Three Things I Know About Getting Results and the Experiences That Taught Me

Three Things About Results

I work each week with clients up the east coast of Australia and overseas. As a dietitian, my bread and butter (pun intended) is assisting people to make positive changes to their diet to improve their health. But, as a dietitian, you very quickly discover that most people know what to do, they just need some help to implement the plan. You also find out that commonly, it’s not about food, it’s about the ability to make change and keep going. So while this blog is not about food per se, it is about what I have learnt in my personal life that assists me when working one-on-ne with clients.

I have three stories to share with you. They are the 3 stories that I have pinned down as the key learnings of my life to date and I want to tell them in the hope that you might find some meaning in them also. They are three learning that you can not only apply to your individual lives, but are also highly transferrable to the workplace. I am going to start with the end here and tell you these three key points:

1.     You get to choose how you respond to an issue.

2.     Small things done consistently, and a bigger vision, get you the big results.

3.     Look for solutions not compromise.

So here we go.

It is my belief that only bad things happen quickly, but when they do, you always have a choice, it might not be the easiest one, but it is a choice.

I was about to enter into my final year of my undergraduate degree. I had move to Wollongong to embrace one final year of student life before settling into proper ‘adulting’. I was studying a bachelor of human biology/nutrition, and yet managing to foster a rather unhealthy party attitude and earnt money waitressing at a beachside café between lectures. I am from a family of four children, with two older high flying accountant sisters ahead of me and our younger brother, who was severely autistic. He was only 18 months younger than me and, although he did not speak and had severe behavioural and learning difficulties, we has my brother, and we had a special bond. I was in Wollongong letting loose knowing that in the years to come, I was going to be a carer for a disabled sibling. One morning before my shift at Connie’s Café, I got an unscheduled call from my dad and I knew as soon as I answered that there was something wrong. My brother, who also had epilepsy, had unexpectedly passed away over night after a large seizure and subsequent heart attack. I went from life planned, to life torn up and thrown into the recycling bin. After a few weeks of blur and disorientation I had to make a choice. I was feeling very sorry for myself and had started down the path of some rather destructive behaviours. I was thinking of turning my back on study even though I was about to start the final semester of my degree as a nutritionist.

 I was at one of those cross roads.

 I could either let this loss become my identity and continue to use it as an excuse, or I could find some meaning. I had always been an active person, I rowed at school, and was an avid les mills fan, and throughout this whole experience, despite some big night to try and drown my sorrows, I knew that exercise and a clear mind always made me feel better.

Now at 22, I am sure if I had an insta gram account, my feed would have, at this stage, have been filled with quotes on whatever I happened to be feeling at that moment, to subtly let the world know what was going on in my head. But there were two that I held very close to me- Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it and then the other ‘ Sometimes the bad things that happen in your lives, put us directly on the path to the best things that will even happen to us’. I enrolled in my next semester of classes, finished my degree and then moved to Brisbane for 6 months to undertake study to become a personal trainer. I can say hand on my heart, that it was only that one decision to not let my unhealthy habits cloud my already foggy brain, that let me move through that time, and start a career in helping people feel their best. We all have rough times and curve balls. I work with clients every week complaining about their emotional eating habits, lack of regular exercise and expect me to wave a wand to give them their health back. And yet your health is one thing you have 100% control over. It’s not about looking good in swimmers. It’s about feeling good in your own skin, and giving yourself the best chance at hitting your life goals. If we let yourselves feel head on, actively address issues in life, by talking, or seeking additional professional help, we are looking after ourselves, applying our own oxygen first  and enabling ourselves to focus on what matters.  You get to choose how you react to a situation.

My next story leads from here. It involves rhinestones, a pink bikini and a master’s degree.

