2009 has been a big year for me. I became engaged, left my day job of four years, re-launched my dance school, sold my beloved condo, moved to St. Catharines, and got married. This has also been the year that I changed my thinking, behaviour and lifestyle and learned to lose and keep off the extra weight that I had bounced around my entire life. Since the beginning of 2009, I have lost and kept off more than 20 pounds and I can say with confidence that the change is permanent.
I have always been chubby. I was a chubby kid, a chubby teenager, and in my twenties I’m guessing that I yo yo’d back and forth between 140 and 150 pounds for most of that decade. Being 5’5 and having a medium to small frame, the high end of that range definitely qualified me as chubby.
I used to refuse to call my weight loss efforts dieting. I didn’t “believe” in diets but that was just denial. When I chose to care I watched what I ate… temporarily. During those times I would often eat very little for a short period of time and increase my exercise but it only ever lasted until that next special event that I was planning for. Then my focus would slacken and I’d be straight back in to weight gain mode.
In late December of 2008 something finally clicked and I decided I had had ENOUGH. Enough of the yo yo-ing. Enough of feeling uncomfortable with my weight. Enough of feeling too shy to wear most of the clothing in my wardrobe – because I was having a ‘fat’ or ‘bloated’ day. Enough of being the chubby dancer in my community. Enough of feeling out of control. I had just hit 150 on the scale, I felt terrible, and suddenly I was really ready to make permanent changes.
You can’t force that feeling of being ready. I know that now. Leading up to December and that ENOUGH moment, I had known for weeks, even months that I was putting on weight and needed to put on the breaks. But I kept overeating and giving in right up until that moment. I was talking and thinking about losing weight but I was the spitting image of no or little action. I lacked the commitment.
I had complained to a friend, Jaime Almond, that I was putting on weight and she told me about a website called My Food Diary. When she first told me about it I thought it sounded like way too much work and I resisted trying it. I didn’t want to pay for some website, take the time to measure my food, write down what I was eating, take that kind of responsibility. I wanted to be thin but I just wasn’t ready to do the work.
Around that time I fell for a couple of quick fixes (ie. scams) on the internet. I ordered the Wu Yi weight loss tea and the very expensive Acai supplements that I saw online. Sure, drinking green tea is good for you and the acai berry genuinely is a great antioxidant but I was being utterly lazy and foolish. I suppose that I was being human, but I sure felt embarrassed about those products when I realized and maybe that’s part of what helped me to get my act together.
Finally that ENOUGH switch flipped in late December and I committed to make the effort, whatever it took. I joined My Food Diary, as recommended by Jaime, and dedicated myself to losing and keeping off 10 pounds. My goal was to lose the weight by my birthday (March 1st) and then to keep it off.
10 pounds in 3 months. I had done it before, but not healthfully. This time I wanted to lose the weight but I truly wanted to change my thinking, behaviour and lifestyle and I wanted the changes to be permanent.
www.MyFoodDiary.com is an online food and exercise log. I don’t want to sound like an infomercial for the site, but it really did change everything for me. It taught me to count calories and keep track of my fitness and nutrition. It helped me log my personal journey and I learned more in my first 3 months on that website about fitness and nutrition than I had learned my entire life before that point.
The site provides a clear range of net calories appropriate for each individual to meet their weight loss goals. It takes in to account fitness levels, age and lifestyle to give you a personal calorie zone to aim for.
Here is an example of one of the charts:
I had always believed I was a very healthy person and that I knew how to eat healthfully even if I didn’t always practice what I preached. My problem – I thought – was just that I often ate too much. When I indulged I *really* knew how to indulge but even so I thought I knew what good nutrition was. Compared to most people my diet really was more healthful than the average Joe but there was still so much that I’ve since learned to think about differently.
I began to read everything that I possibly could about nutrition on the board’s forum. What a fountain of useful information it is! There are many success stories and Before & After photos including people who lost more than a hundred or even 200 pounds. I found it very inspiring and read all of the useful tips and advice that everyone shared.
Here is a quotation that I came across on New Year’s Eve 2008 that really resonated with me:
“No matter what, the time is going to go by anyways.
You can do the work and wake up 3 months from now thinner and healthier or you can do nothing and wake up 3 months from now still fat and unhealthy.
Either way, the odds are that you WILL wake up 3 months from now.
The time is yours. Do with it what you will.”
A couple of months in to my journey I discovered a thread on the forum called The Flat Belly Diet. This is a diet plan put out by Prevention magazine and despite the terrible fad-like name, it actually isn’t just some gimmick or fad diet. The concept is that by adding good fats (MUFAs and PUFAs ie. mono and poly unsaturated fatty acids) to your diet you will feel more satisfied, and have more consistent digestion, as well as many other health benefits.
