In the beginning: When I was in my teens and early 20s I competed in pageants…even winning swimsuit awards at a few state competitions. Fat-free was all the rage then and I prided myself on eating less than 5 grams of fat a day during competition season. I was muscular, 5’6” and 125 lbs. Losing weight wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t hard either back then. I love a lot of diverse foods, but gave up a lot when competing. When I joined the workforce I challenged myself with a job that required a yearly fitness test…push-ups, sit-ups, waist measurement and a timed run. While the amount of my physical activity has ebbed and flowed throughout the years, it has always been a part of my life.
What happened: As I moved into my late 20s and early 30s it became harder. I worked out daily, but was still 20 lbs more than when I competed. Folks said that’s what happened with age. I was still within my BMI though and felt good, but always had to have a daily nap! When I got married in my early 30s I maintained my weight until I had children. I put on 25 lbs while pregnant, but 25 lbs never came off. Sure, some of it did, but as most new moms can relate it was a struggle. For years I teetered between a normal BMI and what doctor’s consider overweight. It was frustrating.
In 2010, I started actively running, about 4-5 miles a day. I used a stand-up desk because I read it burned 500 extra calories a day. I also started a ‘healthy” eating routine…whole grain breads and pastas, yogurt, oatmeal, low-fat dairy, soups, fruits and vegetables. I often had a Lean Cuisine, Weight Watcher’s or Healthy Choice for lunch. I mean just look at the names…how could these meals not be good for me? When I traveled for work I ate at Subway. I got back to an acceptable BMI, but that only lasted about 7 months and the scale started to go up again.
I remember at my yearly physical I told my doctor about my daily running routine and my “healthy” diet. When she said, “You might have a thyroid issue,” I thought “YES! Something that explains it.” First off, what crazy logic is that to get excited about a possible illness to explain weight gain! Thank God, I did not have a thyroid issue, but what was happening?
In 2013, I took on a new, more stressful position, but still went to the gym. I drank coffee with creamer like a fiend in the morning and drank a glass or two of wine at night to unwind. Store bought French bread became a staple at every meal. I always tried to balance the plate with a meat, starch and vege, but again the numbers on the scale kept climbing. I also must admit I have a sweet tooth, but a bit of Dove, Hershey’s or M&Ms always seemed to satisfy it. In 2014, we had a British soccer coach stay at our home. We went to the grocery store to buy food for his lunches. He couldn’t believe all the choices we had. He told me how many of the foods here were outlawed in England. I thought it was interesting, but didn’t give too much more thought to it as I took him through a McDonald’s drive thru later that day.
By 2015 I had gained all my baby weight back. I was 15 lbs over my BMI and officially dubbed overweight. I felt tired, stressed, unhappy with my appearance and hopeless. In Dec. 2015 I gave away a ton of size 8 clothes thinking I’d never, ever be able to wear them again since I had not been able to wear them since 2010.
A new chapter: In late 2015, a friend told me about an M.D./nutritionist she was seeing. I quickly made an appointment for after the New Year. On Jan. 7, 2016 I met Dr. B. and she talked to me about gluten and casein allergies, GMO’s, glycemic index, organic foods and foods dubbed healthy that would actually sabotage weight loss. I had never heard about GMOs! She gave me a daily caloric plan, recipes, shopping lists and supplements to help me as I changed my eating habits.
That weekend we had a snowstorm, so I binge watched every Netflix film I could find on food. FedUp, Food, Inc, Cowspiracy, Forks over Knives, SuperSize Me…yep I watched them all. FedUp and Food, Inc. really hit home. I was shocked to learn what Big Food was doing to our food and what little the FDA was doing to protect us. I went through my pantry and got rid of boxed rice and pasta sides. I swapped out whole grain wheat pastas for brown rice, corn and quinoa. I made a few changes, but my low-fat cereals stayed, my Chunky soups stayed, my lunch meats stayed…as did many other products that I thought were “healthy.” In fact, I bought more Gatorade Power Bars for my son. The packaging said 20 grams of protein. We kept the Carnation Breakfast drinks with 11 vitamins and minerals. That stuff had to be good for you right? I mean, the packaging said so.
For as long as I’ve known my best friend she’s always been into food and fitness. She is a wealth of knowledge and an inspiration. When I shared with her my new knowledge she told me about Food Babe. I looked at the Facebook page and was intrigued. I went to the library to get the book. I’m not a fast reader, but that book went with me to every soccer game, baseball practice, and carpool line I went to. I knew half-way through that I had to order my own copy. I wanted to dog-ear it, highlight it, tab it.
By the middle of the book I was back in my kitchen pantry. I spent three days reading EVERY LABEL in my kitchen. By the third night I wanted to sit on the floor and cry. All these foods I was feeding to my kids were loaded with TBHQ, BHA, hidden MSG, sugar, sugar and more sugar. If I didn’t recognize an ingredient I looked it up on the internet. The vast majority were not good. For me, the light bulb went on. This wasn’t healthy food. My body had no idea how to process it. It was making me sick and fat and was causing who-knows-what damage to my kids. I did another clean out and started looking for other alternatives to baked crackers, granola bars and peanut butter.
I must tell readers that I’ve been through my pantry and freezer at least six or seven times. Food has an emotional pull… either because we are addicted to the taste or we can’t wrap our minds around the cost of getting rid of it. My taste buds started to change after the first month, but my wallet still cringed at the thought that I had just bought a club-price pack of turkey bacon and year’s supply of Eggo waffles (Ok, not really a year, but certainly a month’s worth…maybe two).