So after diving into the world of health and fitness I found myself in Brisbane working in a health food and supplement shops  with two body builders. We were an unlikely trio, but we were good mates. I was into the gym, and learning about the magic Harry Potter-esque realm of potions and lotions in the supplement world. And it was after a gym session and before our next shift that these guys got on my about entering a body building comp. I had always look at those men and women and wondered why on earth would they want to look like that? All I saw was Bulging, bronzed clouds, checking themselves out in the mirror. But with spare time up my sleeve and a love of weight training, I was convinced to compete in 6 months’ time. It was a challenge I don’t think I could ever have prepared for. I just had to jump in and rode the wave. As a nutritionist, and soon to be personal trainer, I learnt more in those 6 months of prep, that I think I could ever have got out of a text book. It was nights of food prep, scales to measure chicken by the gram, hours of gym and kilometres of treadmill walking. It was saying ‘thanks but no thanks’ a lot, drifting away from a few friends and making news ones. It was not at morning tea’s it was Dry July, and beyond. And I was asking for people, my close friends and family, who couldn’t see what I was reaching for, to trust me as a adopted some pretty weird new habits. And I was doing this all, while starting my Masters degree in Clinical nutrition and Dietetics.

If anyone has ever ‘been on a diet’, you would be familiar with the heckling and arm twisting of well-meaning friends and family. When we make health changes we don’t just gain health, we lose a whole lot of bad habits. But for some people these bad habits are what bonds them to others. A smoke here, a  night out there, coffee and cake with the girls. So when you tell your Trach Thursday buddy that you aren’t going out tonight, you are going to be met with resistance. This is the make or break for you and your health change and quite a few friendships. A good friend will likely niggle you a bit, but get over it. But if someone is not supporting your goal, no matter how small the change, you need to look at what exactly that friendship is built on. It took me well beyond my 6 months not drinking to convince my mates that this was a change for the long haul, but I can now enjoy a night out with or without a glass of wine, and not hear a peep form those around me.

The day came. I was lethargic, dehydrated, tanned to within an inch of my life and couldn’t have been more excited about it. I had maintained a solid amount of muscle mass, while reducing my body fat to around 10%, which for a female is definitely not healthy nor sustainable. The results came from months of small consistent actions, which I repeated every day. When people ask me what I eat to look like that, it’s actually not that hard or interesting, but it’s the habits I had to form and the sacrifices that I made to get the results.

 

I stepped out in from of a larger than expected crowd in my diamante bikini and 4 inch heels, posed aside 6 other equally bronzed and buff women and was judged on my physical appearance. I made the top 3 and went to the Australian titles with the , slightly weirded out support of my dad, who didn’t know what it was all about, but was stoked that his girl was going to compete nationally. I place 4th and 5th at the Australian titles in two divisions of women’s figure, have been featured in a number of health and fitness magazines and have  built a Facebook following over close to 4,000 sharing my health, fitness and nutrition tips to people across Australia. Small actions, done consistently, get big results.

The Third story started with an inbox on Facebook from an old school friend, and ended in rowing over 400km in a surf boat.

So by the time this story began to unfold, I was undertaking the practical placements for a Masters degree in Nutrition and Dietetics. I had moved beyond my short stint as a body builder and was now enjoying spending my time dabbling in everything from power lifting, to cross fit and strong man/woman training. And as a lifelong foodie, but job was going to help people fuel their body to get the most out of their life. I had moved back home while I finished my studies, like all good Gen Y’s do. And one morning I woke to a Facebook message from a girl I went to school with asking me if I wanted to take part in the George Bass Surf Boat rowing race, which happens to be the longest, toughest surf boat race in the world. If you are wondering what surf boat rowing is think 200kg boat, 4 oars and a coach, rowing out through waves and surfing back in on them for a win.

Her tyeam needed an extra bum on a seat for the race in 5 months’ time, and apparently, after walking on a stage in front of over 1000 people as orange as a cheezel in stripper heels,  I had gained a reputation for doing crazy things. Well…she had a point.

Naturally I asked when do I start and we began training. Our first session happened to land in mid-July pushing -1degree, and they didn’t get much more toasty until mid-September. To training for a race that took place over 7 days and covering 200km, we needed to clock up some distance. The race involves 7 legs between 21 and 42km, one each day for 7 days. There are 8 people per team, a support boat and a zippy speed boat per crew. The race starts, and the starting 4 of the team rows for about 20 minutes. The changeover comes. We are required to lock in our oars, and two at a time, roll head first out of the boat into open ocean as the next 4 fresh sets of legs get dropped into the ocean ahead. The new four have to catch the boat, roll in and continue the race, side by side to the other crew, until the distance is covered and a winner for the day is decided. Think water ninja’s and you would be on the right track. Not pretty, not easy, and not exactly an exercise anyone sane would look to undertake.

