Grab yourself a cuppa….
I’ve figured it’s time to share my experience with Changing Habits so you can understand why I’m such a fan. It’s a story of increased health & decreased weight that I’ve been meaning to share for a little while. In fact, I started writing this post nearly 9 months ago, so it’s well & truly gestated and this story is ready to go out to the world.
Since childhood, I’ve always been ‘bigger’ than a lot of my peers, be that in height or weight. Although looking back on some of the pics now I don’t think I looked as huge as some of my classmates made me out to be, I was certainly heavier than most. Weight issues ran in the family. Chips, icecream & softdrink each night was the norm growing up. I remember when I was maybe 11’ish years old, I tried switching from regular lemonade to diet lemonade in an effort to curb the sugar intake. Apart from a horrible, bitter taste in my mouth, I ended up getting terrible headaches. If only I knew then what I know now about aspartame, but this was the mid 1980’s & diet drinks were the “healthy option”.
When I was 18, my Dad sent me off to a dietician to help me lose weight. She diagnosed me with salicylate & amine intolerance & suddenly the moodswings of my teen years made sense; after the side-effects from the diet lemonade, I’d switched to orange juice instead. I lived on the stuff for years, but it was making me sick. I was prescribed an elimination diet but the only foods on the “safe” list were those I didn’t really like. I stuck to it for long enough to see a difference in my behaviours, but I felt weak, tired & malnourished…..and still didn’t drop much weight.
A few months later, I went on a cruise by myself. Although I got some postive male attention, there were still those who thought it right to bully me about my weight. It was on that cruise that I had time to reflect on my life – not only the weight issue, but my health in general – from asthma to eczema to physical pain & the pattern of falling seriously ill every second year. I’d had enough of being sick. I could see the medical system didn’t have the answers I needed. At that moment, I knew that when I returned home, I wanted to study Naturopathy so I could help not only myself, but others dealing with inherited dis-ease.
I spent the next few years studying then went on to manage a clinic for a while. My plans to open my own clinic after moving interstate did not pan out as I’d planned & I got a job in another field. Although I was no longer working as a Naturopath, I still believed in the principles & used them to guide my choices. I was still overweight. Nothing changed that. I could lose about 8kg max at a time (Weight Watchers, South Beach diet, keto shakes through the gym), but it would bounce right back on. I felt like a fraud. No one’s going to listen to a fat Naturopath talk about health, right? (I see you lurking there, patriarchy 😉 ).
Ten months after moving, I managed to lose about 65kg – AKA my ex-partner 😉 That was at least a metaphoric lifting of weight. Still no real change to the physical. I went on to meet my husband & after losing our first baby, our eldest daughter was born a couple of years later. About 6 weeks after the birth, my weight suddenly ballooned & I gained a lot of weight in a short time. When she was 13 months old, I ended up with a herniated lumbar disc. I was 31yo & needing a walking frame just to get from the bed to the toilet in the adjoining bathroom. I was on a cocktail of heavy-duty pain-killers just to get through the day. One of the pain specialists suggested losing weight to reduce the strain on my spine. Sure, because I’ve never tried that before! 🙄 He did go on to say that even very slim people have back issues, but the scowl was firmly set on my face by that time. It felt like yet another judgement.
In 2009, I bought a Thermomix on the recommendation of a friend. Great – a machine that will help me prepare & cook the healthy food I love. At the time I had it delivered, the consultant asked if I was interested in becoming a rep. I declined as my eldest (and then only) child was 4 years old & was home with me full-time. Fast-forward to early 2012 & my consultant invited me to a local cooking class. Sitting there watching the demonstration, I knew it was something I could do, so I ticked the box on the feedback form to learn more about becoming a consultant myself.
Around the same time, I heard about a weight loss protocol through Changing Habits that promised significant weight loss & better hormonal balance in a short time without the need to exercise. I was sceptical, but intrigued. Between my dodgy disc & adrenal fatigue, the no exercise thing was a big drawcard for me. I’d already read Cyndi O’Meara’s book, ‘Changing Habits, Changing Lives’, so I knew her philosophy revolved around real foods & no chemicals. Cyndi has studied nutrition & diet for nearly 40 years. She saw her family’s health decline rapidly in just one generation at a time when commercial pesticides were introduced to the US farming community. Her family became the largest family of haemophiliacs in the world, despite having no history of the disease in previous generations, and many of them were affected by cancer. As such, I knew she would not be promoting anything that did not align with her values. On one hand, there was a program I wanted to try, but then I was just starting in a business that revolved around food. I was already committed to the business, so the protocol went in the “one day” basket.
