I’ve Been Personally Victimized By The BodPod

Last week, in my blog post, Confessions of a Crash Dieter, I briefly discussed a tragic story, of the time I subjected my body to the scrutiny of the BodPod. A BodPod, is a fancy little egg-shaped chamber, that uses air-displacement to accurately measure body fat percentage.

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The dreaded BodPod

The first time I entered the BodPod, I was confident. I was feeling brave. I was feeling like a weight loss master. I had been taking Phentermine for 6 months, eating 1,000 to 1,200 calories a day, and running three to four days a week. I thought I was doing all of the right things to lose weight. So I stepped into the BodPod, knowing that I wasn’t at my ultimate goal, but feeling pretty good about the progress I had made on the scale. Picture it, as I stepped out of the egg chamber, chest out, shoulders back. I sauntered over to the buff personal trainer and BodPod operator. Now imagine my embarrassment and horror, when he placed the results before me and read the verdict. 49% Body fat. I was a soft boiled egg. Half of my 150 pound, size 8 body, was made up of fat.

I knew I was still jiggly in places. I knew I still had work to do, to “tone”, but I was not expecting to be told that I was still considered to be in the “Risky” category for my body fat percentage. Even though I was at a normal weight for my height, because of the amount of excess body fat I had, I was still at a high risk for conditions related to obesity such as Type II Diabetes and heart disease.

Needless to say, I was ticked. How much more weight could they possibly expect me to lose? I held it together, the whole time thinking, “Maybe I did this at the wrong time of day? Maybe I ate a lot of sodium yesterday! Maybe I wore the wrong clothes?” I tried and tried to justify why the results had to be wrong. Totally dumbfounded, I tried to listen to him go over the results. He was talking, but all I heard was the Charlie Brown, wha wha. When I came to, he was totally calling me out. He said, “It looks like you’re eating way too little and doing too much cardio.” How could he know that from numbers on a paper?

It’s More Than The Scale

He knew exactly what I had been doing. Like so many others, I had based all of my weight loss

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150 pounds, 49% Body Fat

success on the number on the scale and the amount of pounds lost. I hadn’t thought one iota about body composition or fat loss. My only concern was seeing my weight drop.

The scale is a tricky thing, especially for women. While it is an important tool for collecting data points, it isn’t the end all be all when it comes to successful weight loss. So many things can cause our weight to fluctuate day-to-day. When I started losing weight, I weighed myself everyday. While this may seem a bit neurotic, it really helped me to learn my body. For me personally, I now know, that my weight will fluctuate if I have a busy day at work. It will fluctuate if I do a really heavy leg day and have delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). I know that I’ll gain a pound or 2 when I ovulate, it will go back down for a week, and then it will go back up 2-3 pounds before I start my period and then I will have a big weight loss after my period.  As women, so many things can have an effect on our weight. At the risk of sounding like the lady from Fried Green Tomatoes with the hand mirrors…it’s so important to learn your body. The scale is an important tool, but it’s also important to have other ways to measure progress.

The Toning Myth

When we start losing weight, we usually have a picture in mind of what our dream body would be. We usually don’t want a smaller body that’s still flabby. Most of the time we picture our ultimate goal as a “toned” body. Dropping more and more weight, isn’t what is going to make us look toned. We just need to lose enough fat to reveal the muscle underneath. However, if we’re trying to lose too much too quick, we will also be losing our muscle. That’s why sometimes it can seem like you’re chasing your tail when it comes to toning. When you’re eating too little and burning through your muscle, it’s going to be really hard to see progress.

There’s a saying that sometimes floats around that says, “muscle weighs less that fat.”img_1362 That’s not actually true. A pound is a pound no matter if it’s a pound of fat, muscle, or a bag of peanuts. What they’re actually meaning, is that a pound of muscle is much smaller and compact than a pound of fat. This is why a person who weighs 150 pounds, but is 49% body fat, can look much more overweight than a person that weighs 150, but has a body fat percentage of 25%. What their weight is made up of is completely different, and looks completely different…because a pound of muscle is smaller than a pound of fat.

The Metabolic Powerhouse

Muscle is so important when it comes to weight loss, not only because of the look it gives our body, but also because it actually helps us burn more body fat. In a previous blog post I explained the term Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). This is the amount of calories our body burns, just to support us being alive. This number is important, because it play a part in telling us how many calories we should be eating in a day. This number is not fixed! It changes according to your body composition! Muscle requires more calories to support itself than fat does, and has been referred to as the “metabolic engine” of the body. So the lower your percentage of body fat, and the higher your muscle mass…the higher your BMR. Translation: the higher the amount of lean muscle you have, and the lower the body fat percentage you have, the more food you can eat while maintaining or losing weight!

Let’s Try This Again

This time when I lost weight, I started my weight loss journey, with body composition in mind. I knew I would lose weight on the scale as a by-product, but I wanted to retain as much muscle as possible during the process. I knew this time around, that the more muscle I had, the more calories my body would burn naturally. I wanted to help my body work for me.img_1286 I learned that although I can burn calories while doing cardio, resistance training is so important for weight loss because I can continue burning calories long after my workout, as my body repairs my muscle. I learned that not eating enough food, and doing excessive amounts of cardio doesn’t do much to change my actual shape or body composition, because while I am burning some body fat, I’m also burning through my muscle. Imagine you have a giant balloon filled half way with water, and the other half with baseballs. If you slowly begin removing the same ratio of water and baseballs, your balloon is going to feel the same, it will just get smaller. However, if you work to only remove the water, leaving as many baseballs as you can…eventually you’re going to have one deadly weapon of a baseball balloon on your hands! Does that make any sense? It did in my head, okay!

Body builders know this concept, and have it down to a science. It’s nearly impossible to gain muscle mass, while eating in a caloric deficit. When a body builder is trying to put on more muscle, or “bulking”, they are actually eating at a caloric number above their maintenance calories. When they want to drop body fat again, to show off their new muscle, they drop their calories back to a caloric deficit, or “cutting”. They lower their calories just low enough to lose body fat, without dropping it so low that they’re going to lose all of that muscle they worked so hard for during their bulk. When in a caloric deficit, your main goal isn’t to necessarily build muscle, but to maintain what muscle you already have, so that your body is burning the maximum amount of calories it can while at rest.

Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is

So this week,  I decided it was time to put my money where my mouth is, and once again face the dreaded BodPod. I have been working for so long to change my body composition, and wanted to make sure I actually was. I wanted to prove to myself, that losing weight this way had worked…that it wasn’t just a theory. So this past Thursday, May 10, 2018, I stood in nothing but a sports bra and compression shorts, in front of a complete stranger and braved the Pod.

I checked my body fat percentage on my scale at home before I went, just to compare the results.

Results from my home scale, the morning of my BodPod test

According to my scale at home, I was 32.4% body fat.

I will admit I was a little worried. The last time I subjected myself to the BodPod, I had been confident, and it was a disaster. What if all of this weight loss advice I had been touting was total crap and I still had no clue what I was doing?

First of all, my body fat scale at home was WAY off, but in the best way possible. I left that place with the biggest smile on my face. 22.8% body fat! I couldn’t believe it! I’m finally a hard-boiled egg! The girl went over the results with me, and told me I was in the “Lean” category. Mind you I was only 0.2% away from “moderately lean”, but she said lean and I’m totally running with it!

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BodPod results from May 10, 2018

Never in my life would I have ever referred to myself as lean, and honestly it’s still a bit surreal to me how far I’ve come. According to the print out, being in a lean category means: “Lower body fat levels than many people. This range is excellent for health and longevity.” How freaking cool is that?

I hope that by sharing my results, you can see that it’s possible to completely transform your body with food and exercise. For years I struggled with bouncing back and forth with my weight. I could lose 20- 60 pounds and still not be completely happy with my results. It took me a long time to figure out, that the body I desired, required not just weight loss, it required muscle. I had to shift my focus to fat loss and muscle retention, not just on pounds lost on the scale. Things like progress pictures, measurements, how your clothes fit, and body fat percentage, are so much more telling than just your weight on the scale. Just 18 months ago, I was obese…I would’ve been considered in the “risky” category. If my body fat percentage was 49% at 150 pounds, I shudder to think what it was at my highest weight. With the right food and exercise strategy, I’ve been able to completely change my body, and much to my relief, I now have the paper to prove it!

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All smiles after braving the BodPod

Confessions of a Crash Dieter

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Let us pray. Dear Lord, be with me. Guide my fingers, as they dance swiftly across my keyboard, while I attempt to explain my severe distaste for everything related to fad diets, gimmicks, or “magic pills”. Please help me to share my experiences…the money lost and the extra pounds gained, in such a way as to minimize the offense that may be taken from said advice. Help me to use this platform, small as it may be, to save my dear friends some time and heartache by owning up to the truly idiotic things I have done to lose weight. Amen.

Where to Begin?

