited us will understand that this was quite a feat in itself. We had a very festive looking dining room table. And we had pie-caken – the most wondrous invention of someone on Facebook of baking a pie inside a cake. I decided to do mini cherry pies baked inside chocolate cake. Most importantly, it worked. Secondly, it tasted pretty damn good. And as my final contribution, we had clean dishes come Boxing Day evening.

It was a wonderful Christmas. Happy memories were made and new traditions were set down. But it was exhausting. How mum did it twice in ten days for over twenty years I will never know. But I am so, so glad she did, and I know others are too. I would happily host again in 2017, because the juice is worth the squeeze in this case. But if mum happens to be free and feels like doing a spot of cooking I’m not going to deny her. That would be rude.

It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle change… bleugh!

Please Let it fit

Last week I had a “oh my god, I am not going to fit into my dress at my next fitting in two and half weeks” meltdown. It wasn’t pretty. Ever since putting on a bunch of weight during a very difficult year of my life six years ago, I have struggled to love my body. I get angry at myself when I think about how healthy I used to be and how easily I ‘let myself go’. I make all sorts of deals with a potential higher power – just let me go back to how I was then, I swear I won’t let this happen again! PLEASE! But our choices determine who we are and my choices have made me fat.

Everything was as easy

Last year I turned a corner and finally exited the denial phase. The phase where I thought an entire year of bad eating habits and limited movement could be undone with a little bit of walking and eating more vegetables. I needed dramatic change, which required dramatic efforts. And so began the lifestyle change.

I started exercising in earnest, personal trainer and all. I started eating healthily and cutting back on the junk food. My mood started to lift and the grams started to fall off, albeit very reluctantly. The buffet of tablets I take for my epilepsy makes losing weight extremely difficult (excuse #1?). By Christmas I had lost 4.5kg; nothing to write a book about, but enough to make me proud of myself. Fast forward to last week and I have put it all back on and then some.

What happened? I’m not really sure. Wait, that’s not entirely true… I have a fair idea. I fired my personal trainer (irreconcilable differences), I sat still a bit too much and took comfort eating to a professional level. Turns out I lied to the potential higher power – Even if they returned me to my original state, I would probably end up making the same bad choices.

People tell me to go and see a dietician, but I feel like that would be a waste of time and money. I know what I’m supposed to eat and what I’m not supposed to eat. A knowledge gap is not the problem here, a lack of willpower is. But during last week’s meltdown I discovered what truly powers the will – the love and support of friends and family. Everyone I reached out to came back with words of encouragement; none of the blame and belittling that was going on in my head; no self-righteous suggestions, only reassurance and inspiration. I could do this. I can do this!

Dress Workout

Mixing a bit of everyone’s thoughts together I came up with this: being overweight is just like any other battle one has with oneself. It’s an addiction to hedonism; to the easy way out. It’s unfair. Others are blessed with a fast metabolism and skinny genes, I am not. And so I must fight. One step at a time, one minute at a time, one day at a time. This isn’t a sprint, or even a marathon; it’s my life. This may have a starting point, but there is no finishing point, I can’t let there be. Some days I will sail through, other days I will need my friends to carry me. It’s a fight I have to win.

It’s only week one but I’m ok. I managed to avoid the birthday cake for a colleague and the roadtrip to KFC during lunch hour. I managed to drive past two McDonald’s on my way home from work every night without insisting that we go there for dinner. I know there will be days when I eat the cake, days when I join the roadtrip and nights when we go to McDonald’s. And that’s fine. Because I will be kind to myself. This isn’t a race, this is my life. Once step at a time, one minute at a time, one day at a time.

I hope to update you regularly on my progress (or lack thereof). Please share your stories in the comments below. Maybe we can help each other.