2 May 2018

Thoughts on weight loss and the role of Counselling and Coaching - with guest Health Coach Adele Stickland

I often see clients who want to explore issues around weight. The work I do with these clients usually includes elements of discussing underlying factors which can be many and varied.

Sometimes it makes sense to look at the historical relationship with food. I have struggled with sugar cravings and can link that back to my naughty “sugar missions” as I used to call them. At around age 7 or 8, when the family were all busy doing something like watching telly, I would raid the baking cupboard and help myself to golden syrup, granulated sugar, ice cream toppings…I remember how soothing it felt if I was lonely or bored. It’s no wonder I get a buzz from it as an adult! As well as the physiological response there would be the brain chemical rush and the thrill of being naughty. Alcoholism features strongly in my family tree too and there is understood to be a link between sugar and alcohol addiction. Exploring things like this can help us to be less judgmental towards ourselves and in fact judgmentalism towards ourselves can increase our need for sugar in order to soothe the bad feelings we have created for ourselves. It’s a vicious circle.
Me aged around 8 or 9

Some of us may have had a parent/s with a complex relationship with food that impacted upon us as a child. If a child has a tendency to carry a little excess weight then they may have been inadvertently or overtly shamed by parents, other children or even, I have heard, by compulsory weigh-ins at a "fat clinic" for overweight children in decades gone by (I really hope those died a death). 

Compulsive eating and diet sabotaging have lots in common with other compulsive behaviours such as problem gambling, alcohol addiction, even an attachment to an unhealthy relationship. My therapeutic interventions are informed by the training I did with SMART Recovery, the specialist training with the gambling charity Gamcare and the work of Candace Pert, author of Molecules of Emotion who was the neuropharmacologist who discovered the opiate receptor. Candace Pert makes a compelling argument for how we can be addicted to emotional states, even bad ones, because we crave the chemical signals our bodies get used to receiving.

An example of a practical tool I might use to help understand the underlying dynamics in compulsive behaviour is the SMART Recovery "Motivational Matrix". Here is a made-up example of one for sugar addiction:

There is almost always nothing in the Long Term/Positives box, regardless of type of compulsive behaviour. Doing an exercise like this can help us see clearly in black and white just how much the negatives feature in our vicious circle. Controlling impulses in the short term can be easier if we know what we are really up against.

"We sit down and eat for pleasure, using all of our senses," Mireille Guiliano, author of French Women Don't Get Fat

This sums up a final piece of advice from me. If we have committed to eating that bar of chocolate, which lets face it, if we're on the way to the cupboard to get it then it's going to happen, then can we actually allow ourselves to enjoy it? Instead of self-flagellating ourselves with feel bad chemicals which trump any of the pleasure, let's think about the pleasurable aspect and eat mindfully. So many people I have worked with tell me that they eat compulsively whilst watching the TV and don't even notice what they are doing or feel the enjoyment of it. It's become a compulsion and we are missing out on the point of the "naughty but nice". 


So with all that understanding and insight there can still be the need to strategise in order to implement the changing of ingrained habits. Some of us might benefit from support in implementing changes to our diet and lifestyle without dipping into the past, Depending on your personal situation it might be preferable over counselling and psychotherapy altogether to go straight into working with a coach. 

I have been following the work of my previous Pilates Coach Adele Stickland over the last few years as she is also the online Get Gorgeous Health Coach. I invited her to be a guest on this blog as I would like to share her work and the concept of health coaching. I really like Adele’s style. She is very down to earth and sets realistic goals. She works with women around 40 and over. Adele kindly agreed…

Hi Adele, I came to you initially for Pilates classes (which were wonderful by the way and only stopped due to my schedule) and since then have followed your Get Gorgeous Facebook page and blog posts. What was behind expanding your Pilates business towards online nutrition, health and lifestyle coaching?
Adele Stickland - Get Gorgeous Coach

Hi lovely Amanda

Yes that is right I remember the very first class you attended, you were strong and a little inflexible but with Pilates practise you soon changed that.

I started teaching Pilates over 20 years ago, at first I was using it as a down time from my ‘real exercise’ of high impact aerobics, step, BodyPump you know the normal crazy things we used to do. I soon realised I was addicted to this type of adrenalin exercise but it was not doing my body or my mind any favours.

Currently I only teach Pilates and I am reducing my in person classes steadily.  As I grow I realise for myself I need to reduce my face to face teaching hours and increase my online presence.  It is an industry trend, but also fits my home and my own mental space.