Like a lot of first time moms, my introduction to the woes of yo-yo dieting, began after the birth of my first son. I had tried to diet in the past, with decent success, by making small changes here and there. img_0770Nothing drastic. But I feel like there’s a mental shift that tends to happen regarding weight loss after the birth of a child. I think it probably stems from always being told as women, that your body will never be the same after having children. The horror. Choosing to become a mom, can truly be a terrifying prospect when it comes to body image. It’s a total crap shoot. While you may be one of the rare diamonds in the rough who never develops the first stretch mark and leaves the hospital in your pre-pregnancy jeans…you really have no idea what might happen to your body when you become a mom. From everything you’ve been told, you’re destined to live out your days, marred with stretch marks, widened hips, sagging skin, stubborn body fat, and let’s not even get started on what the actual act of childbirth may do to your body. Yikes.

So you throw caution to the wind! YOLO! You’re a mom! You trudge through the first few months of motherhood, sleep deprived, but falling in love with this new little human. Eventually, you clean the crust from your eyes, brave the bright lights of the bathroom mirror, and it’s time to assess the damage. For me, stretch marks and extra pounds were my proof of pregnancy. However, It turns out I was a slow adjuster. I was in pure survival mode for a long time, and it wasn’t until after Levi’s first birthday, that I decided it was time to tackle the “mom bod”.

I was 204 pounds when I gave birth to Levi, and by the time I was finally ready to do something about the baby weight, I was up to 215. I started out pretty conservatively, joining Weight Watchers with my mom. I have heard so many great things about Weight Watchers…it’s actually a lot like flexible dieting! I know many people have had great success with their program, but at this point in my life, it was working too slowly for me. I was 23 years old, and I didn’t have time for slow and steady. Impatience got the best of me, and after a few short weeks, I had enough.

That Escalated Quickly

So after my short stent with Weight Watchers, I did probably one of the stupidest diets I’ve ever done in my life. You talk about a quick fix recipe for disaster. Enter the HCG diet. img_1056Human Chorionic Gonadotropin Hormone. If you’re unfamiliar, that would be the pregnancy hormone…the same hormone that your placenta produces, and is what makes that pregnancy test turn positive. My brilliant idea, was to lose my baby weight by injecting my thigh daily, with pregnancy hormone for a month. A true stroke of genius.

Not only did I inject my thigh daily with HCG, I paid $250 to do so, and followed the diet plan that went along with the program. The diet plan was extremely restrictive. Like 500 calories per day restrictive. I lost 30 pounds in a month, all of which I gained back in the next couple of months after I stopped the injections. Who would’ve predicted that injecting yourself with expensive pregnancy hormone was not a sustainable diet strategy?

On to the Next One

After that disaster, I can seriously remember googling how to qualify for the Lap Band. I know, I know…hilarious. It turns out I wasn’t quite ready for that yet. I would’ve needed to gain another 50 pounds or so to be in the BMI range to qualify, and honestly for a brief moment I considered living it up for a few months…plumping myself up, like a fatted calf preparing for the slaughter. I thought I could gain just enough weight for what I felt would be the “easy way out”. That’s how naive I was, I thought having surgery and permanently altering my anatomy was the easiest option, not realizing that even surgery requires diet modification to be effective long-term. Oy. I quickly realized how irrational I was being, and briefly tried out a diet pill called Alli.img_1055 Any diet pill that states on the bottle that it may cause “oily stools” is probably not the greatest option long-term. I decided my next course of action would be Phentermine. It was way cheaper than the HCG, and it also gave you energy!

So I dragged my rear to a weight loss clinic, and started running. I continued taking the medication for 6 months, losing an average of 10 pounds a month. It definitely suppressed my appetite, but it also gave me horrible dry mouth, acne, and thinning hair. I quickly figured out that I could still lose weight eating Taco Bell and junk food…I just ate less of it. I got down to 150 pounds, but I was still 49% body fat according to the BodPod. It turns out, that when you lose weight that quickly, your body isn’t just losing body fat. It’s also losing water weight, and because I was doing only cardio and not eating enough protein, I was also losing lean muscle mass. That’s where the term “skinny fat” comes from. Just because someone is within a healthy BMI range, it doesn’t mean their body looks “toned”. They can be 125 pounds, but because they have very little muscle mass, they still feel like they look flabby.  img_1057In order to “tone”, you just need to change your body composition, meaning gaining lean muscle mass, and losing actual body fat. After taking Phentermine, I got to just within the normal BMI range for my height, but I still felt like I hadn’t really reshaped my body, and I figured out it was time to shift my focus to losing actual body fat. I also knew that I couldn’t continue taking the Phentermine forever and it was getting too expensive to keep buying it every month.

After I stopped taking the diet pills, I actually kept the weight off for a while and started working on my body composition. It wasn’t until life stress and the comfortable flow of a new relationship came into my life that I began packing the weight back on. And then I absolutely PACKED it on. I had been starving my body for months, and it was having no more of that abuse! I gained weight so rapidly, that I swear it’s what caused me to need to have my gallbladder removed. My gallbladder was done trying to keep up with weight gain and food intake, so it just stopped functioning all together. I had it removed, and then got pregnant 2 months later! Looking back now, I can see that I have really put more poor body through the ringer!

So Here’s My Issue

Besides the fact that all of these “weight loss aids” cost a ton of money, none of them teach anything about nutrition or weight maintenance. Because let’s be honest, if they did, you wouldn’t need them anymore. My problem with diet pills, teas, wraps, etc…is that mentally they can really warp your perception of what a healthy lifestyle is, and make you feel like you’re always going to need some superfluous thing, to make you to be successful. Even if these products work, and you lose weight, it’s just not realistic to think that you’re going to use any product or pill for the rest of your life, and then what do you do? I know for me, for a long time, I felt like the only way I would be successful with weight loss, is if I took Phentermine again. If I couldn’t afford to do that, there was no point in trying at all, and I went completely in the other direction.

This time around, when I began losing weight, I was determined to not depend on ANY product, person, or thing, to make me lose the weight. I wanted to look back on my success and be able to say, without a doubt, that nothing had assisted my weight loss except for my body, the food I was eating, and the exercise I was doing. Because that is truly sustainable weight loss. If every supplement company, pharmacy, or diet book in the world suddenly disappeared…I knew how to eat to continue my weight loss, because I had removed all other variables except for my nutrition and my workout routine.img_0948

Now when I hear of a new miracle product or amazing new diet, I’m extremely skeptical. I’m a total conspiracy theorist when it comes to fad diets or weight loss aids. There’s always the same questions that run through my head:

  1. Will someone stand to make a profit if I become mentally or physically dependent on this product? If any company truly created a product that worked, they would quickly go out of business. They would fix everyone’s weight issues, and then no one would need their product. Their company depends on my mental dependence on their product…because physically I know, I don’t need it.
  2. Will this product help me lose weight without diet modification? Scientifically I can tell you the answer is no. No product can cause you to lose weight without diet modification. Surgery can’t even do that. However, diet modification can make you lose weight without the product, and you don’t have to spend any extra money!

Quietly Tip-Toeing Off The Soap Box

I truly hope that by sharing my mistakes with weight loss and crash diets, that I can save you some time and money. I think so many times, we can fall into the trap of thinking that we need some external thing to assist us with weight loss. We get impatient. We feel like we’re too old, we’ve broken our metabolism with motherhood, we’re too mentally weak, or any other reason we can think of. img_0751I hope that by sharing my weight loss journey with you, that you can see that it’s totally possible to do this. I’ve said it multiple times, and I’ll continue saying it…I’m no one special. I don’t have a super fast metabolism. I’m not naturally skinny. I don’t enjoy “healthy foods”. I wasn’t an athlete in high school. I’m a busy working mom, with stretch marks, and spider veins. I never found a miracle product, pill, or tea. I just figured out how to eat a more balanced diet, in a caloric deficit, and I figured out how to make my own body work with me. Although the term “Flexible Dieting” may be trendy right now…bodybuilders have been manipulating their nutrition for decades to transform their bodies. It’s nothing new.

I never thought I would want to share my weight loss experience publicly, but I’m becoming increasingly more passionate about it, because I truly feel like anyone can do what I’ve been able to do. Anyone can feel the sense of accomplishment that comes from completely transforming your body naturally with food, and the pride that you feel, knowing that you didn’t try to cheat the system this time. So instead of investing in a product that claims to be the next break through, invest in your knowledge about nutrition, and invest your money on good food that helps you reach your goals.

“And that’s all I have to say about that.”- Forrest Gump

Memoirs of a Stress Eater

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I never really considered myself an “emotional eater”. I went out to eat a lot, and I didn’t exercise. I always assumed I was just maybe a little lazy, had no will power, or just told myself I didn’t care. I didn’t feel like I was eating when I was sad, or happy…I was just mindlessly eating. Period. But when I look back and really think about it, I can see how closely the fluctuations in my weight, correlated with some of the most stressful periods in my life.