These healthy fats include:
1. Olive, Flax, Canola, Sesame, Soybean, walnut or peanut oil
2. Nuts and Seeds and natural nut and seed butters
3. olives, black or green
5. high quality dark chocolate!
I realized that one of the reasons I had struggled with my weight was that I was choosing so many low fat and non-fat foods that I wasn’t really satisfied so I would eat too much. This meal plan has worked exceptionally well for me and I continue to follow it for almost every meal.
Increasing my exercise has of course been important. Making it a regular routine and a daily part of my life compared to the occasional random workout or just relying on dancing. Sure, dancing can be great exercise, but not when I’m teaching and not when my body is so used to it. So I started to walk everywhere and anywhere that I could. To and from work, dance classes and events, meeting friends, everywhere. Sometimes that means leaving much earlier to accommodate a one hour walk but I love it. I also began to workout in the morning, either swimming or doing some other form of cardio and later I integrated weight training.
It’s hard to say which of the vitamins and supplements I started to take has really truly helped but I take a lot of vitamins now and I feel great. A multi vitamin, C, D, Calcium Magnesium, Spirulina, fibre supplement, acai supplement, Omegas, B complex, glucosamine sulphate, and the flax and hemp seed oil that I’ve added to my diet. Something sure has been working. Sickness, stress, nervous emotions and depression that I struggled with in previous years, particularly over the winter months, seemed to vanish in 2009.
I achieved my first goal of 10 pounds loss by late February and decided that I could still stand to lose a few more pounds. When I began the process I had assumed that I had a large frame and that 140 would be a healthy weight for me but with the skills that I learned in my first 3 months I saw that maybe I should re-evaluate my goals. I kept at it changing my goal to 138, 135, 132, 130. When my weight first slipped below 130 I went in to shock. I had never imagined myself to be a ‘thin’ person in the 120s. It definitely took some time to get used to my new body.
Another key that helped me along the way was a little game I made up. The My Food Diary site provides a detailed report of our daily food consumption and rates it in greens or reds for nutrition content. Dark green for very healthy, light green for healthy, light red for unhealthy and dark red for very unhealthy. I found this daily analysis to be fascinating! I could use it to track my protein, fat, carbohydrate, fibre and vitamin intake. I started a group called The Green Box Challenge to calculate my nutritional intake and challenge myself to balance my diet perfectly on a daily basis.
I heard a lot of talk about a book called The Beck Diet Solution by Judith Beck. I’ve never been one to read much non-fiction but when I learned that it was available as an audiobook I downloaded it from iTunes. I began to listen to it on repeat every day when I walked to and from work. Effectively, I used this excellent audiobook to brainwash myself in to changing my habits and my way of thinking. And it worked! The program helped me to identify sabotaging thoughts and to counter them with automatic helpful responses. Though I haven’t listened to the audiobook recently, having listened to it so many times during the spring and summer I can still hear the helpful skills playing in my head and they help me every single day.
As I entered in to maintenance I started to understand that I had a lot of food sensitivities. In particular, I am very sensitive to food combining. There are foods that I can eat, but if I eat them in the wrong order I become very bloated and lethargic and I don’t feel very good. In particular, I learned that for me it’s very important that I eat fruit and vegetables only on an empty stomach or before I consume any other carbohydrates, fats and proteins or I will certainly become bloated. I figured this out through a lot of reading and also experimenting. I used to get really bloated almost every single day, I would always be a different size by the end of the day than I was in the morning. It feels wonderful to have that figured out now.
Learning about food combining also helped lead me to what I call The Breakfast Diet. I decided to stop trying to make such fussy foods which often contributed to my bloating problem. I didn’t have to be a gourmet, and cooking complicated meals didn’t necessarily even mean I would enjoy them more or that they were more healthful. Instead I began to eat all of the delicious and healthful breakfast foods whenever I wanted. What a simple concept but it was a revelation. I began to eat oatmeal, yogurt, fruit, cereals, wholegrain toast with nut butters and other nutritious breakfast foods for multiple meals a day and I never felt better. That’s not to say that I only eat those foods now, but it was a major eye opener for me to realize that I could keep things simple and feel great doing so.
Here is my weight chart that shows my weight loss and then my maintenance commitment this past year:
Shockingly, my comfortable weight zone is now between 126 and 130. I remember how I rejected the recommended weight range for my height, age and frame (120 to 138 pounds as recommended by doctors) determined that 140 was ideal for me. Things have changed and I’ve never felt better. Sure, I ate a few too many cookies this past week but it’s nothing in comparison to my lack of control during last holiday season.
All in all it’s been an amazing year. Now as I mark my one year anniversary of this lifelong journey, I feel confident and in control of my body and my nutrition. I know that my thinking has changed. I no longer think of myself as the chubby, fluctuating girl that I used to identify with. I feel thin, healthy and confident inside and out. It’s not a struggle. It just feels right and natural and wonderful. I’m very proud and grateful.