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(as seen in Women’s Health & Fitness Magazine)

You’ve made up your mind to get fit and get your weight back on track. There’s only one thing that stands in your way… Your partner! This is the person who is meant to love and cherish you more than anything or anyone in the world but, when it comes to your health, they may be holding you back from who you want to be. Do any of these stories sound familiar?

Carla had been overweight since just before her marriage five years ago. Her husband said he loved her no matter what, and made it very easy for her to skip her daily walk or have a bowl of dessert. “He made me feel very wanted,” she said. “Whenever I complained about my weight, he would tell me he loved me just the way I am, and he would kind of encourage me to stay at that weight. In one way, it felt great because I was with someone who loved me unconditionally, or so I thought. On the other hand, I felt progressively worse about myself.”

Sometimes spouses can keep their mates overweight for their own reasons. Perhaps they don’t want them to go off with other men, or get up the confidence to take on a new high-flying job. Or there could be a whole myriad of other reasons. For Carla, it actually ended up being a bit more sinister. “After all that time, thinking he was keeping me fat because he loved me, I discovered he’d been having an affair. He thought that I would never have the confidence in my self or my body to leave him. Little did he know!”

Sandra’s husband took a slightly different approach. “Every time we sat down to order a meal at a restaurant, and I asked for gravy on the side, or no cheese sauce, or grilled instead of fried, he would poke fun at my weight loss efforts. We’d end up arguing because I didn’t feel valued, and he would blame our arguments on some kind of ‘imbalance’ caused by too much weight loss! I’d only been on my diet three weeks and had lost three kilos. I’d hardly call that a dramatic weight loss!”

The ‘imbalance’ mentioned by Sandra’s husband can actually happen when people lose too much weight, such as when they are Anorexic and get below a certain healthy weight. This ‘imbalance’ can contribute to an Anorexic’s certainty that they are ‘fat’ when they are obviously not. But a good steady weight loss of a kilo a week (unless you’re underweight) will not do this to a person. Sandra’s husband had quite possibly heard someone mention this ‘imbalance’ and had the kind of personality that uses these things against other people. In fact, as Sandra said, “It was the same when I had a baby. Our arguments were all because of my supposed ‘post natal hormones’. I think he just had a thing about making me feel bad about myself and getting me to take all the blame.”

Katherine found herself in an entirely different situation. Her partner would continually sabotage her efforts because he didn’t want to have to change his own unhealthy eating habits. “He would bring pizza home for tea, or offer to cook, and load the meal up with butter or oil or some other fattening condiment. It would drive me nuts because, by the time he was finished cooking, it was generally too late for me to cook something else for myself. After dinner, he would bring out the chips or the chocolate, and put it right under my nose. And then, when I’d ask him to mind the kids while I went to do some exercise, he’d find excuse after excuse why I couldn’t go out. I couldn’t believe how selfish he was being! And then I realized that he couldn’t handle the fact that I was strong enough to make some healthy changes to my life, while he was just sitting there doing nothing. It made me realize that this wasn’t about me – it was about him.”

The good news about all three of these women is that they discovered ways that they could lose weight and get fit, even with partners who were trying to control them the other way. As hard as it can seem to get motivated into getting healthy when things are stacked against you, there are certainly some things you can do to be pro-active…

Make a decision that’s right for you

How do you feel when you’re not at your ideal weight? Do you feel frustrated enough that you want to make the changes just for you? Weight loss is something personal. There’s no point trying to do it to please someone else – that just leads to disappointment when the other person doesn’t appreciate all your hard work anyway! The best mindset to have is one of personal power. Decide that this is what you want to do, and work out how you’re going to do it. As Sandra said, “Once I knew that I wanted to lose weight for myself, and only myself, it was easy to just ignore my partner’s jibes. For once in my life, I put myself up the top of the so-called food chain. And it was fabulous!”

Make this the most important job you have

Once you’ve decided to make healthy changes just for yourself, be a woman on a mission! If you’re given an important job at work, you make sure it’s done properly, don’t you? Well, your body and your health are arguably the most important assets you have, so treat them like a really important job. If other people try to steer you off-track, just keep ‘doing your job’ and plowing away until it’s finished and you’ve reached your goal. According to Katherine, “I turned myself completely off junk food. All it represented to me was extra kilos that I wasn’t willing to have on my body, so it actually became easy to resist it.”

Refuse to settle for second best

If someone offers you something that doesn’t fit into your healthy diet, refuse it confidently. Three minutes of pleasure, eating a big piece of chocolate mud cake, is not worth the dissatisfaction of stepping on the scales and not seeing a result. If someone suggests dinner out at a notoriously oily Chinese restaurant, suggest steak and salad at the local bistro. If a night out at the local pub is on the cards, stay in charge of your own drinks so you can monitor what you’re taking in. Remember, this is your body, and you’re in charge of it, not anyone else. Carla puts it this way: “You need to love yourself more than anyone else can ever love you. In society, loving oneself is sometimes frowned upon, but if we don’t put ourselves first, no-one else will.”

