A Fatty Affair

Being in complete control of my weight

What an incredible 60 days! 12.5kg down, a completely steady weight, sustainable with new beliefs that will keep me this way for a lifetime! I have conquered my weight and am in full control of my body! It all started with a friend asking to assist with some thinking changes. 

For the sake of anonymity, I will just call her Super A. That is my nickname for her anyway. Super A approached me with a “Cobus, you need to help me change my thinking about my eating habits, food, and weight loss.” Since ‘change ’to me is the most fascinating neuroscientific concept, my answer was a resounding  “yes!” I then asked her what the change was worth, and she committed to a substantial amount that would hurt a little each month. I didn’t need the money, however, the financial commitment served as an indicator of the seriousness of the person, and I could see that Super A was super serious about the change – the kind of person I love to work with!

The journey full of potential was unfolding according to plan when it happened – Self-regulation. I knew it was coming, the question was just when and will we be able to push past it. Self-regulation plays an important part in maintaining sanity. It is your brain’s way of maintaining equilibrium. Once I believe I am fat and have no control over my eating, to stay fat with no control over my eating is equilibrium. It is normal.  My brain will allow me to do slightly better (go on a diet) or slightly worse (binge eating when watching a movie). Still, if it detects a big shift in what is “normal” to you (changing from the old fat you that you know so well into a healthier, happier person), it will come up with a gazillion reasons to push back against the change. One of its main functions is to keep you you even if you are detrimental to yourself. This is why New Year’s resolutions don’t work! I saw the change happening in Super A. The way she was speaking and thinking was different. I said, “I hope her brain is not seeing what I am seeing,” but unfortunately we cannot cheat our brains. The self-regulation came and we could not push through it, so that was the end of our journey…but not mine…

Busy with a new fascinating study on sufficiency thinking and the impact it has on your well-being (financial, social, mental, and physical) I went for a full body composition test since I always want to stand first in line as a guinea pig for our research (PS: worth checking this one out and join us! We are looking for 150 people!) The test results indicated that at 89kg, I was 11kg over my “ideal weight” (78kg). I thought, hell, you had all these plans, hypotheses, and theories for Super A, let us just do them and see how easy it would be to reach my ideal weight! The result, “I lost 12.5kg (but more significantly, I have been maintaining it now for a couple of months (sustainability). Even more significant than that, I developed a belief that I am in full control of my body weight. My body listens to me now, not the other way around. 

My journey on a graph

In this blog, I want to share what I have learned. Take it, play with it, and see what happens! Being completely in control of your weight is a remarkable feeling and achievable for all without suffering, feeling restricted, or living with lack. You have everything you need, to do this!

Before I start, let me give credit where credit is due by thanking Super A for this journey she has placed me on; Lara my daughter, for being my partner in crime and being crazy enough to venture with me; and my supportive wife Tammy who always throws fuel on my crazy project fires! As the African proverb suggests, “If you want to travel fast, travel alone. If you want to travel far, travel with someone.” Thank you for travelling with me. 

In the beginning…

Believing is the most important part of a journey towards change. I hate it when people say, “Fake it until you make it!” I hate it passionately for two reasons: one, you don’t have to fake it! You have everything you need to live a full authentic life. You are a resourceful person. You are intelligent. You have proven that you can build good habits. You have access to information. So why want to fake anything? When we are in ‘faking’ mode, we lose our authentic self and with that our resourcefulness. We become victims of our environment. A ‘true’ victim (ie a person experiencing an earthquake or going down in a plane) cannot do anything to change anything. They can just hope and pray for the best potential outcomes. “Faking it” places you in this mindset. The second reason I don’t like the saying, well, you cannot cheat your brain! The brain always knows. So you might fake it outwardly, but never internally, therefore no sustainable change ever happens. Don’t fake it, just reprogramme it (the brain)! This is the most exciting part of any change journey.

