I feel like I should preface this post by saying I don’t think one’s weight should ever be allowed to define them. And I don’t want to put an unhealthy emphasis on a number. Most of us know whether or not we have weight to lose, and we also know when the weight we’re carrying poses a significant health risk. My concern, from a health perspective, was the weight around my midsection, as that’s said to be the most dangerous excess for the heart.
I lost most of the weight I had gained with my twins (who are now a month from turning 6) but then, even before I became pregnant with my now 2 1/2 year old, I had gained some of it back. And then, of course, I gained even more carrying that last pregnancy. When I stepped on the scale last April, I was only 16 pounds lighter than I had been the day I delivered my twins, and I had gained nearly 50 pounds with that pregnancy. The time had come to get serious.
At around the same time, my husband received some not-so-great test results from his annual physical and blood work that he’s required to undergo as a firefighter. His mainstream doctor told him he needed to lose some weight and make some dietary changes, STAT. He specifically recommended a plant-based diet. One of the struggles my husband was having was elevated LDLs and foods derived from plants are naturally cholesterol-free. He was also pre-diabetic.
And so I went to work devising a plan that would help both of us. Here’s an overview of what changes slowly transpired over the following year. No gimmicks and none of this is something I stand to gain anything for by telling you about it. And can I please ask that if you read nothing else, at least skip down to the section on Intermittent Fasting. It’s been a game-changer!
At the advice of the doctor, we opted for a plant-based diet. We utilize fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and grains. If grains were an issue for either of us, we obviously would have to choose carefully. Thankfully, we both handle wheat and gluten just fine.
My struggle was finding ways to prepare meals of this nature in enough variety so as not to cause serious boredom and subsequent burnout. We quickly grew tired of eating the same few things I managed to tuck into our rotation and high cholesterol and a thick middle weren’t seeming as important as they initially had. 😉
I stumbled upon Meal Mentor (no, that’s not an affiliate link: I get nothing for telling you about them) one day and found that they put out a new plant-based menu each week and would send the menu, recipes, batch cooking instructions (if you preferred to cook the meals in one pop, which I don’t) and even the grocery list. I loved the concept of breaking out of my rut so much that I gave it a try. I’ll be honest, I was a little put off by the idea of paying $18.99 a month for the service but I was even more put off by knowing we needed change and that I just didn’t have time to sift through gobs of internet recipes trying to score some winners. Since this took pretty much all the work out of my hands, I decided I’d just pull it from my grocery budget and found that I was saving money this way and so, ultimately, it was really a wash. There are obviously meals that we don’t love, but I can usually tell by eyeballing the recipe. If it looks like a miss, I strike it and add a rice bowl (have you tried a rice bowl?? the options are endless!!) with lots of fixings or something yummy like that.
Anyway, the short version of our dietary changes is that my husband is no longer pre-diabetic, his cholesterol is making strides in spite of his genetic predisposition to struggles in that area, and he’s lost weight. As for me, I was in good shape as far as blood work goes, so I wasn’t looking to improve that but I have lost weight and I feel SOO much better.
Don’t panic. I resisted the idea for months after two of my friends had encouraged me to try it. I hated the idea of thinking about my food so much. It seemed I’d be obsessing over every calorie and as somebody who suffered with an eating disorder years ago, I was NOT looking to go back there. However, I finally caved and downloaded the MyFitnessPal app and gave it a try. What I discovered was that I was eating an obscene number of calories in a day! Many plant-based foods are very calorie dense and going back for seconds was literally making me fat.
Coming to terms with healthy portion sizes and getting an idea of what a day’s worth of food should look like for me, was actually freeing rather than restrictive. And I don’t obsess over it because you’re basically estimating caloric value in many things anyway. It just gave me some traction and clarity when it came to portion control. And it put the brakes on mindless snacking, no matter how healthy I thought my snacks were.
