“I gained a new attitude’and lost 20 pounds!”

Putting perfectionism on hold helped this Calgary manager cope, and lose weight

Source: Web exclusive: June 2008

Things were falling apart for Corrie Banks during the six months leading up to her wedding— though she would have been the last person to admit it. The 37-year-old Calgary manager was putting in 16-hour work days while also planning her wedding, buying and moving into a new home, and finishing school part-time. At the same time, two close friends exited her life (one passed away, another became estranged). “I just kept on going, instead of looking after myself,” she says, noting that the cracks began to show. “I was really irritable, short-tempered and tired all the time. When I didn’t have anything to do, I wouldn’t go anywhere, and I would make excuses not to see my friends.” For two years after her 2005 wedding, Banks kept up her superhuman pace, as the stress and 55 pounds piled on. (Click here to see Banks’ Before photo.)

The breaking point

A confrontation with her boss in January 2007 made Banks aware of how her stress and bad temper were affecting others. Although the boss later apologized for his abusive behaviour, she realized that that her own communication approach was partly to blame. “I was being really irritable,” she says. “I was totally overwhelmed all of the time, and healthwise, I wasn’t feeling so great. But I’m an all or nothing person, and I’d go on a diet and then quit if I cheated in the slightest.”

The challenge

To let go of her perfectionist tendencies and gain some work-life balance, while sticking to a weight-loss plan.

The plan

Consulting Sherri Olsen, a Calgary-based life/career coach, about once a month for practical strategies on managing goals and expectations and techniques to deal with stress and lighten up her leadership style. “I finally admitted I needed outside help,” says Banks. To help shed those extra pounds, Banks decided to start walking more, wear a pedometer and ride a stationary bike when watching TV.

The biggest obstacle

Believing that it’s okay not to be perfect, and acknowledging the effect of her forceful, sometimes condescending communication style. Banks believes an overly critical upbringing is responsible for her perfectionist tendencies. “The biggest change came from acknowledging I was doing that to other people. It breaks my heart every time I think about it.”

The results

Over the past six to eight months, Banks has received feedback that colleagues are much more comfortable talking to her. “My boss has told me he’s seen a major transformation.” Her husband seems happier, too. “He’s too diplomatic to say I’m a nicer person,” says Banks. “But he’s happy because I am not snipping at him. We laugh together and we’re having fun again.” As for her physique, before she would try fad diets and aim to exercise six days a week, and then quit when she couldn’t keep up. Dropping that perfectionist, all-or-nothing approach to diet and exercise helped Banks shed 20 pounds.

The road ahead

“I’m still trying to slowly and consciously change my overall eating habits,” says Banks. She also complements her healthier eating with one-hour walks five times a week, as well as some yoga and strength training.

The tips

  • Ask for the right kind of help. Banks opted for a life/career coach over a psychologist or other talk therapist because, as she says, “I’m an action-oriented person. Questioning how I ended up here is not as important to me as how I should move forward.” Think about what kind of help would mean the most to you, and talk to your doctor to rule out depression.
  • Visualize new types of success. Banks employs an exercise in bed every morning and every night: She visualizes the day as a vertical line extension. “Instead of a 90-degree angle, I shift the line to 45-degree angle. And I tell myself it’s okay to walk at a 45-degree angle today.”
  • Identify triggers. Banks has learned to identify the stages of how she gets from point A to F—the point when she’s overwhelmed or crying—and to stop herself before she reaches that negative end point. “Am I perfect? Asks Banks. "No way. I still have occasional meltdowns. But it’s not a way of being anymore."

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