I gained a little weight after I got married right out of High School. I was 18, trying to be a real adult, telling myself I was “mature” and could totally handle it. I was working, we bought our first house when I was 19, and I began going to school img_0834full-time to be a Surgical Tech. I felt like I was coping with the stress pretty well, but I do remember my weight steadily creeping up, and was somewhere in the 180’s when I finished school.

So I graduated tech school at age 20, began working in Labor and Delivery, and I dropped a few pounds after life slowed down a bit. BAM! My ovaries go absolutely insane! Pumping out signals to the entire system that I need a baby, ASAP. Any woman who has tried to conceive knows, that when that baby bug hits you, it comes out of no where and you are totally consumed. One day you’re just going about your day, you’ve always thought babies were adorable, but it hadn’t really struck you as possible to have one of your very own yet. Then out of no where, it’s suddenly all you can think about, you feel obsessed. Almost frantic. Now try having that feeling while working in Labor and Delivery and actually witnessing childbirth and that sweet moment when a new mom holds her slimy, sweet little angel for the first time. Over and over, multiple times a day, everyday…for your job. There was no stopping me! I needed to have a baby!

The Ballooning Effects of Motherhood

So I’m 21, and I have my first little man, Levi. My whole world had been rocked, I was a mommy.

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Levi and Mommy at Niagara Falls, 2010

I, like most new moms, really had no idea what I had signed up for. I knew I’d be tired, I knew I would have a little life totally dependent on me. But like most things in life, until you’re actually living it, day in and day out, you really have no idea what’s in store for you. Motherhood is truly the most beautiful, stressful, life-altering, chaotic thing I’ve ever done. It is such an adjustment any time a new little person enters your life, but especially when it’s your first child. Along with the love, and joy, comes a lot of stress…and for me, also a lot of eating! When I gave birth to Levi, I weighed in at 204 lbs. Side note: it’s hilarious to me that I can recall my exact weights at every moment of my life, but sometimes for the life of me can’t remember to get the laundry out of the washer before it starts to stink!

Anyway, so I’m 204 lbs when I was 9 months pregnant with Levi, fast forward to when Levi was 2, and not only had I not lost any of my baby weight, I was up to 215.

So then started the whole yo-yo dieting extravaganza. I did so many stupid things to try to get the weight off, that they’ll probably need to be a separate blog post. Let’s just say I tried a lot of different things. I was sick of messing around, I was ready to bring out the big guns. Enter Phentermine and running.

Success! Wait…What?

I lost 60 pounds. I had horrible dry mouth, thinning hair, ate little to nothing, and my body fat percentage was still sitting at about 49%.

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60 lbs lost after Phentermine

I know this because after losing all of that weight, I was feeling pretty good about my progress and decided to have my body fat percentage checked with a Bodpod, at an event hosted by Advocare. Bad idea. I was “shook”. How on earth had I lost all of that weight, gotten myself into a “normal” weight range, and still half of my body was made up of fat? There was a trainer there to explain your results with you after the test, and he flat-out said, “You’re probably not eating enough and are doing way too much cardio and no resistance training.” He totally called me out. Had he been following me around? I was actually kind of defensive about it when I saw the numbers. I lost 60 pounds pal! You can’t tell me crap! It turns out, he was completely right.

So I ignored the BodPod results for a while, until I learned from a friend, why strength training and eating more protein was so important. I learned why I should focus more on actual fat loss, instead of just “weight loss”, and why the BodPod had read my body fat percentage as being so high. Spoiler Alert: It was because I wasn’t just losing body fat..I was losing weight yes, but that weight was made up of muscle, water, and fat…instead of just fat. Hence the term, “skinny fat”.

Single Mom Stress and Building a New Life

By this point, I’m 25. I’ll spare you the gory details, but it’s pretty obvious to me now, seeing how I’ve changed so much over the past decade, why most marriages that begin at age 18 fail, and ultimately mine did.

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Levi and Mommy at Watkins Glen 2013

I was 25, a single mom of a 3-year-old, and even though I took a long hiatus from men, I was trying desperately to maintain my weight loss, just in case someday I wanted to try to meet someone. I was only 25, and realistically, I knew that I wouldn’t want to be alone for the rest of my life.

After finally dabbling in dating as a mom, some breakups, and pointless first dates, God finally brought me Wes. I can remember joking at work one day, saying, “I just need somebody that’s a family man, age 35-40, that wants to watch Netflix with me, and makes me laugh.” And that’s exactly what I got. I won’t say either of us are perfect, because no one is, but he’s exactly what I needed, and things moved quickly!

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At Bristol in Lights 2014

Within the first year of us dating, we were engaged, married, and building a house. I got comfortable with Wes, and stressed with trying to build our new life together as a blended family. I packed it on! We were married in May of 2015, and by the time I got pregnant with Tyson the following October, I was already tipping the scales at 225. After pregnancy 247.

During my pregnancy, I knew that after Tyson was born, things were going to change. I had to figure this out and get it under control. I knew that I couldn’t keep up with this life I was building, in the body that I had. After he was born, I wanted to wait until things settled down a bit, and then start losing the weight. I thought I should wait until I had a handle on breastfeeding. Then I figured I should wait until I went back to work and got into more of a steady routine. Then, I thought it would be best to wait until he was sleeping through the night.

When he was about 5 months old, I finally realized, that wasn’t happening any time soon. Levi had started sleeping through the night at 6 weeks old. Tornado Tyson was showing no signs of relenting.

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Tyson and Mommy, 2016

I finally realized there was never going to be a perfect time to start, and that I didn’t want to delay my progress any longer. The sooner I started, the sooner I would finish. But I had to get a grip on the emotional and mental side first, and here are some of the things I had to tell myself constantly:

 You Are Not a Dog

I had this funny habit of rewarding myself with food. Any time I got through a busy day at work, whenever I got through a stressful day with the kids, I needed a treat! Cook Out milkshakes were a personal fave! Peanut butter with Reese’s cups. Oh yes. I really had to start being mindful of what I was teaching myself. Even though now I’m realizing I titled my blog about MSM’s, Girl, Treat Yo Self, I really tried to not view those meals are a reward. It just seemed like a catchy title okay! So instead of food, I rewarded myself with other things. I made a list in my phone. Every time I hit a new milestone in my weight loss. For example, getting to the 100’s…I got myself a little something. I got myself something for every ten pounds lost. The only rule was, it couldn’t be anything food-related. My rewards were things like new gym shoes, a pedicure, or a new outfit.

 Be Patient, Trust the Process

I can’t tell you how often I had to tell myself this. Any time I felt like it was happening too slow, or it was too hard, or I was just tired and didn’t care anymore, I would repeat this to myself, “Be patient, trust the process.” I would pull myself together, quit having my pity party, and just do it anyway. Successful people aren’t successful because they’re better or smarter, they are successful because they snapped themselves out of the excuses and did it anyway, when other people would have given up. I had to ask myself, when I was stressed or tired, “Is what I want right now, more important than what I really want?” Nine times out of ten, those fajitas, or that milkshake weren’t what I really wanted. What I really wanted was to be able to walk into work without feeling like I was dying. I really wanted to be able to walk into any store and find clothes that I liked, not just the ones that hid my fat rolls the best. I really wanted to be able to feel confident and like I could accomplish anything that I wanted to. I didn’t really want the nachos everyday.

I love a good before and after picture. Transformation pictures can be so inspiring, and really show that it’s possible to set a goal and accomplish it. Any time I have posted a transformation picture, the number one question I get is of course, “How did you do it?” I hope you’re beginning to see, through this blog and through my Instagram posts, that there’s really not one specific thing.

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October 2016 to April 2018

I love the way that I choose to eat, I’m not “dieting”…I just eat according to my goals. I love the stress relief that I get from going to the gym. It works for me, but that’s not to say that it will work for every single person. We all have our own likes and dislikes. I can explain to you what I have learned and how I came to really advocate flexible dieting in conjunction with weight training, but I would never be so arrogant to say that it’s the only way to reach your goals. What I will always, always emphasize is the mindset. Mindset is everything. No amount of nutritional knowledge or exercise science in the world will help you reach your goals if mentally you’re not in the right place. Adherence is the number one reason that most diets fail. It’s not that the diet won’t work, it’s just that we can’t stick to it.

I hope learning a little about my story, and my issues with stress eating can help you see that it’s normal, but more importantly I hope it helps you see that it is possible to not get stuck there. Just because you’ve always been a stress eater or an emotional eater, doesn’t mean it’s a permanent part of you. If you can learn to catch yourself in the act, identify what you’re doing, call yourself out on it…you can start changing how you react in those moments. Go to bed, take a shower, do yoga, take a walk. Choose to not just numb out with food. Do things to relieve the stress, that don’t have the lasting effects that overeating does. It takes practice, but you can unlearn any behavior you learned, it just takes practice.