To experience change, one needs to shift beliefs. This shift in beliefs changes the neural network in the brain, and once the belief has shifted, the body follows. People who believe they can walk over flaming hot coals can walk over those coals (body follows beliefs). Someone once asked me what I did for a living. Not in the mood to go into all the neurosciency stuff,  I just said, “I make people believe!” Believing that it is humanly possible for me to become the change (in this case, have full control over my weight) is the most important part of any change journey. A true belief that the outcomes are doable. Even though I want to stress the point that this is the most important part of change and that everything that is to follow is connected to my belief journey, for the sake of this blog, I am not going to jump into belief building for the reason that that in itself is a thesis I need to share with you and secondly, on most people’s weight loss journey, the belief that they can lose weight already exists, since they have done it successfully so many times before. It is the belief that it can be maintained and that you can be happy with what you eat, and without too much effort stay in control of that ideal weight that still needs to develop (in this blog I will show you how). PS: if you want to work on understanding how to build positive beliefs or go on a journey of changing the way you see yourself, feel free to reach out to rika@lifexchange.co.za She is a valuable colleague and brilliant with this kind of stuff. 

So the genesis of your amazing story of change should start with, “In the beginning I believed that I could be in complete control of my weight, so on the first day I…did nothing…” 

Do nothing (but prepare)

Once you understand self-regulation, you will know that jumping into a diet or training plan at the gym is a big shock for your “sanity” (equilibrium). Temporarily you would be able to do what you set out to do, but in a relatively short time (normally within 6 weeks) your brain will self-regulate so that you can be the old self again. To increase the chances for success, once you decide to cause the change, and you believe that you can cause the change, do nothing! Don’t sign up at the gym and don’t go and eat that salad!  

I love the story Lou Tice (Pacific Institute) tells about how to prove self-regulation. He suggests that when your child is born, never talk to them about school ever! On the first day of school, give them their little lunch box, drive to school, make sure they get out of the car and then speed away!!! “Don’t be surprised”, Lou said, “that when you get home the kid is still hanging on the bumper of your car!” Now if we think carefully about this scenario, we may ask, “What is wrong with the kid? Education is good for them right?” I may ask the same to you. What is wrong with you? The changes you want in your life are good for you, right? So why then are you always running back home when you are close to reaching it?  I hope nobody would do that to any child, but it does drive home the importance of preparing for any change that is about to happen. We prepare our children for their first day of school. In preparing them, we reduce self-regulation intensity.  The amount of time we spend preparing for change is often more important than what we are doing to cause the change.

Step 1: Research & Planning

On my weight loss journey, I bought myself a beautiful journal and pen and started my preparation for the change I wanted. By the way, journaling (in writing) is such a healthy tool to use on any change journey. It helps “order” our “mental files” making recall easier. I started planning by:

  • looking at big upcoming events, parties, weddings, etc, and asked when would be a good time to start this journey that would make it the “easiest entry” into change. I saw a holiday was coming up in just over 60 days, with no weddings or big parties planned (sometimes not having a social life is beneficial!). With all this info in place, I have set the timeline for my journey at 56 days and I knew exactly when I was going to start.
  • I became a student of weight loss journeys. Finding out what worked best for who and why. How tough was it? Is it sustainable? What do people recommend? Are there any online communities that I could join before I even start just to see what people are talking about. This is an important step since it will help with your “belief” levels. With the internet bringing the world of information to us, it is easy to do a good study of what will work for you.
  • I became a scientist and specialist in my journey! I knew exactly why this approach potentially could work and lead to sustainable change for me.  I looked at the food I wanted to eat, where I would find it and what dishes I thought would really speak to me. I worked on what excited me about this journey. I tried to place myself in difficult scenarios like travelling or going to someone’s party, asking myself what I would do in those instances. I had a plan!
  • Always set a timeline for your “projects/experiments.” When I say, I will keep doing this until I reach my goal, since your brain does not know when you will reach it, you will continuously battle to keep your mind from self regulation. When you say, I am committing to 60 days, and you start a countdown, then it is easier to say after 49 days, “ok, only 48 days to go, let us just get through another one of these days.” Before you have reached day 60 (it could be any length as long as the stretch is not to far…I will never plan something over 90 days), you will find new ways of thinking or doing that will help you for example to set another 30 day goal and so on. In my case, 42 days was enough for a lifestyle change.
  • I journaled about all of the above, built a case, prepared, looked at existing communities and heard what they said, spoke to people that have gone on similar journies, and then only…
  • …and then only I have started the count down to my “go live” date for this journey.

