Head First, Health Fast by Leanne Hall

Introduction

What does the word ‘diet’ make you think of? Does it make you roll your eyes with despair? Or perhaps it gives you hope? Either way, your emotional reaction to that word is quite possibly the thing that has led you to this book. In a nutshell, your reaction is about not feeling good enough, and the constant striving for the ‘answer’ that will finally make you feel happy to be you. Even as you read this, you may be researching the next big thing in diet and weight-loss programs, and making promises to yourself that this time things will be different. You’ll stick to this one no matter what. But even as you say that, deep down lingers the fear that this diet, like so many before them, won’t be sustainable. Most of us have been there at some point, myself included.

But what if you considered a different approach? One that focuses on long-term sustainable health, and one that actually helps you get back to enjoying food and exercise? Imagine an approach that lets you accept yourself before the end result, and nurtures your mind and body rather than punishing it? That’s exactly what this book is about.

Unfortunately, the market for weight-loss and transformation programs seems to be forever growing. Many of these programs promise to improve your life by altering your body. But there are so many problems with that message. Firstly, these programs assume that you need transforming, and secondly, they assume they know who you are and what you need to do to be happy and healthy. More and more personal trainers, nutritionists and chefs are making a fortune out of quick-fix diet programs that promise amazing results.

From weight loss to healing and overall physical wellness, what these programs all have in common is that they promote fast results on a life-changing scale. But better health is not so easy. In most cases, dropout rates of these quick-fix programs exceed success stories. And of the success stories, research suggests that as many as 95 per cent will end up right where they started—and sometimes fatter and unhappier.

So why do we have such an insatiable appetite for these cleverly marketed diet and weight-loss programs? Well, there are three main reasons:

  • We are impatient. In a society where delayed gratification is a thing of the past, we want everything now. This includes weight loss and health.
  • We have been bombarded with messages by the media that suggest we need to look a certain way to be successful and happy.
  • We are time poor. We just want someone to tell us what to do, rather than take the time to work it out for ourselves.

Fundamentally, we are not engaging our brain. Instead, we’re looking outside for answers because that’s where all the promises of perfection and happiness lie. It’s like a magnet that draws us in. In fact, you can almost think of these programs as the magnets—after all, how can you resist something that promises to deliver everything you think you’re searching for? The problem is the further we look outside ourselves, the more detached we become from what’s important. And the more disconnected we become from who we really are and what we really want. This is why working towards long-term sustainable health must begin with reconnection with ourselves and looking inwards.

Starting one of these quick-fix diets or programs is like starting a new relationship. We see only the promises of happiness and success, and fail to pay any attention to those alarm bells that suggest we are making the same mistakes yet again. It’s not until the relationship ends that we think, ‘Wow, what did we ever have in common?’ This occurs because we have disconnected from who we are. As with any relationship, though, if you listen to those alarm bells and work through them rather than avoiding them, then there’s the potential for something sustainable and wonderful. Something that is unique to you. Is it perfect? No. Are there times when it feels difficult? Yes. But do you give up? No, because the benefits are worth it.

The same goes for diets. We are seduced by their claims and don’t want to admit their shortcomings, such as restriction, deprivation, unrealistic expectations and often self-punishment through exercise, until we fall off the bandwagon. Instead, we sign up to a program without really thinking through whether it’s the right fit: Does it suit our lifestyle? Is it consistent with our personality and beliefs? Does it take into account our preferences regarding food and exercise?

Think about it another way: When a relationship ends, is it healthy to simply move on to the next one without reflecting on what went wrong? No, because we are guaranteeing that we will make exactly the same mistakes. Instead, we need to pause and reflect on what went wrong. What have we learned about ourselves and how can we apply this knowledge in our next relationship?

The same goes for our relationship with our bodies. By simply moving on to another diet or program without thinking about why the previous plan might have failed, we more further and further away from accepting who we are. And before we know it, we’ve internalised the belief that we need transformation in order to be happy. So we get stuck in that familiar cycle of looking for the next promise of happiness. Does that sound familiar?

