If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you’ve probably seen this one coming! I have been obsessed with a new fitness friendly restaurant for the past few weeks…so it was only a matter of time before I spread the gospel of Clean Eatz here as well!
I have spent the last couple of years learning all about food and nutrition, and getting myself into the habit of meal prepping. When I first began meal prepping and losing weight, my meals were very basic. The least amount of ingredients that I could enter into My Fitness Pal, the better. Typically I would meal prep enough food for a week at a time, leaving space for my two “cheat meals” per week.
My Husband, loved the idea of meal prep, but unlike me, he couldn’t stand the idea of eating the same thing for the entire week. He needs a little more variety in his life! However, I wasn’t able (or willing, let’s be honest!) to cook him different macro-friendly meals every other night.
They Were Speaking My Language
I had heard of Clean Eatz from a coworker months ago, and Wes decided he wanted to give it a try. He wanted to eat according to his macros, without having to cook, and without having to eat the same things all week.
Clean Eatz, is a meal prep service, and they’ve been blowing my mind for a couple of months now. I feel like they are reasonably priced, and delicious! Each Thursday, Clean Eatz posts a new menu online for their meal prep service.
They tell you the macros of each meal, and even how many Weight Watchers points, if that’s your plan. You can pick how many meals you would like of each, and then they’re ready for pick up on Monday!
Meals are also customizable based on your specific dietary needs. They offer extra protein, half carb, no carb, or gluten-free options.
The also have a no salt rule in their kitchen, if sodium is something you’re concerned about.
In Store Options
They also have great options in store, if you didn’t find anything on their weekly menu you liked, or if you just forgot to order. Inside the store, they have a ton of meals in their freezer, labeled with macros that you can mix and match.
They also sell overnight oat mixes, snack mix, energy bites, and have an awesome cafe menu if you wanted to eat while you’re there!
I feel like their prices are very reasonable for the service they are providing. Each of their lunches and dinners are $6.50, and breakfasts are $5.00. So more expensive than say a Lean Cuisine, but cheaper than eating fast food everyday!
How I Work the Meals Into My Plan
Over the past few weeks, after being jealous of Wes and his tasty looking food, I’ve been treating myself to some meals too, to save me some time and energy. I’ve been eating them usually just for lunches. So I have been plugging all of my foods into My Fitness Pal for the day, but skipping lunch.
I put in all of the other foods I want to eat for the day, scroll to the bottom, to the Nutrition button, and seeing how many carbs, fats, and proteins I have left when I’m done. Then when I go to order my food from Clean Eatz, or get some things out of their grab-n-go freezer, I already know a ball park on what macros I’m looking for with their meals.
If you’ve been wanting to give flexible dieting a try, or just need some healthy meals to grab on the go, (that you didn’t have to cook yourself), I highly recommend giving them a shot!
If you’re in the Knoxville area, they are located in Farragut, close to Farragut High School. And they also have a second location opening up in Bearden soon! I should also note that this is not a “sponsored post”, they have no idea who I am! Haha.
Every time I’ve tried to lose weight in the past, I typically would follow the same pattern. I moved through the different phases of dieting sometimes over a few weeks, and sometimes over a few days, but I always moved right through them, not really knowing how to break the cycle, and make myself stick with it.
When I started losing weight this time around, I really didn’t want to shout it from the rooftops that I was trying to lose weight. It was very apparent that I had put on a lot of weight in a short amount of time, and I figured that every one probably knew that I wanted to lose the weight. I had no desire to make it my plans public, I just wanted to quietly get the weight off and start feeling like myself again.
Because I wasn’t really into getting support from people in person, I turned to learning from people online, who had been successful in their own weight loss attempts. I found people on YouTube, and Instagram, that had done the thing that I wanted to do. I found people that I could relate to, and who I felt like had truly found the “lifestyle change” that I wanted to learn how to achieve. I learned so many tips and tricks, by figuring out their mindset and what helped it finally click for them this time. It also helped me to see that the things that I was going through were completely normal and typical, and helped me see, that if all of these other people, could figure out how to break the diet cycle, then I could too.