Change your language (thinking)

I am known for doing things people and “science” suggest are impossible to do. For those of you who have not followed the backward bicycle series (click here to view it), in short Universities, neuroscientists and even the Mythbusters indicated that it will be impossible to ride a reverse steering bike without months of practice. I was on a mission to prove them wrong, and so I did! One tool I used was to change my language and not call the “Backward Brain Bicycle” a bicycle at all! Why? Well if I think of it as a bicycle, I will tap into a very well-formed neuro-network on the brain concerning how to ride a bicycle. A network that will guide my balance, breathing, steering, and most importantly, my focus. I had to call it something different. I called it, the Cyclops. Why the Cyclops? I don’t know, it was just a name that popped up and was not related to a bicycle! I was not going to change an old way of thinking, but rather build a new one that would make the old one obsolete.

I have done the same on this weight journey of mine. I did not want to call anything I have done a diet, since that will take me back to a whole neural-network that I have built over years concerning what a diet is. If it is good or bad; the fact that it might feel like torture; the fact that I will feel deprived and lacking. All of this thinking is connected to what my brain believes a diet is so I had to call It something different!

So I tapped into Tammy’s language, which is also always on some weird journey of her own, and chose to talk about an “Energy Management Experiment!” This was awesome since I was not busy with a diet, nor trying to lose weight.  I was busy with an experiment concerning the energy my body needs to operate on. Being more effective with my energy (i.e. using what I have stored in my fat) would lead to losing weight! Since it was an experiment, I could never fail, just learn. What works, what doesn’t, and why not? What do I need to change if something was not working? This was an exciting journey, not a diet! When I was hungry, I started to think…do I need energy now, or do I have enough energy to wait another 45 minutes? When I ate, I would ask myself, how much energy does this now give me and how much do I actually need?  I would literally Google this. What is the best way to get the best energy? I stopped snacking before bed, even when hungry because I realised that I don’t need any energy while I sleep…I have enough energy stored in my fat to have a good night’s rest! Changing the wording of what I was busy with, really changed my thinking of the processes.

By the way, while I was getting excited about my “Energy Management Experiment,” I was also busy with step 1: Research & Planning. This process has made me excited to understand the energy systems of the human being and the role that carbohydrates and fat play. How when you have a low-carb high-fat (LCHF) diet, you change your body’s metabolic system. Your body primarily needs carbs for energy, but if you stop taking in carbs it turns fat into (ketones) energy.  This sounded super exciting to me and I had to try! I was going full-on Keto (less than 20g carbs a day with a higher fat content) and had a Banting (LCHF) transition plan if my experiment was successful! I just LOVED the choice I made! Highly recommended, if you do step one properly. Highly not recommended, if you don’t have a fantastic transition plan after your “journey timeline.” You might just explode! 

The scale 

If you have ever spoken to me about weight loss, you will know I hate the “scale.” Super A even handed her scale to the neighbour to keep it away from her while she was working with me;  that is how much I despise that thing! That is until you have shifted your thinking about what you are doing with it, then I love the scale and believe it is the answer to your success! While you are on a diet and trying to lose weight, the scale is a reminder of your struggle, how far you need to go, and often your failures. You don’t even have to get on a scale. The fact that that scale sits there on the bathroom floor is a constant reminder of why you bought it in the first place – you are fat! 

Garmin Smart Scale

However, when you are not on a diet with a mission to lose weight, but rather part of an Energy Management Experiment, where there is no failure, just exciting learning about your body and your energy management, the the scale will become the best friend you have! It becomes the main tool for learning (and the reason you will be able to keep your ideal weight forever). But this should be more than just a simple scale. Since this will become your best friend and prized tool for your experiment, this is where you should invest money. I got myself the Gramin Smart scale that syncs with my watch and phone to give me a detailed report on what part of my weight is water, bone, fat, and muscle. It works on 0.1kg differences which is perfect and it logs your progress beautifully over time like a scientific document with graphs and percentages. I made sure to create a routine every morning as to when I use the scale, so that, like in a laboratory, I can get accurate readings for my experiment. Whatever the reading, I reflected to find out what caused it… journaled…capture, learn, and apply my new learning. Using the scale daily and capturing the data accurately, increases, your chances of reaching your goal weight and maintaining it significantly!

