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.
If you’ve known me at all over the past decade, you know one thing for sure. Whether we’ve worked together, been close friends, or even just friends on social media, one thing is clear. My weight has fluctuated, A LOT.
From school, job changes, having babies, crash diets, and finally lifestyle changes, it’s been a roller coaster for my poor body.
If there’s one standout, positive thing that my weight fluctuations have given me, I’d say it’s perspective.
Over the past 10 years, I feel like I’ve had the opportunity to experience life in so many different body types. From sedentary to active. To morbidly obese, to “skinny fat”, to lean. From a size 22+, to a size 4, and everywhere in between.
I know the thoughts that can go through your mind in each of these bodies, and one thing that I’ve come to realize lately, is how much we can judge people at the other end of the spectrum. It’s easy to look at a stranger at face value, and assume all kinds of things about them when you’ve never lived life in their body, or in their shoes.
When I was obese, I assumed that the thin people of the world made all kinds of judgments about me. But honestly, I had a lot of opinions about them too.
I figured that they were just genetically lucky. They didn’t have to work for their body, or think about what they ate. If I saw a thin girl at a restaurant scarfing down a plate of nachos, my mind would subconsciously jump to conclusions right away.
“Must be nice!”
“I bet she won’t look like that after she has kids.”
“I wish I could eat whatever I felt like and not gain weight, but I wasn’t blessed with her metabolism.”
These types of things would race through my mind about her, and then I would start on myself:
“You were just destined to be overweight.”
“You’ve ruined your body, you’ll never look like that.”
“You’re lazy, and not disciplined enough to ever look like that.”
The way we compare ourselves to each other, and the things we say to ourselves can be awful. But I didn’t just limit my judgmental thoughts to eating interactions…oh no! If ever there was a time when I was disgusted with myself enough to actually try to go to the gym and lose weight, I would automatically start judging those dang skinny girls at the gym too.
“You can’t seriously enjoy this, and clearly you don’t need to lose weight, you must be here to meet a man.”
And then to myself:
“Why are you even bothering? This is awful and you’re not going to be able to keep this up for as long as it’s going to take to lose weight.”
“You’re wasting your time.”
I judged “fit” people, and I assumed that they were judging me too. All of these things I told myself, I just assumed were the things that they were thinking too.
Over time I learned to turn those thought off.
I pushed those thoughts to the side, because my need to accomplish my goal, was bigger than what other people might be thinking. I had to quit caring what other people thought, and learn to keep my eyes on my own paper.
One day, I finally looked up, and realized I had somehow changed seats. I looked in the mirror, and aside from a little loose skin and some pretty gnarly stretch marks, I was starting to kind of look “fit”. I was starting to be able to actually see my muscles in places, and I truly enjoyed my time spent in the gym. I had a whole new perspective, that I had never had before.
I didn’t worry anymore about what people thought about me in the gym, and I began to notice how I wasn’t spending as much time comparing my body or my eating habits to others either.
Now when I see a “skinny” girl at a restaurant shoveling down a cheeseburger, I don’t think, “must be nice!” Now I think, “Yes! Cheat meal!” I realize that I always just assumed that she was just one of the lucky ones…one of those blessed few who could eat whatever they wanted and have the perfect body. Now I have enough knowledge about nutrition to realize, she probably doesn’t. She probably doesn’t eat that way all of the time like I used to. Because if she did, her body probably wouldn’t be able to keep up with all of those extra calories either. Maybe she’s been tracking her macros all week, just waiting for this special “cheat meal”. Or maybe she has far worse issues with food, and that’s the only thing she’s eaten today. You just never know.
Maybe that “fit mom” at the gym is just like me too. Maybe she didn’t always look that way, and maybe she truly enjoys that little bit of alone time she steals for herself each day. Maybe she really needs that time to focus, unwind, and feel good about herself before she goes home and has to wipe snot and poop for the rest of the day.
Now that I’m on the other end of the spectrum, I feel like I have a unique perspective, not on either extreme, but from somewhere in the middle. I understand why that thin mom loves the gym and how she balances her diet. But I also remember being in that other body, feeling judged, and tired, and like I was chasing my tail…caring so much about how my body looked to other people, but trying to pretend I didn’t.
