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.

Thrive during changing times

During April, my hubby & I spent two weeks in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. Usually, you need to make your booking to this popular destination months in advance, so when newly acquainted friends invited us along on their booking, we jumped at the opportunity. 

Spending two weeks in the wild with no internet connectivity forces you to take a (highly recommended) mental pause. After a few days of digital detox (even digital withdrawal if I must be completely honest), you begin to observe nature in a completely new way. Sadly, it’s only once you unlock your eyes and ears (your information senses) from digital screens and online information overload, that you start to discover Mother Nature’s long-forgotten life lessons,  freely available to those who make it a priority to spend time with her. 

Some of these lessons Mother Nature (and camping) reminded me of were:

  1. Know, accept and embrace your strengths & weaknesses
    When camping with new friends for the first time, you can easily ruin a beautiful friendship if you impose your camping rituals on others or if you try to be too adaptable, not taking your own needs into account. My hubby and I both enjoy quiet surroundings (we are auditory roots with low thresholds for auditory input which means we function best in an environment with LESS noise/sounds). We decided to venture out in our own car each morning and do our own morning game drive after lively, festive, enjoyable “kuiers” (aka gatherings) around the campfire at night. This helped us reduce our daily auditory input and resulted in 0% irritation caused by prolonged listening. When nighttime came we were ready (and looking forward) to join in conversation and story-telling around the campfire. By acknowledging our sensory needs, we contributed towards sustained harmony in the group and were able to bring back many happy memories from our trip… and a newly established friendship. We are all different (thank goodness) and can live happier lives when prioritizing and addressing our own sensory needs. It will benefit not only ourselves but those around us as well. To discover your own sensory style and needs, complete your Sensory Matrix™️ by following THIS LINK.
  2. Realign your preferences to your current environment & circumstances
    If you ask any South African, the image that comes to mind when thinking of the Kgalagadi would usually contain descriptions such as “dry”, “sand”, “hot”, “tough”, “harsh”. That’s because the park is situated in a semi-arid area. Animals living in this area have learned to survive and thrive in these harsh conditions. During the past few months, something magical happened though: the rains came (substantially more than in other years) and transformed the park into a green, grassy, lush habitat. As regular Kgalagadi visitors arrive, you can hear their astonishment at the unexpected, new landscape. What’s even more magical is how the animals have adapted to their new environment. No more jackals begging for a piece of meat from your “braai” grid at night. Game can be found throughout the park and is not restricted to staying close to waterholes because food is plentiful and easily available.
    The animals’ adaptations to their changed environment reminded me of our new remote working environments since the start of the pandemic and how some of us are still trying to adapt. Maybe we should stop trying to change and mould our environments and rather look at new opportunities to make small changes in how we live in this space. For instance, we’re all stuck in front of digital screens all day. It need not be a burden though. By making small adaptations such as adjusting your notifications settings and screen brightness, you can reduce your sensory overload caused by visual- and auditory input from your digital environment. Or by setting an alarm to go off every 45 minutes, notifying you to stand up and take a digital break away from your devices, you can increase your productivity, resilience, and wellness. 
  3. Make a deliberate choice to incorporate at least one healthy habit into your schedule every day
    Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1984, once wisely used the old African proverb “there is only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time.” What he was trying to explain was that every new task or circumstance in life that seems daunting, overwhelming, and even impossible at first can gradually be accomplished by taking one small step at a time.
    Our so-called “new world” is rapidly changing: from separate offices to open-plan offices; open-plan offices to immediate (chaotic, crisis-driven) remote working when the pandemic started; remote working to hybrid working… Who knows what’s coming next?! To not get swept up by these waves of change, we all need loads of resilience to ensure our own sustainability. How do we achieve this? By incorporating simple, effective strategies into our everyday life to promote our own wellness, mental health, and happiness. So whether you need to schedule regular stretch breaks, adjust your digital sound notifications or check in with a friend every day, include (and stick to) daily healthy habits for your own good. It’s the sensible thing to do. If you would like to join our learning revolution and get monthly tips on how to promote your own health and wellness SIGN UP HERE.

I have a renewed respect for Mother Nature following our visit to the Kgalagadi. Go with what life gives you and make small changes to get the best from new situations and environments. Stop fighting change (it’s exhausting anyway), rather embrace it… one bite at a time.

 

 

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