PS: different makes and models of “smart scales” exist in various price ranges. I assume anyone would work as long as it logs your weight in some format for you to easily and regularly access and if it measures within 0.1 of a kg…since the 0.1 of a kilogram really matters! You can also just go digital (buy one at any Clicks or Checkers) with some graph paper and do the plotting yourself! This could be a load of fun!

The battle for 0.1kg

I am often amazed by how comfortable people are speaking inaccurately concerning amounts. Someone will say 20000 trees were destroyed or 300 people died or the earth was created 4.5 billion years ago as if it is an exact truth. They forget to put the words ‘approximately,’ ‘roughly’ or ‘more or less’ in front of their very confident statements, and people have learned to be ok with that. We will take it as the truth even though we expect that it is not the whole accurate truth. We think this is “close enough” to the truth…not sure how many million years they rounded off that age of the earth. People talk about their weight in the same way… “I am 90kg or 85kg,” they would say when they are actually not!  When it comes to any experiment, especially this experiment, you want to be as accurate as possible! 

One thing I have learned is that you will never weigh your goal/ideal weight since your weight is different every day! I have been tracking my weight for the last 138 days and not once, not even one single day my weight has been the same. If someone asks me about my weight currently, I will say, that last week I averaged 78kg, or this morning when I weighed in I was 77.4kg, but I will never, like I used to in the past, guess what my current weight is and handle it inaccurately…since I believe that in the 0.1kg, the battle is won!

So this was my journey with the scale… I have programmed my devices with my ideal weight (78kg). That was the first and the last time on my journey that I gave this “ideal” weight idea any thought. I shifted all my focus and energy to the battle of losing 0.1 kg. Now if you think about the fact that a block of 500g butter is a serious block of butter, then you will understand how significant it is to lose 500g! In total, I have lost 25x bakkies of Butro!! That is crazy. Sometimes I will be down with 0.4kg, and I will celebrate because that is nearly down a block of butter. And sometimes I will be up with 0.8kg and I will think, “Cobus, let’s figure out how you would have in one day picked up nearly two blocks of butter, and I will go into research mode. 

My goal was no longer to be concerned with my “ideal weight” but to fight the 0.1kg battel, and when I broke the 1kg mark (i.e. going from 88.2kg to 87.9kg), I celebrated a great victory! Then the battle for 0.1kg was on again and all I could think about was to break into the next kg plato (i.e. going from the 87kg range into the 86kg range). Since there was so much movement on the scale concerning the 0.1kg range, it kept me engaged on the journey with many many celebrations and victories. I learned so much about my weight. For example how long it takes for my weight to settle. If I lose a great amount of weight in one week, I have learned that my body is resilient and will make me gain a few 100g grams to find equilibrium again. I was not disappointed when I got on the scale and was 0.4kg heavier than the previous day since I could predict it! I knew if I ate after 6pm in the evenings I would gain a few grams in the morning. I have learned when my body responds to what and it created a sense of me feeling in control of my weight. Today, if you ask me to gain 0.3kg by tomorrow morning, I know exactly what to do. If you want me to lose 0.7kg by tomorrow morning, once again I can do this now so accurately it is ridiculous (within a 150g range)! 

The 0.1kg matters.

Do it with somebody

Yes, it is true that if you want to travel fast, travel alone. If you want to travel far, travel with someone. I want to add, that if you want to travel and enjoy the view, travel with a friend!

Lara my daughter, shared at the beginning of the year that she had some “body goals” herself. I pitched my “Keto Energy Management Experiment” journey to her and she said she was happy to give it a go for 56 days. I want to make it clear that my daughter is absolutely beautiful as is and that if she is truly happy, I am happy! I hate parents’ obsessions with their children’s weight, building some negative beliefs and setting them up for a life of weight struggle.  Those parents should die.  And this is an important point since we don’t ask a person to go on this journey for their sake, it is for our own sake! Therefore nowhere on this journey do you ever comment on how close they stick to the programme, or where they are off track…they are on their own journey and must do as they please. You ask them to join because you need someone to journey with you.

