6 months, 35 lbs, 1″ of Frosting

My husband and I have gotten into a routine of detoxing after the holidays, especially after visiting home and gorging on all the foods we don’t have access to throughout the year.  So this January was no different.

We had already been exploring Paleo/Primal eating since last year, so we decided to look into to the Whole30.  We did all our homework on the in’s and out’s of the plan: 30 days without sweeteners, grains, legumes, dairy, white potatoes, or alcohol.  Oh, and no weighing or measuring my body either (a big issue for me in the past).

We read through the timeline of typical experiences/symptoms so we knew what to expect.  Since we completed an intense detox in August, experiencing week-long headaches, and horrible mood swings, we were fully prepared for what was to happen…  or so we thought.

The first week, instead of experiencing “The Hangover”, “Kill ALL the things”, and “I just want a nap”, we actually had no ill effects!  The logic here is “the amount of suck you experience in this phase is directly proportional to the amount of crap you consumed before you began the program”.  Because we’ve been cleaning up our diet in recent months, we were able to slide right through this stage.

The following week wasn’t all that bad either.  We had mild cravings for relatively healthy things, like plain full-fat yogurt, or 87% dark chocolate.  Though my husband did have dreams about gorging on pizza and a plate full of bacon.  Other than that, we were coasting right along.  SUPERB!

The third week is where things started getting interesting.  My husband was scheduled for a mild surgical procedure, so his mom and aunt were flying in from across the country for support, and would be staying with us for a week.  We were facing the stress of the pending surgery, a packed (1-bedroom) apartment, and what the hell was I going to feed my in-laws while we were detoxing??

Thankfully my in-laws were happy to try all the food I was cooking!  So that part was pretty awesome.  The surgery went well, but there were some complications afterward that warranted an over-night stay.  My husband was put on a liquid diet, and was refusing the Jell-O and apple juice (10% juice??) they provided.  Luckily, we were able to bring him some raw coconut water to keep him hydrated and nourished.  As for the packed apartment, we actually had a lot of fun playing board games, making meals together, and reminiscing about family times.  All in all, that week was a success.

By the forth week, I began feeling intense cravings and serious food boredom, even though my meals were getting more and more creative, and being driven by the awesome selection at our local farmer’s market.  I was also experiencing some crazy mood swings, more intense then ever.  Was I feeling my symptoms in reverse??  I just bit down hard, and kept on keeping on.

We ended the last few days with a going-away party for a friend that we hosted with nearly all Whole30-compliant food (we just stayed clear of the pancakes and mimosas), and a couple of emotional why-won’t-this-thing-end-already?! days.  But we made it to Day 30 unscathed!!  In fact, by Day 31, I was over the intensity of being so close to the end, and had no cravings, so I made it a Whole31. Woot!

As for results, I lost 5 lbs for a total of 35 lbs since August, and my husband lost 6 lbs for a total of 20 lbs!  My husband took my body measurements back in October, again in November, and then after our Whole 30 in February.  I don’t exactly trust his tape measuring skills, but it’s pretty clear that I’ve lost about an inch consistently from my neck, biceps, chest, waist, hips, thighs, and calves – which a friend aptly termed “an inch of frosting”.

Check out my before and after pictures, and a timeline of what’s happened since I started my health journey last summer.  I know I still have a long way to go to get to a healthier state, but I’m pretty happy with my progress so far, and am so grateful to have the support of my husband, family, and friends.

6 months

July “before” / Oct down 20 lbs / Feb down 35lbs


August/September
(read more here and here)

Goals:

  • 4-week detox using Anti-Estrogenic Diet
  • Focus on lots of fresh produce, whole grains, beans, fish, nuts and seeds
  • Eliminate caffeine and alcohol; minimize dairy and sugar additives
  • Practice mindfulness and acceptance

Accomplishments:

  • Lost 20 lbs
  • Started hooping and hiking
  • Improved mood/outlook, less bloated, improved “regularity”

October

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Homestead-Blue Ridge Trail. See that path along the ridge behind me? Yeah, I hiked that.

Goals:

Accomplishments:

  • Lost 7 lbs
  • Broke daily obsession with scale (read about it here)
  • Stopped mindlessly binge eating
  • Better balanced, more coordinated, and more playful

November/December

Hooping in JFK airport!

Hooping in JFK airport!

Goals:

  • MAINTAIN weight through the holidays
  • Continue hooping while visiting home for Christmas

Accomplishments:

  • Rocked my annual physical! (read more here)
  • Hooped in airports, and with my family on the east coast
  • LOST 2 lbs during Christmas while visiting home for 2 weeks!
  • Enjoyed holiday treats while balancing with nourishing foods

January

My creativity at work: chicken chili verde, over-easy egg, and Southwest sweet potatoes.

Goals:

  • 30-day detox using Whole30
  • Focus on whole foods including meat and seafood, vegetables, fruits, and nuts
  • Refrain from sugar additives, grains, legumes, dairy, and alcohol
  • Refrain from weighing or measuring my body

Accomplishments:

  • Lost 5 lbs
  • Got SUPER creative in the kitchen
  • No longer need an alarm clock to wake up
  • Discovering healthier ways to self-soothe instead of emotionally eating
  • Extremely mindful of ingredient labels
  • Started attending local hooping classes
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Weight Does NOT Define Health!

