Posted by Jill Whalen | Posted in Food, Healthy Eating, Nutrition, Yoga | Posted on 05-01-2014
One year ago today (May 1, 2013) I took my body back.
I could no longer ignore the fact that I was…okay I’ll say it…fat. It’s amazing how many buttons I could burst through, mirrors I could turn away from, jiggles I could ignore, and photos I could somehow believe the camera was adding 10 (or 25) lbs. (See before and afters at the end of this post.)
I grew up a smallish person and as a kid always swore I would never “go on a diet.” I never understood how friends through the years (as far back as high school) felt the need to diet. “Just eat in moderation,” I thought to myself. “Dieting is dumb and for losers.” When I was left at least 5 lbs. heavier after each baby–and I had 3 of them in 6 years–it didn’t bother me. I never actually weighed myself, but wasn’t necessarily displeased with my slightly curvier, rounder, more womanly body that I maintained throughout my 30’s and into my 40’s. I continued to eat what I wanted, when I wanted, and didn’t think a whole lot of it. Although, come to think of it, much of my snacking back then was done when no one else was looking which should have tipped me off at some point!
Once I reached my mid-to-late 40’s I did realize that I couldn’t keep downing half a package Peanut Butter M&M’s or Ritz Bitz while chatting with my online friends at midnight, and for the most part, put a stop to that. I generally didn’t keep stuff like potato chips or ice cream in the house anymore either. In fact, I only had coffee for breakfast, and what seemed to me like a smallish lunch and dinner. Yet, I was “growing out of” my clothes for some strange reason! (Damn that dryer!)
At the time, I didn’t realize that changing hormones can be a contributing factor to weight gain in women of a certain age. And I tried not to think about the drinks I was having at my local bar every night which had grown from a few a week some years back to a few a night. To even consider giving those up was out of the question, however. The social drinking had become a routine and I was enjoying spending the time with my husband and having a place to hang out with people, in general. However, it wasn’t just the extra calories from drinks I was taking in, but eating out every night couldn’t have been doing me any favors either.
As to what I was eating, while maybe it wasn’t large quantities, it certainly wasn’t healthy. I had never met a vegetable that I liked (honestly, I was afraid to try most of them), and even if I did like them, our local bar has always been lacking in the veggie department. (I’m pretty sure the most vitamins that barflies get is from the limes and lemons in their drinks.!) While it seems people can eat unhealthily for a good long time if they’ve young, have decent enough genes and an overall happy outlook to life, once they reach a certain age (and especially with women) eventually, the shit is gonna hit the fan. I’m positive that this time last year, my health was a ticking time bomb. I am just grateful that my inner wisdom kicked in before it detonated.
For me, there was no one thing that finally broke the camel’s back and got me to take action. It was more of a gradual realization that it was time and I was ready. The more I heard about and paid attention to others who had lost weight, the more I was inspired to give it a shot. I had already been practicing yoga for a year and a half or so (although I still couldn’t even do 1 push-up), and I was walking a bit more as well. So it wasn’t too much of a stretch to finally decide to change my diet.
Technology At Its Best
While I didn’t call it “going on a diet” as that had such negative connotations for me, when I started, that’s essentially what I did. Thank goodness for apps like MyFitnessPal and Fitbit! For an online tech junkie like me, they at least made it not seem so bad and even be a little bit fun! So I started counting calories.
According to my apps, for my height of 5’3″ I could eat 1200 calories a day and lose about 1 lb. a week which seemed reasonable. At the time, I had no idea what 1200 calories of food even looked like. Plus, I had to figure in my 2 very strong alcoholic beverages a day, which I was guesstimating to be at least 300 calories. So I was down to 900 for actual food. Yikes! Surprisingly, once I learned which foods had lots of calories, but came in small amounts, e.g., butter and oil, simply removing them (or using very little) was an easy way to keep within my limits. Fried foods were definitely out. “Skinny” breads were in. Portions were controlled. When I learned that giant plates full of vegetables (or salads) had very few calories, they were in, even if I didn’t enjoy them that much at the time. Shrimp–in! I often ate a big salad with cajun shrimp for dinner at our bar, along with my 2 strong drinks, and stayed within my calorie limit. I started walking a lot more, and went to yoga class more often which enabled me to have a few extra calories to eat. However, it became clear that food choices were going to be more important than the exercise when it came to calories in and out.