Will I track calories forever? Nope, probably not. Many days I only plug in one meal to sort of ground myself, particularly if I’m feeling especially determined to eat ALL the food. Other days I don’t log at all. But I like having the access to that accountability when I know I need it. And for the record, I didn’t severely restrict my caloric intake. I chose the top end recommended for my age, height and current weight. I don’t know about you, but I hate feeling like I’m about to starve. 🙂
Okay, this is probably my favorite component to my weight loss. Seriously. And I plan to write a whole other post just on this topic. Because there is so much negativity surrounding the idea of fasting, which is sad to me, because there are incredible health benefits waiting to be unlocked if we’d just give our systems a rest.
Gut health is all the rage these days, right? Prebiotics, probiotics, pink drinks, fermented foods, kombucha, kefir, homemade yogurt…the list goes on. People have caught on that there is a TON going on in the gut that affects our overall health. And in this case, the people are right! And while I’m not here to dispute the use of any of the aforementioned items or products, I just want to point out that there is one thing you can do that is not only absolutely free, it will actually SAVE you money. Enter intermittent fasting.
Basically, you choose a window of time during the day where you want to eat your meals. Commonly, this is an 8 hour window, although the hours are flexible. Let’s say you want to be able to eat breakfast with your family so you choose 8 am. That means your window would end at 4pm. Simply put, it means the kitchen is now closed to you. If it’s more important to you that you get to eat supper with your family and that’s at 5pm, then just count 8 hours backward to land on when your window opens. The only caveat is that you want to try to give your last meal time to digest before bed. Ideally, as close to 4 hours as possible.
Now, what on earth does this fasting period do? Oh so many things! First, it gives the overtaxed digestive system a much needed break. It’s only in recent years and in developed countries that food has become so readily accessible at all hours of the day. With intermittent fasting, you’re simply giving yourself time to digest, rest and reset.
But there’s more. Do you have a few pounds of fat to lose? The simple act of resting your system also helps your body tap into those fat stores. With an 8 hour eating window you’re giving your body a 16 hour opportunity to burn through the glucose from the foods you consumed during the day and then it turns to your stored fat to fuel you. If you love the idea of burning through fat while you sleep, don’t discount this concept.
Like I said, I have lots to say about this topic, but at the moment, suffice it to say that since putting this into practice, I have no bloat, no puffy tummy, my energy is high, my sleep is restful and most days I have almost no cravings. As a bonus, I surged through a many months-long plateau and lost 10 pounds very quickly without reducing caloric intake or increasing physical activity. For the cost of only a little self-control, I’d say that was a win. And honestly, it feels good to control my food rather than have it controlling me.
I love movement. It feels so good to make my body work, even if it’s just to go on a gentle walk with my family. A few years ago, my husband and kids bought me a basic FitBit for Mother’s Day and this year it got upgraded to a newer one. I barely ever look at the total estimated calorie burn for the day but I do keep an eye on my steppage. Is that a word? I thought it was until I typed it out and it looked weird.
Anyway, aside from walks I dabble in the occasional run, some cardio programs, resistance work and stretching. I have the annual subscription to Beachbody on Demand (which I do when my kids aren’t around due to the scantily clad workout bodies of many of the ladies) but lately I’ve been using two smartphone apps. Fitivity (Fit Kettlebells) and Nike+ Training. I use the Fitivity app less frequently than the Nike one, but that’s mostly because I like lots of variety and Nike has more. And the app is customizable. You can tell it what, if any, equipment you have available, how many times a week you want to work out with the app, what type of exercise you want to do, and if you want to incorporate runs into your routine. It will then generate for you a program that meets your specifications. I only have a few hand weights and one kettle bell and I get a great variety of strength and endurance. And since muscle also burns fat, well…. 🙂
My step goal for each day is 12,500. That pretty much always require that I get outside and work or walk, both of which are good for my health, aside from just weight loss. And my family enjoys that I get out there with them!
So, in 2000 words or less that is what I’ve done to lose over 30 pounds this past year. Not only does it feel good to be carrying less weight around, but the body aches, swelling and migraines are gone.
If you’re interested in hearing more, check back this week. I’ll be sharing:
*Ways Physical Activity Promotes More than Weight Loss
*Intermittent Fasting as a Gentle Tool for both Brain and Body (I told you I had a lot to say on this topic!)
*A peek into my Daily Routine at Home
What are some ways you’ve taken charge of your health? Your questions, encouragement, inspiration and feedback are always welcome here!