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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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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Finding Your Willpower

Willpower, discipline, motivation. Call it what you want, willpower is a lot like money. We know we need it, we all wish we had more of it, but it always seems to disappear as soon as we get a taste of it. See ya tax return! If you have struggled with your weight at all, you have probably told yourself that you just don’t have enough of it. Most of the time, when we start a diet, we’re extremely motivated. Whatever it was that gave us that initial spark of determination, we run with it, gritting our teeth until we can’t stand one more freaking salad or piece of grilled chicken, and then we crack. In my last post, My Little Bag of Tricks , I talked about some practical things you could do to keep yourself from hitting plateaus and burn out. But this week I wanted to talk more in-depth about the discipline mindset, and how I’ve been able to keep myself moving in the right direction.

Motivation Never Lasts

Over the last year and a half, I have heard two things a lot when someone finds out how much weight I’ve been able to lose. “You’re so disciplined,” and “I wish I had your willpower.” One thing I want you to know, is that while I guess I was very motivated, or “disciplined” in the beginning, I don’t feel like I am now. The first few months into my weight loss, I was determined. I knew my body would lose weight if I learned how to make it, in a way that was sustainable and didn’t make me feel deprived. During those first few months, the biggest thing that could’ve thrown me off was the useless things that I loved to tell myself. “This is going to take forever,” “You don’t have time to deal with this right now,” “This is just the body type that you have so you might as well get used to it.” img_7772 In those moments, I did need the discipline to push those thoughts out of my head so that I could keep going. But willpower can only get us so far.

I heard a great quote on a Podcast one time that summed it up perfectly, it was from the book The One Thing by Gary Keller. He said, “Success is actually a short race- a sprint fueled by discipline just long enough for habit to kick in and take over.” Gary Keller is the founder of Keller Williams Realty, and although he was referring to business when he said this, I feel like this can apply to just about anything you’re trying to succeed in. Weight loss, business, leveling up on Candy Crush, if you can consistently keep your head in the game, just long enough for good habits to form, then your success is inevitable.

How I Knew My Habits Had Changed

I can’t recall exactly when it happened. I was just trucking along, meal prepping, experimenting, trying to find a gym routine that I liked. I was just taking it a week, a few pounds, or sometimes a few hours at a time. Pushing myself forward until my next mental sanity meal, watching my weight consistently follow the same pattern. Up one week, a big drop the next, back and forth. Then one day, something came up. I don’t remember if I got called in to work or what happened. All I know is that it was my meal prep day, and I was ticked off. Like in an actual teenage temper tantrum, “You’re ruining my life” kind of way. I, Melissa, the fast food-loving, excuse-finding, circumstance-blamer, was angry that I wasn’t going to be able to do my meal prep. I was so mad that I was determined to find a way to make it work anyway. Instead of throwing my hands up and calling that week a bust, I just found meals that were similar to what I would’ve meal prepped, and cooked my food the next possible day I could. That’s still what I do to this day if something comes up, because stuff will always randomly come up. That was my first little glimmer of hope that I was actually changing my lifestyle.

The next time I knew was similar, but had to do with the gym. A kid was sick, or my child care fell through. Something out of my control came up, and I wasn’t going to be able to go. Again, I was full-blown angry inside.img_7711 In the past I would’ve been happy to have any excuse to skip the gym, especially a legit good one! I honestly used to think that people who said they enjoyed going to the gym were full of crap or lying to themselves, but here I sat, mad and pouting because my whole routine was going to get thrown out of whack! I was irritated because this had become habitual, my routine, and it was being disrupted.

Find a Way To Keep Pushing

My advice is to just keep moving forward. Successful people aren’t successful because they’re smarter or better than you. They’re successful because they consistently pushed past their excuses when things got uncomfortable, and just did it anyway when other people would have quit.

For the first several months, your brain is going to be going crazy, trying to keep you in your comfort zone. We already know our normal, safe patterns of behavior. We go on a diet, something out of our control happens, we cave, and we go back to what we know. Look at this as an experiment and see what happens if you don’t. See what happens when you think outside of the box and make it work. It doesn’t matter if it takes you 6 months or a year to form new habits, because this is a lifestyle, not a diet. There are no deadlines or “goal dates”. If you can tell your brain to shut up for a while, habit will kick in and make this so much easier. I mean one day you may even wake up, eat your meal prepped breakfast, go to the gym, and realize you actually have some little shoulder muscles peeking through! Once it’s a habit, the time flies by! A year and a half later, I really don’t feel like I’m still “trying to lose weight”, but I am continuing to lose body fat and make progress because of habit, not because of willpower.

Never in my wildest chubby girl dreams, did I ever think that I would be the person I am right now. img_7659Sure, maybe I’ve faked it for short periods of time for the wrong reasons. I even subscribed to Runner’s World for a whole year once, trying to convince myself that I liked running. I thought that’s what you had to do to lose weight, so I better learn to like it! Imagine my relief when a good friend informed me otherwise. Mind-blowing.

I’m sharing my story here, and on my Instagram, not to brag, or get a pat on the back, but because I feel like there’s still so much misinformation out there about weight loss. I swear it’s like they’re trying to keep us fat! I want other women to know that it’s possible to do this. I don’t feel like I’ve done anything that someone else couldn’t have done. I hardly ever eat salads and I loathe cardio! That being said, I feel like mindset and discipline are two of the hardest things to teach. Anyone can give you a meal plan and a workout routine, but it’s hard to get in someone’s head and get them to keep pushing. But if you can consistently have the mental strength to get past those thoughts of not caring, or wanting to quit, I promise one day you won’t have to. Keep going, keep planning meals and keep experimenting with exercise, even when you don’t feel like it. One day it won’t take willpower, because it will be just like brushing your teeth!

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My Little Bag of Tricks

In my last blog post, Why “Eat Less, Move More” is Crap, I talked about how stubborn and focused I can get when I set my mind to something. I guess obsessive would be the correct term, although that makes me sound slightly psychotic. I prefer driven. So when I decided to finally get my head out of my rear and lose weight, I wanted it done yesterday. Don’t get me wrong, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with harnessing that initial motivation while it’s there, but I wanted to address how to tackle plateaus, and set yourself up for long-term success.

Go Hard Or Go Home

Raise your hand if your weight loss efforts generally go something like this. The motivation strikes. Maybe your clothes were getting tight, or maybe somebody tagged you in a picture that made you want to delete your entire Facebook account. Can I just say, whoever created the approval feature for Facebook tagging, I’d like to kiss you on the mouth. Anything can generate that initial spark. So then you panic, you’ve got to do something now. You have to start tracking your calories, so you download an app to help.img_7643 You plug in all of your information, height, weight, activity level, goal weight. You press enter, and then gaze, horrified at the amount of calories this stupid app is telling you to eat. There has to be a mistake, you’ll never lose weight eating that much, and if you do, it’s going to take an eternity. Okay, now regroup. If this app is telling you to eat that many calories and you’ll lose 1-2 pounds a week, let’s see how quick you can lose it if you just go ahead and drop that sucker right down to 1,200 calories per day.

This was my exact thought process, every time I would try to lose weight in the past. Slow and steady is for losers! Go hard, or go home! 1,200 calories a day for some reason has become the set point for women when going on a diet, and for the life of me I still don’t know where that number came from.

Your Body is Trying to Keep You Alive

I don’t like slow and steady, but as I came to learn from experience, it really is the best way, but maybe not for the reason you might think. I’m not a terribly patient person when it comes to weight loss. However, in all of my extensive YouTube research, I finally came across a video that explained the reasoning behind it, in a way that made me stop kicking my feet, having a temper tantrum about it, and listen.

The reason you want to start your weight loss slow, at the highest possible calories, isn’t because you necessarily want the weight to come off slow. Who in their right mind wants that? You start slow, because if you start off losing weight eating 1,200 calories a day, 20g of carbs, and going crazy in the gym with cardio, eventually your body is going to rebel. Our bodies are naturally designed to keep us alive during times of famine. So when you’re putting your body through a self-induced famine, it’s going to try to protect itself. The dreaded “starvation mode”. Cravings, fatigue, mind games, and holding onto body fat, are just some of the ways your body will try to survive that stress you’re putting it through. This is why eventually, we all hit a plateau or completely go off the rails and go into binge mode.

Take It Easy

If we start out slow, eating the maximum amount of calories and carbs possible for us to see results, and limit our cardio, then we have some wiggle room to make adjustments. Adjustments would be things like, dropping our calories by 100 a day, maybe dropping our carbs slightly, or increasing our cardio as a last resort. I shudder to think. Basically, you just start making small adjustments to let your body know that it’s okay to keep letting go of body fat. img_7644“Mental Sanity Meals” are also important here, because while it may seem like you’re slowing your progress, they can actually be important for replenishing your glycogen (which is how our body stores carbs for energy), and telling your body that you’re not actually starving to death.

