• Judith

Things aren’t always as they seem.....

Updated: Feb 4, 2019

February has turned up on the doorstep already and who is really prepared for it? It seems that time really does go faster as we get older, and although not the point of my blog, I couldn’t resist linking in a brief but interesting article about that very concept. The article is called "Why half of the life you experience is over by age 7" and you will find the link at the end of this blog.

With 32 days of 2019 passed already, how’s it working out for those new year’s resolutions and goals?

If you read my first blog, you may remember that for 2019 I hoped that my achievements will be:

1. To lose an immense amount of weight

2. To work on self-discipline

3. To become the total opposite of a procrastinator

I also suggested that not all goals are set to “reverse” character flaws that might seem very black and white. For example, weight gain isn’t always about gluttony, or a lack of exercise. Lack of self-discipline isn’t always about being oppositional or apathetic. In this blog,I thought I’d share some thoughts about how I became obese; it isn't as you might expect.

It happened slowly over a ten-year period. Before that, and apart from pregnancies, I was about 65 kg lighter than my current weight, very active and seemed to be able to run non-stop all day. Although I appeared to be coping well with life, raising three young sons with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as a single mum was hard….....no not hard.......it was more the stuff of “beam me up Scotty” or “stop the world I want to get off”. I think the universe listened because my body decided it had had enough…...and kaput …... decided to shut down.

This happened in 2007. I was 44 years old and my three sons were spread across infants to primary attending a mix of mainstream school, home schooling and Distance Education. The shutdown occurred only a few weeks into starting my journey of giving up smoking, and that’s where I thought the problem lay. Brain fog, lack of energy, inability to stay awake and excruciating muscular pain that felt as if someone was pulling the sinews in every part of my body in different directions. Oh…. when I say lack of energy, I mean zilch…...absolutely nothing. In a matter of weeks, I went from a manic, non-stop, capably functioning adult (as I always had been), to a woman that was inert, lethargic and slept almost 18 hours a day.

Forward a few weeks I visited my GP who explained that I was “burnt out”. My burnout was a result of the stresses associated with caring for my sons. Specifically it is referred to as Carergiver burnout or compassion fatigue. It felt like my battery just suddenly went flat. My GP explained that I had been surviving on adrenaline (and probably nicotine and caffeine as well), and now the adrenaline was just not coming to the party.

You may wonder how I parented and looked after my sons. That information might be useful for another blog but for now, I’d like to help you understand how my obesity developed from this situation.

During this time, I successfully gave up smoking, (honestly I think I was too fatigued to even want to smoke), but my appetite increased instead of decreasing as is normally seen in burnout. In the first three weeks of not smoking, I put on approximately 20 kgs. I had not long been diagnosed as diabetic and because of the associated fatigue, depression and brain fog, didn’t manage my diabetes at all. In 2011 I was diagnosed with severe obstructive sleep apnoea. I was as good as inert for 3/4 of the day, and pushed myself almost to the point of pain to complete basic everyday tasks such as shopping, school run, meal preparation, housework etc. When I had to I could wear a convincing mask, one the people closest to me could not even see through.

One overlooked factor that can contribute to obesity is high levels of stress which can cause a rise in the level of the hormone cortisol. So contrary to the normal symptoms of burnout, instead of having a reduced appetite, mine increased and in conjunction with my other conditions, long hours of sleep and lack of exercise, my weight just piled on.

Today almost 11 years later, I am recovering. The first real indicator of a reduction in fatigue was in April of 2018. The improvement in energy levels for the rest of the year remained constant, and it was by far one of the best years I have had since burning out.

Towards the end of last year I started a gym membership and Personal Training. It hasn’t been as effective as I had envisaged, and weight loss has been up and down, but working out at the gym is invigorating both physically and mentally. I love it and have the most committed and compassionate Personal Trainer!! I am ever so thankful I am moving again, feeling more energetic and can work toward that goal of weight loss and improved physical, mental and emotional health.

Why am I sharing this personal experience with you? Well.... I lost ten years of my life! Ten years of non-productivity and quality time with my children, and I don’t want it to happen to you!

If you are a carer, a high achiever, a workaholic or just have a very full-on life, please watch out for the signs and symptoms of burnout. The following is an excerpt of an article from Psychology Today (link to full article can be found at the end of my blog). The full article is an easy read and may just help you recognize those early signs to stress and burnout.

Here are some of the signs of physical and emotional exhaustion that burnout can produce:

  • Chronic fatigue

  • Insomnia. ...

  • Forgetfulness/impaired concentration and attention. ...

  • Physical symptoms. ...

  • Increased illness. ...

  • Loss of appetite. ...

  • Anxiety. ...

  • Depression

If you think you are heading down this road, reach out to your GP, a Counsellor or another Health Practitioner for some guidance. Get help before you lose a huge chunk from your life!

Further Reading

Why half of the life you experience is over by age 7

Autism Spectrum Disorder

Sleep Apnoea

Cortisol and Weight Gain

The Tell-Tale Signs of Burnout ... Do You Have Them?

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