Celebrate your little wins

Losing weight on its own is challenging enough, but having a partner who doesn’t support your efforts means you really do deserve a medal! So keep a running tally of your weight loss and centimetre loss. If you have a really great week, treat yourself to a massage or pedicure. Be your own cheerleader and congratulate yourself on your amazing willpower. Join an online forum to meet other women who are strong-minded, just like you! And, above all, remember that you are doing something that is going to make you live longer, give you extra energy, and quite possibly have a much better life. And isn’t that worth it?

Samantha McDonald

(as seen in Women’s Health & Fitness Magazine)

Jenny was busy planning her wedding to her ‘very wonderful Mr Right’. She’d bought the dress, sorted out her bridesmaids, and had put her deposit down for the limousine. She couldn’t wait to share the rest of her life with this man! And then, out of the blue, the whole thing was off. Not by his doing, mind you – at least, not directly… She had stumbled upon a deal breaker in their relationship, and had swiftly cancelled their future together.

So, what is a Deal Breaker? It’s a non-negotiable boundary which, when crossed, causes the relationship to disintegrate. It’s when one or both of the people involved in the relationship crosses a line that can’t be un-crossed. It’s when someone in the relationship does something that undermines the other person’s value system, and creates a circumstance where compromise is no longer an option.

Deal breakers can be different for different people. There are no rights or wrongs. The main similarity, though, is that the event would cause you to throw your arms up in the air and say, “That’s it. I’ve had enough”. Your deal breaker may be a big one, or it may seem insignificant but be the one thing that tips you over the edge.

Here are a few to consider. Please note that I’ve made men the deal-breaking parties, but these examples are also true for same-sex relationships. Or, you may find that it’s actually you who breaks the deals:

Deal Breaker #1 – Cheating

For some people, there is no going back from this scenario. For you, cheating may be about your partner sharing themselves physically with someone else. But it’s not always about the sex – it can be emotionally damaging when you think about your partner talking intimately with someone else, or spending precious time with them. Your definition of cheating could range from your partner going elsewhere for sex, right down to sending suggestive emails or texts to another woman. It may even be your partner catching up with an ex girlfriend. It’s not up to anyone else to define your stance on this. It’s up to you how you feel.

Deal Breaker #2 – Constant Put Downs

There is no easier way to lower your self esteem than having someone constantly put you down, and yet a lot of women put up with it! It’s usual to find that a man who frequently puts down a woman is actually the one with the self esteem problem and is trying to make himself feel better. After all, if you’re a piece of dirt, he’s so much better than that! Or, at least, he thinks so…

Deal Breaker #3 – Physical Abuse

Now, seriously, this should be on everyone’s Deal Breaker list. The moment a man is physically abusive, it’s time to leave and get support. In most cases, once a violent act has occurred in a household, it makes it easier and ‘okay’ for it to happen again. This is not right, and leaving should be non-negotiable.

Deal Breaker #4 – Emotionally Vacant

Some men can be so wonderfully attentive at first, and then slip into a ‘nothingness’ where they seem unable to communicate properly anymore. It’s like the lights are on but no-one’s home. These people tend to either agree with everything you say (because they really don’t care or can’t be bothered thinking for themselves), or become physically distant. Either way, if you have passion for the relationship, you’re going to find that it’s probably not reciprocated.

Deal Breaker #5 – Addiction

When people have addictions such as alcohol, drugs, gambling, or internet porn, they tend to become secretive so they’re not found out. Or they play down what they’re doing so you don’t get suspicious. Either way, it’s very difficult to trust someone who lies to you – no matter what it’s about. And it’s very hard to respect someone who puts an addiction above and before you.

Deal Breaker #6 – Different Beliefs and Values

In the time between when we were born and the present day, we have accumulated our own sets of beliefs and values. Beliefs are something that are not necessarily true, but that we hold true within ourselves, and values are intrinsically set ideas that, when challenged, can make us feel entirely incongruent and out of sorts. Both have been influenced by those around us, and most were formed when we were very young. This doesn’t mean that they can’t be changed, mind you. It’s just that, if someone tries to change them and we really don’t want them changed, we start living a life that doesn’t really measure up. You need to be very conscious and wary of people who think you need to change your core beliefs and values – unless, of course, your beliefs and values truly don’t serve you well, and you actually want to change them!

