Welcome!Hey there! I'm Holly. A 40+ year old insurance-nerd wife, mom, beauty lover, and about a million other things in between. This is the place where I share about our lives, what I'm currently loving, books I'm reading, plus-size style, beauty recommendations, health + fitness endeavors and anything else I'm finding interesting at the moment. Thanks for stopping by!
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Category Archives: Weight Loss
It could be just a case of the Monday Crabbies, but I need to take a minute to vent for a second. I know people generally have good intentions, or at least I like to think that. But losing a good amount of weight in the last year has really given me some hardcore evidence that many people just don’t think before they speak.
Let me enlighten you in case you consider any of the following compliments, THEY ARE NOT:
1. WOW! You look SO MUCH BETTER!
Hey, thanks asshole! Insulting what I looked like less than a year ago doesn’t endear me to you.
2. You look fantastic! Well everywhere except for this spot right here. (Insert awkward physical touching) Keep up the good work though!
Yep, this did just happen to me this weekend, and no I could NOT think up a witty retort because I was so shocked that someone was squeezing my belly.
3. Isn’t buying clothes so much more fun now that you look better?
Listen, buying clothes (at least for me) was always fun. Nothing has changed in that respect. Shopping rocks! Acting like it must have been this tragic thing for me just because my figure was curvier is a little bit revealing of your biases. Don’t put that on me.
4. DAMN HOW MUCH WEIGHT HAVE YOU LOST? NO REALLY, HOW MUCH?
I think most people file this under ‘N’ for None of Your God Damn Business, but there are definitely those persistent people who just REALLY need a number. I’m always shocked when people persist over this. What does it matter to you?
5. And related: WOW HOW MUCH MORE DO YOU HAVE TO LOSE?
Hey, you know what, why don’t we just step on the scale and you can tell me?
6. I just can’t stop staring at you. You look great!
This may seem sort of innocuous, but really unless you are my boyfriend, I would prefer you stop staring at me, actually. It’s awkward. Especially because you are my coworker.
7. Can you eat that? I’m only asking because I don’t want you to derail so much progress.
People are lucky I don’t punch them in the face.
Maybe I need some more coffee. I don’t know. Am I being overly sensitive?
If you missed Part Six check that out first.
I think a lot of people hear that we eat a mostly Paleo Diet and think we are super restricted in what we eat. I beg to differ. This has been the most delicious way I’ve EVER lost weight, and I feel infomercial AMAZING!
Here’s a peak into what we’re eating this week:
Breakfast at our house is sort of grab and go. Garrett usually works sometime between 5am and 11am so he takes some fruit with him. He hates eating breakfast and I yell at him about that. I think he kind of likes it. I’m lucky enough to have a cafe at work so I generally grab 2 scrambled/hard boiled eggs and bacon. I’m sure it’s not nitrate free hippie bacon, but I think I’ll live. It keeps me more than full until lunch. Sometimes if I’m running on time in the morning I will make myself a smoothie. If I can get my act together on the weekend I will make a dozen or so Bacon, Egg & Cheese Muffins because they are THE BOMB and Mini-Frittata muffins are easy to grab on the go. Or I even sometimes do dinner leftovers because I’m not queasy about eating chicken for breakfast. Sure, my coworkers probably think I’m a nut, but that’s ok. I think they already knew I was nutty before they even saw what I was eating.
This weekend I am grilling up a crapload of chicken breasts/thighs, zucchini, squash, red onions, and asparagus. I marinated the chicken breasts in a mesquite marinade that is probably not STRICTLY Paleo, but again I think I will live. I did this last weekend as well and I’m still standing. I think you have to be reasonable with your dogma. We do the best that we can to avoid sugar, grains, and gluten but meat marinade is not the hill I’m going to die on, you know unless it has some Partially Hydrogenated crap, wheat, or Corn Syrup. Then, HELLS TO THA NO. Anyway, then I package them up in little tupperwares for a quick lunch grab. We will alternate eating that and having dinner leftovers all week so we don’t get bored. It’s easy, takes about an hour on the weekend, and it’s 5 days of lunch. On the weekends I don’t worry about lunch too much — we either forage the leftovers, go out to eat while we run errands (Chipotle salads, anyone?) or sometimes sleep late and only eat two meals, so who even needs lunch? I need to remember how awesome that last option is while we don’t have kids.
This week we will be enjoying the following:
- Asian Beef and Fried Cauliflower Rice Bowls – This is such a delicious and man-pleasing meal. Last time I made it for Garrett he said, “Can we have this again tomorrow?” Win. This time I will probably double the recipe so we have leftovers for lunch.
- Turkey Meatloaf Minis + Mashed Cauliflower + Roasted Garlicky Broccoli – I love to roast broccoli in Olive Oil with salt, pepper + garlic powder (The Trifecta). It gets crispy and delicious and we can demolish probably 2 lbs in one sitting because we are CRAZY BROCCOLI LOVERS.
- Santa Maria Seasoned Grilled Tri-Tip + Bacon Roasted Brussels Sprouts+ Salad These brussels sprouts change lives. No joke. Please try them. It is hands down Garrett’s favorite thing to eat. I was just going to roast the brussels with The Trifecta this week and Garrett said, “Please, with the bacon! with the bacon!” So we’ll indulge a little.