As the “expert” who has done my homework (research & planning) I could share with her why and how we would do it (keeping my brain engaged). It created an internal sense of accountability. Since I was the excited one who got her into this can’t quit at any time! We sat together and planned what we would eat. What we enjoyed eating and how we would bypass the carbs. We worked out what snacks she would take to school and what I would take to work. We went restaurant hunting to see who could give us something tasty within the set of guidelines we created for ourselves. We shared whenever we broke the 1kg with celebratory emojis on Whatsapps and even when we went up a block of butter (500g) shared the reasons we thought it happened. When I got home some days, she was waiting in her gym clothes which made it so much easier for me to hit the gym, when I had already talked myself out of it on my way home. We tried and tested disgusting “carb” replacement food and other not-so-bad ones.  By the time our 56 days were over and Lara decided to change her energy management system again, I felt so strong, and so sold on my journey. I was in control of where I was going, it was easy to continue. Get a friend, become the coach, sell them on everything you have learned, on the journey, study together, make plans together, and then start the journey together; it adds to and increases the chances of success. 

Food vs Exercise 

Exercise is important. Just want you to hear me clearly so I will say it again. Exercise is important, BUT I have come to believe that what you eat is even more important!

A couple of years ago I learned to enjoy exercise. I do my own thing, at my own pace and normally make it easy for myself. I do not believe in the “no pain, no gain” saying! That is maybe the reason that I not only struggled to maintain my weight but even, though I exercised sometimes up to 5 times a week, gained weight over time. On this Energy Management Experiment of mine, I learned why!

When we exercise, psychologically, we find ourselves in a good space. Because of the endorphin (happy chemicals) in our bloodstream as a result of the exercise, we look at ourselves differently, feel more confident in the moment, and even feel better about our decision-making! This often results in us not making such good decisions, especially when it comes to what we eat. We believe that since we are exercising and burning off calories (which we are), it is ok to eat anything we want, which is then counterproductive and makes us eat, and store, more energy,  than what is necessary. Also, since on a carb-diet, where carbohydrates give you your energy to exercise, carbs are the first thing to be burned up. Your body will first burn the carbs before it gets to your fat reserves, and most likely you will hit the wall long before it starts to tap into your fat reserves making you crave for something sweet (carbs). So after our session, our body is screaming for those carbs, since you have just burned through them. However, you don’t need as many carbs after the training since you don’t need a great amount of energy (you are done with your energy consuming activity). These carbs in your body that will now not be used, is turned into fat for another day. When “another day” comes and you are hitting the gym, you are not burning that fat, but just the carbs that you took in that day…and so the vicious cycle continues. Therefore I can hit the gym or the road regularly and still gain weight! In order to burn carbs and fat in the same workout session, you really have to feel like you are dying…yes, “no pain, no gain” then is the only way. Or you can change your diet and hit the gym with the minimum amount of carbs in your body so that your body turns fat into energy! I chose the later. 

Exercise is a vital part of my life, and something, even though I never thought possible, I enjoy doing. However, to see the real weight change, designing, living, and loving your energy management system, aka what, how, and when you eat, will show results quicker than just jumping into a strenuous exercise plan that you most likely will easily give up on…since the body avoids pain, and therefore easily gives up on the gain.


Working in 0.1 of a kg to maintain weight

This is the easy part! Now that I am exactly where I want to be with my weight, I make sure to continue this new habit I developed over the last 56 days. Every morning I get up and get on the scale, and if I am 0.5kg over,  I make sure to be a little more conscious about my eating and especially not to eat anything after 6pm. If I am 0.8km under the weight I want to be, I just eat more than usual or make sure I have an evening snack before I go to bed. On a day when I find myself in a position where I am eating carbs (wedding, birthday or funeral), I try to go for a walk, jog, or hit the gym to burn off those carbs after the event or at least before I go to bed. I have learned to do this so well, that it is easy for me to average my ideal weight over 7 days. Because I get on the scale every morning and will have only a few 100g differences from the previous day, it is so easy to correct on the same day!

