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What To Do When Things Go 'Pear-Shaped' on your weight loss journey - Part Two



This is Part two of a four-part series focusing on what to do when things go pear shaped and you fall off the wagon, told from the perspective of my personal experience. Check out last month's post HERE.


Losing weight and keeping it off is a lifelong journey. For me, there have been two times in the eighteen years since I’ve lost 48 pounds (4 stones / 22Kg) when I gained weight back. Both were times of either extremely high stress, or extreme change in lifestyle/situation, and I learned a lot about myself in the process.



Get ready for a lifelong journey. Who do you want and need with you on this journey?
Get ready for a lifelong journey. Who do you want and need with you on this journey?


Now, just to be clear, living with stress is not an excuse to forever practice unhealthy habits, especially when we've worked so hard to cultivate and strengthen new, healthier habits. Even when we do have a lot of stress going on, we can build in healthier habits gradually and learn ways to manage or reduce our stress so that we can get back on our weight loss journey or maintain the weight already lost.

These two periods of time I mention were a huge change in circumstances that don’t regularly occur. However, we have to remember that life happens! We are human, and sometimes the situation changes suddenly and we don't have time to adapt. We can fall back in to old habits. Although we can minimise the 'pathways' of our old, unhealthy habits, they are still there, like a little, narrow, overgrown footpath.


Sometimes life can get overwhelming, stressful, frustrating, or downright sad...or all of the above! Remember it doesn't last forever.
Sometimes life can get overwhelming, stressful, frustrating, or downright sad...or all of the above! Remember it doesn't last forever.

Now, going back to these times in my life, I'm going to be open and honest and briefly share them with you...


...The first was a period of great stress and grief after the traumatic experience of my father unexpectedly dying in my arms, three weeks before starting my first proper student physiotherapy placement on the other side of England, and having to get everything sorted and arrange the funeral in South West Wales before that started. Plus getting myself in to a mindset and headspace to be able to pass said placement. This was followed by a year of high stress and pressure due to being on multiple placements, finishing my Physiotherapy Masters (and passing thankfully), and then finding and going straight in to my first qualified physiotherapy post in yet another completely different area in England...cue more stress!


The second was a period of extended travel on a motorcycle through third world countries, which meant carrying fresh food was a challenge and carrying anything that required refrigerating or freezing was an impossibility. This meant eating when I could (cue food scarcity and frequently overeating 'just in case') and eating a lot of large meals that the locals ate, often predominantly constructed of white rice, Yuka (a starchy vegetable) and potatoes. Don't get me wrong, this was an amazing experience that I was very fortunate to have, but I definitely put on a chunk of weight.


If it's all getting too much, raise the white flag and reach out to someone.
If it's all getting too much, raise the white flag and reach out to someone.

Raise the White Flag


Primarily after the first period of stress I mentioned above, I had to raise the white flag. I was so 'strong', or at least I REALLY wanted to be, to the point that I didn't actually inform my placement educator of what had happened just three weeks prior to me being on the hospital ward with them. I sucked it all up and kept it all in, pretending nothing had happened so I wouldn't get treated any differently, hoping no-one would notice and I could steam-roller through.


Unfortunately in that first week of placement, the head physiotherapist (a very high up position in the physiotherapy department of a large, world-renowned teaching hospital) was celebrating a big birthday so everyone was in the large dining hall.


Ok, why does that matter you may wonder?!?!


It was on the same day as my dad's birthday! Nope, you couldn't make it up!!! It was a sign I needed to be honest, it forced me to be, because as soon as everyone started up with the "Happy Birthday to you...." I was floored and my cup well and truly overflowed! (If you've not heard of the overflowing cup / bucket analogy then there's a great link here).



The overflowing cup (or bucket).
The overflowing cup (or bucket).


Lesson 1: Readjust. If you can’t do something in the way you wanted to or take the exect path you thought you would, be authentic, admit it, and readjust. It’s okay. Explore alternatives and be honest with and kind to yourself.

Stupidly, I felt a failure to say, “I can’t keep this all inside” but it would have been a lot worse if I'd have tried to keep it all in, and to burn myself out completely and quit right in the middle of my studies, which is what I think would have happened had I not been open and honest. I had to adjust my mindset, and this is often what is really helpful when we're thrown in to new or challenging situations. Often, particularly when stressed or low, we guess what people will think, interperet everything in a negative light, and then expect the outcome to be a bad one. It's that old negativity bias with a bit of catastrophising thrown in for good measure!



Finding support from someone you trust can be very helpful. It could be a professional therapist if appropriate/needed (e.g. a counsellor, psychologist etc) but it could be a relative, friend, chaplain, coach or anyone else who you feel safe to confide in.
Finding support from someone you trust can be very helpful. It could be a counsellor or psychologist if appropriate, but it could be a relative, friend, chaplain, coach or anyone else who you feel safe to confide in.


Lesson 2: Ask for help. In my case, I started reaching out to others for support.

I was made aware of a professional at the hospital I could talk to about what had happened, and I had an amazingly supportive friend on placement with me who had my back, and without whom I probably wouldn't have made it through. My university educator and placement educator were so understanding and supportive as well, which was a huge relief.


So none of this was a miracle cure, and my eating habits and lifestyle went awry for a good while in several different ways, but had I not readjusted my mindset and asked for support I know it would have been a lot worse. Those good habits were still there, and by asking for support I was able to find them again, even creating some more new, healthy habits. I was able to manage the whole situation a lot better rather than stuffing the grief, trauma, stress and pressure down with food and drink, which would have been so easy to do.


Our social support network is key in our health and wellbeing. Name one person (or organisation etc) who you can lean on for support in tough times.
Our social support network is key in our health and wellbeing. Name one person (or organisation etc) who you can lean on for support in tough times.

There are so many people who want to and can support you on your journey, whether that be the journey to just feeling a little healthier, changing your overall lifestyle or losing / maintaining weight.


Who can you lean on for support when you’re going through a difficult time? Think of one person and share your idea in the comments area below, or just write it on a piece of paper or post-it note for yourself. Who knows, you may even want to check in with them now if you've not made contact in a while?



Reach out to your trusted support when you need to.
Reach out to your trusted support when you need to.

Watch out for next month's instalment of 'What to do when things go Pear-Shaped'...



Please note: This article is intended to be for educational purposes only, and does not constitute medical advice or replace professional assessment or personalised advice.


I do not hold responsibility for the information on any links to external websites within this article and information within these links/websites may change at any time or no longer be accessible. Any website pages/links added are also for education purposes only.





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