Our first month of training was coming along well, when I received some more bad news. My dad, my biggest supporter and moral compass, had been diagnosed with stage 4 stomach cancer and was given less than a year to live. My time at home moved very quickly from study to caring as I shared the responsibilities with my mum. Dad’s condition deteriorated very quickly, I put my studies on hold, but continued to row as my ‘zen time’ to help me cope with the big changes in my life. Sadly my dad passed away just 4 months after diagnosis and with 7 weeks until we were due to set out for the George Bass race, I was ruined. I had lost a second member of my immediate family in 3 years and didn’t know which way was up. But I took my time, I practice the self-care I had learnt after the loss of my brother, I asked for help and I slowly, I was able to keep one foot in front of the other.

The team of ladies who I had only known for a matter of months took turns in bringing over meals, would regularly check in on me and were very understanding when I said I wasn’t sure I was up to racing in a few weeks’ time. This was the behind the scene action of a team on a mission. A few weeks after my dad has passed, after crying knee deep in the surf a few times during training, I needed that sense of purpose to drag myself back up. I jumped in the boat, felt the oar pull through the water and knew I was in for the race.

And what a race! The first day we were met with 40 Plus knot winds, a shark sighting and wild ocean. This was what the George Bass race was about. We started under Batemans bay Bridge and made our way, day by day, with each race, to the finish in Eden. And if the weather, blisters in some ungodly places and summersaulting into open ocean wasn’t enough of a challenge. Try sticking 8 head strong and a little bit exhausted women into 2 small cabins and I’ll show you challenging.

The thing was, we had set out together, under less than ideal conditions with a shared vision. We broke the race down, day by day and met each challenge, not just by conceding and letting things pass disgruntled, but by addressing them with a shared goal in mind and an attitude for solutions.

Solutions are better than compromises. Win-Win can be found if you go into it with that mind set. We all have different backgrounds, values and different motivators. What matters to one person may not even register for the next one. However we can find ways to link our own personal values to the work at hand, in order to move forward as a team.  When working in a team, there will always be differing opinions. But what separates conflict from a new and innovative idea, is the way we entering into the problem . If we keep our minds open and look to the resources we have around us, both tangible and psychological, and in this particular case, gaffa tape and band-aids, we expose ourselves to multiple solutions.

When we approach problems with a ‘my way or the highway’ attitude, we may feel good momentarily when we get our way, but this approach to team work lends itself to resentment. When both parties have ownership of the solution, we get better solutions which stick for longer, and we all have the chance to put ourselves in the shoes of our team mate or colleague.

Fast forward 2 years and The Broulee Capitals took on the Bass once again in January 2017, with even worse weather conditions. However, this time I rowed for my dad, raising over $7,000 of the GI Cancer Research Institute in his memory. And for the record I completed my master’s degree mid-way through 2014 and now work as a sports dietitian and trainer.

Look for solutions, work towards a shared vision and don’t compromise.

Our individual confidence is closely linked to the challenges we set for ourselves and the way we face adversity. And this also translates to how effective we see ourselves as being in our careers and relationships. Completion of tasks, follow through with goals and challenges outside the office/our careers, build a belief in our own ability. The expectations we have of our team also plays a big role in meeting goals. A strong team around you with a shared vision and clear knowledge of roles, tasks and responsibilities is paramount to getting to the finish line. When we can bring these positive external experiences and associated skills and combine them with the right people around us, hard work and that big hairy audacious goal, we can do amazing things.

Remember:

1.     You get to choose how you respond to an issue.

2.     Small things done consistently, and a bigger vision, get you the big results.

3.     Look for solutions not compromise.

Results come not from big sweeping changes, but from small things done consistently. Be it your health, finishing off that project or furthering your career. There are choices at every turn, we just need to have our eyes open and ready to receive them.