As an instructor I was constantly talking to people about the right things to eat, something that I was confused about for years.  As instructors we were all on the eat more carbs band wagon so we could keep exercising, Over the years I learnt that bread and pasta were giving me a short burst of energy but a huge tummy. 

My online Get Gorgeous business grew because of the pain of listening to women in particular enduring that roller coaster diet ride which is addictive and damaging.  I was staggered by comments from women who were diet leaders for WW and SW and were adding ‘aspartame’ to their food to make it palatable but completely unaware of the health issues.  I realised with shock and frustration that Diet’s simply aren’t a healthy way to live.

I was really taken with the video on your Facebook Page (https://get-gorgeous.com/why-weight-gain-is-not-your-real-problem/) where you tell us that weight gain is not the real problem. I think that this hits home with many of us. I totally agree with you and find as a therapist that all compulsive behaviours (including the compulsion to eat not-so-virtuous foods) seem to be more about the vicious circle of 'drama' (the word you use in the video). This is absolutely what I see. Whether it be eating, drinking, gambling, shopping; along with the hook of the buzz (the dopamine/serotonin/adrenalin etc) is the crash of guilt, shame, self-judgment. The peptides that our body releases when we feel those painful emotions can in theory be as addictive as the pleasure hormones!

Diets focus on the outcome of the fridge scenario, and how to stop you when you get to the fridge. With no planning or understanding of what you are doing you are bound to find a quick fix or a diet snack. Both are low quality food choices and then you then work through that guilt, shame and personal disgust scenario.  It is extremely painful and demoralising. Get Gorgeous works before the fridge scenario takes over.  Firstly look at what you are going to do for the week and plan out your healthy options.

Which, okay that is what every diet recommends, but what is different about Get Gorgeous is we look to stop the ‘mind chatter’ the detrimental chat in your head that causes your stress and begin to break the negative cycle and change the way you ‘chat to yourself’ before you head to the fridge.

Once you get to the cupboard or fridge door IT IS TOO LATE!  You are never going to resist. Yes, you have worked hard, too hard, deal with the working hard issue not the battle at the cupboard door.

Your weight gain is not your main problem, it is not your biggest worry.  Your weight gain is a symptom of a deeper issue.  Weight gain is not the cause of your discomfort or displeasure with your body, it is the result of deep insecurity and deep feelings of resentment that have not been dealt with from your past. 

You may never know why you feel intensely uncomfortable when somebody says something innocent to you.  You may never understand the exact cause of that feeling in your belly or your throat.  But you can understand it is there and learn how to move past it. There are productive and satisfying ways of dealing with your food or any type of anxiety demon.

It takes a little bit of awareness and an appreciation that you are gorgeous.

Please would you tell me something about what you provide? Who might benefit from having a chat with you and why?

I offer a way of adding good nutrition into your busy life with ease and flow, I work with you to find a way to add exercise into your life and I offer a safe space to explore why you react to stress and manage a situation that moves away from old eating habits.

I offer a group programme and one to ones, depending on the work my gorgeous girls need.

I specialise in working with women who are heading to 40/50 or 60.

What top three-lifestyle issues would you say we might all benefit from tweaking, to enhance our health and happiness? (no pressure!)

Great question and interestingly enough I have written a blog on that here is the link:

In essence I would a start by suggesting eating more protein, women in particularly are depleted in this macronutrient and our energy levels are illustrating this lack of nutrient. Once that habit is established and you start to feel better, more energised and motivated then I would slowly help you to increase your exercise, and finally I would slide in a reduction of your sugar or quick fix habits you have relied upon, for instance chocolate bar in the 4pm slump, sweeties on a long journey, coffee and cake at mid morning. I wouldn’t start with the scary stuff, I start small and help you to feel better first.

Let me show YOU can improve your health and create healthy habits and strategies. Become the real you and step into the person you were meant to be. APPLY for some time with me.

Adele x

A massive thanks to Adele. How did she know about my 4pm slump?  I highly recommend her Exeter based Pilates classes and she also sells Pilates DVDs. You can find her Get Gorgeous Facebook page here

I mention how activities such as Pilates can help the therapeutic process in this article: http://www.amandawilliamsoncounselling.co.uk/2013/08/top-5-lifestyle-tips-things-to-do.html

Amanda Williamson is  BACP Registered and Accredited private counsellor working in central Exeter, Devon. 

Total Pageviews

Ebuzzing - Top Blogs - Health