Let’s Talk Numbers

In the real world, when I’m not trying to figure out how to be a blogger, I work full-time in Labor and Delivery as a Surgical Technologist. Which basically means I assist doctors during C-Sections and deliveries. It also means that I’ve learned that I will touch anything as long as I have gloves on, there’s very little anyone could ever say to gross me out, and I can’t help but hand people scissors by the tips, even my eight year old. img_0013_facetune_29-03-2018-07-50-32 Over the past 10 years, I have been fortunate to be able to witness hundreds, if not thousands of new little lives enter this world. I’ve been truly fascinated by the miraculous things our bodies are capable of, and it is no different when it comes to nutrition and weight loss.

If you’ve known me for any length of time, you probably know that I could binge watch documentaries about nutrition for hours, and have on occasion! It fascinates me how our food can have such a profound affect on our lives and our bodies. When it came to losing weight this time around, I decided that I wasn’t going to mess with the “short cuts” anymore. They had always come back to bite me. This time, I was going to actually learn what I needed to learn, to make this stick, and to lose weight in a logical and methodical way, and to work with my body, not against it.

That’s where the numbers come in. If you’ve ever lost weight, you know all about calories in vs. calories out. Even though I do believe there’s a lot more involved mentally in weight loss, calories in vs. caloriesimg_0751 out is an important piece that I’d like to try to explain this week. I truly believe seeing the numbers helped me to feel like what I was doing would scientifically work, and I didn’t feel like I was just stabbing in the dark hoping that I would eventually get some results.

In my post about macros, I briefly described what a calorie is. It’s the total sum of the protein, carbs, and fats in a food, and it tells us how much energy that food will provide to our body. When you put your information into any calorie tracking app, such as My Fitness Pal, it’s going to tell you how many calories you should be consuming in a day, and how much weight you can expect to lose with that specific caloric deficit. But how do they come up with those numbers, and how can you use them to help motivate you in your weight loss efforts? Let’s go through some of the terms you might hear when trying to plan out your weight loss goals.

Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)

Your BMR is important, because it is the amount of calories your body needs at a bare minimum, just to function correctly. Your BMR takes into account your height, weight, and sex, and tells you how many calories you would burn if you did absolutely nothing, except lay in bed and watch Netflix all day. Your body needs this many calories to just support itself, and eating below this number can lead to things like loss of bone density, hair loss, and excessive loss of muscle tissue. Retaining as much muscle tissue as possible is so important for weight loss, because muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue. Fitness professionals advocate slower steady weight loss, because holding onto muscle tissue, is what turns your body into a fat burning machine, and gives clients the “toned” look, that most people are striving for. When you lose weight too quickly, by eating too few calories and killing yourself with cardio, you may be losing muscle tissue. So while you may be seeing the scale drop, your shape may not actually change much. This is what has recently been referred to as “skinny fat”. Which basically means, that while you may be dropping pounds, your body fat percentage will remain high. We definitely want to be eating more than our BMR, especially when we start incorporating more exercise into our day, to lose weight at a healthy rate, and retain as much muscle as possible.

Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE)

This one is a big one! To calculate this number, your BMR is multiplied by an activity factor. The activity factor changes, based on your activity level. The TDEE formula, uses all of this information, to tell you how many calories your body would need to maintain its current weight. This is why when you plug your information into My Fitness Pal, they ask you this specific information. They’re calculating your TDEE.  If you don’t have My Fitness Pal, there are many others online, I’ll link another one I’ve used here.

So you have your BMR, but we don’t want to eat that many calories because it’s too little. We calculated our TDEE, but we don’t want to maintain our weight, we want to burn off some body fat! So we need to be eating less than our TDEE to be in a caloric deficit, but eating enough for our body to function optimally. Typically, this will be a number 500-800 calories less than our TDEE.

Working The Numbers

In order to lose one pound of body fat, we need to be at a caloric deficit of 3500 calories. So if you’re eating 500 calories per day, less than your TDEE, you can expect to lose 1 pound of body fat per week.

I know, I know, this seems SO slow, and like it’s going to take FOREVER.img_0687 Just remember we’re strictly talking about pounds of actual body fat lost. When you first start losing weight, you will most likely lose some pounds in water weight too in the beginning, so if you’re still stressing about seeing progress on the scale, you will see bigger drops than one pound a week in the beginning (depending on your cycle), but as far as actual body fat lost, and inches lost, 1-2 pounds a week is just fine!

When I was in the beginning and middle of losing weight, seeing these numbers, and understanding what they meant, really helped me to realize that no matter what the scale said, scientifically, if I ate according to the numbers, there was no way I wouldn’t make progress. I didn’t have to just guess! If I did my part, my body would do it’s part. It’s science! This helped me a lot on the weeks when my weight would fluctuate or stay exactly the same. I weighed myself everyday, so that I could learn my body’s patterns. Ladies, our bodies are miraculous, baby producing, milk making machines…but it also means they do some screwy things around our cycle. Men, feel free to skip over this part if you wish!

I learned that the week that I ovulate, and the week before my period, my weight doesn’t budge. Or it goes up. EVERY. SINGLE. MONTH. Like clockwork. However, because I knew this, and because I knew that I had done the numbers on my meal plan, it helped me to keep going, and to not feel like I had done all of this work for nothing. I realized that it was just water weight, and that if I stuck with my meal plan, no matter what the scale said that week, there was no mathematical way that my body wouldn’t drop the fat.

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1 pound of body fat

I reminded myself constantly to trust the process, to be patient, and to stay the course. Sure enough, I would always have a big drop in weight the week after my period. Like clockwork. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

Maybe you’re like me, and you want a clear, strategic way to lose weight, so that you don’t feel like you’re wasting any time. I wanted to know even though I wasn’t trying to use short cuts, or magic pills, I was still losing weight efficiently. I did the numbers, and I had a methodical plan to reach my body composition goals. I hope learning exactly what the numbers mean, can help you too, by realizing that you don’t have to just blindly guess at this and hope it works. You can have a plan, and know that if you just execute the plan, your body will do what it’s supposed to do!

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Girl, Treat Yo Self

I guess I should start out this post by saying that I don’t really just love the term “cheat meal”. Mainly because, from the beginning of my weight loss journey, I have always fully intended on including more indulgent meals into my meal plan twice a week. I scheduled them deliberately, for many reasons that I’ll explain. So for me, and my plan, I wasn’t cheating. For me, they were “Mental Sanity Meals”, so from here on out, I’ll just call them MSM’s.

Last Saturday morning, I hit a new low weight! 137.2 pounds, a weight that I’ve not seen since probably 6th grade. And while I was excited to see that number on the scale, I knew it wasn’t going to last, because Saturdays for me, are a scheduled MSM day. And man, we did it right that day! img_0366I woke up, went to the gym, drank my protein shake, ate my normal breakfast, and then for lunch, we made a trip to Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen. When you walk into a restaurant that sells chocolate bars wrapped up like butter in the lobby, that’s when you know you’ve hit the mother load of MSM’s.

As suspected, it was delicious. I’ll spare you the details, just in case this is not your MSM day, lest I cause you to drool. Normally, on a diet, this would’ve meant for me that I had failed. I blew it. I have no will power, and I’m weak. However, the more I researched about MSM’s, the more I realized how necessary they are for most people, and that there are actually some great scientific and mental benefits to scheduling them into your week.

First, let’s talk mental benefits. Most of the time, when we’re on a diet, we look at food as either “good” or “bad”. We’ve been told that to be successful, we need to be 100% consistent, and to really commit. So what normally happens, is that we do okay for a few weeks, depriving ourselves, normally at a large calorie deficit, and then something happens. Somebody brings food to work, or there’s a birthday party, or we just simply don’t have time to go home and get our meal prepped food. We’ve been in such a large calorie deficit for several weeks now, that inevitably, our body starts to rebel. Mentally, we can’t take it anymore. We finally cave, we stuff ourselves until we’re ready to explode, and then feel horrible. Guilt sets in and we feel like we have to fix it. So what do we do? A lot of times, we restrict ourselves even more to make up for overindulging. And then, we start the whole cycle over again. Restrict, binge, back and forth. But what if you didn’t start out a diet starving yourself? What if you started eating enough calories to still be in a deficit, but not feel like you could eat the paint off the walls? What if you could still work some of your favorite foods that you craved into your meal plan, and know that you only had to follow it for 4-5 days until you could have a scheduled MSM? Ahhh, so much better for my mental state, and so much easier to sustain long-term.

Mentally, the benefits are wonderful, but there’s also scientific reasons for why we mentally struggle. As I said in my previous post all about macros, I am not a doctor or nutritionist, this is just what I’ve learned by doing my own research on this topic and I want to share with you what I’ve learned.

Leptin, Gherlin, and Glycogen

Leptin is the appetite suppressing hormone. After being in a calorie deficit for an extended period of time, leptin levels start to decrease. Which is why after being in a calorie deficit for a few weeks, your cravings are out of control. It’s not because you’re weak, or because your will power is horrible. It’s because your body is doing what God designed it to do, it’s trying to not let you starve. It’s telling you that your body is in a deficit, and it’s dropping your appetite suppressing hormones to scream, “EAT SOMETHING!”