Typically, when you’re stuck in the diet cycle, I feel like there are similar phases that we all go through, over and over again. Let’s break them down, have a good laugh at ourselves, and then I’ll attempt to explain how it finally clicked for me, and how I broke the cycle.
Phase 1: Fed Up
No pun intended, but the first phase for me, was always “fed up”. These are some of my thoughts during phase 1.
“Good Lord, how did you let yourself get this big?!”
“You literally have outgrown your last pair of jeans, so I guess you’ll have to go just one pair in the next size up so you don’t suffocate.”
“You look awful.”
Such nice words and sentiments. Phase one is all about being disgusted with yourself, and being in complete disbelief that you’ve let it get this out of hand. Phase 1 is the pinching and squeezing your fat rolls in the mirror phase. It’s a real treat. Let’s just move on.
Phase 2: My Body is a Temple
Phase 2 is the action phase. Your body is your temple. You’ve had enough of treating yourself like garbage, and you’re ready to do something about it. Phase 2, might seem like the “click” phase, but for me, it was typically the get this fat off of me ASAP phase. Nothing was off limits for me, when I had reached this point. Whatever fad diet, or pill, or weight loss product was the latest thing when I reached this phase, that was the thing for me! Oh, I had resolve! I had determination! I’m pretty sure I would’ve swallowed a tape worm if I could’ve been promised instant, lasting results. Every time I was in this phase, I would think, “This is it!” I would be on top of my game…for a while. But ultimately, I would always find myself in Phase 3.
Phase 3: Well This Kinda Sucks
After seeing results for a while, and losing 20-30 pounds, inevitabely I would hit a wall. Usually this meant something came up. A dinner, or a birthday party would throw me off balance. Or I would just plain old get bored with whatever gimmick I was trying. It wasn’t as fun or exciting as it was in the beginning, and the honeymoon phase was officially over.
Phase 4: Who Cares?
Joy! A different kind of fed up. This time though, it’s fed up with dieting. Phase 4 is the, “Screw it!” phase. Typical thoughts of mine in phase 4 are as follows:
“This is stupid, I have too many other things to worry about.”
“I don’t have time for this.”
“I’m just meant to be overweight.”
“This is going to take too long, and it’s not worth the stress.”
Phase 4 would always seem liberating for a while…until I always found my way to phase 5.
Phase 5: Oh Yea, I Still Do Care
I tried to tell myself that I really didn’t care, that I was above caring about being thin, and that I loved myself regardless. The truth was, I did love myself just fine, but I hated being overweight. It didn’t matter how much I told myself that I didn’t care, the truth was, I was physically exhausted by how much extra weight I was carrying around everyday. I was in my twenties still, and I wanted to be able to sort of act like it. As it was, I just wanted to sit around, eat, and sleep as much as possible. I would always come back to realizing that I did care, and then the cycle would start all over again, as I would get mad at myself for letting more time go by without fixing my weight issue. I was back to phase 1, and frantically searching for the next big thing, that would make the fat magically melt off my body.
Breaking the Cycle
So what happened different this time? I still felt like I had those same feelings of being totally over my body. I was tired of the body that I had to lug around all the time. I think gradually, this time, somewhere in between the “Fed Up” phase, and the “My Is a Temple” phase, there was a different feeling that came up. This time, I was tired of wasting my money and time on things that would never last. I was like a wild horse, that had finally been broken. I was the toddler in the grocery store, that after throwing a temper tantrum and trying every known form of manipulation, finally gives in, and does the easier thing of doing what they’ve been told from older, wiser people all along. I stopped worrying about what was quickest, or easiest. I decided I would try good old diet and exercise. I had always been told that was the key, but like the toddler in the grocery store, thought I could find a better, quicker way.
This time, I knew myself a little better, because of all of my failed diet attempts before. I knew that I wasn’t going to come home and cook every night. So I bypassed that issue with meal prep. I knew that I can’t for the life of me resist steak fajitas and queso dip for the rest of my life. So I decided to build mental sanity meals into my week, so that I didn’t feel like I had blown my “diet”, if I wanted to have a date night or special meal out on the weekends. I knew that if I didn’t work out first thing in the morning, I would get busy doing other things and be too tired to go later. This time, my plan wasn’t all or nothing. It wasn’t “never miss a Monday”, “no days off”. I didn’t feel the need to rush it, because my deadline wasn’t a certain date, or event. My deadline was, however long it takes. I was determined that this was the last time I ever wanted to have to lose this weight. I didn’t want to keep having to lose the same 20 or 30 pounds, over and over again until my seventies. I wanted to make sure, that I quit trying to do it by whatever means necessary, and to do it the right way this time, because I wanted to make it stick.
