David went from shedding all his weight in two years and becoming a well-renowned personal trainer, to gaining it all back in a couple of years.
Losing weight is not just a one-step challenge. There’s the weight loss, and then comes the bigger hurdle – keeping it off.
It’s the stage many people don’t consider when embarking on a health goal. Take 43-year-old David, for example.
David managed to lose an incredible 400lbs (181kg) in the space of two years. He even lost 45kg in the first three months of his new diet regime.
In the years where he was at his lowest weight, he went on to work as a personal trainer and became the subject of a documentary about his incredible weight loss journey.
However, shortly after filming concluded he relapsed back into his old habits, which kick-started his food addiction and he ended up at square one.
“After the show, I went back to closet eating. You know, I was this weight loss celebrity and here I am gorging myself on Ben and Jerry’s and tortilla chips,” David explains, appearing on an episode of Dr Phil.
“I ended up gaining my weight back and losing my job as a personal trainer. When I was a lower weight, people would always like, ‘Oh, you look so good, Dave.’ But in my mind, I felt like I wasn’t good enough and disgusting.”
Now, his food addiction has completely consumed his life.
“Not only am I embarrassed to go outside, I’m scared to death if I lose my footing and I end up on the ground.”
Instead, David locks himself indoors and spends his days sleeping, watching TV and continuously eating.
“My typical day is the same over and over again,” he explains. “I wake up take my pills for my blood pressure, diabetes, my gout.
“I play video games or watch TV and I get up, get something to eat, a couple tortillas with butter, some cheese.”
He admits he’d eat “anywhere from a half pound to a pound of cheese a day”, plus “salami and one or two Gatorades and three or four Pepsis a day”. A typical dinner involves “four hamburgers and cheese burritos”.
In between his meals, he snacks on cookies, candy and soda, which he stores in a laundry basket in his bedroom.
David’s case is an extreme example, but the everyday individual can relate to his intentions and actions, especially in terms of New Year’s resolutions.
When January 1 struck, you probably set goals to clean up your diet, detox your insides from the festive season or finally put that gym membership to good use. But to be honest, how many of your resolutions have you managed to upkeep?
We’d like to think all of them, but there’s a good chance you’ve lost a little motivation and relapsed back into old habits. In fact, research conducted by Strava, the social network for athletes, predicted January 19, 2020 to be the fateful day most people would give up on their healthy New Year’s resolutions – yep, even before the first month came to an end.
And now that we’re well into the year, there’s an even bigger chance those old habits have started to creep in.
So, how can you prevent this from happening? We asked Tara Hurster, psychologist and founder of The Therapeutic Addiction Recovery Assistance (TARA) Clinic for advice.
“Firstly, I would say there is no wagon to fall from. This concept is actually a big part of the problem, as if we have fallen off then we have made a mistake or failed,” Hurster explains. “Instead, understand that each time there is a slip, it is a perfectly brilliant opportunity for learning.”
She recommends seeking support from a therapist who will help you talk through any difficulties you might be facing. “You get to learn what’s working and what isn’t working, and you get to understand the way you respond to new situations.
“Working alongside your therapist and exploring these lessons in a non-judgmental way, you learn to move through challenges rather than throw our hands up or say it’s too hard.”
If you recognise you have an addiction – whether it’s mild or severe – Hurster suggests some simple techniques to prevent you from relapsing into old habits.
“Apps such as Headspace and Smiling Mind are great guided mindfulness tools and definitely some of my favourites. However, it is important also to learn how to ground yourself in the moment and understand that the sensations in your body when you’re craving, or angry, or anxious, are simply messages from your brain letting you know to take action,” she adds.
“Prior to now, the action may have been to grab a glass of wine or eat some chips, however moving forward you could move your body (doing exercise), practice mindfulness (5-minutes is an awesome start and the apps are great for this) and count the colours in the room you’re in – this is a great grounding activity.”