“Your body is a garage to park your soul. Treat it with respect.”
If you’ve followed our progress, you would have noticed that in Atlanta I was much heavier than I was in Sydney—by eight kilos in fact. I’ve got skinny arms and legs (so my mother keeps telling me), and I tend to carry any extra weight around my waist. Eight kilos are pretty hard to hide in a bikini! It was a struggle for me. I was training hard. I wasn’t eating the wrong foods (or so I thought), and I wasn’t eating too much.
The breakthrough for me came when I began seeing a Bicom practitioner. The Bicom is a machine manufactured in Germany. It is widely used in Europe, but rarely in Australia. It can be used to identify and treat allergies without the use of needles or drugs. It’s amazingly effective.
I discovered that I was allergic to dairy products, wheat and yeast, and so I cut them out of my diet immediately. Then I began to eat foods that were right for me. I hadn’t understood previously how much my own body could tell me about what was happening. Despite all my effort and hard work, I’d forgotten to listen to my body. Every morning I’d wake up and, before long, I’d begin sneezing. I later found out that it was because of the milk I was putting on my cereal. As soon as I cut the milk out, the sneezing stopped. We investigated more and got down to an amazing level of detail. The more I listened to the Bicom practitioner, the more I realized I had to listen to my body in different ways than I had done in the past.
We identified other food and beverages that were no good for me—things such as pineapple juice and red kidney beans. Even a few of those beans in a salad were enough to set off an allergic reaction. It was a real turning point for me to discover that I could know, in precise detail, what I could safely eat and what I needed to avoid. My energy levels improved dramatically and so did my well-being. But most importantly, I began to lose weight. Then, to my despair, my practitioner left Brisbane.
Enter Marcia Pittman. Marcia is able to de-sensitise people to their allergies so that they can, on occasions, actually eat foods to which they were previously allergic or intolerant. In addition to her work with the Bicom, Marcia is also very good at changing people’s perceptions, as part of their total well-being. She calls it Neuro-emotional Therapy (NET). Neuro-emotional Therapy and its associated discipline of Neuro-emotional anti-sabotage Therapy (NEAT), deals with the emotional components of people’s lives that affect their physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual health. The medical profession generally seeks to address emotional issues through either medication or psychiatric counselling, or a combination of both.
When you first see someone like Marcia, or anyone else, for treatment, the ailment you describe to them is called the ‘presenting issue’. What Marcia does is go beyond the presenting issue, to the emotional component or components. NET then connects the present experience with the original time in that person’s life when the same emotions were experienced. This releases the person from the continued negative impact of both the original and the present factors affecting their well-being.
The technique uses aspects of kinesiology (muscle testing) to identify both the emotional components involved and the original time and context in which they were experienced. NEAT expands the NET process by dealing with emotional factors blocking (sabotaging) a person’s capacity to function effectively in certain situations. It restores confidence and competence in situations in which people might have been overcome with fear, anxiety or feelings of inadequacy.
Marcia works with people afflicted with everything from chronic fatigue to cancer. And she’s kept people alive beyond their doctor’s prognosis. The reason she pursued NET is because she found that when someone was adjusted chiropractically, the adjustment often didn’t ‘hold’ due to people’s emotional reactions to certain situations. A sore neck, for example, might be caused by the way you react to the kids, not just because your neck is ‘out’.
The emotional strength, self-belief and confidence I needed to win in Sydney was heavily influenced by the work I did with Marcia. In the months before the Games, we dealt with a lot of emotional issues, many of which went back to my childhood. She helped me understand why I ‘froze’ in Atlanta at 3–2. She ended up working with me every day in Sydney, on relationships, family, volleyball, everything.
“Success is measured by effort”
We covered many different issues, but I want to tell you about three that I believe directly influenced the outcome of our quest to win a gold medal. The first issue related to the spectators who flocked to see us play. The stadium at Bondi was a fabulous venue, capable of holding 10,000 people. It was packed for every one of our games. The noise was incredible and the crowd was naturally and overwhelmingly pro-Australian. Kerri and I had never played in front of such a supportive crowd before and when we played our first match, it was quite unnerving. The emotions of the crowd were
very audible. They cheered wildly when we won a point, and groaned loudly when we made a mistake.My emotions fluctuated in tune with those in the crowd. At the end of our first match, I was emotionally exhausted.
Marcia was able to help me understand what had happened and prepare me, via NET, to draw on the energy of the crowd as a source of emotional energy for myself, without being sucked into those ups and downs. This made an amazing difference, and I found I could actually connect with the crowd and draw a positive response at crucial moments in the matches that followed. It made a big difference to my attitude and consistency. I’ll have more to say about the crowd issue later.
This may sound a bit weird, but the second major issue we dealt with was my tendency to feel sorry for the opposition whenever we were winning and to get caught up in their disappointment to such an extent that my over-sympathetic response was affecting my game badly. Since we were there to win and our goal was gold, feeling sorry for the opposition wasn’t all that helpful! Marcia helped me to switch off the sympathy and concentrate instead on winning. Teams playing at Olympic standard are hard enough to beat as it is.