To my surprise, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I took patience, and still takes practice to say, “No thank you,” when there’s free food in the break room at work. But I can tell you now, that I’m so glad I decided to figure this out. I’m so glad that I started paying attention to the way I react to stress, and the ways I could make weight loss work into my lifestyle, and to eventually create a new lifestyle.
I hope you can see yourself in me. I hope that you can relate to the way that I was stuck in the diet cycle for years and years. I feel like anyone who has ever dieted, knows those phases like the back of their hand. I also hope you realize, that I am just one of many people who’s figured out how to break the cycle, I hope you realize that if it’s possible for me, it’s possible for you.
Our vacation has come to an end. I’ve blasted your Instagram and Facebook feeds with pictures, making up for all of the years that I forbid to have my picture taken. I’ve beaten Wes at putt-putt (he beat me in the rematch), and I’ve tasted all of the delights that Myrtle Beach has to offer. All in all, I would call that a success.
It was made abundantly clear to me that our vacation was over, when about an hour into our ride home, Tyson puked a whole sippy cup of milk up all over his carseat. It was made clear again, when he did the same thing a couple of hours later. Just in case I didn’t get the messaged, we drove straight from the beach to a baseball game, after which I picked Levi up at his Dad’s house, and he too puked in the driveway before we could leave. My vacation is officially over! It’s back to the real world of puking children, birthday parties, and baseball games.
It’s great to be able to get out of town for a while and have some fun, but when you’re trying to lose weight, it can also be a stressful time of trying to stay on track. I wanted to share my vacation strategy while it’s still fresh in my mind, so that hopefully the next time you go on vacation, you don’t have to beat yourself up.
Wait For It…
So here’s my big earth-shattering advice for sticking with a diet while on vacation. My advice is, don’t.
First, I guess I should mention, that we normally take a vacation once a year. For me, this is time spent with my family, resting, having fun, and being carefree. This is the one week of the year, that I allow myself a free pass to not measure, plan, or calculate my meals. During this week, I just listened to my body and ate what I was craving. Eventually that meant switching from a two piece bathing suit, to a one piece, but that’s okay.
Most mornings, I stuck to my normal breakfast of overnight oats and iced coffee. But I also allowed myself to enjoy a breakfast at Paula Deen’s
one morning, stuffing myself with some delicious Apple Cinnamon French Toast and Hash Brown Casserole, that I’m certain contained actual potato chips.
Most days for lunch we had bologna sandwiches on the balcony, after a morning on the beach. Other days we had hamburgers and fries at River City Grill, while Tyson had crayons and cheetos.
My strategy on vacation is to not worry about how many calories, carbs, fats, or proteins I’m eating, while trying my best to not make myself sick. It’s amazing to me, how my body responds now to the way I used to eat all of the time. It’s hard to tell if my body just can’t handle eating that way anymore, or if I just got used to feeling bad when I ate that way regularly. Either way, the meal that really hit that message home to me this week was my delicious breakfast at Paula Deen’s.
It was amazing, and I would totally eat it again, just to be able to say I had sampled Paula’s breakfast, but man did I feel that meal for the entire day after, which was why I chose to eat a salad for dinner that night.
What About Exercise?
My “go with the flow” attitude for food on vacation, also goes for working out. I would love to tell you that I was up at the crack of dawn, doing boot camp classes on the beach at sunrise, but that definitely wasn’t the case. I basically just did what I felt like doing. Some mornings I got up before Tyson and did some gentle yoga, and one morning I snuck away and walked a couple miles of the beach. I did have a little activity, but there was no structure or reason to any of it. I just did what felt good and relaxing. On vacation, I don’t have any plans for crushing workouts, or staying on track with my food, I just remember that this is a lifestyle, and not a diet with a deadline.
So what happens now? This morning I stepped on the scale, to assess the damage. Before we left for vacation, my weight was already up a couple pounds because I was getting ready to start my period. The morning we left, I was 135 lbs, and this morning, the day after we got home, I was at 140.4 lbs. It’s important for my sanity, to remember that these pounds are not pounds of fat. It would be pretty crazy to gain 5 pounds of pure body fat in 6 days.
To gain 1 pound of fat, it would mean eating 3,500 calories above my maintenance calories. Meaning, I would have to eat close to 6,000 calories a day to gain that much body fat. These pounds are mostly water weight, and can be lost again just as easily as they were gained.
To get these extra few pounds off, I’ll tell you what I’m not going to do. I’m not going to be going into a crazy, restrictive diet. I’m not going to be doing any detoxes, or flushes, or fasts. What I’m going to do is just pick back up where I left off. Making this a lifestyle isn’t about what you do one week on vacation. You aren’t going to undo all of your hard work in one week. The key is, jumping right back into your routine when you get back. Shortening the amount of time it takes you to get back to business is the key. Just like I had to immediately leave the beach and jump right back into puking children and baseball games, this morning I got up like I normally would, and hit the gym before I had time to talk myself out of it. I had one more “splurge” meal, at Tyson’s 2nd birthday party today. Because…cookie cake. Then I went to the grocery store and bought all of my food for meal prep tomorrow.
Everyone loves to enjoy themselves and loosen the reigns on vacation, and I’m no different. I hope by me sharing my thoughts on vacation, it will help you see that losing weight long term, and changing your lifestyle, doesn’t mean depriving yourself for the rest of your life. You can go on vacation, relax, and enjoy time with your family, without worrying about sticking to a “diet” or fitting in structured exercise. Reducing the amount of time it takes you to get back into the swing of things is the key to continuing to make progress toward your weight loss goals.
It’s all about finding the balance that helps you sustain your weight loss long term, without making you feel deprived.
Let’s start off by saying, that my first experience in a gym, was not a positive one. When my eight year old Levi, was one or two, and I was in the throws of crash dieting, I decided that it would be a good idea to actually join a gym. I didn’t join the gym because I was really concerned about my health or level of fitness. I, like a lot of people, only joined the gym because I was trying to lose weight as rapidly as possible, and thought that’s just what you were supposed to do to speed things up.
I knew how to use the cardio equipment, but I had no idea how to use any of the other machines. So I decided to use the free personal training session they were offering when I signed up for my new membership. To say it wasn’t a pleasant experience would be an understatement. I went in, hoping to learn how to use some equipment and get some sort of plan for a workout routine, and ended up puking my guts out in the kidcare bathroom.
When I walked in that day, we went over all of the usual assessments. Height, weight, measurements, and medical history were all recorded, and then it was time to get down to business. We began the workout, and I quickly realized she had no intentions of putting me on any machines. We spent the entire session, doing body weight exercises. All I got for my free session was a bunch of wall sits, lunges, and body weight squats. I was dying, but I was also irritated. I now know, that she was totally doing what she was supposed to be doing with a brand new, sedentary client. But this wasn’t what I had in mind, and I felt like this was all stuff I could have done at my house. What was the point of even going to the gym if this was all we were going to do? I could do this for free at my house!
So we wrapped up the session. She told me to do about 15 minutes on the elliptical, and then the good Lord above sent me an angel, in the form of a childcare worker. This angel appeared before me, in a beam of flourescent light, and informed me that Levi was crying, or pooped his pants, or something. I don’t know that I even heard what was wrong, I just know that it meant my torture was over, and I was glad to jump right off of that elliptical and go get my baby. Help is on the way, Deary!
The second I got off the treadmill, the wave of nausea hit me. I hurried into the childcare area, grabbed Levi, calmly asked if they had a bathroom, and let it rip. I puked from body weight exercises and five whole minutes on the elliptical. I think it’s safe to say that I was not in the best shape. It’s also safe to say that I had a bad taste in my mouth (figuratively and literally) about the gym and exercise for a long time after that. How could anybody actually enjoy putting themselves through that on the regular? I didn’t have high hopes that I would ever reach my weight loss goals if it meant I was going to be slogging it out like that 4-5 times a week.