Because I was eating small meals, I was getting hungry faster, and I found that having small, but healthy snacks during the day was a good way to cope with that. So I learned to make all kinds of cool muffins and cookies out of healthy ingredients, like bananas, oats and natural peanut butter. And it was working! I was losing the proscribed pound a week and sometimes even more! Plus, I didn’t feel like I was depriving myself. In fact, somewhere along the way I started trying more and more healthy vegetables because they had fewer calories than other foods. I shocked even myself when I realized that not only could I eat a giant plate of asparagus for lunch (at only about 100 calories!) but that I loved the way it tasted! Thank goodness too, because when I think about it now, I was eating so few calories I couldn’t have been intaking an appropriate amount of nutrients. (Not that I was previously getting them either.)
Spiraling Into Control
The cool thing is that once the weight started coming off, I found that I was able to do so much more in my yoga class. My appendages could bend in ways they previously couldn’t just because there wasn’t so much fat around them. (How could I not have been able to grab opposite elbow to opposite elbow above my head while lying on my back in “supta baddha konasana”?) And having less weight to push up, meant that finally, finally, finally, I could actually do some push-ups! Which of course all builds onto itself. Once I could do some push-ups, my upper body was able to start getting stronger overall. Then I could do more push-ups. And more of everything.
The stronger and healthier my body became, the more energy I had and the more I craved healthy foods. Plus, in a surprising twist, I naturally started drinking less alcohol. At first it was to save the calories, but at some point, I was just less interested. In fact, I was less interested in hanging out at the bar all together. While I had a lot of friends there, being sober at a bar gets pretty boring, pretty quickly. Plus, I felt bad taking up a seat and only having soda water which sometimes made it more tempting to drink alcohol.
Transformation Begets More Transformation
Within about 7 months, I had reached my goal of losing 25 lbs.
Coincidentally (or not) after transforming my body, around that same time was when I decided to further transform my life by giving up my career and identity as an SEO consultant. For a few more months, I continued to count calories, but the more I learned about nutrition and health, the more I realized that it wasn’t the best way to continue. Instead, I started eating even more vegetables, especially green ones, as well as lots of healthy fats and proteins.
Now I eat fewer grains products than previously and very little wheat. I had long since given up processed foods, and rarely eat sugar that doesn’t come from fruit. I eat as much as I want, and am generally stuffed most of the time. I have a couple of glasses of red wine a few nights a week, an occasional piece of cheesecake or tiramasu if I feel like it (my exceptions to the sugar thing) and some pizza maybe once a month. I snack much less often overall, because I’m generally full from my 3 super healthy meals a day. (I’m admittedly still learning when it comes to not eating if/when I’m full.)
Who Stole My Belly?
In many ways, I can’t believe it’s been a year since I decided to lose the weight. It still feels weird to me to reach down to my belly and have it be mostly gone. Because I lost it so quickly (relative to how long it had been there) it was almost like after you deliver your baby and he or she is no longer taking up space in your uterus. On the other hand, I sometimes wake up in a panic that I have suddenly put all the weight back on! This keeps me “honest” when it comes to continuing to live and eat in a healthy manner. In fact recently I realized I had gained a couple of pounds which didn’t appear to be just a fluky day, but more like a fluky couple of weeks. At first I was worried and thought I had let my wine or something else get out of control, but then decided that it may have been muscle gain. (I had started eating more protein overall.) I decided that I should probably stop weighing myself every day at this point, but that’s a bit scary too. However, when I did weigh myself again this week, I seemed to be back around the 115 mark so maybe it was just water retention or something. At any rate, my goal is to not worry about stuff like that and remember that as long as I am mainly eating healthy things and continuing to exercise, then it’s all good!
Here are my before and afters: