Since we've started a new year, it seems like the perfect time to talk about the steps I've made toward regaining my health and living better. It feels a little strange to broach the topic, but you were all so supportive and lovely. I don't want you to think that I up and quit before I really got started.
A number of people joked with me that I was nuts to start a "clean" living plan right before Christmas, with all its treats and excesses. Didn't I know that's what the new year was for?
But I've got to tell you, I think it's the smartest thing I've done in a while. I actually enjoyed reading about everyone else's resolutions without feeling guilty that I wasn't being resolute enough for the new year. I had already made my big step, my big commitment to my health.
I'll start with the bottom (ha!) line first: I have lost 9 pounds in three weeks. Considering I hadn't lost a pound in three months, even with scrupulous calorie counting and daily exercise, I am pretty excited by this change.
And I lost those 9 pounds without changing my exercise routine at all. In fact, I've even throttled back on the intensity of my exercising.
So what's the deal, you ask? The deal has been a pretty complete overhaul of not just what I eat, but the way I eat.
Quite simply, I haven't been eating enough. Crazy, right? Actually, not so much. I had been unwittingly sending my body the message: "Hang on to your fat cells, girl, because you ain't gonna eat for a very long time after this."
I used to think that the "starvation mode" theory was a bunch of bunk. I thought snacking was a thing I could never do. I ate breakfast, I ate lunch, and I ate dinner. The end. If I ate sparingly, I would lose weight.
Surprisingly, that plan did not produce the expected results. (I am only speaking to my experiences and for my specific body type here. I know plenty of people who can reduce their calories and lose weight no problem. My husband is one of them. I am not.)
Instead, the reverse happened. I kept cutting calories, but lost no weight. I increased the exercise, but lost no weight. I quickly became discouraged, especially since the prevailing attitude for weight loss seems to be "eat less, move more." I was already doing that!
Essentially, the "eat less, move more" philosophy is true, but not in the classic sense for me. Certainly exercise is always good, and I don't care what anyone says, you cannot have lasting weight loss and increased health without moving. Your body is a wonderful machine and it is meant to be used that way, with all the parts working in cooperation.
But the "eat less" part was what tripped me up. I need to eat less of certain foods, not less times a day.
After lots of reading, internet researching, and working with people who know more about nutrition than I do, I think I've arrived at a plan that can work to help me both lose weight and recapture my lost vitality.
What that plan looks like for me is heavy on the lean protein, heavy on the green veggies, moderate on most fruits, moderate on complex carbs, and very light on just about everything else. I need to go for the whole foods and strictly avoid the processed.
Here's what I've learned about myself thus far:
- It is a myth that you can eat whatever you want as long as you do enough exercise to burn it off. At least it's a myth for me. I cannot, and will not ever be able to, eat three giant soft pretzels and then hit the treadmill or Zumba for an hour and a half. Those pretzels will negate everything I do in the gym. Times three.
- I was seriously undercutting my portions of protein. Since I had done weight loss programs in the past, I thought I was pretty savvy about estimating portion sizes. Then I started weighing my food and I saw that I had been underestimating my portions of protein by at least half. Not good for my body type.
- I really had (and still have) an unhealthy attachment to certain kinds of food. I would tell myself that I had a hard day and I deserved those three little cookies. After all, I had run three miles on the treadmill, and three cookies was the serving size listed on the package. But you know what? No one deserves a cookie. Food is just food. It's not a measure of how good a person I am.
- Even eating this way for only a week, I started feeling better. I had more energy and less mood swings. I think my blood sugar was more unstable than I thought.
- I can't lie, the change has been hard. There really has been an element of addiction for me - especially to simple carbs and sugar - and breaking that has been like a withdrawal of sorts. It speaks to how awful I felt that I have been willing to leave behind my beloved mini pretzels. And it speaks to how addicted I am to simple carbs that I call pretzels "beloved."
- At Christmas, all bets were off and I ate a lot of junk. I'm okay with that.
I'm figuring out more and more as I go along, but what I've learned so far has been pretty profound for me. I still have a long way to go, and there are still some hormonal issues I need to address, but I'm on my way.
Stick with me, my friends?