At the same time our body is dropping leptin levels, it is rising our levels of ghrelin, the hunger stimulating hormone. While I can imagine both of these natural body processes are amazing if you’re a nomad, searching for food as your job everyday, when you’re actually trying to lose weight, they can be a real kick in the teeth.

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July 2016 to April 2018 

Glycogen, also discussed in a previous blog post, is how our body stores carbohydrates for energy in our liver. After eating a low carb diet, or being in a calorie deficit for an extended period of time, our stored glycogen gets depleted. When this happens, we generally have low energy and feel sluggish, especially during workouts.

Looking at these 3 things, it’s easy to see how a MSM can be beneficial not only mentally, but biologically. When you eat a meal higher in carbs and calories, you’re signaling to your body that you’re not starving. The hunger hormones, leptin and ghrelin stabilize, and glycogen stores are replenished. Which basically means, your cravings are in check, you’ve given your metabolism a little jolt, and you have more energy to keep moving forward with your meal plan for another 4-5 days until it’s time to replenish again.

MSM Guidelines

img_0491.jpgAs you can probably tell, I’m a firm believer in the MSM. I have allowed myself two a week, for the entire length of my weight loss journey, and have been able to keep losing weight steadily for the last 18 months, but I do have some general guidelines for them:

  1. They are scheduled meals, not spur of the moment, emotional decisions. I know my schedule for the week, and don’t justify moving my MSM unless it is absolutely necessary because of something out of my control.
  2. I have whatever I’m craving, which is usually carb-rich, fatty foods, like fajitas, pizza, or pasta.
  3. I don’t use it as an excuse to “Binge”. This one is still a challenge for me sometimes, especially if I’m eating at a restaurant with huge portions. Not only because I’m eating one of my favorite foods and I want to inhale it, but also because I don’t take home leftovers. Restaurant leftovers can quickly turn my one cheat meal into 2 or 3.
  4. This is a big one. VERY IMPORTANT! A MSM is ALWAYS a meal I didn’t have to cook. This is very key!
  5. I eat whatever I want on the menu, and then I forget about it, and go straight back to my meal plan until the next MSM.

What to Do After a MSM

After a MSM, the most important thing to do is to move on. Don’t worry that you’re not making progress or that you’ve set yourself back. All you’ve done, is tell you’re body that you’re not starving it, that you’re fine, and that when you start feeding it in a deficit again tomorrow, it’s okay to continue dropping body fat.img_0492 It is true that you’ll most likely gain a couple of pounds of water weight, but you won’t gain actual body fat. In my experience, the water weight from the increase in sodium usually goes away after a couple of days. After a MSM, one of the big things I do to help things along, is to just continue drinking lots of water to help flush things out. Other than that, I don’t restrict my diet, I just go back to eating my regularly planned out meals.

I hope this helps you somewhat understand the reasoning and actual biological benefits to scheduling yourself some indulgent meals into your meal plan. It truly does help your body keep going, while in a deficit, for so much longer than if you just try to white knuckle it, dropping those leptin levels until you crack. Learning this information helped me be so much kinder to myself also, because I realized that if I was craving a MSM, it wasn’t because I was weak or because I didn’t have enough will power. My body was just doing what it is naturally designed to do in times of famine. My job is to reset my hormone and glycogen levels, and then get immediately back to work. As of this morning, a week after my big cheat meal with Paula Deen, I’m at 136.6 pounds! Long term weight loss, is about learning to work with your body’s natural processes, not against them.

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My Top 5 Weight Loss Excuses

I’ve really been enjoying sharing my thoughts on weight loss here and on my Instagram. Most weeks, I’ve been pretty good about writing my blog post toward the beginning of the week, giving myself plenty of time to edit and proofread before posting on Saturday. This week, it’s been full-blown procrastination. Working mom mode has been in full effect! It’s been a jam-packed week, full of Easter festivities, baseball,img_0202 work, and trying to squeeze in the gym and meal prep. I feel like I’ve been procrastinating all week, trying to think of what I want to write about, and searching for time to actually sit down and write it. So here I am, on Friday afternoon, trying to form some coherent thoughts while Tyson is squealing, watching his Pops working on his tractor behind our house. So what do you write about after a week of procrastination? I guess let’s talk about excuses and procrastination!

If there’s a support group out there like, Procrastinator’s Anonymous, I might need to lead a meeting. I am horrible about procrastinating. Most of the time I feel like I’m so overwhelmed with such a long to do list, that I just really don’t want to even start. The same was true when it came to weight loss. When I stopped taking Phentermine years ago, and slowly started seeing the scale creep back up, I knew I should nip it in the bud. I knew I shouldn’t let those 10 pounds become 100, but I put it off and put it off, and then got pregnant! I ignored it for so long, and I had some fantastic excuses! I thought I would share some of my top excuses with you, and share how I put the metaphorical duct tape over my mouth and decided to quit using them. I’ll share with you the mindset shifts that helped things click for me, and hopefully they can be helpful for you too! Here are my top 5 go to excuses in no particular order:

#1: This is Just My Body Type

My weight has fluctuated so much over the years, that sometimes it seems like there’s this imaginary set point, and that my body is just meant to be overweight. I love watching shows about obesity and weight loss. My 600 Lb Life, documentaries on Netflix, I love them all. One day I was watching a documentary, and they were pointing out, that all throughout history, obesity was never a huge issue until the last few decades, with the rise of processed and fast food.

Our bodies are amazing machines. God designed them so perfectly, everything working together to maintain homeostasis and keep us alive. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I truly don’t believe God designed any of us to be naturally overweight. Most of the time, our diet, lifestyle, and habits, are the only things leading us to struggle with our weight. This is good news though! For me, it gave me hope that if God designed my body perfectly, just like he designed everyone else’s, then if I did my part, and changed the parts that I controlled, that my body would do what it had been designed to do. While there are some hormonal imbalances and medication that can make it more difficult for some, that wasn’t the case for me, and I don’t believe it is for most. For me, it was completely related to lifestyle, which leads me to #2.

#2: I Don’t Want to Change My Lifestyle

As uncomfortable as I was in my body, I was very comfortable with my lifestyle. I liked spending my days off lying around pregnant on the couch while Levi was in school, and I liked laying around on the couch even more after I had been up all night with a newborn. I didn’t love cooking all the time, but I loved going out to eat for just about every meal.img_0337 Most of my physical activity was on the days I worked, and all that hard work was completely negated by what I ate while I was there. As soon as I walked in the door, put my stuff in my locker, and got report from the off going shift, I immediately went right back down the elevator to the in-house Starbucks to order my breakfast, a Venti White Mocha Frappuccino with almond flavoring added. Large Coffee milkshake please! Breakfast of champions! For lunch, tired of eating hospital chicken strips everyday, I would usually order out from anywhere that would deliver. By the time I got off work at 7 p.m., I was hungry again, and on the prowl for a drive thru.

I can see now, how it’s no surprise at all how I packed on the weight, but at the time, I was just stressed and doing what was easiest. I never thought I would actually be able to figure out a system for meal prep and exercise that I actually enjoyed. Because…

#3: I Hate Exercising

I truly did. As I’ve said before, I tried for quite a while to enjoy running, but for me, there was nothing enjoyable about it. I’ve always heard about this mysterious “Runner’s High”, but never actually experienced it for myself. I always got bored and tired of hearing my heart pounding in my head long before any euphoria could take over and make it even remotely pleasurable. And after the running was over, being as overweight as I was, my body hurt. My knees, hips, and back ached. Not my idea of a good time. I mean have you seen those people on The Biggest Loser? They look absolutely miserable.

I used to love watching The Biggest Loser back in the day, but honestly I think that it can give people unrealistic expectations when it comes to weight loss. img_7875I’m a firm believer that 90% of my personal weight loss success has come from my nutrition, not because of what I’ve done in the gym. Lately, whenever I’ve posted transformation pictures, I get a lot of compliments on my shoulders. Want to know a secret? I hardly work my shoulders, and I feel like they’re probably the weakest part of my body. The only reason my shoulder muscles are visible, is because my nutrition is geared toward fat loss, and that’s just a part of my body where the fat has chosen to come off of more than other parts, revealing the muscle underneath.

I think diet and exercise are both parts of a healthy lifestyle. However, most shows tend to focus so much on the exercise portion, I think, because it looks so much more dramatic than just watching overweight people eat healthy for an hour. Nobody would watch that!img_0335 What they will watch are overweight people killing themselves in the gym for six hours a day and losing 20 pounds in a week. Just enough drama and tears to make it interesting, but unrealistic enough to make it seem impossible for an ordinary person with a family and a full-time job. As a person with a family and a full time job, I’m here to tell you, you don’t have to kill yourself in the gym to start seeing results. Your results will be from your nutrition. It’s true what they say, “You can’t outwork a poor diet.” So just focus on that, and then as your body starts to feel better, you can gradually add in exercise that you actually enjoy.

#4: It’s Too Much to Think About

This one could also be phrased, I shouldn’t have to think about this. There’s a lot of disgruntled feelings surrounding weight loss, for a lot of people. Not only did I not want to have to think about what I ate all of the time, I was mad that I had to. If “Becky” can eat whatever she wants and not have to worry about her weight, img_0338then it’s not fair that I have to. I just wanted to be able to eat whenever, where ever, and whatever I felt like, just like Becky seemed to do. I don’t actually know a Becky, but for this example, just think of her as that super annoying person who always complains about how they struggle to put on weight.

I heard a great example about how to change your mindset around this: It’s just like when you were in school. When I was in school, I never struggled to make good grades in English. Reading and writing always came easy for me, and I enjoyed those classes. Math was another story, I could make decent enough grades in math, but I really had to work at it. Becky was a math whiz, but couldn’t write a paper above a fourth grade reading level to save her life! We all have strengths and weaknesses.  My struggle in life might be my weight, and while I roll my eyes every time Becky remarks about how she lost 5 pounds without trying last month, maybe Becky can’t ever seem to pay a bill on time, or screams at her kids every day for no reason? The point is we all have things we struggle with and it gets you no where wishing you had a different set of problems. You deal with your weight and let Becky deal with her temper. Okay, we’re done with Becky!

#5: I Don’t Have Time

Ew. This one stings a little. This is a big one. I think we’ve probably all said at one time or another, that we just don’t have the time to focus on losing weight. When we think about losing weight, I think we’ve been taught that to be “fully committed”, we need to be eating organic gourmet masterpieces for every meal, and slugging it out in the gym six or seven days a week. If this is what you’re envisioning when you think you don’t have time, you’re probably right. Who has time for that? People on The Biggest Loser, that’s who!

I truly believe that when you want to lose weight, you will find the time, but there are also some practical things you can do to save yourself some time. For grocery shopping, I highly recommend Kroger Clicklist, or I have also heard great things about Wal-Mart’s online ordering. This is a huge time saver when you’re struggling to get to the grocery store. The next thing I would suggest is doing meal prep.img_0319 Meal prep is a huge time and money saver. If I can spend a little bit of time cooking at the beginning of the week, it saves me so much time and energy for the rest of the week. I don’t have to worry about if my meals fit my macros, because I already know I have food cooked that will fit perfectly for the whole week. I know that by investing those couple of hours on Sunday, I’ve set myself up to be successful for the whole week. My only job after that is to eat the food. If you don’t even have a couple of hours for meal prep, I have a lot of meals that don’t even require cooking. I literally portion them into bowls and go about my business. There are ways to make it work when you truly want to.

And lastly, if you don’t have time or money to go to the gym, you can still make it work. Like I said, I truly believe 90% of weight loss is in the kitchen, not in the gym. If you feel so pressed for time that you can’t go to the gym, don’t even worry about it right now. We all have time to eat, and you can make awesome progress with just your food.

I really hope that by me sharing my top excuses, and how I pushed past them, that it can inspire you to do the same. Weight loss is such a mind game, and we use these excuses to sabotage ourselves all the time. But there’s something about really identifying our excuses, that really helps you be able to swat them away when they pop up in your brain. Stay mentally tough friends and have a great week!

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What Do You Mean, “Tracking Macros”?

Still to this day, when I’m asked, “How did you lose the weight?” There’s always this awkward pause, before I attempt to explain. I have a really hard time either simplifying it too much, or making it sound too complicated, because I think either extreme, too easy or too hard, can make it seem impossible. img_8079So there’s the anticipation building pause, and then I either say, “diet and exercise,” or, “tracking my macros.” The former to me sounds like condescending bull crap, and the latter, I feel, sounds like I’m speaking a foreign language. Maybe if I say it louder they’ll understand? I TRACKED MY MACROS!

In a lot of my previous posts, I’ve talked about how important mindset can be while you’re trying to lose weight. I can’t stress enough how much this can make or break your attempts at weight loss, but I also want to delve a little deeper and attempt to explain the theory behind tracking macros and flexible dieting without the awkward inhale, pause, “Um”.  I guess I should make a disclaimer here, I am not a nutritionist, just a regular gal who consumes a lot of nutrition information because it really interests me. So I’ll try the best I can to explain and simplify what I’ve learned and share it with you. However, I am not a doctor, dietician, or nutritionist. Okay, I said it!

What are “Macros”?

Let’s go back to the beginning. Calories, pesky calories. Calories in versus calories out, the basis for any weight loss attempt and every diet under the sun. But what the heck is a calorie actually? A calorie is basically how much energy is in a given food. It’s how much energy is required to raise 1g of water through 1 degree celsius. But I like to just think of it as, how much energy that food is providing to your body. How that actual number is determined, is by adding up the “macros” of that particular food. Macro is just a trendy gym rat way of saying macronutrients. As I’m typing this post, macronutrients is seriously underlined in that squiggly red spellcheck line, which lets me know that even my computer thinks I have no idea what I’m talking about. Anyhoo, there are three main macronutrients that are used to calculate how many calories are in a food: protein, carbohydrates, and fats. img_7804Each one of these “macros” has a certain number of calories per gram, and when you add them all together, you know how many calories are in the food, thus letting you know how much energy your body is getting from that food, and how much you should hate yourself after eating it.

When you’re losing weight, especially if you have a large amount of weight to lose, you can lose weight simply by being in a calorie deficit, or eating fewer calories than you burn. So why all the hoopla about macros? The hoopla, is because while it is true you can lose weight by just being in a deficit, learning how to track your macros is a great way of training yourself to eat a more balanced diet, and to really change your body composition. So while in theory, you could eat only a few donuts for any entire week and lose weight, tracking your macros helps you create a more balanced diet, so that all of your calories are not consisting of only a couple of the macronutrients and you can maximize the volume or amount of food you’re eating. Yay! More Food! When I don’t actively use macros to balance my diet, the majority of my calories tend to come from carbohydrates and fat, with very little protein. I think this is pretty typical these days for the Standard American Diet, but it’s not the best for reshaping your body.

Protein

Protein now makes up the largest portion of my diet. I know protein can be somewhat of a controversial thing as far as the amount we actually need or can digest, but I think everybody agrees we do need it. Protein is very important when you’re losing weight, because it helps your body retain the muscle that you have. It’s very hard to actually build muscle while you’re eating in a calorie deficit, which is why when body builders are trying to gain muscle they actually go into a “bulking” phase where they’re eating at a calorie range above their maintenance calories. But when losing weight, you at least want to try to retain the muscle you have, by eating an adequate amount of protein, because muscle is what turns you into a fat burning machine! img_8074When you’re in a calorie deficit, eating too little protein can cause your body to eventually start burning muscle for fuel along with carbs and fat. Which is why someone can be within a normal body weight range, but still have a high percentage of body fat. Focusing on body composition and lowering your body fat percentage, is what gives you the “toned” look that so many people are going for. All of the crunches and lunges in the world aren’t going to make you look “toned” if there’s that pesky layer of body fat still covering the muscle. So if protein is what supports and repairs my muscles, and my muscles are what actually give me the shape that I want…give me all the protein! Great sources of protein are things like chicken, fish, lean beef, turkey, pork tenderloin, eggs, protein shakes, protein bars, etc.

Carbohydrates

If the amount of protein we consume is controversial in the world of macros, carbs take it to a whole other level. Carbs are our bodies primary source of energy. When our body stores carbs in our liver, they’re referred to as glycogen. So if you’re eating carbs, when you start exercising, your body is going to burn through the stored up glycogen first, before it moves on to body fat and muscle.img_8075 The theory behind low carb diets, is that since your body doesn’t have as much stored glycogen to burn through first  (example: ketosis, or the “keto” diet), you can start burning body fat quicker. Sometimes this can also mean you feel like crap and have no energy, especially during your workouts. I’m not against low carb diets, I just haven’t found that I’ve needed to lower my carbs especially low up to this point, so I plan to keep eating them until I hit a plateau and then maybe consider gradually lowering them to see if I can get things moving again. I talked about my theory behind keeping tools like this for later in a previous blog post. So when I’m looking to add carbs to my meals, I go for things like rice, potatoes, some starchy vegetables like corn, granola or protein bars, crackers, tortillas, etc.

Fats

Fats. What an ugly word. Fats. img_8076Back in the day fats got a bad rap. Fat free, reduced fat, low-fat. Nobody likes fat, but we do still need some. Fats are important, especially for women, because they can really impact our hormones, skin, hair, etc. I’m not going to spend a lot of time on fats, but when I’m looking to add more fats to my meal plan, I usually go for things like avocado, olive oil, or cheese. Glorious Cheese.

Putting it All Together

I hope this gives you a broad overview of macronutrients and what each one of them does for your body and the theory behind tracking them. Many diet plans simply eliminate one macronutrient (usually carbs or fat), and slap a shiny new name on the book. Atkins, South Beach, Glycemic Index, Keto. They just remove a macronutrient and call it new earth-shattering science. The balance of all of the macronutrients is one of the many things I love about flexible dieting. No food group is off-limits, you just have to find a way of eating the correct portions so that you’re eating the optimal balance of all of them.

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October 2016 to March 2018

Tracking macros and flexible dieting really aren’t that complicated once you get the hang of it and start making a list of meals you like. However, I do think it’s interesting to know the theory behind flexible dieting and what macros actually are. Fingers crossed that this somewhat makes sense and I didn’t totally botch it! If you have any other questions, feel free to ask! I’ll answer them to the best of my non-nutritionist, but avid googler abilities! Now if only I can find a way to say all of this in a short three to five word response that is neither idiotically simple or pretentiously complex!

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Finding Balance: Being a Mom While Still Being Me

A couple of weeks ago, I was having a moment. I really wanted to express to my sons how much they mean to me, and I needed to write them a sort of love letter. img_7960I hope they always will know how much I am truly obsessed with them. With that said, today I wanted to address a different side of motherhood. Something that I’ve learned in my eight years of motherhood that I feel is extremely important and adds value to their lives, as well as mine.

As moms, it’s crazy how much of our days and our minds are constantly consumed by our babies. Even now, I’m scribbling away, trying to wrangle my thoughts, in between trying to feed my toddler macaroni and cheese that I’ve already had to reheat twice. If I seem like I’m a little all over the place, I probably am. Everyday, from the moment they open their little eyes, my brain is a never-ending, and never completed to do list. Change the baby, get Levi in the shower, take him to school, feed the baby breakfast, start a load of laundry, remember to put it in the dryer. What bills did I need to pay today? What did I need at the store? When was his dentist appointment? When was it I was supposed to send marshmallows to school? Do we have baseball practice tonight?img_7961 I’ll spare you more, but these are just some of the daily checklists that I go through before 9 a.m. Our mom brains are always going in a million directions, and we manage to control the overwhelm to the best of our ability, because of the massive amount of love we have for our kids.

I’ve been managing the mom chaos for over eight years now, and most days I still can’t believe I’m legally allowed to be in charge of other human beings. I’m absolutely positive that there are many, many things I still have yet to learn. I’m sure at this point, I’ve not seen the best or the worst of motherhood. But one thing I’m trying to remind myself of everyday, is that while it’s natural for my life to mostly revolve around my kids, it’s still important to remember that I’m a person, not just a mom.

Before those precious little boys came into this world, bloody and screaming, I was a real person. I had friends, and hobbies, and things that made me, me. I don’t know how it happened, but I suspect like most things, it was a slow erosion over time. At some point, I became so wrapped up in my new role, that I eventually just pushed the things that I liked to the side, because I just “didn’t have time.” Or I, “didn’t have the energy.” Or I felt guilty for not spending every possible second with my boys. Curse you mom guilt. The first time I realized that I was losing sight of who I was, was after my divorce. My days had been filled with Levi and work for the past 3 years.img_7959 During the week, Levi would go to be with his dad on the days I was working, since I worked twelve hour shifts, and then every other weekend. It was those weekends that were the worst! I had no idea what to do with myself. I would sit at home, by myself, in my quiet little apartment. For a while I would catch up on movies or scroll through Facebook, but after a few months, I was completely lost. I had forgotten in those short three years what I used to do for fun, and I was bored to tears.

I remember when I first started going to the gym, a few months after my almost 2 year old, Tyson, was born. I was going to Planet Fitness, which was the perfect price, but also meant no child care. That wasn’t a problem with Levi, because he was in school, but I had to find somebody to watch the little guy. Thank God for my mom during this time, or I don’t know how I ever would’ve made it. Even though my mom was happy to help, the inevitable mom guilt would still creep in from time to time. I would tell myself, “You’ve been at work for the past two days, you should really be home with him,” or, “you really don’t have time for this, you’ve got so much laundry to do when you get home.” Even though every other second of my day would revolve around someone needing their butt wiped, or someone screaming for milk, or someone chucking a ball at the side of my head, I still felt like taking this one hour out of my day for myself was somehow selfish.

I really had to train myself to look at things objectively and realistically. I had to remind myself over and over that I needed to have that time for myself, not only because I was obese and physically hurting my body, but also because I needed that mental reset to be a happier, less stressed out me for them. And really one hour out of twenty four is still pretty heavily in their favor.

I want my boys to grow up knowing that their mom as a real person, that I’m not just their mom. I want them to know that although they and their dad make me extremely happy, so do other things. I want them to know that I like watching funny movies, and movies based on true stories. I love writing, reading the classics and random personal development books. I love spending my free time going to the gym, img_7875and learning how to make things. I want them to see me accomplish things and set new goals, so that they can take that as permission to do the same when they grow up.

The further I get into motherhood, the busier life gets, and the more I have to make an actual conscious effort to make those things that make me happy a priority. If I don’t find a few minutes to go to the gym or learn about something I’m interested in, the day can so easily get away from me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about going out clubbing every weekend or getting plastered at a bar somewhere. I’m talking about making time for the things that you do by yourself, for yourself.

If you’ve found yourself just kind of slogging through the day, moving from one task to the next, until you throw your unwashed greasy head into bed at night, I totally get it. It amazes me how we can be so busy, stressed, devoted, and bored all at the same time. But I think it happens a lot. I really encourage you to figure out how to steal little bits of time for yourself. Whatever it is that makes you lose track of time, or forget to check your phone, do that! If it’s been so long you can’t even remember, maybe think about the things you enjoyed doing when you were a kid. For me it’s reading and writing. I loved reading when I was a little girl, and used to write little stories with illustrations for my mom to read. If I can remember correctly, mysteries were a favorite of mine to write. I also, like many other little girls, loved to color. Why do you think adult coloring books are so popular now? Even if you can only find twenty minutes to read a book while you’re sitting in the school pickup line, kudos to you for making time for being you!

Going to the gym has also become one of those things that helps me feel like myself. I go in with greasy hair, covered in someone else’s snot and slobber. But I put in my headphones, blast my non kid-friendly playlist,img_7962 and walk out feeling like Wonder Woman. Even though I’m still covered in oil and saliva, I convince myself it’s sweat and walk out of there like I’m The Rock. That is, if The Rock had a baby on his hip. Details.

So please by all means keep being the awesome mom and caregiver you are, but really try to find small moments to remember that you’re also a person, a woman, a friend, a writer, a reader, a painter, a poet, a knitter, a lifter, a yogi, a hiker, a photographer, a gardener, a baker, or a candlestick maker.

Baby Steps: How I Went From Couch Potato to Gym Rat

In my extensive weight loss attempt history, the thing I have always dreaded the most was exercise. I would watch shows like The Biggest Loser, and see all of these poor souls sweating, panting, looking like they were moments away from death.img_7883 Jumping around while a trainer screamed at them, like in one of those westerns where the gunslinger starts shooting at the feet of the local saloon loudmouth yelling, “DANCE!” This usually continued until they were in tears, while someone coaxed them into discussing their self-loathing and daddy issues. It looked awful, and I wanted no part of it. Staying chubby seemed like an okay option in comparison.

My Brief Exercise History

Never in my life did I think that I would be a person that enjoyed going to the gym. The first time I can remember actually “exercising”, was when I was a junior in high school. I wanted to lose a little weight before prom. So my strategy was to cut out fried foods, and to do this exercise video that I’m pretty sure was purchased by my mom before I was born. It was the perfect specimen of eighties fitness, complete with high cut leotards and sweat bands. It was a full body workout, including lots of marching in place and exercises for your facial muscles. Super attractive. It was enough for my speedy sixteen year old metabolism though, and I was able to drop about twenty pounds.

The next time I lost a significant amount of weight, was a few years after my first son was born. He had finally gotten to that sweet toddler age where I couldn’t use the excuse anymore, “I just had a baby.” I think once they’re potty trained you’ve milked it for as long as possible. This time though, I wasn’t sixteen anymore, and I wasn’t messing around. I was pulling out the big guns. I got myself a bottle of Phentermine and decided I was going to start running.img_7884.jpgI wasn’t looking forward to the idea, but I thought that’s what you had to do to lose weight fast, so I’d better learn to enjoy it. So per the usual, I created a whole secret Pinterest board dedicated to my new hobby, and subscribed to Runner’s World. I started eating next to nothing, because of the appetite suppressant, and downloaded Couch to 5K. It totally worked! The only problem was, I was eventually going to have to stop taking the medication. My appetite would return, and there was this other little issue, I hated running. I got so bored. Most of the time I would run outside at the park so that I would have some scenery or other runners to look at, but I couldn’t stay focused. My mind would wander, and I would end up walking out of pure boredom. I’m sure there are truly people in this world that love running. I’m sure it makes them feel on top of the world, like they can smash through walls and flip cars with their bare hands. I am not one of those people. Which sort of made me feel like I would always eventually fail at losing any significant amount of weight, because I didn’t enjoy the one activity I had always thought was the best thing for weight loss.