- Orange Chicken + Shallot, Zucchini, and Squash Sautee with The Trifecta – OMG this is so good, but I add a little honey and ALOT of red pepper flakes for kick. Also, I don’t season the chicken first, because I did that the first time I made this recipe without thinking and whoa, was that salty! Easy, tasty, and like a mini Paleo Panda Express.
- Southwest Turkey Burgers with roasted carrots + parsnip fries and roasted red onion wedges (roasted with Olive Oil and The Trifecta, of course) – I use this burger recipe, serve on a bed of bibb lettuce and top with bacon and avocado slices)
- Grilled Grass Fed New York Steaks (from our meatshare!) + Roasted Garlic Green Beans + Salad – This will probably be our Friday night meal because I love to grill on a Friday night with a good glass of vino in hand. I’m especially excited since we just picked up our Wine Club Subscription. YUM! I’ve also been enjoying the occasional Skinnygirl Margarita on a Friday night, and WOW, those are delish. I don’t know if discovering them was a good thing or a bad thing. I foresee those being included in many a summer evening.
- Chili Colorado + Veggie Must-go. Do you do Must-Go in your house? As in, “everything in the crisper drawer must go.” This is a new recipe I’m trying and I’m thinking about making the chili part this weekend so we can use it for lunches too, we’ll see.
So honestly, I’m not that into snacking. All of these good eats keep me relatively full throughout the day, so I’m a 3 square meal type of gal. Post-Workout I generally will have a Coconut Water and sometimes a few slices of turkey or salami while I am cooking dinner.
Garrett, on the other hand does more snacking and has a different Post-Workout routine since we have different goals (Me: Lose Weight, Him: Stop Losing Weight) He snacks on nuts and some fruit during the day. The boy is a whore for bananas. Post-workout he will usually mix himself up a Protein Shake with some Almond Milk + A Banana, and will usually enjoy a sweet potato, which we always have ready made in the fridge because I usually just roast up a big batch of on the weekend when I am grilling that chicken. That one hour of weekend prep accomplishes a lot with a little planning. I’ll peel them while the chicken is resting and stick them in a tupperware. He likes to nuke them and eat them with a little grassfed butter. For the record, I would like to take a bath in that butter, it is AWESOME. If you are not eating Paleo, do yourself a favor and slather that on a baguette. Holy shit, the thought of that makes my head spin a little.
As for dessert, again I’m usually not that interested, although when I have a box of mangoes in the house I definitely enjoy those. Sometimes Garrett will slice an apple and dip it in almond butter, or pair it with some chunks of dark chocolate. If we are feeling extra special, we’ll whip up a fruit cobbler like this. Or my favorite dessert is some greek yogurt over berries with a touch of honey. The truth is, I’m trying to eliminate the dairy completely because it doesn’t always agree with me, but sometimes it is just too good and you’ve only got one life. If some greek yogurt is my one vice, I’ll take it. We are Practical Paleo People. Someone make me a Twibbon, will ya?
Anyway, I hope that was some insight into the fact that we don’t just eat hunks of meat all the time. With a little planning you can have a ton of great eats at your fingertips. And the weight loss? Well that is just icing on the (grain-free, gluten-free, sugar-free) cake!
And if you have any other questions, always feel free to shoot me an email at hawoodcock (at) gmail (dot) com.
If you missed Part Five check that out first.
When we last left off, fresh of the great results of my allergy diet I had begun to research Paleo eating, and a lot of information was clicking for me. I had seen great results, felt better than I had in ages, and had a ton of energy. But friends and family were definitely giving my dietary changes a raised eyebrow.
Transitioning to a Paleo diet requires an open mind at first, I’m not going to lie. Especially when people start calling it a Caveman Diet, because honestly — HOW DOES THAT EVEN MAKE IT SOUND APPEALING? Have you seen the Geico commercials — using cavemen for comparisons don’t always make something look more appealing. But I can honestly tell you that for me, it totally changed my life and simplified the way I cook and eat. For those who are interested, here is the scoop.
The main reason Paleo eating requires an open mind is that it goes against A LOT of conventional wisdom that you learn growing up. I’m not talking about eating worms or anything crazy, but if you were raised anything like me you grew up thinking low fat and low calorie diets were the secret to good maintaining your weight, and as long as you just ate “everything in moderation” you would be the picture of health. Paleo is not about any of these things, so for me overcoming a lifetime worth of what I knew was a challenge. Also, there is the small fact that the science of nutrition is relatively young. We are all kind of guessing at it — scientists and consumers alike. There is always research on both sides — I thought Linda’s post on this topic was accurate and succinct. It’s a lot of noise, so you have to find what works for you, not what works for everyone.
What ended up working for me was eliminating grains and sugar completely and increasing my fat/vegetable/protein intake. I don’t have any conspiracy theories, and I won’t tell you that the grain industry is playing puppet master in our lives or anything that dramatic. But after doing a significant amount of reading I do believe that the food pyramid is bullshit, and so for me I decided to do some experimentation and Paleo has felt phenomenal. I think anyone exploring a new way of eating needs to do that.; Immerse yourself in whatever you choose for at least 30 days. See how you feel, go from there. My diet currently emphasizes consumption of vegetables, fruit, animal protein, nuts and seeds while eliminating all refined grains, sugar, and dairy (though I still eat a bit of dairy here and there). If you are considering going the Paleo route, here are some places to start.