On the flip side, if we start a diet like a maniac, going all out, white knuckling from day one, there’s really no room to make adjustments. Are you going to be able to realistically drop your calories from 1,200 to 1,000 per day? I couldn’t! Or maybe you started out doing an hour of cardio 4 days a week. Are you going to be able to sustain that schedule or add another day or two? Heck no, don’t put me down for cardio!

Long Term Strategy

It can be so tempting to ride that motivation high and go crazy in the first few weeks of a diet, but it’s so important to think about the long-term strategy. You can lose weight consistently and steadily without going nuts in the process. Don’t back yourself into a corner by pulling out all the tricks on day one. Maybe try thinking about it like a relationship. Do you want the quick spark and then the atom bomb explosion where you bury your face in a tub of ice cream for a week? Or do you want the long-lasting steady flame? Keep your body guessing and keep some things in your back pocket for later! Start by experimenting with however many calories your app or calculator told you to eat to be in a caloric deficit. If you’re consistently seeing the scale drop 1-2 pounds a week, great! Keep eating that much until you start seeing your weight loss getting slower or stalling out for a few weeks. Then you can make small tweaks to get the ball rolling again.

One huge mindset shift we have to make, is not getting caught up in the length of time it takes to really make this a lifestyle change.img_6942 The things you do to get the weight off, will be the things you have to do to keep it off, so don’t do anything nutty. Even if it takes you 2 years to get to your goal, what’s 2 years in the grand scheme of your life? If it means slow, consistent weight loss, that sets you up to reach your goals in a way that’s maintainable and realistic, those 2 years will fly by. I would much rather spend one to two years, totally focused on creating lifestyle changes, than to look back 10 years from now and still be worrying about the same 40 to 50 pounds that I keep having to lose over and over. With the right strategy and mindset, we can teach our body to work with us, and not against us.

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Why “Eat Less, Move More” is Crap

It sounds so simple, Eat less, move more. Any idiot can do it. So here’s my problem, if it’s this simple, why are there so many educated, intelligent people, still struggling with their weight?

First, a little back story. In the words of Sophia Petrillo, “picture it”, I’m nineteen years old, married, in school, and working at a small hospital. Like most people overwhelmed with the stress of school and work, I put on a little weight. Not a lot, but enough that my clothes were getting tight. img_7595-1So finally one day, I got up the courage to ask one of the dietitians that worked at the hospital, if she had any tips as to what I could do to lose those extra pounds. I figured if anybody knew, she would. Imagine my disgust when she, without even looking up from what she was doing, uttered those four nasty little words, “Eat less, move more.” You don’t say. Insert eye roll.

Now at this time in my life, I had no clue about flexible dieting, macros, or nutrition. However, even then, I distinctly recall having the immediate thought, “what a load of crap.”

Obviously I never asked again, and went on to go through years of the ups and downs of the diet/binge cycle. Thanks for the earth-shattering advice!

It’s Not That Simple

“Eat less, move more” is not the answer. It’s so much more complicated than that. When you hear those words, while they may be true in a very broad sense, they don’t even begin to address the real reasons why we can’t lose weight. Calories in versus calories out is only the tip of the iceberg.

The reason we don’t lose weight isn’t because we don’t know how. It’s pretty common knowledge these days, that to lose body fat, you have to burn more calories than you eat. We don’t have to get all reflective and mushy about the reasons why we gained weight necessarily. For me it was simply apathy and stress. The reason we can’t lose weight, is because we can’t keep our head in the game long enough for habit to take over. We haven’t decided to really commit to doing it.

The “Kinda” Zone

I was forever stuck in the “kinda” zone. I “kinda” need to eat better, I “kinda” need to lose weight, I “kinda” would like to look better. It took me a while of feeling horrible in my body and feeling embarrassed about how much I had let myself go. Finally, I made the choice to change my mindset and do what it took to change my body. img_7596

Our success starts and continues with our mindset. We have to decide that it doesn’t matter how long it takes, there are no deadlines. We need a true lifestyle change in order for this to be sustainable. Even if that means doing what seems like the harder thing, of not just following a diet plan, but learning how to make our own.

We women are unstoppable when we decide. Ask my husband, when I get something in my head, and I decide I want to do it, I’m freaking doing it. I obsess about it until it’s done. I’m sure people would say the same thing about you. We are powerful and capable when we move from “kinda” to actually truly deciding.

We’re More Powerful Than We Think

We’re way more complicated and powerful than “eat less, move more”. All that tells me, is that I’m an idiot for not being able to do this. img_7598Now go starve yourself and run on the treadmill. Both of these things sound horrible to me now, and sounded even worse when I was 100 pounds heavier. A dumbed down answer like that just doesn’t do it for me. If it was that simple, no one would struggle with their weight.