I Totally Get It
I see that gym-lover, and I think, “Good for her. I totally get it, I’ve got a long day ahead too. Blast that music girl, forget that to-do list for an hour! You’re a beast!”
And when I see that person, just at the beginning of their weight loss or fitness journey, I make no assumptions about their lifestyle, why they gained weight, their eating habits, and especially not about what they’re capable of. The only thing I’m thinking is, “Good for her. I totally get it. I hope you find a way to feel comfortable here, your body is just as capable as anyone in here, and I hope you keep going. The way you feel right now will pass, just give it some time.”
You Know the Saying
You know that saying about assumptions? It’s true! We should never, ever assume that we know another person’s lifestyle, or body, or motives.
I can without a doubt tell you, that my current lifestyle and body type are my favorite so far. But shockingly, I can say now, that I do feel lucky to have had the experience of living in my body, in so many different stages. I feel like it’s given me the gift of perspective, and I hope that I can use my perspective to help some else realize how capable they are, and that they can view their life from a different seat whenever they choose to.
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.
Body acceptance has always been a concept that eluded and confused me. I understand the need to love yourself as a person no matter what size you are, and I always felt like I did. I loved the person that I was, but I wouldn’t say that I loved the body that I was in. The idea that I would one day be able to stand in the mirror at 100 lbs overweight making googly eyes at myself and saying that I loved my body, was a bit ridiculous to me. I’m sure there are thousands of women that truly love their bodies,
and I think it’s great that there’s this movement, telling women that they can learn to love their body, no matter what size they are. But I honestly didn’t see how it was possible that I would ever truly love my overweight body. I seriously doubted there would ever be a day when I made some viral Instagram post bearing my stretch marks like trophies and being confident enough to display them for the whole world to see. It wasn’t just that I didn’t liked the way my body looked, I was frustrated with how my body was making me physically feel. The idea of loving my body no matter what size I was, just seemed like another thing to add to the list of ways I should be feeling but definitely wasn’t.
Let’s Think About This
What was my body doing for me at that size? I was exhausted, I didn’t really want to leave the house unless it was for food, and it was hard to move. I had to brace myself and rock to get off of the couch. Clothes that hid my body were bought, over clothes that I actually liked, and I felt like I’d hiked 4 miles every time I walked in and out of work. I wouldn’t say that I absolutely hated my body, but I definitely didn’t have a good relationship with it either.
And Here’s Where Things Get Weird
Bear with me, because this might sound a little whoo-whoo. I wouldn’t consider myself especially touchy-feely, or emotional normally, but somewhere along the way, I started to feel differently about my relationship with my body. I’m not really sure now, what prompted my views on my body to change, but one day I realized that I needed to start viewing my relationship with my body, as a relationship. Sure, maybe my body wasn’t exactly helping me live my life the way that I wanted to, but like any relationship, I had to start realizing, it’s a two-way street.
If I looked at my relationship with my body as a relationship, I would’ve kicked my butt to the curb years ago! I was an abuser,
and the taker in this relationship for sure! I have put my body through a lot. I’ve starved it, neglected it, put it through two pregnancies, surgery, and the list could go on. There were times where my body couldn’t deal with what I was doing to it, leaving it with scars, and minus an organ. (I’m speaking of my gallbladder, which I’m almost certain had to be removed because of my rapid weight gain.) But all in all, she’s a tough old gal, who only wants me to love her with my actions and not just my words.
Taking Care of Me
I had to start holding up my end of the bargain. I had to start learning how to take care of this body, because it’s the only one I’m ever going to have. That’s the thing that is a bit confusing to me about the “love yourself at any size” movement. I think it’s so important that we love ourselves for who we are, whatever size we are. However, I don’t feel like that should give us a free pass to make lifestyle choices that leave our body unhealthy, although I’ve been guilty of this the majority of my life. I feel like at some point, we should really evaluate how we’re showing love to the body we say we love. I’m in no way saying that every single woman needs to be the same size, and we are all at different stages in our weight loss journeys, both mentally and physically. We were also all created with unique frames and proportions. What I am saying, is that loving and respecting your body, regardless if you have weight to lose or not, may also mean trying your best to keep your body healthy.
