From binge-eater to weight-loss coach
Mary here: Today I have the pleasure of introducing you to my friend and colleague Victoria Morrison (yes, that’s her smiling face in the photo at right) of Sydney, Australia.
I met Victoria online sometime last year and was immediately impressed by the quality of her weight-loss and fitness advice.
I’ve often rather indelicately referred to internet sources of fat-loss information as a “sea of crap,” and I’m extremely picky about whom I recommend to others.
Well, Victoria is top drawer—someone you absolutely should listen to. (That’s why I’m super-excited that she and I will deliver Body-Transformation Bootcamp 2.0 together, starting March 26).
So I asked her to share her thoughts and experiences in the following interview (the first of two parts):
Mary: Tell us about your professional background and how you got started in this work.
Victoria: I’ve worked in the health and fitness industry for almost 30 years. I’ve taught group exercise classes (indoor and outdoor), been a personal trainer, and managed fitness centres. I’ve also had a successful corporate career in staff development, working in a range of industries (telecommunications, pharmaceutical, financial services, and IT).
Today I run a successful weight-loss coaching business, specialising in mindset. This is my passion, and that’s because I spent 20 years as a closet binge eater, often desperately unhappy with my body, myself, and my life.
I have been binge-free for over 10 years now and have a totally different relationship with food, exercise, and my body. You see, I finally did the work to change my mindset, and it changed my life in such a profound way that I wanted to help others do the same.
I say “I did the work,” but really it was so much easier and more fun than doing what I had been doing. Basically, changing my mindset meant I dropped the struggle, stopped making losing weight hard, and got lean.
Mary: I know that some people will see your photo and think that because you’re so slim and attractive that you probably have never had a weight problem. Can you tell us about your own history and how that has influenced the work you do today?
Victoria: Thank you for the compliment, Mary! On the outside my weight problem was never huge. The most overweight I’ve probably been is 5 kilos (12 pounds). Many people might scoff at that, but for me as a fitness instructor, those excess kilos were a big deal. I felt fat, self-conscious, unattractive, and uncomfortable.
All I needed to do was lose a few kilos, but I made it hard. On the outside I looked like I had it together but really I was unhappy and spent a lot of time thinking about my weight and how unacceptable I was.
Sometimes I would have good patches, of course, but in the dark times my world revolved around losing weight. I obsessed about food. I obsessed about exercise. I obsessed about my cellulite. I declined social invitations. I was lonely, and I felt like a fraud: the bulimic fitness professional. Do as I say, not as I do!
So, even though I “only” had 5 kilos to lose, clearly I had a huge problem.
I was confused and either totally rigid in my behaviours or totally out of control. I felt ashamed that I couldn’t sort myself out. I kept trying harder and harder—but when you are doing more of the wrong things, you just make things worse!
How her life began to change
Finally I found a voice of reason in fitness author Tom Venuto (and I know you are a fan of his work too, Mary) and an outstanding GP, who taught me cognitive behavioural therapy.
This set me on a path of learning about how the mind works, goal-setting and motivation strategies, thinking patterns, positivity, and resilience.
I learned about the power of beliefs. I learned beliefs can be changed. Who knew?
It doesn’t always feel like you can change them, but if they don’t serve you, they need to be addressed. I learned how to address them and thus how to take back my power.
Long story short, I did the work to change my mindset. I went through the process of embedding new ways of thinking, which can take a bit of time.
It’s like exercising a muscle: you don’t expect it to get stronger because you do it once. You exercise the muscle regularly, and pretty soon it adapts to the exercise and the exercise becomes easy!
Well, that’s what I’ve done with my thinking and mindset—and I assure you I came from a very negative mindset in relation to my capacity to lose weight and live a healthy, balanced lifestyle.
The results of my own mental paradigm shift really excited me, and I wanted to help other women make the same empowering breakthrough. As a fitness instructor I was qualified to help people with diet and exercise, but it was difficult to have quality conversations about beliefs and mindset on the gym floor.
