How Sensory Intelligence® helped me lose 10 kgs

I am Amanda Oosthuizen, a registered Occupational Therapist with a special interest in Health and Wellness, Mental Health, and Sensory Intelligence®.

I arrived on earth on a cold winter’s day in a small rural town in South Africa, being born as the fourth of five daughters in our family. What I can remember from my early childhood days, was the extreme cold I experienced as a child (not that I wasn’t properly clothed or that our home didn’t have a few fireplaces, we even bathed with a gas heater in the bathroom during winter). Temperature is one of the things that caused me a lot of discomfort until I learned about my sensory thresholds and how to self-regulate during the Sensory Intelligence® Practitioners Course.

As a child, I was very clumsy and did not engage in a lot of sports activities. In those days, it was expected that everyone at school participate, whether they were able to or not. I found it extremely humiliating because I struggled with it. My task completion was slow, I had poor attention and lacked concentration. The class environment was quite overwhelming for me on a sensory level. I often felt overloaded and out of control. This had a huge impact on my confidence and self-esteem.

All of these factors contributed to the start of my unhealthy relationship with food: I used food to self-regulate (only learning many years later through Sensory Intelligence® that sipping/sucking was one of the ways in which to regulate your nervous system). Fortunately, I was blessed with intelligence, so I graduated from school and entered university where I obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Occupational Therapy.

My career started off at a hospital for Tuberculosis patients. I enjoyed working in the pediatric ward with children who were long-term patients. My next appointment was at a school for deaf learners. There I worked with children with developmental delays and my journey with sensory integration started. With deaf learners, you have to gesture, demonstrate, and sign your instructions, so by doing this, my balance and coordination improved! I started to feel more comfortable in my body. I always had an interest in mental health and was fortunate to work at a private mental health facility for the next 20 years of my career, doing individual and group therapy.

In 2021 I signed up for the Sensory Intelligence® Practitioners Course with Dr. Annemarie Lombard, founder, and CEO of Sensory Intelligence®. I was interested in sensory integration and how it could be utilized to help improve the physical and mental health of adolescent and adult clients.

A few weeks before the course started, my mother passed away, after a short illness at the age of 91. I was devastated, not knowing how I would manage going to work every day and doing this online course for 6 weeks. Grief puts you in a place where you are not able to function properly on a daily basis, let alone try to learn a new approach!

Thankfully I persevered, completing my own Sensory Matrix™ as part of the course. I was totally fascinated by learning about my own and others’ sensory styles. At last, I realized there was nothing wrong with me – it was just my own unique sensory style, something I had to understand, accept, and learn to manage.

Sensory Intelligence® is embedded in neuroscience; the results and strategies are based on your unique sensory needs determined by your DNA. Its aim is to guide people towards individualized strategies to cope better with daily home and work environment demands.” – Dr. Annemarie Lombard

I started implementing my recommended sensory snacks and sensory diet, based on my Sensory Matrix™ results, and after a few weeks realized… that I was losing weight! Although I was eating my usual diet (not always very healthy… ), I was still losing weight. Baffled, I wondered what was going on and then realized… by implementing sensory strategies, I was self-regulating, in a more healthy and non-food way. My stress levels dropped significantly. I felt less irritable. I was able to do more things and was more productive. Suddenly I was very aware of the role my environment played in my state of well-being and the impact it had on my senses. I will never look back and am grateful to have discovered my own sensory intelligence®. It has changed my life.

I believe that we can all discover our authentic selves through knowing our own unique sensory thresholds (something which is different for all of us). When thinking of self-regulation, the image of painting on a canvas comes to mind: in my view, self-regulation can be seen as preparing the canvas, ensuring you, the artist, can create your masterpiece which is your life. The quality of your life will be enhanced by learning how to self-regulate throughout each day, especially during difficult situations.

If you are on a journey of self-discovery, health and weight-loss, and would like me to accompany and assist you, send an email to Sensory Intelligence® and they will put us in contact.

If you are a health care provider searching for a revolutionary, effective, neuroscientific way to empower your clients towards improved health and well-being, join the Sensory Intelligence® learning journey by signing up to receive updates about their next Practitioners Course.

How learning Sensory Intelligence®️ improved my career

If you would ask me whether I knew, I’d have to be honest and say yes, I did.
Deep down, did I know that I needed to pivot in my professional life? Yes.
Deep down, did I realize my time was running out for my chosen career path? Yes.
Deep down, did I acknowledge that a change was needed to ensure longevity? Yes.