So when I began taking steps to take care of my body, initially, it was just because I wanted to have more energy for my day to day life.
I started paying attention to the things I was putting into my body, and the nutrients that helped me feel my best. I practiced how to stop using food to deal with my stress, and learned how to use it to fuel and to nourish my body instead. My body had been treated like crap for years, but started responding almost immediately to the new kind of attention I was giving it. My body responded to my effort by dropping over 100 pounds of extra weight, and giving me the energy to feel like I could do more with my day than just get it over with.
In My Humble Opinion
So almost two years later, I still feel like my opinion of the body that I’ve worked so hard for should be 100% positive. I should be so proud of all of my hard work, and not be able to see anything negative about my body at all.
After my weight loss, I definitely have more energy, I can buy clothes in any store, and I can do active things with my family with confidence.
My relationship with my body is definitely vastly different than it was two years ago. However, here’s how I honestly feel at this point of my weight loss journey: I love the person I have become through this process and who I am still becoming. I have proved to myself that I can set a goal, and that I have to mental toughness and determination to achieve it. Even after losing 112 pounds, there are still things about my body that I would change if I could snap my fingers. But I also have a deep appreciation and respect for the things that my body is capable of. My body has been a trooper for these 30 years, through all of the abuse that I’ve done to it, and it has given me two healthy, handsome children.
I Said All That to Say
Weight loss can definitely help you feel so much better in your body physically and mentally, but weight loss is never going to be a cure-all for your self-image. Changing your body, can greatly impact your health and day to day life, but if you don’t love the person that you fundamentally are at 300 pounds, you’re probably still not going to like the person you are at 150 pounds. Maybe you’re where I was, and couldn’t see how any plus-size person could honestly say they loved their body. That’s okay. You feel how you feel. There may never come a day, when you wake up and are in awe of your mom-bod, and that’s okay too. But when you start treating yourself the way that you would treat a friend, you can work toward being proud of the person that you are, and showing yourself love through the way you treat yourself and how you treat your body. The rest will fall into place. It’s amazing how our bodies can bounce back and respond, when we hold up our end of the relationship.
In a perfect world, where I was the perfect specimen of health and wellness, my diet would consist of one hundred percent organic, whole foods. I do wish I was at that point mentally, because physically I’m sure I would feel amazing! However, at this present moment, I’m more of what you might call a “practical eater”.
When it came to my weight loss in the past, I had a very all or nothing mindset. I always assumed if my diet wasn’t consisting of completely healthy, “good” foods, that I could never make much progress. Although working my way toward better overall health and nutrition is of course the ultimate goal, I was so relieved to find, that I could still make progress toward my physical goals, while eating foods that didn’t make me feel like I was depriving myself of all of the delicious processed treats this western world has to offer. For me personally, finding the right balance of vegetables and whole foods, with some processed, convenient treats mixed in has been the way I’ve made this process more of a lifestyle , instead of a diet. Finding brands with the ingredients that best fit your macros, is key to helping you fit in those fun foods and treats.
One common question I hear is, “How do you find macro-friendly foods?” Honestly, that’s a tricky question, because ALL foods can be “macro-friendly”, depending on which foods you pair them with for the day. But this week, I’ll explain the things I look for on a nutrition label, and how you can find the brands that taste the best, and fit the best with your macros.
Decoding the Nutrition Label
Lucky for us, in this day and age, we have magical apps like My Fitness Pal, that can help us track our food, calories, and macros for the day. I honestly can’t imagine how body builders did it back in the day, before smartphones and computers. But knowing how to read the nutrition label while you’re at the grocery store, is still important when you’re buying ingredients to fit into your meal plan. There’s a ton of information we can learn from the nutrition label, but when I’m at the store, the main things I look for are: serving size, total calories, protein, carbs, fat, and fiber.