Deal Breaker #7 – No Long Term Plan

What does your partner want out of your relationship long term? Okay, the first date is probably not the most appropriate time to ask them when they’re going to marry you but, after a couple of years, you’d probably get some kind of sense of where it’s all heading. Some women hold on to their men for years and years, hoping against hope that they’ll eventually decide to match their desire to have children, only to realize that they’re with someone who is never going to agree to having kids. And, more often than not, those same poor women end up feeling like they’ve missed their chance to have a family. It’s a good idea to find out relatively early on what someone’s intentions are, if marriage and/or children are high on your agenda.

If your partner crosses a boundary, and you feel like a huge red flag has been erected between you, that’s a Deal Breaker. Jenny, the woman who called off her wedding, found that she couldn’t tolerate something that her partner did. It was like a light bulb went off in her head, and she could clearly see that the marriage was not going to work. So, rather than end up in a loveless partnership, she chose to confront the problem then and there. The wonderful thing about Deal Breakers is that they help you create a life that really makes you happy, and they also make you and your partner accountable to your relationship. Fortunately for Jenny, her man was open to seeking help, although he was very shocked by her actions when she called off the wedding. By being truthful with him, and explaining why she needed certain boundaries, Jenny was able to command more respect from her man. And, after a few months of couples counseling, Jenny and the new improved version of her man set a new date for their wedding. And, so far, they’re living happily ever after!

Samantha McDonald

(as seen in Women’s Health & Fitness Magazine)

Picture this scenario… It’s a beautiful day. The sun is shining and the birds are singing. You’re walking down the street, minding your own business, when suddenly you’re hit with it – a strong sense of foreboding, an irrepressible impression of “uh oh”, a lump of apprehension that’s stuck deep in the pit of your stomach… That undeniable feeling of guilt. Perhaps you forgot to phone your Mother back on the weekend, to help her sort out the renovations on her property; maybe you were in such a hurry to get to work this morning that you avoided helping that little old lady cross the road, and you watched helplessly as she fell to the ground; or you said the wrong thing when your best friend asked if she looked fat in that dress, because you were afraid that the truth really would hurt. And now all you want to do is crawl down into a little hole like a hermit and stay there for about a week until everything blows over.

Ah yes. Guilt. It makes us do such funny things. But what is it really? And how can we get over it?

Guilt is the emotion we possess when we have done, thought or said something that conflicts with our own ideal of our perfect self and how we “should” behave. It’s a state that we get stuck in when our behaviour or actions go against our beliefs and values. In our own perfect world, we would have done things differently, so we beat ourselves up about what could have been. And other people can help us along with these negative thoughts too! They may reinforce our irrational thinking by constantly bringing up the fact that we did or didn’t do something, blaming us for our actions, accusing us of things, or even feigning hardship or unhappiness in order to project their own negative feelings on to us. Your Mum may feel like she’s not organized enough to sort out the renovation contractors by herself; the little old lady may feel like she’s far too old and weak to do anything by herself; and your best friend may be stuck in a diet roundabout, constantly stressing about the cellulite on her thighs. But that’s their problem, not yours. You can’t be responsible for their feelings of low self worth, even if they do try to bring you down in order to make themselves feel better.
And often, rather than actually being about us, it’s a response to our perception of how we have made someone else feel. In the case of the forgotten phone call to our Mother, we may feel bad because she’s always there for us when we need her, and so we have a moral sense of obligation or duty to please her. And the little old lady certainly never falls over when we help her across the road, so we’ve taken on board this sense of duty to make sure she’s okay, somehow making her a priority over ourselves and our own needs! And our own life is going along so nicely right now, that we manage to take on our best friend’s life dramas, and that puts us in a really bad position when it comes to telling her the truth about certain things. However, we may be feeling guilty for no reason, actually injecting our own fears into the situation. We can drive ourselves nuts with all the “what if’s” that race through our heads!
Look at it this way. If you let guilt take control of your life, you are simply indulging in a concern over a past situation in order to avoid taking action now! You are stuck in your own roundabout of highs and lows, and as long as you keep going round and round, you don’t have to actually confront your problems. You can stay stuck. You can continue to be overly sensitive, you can keep playing the victim, and you can wallow in your useless negative emotions to the point where you stop yourself from getting the situation sorted out.

Okay. We all know what it is and what it does to us. So, how can we overcome this thing called guilt?

