by Stu King
It’s World Mental Health Day and so often supporting people on their journey to lose weight is more often than not, a task of dealing with some of their mental health issues. Sometimes they are serious and we focus on supporting people to improve their mental wellbeing before they are able to make meaningful change. At all times we are supporting people to make structural changes in their physical and social environment. This helps ensure that they are improving and maintaining social relationships that support their goals and feel empowered to continue making realistic, sustainable change, change that they own, feel responsible for and in control of.
We support people to achieve this using the Habit before the habit. We run experiments to ensure people plan effectively, but also recognise that none of what they are doing is a zero sum game, winner takes all. It is just an experiment! If parts of it, or all of it doesn’t work, that’s OK. We are all human and we don’t seem to predict the things that come out of nowhere and knock us off track. This is part of learning how to change effectively. Redefining our relationship with failure is one of the core components of building systems of change that work in the context of your real life.
Mike joined the Beezee Gutless programme last year. Supporting Mike through PTSD and helping him lose weight is one of those reminders you need sometimes that what we are doing can be so profound that it can literally change lives. You can see Mike’s story here.
Running the company means I am more remote from the everyday delivery than I would like to be. However, being involved in Mikes journey from the start has been a privilege. He is a likeable character and was clearly in need of mental health support above and beyond anything else. So we stopped focussing too much on weight reduction and focused instead on getting Mike active and helping Mike socialise in a comfortable environment. This started by cultivating a supportive and friendly atmosphere, full of banter and camaraderie, in line with the PHE and Men’s Health Forum guidance (https://www.menshealthforum.org.uk/sites/default/files/pdf/how_to_weight_final2_lr.pdf).
I jokingly said to the lads one day that I was building an office in my garden and if any of them were bored they were more than welcome to join in. My colleague and friend Craig Lister, who runs Green Gym has been leading the way in this type of social bonding whilst doing good in local areas, so although it was a tongue in cheek request, I knew that it would be a great thing to bond over. Mike jumped at the chance to come and help. He was fantastic and very handy. He spent time chatting with my dad (my dad had years of experience in Trucking as an engineer and Mike used to be a truck driver) and with one of my best friends who was also helping on the job. We got to know each other well and it seemed to energise Mike to know he was helping others whilst getting out of the house.
Mike was getting into his physical activity in a big way, regularly training with the Gutless trainer, Phil, with whom he had also closely bonded. He had lost around 40kg’s at this point, but the most significant change was in his mental health. He was a different person. He was volunteering with Gutless, supporting other men on their journey to lose weight and providing the benefit of his experience, both physically and mentally. This was regularly commented upon as a massive boost for the guys to see and chat with Mike about his experiences. He was also working for BeeZee Bodies, promoting Gutless and doing administration work to help him get back into the job market, having not worked for a couple of years because of his PTSD. He did so much to help others that earlier this year I was incredibly proud to watch him win the overall Volunteer of the Year, organised by Central Bedfordshire Council (proud pic from the night above). But the thing that I rarely get from running BeeZee Bodies any more (and I used to get more regularly!) was spending time with his family.
His mother and sister pulled me to one side and thanked Ben (who actually did much of this work on Gutless by the way) and I for everything we had done with Mike. They expressed their concern that they had watched him crumble over a few years and had tried everything to help him but to no avail. They were emotional in recounting their worry that he might fall prey to the biggest killer of men between 16 and 45 in the UK; suicide. It made me emotional then and it makes me emotional now (literally right now!). To support people like Mike is worth all of the effort, the bid writing, the tough decisions and sleepless nights about ensuring everyone will be paid who work so hard to improve the lives of others.
Mike is now retraining to become a fitness instructor so that he can give to other people what Gutless and Phil gave to him. What a privilege and honour to be involved in a small part of this great man’s journey.
So cut yourself some slack. You’re human just like the rest of us. Learn from your experiments, make small changes and run the experiment.