Thank God, one day I reconnected with a friend from high school. He was very into fitness, and was the first person to introduce me to the concepts of flexible dieting with a heavier emphasis on resistance training. I don’t know that I ever fessed up to him that I had been taking Phentermine, but regardless, I’m fairly certain he was appalled at how little I had been eating. He also explained to me why cardio wasn’t the end all be all for weight loss. Imagine my relief. I took his advice as a permission slip and stopped running pretty much immediately.

Back to Square One

I was just starting to really learn about strength training and nutrition, when life happened and I did a complete U-turn. I packed all of that weight back on that I had lost and was so stressed (even though it wasn’t a bad stress, just a lot of changes happening in my life), that I completely pushed that part of my life to the side so that I could focus on other things. When the fog finally lifted, I was shocked and embarrassed by how quickly I had swung in the other direction. If you’ve read any of my other blog posts like Mommy Fell Into the Wormhole , you kind of know what happened next. I had to figure out how to actually eat.

After I figured out the nutrition piece and dropped my first forty pounds or so, I started to make this shift where I actually craved something more.img_4215 I wanted to take things up a notch, but this time around I knew myself well enough to know that I wasn’t going to start running. Even though I had worked out a few times with my friend from high school years before, doing his workouts, I really had no idea how to begin to plan my own workouts. So I went back to the basics. I joined Planet Fitness and started doing their 30 minute workout. If you’ve never been to a Planet Fitness, they have an area, away from the main gym area, where they have several machines set up in a circle. The machines are numbered and there’s a timer that dings when it’s time to move to the next machine. I loved this when I first started because I could go to a less crowded area of the gym, fiddle with the machines without feeling like people could tell I had no clue what I was doing, and get a full body workout that I didn’t have to plan out for myself.

When I felt like I was ready to take it up another notch, I got on bodybuilding.com and started working my way through Jamie Eason’s Livefit Program . From there I just started tweaking things as I went along, figuring out which exercises I felt were the most effective for me on each muscle group. I just kept pushing myself little by little out of my comfort zone. I scheduled the gym into my day, and went even when I didn’t feel like it. One day, magically, I didn’t have to force myself to go anymore. I actually wanted to go, because I loved it. I loved having that time to myself, and I actually didn’t feel like I wanted to die when I finished. I felt strong and less stressed out.

Maybe most shockingly, even though I didn’t leave the gym in a puddle of sweat and tears, I was seeing great results, without doing any cardio or sobbing while doing a plank and addressing all of my innermost feelings.img_7875 People weren’t watching me, and nobody made me feel stupid. Everybody was there to try to take care of themselves, just like I was.  I know what you’re thinking, “Cardio is good for your heart health.” No argument there. From my experience though, weight training can also have many cardiac benefits. I can remember going to the doctor my whole life and always getting asked if I was nervous because my resting heart rate was always about 100 beats per minute. I wasn’t nervous, I was just chubby and out of shape. However, since starting resistance training, my resting heart rate is normally 50-60 beats per minute, and considered in the “fit” category. Who would’ve thought!

Learning to Get Out of My Own Way

One thing that I am still constantly having to remind myself of, is that things are never as hard or as scary as I build them up to be in my head. While I feel like I keep it together pretty well on the outside most of the time, on the inside I can sometimes feel like Bob Wiley from “What About Bob?”img_7885 “What if my heart stops beating? What if I’m looking for a bathroom, I can’t find it, and…my bladder explodes?” I just needed to find my inner Dr. Leo Marvin to tell me to take baby steps and quit being so dramatic. If you have your own inner Bob, let me be the one to stop you before you have to do some “explosion therapy”. I totally get how you feel. I felt like I had no idea what I was doing at the gym and it might as well have been tattooed on my forehead. After I went a few times though, I quickly realized no one was even paying attention to me. If you can step out of your comfort zone a little, I can’t tell you how much it does for you physically and mentally. For one whole hour, I get to feel like a real adult person. Nobody is pooping their pants or screaming at me to get them milk. I don’t have to think about what bills I need to pay or everything I need to do that day. My mind isn’t being pulled in a million different directions, and I can really take some time to unwind. Whenever you feel like you’re ready for more, I highly suggest you give it a shot!

A Love Letter to My Sons

Anyone who knows me, knows that I’m not an extremely emotional person. After years of working in Labor and Delivery, I’ve gotten pretty accustomed to pushing my feelings to the side, so that I can focus on the task at hand. But I think when a young person tragically loses their life, especially a young mother, you can’t help but feel the weight of it. It’s only been a few short days since this tragedy hit my community again. We were only acquaintances in high school, but I know she was very loved by those that knew her best. I think when something so devastating happens to someone your age, with children the same age as your children, it’s only a matter of time until you think about how easily it could’ve been you.

Becoming a mother is scary. I think from the moment you see those two pink lines, along with the joy and excitement, comes this terrifying fear about every minuscule thing that could go wrong. From ultrasounds, to the fear of birth defects, to obliterating your most tender areas during childbirth, the list goes on and on. You make it through pregnancy and BAM! A whole new list! What if they see something on TV that scars them for life? What if he grows up and blames me for every one of his shortcomings and neurosis? What if I’m remembered as the tyrant mother, who never let them do anything fun?

For some reason when I became a mom, from time to time (usually when I would hear of the passing of another young mom), another fear would pop in my head. What if something happens to me, and they’re too young to really remember me? What if they don’t remember how it feels for me to cuddle with them before bed? What if they don’t remember how I sing in the car, or how I smell when I first wake up in the morning? I’m so sorry this isn’t my typical post about weight loss or diet mindset, I just really felt like I needed to express to my beautiful sons what they mean to me. And I didn’t want it to get lost in a notebook, or tucked away in a drawer where they may never find it.

Tonight as I was driving home from baseball practice, I looked in my rearview mirror that is permanently positioned on my son’s face instead of the road.img_7582 I saw his big blue eyes staring back at me. Even though we’ve looked at each other like this a million times, tonight when I saw those long eyelashes, and those two middle fingers glued in his mouth, I immediately thought, “The hope of you changed my life.”

Like I said before, I’m not a very emotional person, so this really came out of nowhere and smacked me right in the face. I thought about how blessed I am to have two healthy little boys that call me Mommy, and felt that I needed to find a way to tell them how special they are to me, because I may not always be here to tell them.

Phew, get the tissues ready.

To Levi

You changed my whole world from the moment I even realized I needed you. I ached for you to be mine. img_6221Before you were ever conceived, you were the only thing my mind could focus on for months. You came into my life and completely changed it forever. You turned me into a completely new creature, you made me a mother.

I love your fearlessness, your strongwill, and your huge imagination. I love how you’re growing into a big boy, but still sometimes want to be my baby. I love how you know all the words to every Michael Jackson song ever written, and I love when you still want me to snuggle you before bed. I love my life because you’re in it. You impact every day, every thought, and every decision of my life.img_6704 There will be times when you’re mad at me, and I’m frustrated with you, but I want you to know that I love you with every part of me. I’m so proud to be your mom, and I can’t wait to see what you become.

To Tyson

I haven’t known you for as long, but you’re revealing more of your wonderful personality to me everyday. img_6742You were the baby I wasn’t sure I would ever have, but the dream of you changed my whole life. I ached for you, just like I did for Levi. When I was told I couldn’t have you, it flipped my whole world upside down. I became a single mom, and the possibility of you seemed like it was getting dimmer everyday. And then like magic, I met your Daddy. We fell in love, and he wanted you just as much as I did.

I love your big blue eyes, and your sweet little toes. I love the sound of you running through the house yelling, “SHOOT!” I love the way you can’t fall asleep without holding your belly button, and I love how you say, “Ah Boo,” (“Love You”) when I lay you down at night. img_6041I love how you make silly faces and how you whisper to make people laugh. Even when you’re screaming in the car like a lunatic, I want you to know that I still see an angel looking at me in the rearview mirror. I’m blessed to be your Mommy, and I’m so happy you’re finally here.

My love for these little boys is beyond description. I grew them inside of me, and I’m forever connected to them. And then God blessed me with a bonus, Carson.

To Carson

You came into my life as a five year old, well beyond your years. You have your own Mom, that is forever bonded to you and loves you like I love Levi and Tyson. But God saw fit to let me create a life with your Dad and with you and now your little brother. I love that I’m able to be a witness to your life, your Mom and Dad are doing a remarkable job with you.img_5318-e1520996614630.jpg I love how smart and curious you are. I love how you can name every player, in every position, on every NBA team, that ever graced the court. I love how you talk in your sleep and hum in the shower. I love how you always try to do your absolute best at everything you do. And I love how much you love your Dad and your baby brother. I love that I get to be a part of your life, and I know you’re going to do great things.

I know this post had nothing really to do with weight loss, but these little boys are why I get up in the morning. They’re why i’m always striving to do better, and to be better. Everything I am is because of them, including being a swollen faced, sobbing mess right now. I just want them to not have to rely on their memories to know how I feel about each one of them, but to read my words, from my heart, and know how much they are loved.