Losing with Integrity – Two Integrity Tales

“Winning with Integrity” is the wording you would usually expect, as you find it for instance in the heading of GM’s Code of Conduct or Leigh Steinberg’s book. But here I will write about successfully losing with integrity. Losing weight, that is. Like my previous post on Integrity and Turkish Coffee, this post is about Integrity Tales – practical examples of applied values, principles and aligned action in normal life.

Integrity Tales

I told these tales at our first company Integrity Café. As part of the SCCE’s Compliance and Ethics Week, I had organized a relaxed social gathering of our associates in the “happy hour” at the very end of the work week with coffee and cakes to talk about what integrity means in one’s own words and a way to break through the barriers of the high power distance of Turkish culture and at the same time positively use the collectivism and female characteristics of this culture to socialize the idea of Integrity & Compliance. I gave an introduction on company values and integrity and offered to share one of three stories: “The Integrity of Turkish Coffee”, “Why I came to Turkey” and “Losing with Integrity”. The first tale has already been told on this blog, the other two will be told here below.

Tale 1: Losing with Integrity

As a kid, I had always been a little chubby, never very sportive. I was the kid who was left last when we took turns picking players for football in elementary school; later I was the goalie. It was only in the final two years of high school that I finally found the types of sports I was really good at, that I started to spend a lot of time moving and got lean and slim (and self-confident).

Unfortunately, this state of fitness lasted only for a few years and while studying at university, some weight came back. Although I started working out at the gym later and went hiking in the beautifully rough Jura mountains during my year at CERN, I kept slowly and steadily gaining. What didn’t help either is the fact that cooking is one of my biggest hobbies.

With work, this became worse especially during my first job as an internal auditor where I traveled around the world twice and of course enjoyed the food specialities in all the places we visited – or junk food when there was no time or motivation to go grocery shopping or I returned late from a business trip.

In the year after I got married, this culminated in me almost hitting a record hundred kilos on the scales and I started experiencing some health problems from the weight and reduced mobility. So I made a decision to change my eating style and work out regularly and managed at that time to lose 30 kilos between April and September! Back to the weight I had had at the end of high school.

I achieved this with three important elements:

  1. I set myself a goal and believed it was achievable and the right thing to do. (VISION & VALUES, HEART)
  2. I defined new principles and rules for my diet (no/low carbs) and for my exercise (daily at least 1 hour). (STRUCTURE, HEAD)
  3. I put it into action; followed my eating rules and worked out regularly. (ACTION, HAND)

In addition, I weighed myself daily at the same time and under the same conditions and wrote down the results, what I had eaten the day before and how much I had worked out. (ASSURANCE, MONITORING)

And this is where integrity comes into the story, because without consciously using the terms I had built an effective Compliance Management System. I was acting effectively within a set of defined rules derived from principles guided by a “good” vision and values. And I had established a documentation and monitoring system which showed me at the same time how well my compliance system was helping me to progress in achieving my objectives and was helping me get analytical insights into deviations from track, i.e. what would be the effect if I strayed from my defined diet or exercise regime for a day.

Seeing the positive effect was greatly motivating, also for my private and professional life. I also found a kind of new inner sense of purpose and balance during these months. I stayed at home during this time taking care of my son Jakob during the second half of his first year while my wife could concentrate on starting her career in Germany after moving to Germany and giving birth to our child. I especially enjoyed my time with my baby son, daily walks (later jogging) outside with his stroller; I completed my professional certification as CISA; found a new job after my paternity leave.

Then I slowly let go of the control again. While I managed to keep up my disciplined eating style quite long, I gave up sports within the first two months back at work. I tried to get in some regularity again and again but failed. The weight gain was slow at first, maybe 2-3 kilos in the first 2 years. Then, with our second child, moving to another apartment, then our own house, another job change, move and finally my little daughter – I had gained about 15 kilos back over the course of 6 years.

Meanwhile my eating discipline was totally gone and I couldn’t bring myself to get it back. I was stressed from work, from organizing the family life with three little kids, from running and keeping my hamster’s wheel turning.

Tale 2: Why I came to Turkey

That’s when my wife and I decided to move to Turkey. We had always said that we would one day come to live here for a part of our lives. I had actually promised my mother-in-law at my wedding that I would take my family to Turkey eventually – she expected it to be after 5 years, eventually it was after 8 years.

I had also made a commitment between myself and my children: with a Turkish mother and a German father, they have an equal birthright to both nationalities, both identities, both countries’ culture, history, both religious traditions and last but not least both languages as their “mother” tongues. Since my wife had had some uncomfortable experiences being subjected to discrimination as a Turkish working mother in Germany, I was keen that my children should know Turkey not only as a nice country for the holidays and otherwise look down on it as many Germans consciously or unconsciously (many more) do. I wanted to give my children the opportunity to feel at home in both countries and cultures so that later in their lives they will have a true choice of where they want to make their lives.

And last but not least for myself this was a question of personal experience but also fairness and respect towards my wife and her family. Why should I expect her to be the foreigner in my country? Why should Germany be the “better” of the two countries to live, work and raise a family? I had made the choice to marry a woman from another country and culture. So what would that be worth and what would it say about my own respect towards her and her culture if I tried to claim her and our children fully for Germany?

So the decision to go to Turkey was also an Integrity Story: a story of values, principles and finally aligned action.

Losing it once again

And this is where the story loops back to my weight, because that situation really deteriorated after moving to Istanbul. About 10 months after coming here I had put on more than 10 kilos and thus regained everything I had ever lost and was again approaching the red line of 100 kilos. With health side effects I couldn’t ignore any more.

Maybe the situation has to be extreme and there has to be a clear red line to take determined action. For me, it was a colleague who gave me the needed impulse at the right point of time by telling me we had a very good dietitian coming to the office as a company service every 2 weeks and also fixing me the first appointment immediately.

The dietician, Yeşim Temel Özcan, basically told me to do almost exactly what I had done by myself 8 years before: reduce carbohydrates, increase greens and proteins and work out regularly. So with her help, I successfully managed to put into effect my old regime again and to stay true to it without exceptions (= be fully compliant) despite various Bayrams, management dinners and birthday celebrations. I lost 25 kilos between April and October.

And regained not only my health but rediscovered also my inner feeling of balance and integrity.

So, it is possible not only to win but also to lose big time with integrity. Lose weight, that is.

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