The changing of the seasons marks my favorite time of year: open enrollment for my company’s heath insurance policies! Um, yay?

As part of enrollment, we are asked to take a personal health assessment that surveys your overall health (diet, exercise, mental health, etc.) and health numbers (height, weight, waist circumference, blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose).  The tool then attempts to quantify your health on a scale from 0 to 100, and offers services to help you with your highest risk factors.  Since I have been focusing on my overall health more recently, I was looking forward to finding out my health score this year.

To my surprise, I was rated a 32 out of 100!

I don’t claim to be in perfect health, not even by a long shot, but I’m certainly healthier than I was last year.  I dropped 10% of my body weight, I’ve increased my activity level, my mood has skyrocketed, and the blood work from my recent physical came back with spectacular results!  My cholesterol, LDL and HDL are well within the “healthy” range, my triglycerides, glucose, and blood pressure are all at optimal levels, and my thyroid function (T3 and T4), comprehensive metabolic panel (including things like sodium, potassium, and calcium), and iron levels all indicate that my body is functioning very well.

In fact, my primary care physician even noted in my records:

Please continue your excellent lifestyle including good nutritional and exercise habits.

So what gives?!  The problem is that all of this data that reflected whatever health I would have victoriously claimed was far overshadowed by this obscure, static number that has very little meaning on its own: my weight.

Ok, let’s get this out the way… I’m obese.  Actually, according to my calculated Body Mass Index (BMI) based on my weight and height, I’m considered morbidly obese.  One BMI calculator even stated:

With a BMI of 40+ you have an extremely high risk of weight-related disease and premature death. Indeed, you may have already been suffering from a weight-related condition. For the sake of your health it is very important to see your doctor and get specialists help for your condition.

(Wow, ok, that sounds horrible, and it’s not fun to admit, but medically, that how I’m classified.  And that’s the “YOU’RE DOOMED!!” box that I, and other obese people are put in because of this fairly meaningless measurement.)  However, in the context of the results of my last physical exam, something doesn’t add up!  How can a person of my weight/BMI look healthy on paper otherwise?

Some researchers say it’s all in the fat distribution.  Because of my genetics, my wider hips, thicker thighs, and bigger behind (I get it from my mama!) help to safeguard me from some of the major killers of obese people, like diabetes and heart disease.  That’s one theory anyway.

The New York Times posted an article last month describing a study done on the “metabolically healthy obese”. Research suggests that one out of every three obese people may steer clear of heart disease, hypertension, and Type-2 diabetes for at least a decade. More studies need to be done to see how environment, exercise and genetics play into it, but this research could just change how we think about obesity.

Either way, the thing to note here is that weight does NOT define health

Yes, we can use weight as a measurement that feeds into our overall health, but by itself, it’s not a very effective indicator, or even a necessary measure of health.  There are far more impactful aspects to consider, like nutrition, sleep, movement, stress management, etc.

While my company’s health assessment tool does attempt to factor these in, its heavy focus on weight tells me how oversimplified our view of health has become.  And this only helps to perpetuate a social stigma around obesity.  How have you judged the health of someone you perceive to be obese?  What do you assume about their diet, fitness, and god knows what else??

Well, I say, “It’s time to stop obsessing about weight, and judging ourselves and others because of it.  It’s time to educate ourselves, and be open to broader definitions of health.  It’s time to break up with our scales, and to listen to and trust in our bodies to tell us how we measure up.  It’s time, isn’t it?!”

Details, Details, Details

A few of you have asked for more details on what I’ve been doing to improve my health. Well, get ready for a novel…

The most important thing for me has been a mental refocus toward my body.  I don’t know about you, but I often feel like a talking head that’s just lugging my body around.  I tend to pay attention to myself from the neck up because that’s the easiest part for me to deal with.  It takes a lot of mental effort for me to even want to pay attention to my body, and even more to actually want to show it some much-needed love.  So I’m working hard on cleaning up my “mental house” and shifting my energy toward self-love.  Kris Carr, author of Crazy Sexy Diet, has been a huge motivator for me in this arena.

Another critical component has been acting from intuition.  I know when I’m tired, hungry, bored, or dehydrated, when I’m craving movement, connection, alone time, soulful nourishment, or sunshine, and when I’m not thinking or acting in alignment with my core values. Unfortunately, like many others, I tend to ignore that little voice inside that tells me what I should, or even want to do.  Listening to and trusting in those signals from my mind, body, and soul to tell me what I need, and how to provide it for myself boosts my confidence, and allows me to feel more grounded, centered, and happier all around.

