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Year 2 progress note (PfHW VLCD participant, Halifax)

Posted in health, and personal

Numerous reflections abound on my experience of having completed a second full course of treatment with PfHW in Halifax, Nova Scotia (for more context, please see my detailed overview of Year One):

  • the myriad strange challenges and rewards of MR (Meal Replacement, a.k.a. the 12-Week, 900 cal/day Weight Loss Phase);
  • understanding the true root causes of my decades-old, disordered eating habits;
  • experiencing what clean eating feels like for the first time in years or decades or ever; and
  • reinforcing positive habits while accepting failure, especially during the rebound that can occur post-MR.

As I near the end of the program, a recognition has dawned that I must learn how to celebrate each success, no matter how small. A negative, prescriptive approach to my own diet and exercise has never, and will never, be a permanent solution for me.

Looking forward, I now see the “Mastery of Maintenance” to be a primary and unique focus (i.e. not on weight loss per se, but rather on mastering a “normal” way of eating that hopefully doesn’t contribute to further weight gain).

I’ve also successfully targeted my own personal keystone habit with which I hope to untie the whole knot (i.e. late-night eating). I tend to spend most of my mental time and energy in this area to breaking down that specific habit, and/or undermining environmental support for that behaviour in my life.

Underlying all of that technical stuff, I’ve settled on certain key conclusions:

  • self-acceptance (and lack of self-harm in attitude or demeanour) is absolutely necessary and non-negotiable to me;
  • authentic self-awareness is the precursor to that;
  • a willingness to suspend negative judgment towards myself is the precursor to that;
  • a desire to be more kind towards myself is the precursor to that; and
  • a willingness to cultivate mindful awareness of my current state is the absolute precursor to everything (i.e. denial is not an option).

Other post-hoc reflections:

  • The psycho-emotional reasons why we each have disordered eating habits form the infrastructure of our physical obesity. Our obesity is helped along metabolically quite nicely by the poor nutritional quality yet highly addictive nature of processed and fast foods, but nearly all of us obese people have some form of emotional eating as a chronic habit in our lives.
  • MR provides a crucial moment for participants to experience their lives without having to turn to food for emotional or psychological comfort. However, most participants require a great deal of psychological support as they enter the Transition phase back to Maintenance eating, and then back to “Real Life.”
  • The PfHW program infrastructure was crumbling throughout 2013 with various leaves of absence + a critical staff departure mid-year. For that and other reasons, I and many of my fellow participants felt ill-supported at several points throughout the program. I have no experience with any groups that have started after mine ended in late 2013.
  • Irrespective of the preceding, there was nearly a universal sense that additional psychological supports were required at many points. Some participants also indicated a willingness to pay a higher fee for the program if further psychological supports were on offer.

Recommendations for new or returning participants to PfHW:

  • Do not consider it a frivolous decision to enter this program, even if you can afford to participate. Seriously consider whether you are ready to deal with your true psychoemotional precursors to overeating. If you have a history of trauma, anxiety or depression, addiction, or eating disorders, you should expect that you will need additional psychological supports than you normally would in your everyday life.
  • If possible during MR, schedule a regular series of appointments with a psychotherapist or professional counsellor. Many participants experience a high level of mental acuity during that period, and it could prove to be an ideal time to unpack your own personal precursors to disordered eating with a professional.
  • Starting the program before the Christmas holiday or right after is ideal, for it’s a time of year least beset by social occasions revolving around food. Many found it liberating to be on MR for Christmas dinner, because it removed all the stress they would normally feel around what and how much they chose to eat that year.
  • At its core, this program is a Peer-Led Support Group. Do not underestimate the potential power of your group and your fellow group members. A members-only Facebook group can be a great way to share updates with each other, but I cannot overstate the importance of attending the weekly meetings and establishing rapport in person with your fellow group members. Those who do not establish any real-life relationships with other participants in their group are unlikely to feel adequately supported after the MR phase has been completed and the meeting frequency drops to twice each month.


  1. Jill Peapell
    Jill Peapell

    Thank you for your comments. I wrote a year ago saying that I was about to start the program in September. Next week 23 September is our last night. I personally have found it a wonderful experience but very hard work! I certainly look at food in a different light. I now have been taught to pre plan meals, read labels carefully, get a lot more exercise (I now do Nordic walking). I will continue to go to the clinic every two weeks to weigh myself to keep me accountable which we are encouraged to do. I will also meet up with some of our group for motivation! We did set up a private FB group which was helpful. Good luck in your journey.

    Fri Sep 19th 2014
  2. Thank you for writing, Jill! Glad to hear you’ve done well. I wish you luck with your follow-up work, because it’s not easy to maintain so much weight loss… :)

    Wed Sep 24th 2014

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