I feel like I need to give a quick disclaimer that Paleo is NOT just a typical Low Carb Diet, which I think it sometimes gets incorrectly billed as. It also doesn’t involve any weighing, measuring or counting. You don’t track carbs or calories. It is a dietary framework that can work for any type of goal. I’ve lost over 70 lbs not regularly tracking anything that has gone into my mouth. Sure there have been times where I have used a tool like Fit Day or Fat Secret to check in that I am meeting my nutritional goals, but those times are few and far between because frankly — that’s a pain in the ass. And to me, having to write down everything you put in your mouth is the first sign that something is a temporary fix and not a change in your lifestyle.
The elimination of sugar and high glycemic foods allowed my body to reset itself so that my hunger signals were working correctly again. I no longer have major cravings, and when I’m not hungry, I don’t eat. It was something I could never get the hang of while eating sugar and refined carbohydrates and there is a great chapter in Robb Wolf’s book The Paleo Solution that really breaks down exactly why that happens in the body. I can’t recommend that book highly enough if you’ve ever had trouble losing weight or had any type of illness at all. Incredibly illuminating!
So, Paleo is not about eliminating carbohydrates but more focusing on the nutritional density of the food you are eating along with eating foods that doesn’t cause inflammation in your gut. I think this explanation clearly explains how excess carbohydrate consumption affects your health better than I ever could, plus it has a very cute video at the end of it which is worth watching. And if you are interested in understanding how grains affect your gut health, definitely check that article out. When you eliminate refined sugars and grains, your diet by default does become lower in carbohydrates than the Standard American Diet — but “Low Carb” is not the point. The point is — get in tons of nutrition efficiently from foods that don’t cause inflammatory problems in your body.
So how does one do this in real life? For me, Step One was eliminating the grain element of my dinner and replacing it with another vegetable. We always had some type of protein in our dinner, plus a veggie, plus some rice or bread or pasta.This is pretty common, no? So to begin with I just started making our proteins with two vegetables — which actually was kind of fun. I roasted, steamed, braised, bought new spices, tried new veggies and tried to keep my plate to mostly vegetables with a nice serving of protein. At first this was terrifying, I used to be a total bread addict! As a kid I used to hide left over dinner rolls under my bed at night — I was that dedicated. How gross is that?
Step Two was examining what we were eating for breakfast and lunch — and wouldn’t you know it was pretty heavy grainy fare — cereal, sandwiches, pasta, etc. I used to think I was doing myself a favor by eating lots of grains because I was getting so much fiber and that would fill me up. But the truth is, vegetables are largely more fiber dense and don’t cause an insulin response that interferes with your body’s own hunger response.Instead of grains in the morning I started trying to include a protein source in each of those meals. For breakfast I began making smoothies like this, or grabbing a hard boiled egg or two. For lunch I started packing enormous salads with chopped chicken or steak, or I’d bring leftovers from dinner the night before. These were pretty easy changes and I started to think the transition was going pretty smooth.
The Third Step was paying attention to the details. What was I snacking on? What types of fat was I using when I cooked? I learned exactly how saturated and unsaturated fats are broken down in your body. I bought a few new cooking staples. As far as what to stock in your kitchen, I think AndreAnna’s post on what is in her pantry is one of the best I’ve ever seen. She has been an incredibly inspiring mentor to me throughout this process, so I highly encourage you to look around over there if you are considering making a similar switch. Paleo cooking is actually super simple because you are basically picking and choosing various protein sources, fats and vegetables and the combos are endless. Robb Wolf has a great food matrix that makes it pretty easy to get up and running with tons of ingredients to make healthy meals.
Every once in a while I would think about how I missed sandwiches, or get sad over the fact that we never hit up our favorite local pizzeria anymore. But the truth is, I wasn’t actually craving these foods, which I think is important to note. It was nostalgia, not an actual food craving. After about a week of not eating grains at every meal I didn’t really miss it. And I still don’t!
In Part Seven I’ll share with you some meal plans and tips on how to transition. I definitely started my Paleo transition by making “Paleo” version of my favorite grain based treats. But eventually I have left those behind too in favor of simpler food. I’ll give you a run down of what the two of us eat in an average week and share some of my favorite recipes!
If you missed Part Four check that out first.
So when we last left off my Naturopath had dropped two bombs on me: Insulin Resistance and Adrenal Fatigue. The Insulin Resistance was brought on by a long term dependence on high carbohydrate foods, and the Adrenal Fatigue may have been brought on by another long term problem: undiagnosed food allergies or sensitivities. He let me know that when you continually put food in your system that causes an inflammatory allergic response it ends up causing “stress” on the body. This sounded sensible enough, but I didn’t really feel at that moment like I was allergic to any particular foods.
