Category Archives: Happiness

Confessions of a Yo-Yo dieter

Over the years I have lost my total current body weight. And then I go and put  it back on again, with interest. I have always been on the heavier side, and really like eating sweet things and drinking those glasses of pink wine. Funnily enough, I don’t like sweet drinks, but I love chocolate, cake and cookies.

My Mother was one of those naturally slender, although curvy, women. She never dieted a day in her life. My weight carrying genes come from my Father (thanks Daddy). If I could bottle my Husband’s metabolism, I would be a rich woman. He can – and does – eat whatever he likes, and just doesn’t put on weight. His weight has remained more or less constant since he was 18. Fortunately he loves me whatever shape and size I am, but he is always proud when I do lose the weight because he knows it makes me feel good about myself.

I could write a book on dieting. My journey has given me a lot of knowledge on good eating habits and what does and doesn’t work for me. What I do know is that I need a support system, and most of all I need the discipline of standing on the scale in front of someone else.

So let’s take a look at my ups and downs and back up again (maybe more like a roller coaster than a yo-yo now I think about it).

In my early 20’s I went to a Naturopath, who taught me to eat only healthy foods. The eating plan was quite hectic, and was more about getting healthy than losing weight. I did lose weight, but don’t remember how much.  I did learn a lot about how food relates to health.

A few years later I went to a French beautician who ran a weight loss program. A friend, who was getting married, went to her and lost weight quickly. As an interesting aside, this friend went to a dressmaker to get her wedding dress made. The Dressmaker told her to lose some weight and then come back again – almost as if she wasn’t prepared to make a dress and have it look less than perfect! The French beautician insisted I had a very “Chanel” figure, meaning I was the right shape but just needed to lose a few pounds. In those days I had a small waist and carried all my weight around my hips and thighs. She put me on a calorie reduced diet. I lost those few pounds but of course inexorably I found them again – with interest.

When my Husband and I started living together I put on a lot of weight. I guess it was contentment. We moved to Cape Town and the sight of a picture of me in a bikini was enough to motivate me to join Weigh-Less. The Weigh-Less eating plan is very useful in that it teaches a balanced diet. I was a real evangelist for a while, and even considered becoming a group leader, but at the time they only wanted women who did not work. I lost 19 kg’s in total, and kept much of it off for a few years, but slowly the weight crept back up. Anyone thinking of going to Weigh-Less should do so. It does work. Some of the Group Leaders are better than others: find another group if you don’t like yours. I have to say though that I did best with a group leader who did not seem to take to me – being as contrary as I am I think I was determined to prove to her that I could do it. I did try going back to Weigh-Less a few years later, but found I was bored.

Fast forward a few years, and having now regained all the weight I lost – plus interest, I joined Weight-Watchers. I really loved the flexibility of the eating plan and think that psychologically it’s really good to be in charge of your own eating, with tools to measure and control your daily and weekly intake.  Once again I lost approximately 19 kgs, once again I stopped going because I was bored, and true to form the number on the scalecrept back up.

I had a small flirtation with the Atkins Diet. Lost weight quickly, put it on – with interest – twice as fast.

In the early 2000’s, because I was downhill skiing annually at the time, I knew I had to be fit. I went to join the gym, and signed up for the Body for Life program. I have to say that it really worked for me. I never followed their eating program (but by now I did know how to eat LOL).  I was weighed and measured monthly, and the exercise regime was increased in intensity every month. Although it was necessary to go to gym six times a week, the programme only lasted 20 minutes at a time. So it was really easy to fit in, and once I was in the groove, I became very dedicated. When the program was over, I signed up for a Personal Trainer, but eventually I just did not have the money or the motivation to continue.

In 2008 I hit an all-time high weight-wise and for the first time my blood pressure was higher than usual, my cholesterol count a little worrying, and after eating my way around Milan, the time had come for drastic action. A friend introduced me to a dietician who helped me to detoxify first, and then put me on a low GI diet. Five meals a day and no carbohydratess allowed after lunch. I also learned what foods my body does not tolerate. The great thing was the dietitian measured me as well as checking weight, BMI and body fat percentage. I really got into the zone and once again lost 19 kgs (what is it about this number?).  Moreover, apart from having a too thin face, my body was probably a better shape than I had been for a long time (no more thunder thighs)  I stopped my visits just over a year ago, and despite knowing exactly how I should be eating, I am gaining centimeters around my stomach, hips and thighs at a scary rate.  Part of the problem is that I work from home building my business, and so don’t get nearly enough exercise. I joined the gym again last year, but have now acknowledged that I really don’t enjoy gym – this means I always find excuses not to go.

There is a saying in weight-loss circles “Nothing tastes as good as thin feels”. I don’t believe this – if it was the case I would simply stay thin!