Firstly, let’s look at the actual problem that’s causing you to feel guilty. Ask yourself:

  • Am I really responsible for this problem?
  • If not, then who is?
  • If someone else is 100% responsible for this problem, hand it over! Get it off your plate and go and enjoy the rest of your day. But, if you think you may need to work on this a bit further, ask yourself:
  • In what way have I made this problem even worse for myself?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how much guilt do I really feel about this problem? (Be honest with yourself – don’t just use guilt as an excuse).
  • Is the guilt actually stopping me from getting on with fixing the problem? (My bet is a resounding “yes”).
  • What is the problem really? What does the actual problem look like?
  • Can this problem be solved by taking affirmative action rather than dwelling on the negatives? Can I look at this objectively?
  • Does this problem involve another person, and would that person be willing to put aside their own emotions in order to fix this problem?
  • Is it really my problem after all, or am I taking on board someone else’s issues?

The main thing is to accept that an event or thought sparked this onslaught of guilt, and that positive actions can wipe the slate clean. Do what you have to do in order to clear your guilt. Talk to the other person involved or, if there isn’t one, tell yourself that you deserve to resolve this issue, and make a plan of attack. Let it all go, and find something much more worthwhile to focus your attention on. But, whatever you do, don’t feel guilty about that!

Samantha McDonald

(As seen in Women’s Health & Fitness Magazine)

Have you ever wondered why some people just seem to have this never-ending smile plastered on their face, as though their life is, quite simply, incredibly perfect? You know the ones… They always have something that they’re looking forward to, and opportunities just seem to fall squarely in their lap. And then there are the other ones… Those people are always moaning about what’s going wrong in their life, complaining about anything and everything, and blaming everyone else for their mediocre existence. I’m sure you know people who fall into either of those two groups, and I’m sure you enjoy hanging out with one of those groups more than the other, huh? So, which one are you? Are you the sunny optimist, or the cloudy pessimist? And, if you acknowledge that perhaps you are a pessimist, how can you turn the tables and become a happy optimist? Look, there are so many reasons why it’s more beneficial to be optimistic than pessimistic. Take, for instance, the fact that optimistic people earn more money. Yes, that’s right! Did you ever hear of a millionaire who walked around with a frown on his face and didn’t think he could do it? And research has found that optimistic people get sick less often, and if they do succumb to an illness, they certainly recover a lot quicker than their pessimistic counterparts. And those reasons are only the beginning! Lucky for us, optimism is not actually an inherent trait – it’s something that can be learned. Here’s how to become more optimistic right now…

Walk tall

Imagine you can see two people walking down the street. One of them is walking quickly, with purpose to her stride, her head held high, and a bright smile on her face. The other is dawdling, slouching, looking at the ground, avoiding eye contact, and wearing a nasty frown. Which one would you be most drawn to? My guess is that you wouldn’t even notice the second person because you’d be so busy checking out the first! Optimistic people look the part. They dress smartly and care about their appearance, and their infectious energy lights up a room. Unlike pessimists, who seem to create their own world of negativity and thus attract other negative people to them, optimists are like a light-house in the dark. People are drawn to their beacons, and their positivity creates more positivity around them.

Use positive language

Optimistic people say very optimistic things. Their cup is always half full, if not completely full, and they excitedly share their views and dreams with other people, often reeling them in to their way of thinking at the same time! They make an effort to sound upbeat and happy, and this in turn helps them stay on top of things. You will most likely hear an optimistic person talking about all the things they “can do” rather than “can’t do”, and they speak in glowing terms about their situations and their futures.

Choose your thoughts

Pessimistic people see issues and problems in situations, often before they even exist. Some would even suggest that they create problems to satisfy their need to feel down in the dumps. Optimists, on the other hand, actively seek out solutions and look for opportunities in every situation. They turn negatives into positives, and seem to have an upbeat answer for everything. I’m sure you’ve heard stories of babies who have fallen from great heights, only to end up with a couple of small bumps and bruises. Many would argue that they are still alive today because they either didn’t know what to expect, and therefore didn’t tense up on the way down out of fear, or they have this inherent idea that everything in the world is good, and so why should they worry? Pessimists tend to spend a lot of their time worrying about the past, the present and the future, conjuring up all kinds of gloomy thoughts, always expecting the worst. Optimists, on the other hand, have no time for this self-defeating past-time. They create bright thoughts and expect positive outcomes. This is simply a choice, and pessimistic people can choose to halt their negative thoughts as they enter their head, trading them in for happy ones. What about the Little Engine That Could? How do you think he would have gone getting up that hill if all he thought was, “I don’t think I can, I don’t think I can…”?

Expect the best

If you focus on what you want, the likelihood is that you’ll actually get it. Likewise, if you focus on what you don’t want, you’ll probably get that too. Just as, if you expect the worst, it’s easy to wallow in doubt and negativity, if you expect the best, it becomes infectious! Optimistic people who think this way create burning desires and a real sense of ambition. Because they don’t allow roadblocks to stand in their way, or fears to hold them back, they are able to develop clear direction and a true mission. Doesn’t that sound like more fun than the alternative?

Samantha McDonald