Comparing the Labels
So finding the brands, that have the most “macro-friendly” ingredients, is simply about comparing the labels. When you really start looking, it’s amazing how different brands, of the same types of food, can differ so much on their macronutrients. So let’s look at some examples of things you might see:
Example 1: Protein Pancakes
If you know me at all, you know that I love me some Kodiak Cakes! There was a period of probably 3 months or so, that I ate pancakes twice a day, every day. Pumpkin Spice for breakfast, and dark chocolate for an after dinner dessert. So I was curious when I saw another brand of protein pancakes pop up on the shelf, next to my beloved Kodiak Cakes. So I took a look at the label, and compared. It’s important to always check the serving size first, to make sure you’re comparing the same amount. These two pancake mixes had the same serving size of 1/2 cup. Next I check the total calories. The Krusteaz pancakes have 220 calories per 1/2 cup, while the Kodiak Cakes are 190 for the same amount. Next, I look at the protein. When it comes to protein, the one with the highest amount wins. Kodiak Cakes wins again! Next I’ll check the carbs, and for me, the lower number wins here. Kodiak Cakes is 3 for 3, with 8g less carbs per serving than the Krusteaz. Both brands have equal amounts of total fat. The last thing that sold me on the Kodiak Cakes, is the fiber. It contains 5g of fiber per serving, while the Krusteaz mix only contains 1g. So although both of these brands of protein pancakes, could fit into your macros, depending on your taste preference, the Kodiak Cakes are the most “macro-friendly”, because they have the highest amount of protein and fiber, and the lowest amount of carbs.
Example 2: Barbecue Sauce
It’s crazy how much the macros of some sauces and dressings can vary. One example of this is good ‘ol Barbecue Sauce.
A good thing to remember is, the sweeter the sauce, usually means, the higher the carbs. Two sauces that we sometimes buy in our house, are Sweet Baby Ray’s, and Stubb’s spicy barbecue. They also are the same serving size, and neither one of them contain protein. The things you want to pay attention to with sauces, are going to mainly be total calories, carbs, and sugar. Because of the sweetness in the Sweet Baby Ray’s, it not only packs in twice the amount of calories per serving, but also 10g more carbs, and 9g more sugar. Just like with the pancakes, you could make either brand work into your macros if you really wanted to, but the Stubb’s spicy barbecue would be easier to work into your day, than the Sweet Baby Ray’s.
Thank God For Technology
Technology makes it so much easier to not have to track all of our food, macronutrients, and micronutrients throughout the day. Using My Fitness Pal to plan my meals has been a huge part of my weight loss success, and it makes it so much easier to calculate all of the things I eat in a day. The main things I pay attention to in My Fitness Pal, are my total calories, protein, carbs, fat, and fiber. The only other things that I try not to get wild with are my sugar and sodium intake. I try to keep those numbers within the daily recommended amounts, because I know when I don’t, that I can feel sluggish or bloated.
Finding a Balance
While the goal is to keep progressing, and working my way toward a heavier emphasis on more whole foods and green vegetables, it is comforting knowing that I can still have some processed treats mixed in, and still reach my physique goals. Flexible Dieting is about finding the balance that works best for you, both physically and mentally. Flexible Dieting is not all about finding ways to eat junk and still lose weight. There are advantages and disadvantages to eating on either end of the spectrum. A diet comprised of mostly clean, whole foods, allows you to eat a higher volume of food if that’s what you need to feel satisfied. However, if fitting in some sugary processed things helps you stick with your diet long term, then you can do that as well, but the total amount of food you eat might be slightly less. Personally, I prefer to have a mixture of both. It helps me to not feel deprived, and to have a lot of variety and convenience in my meal plans.
I hope you will take the time, to find what works best for you. You are totally capable of losing weight and feeling better when you just decide you want to and find a way. This is all about finding something sustainable for you, that you could see yourself doing years down the road. I hope that helps you kind of see how I compare different brands, and how I have compiled a list of go to ingredients over the course of my weight loss journey. As always, feel free to reach out to me here or on Instagram, @mommytracksmacros if you have any more questions!
I truly can’t say thank you enough, for the amount of support and encouragement I’ve received from so many of you in regards to my weight loss journey and now my blog. I hope that I’ve been able to inspire even just one person, to see that you’re important enough, and that you’re worth making whatever changes are necessary to feel great. I know it can seem like an uphill climb and a lot of trouble, but I hope I’ve been able to show you that it’s possible to do this in a way that’s sustainable, and effective. It’s possible to see this all the way through, and to feel the confidence and sense of accomplishment that comes from crushing this huge goal. Deciding you want to change is a great first step. The next step, is to start experimenting, and finding a style of eating that is sustainable for you and your lifestyle, long-term.