The turning point came as I started to see the scale go lower and lower each week. Pounds were coming off like crazy! Real food tasted great. I was cooking and finding new recipes to satisfy my needs and my sweet tooth (Yep, Babe’s Almond Butter Fudge recipe rocks!) I remember I left for a business trip and my husband found the last pack of frozen, processed lunch meat. When I came home I was so disgusted by it that I immediately threw it away. He came home a few days later looking for it as I feigned like I didn’t hear him ask me, “What happened to the lunch meat?” I finally had to confess that I threw it away. It wasn’t good for any of us. I promised to make an organic chicken weekly so that he would have lunch meat.
When I went to the gym I talked to people who looked fit and healthy. Fitness instructors are a wealth of knowledge, as are many people who take their classes. I’d ask a question during class about food and get three or four varying answers… all good answers that would lead me to a new recipe, or gadget or better, cleaner way of living my life. All the instructors said that changing your body was “20 percent exercise and 80 percent food.” WOW were they right! I started seeing muscles and definition in my arms and legs from only lifting five to eight pound weights. I went from wearing my husband’s t-shirts and baggy running pants to buying cute, matching yoga outfits (a reward for meeting each new weight goal).
When my copy of The Food Babe Waycame in March I was close to reaching my initial goal weight…35 lbs less than when I started. I wanted to be the weight I was when I got married and fit into some adorable jeans my husband bought me that I hadn’t worn in years (a pair of size 8s I just couldn’t bring myself to donate). I decided to order a few more copies…one for my doctor, one for my fitness coach, one for my sister and a few spares for special gifts. I’m trying to follow the 21-day plan and do pretty well at it. A few things took me some attempts… the lemon/cayenne water didn’t stick right away, but I tried again after a week or so and have been on it for nearly two months now. I can’t imagine not starting my morning without it.
I recently went to a hibachi-style restaurant and didn’t read the book before going. I knew the hibachi was out when I asked the cook, “Do you have brown rice?” And was told, “Umm well we have white rice and we put soy sauce on that and it makes it brown.” Every question I asked about what they were putting on the meat to the bananas was answered as a joke. I ordered sushi knowing it wasn’t that great of an option either. I swore off that restaurant that night. I was saddened to learn our state farmer’s market doesn’t sell organic, so I make treks to Whole Foods and order from online services I read about in the book. I still haven’t been able to master the 12-hour fast, but I’m working on it. I’ve read the book twice now and it still travels with me. In fact, I made up several packages of Vani’s oatmeal with dates for an upcoming trip. I’ve probably recommended the book to more than a dozen people who ask me “What are you doing to look like that?”
Four months after I started this journey I’ve lost 42 lbs and am considered by doctor’s and weight calculators as being at “an ideal weight” for my height! My husband has never seen me at this weight. I haven’t been this weight since I was in my early 20s. I want folks to know that I eat too! I eat a lot! My body craves blueberries and asparagus cauliflower lemon risotto, sautéed spinach and cabbage, green juice and smoothies, nuts, avocados (I eat one a day!), coconut and organic chicken and fish. I’m also asked all the time “Don’t you reward yourself?” I sure do… every day! I reward myself with healthy sweets like those pumpkin-spiced nuts or chocolate coconut fat bombs or homemade ice cream. I also reward myself by fitting into size 4 clothes! Clothes are actually fun for me now, not something to hide under.
Most importantly I’m setting an example for my children of what healthy is and should be. I’ve opened up a whole new dialogue with them about what constitutes healthy eating so that we’re getting the most out of our minds and bodies. I want them to see me as strong, fit and healthy on a daily basis… not a picture of what I once was in my early 20s. I believe we lead by example and I need to be an example for them.
A few final notes, I kicked butt on my annual fitness test this year. I ran faster than any previous year, did more sit-ups and push-ups than any previous year and had the same waist measurement I did 20 years ago when I was 25. I outran 90 percent of the people I tested with that day … most of them were much younger. In addition, I usually suffer 6-8 weeks with spring pollen allergies (a curse I gained moving to the South)…taking a daily pill. This year my allergies have practically disappeared. I only suffered two days! I can’t 100% say it is the diet, but I sure think it is. The Food Babe Way changed my life…and it feels and tastes wonderful!
My Top Tips:
* You must make time for yourself. If you give your time away to everyone else and have nothing left for you at the end of the day then positive life changes, whether losing weight, working out, etc, will be very tough to accomplish.
* Only you have the power to change your life. Spouse not on-board with the program? That’s ok. You make the decision as to what food goes into your body. If you’re not the shopper or the chef, it is harder, but you can purchase for yourself or make requests. You have to want it and not let anyone stop you.
* Don’t be a naysayer. There are so many people I’ve encountered that don’t believe that organic is better or that pesticides are hurting us. All I know is that I have seen the difference first-hand and I won’t let anyone argue with my facts. If you don’t believe that’s up to you, but don’t put it down unless you’ve tried it.
* Surround yourself with positive influences! This one is SO IMPORTANT. I could not have done this alone. I had fit, healthy people to encourage me and answer my questions and lift me up. I know my limitations. I know I cannot go to restaurants or drink on a daily or even weekly basis (by the way, I no longer want to), but my positive influencers were all about finding other ways to socialize like PARKfit or making homemade meals. Sure we imbibe from time to time…a girl’s gotta live! But I love them for their company, energy, spirit and support…not because they come with a cocktail.
* If you stick with it…truly stick with it…then you’ll need to go clothes shopping! Don’t buy a complete wardrobe the next size down because you may surprise yourself at where your body decides it’s comfortable. I wanted to wear those size 8 jeans in the worst way…and I did, but only once. Now I need a belt for a few of my size 4s!
Good luck with YOUR JOURNEY. I know The Food Babe Way can help you too!” –