After doing my initial Thermomix training, my Consultant (also my trainer & the State Manager) asked if I’d like to attend a demo with her. I went along, met the host/customer & helped out with the demo. At the end, I heard the host & my consultant talking about the protocol. My ears pricked up & I mentioned I’d been looking at doing it myself. As it turns out, the host of the demo was Cyndi’s best friend & the Coach for the protocol. I know, right?
After about 6 months of doing demos, I was burnt out. My husband was often away dealing with legal matters after a family tragedy the year before & our daughter was not coping with me going out to do demos. The combined stresses were too much & I’d cry at the thought of having to do another demo. I made the call to step away from Thermomix & focus on my own health for a while. I decided it was time to do the protocol, so I ordered the full kit. If I was going to do it, I was going to do it properly so I could balance my hormones & get off the diabetes fence. In another moment of fate, Cyndi O’Meara came to Hobart 2 weeks later to talk health at a public Thermomix event. I attended the talk, got to meet Cyndi and took what became my ‘before’ photo:
A few days later, I had everything I needed to get started. I was 97.6kg, which although was a few kilos less than my heaviest known weight of 103.3kg, still had me in the “obese” category. The ‘ideal weight’ calculator the Coach used put my ideal weight around the 60kg mark (I’m 170cm tall). I couldn’t remember the last time I was 60kg. Certainly some time in my childhood. I had been in the mid-70’s throughout high school, except one Summer when I got down to around 68-69kg walking to get hot chips most days because I had a massive crush on the son of the local takeaway owners 😆 (granted, the walking was probably what helped, but I still call that time my “chip diet”).
The first 2 days of the protocol are known as ‘loading days’ where you eat as much as you can, focusing on good fats & limiting carbs so your body gets used to burning fat for energy instead of glucose. It’s a time many people gain a couple of kilos, but I actually dropped a couple. I was already eating pretty well – mostly organic & limited processed foods – but I tend to undereat (which I suspect plays a part in my metabolism coming to a standstill when breastfeeding, combined with a lack of sleep). I didn’t really eat enough on the first day of loading as I was helping a friend move away from an abusive situation, but I did what I could the next day & I certainly wasn’t complaining with 2kg gone in two days. The second phase of the protocol strips your diet back to basics, eating set amounts of protein, veg & salad at each meal. By having simple meals, it becomes obvious when you’ve eaten something that doesn’t agree with you so you can avoid it moving forward. You also take support drops to help your body utilise stored fat & there’s the option of taking the Changing Habits probiotics, colloidal minerals, green powder and seaweed salt for iodine & other minerals which I chose to do. They help to reduce hunger, heal the gut, detox the chemicals that have been stored in your fat cells & reduce inflammation. (The Protocol has been updated slightly since I did it & the Complete Pack now also includes Camu Camu powder for Vit C)
The original protocol was developed over 60 years ago by an endocrinologist when he noticed patterns of weight loss in his patients being treated for other issues. What Cyndi has done with the 4 Phase Fat Loss Protocol is to combine the core of the original program with modern knowledge of nutrition. There are a few versions of the protocol around the place, but many allow chemical-filled diet drinks & other artificial crap which is not going to help your overall health. They’ll just overload your liver & make it more difficult to maintain long-term results. The goal with Cyndi’s program is to reach leptin sensitivity.
What is leptin?
Leptin is the hormone that tells us we’re full. It sends signals to the hypothalamus to say we have sufficient energy stores to give us that feeling of fullness & prevent us over-eating. However, the abundance of processed carbs, grains & sugars in our modern diet mean we are pumping out more insulin, which increases fat stores & ultimately leads to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance results in increased fat stores & increased fat stores increase leptin. Our body is trying to signal to our brain that we have enough energy but just as excess insulin leads to insulin resistance, excess leptin leads to leptin resistance & the signals are ignored. Our brain can not ‘hear’ the leptin so thinks we’re starving & increases fat storage. The increased fat increases the secretion of leptin & messes with thyroid hormones, and around it goes in a vicious cycle. You can regain leptin sensitivity through a strict low carb diet over several months, but the protocol fast-tracks the process.
Cyndi has written a blog post about it if you’d like to learn more. She lists the following as symptoms of leptin resistance:
- Uncontrollable cravings, especially sweet foods and refined carbohydrates
- Late night eating
- Stress eating
- Weight gain around the middle
- Inability to reach a goal weight
- Yo-yo dieting
- thyroid symptoms
- can also be associated with infertility
You can also see a series of blog posts on leptin, its effects & a review of some supplements written by Helen Sanders for more info.
Back to my story…..
