Earlier this month, I was given the opportunity to try Michelle Hastie's Ten Steps to a Bigger (and Thinner) Life weight-loss program. I first came across Michelle in an article she wrote for Divine Caroline called, "Tackle Your Food Fears," which piqued my interest, as I was just starting to learn the ropes of intuitive/mindful eating. I also started following her blog, and quickly learned that she's a personal trainer and weight-loss coach who discourages typical forms of dieting, self-hatred and extreme exercise and encourages self-love, balanced eating and appreciating your body's ability to move.
The program I reviewed is an extended version of this Ten Steps post on her blog, complete with audio/video files and homework sheets that provided an opportunity to apply what I learned in each step to my own issues with food and weight.
As for my criticisms of the format of the program, my only suggestion would be to include additional notes (either on the slides or on separate sheets) of the information provided in the audio track. There's a lot of great information that Michelle says that doesn't necessarily make it to the list of key points on the slides. If I heard something I felt was critical, I would pause the presentation and write it down, but it may be more helpful for others to have such information in a more accessible format. Other than that, I enjoyed listening to the step components in detail.
Let me just say, Michelle's program is like therapy in a box! Over the years, I've read my share of diet/weight-loss books, articles and magazines. Very few, if any, have dedicated a decent amount of time on trying to get you to sort out your personal issues and be happy with yourself first, before even trying to take on the task of losing weight. And that's exactly what Michelle's Ten Steps forced me to do. By taking notes on the information presented in the step slides and truthfully answering the questions she asked in the homework sheets, I found there were several issues and realities that I had refused to deal with, in the past and into this month. Because I allowed so many of my negative behaviors to persist and flourish, my issues with food and extra weight continued for years and into the present day.
I've read some self-help guides in the past and usually ignored the author when they assigned homework activities at the end of each chapter. Obviously, I didn't do myself any favors in ignoring those assignments. Why? Because I thought I had myself all figured out and that there wasn't any uncharted territory to discover, in terms of my emotions or self-knowledge. Well, if I had myself so figured out, why was I reading a self-help book in the first place?
Since Michelle's program isn't your typical rule book ("eat x calories/day, only eat foods off of this list, do x types of exercise for x minutes, most days of the week," etc.), I knew I needed to buckle down, focus and dig deep to answer the questions in the homework sheets. The information Michelle provided in the slides set me up (in a good way) to really think about all of the Why's in my life: Why did I gain weight? Why do I sometimes eat so fast? Why do I think negative things about myself when I look in the mirror?
Forming honest answers to these types of questions wasn't easy, but doing so was incredibly rewarding. In terms of food, activity and self-respect, life has seemed a lot more balanced this week than it has in a long time. There are still some issues I'm working on (self-criticism) and others I've happily kicked to the curb (recycling my role as "the victim," not taking the time to breathe, letting food/health/diet/exercise information overshadow other hobbies).
When it comes to food and exercise, Michelle keeps things simple: eat foods that fuel your body and make it (and you!) feel good; learn to appreciate movement by exploring activities you enjoy and won't dread when performed on a regular basis. The past couple of weeks, I've been successful in reminding myself that no food is off limits and any food I ever want will always exist (for the most part). By doing so, my out-of-control cravings have subsided and my urges to overeat have decreased. I've managed to make room in my life for chocolate and Napoleon Cake this week, without going overboard on guilt and extra servings. I also re-discovered my love for spinning and zumba and look forward to challenging myself at BodyPump this weekend. Not because of the calories getting burned, but just because they're fun and I love the way my body feels when it's active. Instead of saying to myself, "I have to workout today," I've been trying to change my tune and instead ask, "How do I want to move around today?" Makes a difference in my attitude and performance.
While the overall goal of the Ten Steps program is to help you to lose weight, there are also several emotional, psychological and physical milestones Michelle wants you to accomplish to ensure that your weight-loss journey is done without the typical tortures of strict dieting, mindless exercise, stress, exhaustion and self-defeating thoughts.
If you've found yourself trapped in the same cycle of fear, stress, self-bashing and guilt when trying to lose weight, I would definitely recommend Ten Steps to help you break down the underlying issues causing such emotions and gain a gentle, healthier perspective on weight-loss (and life!). Many thanks and kudos to Michelle for developing such a fresh and unique program!