So I started my weight-loss coaching business, specialising in mindset. Mindset is crucial because it determines how we will behave.
What Victoria does for her clients
I run a variety of programs, all focused on creating and embedding the right mindset for weight loss. I use a variety of techniques, including cognitive behavioural therapy and neurolinguistic programming.
I provide simple and effective tools for my clients, and it is an absolute thrill to witness the delight of a client as she transforms her mindset and starts having fun achieving her goals.
Mary: So many people say they “know what to do” in order to lose weight. But unfortunately, knowledge isn’t always enough to change our daily behaviors. What are some of the missing ingredients that prevent people from reaching their goals?
Victoria: You are right: knowing what to do is only part of what is required to lose weight. We also have to know how to get ourselves to do it—and to do it consistently.
Many of us can complete a short-term program. We can keep ourselves moving towards our goal for a while, but what we really want is permanent lifestyle change—and that means finding a different type of motivation.
We want living life at our ideal, healthy weight to be easy and effortless; we want it to be our norm. We want to be like those naturally slim people!
So what’s missing? There is so much I could talk about, but essentially it boils down to our self-image. If we believe we are people who struggle with our weight, that’s exactly how we will behave. If you want to see what someone believes, look at her actions.
And when you’ve failed at dieting a few times, you think you have evidence to support your belief that weight loss is hard, that you can’t do it, that you lack willpower, etc.
What if your weight loss program could be different this time?
What if, however, you could believe that you didn’t have the right strategy in the past and now you do? What if you could believe that those false starts needed to happen so you could do it better this next time?
What if those false starts led you to exactly what you needed to learn next—to discover that you were eating too few calories or that you hadn’t addressed your mindset?
When you have the self-image of someone who used to have a problem with her weight and is now finding the solution, you’re there!
This is the journey my clients take. I act as their guide and give them the tools to shift their beliefs and self-image. I also provide a system of external accountability to ensure they embed the things that empower them. We want to embed the self-image and mindset that make achieving your ideal weight and body size easy and enjoyable.
Mary: Women tend to use a lot of negative self-talk about their bodies. I spoke with a woman last week who has about 80 pounds to lose. She said she is afraid that if she truly loved herself and felt good about herself just as she is, she would not be motivated to get in shape. In other words, she seems to think that only self-loathing can motivate her. Why do you think negative self-talk is so common among women?
Victoria: I hear this negative self-talk so often—with my clients and just generally amongst friends. It breaks my heart because I know how painful it is to be constantly finding fault with yourself. I used to be the Queen of Negative Self-Talk.
If I wasn’t perfect—specifically if my body, my eating, and my exercise were not perfect—I was no good at all. I could not like myself until I achieved a level of perfection that was clearly unrealistic.
There’s a great scene in the movie Mean Girls where Lindsay Lohan’s character learns that to fit in with the other girls, she must find fault with her face and/or body. She actually learns to put herself down and that genuine self-acceptance is just not cool! (Somehow I can’t imagine boys at the same age indulging in the same rhetoric in the sports change rooms.)
So where did these girls get the idea that women need to put themselves down? I’d say they’ve modeled themselves on other insecure women, most likely their mothers. There are all sorts of theories about who benefits when women are insecure about their bodies, but I’ll leave that discussion for another time . . .
Suffice to say, self-loathing is a typical (and misguided) strategy that women use for weight loss. We think if we berate ourselves enough, feel bad enough, guilty enough, and are sufficiently disgusted with ourselves, surely we’ll feel compelled to do something about our weight.
Surely we’ll see it through this time and reach our goal weight. The problem with this thinking is that it works well to get us started on a weight-loss program—but self-loathing is not a successful long-term motivation strategy.
How Victoria can help you
Mary: If people reading this interview would like to learn more about your work, how can they find you online?
Victoria: My free ebook and weight-loss mindset newsletter are available from the Life Fitness Coaching website (www.lifefitnesscoaching.com). My Facebook page (facebook.com/lifefitnesscoaching) is another place where people can get tips, information, and inspiration as well as ask me questions.
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