I was not a person who ate things that made me feel sick, which is what I imagined food allergies to be given all the horror stories you hear. He was quick to remind me though that sensitivities to food don’t always appear in the form of immediately tangible or traumatic reactions. Sometimes food sensitivities can cause inflammation in various parts of your body that then compound other problems over time. And many food allergies go undiagnosed in our “everything in moderation” society. He suggested I try out an Allergy Diet (which I detailed here if you are interested) to see if my body had any response.
It seemed pretty strict at first, and I did struggle (especially with the sugar withdrawals) but I can sum up my experience with that allergy diet in two words: Life Changing. Here is where I start to get a little nervous. Oddly enough, after telling you about my insecurities growing up and how I have struggled with weight, it is actually this part of my story that I’m finding the hardest to write: The Food Part. I feel very Mimi Smartypants-esque about people talking about what they eat : “Just eat it. Be quiet.” Right? There is really no topic that comes across more judgy or condescending than talking about what you do and don’t eat. But I have been hinting about what revolutionized my years of struggle, and the truth is – it was actually the food I was eating all along. So that’s why I’m going to talk about food for a minute, on the off chance it will help you. But let me be clear when I say — If what you are eating is working for you, Hooray! No judgment here.
I had spent years eating a low fat, high fiber diet full of “healthy whole grains” that leaned towards vegetarian. I’m not saying that diet is wrong, but it was not right for me. All I had to show for it was a lot of frustration, guilty feelings for not being good at it (since I had extra weight), some low grade problems that I chalked up to “getting older” and being overweight, and then there was that whole part about carrying around a lot of extra pounds. But after a few weeks of eliminating sugar, grains, dairy and gluten and incorporating more lean/grass-fed meats for protein and lots of seasonal vegetables I began to realize the following:
Those afternoon slumps I always felt around 2 pm? Gone
Those occasional breakouts? Gone
That feeling of wishing I could nap after a meal? Gone Ups and Downs with blood sugar? Gone
Multiple Low grade headaches? Gone
Persistent Mystery Cough? Gone
Allergies that gave me nosebleeds? Gone
In fact, I not only haven’t had a migraine since I started this little experiment which was not the norm for me, but I have all but kicked my Advil dependency. I don’t even carry it with me anymore. But the real kicker was that with no feeling of deprivation (once I got over those sugar withdrawals), guilt, obsessiveness, or really any extra effort my blood pressure, triglycerides and glucose improved almost instantly and I dropped 30 lbs like a bad habit.
Obviously I was astounded by the results.
But I am a bit of a skeptic, and I wasn’t sure that these few tweaks could really have make such a difference, so I continued doing a little more research. I learned about how insulin works in the body and particularly how it relates to fat storage. I began to really wrap my brain around how sneaky sugar can be and how it can mysteriously appear where you least expect it (to your body’s dismay!) I started understanding what happens to the body when you eat grains (particularly wheat) and as I researched I continued on the path of this Allergy Diet, and continued to feel the proof. After even just a month of feeling A TON better and having my body obviously working more efficiently (seriously, you all, the weight was just falling off) I was totally convinced. I couldn’t imagine going back to my old ways.
A lot of the research that I did led me to information about Primal and Paleo diets. And when it did I rolled my eyes so hard I tipped over, because really? All these comparisons to cavemen and our neanderthal ancestors really had my fad diet marketing meter on High Alert. This was not my first rodeo and I really felt like the catchy names and caricatures of cave-people were really sort of off-putting at first. And I certainly wasn’t interested in supporting any of the BS Low-Carb propoganda that is out there. But then I real Robb Wolf’s site and his book The Paleo Solution, where he really delves into the science behind all of it. And so much of it resonated with me. I began to understand how my body worked, why this was working, and why it wasn’t a Low-Carb fad diet. Catchy names be damned, I thought this Paleo/Primal stuff could really work.
And it has.
In Part Six I will tell you a bit more specifically about my kitchen’s transition to a more Paleo Diet and give you some good resources if you are interested. I’ll also address the: OMG, HOW DO YOU LIVE WITHOUT BREAD? Factor. I’m also going to talk a bit about fitness since this also changed quite a bit when I adopted this new diet.
If you missed Part Three check that out first.
The important thing to say about the challenge of weight loss is that it is not the only challenge. Sometimes it’s painted as this constant, overwhelming daily dramatic struggle with oneself and I think it doesn’t have to be that way. It is not always your fault and it is not an indicator of Who You Are. Sometimes we are just missing a key piece of information — a life changing efficiency, even. Sometimes we are dealing with more than one thing at a time and (OMG) losing weight is not the Most! Important! Thing! That is not to say that I don’t think being overweight is hard — it is hard. But so is losing a parent, being in debt, having relationship problems, and not getting along with members of my family. It’s ALL hard but we rise to the occasion and fight the good fight and relish the successes we do have. And I think that viewpoint is underrepresented in the whole weight loss oeuvre.
What I’ve wanted to do with this entire story is not gain sympathy for this one struggle that I’ve had, or propogate healthy ideas that aren’t really all that helpful (ie: eat less, move more). What I want to say – hey, this struggle was hard for me but maybe it doesn’t have to be hard for you. Wherever you are in your journey, you will be just fine. But on the off chance this info will help you, here are some ideas that changed my life.
Life long journeys aside, about a year ago I did a little bit of that Navel-Gazing Inventory that us bloggers are so well known for, and realized that no matter how free I felt from the chains of the weight loss game (and at that point, I felt free! FINALLY! It can be done!) physically I was not where I needed to be. I was tired of having the “Have you thought about eating a little less and moving a little more?” conversations with my doctor. I was also coming to terms with the fact that my increase in blood pressure was looking less like white coat hypertension and more of a consistent reflection of what was going on in my body. What really got me freaked out though was that soon Garrett and I would pursue our dreams of having a family and because of that I would basically be contractually obligated to put on a few pounds. Most people love that permission, but honestly all I felt was fear.
I knew I didn’t want to go back to Weight Watchers, and since I felt good that I was already exercising regularly and eating intuitively and “healthy” by the standards of conventional wisdom, I was sort of at a loss. What other options were there?
Boy have I been waiting to answer that question!
The first thing I did was go see a Naturopath, and yes I know that sounds like a douchey hippie thing to do, so thank you for mentioning it. But as I said earlier, traditional doctors were not giving me advice I found useful and instead I was getting a lot of the raised eyebrows when I said “Yes, I exercise 3-5 times per week with a combination of cardio and strength training.” And “No, I don’t eat fast food so forgive me, but that advice to quit isn’t all that helpful actually. I don’t hate Western Medicine or anything but DUDE, COME ON! So I thought I’d get crazy and try something different.
I’ve talked about my experience with my Naturopath here and here but I’m not sure I’ve ever recounted the best thing he did for me: he listened to me talk about my lifestyle without a raised eyebrow in sight. Then he looked at not only my blood pressure, but an extensive panel of blood work, hormone levels, and neurotransmitter levels (seratonin, norepinephrine, glutamate, etc.) and said, “I have an idea of what’s going on. Two things stood out to him, and both were not only terms I had never really encountered (and I consider myself someone pretty engaged and curious about my own health) but HUGE game changers with respect to my weight loss.
1. I was Insulin Resistant. If you have had trouble losing weight in the past and take just one thing from this post – please research insulin resistance. It is a fairly common condition where insulin (a hormone, by the way not just some random thing in our body) becomes less effective at lowering your blood sugar over time. If you are Insulin Resistant and you are eating a diet high in carbohydrates, or even really “in moderation” (as delicious as they are) it probably isn’t doing you any favors. Your body is failing to absorb the “energy” (which is the great thing we all hear about carbohydrates) and instead it is negatively affecting the rest of your body. Obviously this is a gross oversimplification, but I am planning on recommending a few reads about this in the future that really lay it out for you.
If you have difficulty losing weight, if you store weight around your middle, if you are hungry shortly after eating, if you find yourself tired often (especially after meals) – this is a condition you may be contending with. It is not just your “lack of will power. It is unfortunately becoming an American condition. Hormones like insulin have A LOT to do with feelings of hunger, satisfaction, contribute to how and where our body stores fat, and are DIRECTLY CONTROLLED BY THE TYPE OF FOOD YOU EAT – meaning carbs, fat, protein. Because I was eating the Standard Recommended High Carb/Low Fat American Diet, I thought I was doing everything right. But really I was doing so much damage.
2. I had Severe Adrenal Fatigue – The best (read: easiest to understand) overview of Adrenal Fatigue that I have ever read is right here. This sounded like a hippy dippy diagnosis to me at first, but the truth is the more reading I did, the more I realized that this is not only fairly common and undiagnosed, but also a major contributor to overall health problems. The main reason for this is that the adrenals control the balance of all the hormones (there’s that word again) in your body — directly or indirectly. Many women who suffer with untreated Adrenal Fatigue end up triggering infertility, PCOS, and long term hormonal imbalances.
My Naturopath took one look at my levels and told me that he was surprised that I could get out of bed each day and function in society. I’ve always been someone who could push through tough times, but hearing that was definitely a wake up call. I needed to make some changes. I left his office feeling sort of dumbfounded that all these things were happening inside my body without me even really having a clue. I was causing damage and aggravating things inside of me when all I had ever tried to do was to be healthy and thriving. But I felt relieved because my body was holding on to all this weight as a reaction to these things. I wasn’t just someone who couldn’t count calories correctly. But the best thing I felt was hopeful, because I finally had a plan for the future that was just right, just for me.
In Part Five I will outline exactly what that plan has been, and how it has so far helped me drop 70 lbs in 6 months with relatively little effort. It can be done. And it has been done. And I really can’t wait to tell you about it.
I’m talking weight loss this week. If you missed Part Two check that out first.
So my first adult foray with Weight Watchers went well, for a while, but as I mentioned it felt like a huge life sacrifice. I realize that not everyone is like this, but I can become a bit obsessive when it comes to data tracking and food logging was no different. It became the thing I thought about most, and began to affect how I felt in all aspects of my life. There were weeks when I did everything right and lost no weight. Then there were weeks when I did nothing right and lost tons of weight — and the lack of rhyme or reason felt frustrating to me.