THAT FOUR-LETTER WORD: DIET

When you think of the word ‘diet’, what definition comes to mind? According to the Oxford Dictionary, the noun ‘diet’ has two meanings:

  1. The kinds of food that a person, animal or community habitually eats.
  2. A special course of food to which a person restricts themselves, either to lose weight or for medical reasons.

I’m betting that you thought of the second meaning right? That’s because we’ve been led to believe that all diets are restrictive, with the aim of losing weight or addressing a medical issue, such as diabetes.

That’s not what Head First, Health Fast is about—the ‘diet’ you’ll read about here falls under the first definition. This book is about creating healthy habits to challenge unhealthy ones and making sure they stick. It does this by guiding you through your journey, beginning with self-reflection and reconnection. Armed with renewed self-awareness and insight, the book then boosts your knowledge and challenges myths associated with food, nutrition and exercise, before then giving you the skills to enable you to develop your very own sustainable healthy lifestyle program. Every person who works through this book will end up with a different plan—no more one-size-fits-all diets or programs. What you’ll end up with is something you have created based on who youare and the knowledge you’ve gained about what real sustainable health should look like.

But reflection must come first. How can you develop a sustainable healthy lifestyle plan if you don’t understand why previous attempts haven’t worked? It’s like a doctor prescribing medication before they make a diagnosis. What follows is a step-by-step guide to teach you how to reconnect with who you are, and how to use this information to develop a healthy lifestyle plan that will work for you—long term.

What can you expect if you follow this program?
Firstly, you can expect to be following something that you’ve created, not something that’s been developed for you. The aim of this book is sustainable health and healthy weight loss that can be maintained long term. What this means is that you will have a program that you can maintain, as opposed to something that lasts only 12 weeks. In other words, you will be making changes to your lifestyle that will stay with you for the long term. You will achieve this by examining your personality, values and beliefs around food and exercise, and developing your understanding around how these factors have impacted on your health behaviours. This is the first critical part of the puzzle. Next, you will be armed with the must-have nutritional and exercise knowledge essential for physical and mental health. Finally, you will learn the skills you need to enable you to put it all together into an individualised program. Ask yourself: Do you want fast and quick results that are temporary, or do you want long-term change that will see you achieve your goals and maintain them—permanently?

Not only is this program sustainable because it’s a self-nurturing approach that doesn’t deprive you of anything, but also because you will be learning to think about yourself in a different way. As someone who is good enough as they are. Someone who doesn’t need transformation. Someone who respects their mind and body enough to make sure both are in healthy tip-top condition! As such, you can expect to encounter plenty of ‘aha!’ moments as you learn that the answer to ‘Will I ever be happy and healthy?’ is completely within your reach.


About The Author

Leanne Hall is an experienced integrative psychologist with a focus on prevention, self-care and sustainable health. She specialises in body image and weight issues, depression, anxiety and eating disorders. Leanne has been a clinician and researcher at the University of Sydney and a lecturer and senior tutor at the School of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine, University of New South Wales. A qualified personal trainer and nutrition coach, she has a genuine belief that mind and body are interconnected, and is committed to motivating her patients to achieve a lifestyle that is healthy in both mind and body.

A TV presenter, she has been the mind and body expert for Channel 10’s The Living Room and regularly appears on Studio 10 as their go-to health expert. Leanne writes monthly for Open Colleges and has appeared on various programs including as the body image consultant on makeover show Style Squad for E Channel.

Leanne completed her first half-marathon in 2016, and her first triathlon in the same year. She is passionate about keeping fit, strong and healthy and plans on competing in many more events in the coming years. She believes in pushing limits, surrounding yourself with like-minded people and regularly stepping outside your comfort zone. Leanne’s mantra when it comes to exercise is simple: Life is to be lived, so get amongst it!


We hope you enjoyed this sample of Head First, Health Fast by Leanne Hall. Coming March 2017!

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