“Some people dream of success. Others wake up and achieve it. ”
The third area we covered was adjusting my energy levels. Sometimes I’d walk in to see her and say “I’ve got this cold and I can’t shake it”. She’d say “It’s not a cold. You’re reacting emotionally to something”. She made me realise that stress and tension come from within. In a funny kind of way, many of us decide to get sick. Negative views of the world and negative emotions stress the immune system. That’s a scientific fact. We do the strangest things to scuttle our success.
Whether it’s because we’re afraid of leaving our nest or afraid of failing, we can freeze when it comes time to open our wings…be bold.” -Michael Johnson
In my case, we had identified that my physical problems were probably due to a fear of losing. I was asking myself, after a loss, “How do I explain this to everyone else?” When you ask yourself the wrong question, you’ll look for and find the right answer to the wrong question. And even if you don’t consciously know you’re doing it, your body does.
I got ‘scientific’ about my body. If I hadn’t, I would have been powerless over my prolonged bouts of sneezing, continuing to blame them on ‘something in the air’. Often, people who receive good advice say “Well, I’m not giving up milk for anyone.”, because it seems such an inconvenient, thing to do. I soon changed that tune when I realised that following Marcia’s advice increased my energy level and rapidly improved my general well-being.
I wasn’t eating the right foods for my body and my blood type, as I’d discovered by reading Cindi O’Meara’s book Changing Habits, Changing Lives. I had food allergies and didn’t know it. I just wasn’t listening enough to the messages my body was sending out. When I cut out dairy products, bread, pasta and a lot of the red meats, I lost my excess weight within weeks. Now I’m probably eating more ‘fatty’ foods than I used to, but they’re the right foods for my body.
There’s one small catch. You still have to work and train hard. My strength and conditioning coach, Phil Moreland, planned a very specific training program that was designed to meet my identified needs. Phil calls himself ‘Jack’ (of all trades), and looks after our strength, stability, speed and flexibility, as well as the huge task of coordinating other medical support for us. Phil doesn’t only make sure we achieve our fitness goals and are more efficient on the sand. He also makes sure we have fun and variety during the hard slog of preparing for tournaments. Phil has taught me that, no matter how monotonous things get as you eat, sleep and breathe volleyball, there is no need to stop enjoying yourself. I couldn’t have done it without him. It is very important to have somebody there to keep you
on your toes.
Another significant part of my weight loss was Kurek Ashley. Before I met Kurek, who has been my motivation coach and mentor for two years now, I was continually asking myself: “Why am I fat?” He changed that question—it wasn’t the right one. Think about it: if you ask yourself “Why am I fat?” you’ll only get certain, specific and probably not very flattering, answers, like “because you eat poorly”, or “You don’t work hard enough”. He changed it to “How do I get fit?” or “How do I get healthy?” As you can imagine, the answer varies depending on the question you ask. My question was all about selfimage. It was a derogatory question. Furthermore, I thought the solution was to starve my body of foods it might need. By limiting my model of the problem (or my model of the world) I was unable to perceive what it was I needed in order to achieve my goal. The answer to the new questions was all about examining what might be poisoning my body, and what I should do to identify the culprits!
“There are two things to aim at in life: first, to get what you want; and, after that, to enjoy it. Only the wisest of us achieve the second”
Suddenly my brain, and The Voice inside it, stopped putting me down and started helping me find solutions to new problems. I don’t even call it a diet any more. I call it a healthy eating regime, because that’s the way I see it. A diet is temporary. A healthy eating regime is a life change. A diet concentrates on eating. My healthy eating regime got to the roots of many other issues I had with myself.
The media has a lot to do with perpetuating myths about diets, because the market for the diet industry is substantial, and each new diet is a new product to sell. Someone always stands to make money from it. In other words the media is a big part of The Voice that drags many of us down. Even those who are not image-conscious can be adversely affected by the media’s obsession with image.
“Trying harder with the same ideas and the same approach may not solve the problem. You may need to move ‘laterally’ to try new ideas and a new approach.” -Edward De Bono
De Bono also said that a problem is merely the difference between what one has and what one wants. Life presents many problems—I don’t mean problems in a negative sense, I mean things to be solved—but the way we define those problems, the words we use to describe them to ourselves and others, is the only thing that makes the difference.
When I convinced myself I was ‘fat’, I tried to ‘diet’. When I looked at it as something else, a new solution presented itself. When Kerri and I were looking at the world from the bottom up, it all looked too hard, too much of a climb. As soon as we decided to have a look at it from the top down, things began to change for us and our own actions began to fall in line with this new perception.
“There are three major sources of energy: food, air and impressions.” -Brian Tracy
Goal setting and visualisation also had a lot to do with my sudden, dramatic weight loss. There’s a lot to be said for that old 1970s adage ‘think thin’. Kurek and I decided on an ideal ‘fighting’ weight of 72kg. I posted that figure up on my fridge. Whenever I went to the fridge, I say to myself “I’m 72 kilos.”, even when I was 78. It was exactly the same as saying in 1998 “I’m a gold medallist.” and “I may not be a millionaire now, but I believe I will be, and therefore, I can be”. The more you see that vision and the clearer you see it, the easier it is for the brain to go there. You need to make it real, three-dimensional. If it’s a new car, you need to smell it, see it, feel it, and hear it. Surround yourself with pictures of the car you want. Test-drive it, even set a date to buy it, then march towards it.