It didn’t compute for me that if the only variable was “points” then how come I could never guarantee success at the scale? There had to be other factors involved but I had no idea what they were and no idea where to start. The one size fits all approach, and its emphasis on calories in/calories out, (which is a giant oversimplification of how weight loss works) made Weight Watchers feel like a temporary solution to me. I didn’t want to live that way long term. I wanted to find a lifestyle I could maintain.
(Sidebar: I know things have changed about the program these days and there is more of an emphasis on whole foods, and I don’t mean for this to be an all out assault on Weight Watchers; however, it obviously did suit my personality. If it suits yours and you are happy with it: ROCK ON!)
From where I sit today, having lost a significant amount of weight without sacrificing my life or sanity makes this a convenient literary turning point. It’s so obvious to me that giving that up was the right decision (for me) but at the time quitting the only method I knew was a leap of faith. And success certainly did not happen overnight.
What I realized was that I wanted to lose weight. But I wasn’t willing to do something that didn’t feel right to get there. I decided I would rather be fat and happy, than miserable all the time worrying about it — and it was the best decision I ever made. I want to shout from the rooftops that if you are not experiencing success with losing weight, or if you are beating yourself up about your lack of “self control”, or if you are “doing everything right” but giving up other parts of your life that bring you joy: IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THAT WAY! THERE ARE OTHER OPTIONS FOR YOU. And most importantly YOU WILL NEVER HAVE SUCCESS IF ALL YOU ARE DOING IS BEATING YOURSELF UP AND FEELING GUILTY! But I didn’t know all of that when I made my decision.
And as you might have guessed, I gained most of that weight back. And then even more over the next 6 or 7 years. I did feel varying levels of guilt and went running back to Weight Watchers here and there in a panic, but it still didn’t feel right and I never had long term success. There were times when I would feel like an absolute loser and that this was something I would never get under control. But there were also so many times that I would feel really at peace with my decision not to obsess. Sure I struggled with the idea that I wasn’t a person who wasn’t skinny, but I had great friends, an awesome family, a loving boyfriend, and I just wasn’t going to feel bad about this one thing for the rest of my life. My weight did not define me. And I went about trying my best at carving out a successful life.
And then the strangest thing happened. When I really decided to give up on trying to lose weight – or rather, when I gave up my drive to pursue the physical ideal, I started eating more intuitively. I started to think about food as something nourishing, not something I was at war with. I began to think about what I put in my mouth, researching the benefits of a whole food diet vs. eating processed foods or eating “everything in moderation”. I also began to learn about where my food came from and made the decision that Factory Farmed meat was not for me.
During that time period I tried many diets that my body didn’t thrive on — and it wouldn’t be until later that I would discover why — but I was open to everything and it was all because I had given up on Being on a Diet.
One of the most important things I did along the way was learn to cook. I challenged myself to learn different techniques and different cuisines. I discovered a passion that had been dormant in me, and that alone ended up being one of the healthiest things I have ever done for myself. I can honestly say I don’t think I would have spent years exploring my culinary side had I not let go of measuring every single thing I ate, or more importantly the guilt I felt when I didn’t. Giving up was one of the many secrets to the success of my journey.
But at the end of the day, I still had weight to lose. And that weight had its consequences. In Part Four I will tell you about the turning point that made me seek out professional help and realize it was time to get back on the horse.
I’m talking weight loss this week. If you missed Part One check that out first.
It should come as no surprise after yesterday’s post that I was self conscious about how I looked in high school. But I’m guessing you felt self conscious too because good lord, it was high school — Bring on the awkward times! My weight loss (or lack thereof) was something I did think about, but it also ended up being a non-issue because there were so many other things going on.
Exhibit A: My High School Cheerleading Schedule:
I mean, did I do any homework that month? Sheesh!
High school was a mostly good experience and really don’t look back on that time feeling like I should have focused more on losing weight. I was active and a good kid with good friends – it wasn’t worth freaking out about.And then I went to college.
Let me tell you about college in one word: Trainwreck
Despite my parents best efforts to teach me how to be a functioning adult in The Real World, I spent college eating cereal for dinner, having diet coke for breakfast, and sleeping through my classes — which is shocking since I worked at Starbucks which meant that there was nary a day without a Frappuccino. Life was good for the most part. My diet, however, was not.
I barely knew how to boil water which meant I either ate meals out at restaurants (thank you student loans that I am still paying back with interest 15 years later!) or I cooked something out of a box. You don’t need to be a Michael Pollan zealot to know this is not a nourishing lifestyle. But I worked out like a madwoman during that time and not because I felt like I had to, but because that was just how I was raised — Active! Exercise was always something important to my parents. My dad had been dragging me kicking and screaming to weight rooms with him since I could lift, and even though I was NOT a girl who wanted to lift weights, I knew that exercise was something of value. It’s one of the things now that makes me so sad when I have a particularly good lift day at CrossFit because I know my dad would just be beaming with happiness that I have finally seen the light!
So working out was just something that had to be done — like eating or sleeping. I had been a dancer (taking 13 classes a week) and then a cheerleader (you saw that practice/gymnastics/competition schedule) so physical activity was my church. No matter how much I have weighed during different phases of my life, I have never been someone who didn’t have a regular exercise routine. I have told this to doctors and personal trainers and friends who have all raised their eyebrows at me like I am a lazy liar, but it is the truth. And it is a truth I’m proud of. I have always had a gym membership, and enjoyed outdoor activities. Improving my athletic performance is just something I am interested in.