Once I started focusing more on my body and intuition, I was able to pick up on my body’s messages.  After eating out for 6 months straight (probably more like 7 or 8 months even!), deciding what to eat was becoming more and more frustrating.  The food I was eating wasn’t as tasty as it was in the past, and I no longer had cravings for anything.  My body grew tired of all the highly-seasoned, highly-processed food.   I was eating because I felt like I should be hungry, or because it was “time to eat”.  On top of that, my body was was bloated, my stomach was not happy, and I was left tired and sluggish because of the food.  I knew it was time for some changes.

Enter in the Anti-Estrogen Diet by Ori Hefmelker.  It’s a liver cleansing detox that focuses on whole foods to help balance out the effects of a high estrogen in your body.  My husband and I have done this same detox several times before, usually after the holidays when we tend to gorge ourselves on all the yummy foods back home.  It seemed like the right time to start this up again.  So we followed the plan, and started going back to the farmers markets to recenter our diet around local, organic, sustainable foods.

After eating so poorly for months, and then quickly switching to a drastically different diet, my body was NOT happy!!  I went through very real sugar withdrawal symptoms.  I had experienced some signs of this when we did this diet in the past, but this time was different. The first week, I had a headache every day that drove me nuts.  I went through severe mood swings, and became angry and aggressive.  At one point, my husband told me, “I just want my wife back!”  I was extremely fatigued and napped for hours at a time, and I was constantly thirsty, drinking upwards of 15-20 glasses a day.  That’s when I realized how poorly I had been treating my body.  This food was making me sick – what a wake up call!

After I got over the sugar withdrawal symptoms, the rest of the detox was pretty easy.  Meals were more satisfying as my taste for real food started kicking in.  I was learning how to listen when my body had cravings, when it was sated, and when it was reacting poorly to a particular food.  In general though, my body was responding very well to the detox.  I was feeling less bloated, had more energy, and I had lost quite a few pounds.

However, knowing how adversely my body reacted to the decrease in sugary foods made me want to investigate more about limiting my carb/sugar/starch intake.  My husband and I have eaten Paleo in the past, but I like dairy!  So after a bit of research, I decided to go Primal, and follow it about 80% of the time.  For the most part, I have eliminated grains, beans, baked goods, pasta, starchy vegetables, and sweeteners (except for a bit of honey on occasion).  I thrive on things like kale caesar salad with organic free range chicken, local wild caught salmon with dill yogurt sauce, and organic steak and eggs with steamed broccoli.  When I have a sweet tooth, 85-90% dark chocolate or yogurt with a bit of honey satisfy my craving.  This way of eating makes my body happy.  

I do allow myself to eat grains and such about 20% of time.  So if a food seems particularly enticing, I’m OK with indulging in it.  And I’m learning how to do this in a way that makes sense for me.  If I’m not craving it, I won’t eat it.  If I eat it, and I don’t like it or it doesn’t satisfy my craving, I put it down.  If I want it, and I eat it, and I like it, then I savor it until I’m sated. (Last night I made a curry lamb burger with herb aioli on a pretzel bun with a fennel, orange, and kale salad.  It was DELICIOUS, and I ate until I was no longer hungry.  Simple as that.)

The funny thing is that for me, changing my diet is not that hard (aside from the sugar withdrawal!).  I like all foods, especially fresh, organic produce, so changing my diet this drastically was not as difficult for me as it may be for others.  I encourage you to explore what makes sense for you, and to take as much time as you need to incorporate healthy changes into your life.  You deserve it!

60 Days, 20 lbs

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60 days ago, I began my health journey.  I had just come back from vacation with my in-laws.  My life was mellowing out after transitioning to a more demanding  role at work back in November, and after having moved 3 times in 8 months.  I was mentally ready to focus on my health, so I did.

With all the stress of the past year, I retreated inwardly into a depressive state.  Though my life was in turmoil, I chose to focus on gratitude.  Everyday I expressed how grateful I was for the things I did have: my general health, my loving husband, my supportive family and friends, flexible work hours, sunshine, a fun bike ride, a much-needed nap, running water – whatever!  Re-framing my thoughts helped me to hold onto the positive in my life.  

With my life in flux, I pretty much ate out for 6 months straight, which quickly took its toll on my body.  As we settled into our new home (apartment # 3), I made it a priority to shop weekly at the local farmers market.  I committed 4 weeks to detoxifying my body with lots of fresh produce, whole grains, beans, fish, nuts and seeds.  I eliminated caffeine and alcohol, and minimized dairy and sugar additives.  After reintroducing foods back into my diet, and seeing how my body reacted, I settled on a more Primal eating style.  My body is happy when I eat this way.

I was never very active before, but eating as I did left me with no desire to get off of the couch.  As I started nourishing my body, I felt the desire to get moving.  I focused on walking around my neighborhood, hoop dancing (a killer workout and an awesome creative outlet), and hiking.  I had forgotten how fun it was to be active.

With all these changes, I began noticing how much better I felt.  I was less bloated, had more physical energy and mental clarity, I had a more positive outlook, my acne was getting better, and the pounds were coming off.  However, until today, I did not notice the physical difference in my body until I created the side-by-side above.  I’m happy to add that to my progress list as well.

I know I still have a long journey ahead of me, but I’m looking forward to incorporating better choices into my daily life, and seeing how my life improves all around.