Needless to say, things have changed a lot since that day. I still wouldn’t consider myself extremely in shape as far as endurance is concerned, but I am definitely leaps and bounds ahead of where I was at 23 years old, barfing in the kidcare bathroom. If you’ve read any of my other blogs, you know this change didn’t happen overnight, and it didn’t happen by doing any crazy strict diets or “sweat til you puke” workouts. I lost all 114 pounds, by choosing to change my eating and lifestyle habits a little at a time. I started chipping away at all of my bad habits, like drinking a gallon of sweet tea a week. I just kept making adjustments here and there until I found the meals and workout routines, that were sustainable for me long-term. I found a maintainable system of doing things that gave me consistent results, but didn’t make me feel like ripping my hair out.
Now that I’m at a healthy weight, I’ve been realizing how important it is to have goals other than just weight loss. I decided that I wanted to still continue the way that I’ve been eating, but I want to focus on being more well-rounded in my fitness as well. Meaning, keeping my workouts mainly focused on strength training, but also incorporating more flexibility training and the dreaded cardio. I want to really start dialing in my fitness, the way I have my food.
So in March of this year, I got a wild hair. I decided that if I was going to try to educate myself on fitness, that I might as well do it in a strategic way, that gave me something to show for it at the end. I began studying in March, in between being mom, work, and the gym. Tuesday, I had that familiar nauseuos feeling again and I took and passed my National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer Certification. Wow…that was a mouthful, but yo girl is a trainer!
Life is so funny! If anyone had told me, when I walked out of the gym 6 years ago, after that trainer absolutely crushed me with wall sits, that one day I would be a personal trainer, I would’ve peed my stretchy pants laughing. If you had told me 2 years ago, when I was 9 months pregnant and 247 pounds, that I would even want to learn how to be a trainer, I would’ve thought you were insane.
The older I’m getting, the more I’m realizing that I have way more control over how my life looks than I once thought. This doesn’t just go for weight loss or fitness. If there’s something making you unhappy, life is too short, and you’re the only one that can change it. I’m not saying, “Sell everything you own and move to Bali!” Unless that’s really what you want to do! Drastic change can be scary. But I am saying, that taking small steps to move you closer to the person you want to be, are totally possible and within your power.
Sometimes it’s easy to get so caught up in the end goal, that we forget to focus on the small little goals along the way. Those small achievable goals, are the little breadcrumbs that move you closer and closer, until you finally look up and realize how far you’ve come. Over the last couple of years, that kind of how it’s felt for me. I felt like I’ve just had my head down, following the breadcrumbs. I was focused on each workout, each week of meal prep, over and over. Only since starting my Instagram and this blog, have I started to look around me and realize how far I’ve come, and how many other people are wanting to know how to get from there to here. When I looked up, things looked so much different, and I really wasn’t 100% sure how I got here.
So now I feel like my job is to try to replace the breadcrumbs. To think back and try to remember how I got here, so that hopefully I can help someone else find their way too. It may take time, but it doesn’t have to be miserable, and it’s totally doable. When you’re feeling like it’s taking too long, or life starts to get you off course, just remember to keep focusing and following the little breadcrumbs.
If you’ve ever watched any amount of Oprah or Dr. Phil, and come on, we all have at some point, you’re familiar with the saying, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” I get it. It totally makes sense, that it’s going to be really hard to do all of the things I need to do to take care of everyone else, if I’m run down and exhausted. Nevertheless, there are still days, almost two years into my weight loss journey, when taking care of myself feels selfish.
This has been on my mind a lot more lately with the arrival of summer break. During the school year, life falls into a routine. The older boys go to school during the day, and Tyson is fine doing whatever, as long as he’s with Mommy, or Grandma, or Nana. He’s just happy to be around one of his favorite ladies. Everyone knows we get up, we go to school, and then we go to the gym.