But steadily gaining weight over all those years impeded that part of my life. Slowly in my 20s I began to turn things around with respect to my weight. I had a personal trainer who educated me about “healthy eating”, and I went back to the dreaded Weight Watchers. I committed to logging every item of food that went in my mouth, I counted points, I exercised like a madwoman at a West Hollywood gym that provided enough material for the Great American (Smut!) Novel, and I lost 50 lbs. I was still nowhere near the “healthy weight range” for my height (which is bullshit, by the way), but I was the thinnest I’d been in years.
I was also obsessed with every single thing I put in my mouth. I was consuming Diet Coke like I owned stock, would starve myself on weigh in days, and consumed up to 100 oz of water the night before just to make sure the scale cooperated. Lean Cuisines were my savior at that point and it was feast or famine in my life. It was a success when it came to weight loss, but it was a sacrifice when it came to life. I was thinking about food and planning what to eat and when during every waking moment and it began to get exhausting.
So you know what? I stopped.
In Part Three I will tell you how I gave up the Weight Watchers head games and got my life back. And how a turning point in my health sent me down a road that made me question everything I knew about “healthy living.” It’s how I found a way to have a life, and a waistline that I loved.
I’m talking weight loss this week. If you missed The Prologue, it’s right here. If you are not into this kind of stuff, here is your warning: Go ahead and skip this one.
I personally think weight loss and body image are fascinating topics. Hell, Oprah has practically built her career addressing these issues and while she may not be a role model for success in that particular arena, her openness to discuss her struggle is respectable. Context is key though, I think. Who wants to hear a supermodel talk about how they’ve lost those pesky three pounds and are finally bikini ready, right? So to give you an accurate understanding of what a profound change my weight loss journey has been in my life, I want you to have a little context about my life in this respect. That is where we are going to start this story.
I feel like I have struggled with my weight all my life. The more complete truth of that statement is that I have struggled with body image all my life. I know how to lose weight. I have lost weight. I’ve gained weight. You know that story, I’m sure. Though closely related, those things are two separate problems and gladly at 32 I am finally able to tell the difference. As an adult I have grown to love an accept my body and have less of a body image issue, but the weight was still problematic.
When I see pictures of my younger self I was certainly no waif, but I also wasn’t obese. I was just perfect, actually — but I was also the daughter of an NFL defensive Lineman, and my body reflected that — we’ve talked about this before. It became problematic because I was a competitive dancer and that is a subculture that doesn’t take kindly to all body types — this shouldn’t surprise you.
What may surprise you, is that I went to my first Weight Watchers meeting when I was 9 years old. It was a gray room of old people (in my estimation at the time) and I remember leaving with books and bars and boxes of powders and no clue what they meant or what to do with them. I was probably also hungry.
Maybe this makes you wonder what kind of heathen parents I had to make me do this, but I assure you my mother only took me there after weeks of my persuasion — and I’m quite persuasive. The message from my ballet teacher was loud and clear: I needed to lose 20 lbs if I was going to have a career as a dancer and damnit if my little 9 year old Type-A self wasn’t a hair close to the character Natalie Portman plays in Black Swan. I was going to be perfect!!!
I knew that losing weight was going to be the solution to this problem, but at that age I had no idea how to get there. Losing weight is not something you know how to do at 9. I thought I would go to these meetings and get better. No one was discussing the basics of food and I certainly didn’t do the grocery shopping, so the relationship between what I ate versus what was happening with my body wasn’t linear in my mind. I attended these meetings where women talked about using food to soothe their emotions but I couldn’t even relate. I ate when I was hungry, I didn’t when I wasn’t — I knew I wasn’t “using food” but I also still had this extra 20 lb problem that seemed to not be getting any better.
The whole thing is ridiculous in hindsight. In defense of my parents, my mom meant well and I’m sure her perception of how things happened is much different than mine. Also, she was doing her best to help me with the tools that she had. I’m sure my ballet teacher meant well too — she could see my competitive zest and probably wasn’t trying to nip “my problem” in the bud early but the only real thing I remember during that time period was that I began to know shame. Shame about my body. Shame about my inability to solve problems. Shame about who I was allowed to be looking how I looked.
During one of my meetings I ran into another girl from my ballet class and I was super happy to see her. A friendly face! But her mother pulled me aside afterward and in an almost scolding tone took me by the arm and said “Please pretend you never saw us here. And DO NOT discuss it with others at the studio.” It taught me that I should be embarrassed about being in this club no one wanted to join, but still, no one thought to talk to me much about food.
Obviously this experience was not a success for me. I know, you can close your mouth from shock now. But at 13 I quit dancing altogether and transitioned to cheerleading with most of my friends and the point became somewhat moot. I still wasn’t tiny, but I was athletic. I was a good student with good friends and I was pretty sure the competitive body pressure was behind me.
