Kiwi Josh Thomson weighed 165kg and would lock himself in his room for days at a time in an attempt to avoid facing the world. Today he is a transformed man. How did he do it?
Image: Steps for Change(external link)
Having shed 70kgs and gained a truckload of self-belief, Josh then undertook a five-month journey along the Te Araroa trail, walking the length of New Zealand. His goal was to raise awareness of youth obesity and depression, and also funds for Healthify.
We asked Josh what his top tips were for overcoming obesity and depression. In a nutshell here’s what he told us:
1. Only you can change you – start with the small things
Josh says it took a long time to dawn on him that nobody else was going to “fix” him. Everyone had been telling him he needed to change but it wasn’t until that message finally sunk in that things began to happen. He says start by making small changes. “Don’t stare at Mt Everest – put your shoes on and think about base camp instead. Sit there for a year if you have to, but keep thinking about it.”
2. Sell your car, buy a bike – walk wherever you can, whenever you can
You don’t need the gym to get fit, Josh maintains. He began by doing a routine of leg and arm exercises in his bedroom every day until he felt strong enough to start walking. He used to miss out on doing stuff with friends because he couldn’t keep up with them, but after losing 20kg his knees and his head feel better and he now walks an average of 12km a day.
3. Cut out sugary drinks and alcohol – discover the salad jar
There was a time when Josh’s best friends were Coca-Cola and chocolate. Now he’s ditched those in favour of the salad jar and a diet low in processed food, sugar and alcohol. Not only is that good for his weight, it’s good for his mental health as well. Find out more about the wonders of a salad jar.(external link)
4. Find someone to talk to – find self-respect
Maybe key to all of this is the fact that Josh found a psychologist to talk to about his inner thoughts and feelings. That person taught Josh about self-love and self-belief. “No matter who you are, if you can find self-power and love for yourself you can plan [a way forward]. I have gained a level of respect in myself and level of integrity: I don’t want to go back to feeling that other way about myself. Write it in a document, where you are now and where you could be if you stick to your plan. The truth is, it is only you that can push yourself forward.”
5. Try exposure therapy
Josh’s counsellor also told him about “exposure therapy” where he was encouraged to face his fears. Exposure therapy involves facing the things you fear without any danger, to overcome anxiety. For example, Josh sometimes takes a more crowded street which he wouldn’t normally feel comfortable entering. He says it shows him that no matter the intensity of anxiety during the act, that feeling isn’t going to be long lasting and is therefore bearable.
6. Join something – help other people
“I want to walk into a room and when I leave everyone feels better,” Josh says with a smile. He has learnt that giving back and becoming part of something bigger than himself makes him feel good and others feel good, too. He has ties with DOC and Kauri 2000 and is a newly qualified scout leader, which he loves. Connecting with other people is a known way to improve mental health.
7. Learn to budget
When you are depressed and anxious money trouble often rears its heads. Josh says learning to budget has helped him achieve his goals and feel better about himself. “Most of my life I was dismal at saving. But with the Te Araroa goal I have saved more over 6 months than in my entire life!” He has top notch gear for his trip and some cool gadgets to get him through.
8. Don’t listen to negativity – imagine a hopeful scenario
Lastly, Josh says he is no longer interested in what other people think or say about him. And when he feels lonely or down he imagines a brighter future. “It’s like hope dragging you towards the future. It’s always evolving and I put in place techniques like this to stay strong.”
Josh documented his five-month journey along the Te Araroa trail, walking the entire length of New Zealand. Find out how he got on, on his Facebook page.(external link)