However, now the carefree, unscheduled days of summer have arrived, and everybody is making adjustments. One adjustment Levi is making this summer, is trudging his way to the gym with Mom in the morning. If I don’t go to the gym first thing, the day always seems to get away from me. I get tired, and I’m afraid I’ll talk myself out of going. This shouldn’t be an issue, because my boys have been early risers from the moments they entered this world. A startling adjustment that I had to make, I might add. I don’t think either one of them has ever slept past 9 a.m. However, this summer, I’ve quickly realized that just because Levi is awake, it doesn’t mean he’s ready to do things.
So every morning that he’s at my house and not with his Dad, we have the same conversation:
Levi: “I hate going there, the three year olds jump on me!
Me: “It’s only for an hour, you’ll be fine.”
Levi: “Why can’t I just go to Grandma’s house while you go!”
Me: “I don’t know what Grandma is doing right now and it’s only for an hour. You’ll be fine.”
Levi: “I’m tired! It’s boring!”
On and on, until even though he’s the one complaining and being a turd, I start to feel bad, like I’m being selfish making him go. I start saying things in my head like, “It is his summer break, maybe I should just let him lay around and watch TV for a few hours instead of dragging him out of the house. Maybe he could just go to my mom’s house for an hour while I workout.” I start convincing myself he’s right, and that I’m the one being selfish.
Let Me Explain
I finally had to decide to stop arguing with him about it and explain why I do what I do. I had to remind us both why it’s so important that I spend a little bit of time taking care of me too. The last time this came up, I explained to him, that going to the gym is a very big priority of mine. Exercising keeps me healthy, so that I’m better able to take care of him. I had to explain, that adults don’t usually get to go outside and play and run around, so going to places like the gym help us move our bodies and keep us healthy. And I had to point out, that the whole rest of my day revolves around what he and Tyson need or want to do, but that going to the gym is one hour out of the day, when I get to do something by myself that’s good for me and fun.
Does he get it at eight years old? Absolutely not. He doesn’t understand why it’s so important to me. He just wants to watch kids open toys on YouTube or some crap, swim, and jump on the trampoline. He doesn’t get how hard I’ve worked to change my lifestyle, so that I can be the kind of mom that I want him to have. He can’t comprehend how much time I’ve invested to make this stick, and how I’m sometimes still afraid to loosen the reigns for fear that I’ll fall back into my old habits. He doesn’t get it now, but I hope one day he will appreciate how much I’ve worked to be the happy, healthy, active mom that I want him to have. I don’t want him to look back and remember that his mom was always too tired to take him to do fun things or participate in activities.
Squeezing In Me Time
As moms, so much of our lives center around other people. Even the most minute decisions revolve around our children and family. We schedule almost everything we do around nap times, meal times, cranky times, baseball practice, music lessons, you name it. We do it without question, because of course we love them so much, and they are our number one priority. I know someday it will happen, but right now I can’t imagine a time, when my life won’t revolve around my children’s day to day activities. But as I get further into my weight loss journey, I’m also realizing that squeezing little bits of time out of the day to do things by myself, that make me happy, are vital to my health and my mood. It’s important to me mentally, physically, and emotionally, to have that time to recharge so that I can be more present for them, for the rest of the day. It’s not only important to me that I find those moments, it’s also important to me that my boys know about them.
I want them to know that I value my personal time. I want them to know me as their mom, but also know that I’m a real person, with interests and hobbies. I don’t want to just tell them it’s important to take care of their bodies, I want to show them, by taking care of mine. I want to show them what a strong, happy woman is, so that they will hopefully one day, a super long time from now, they’ll be able to spot one for themselves!
Putting It Into Practice
So far this summer, I’m making a conscious effort to get out and do fun things with my boys, instead of just getting stuck in another routine. I tend to be a creature of habit if I’m not actively planning different activities. This summer, I’ve decided that we’re going to have a blast, and we can get back to routines in August. Right now we have memories to make!
So far, we’ve gone rock-climbing, trampoline jumping, hiking, swimming, we’ve gone to the zoo, and strawberry-picking, and mom has a whole list of other ideas to fill our time together. I want to help my boys experience life and do fun things that they’ll always remember, even if it’s just in pictures. I want to give them the green light to try new things, and to find places and hobbies they love, and it starts with giving myself permission to do the same.
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.
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
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.” 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. 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.
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!
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!
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. 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.I 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. 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. 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?” “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!