Taking Action

If you can be a sponge, figure out your why, and truly decide that this is something that you want to accomplish, then you can. You can decide that you’re going to figure this out for the last time. Let it be a process. Understand that it will be trial and error. But when the errors happen, you course correct and move on. I have said this before, but I’ll continue saying it, this is all a mental game. It’s not all about “looking better”. My true motivation this time around, has been to just physically feel better. img_7597What has been an unexpected surprise to me, is that while my confidence increased some from looking better, the main reason my confidence increased, was because I set a huge goal, and I accomplished it. I decided I was smarter and more complex than “eat less, move more” made me feel. I decided that I was going to look at this like a calculated, scientific experiment, and that I was going to do what I needed to do mentally, to keep going and see what would happen. I was going to eat and train smarter. So much can change in a year if you keep going. I’m nothing special. My body functions just like everybody else’s. Truly, if I can do this, you can do this. It all starts with your mindset and your decision.

What in the World is Flexible Dieting?

Oh man. The things we put ourselves through to lose weight. I feel like we’ve all been guilty of wanting the quick fix. That instant gratification of taking a pill, drinking a tea, or getting a shot, and magically our body fat melts off and we see that weight drop consistently day after day.

The problem is, these things we do to ourselves, even if they work in the short term, don’t last. We get to the end of the challenge, end of the program, or end of the bottle, and we don’t know what to do next. So we just slowly go back to doing what we know. We eat whatever, and do whatever, until we feel so crappy that we’re searching around like crazy looking for the next miracle. And there we are, back in the cycle. I know this, because I’ve done exactly this. Over, and over, and over.

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Size 20 to Size 6

So after the birth of my second son, Tyson, I knew I had to do something. I was 247 pounds when he was born, and on my 5’5” frame, it was quickly taking a toll on me. I was overweight, I had a newborn who didn’t sleep through the night, I was breastfeeding, pumping, and working full time. All while taking care of the other three men of the house. I was exhausted. I felt like complete crap. I had created this life that I couldn’t keep up with, I believe, because of what I had done to my body. I had lost a significant amount of weight before, so I knew what it felt like to be a “normal” body weight. And then I gained it all back, plus a few extra. I knew to feel better, I had to get back to that.

I knew it was going to take a while, but having lost and gained back a significant amount of weight before and blowing it, I was going to make sure this time that I put in the work to never have to do it again. I wanted to learn how to eat, realistically. I didn’t want my success resting on anything except my knowledge, the foods I ate, and my hard work. I absolutely refused to spend anymore money on fads, gimmicks, or pills. I wanted to do it in what I considered to be the real way, no shortcuts.

So here’s where flexible dieting comes in. First it’s important to know that while it is called flexible dieting, it’s not a diet. This is a method. A method of teaching yourself how to eat a balanced diet. Eating the correct ratio of proteins, fats, and carbs to meet your body composition goals. This method works if you’re trying to lose body fat, gain muscle, or just maintain your weight. It’s not a meal plan, it teaches you how to create your own meal plan.img_6931 It teaches you how to realistically eat to change your body, and to not feel deprived in the process. It can seem overwhelming at first, especially when we’re all so used to the instant gratification of someone giving us an exact list of do’s and don’ts. I promise though, if you take a breath, invest in your knowledge, and figure this out, you’ll be so grateful you did. You don’t have to know everything about it day 1! This is a learning process! Take messy action and just get the ball rolling. My Fitness Pal is a great place to start figuring out what makes up a food.

Cheat meals are included! For my purposes though I would rather refer to them as mental sanity meals. Haha. I’m not “cheating”, because those meals are part of the plan, not a slip from it. There are scientific reasons for the MSM too, but the big reason for them, for me personally, is just to have a mental break. Having the “will power” to keep this going, is a lot easier when you break it up into chunks. 3 days on plan, 1 MSM, 2 more days on plan, 1 MSM. You get it? It’s not “falling off the wagon” if they’re part of the plan. Just go back to eating that meal prepped food the next day.

I get told a lot, “I wish I had your will power”. Will power is a lot easier when it’s a few days at a time, and you’re working in your favorite foods as part of the plan. I don’t feel like I have a ton of will power. I just learned a system that doesn’t make me feel deprived while still giving me the results I want. And it didn’t cost me a penny! Please feel free to follow me on Instagram @mommytracksmacros where I post daily motivation and tips about flexible dieting and what it takes to stay in the weight loss mindset. img_7711

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