I decided to write this in the hope that I would learn something about myself, and maybe help others do the same. At the very least, many women out there will know they are not alone. After thinking about and writing the piece, what I now know for sure is:

  • As you grow older, it gets harder and harder to shift the weight. And each time you lose and then gain, you gain a little bit more.
  • When I am motivated to lose weight and shape up, I really do “get with the program”. In fact, I realize that I probably bore my friends going on about my latest diet and how well it is working for me. I become a bit fanatical. I bet they all have a quiet laugh as I grow larger. I do have a sense of letting people down, but it’s not enough to keep me on the straight and narrow..
  • As my GP pointed out, all of these weight-loss programs do work. It’s the motivation that is difficult.
  • I get bored easily (I already know this about myself). This is why I never go back to the same program.
  • Gym is not for me, I need to find a dance class because I love dancing.
  • I need a support system.
  • As much as I enjoy online communities the commitment level is not the same. Although maybe if I ran such a community I would be conscious of needing to be an example.

I need to find the next viable weight-loss program and then “keep it off”. If I could find a weight-loss coach who could also be any exercise buddy, that might help. The Coach would have to challenge me an keep me stimulated. Any suggestions or volunteers?

(I’m also trying to get into the habit of writing – the experts say “Just write anything to get into the habit”. So this is me doing just thaT)


Why happiness is important

I often joke that I was born with the “happy gene”. On the whole I am a happy person. This doesn’t mean that I live a charmed life, but rather that I am usually able to see the positive. I like being happy, and am grateful to have inherited this “gene”.

The downside of being a happy person is that you are totally unprepared for unhappiness. It takes you to a very dark place. In my personal life, I have had some losses which have taken me there, but for the most part it has had to do with my professional life.

I am defined by what I do. I like to do well, and have my performance acknowledged from time to time. However in the past few years, I have found myself in situations that were far from ideal, and really dragged me into that dark place. I spent hours and even days crying silently, and found so little to look forward to that I could not easily crawl back out.

During the darkest days, I came across the work of Shawn Achor – I listened to a webinar he did for Books24X7’s Leadership Development Channel,  and was impressed enough to buy his book: The Happiness Advantage.

Turns out it is not only important to be happy from a personal point of view, but it is essential that companies and organizations create and maintain a happy culture to be productive and innovative.

So what is happiness? There is no single meaning of happiness, it is subjective wellbeing. Too many of us think “If only”.  Geneen Roth, inspirational author, puts it well. “If only I could lose some weight, I’d be happy”. And then the person either loses the weight, and is still not happy; or doesn’t have the willpower to lose the weight, and then hates themselves for having no willpower. So they are no closer to that happy state – because really you have to find it within yourself.

We have also been conditioned to think that if we work hard, we’ll be successful, and success will bring happiness.

It’s obvious that being happy is mostly under our own control. I don’t include those who suffer from clinical depression of some sort. Sadly, being happy is usually not under their control, no matter how many times they are urged to “snap out of it”.

Achor provides readers with seven strategies with actions any individual can take to be happier. But take it from me; the strategies just don’t work when you are in an environment which seems almost designed to make employees unhappy. And unhappy people are not engaged in the business. At best they come to work and quietly keep busy to make the day pass; at worst, they make everyone around them disenchanted, nd maybe even actively sabotage the business.

Leadership guru, Pat Lencioni, cites the three signs of a miserable job as:

  • Anonymity – employees are made to feel like a commodity, and there is no interest in who they are as a person.  When I heard this, it occurred to me that when I was a Manager, I did not know enough about my people; this because I respect people’s privacy and believe they will tell me what they wish to. But I now realize I should have taken a more active interest in their personal lives.
  • Irrelevance – workers need to know that the job they do makes a difference.
  • Immeasurement – this is when individuals have no way of gauging how they are doing on a day to day basis. For some jobs you have to be creative about how this measurement is set, but there is always a way. And we are not talking about performance reviews, or even balanced scorecards, here.

Managers and leaders must ensure that the above is not the case for their team. What else can they do?

  • Take a good look at meetings. Is it really necessary for everyone to meet at the same time? And the very worst thing the manager can do is to start berating the group for poor performance (this should be done one-on-one). When people are under attack, the limbic (emotional) system goes into “fight or flight” response. Forget about the concept of “think, then react” – rational thought disappears. If a manager thinks this will get everyone into gear to improve, he can think again. The opposite result is more likely.
  • Look for signs of disengagement, and fix the problem as soon as possible. There is a point of no return, and then you risk losing high performers. It always seems to me that high performers have high standards, and so are less tolerant of a bad situation than their less effective colleagues might be.
  • If engagement surveys are run in the organization, ensure that they are designed to elicit the truth, and give employees the opportunity to express what they feel anonymously. The best option is to get the survey designed, run and analyzed by a third party, who can provide feedback as well as advice on corrective action.
  • Trust yourself and trust others; and give others no cause to distrust you. This means not telling lies, big or small. Take responsibility for what happens in your team.

The happier and less stressed you and the workforce are, the more productive the environment. And apart from the positive impact on the bottom line, everyone will actually enjoy coming to work. They won’t want to rush off at the end of the day. Absenteeism will go down.

So commit to positive steps to becoming more happy and creating a happy environment today. Unhappiness is a dark cold pit, and once you are in it, it’s very difficult to get out of it. Being happy is sunshine and light and positivity.


The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor, Crown Business. Also available as an audio book and presentation on  Leadership Development channel.

Lencioni, Patrick. Turning the Daily Grind into Daily Fulfillment. Soundview Executive Book Summaries. © 2008. Books24x7