Averaging @ 78kg

Your transition plan however is vital. As you work through your Energy Management Experiment, you need to seriously plan how you will transition “back” after the experiment is over.  Make sure to look at your journal. What worked? What will you keep doing? What will you change again and how? Give yourself two weeks after your “experiment” to test while keeping your daily routine of tracking your weight, mood, or whatever you were tracking. Now is the most critical time to keep your eyes on all the needles, and make small adjustments.  

In my case, I decided not to transition back. 

New beliefs formed 

Journaling, capturing my experiment and experiences, counting down the days, and celebrating my 0.1kg battles and my 1kg victories, made this whole process fun, enjoyable, and exciting. Through my journaling, I started to track a few things besides my weight as well. How well did I sleep last night? How many days since my last headache? How do I feel emotionally today? And then everything came together for me…

My journal

I used to get migraines so bad that only a serious cocktail of strong painkillers could get me out of it, but they vanished. I have always slept well, but became aware that I was dreaming more. The massive game changer however was my mood. All I can say is that for most of my life, I experienced an “underlying sadness.” Not depressed. Not even down. Just a pinch of sadness. I also believed that this was just 100% normal and that it was how everybody felt. On day 38 of 56 however, I experienced a shift in my mood. It was as if the “sadness” lifted. As if my mood became a stable force in my life. No extreme ups and downs, just stability. I went through a very traumatic experience during this time and even in this time when anybody should have the right to be all over the show with their emotions, I felt in control of my emotions. Stable. Sadness gone.

After doing some research on what this could be I realised that all the bread and pastries I was eating caused inflammation in my gut. When you consider that between 90% – 95% of all your serotonin (happy chemicals) is produced by your gut it made total sense to me that I never experienced all there was to experience with regards to my serotonin! No carbs = no inflammation = great serotonin production in the gut! (PS: let me know if you want to follow our Podcast, I finally understand happiness; sufficiency thinking will change the way you see the world). 

After experiencing my mood stability, “underlying sadness” disappearing, weight loss, and overall healthier energetic experience of life, I concluded, “carbs are poison!”  Carbohydrates in any form made me sick, sad, and fat. The more I thought about this experience, the more I believed, that at least for Cobus (not claiming this is the same for everyone), this is the absolute truth. Today I have zero cravings for bread, pies, and pastries. I used to live on them yet I am happily rejecting them without feeling any sense of lack or depravity. If my wife eats a freshly baked cinnamon twist and offers me a bite, I happily take a bite to share in her experience. But a bite is more than sufficient for me since I know that more than that will have really bad consequences. I don’t feel at all if I am losing or sacrificing anything. I only feel that I am gaining and for the first time in my life I started living! I will not sacrifice that for anything.

A few weeks ago we were invited to visit our new neighbour, a cute retired lady from Belgium. Obviously I did not want to offend her in any way, so I ate from the pie and milktart she gave me and within minutes felt sick, bloated, and itchy! I told myself, “crap, I am poisoned!” Now before you say, Cobusssss, that is all in the mind! Where else do you think belief sits? Obviously, belief sits in the mind, and once you believe the body will follow. My 56-day experiment changed into a belief on day 38, that carbs are poison to my body. I used the remaining 18 days of my experiment to embed this belief by telling others and reading about things like celiac disease, gluten intolerance, etc to support this new belief of mine. Confirmation bias is something people frown upon, but I used this very same principle that causes so many conspiracy theories and fake news, to build a belief in myself.  This is when I told myself that transitioning back to my old life would be the most stupid move to ever make. Who would choose sadness over happiness? It would be like removing a thorn from your food that made walking uncomfortable and painful your whole life, experiencing what it is to walk and run around pain-free, and then sticking it back into your foot! 

Make sure to use your journey to build new better beliefs, hence the importance of journaling. Catch yourself in the experience, write it down, share it with your buddy, and keep thinking about it. Make it something new you track daily. Turn it into a belief and you will never have to go back to the old you.

You are worthy of a healthy happy life with the body you want to live in. You have everything you need to start the adventure. The best time to start believing, researching, and planning is right now. Now go and make it happen!


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