To my surprise one day our (crazy lunatic of an) adviser approached me in front of a room full of people during our uniform fitting and said: “Wow, those are some boobs!” So yeah, that was awkward. Then she quietly suggested that I may want to try and lose 20 lbs and had I ever tried Weight Watchers, lots of people had had success there? And suddenly there was just bile-rising panic. I remember feeling so defeated, thinking I would never escape those damn 20 lbs and now all of a sudden I had to be worried about my enormous boobs? GREAT.
It wasn’t that I didn’t want to take the necessary steps to look a little different at that point either, but honestly, I still had no idea how. I still wasn’t grocery shopping, I still wasn’t cooking, and all our meals at home were “healthy.” Why was I carrying this enormous albatross? I had friends who ate worse and looked better! Was I ever going to escape this?
In Part Two I’ll tell you about how moving out and managing my own kitchen finally started yielding some results. Though not exactly the the results you might think…
Over at Bodies this week I’m talking about how I feel. What else is new, right? Specifically though, how I feel when people ask me what The Secret to my weight loss success has been. (Spoiler alert: it’s not all wine and roses.) The truth is, there hasn’t been one big secret but a succession of little secrets. I’ve mentioned here a few times that I just made a few tweaks to my diet and exercise routine. But what I want to be very clear about is that I did not — I REPEAT, DID NOT — just learn to eat less and move more. I am so tired of hearing that generic piece of advice about weight loss that I want to stand up and shout it out right now, but I won’t since my co-workers would probably look at me funny. Besides, no one wants to listen to a crazy person.
I’ve been wanting to tell you about a few things that I’ve learned while shedding almost 70 lbs since August, but I also want to emphasize that this has only been my experience. I don’t think there is a right and wrong way to get healthy, I only know that I have been trying for years to be at my physical and mental best and what I have been doing lately :::cliche alert::: has TOTALLY CHANGED MY LIFE. And I don’t just mean because it has made me thinner. That has been one small (but welcomed) side effect.
There is so much judgment tied up in getting healthy or losing weight, and because of that I have sort of kept my talk about these issues to a minimum. But on Monday I am going to post the first in a series of articles that will hopefully contain no judgment, just my personal story and some potentially helpful information. My intention is to share my story in hopes that it will inspire you to find out what will work for you, if you are in fact looking. If you aren’t looking, maybe it will just be food for thought. If you aren’t interested in this business all, well then here’s your warning that you may want to skip those posts next week. We can still be friends. 🙂
I want to tell you these things because in the end, we are the only ones responsible for our own success: at work, at life, with our families, and with our health. And the things I will be talking about have changed the way I view all of these parts of my life. It’s a good story, if nothing else.
So join me on Monday, will you? Because The Secret (snicker) will be revealed.
Want to read more:
Part One: Weight Loss – The Early Years
Part Two: Weight Loss In The Real World
Part Three: Giving Up
Part Four: Now What?
Part Five: Food, Glorious Food
Part Six: Transitioning To A Paleo Diet
Part Seven: A Week In The Life Of Our Bellies
This morning I caught a snippet of Talk of the Nation on NPR and they were talking to author Daniel Pink about his new book Drive. The book is mainly Pink’s research-based take about what motivates people and how these things can enlighten us about working smarter and living better. His main criticism seemed to be about the “dangling carrot on a stick” motivator and how it only works in a surprisingly few situations, and he spent a lot of time talking about how companies would be far more efficient if instead of dangling carrots in front of their employees they gave them three things: autonomy, mastery, and a sense of purpose.
Holy smokes, if that wasn’t a breath of fresh air.
I certainly related to these ideas in the context of workplace criticism but I’m definitely not waxing about that on this here blog (obvs), but I thought a lot of his advice could be applied to real life, and was especially relevant during this time of year. (Those NPR programmers — so smart!) Most of us are filled to the brim with goals and ideas and projects — you know those Things At Which We Want To Succeed. Fervor is at an all time high right now since it’s January after all and the ink has hardly dried on our lists of resolutions that lay out our grand plans for 2010, but how does one keep that alive throughout entire year?
Many people I know (including myself, who are we kidding) are trying to lose weight this year — a noble, if unoriginal resolution. I know a lot of people who have come up with reward systems as motivators or mile-markers along the way — if I lose X number of lbs, I can buy myself Y — and it reminded me of this dangling carrot motivator that Pink was talking about. I’ve done this before myself (especially with weight loss) and full confession: I find that it works okay for a bit, but frankly, if I want something bad enough I generally end up purchasing it for myself whether I meet my “goal” or not. The entire conversation really made me think; maybe I have been doing this all wrong?
I’m still marinating on the concepts of autonomy, mastery, and sense of purpose and how all of those things could effectively lay the groundwork for reaching my weight loss goals, but I think his tenets have a lot to do with realizing three major things: that I have a choice in the matter, I am ABSOLUTELY capable, and that there is a whole list of reasons why I am looking to improve this area of my life that are important to me, and I need to keep that list close during times of challenge. It’s sort of empowering when I wrap my brain around it in that way, rather than looking at it as temporary torture until I earn a hot pair of jeans or a new lipgloss, ya know? It’s had me thinking all afternoon, so I may just have to pick it up. But not as a reward, of course! Because when trying to lose weight, I think we can all agree that there is rarely a shortage of carrots.