Having said that…
Did I understand why a change was necessary? No.
Did I grasp the consequences of continuing on the same career path? No.
Did I have any idea which detour to follow? No.

Let me sketch the background for you. When I registered to study Occupational Therapy, I already had my area of special interest mapped out in my mind: paediatrics! Learning about and working with the human body and brain, and applying it to children was my number one choice when asked what I wanted to do with my life. The other answer was simply that I wanted to live a happy life.

And so, after 4 years of studies, I graduated in 1999 and, for the following 20 years, helped children with a variety of difficulties overcome their weaknesses and reach their potential. The children’s hugs, laughter, playfulness and innocence were like a tonic and I loved spending time with the little ones.
For the first 14 years, I worked in consulting rooms and did mainly individual therapy. Throughout this time there were never more than two therapists working in adjacent rooms simultaneously. Sessions were scheduled ahead of time and I was able to plan my days and be in control of my time and space.

In 2013 we moved to a small coastal town in the Eastern Cape. A wonderful opportunity presented itself: I would be able to move my practice to a prestigious school which most of the youngsters from our- and neigbouring towns attended. I was so grateful that everything was falling into place.

  • Although the school was 70km away from home, I would be able to commute making use of the school bus.
  • The location of my new consultation- and therapy room would be adjoining the pre-primary and primary school. Most of my little clients ranged from 3-12 years old.
  • Communication and collaboration with teachers and other therapists would be easy since we would see each other during break time in the staff room.
  • I would be able to observe my little clients’ through my practice window during their free play time and could learn so much about their strengths and difficulties.
  • During my daily 2 x one-hour bus rides, I would be able to use the commuting time to get a lot of admin done.

Everything went smoothly and I couldn’t have asked for a better school to establish my practice.
After a few years of traveling to and from school, I began to realize that my energy levels were dropping, my anxiety levels were rising and I was becoming a less likable person to be around at home.
But how could this be? I loved spending time with my therapy kids and was blessed to have the opportunity to be part of such an amazing school with the best teachers and involved parents.

In February 2017 I attended Dr. Annemarie Lombard’s Comprehensive Practitioners Training Course and this is when the penny dropped for me.
After completing my own Sensory Matrix™ and unpacking the results during the course, I realized what the issue was: I am a sensory avoider with low sensory thresholds trying to make it work in an environment overloaded with constant sensory input.

  • My low threshold for sounds meant that I was easily overwhelmed by kids chatting to each other on the bus.
  • My low threshold for touch made it difficult for me to sit between two people on the bus and I easily became distressed.
  • As a sensory avoider, my preference for predictability made it hard to cope with people unexpectedly approaching me with questions first thing in the morning as I got off the bus, without warning.
  • My low auditory and visual thresholds caused havoc in my brain when the kids would play (as they should!) right outside my practice.
  • As a sensory avoider, my preference for smaller group interactions meant that I rarely visited the staff room during break times.
  • Due to my low threshold for movement, the 2 x one-hour bus rides filled with irregular movement dysregulated me early in the day.

During the Comprehensive Practitioners Training Course, I realized that my sensory style and my work environment at the time were not a match and as a result, I was in sensory overload for most of my work week. I realized this was not a sustainable option for me and explored different avenues of pivoting my service offerings to avoid burnout and ensure a lasting, productive, enjoyable, healthy career.

What changes have I made because of those AHA moments during the Practitioners Training Course?

  • I now know that I do not cope well with too much noise, so I work from home.
  • I now know that I work best when there is less visual input, so I’ve arranged my workspace (home office) and online workspace (desktop) to be calm and uncluttered.
  • I now know that I do not cope well with excessive, arhythmical movement, so I don’t do hands-on therapy with children anymore and therefore don’t need to change my body position excessively throughout the day. A leisurely walk and timed stretch breaks away from my desk do the trick to get the necessary movement to stay self-regulated.
  • I now know that individual- or small-group interactions work better for me, so I do individual, online, sensory coaching sessions and co-facilitate online workshops.

Because of my own personal AHA moments of self-awareness and self-acceptance, I am able to guide and empower my clients in their own life struggles and help them be the masters of their own sensational universe.

Not everyone needs to change their career paths, sometimes a small adjustment is all that is needed.
For me, pivoting according to my sensory needs resulted in big, positive outcomes.

I am again living a happy life (and I’ve heard that I’m again a more likable person at home… most of the time).

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