Lives Tyabb, Vic
Job Certified life coach
Starting weight 120kg
Weight now 70kg
Weight lost 50kgThe weight gain
When pressures weighed down on Meghann Birks during high school, she started using food to cope, and that weighed down her body.
“My eating went out of control and I gained 20kg in three months,” she says. “Now I think I was probably depressed,” she admits, looking back. Her overeating continued throughout uni, until she was 120kg. “My eating was secretive and I stuffed down my feelings and ate until I was numb.” At times she lost weight by purging and abusing laxatives, or exercising compulsively, but it always came back, plus more.The weight loss catalyst
At 21, Birks did human rights work in Guatemala and didn’t deal well with the poverty she saw there. “I felt helpless and, at that point, I started drinking and using drugs to cope.” She moved to South Korea in 2004 to start afresh and there she hit breaking point. “I’d lost some weight through taking drugs, but I was still 90kg. I saw a doctor in March 2005 because I was depressed and always sick. He said, ‘Meghann, if you don’t make some very significant changes to your lifestyle, you probably won’t live to be 30’.’’ Birks was in the beginning stages of arteriosclerosis (a type of heart disease) and had early signs of liver cirrhosis. “To be faced with your mortality at 25 was freaky,” she says. For the next eight months Birks nosedived to rock bottom. “I’d eat and drink until I’d pass out every night. My last binge drink was on November 9, 2005 – I woke up on the floor, covered in my own vomit, which had blood in it as my stomach was bleeding.”
Deciding this wasn’t the life she wanted, Birks hired a life coach to help her set manageable goals and stick to them. Her immediate priority: to get sober. She entered a recovery program and, once she’d completed it, nourishing her body with healthy food and working out was a natural progression. “You don’t want to feed your body junk if you feel good about yourself,” she says.
“My life coach got me to write down my goals, in very specific, positive language. One was ‘By Christmas, I have lost 5kg and I feel lighter, happier and healthier’. Imagining you’ve already achieved something helps cement in your mind that you will get there.” Her coach also challenged beliefs that were limiting Birks – when she’d say she “couldn’t” run, her coach would ask her why not. “So often we accept those beliefs we’ve always had. Having someone challenge them was an eye-opener.” Coaching also helped her see that instead of using food or wine to cope, she could call someone to talk about her day.Sticking to diet and lifestyle change
It took Birks nearly two years to reach her goal weight but she did it; eventually becoming a runner and completing her first half marathon in October 2007. “What’s really changed is the way I channel my determination,” she says. “Where I once threw everything I had at being as destructive as possible, I now take that force and use it to make positive changes in my life.” Today Birks trains for races, has her own life-coaching business and a baby. “Sticking at something takes practice, and coaching gave me strategies to keep on when I wanted to quit. Some days I really don’t want to go for a run, and on those days I’ll do a mini-visualisation about how good I feel when my heart is pounding and all I can hear is my breath and footsteps on the pavement. A life coach made me accountable.”
Make life coaching work for you
A life coach will help you define goals, then make you report back on how you went.Get started Shop around for one who specialises in health and wellness to help you lose weight. “Even better, find one who is also a nutritionist or dietitian,” says Clive Jones, education manager at the Life Coaching Institute of Australia. Life coaching is not a legislated industry, and there are a lot of quacks. Go to icfaustralasia.com to search for one, and then ask a lot of questions: about their qualifications, evidence of accredited bodies they belong to and how long they’ve been practising for. If you try one and you’re not keen on them, try another.