So yes, I had many symptoms of leptin sensitivity going on. As such, getting to the underlying cause of my excess weight was really important to me. I wasn’t doing this *just* to lose weight, but more to get my endocrine system functioning optimally, particularly as I knew I had suboptimal thyroid function based on low basal body temps from years of charting my cycle when trying to conceive #2 and my progesterone levels had been low for a long time. I was 38 years old & my husband was 49, so I was well aware of the ticking clock with each passing year. Tests showed everything was fine from his end, so it was up to me to maximise my fertility if we were to ever have more than one child.
Phase 2 of the protocol usually lasts 21 days, but those with more than 12kg to release can go up to 43 days per round. (I like to use the word ‘release’ rather than ‘lose’ from a psychological & energetic perspective. ‘Release’ is a choice to let something go, ‘lose’ implies you may want it back, which I certainly didn’t.) I chose to do the maximum number of days & at the end of the six weeks, I was down an amazing 17kg & about 3 dress sizes. Never had I achieved results like that before.
Phase 3 lasts for 3 days where you still eat basic food, but stop taking the drops and Phase 4 lasts a minimum of 3 weeks where you very gradually reintroduce foods to see which ones cause inflammation & weight gain for you. For me, chicken, olive oil, tomatoes & brassicas (cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, etc) were some of the biggest offenders, yet they are foods commonly recommended for health & weight loss. It goes to show that we are all so very individual & it’s one of the reasons I don’t subscribe to the notion of an “ideal” diet. To me, the ideal diet is the one that best suits your individual biochemistry, which this protocol helps you to discover.
After the obligatory break between rounds, I went on to complete my second round of the protocol, this time with 5 weeks in Phase 2 which saw me down another 10kg. The following month, I was feeling seedy & sure enough, I was pregnant.
Sadly, that bub did not stick around long. I was absolutely gutted & cried uncontrollably the entire night. It hit me the harder than my first miscarriage, which I did not think possible. I went off the rails somewhat & regained some of the weight. That’s the thing, though – when you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you always get.
Once I had worked through the early stages of that grief, I got back on track & did my third & final round over 4 weeks. At the end of that time, I was 67kg & feeling hungry a lot more. This is one of the signs of reaching leptin sensitivity and although I was still a few kilos off the calculated ideal weight & still had fat to burn, people were saying I was starting to look too thin. Four weeks felt like the right time to stop. I was ready to move on.
Just after I finished that round, Cyndi came to Hobart again to present a talk & I was asked to help out. It was the perfect way to finish my time on the 4 Phase Fat Elimination Protocol. I was 30.6kg down & had gone from a size 20 to a small size 10. For the first time in my life, it felt like the way I looked on the outside reflected how I felt on the inside. I was no longer taking naps to get through the day, there was absolutely no sign of impending diabetes & I no longer had people asking about my ‘bump’. I really owe so much to Cyndi & the Changing Habits team for offering this program that has worked wonders not only for me, but so many others I now have the pleasure of calling my friends.
I took up yoga & rebuilt strength. My weight settled in the low 70’s, which felt more comfortable for me & was easy to maintain. I also gave up the jewellery making business I had on the side which I’d started as a creative outlet to help me when I was going through infertility. I just wasn’t feeling it anymore & did not want to be up late at night making something that did not bring me satisfaction, only to have to get up in the wee hours to do markets. A month after my last market, I was pregnant again. She’s now 3.5 years old & absolutely amazing. I had an intervention-free pregnancy with an independent midwife & the home/water birth I wished I’d had with the first one. Within a week, I was back to my pre-pregnancy size. However, as after the first birth, my endocrine system has gone out of whack, so the weight has increased. I’ve also discovered I’m compound heterozygous for MTHFR & have pyroluria, but that’s a story for another day 😉
Because the protocol is so effective at ridding the body of fat, there is a release of stored toxins that can pass into breastmilk. As such, I won’t be able to go back to it until my daughter fully weans, but I can’t wait to feel that good again! (UPDATE MAY 2019: I’m baaaaack! Follow my next round HERE). Until then, I’m taking the same supplements as I took on the protocol & am working on getting to sleep earlier as I discovered what a difference sleep makes to weight when I was on the program before & there’s so much more information now about sleep & the effect on our microbiome. Breastfeeding mums or those who have a physically strenuous job can follow the Hunter Gatherer Protocol as an alternative, which is essentially a nutrient-dense Paleo-style eating plan that has similar benefits, albeit more slowly.
If you’re not pregnant or breastfeeding & would like to try the 4 Phase Fat Elimination Protocol, now is a great time to get started. There is a group challenge coming up in June 2019, with May being the month to prepare. I did the protocol at the same time as the Coaches for the program, so I know you’re going to be in great hands. Click the image below to learn more:
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