So let’s say you’ve been following me for a bit, and you’ve decided you want to give flexible dieting a whirl. Awesome! I truly don’t feel like flexible dieting is actually a “diet”, it’s more a style of eating that teaches you about portion control and how to eat a more balanced diet. Planning my meals ahead, has been a huge part of my success with this style of eating. However, I know from experience and from numerous other women that have come to me with questions, that meal planning can be overwhelming in the beginning.
When you’re first starting out, think of meal planning as a labor of love that will set you up for success for the week. The point of flexible dieting, isn’t to meticulously obsess over every gram of food that goes into your mouth. For me, this is a way of teaching myself what appropriate portions should look like, with the goal being to eventually move into eating more intuitively. I have had a life time of bad eating habits. Flexible dieting to me, is taking the time that’s necessary to learn balance and better habits.
This week I thought it might be helpful to someone starting out, if I kind of go through my process each week, when I’m planning out my meals. I’ll try to reverse engineer my thought process so it makes as much sense as possible! Just know that as time goes on and you find meals you like, as you start to learn portions, and what makes up each food..it starts to become second nature and the hardest part about it will be figuring out what you’re craving each week.
I have always prided myself on being a “fly by the seat of your pants” type of gal. I’m not much on planning ahead, and I tend to be a procrastinator. So one of the hardest new habits I had to form, was looking ahead at my week. When I start planning out my meals, I look at which days I work first. Because I work 12 hour shifts, I know I’m not cooking, or going to the gym on those days. Next I see what nights we have baseball practice or games. Do we have doctor’s appointments, hair cuts, or anything else out of the norm? My next priority after all of those other things, is when can I go to the grocery store, and when can I cook my food? Even if my week is so jam-packed that there’s no way I’m making it to the gym (which normally doesn’t happen, as I’m not that exciting), I know that at the bare minimum, if I can get my food prepared for the week, I’ll still make progress.
Start With The Staples
Next, I start plugging foods into My Fitness Pal. There are several food tracking apps out there, but I have always used My Fitness Pal, so I’ll use it to explain. This is going to sound ridiculous coming from me, but I actually don’t like tracking my food.
I’m not good at entering in my foods everyday. So instead of just saying screw it, I enter in one full day of eating, once a week. I meal prep the food I need for that plan, and eat those meals until it’s time for my next “cheat meal”, or until it’s time to make a new meal plan. Doing it this way just helps me to not have to really think about it the rest of the week, or track my food everyday. If you like more variety, or have more time to cook food fresh each day, then you can do that as well. It’s truly about finding a schedule that works best for you. The first things I always enter in, are my “staple foods”. These are foods that I know I’m going to eat every day. No matter what my other meals are, I know I’m always going to drink a protein shake, and I always eat some sort of bar for one of my snacks. Once I have those in, I just start working around them to complete my day of eating. I typically work in breakfast, lunch, dinner, and two snacks in between meals. I love me some snacks!
Down to The Nitty-Gritty
On to breakfast. I’ve been eating this way for quite a while now, and I’ve been able to find a few different breakfasts that I rotate through, that are easy to make, taste good reheated, and that I know I’ll actually want to eat when I’m tired and hungry. For me, my breakfasts are usually some sort of egg scramble, or Kodiak Cakes pancakes. If you haven’t tried Kodiak Cakes yet, I definitely recommend you jump on it!
Now I just have to figure out lunch, dinner, and one more snack. Lunch and dinner are usually interchangeable, and I have the same criteria as breakfast. I want something that tastes good reheated or is easy to make fresh, and it has to be something that I’ll actually want to eat for a few days in a row until my scheduled MSM. I try to also think of things that I can easily pack for lunch on the days I work.
Over time, I have made a list in my phone of “go to” meals, that are meals that have worked well for me, so that I can refer back to them if ever I’m drawing a blank when trying to figure out what to make. Whenever I figure out what type of meal I want to make, I usually start by entering in the protein. Chicken, lean ground turkey, pork tenderloin, fish, or any lean meats are great options. So for example, this week for dinner, I had buffalo chicken flatbread. So when entering in my meal, I start with the chicken. For women, a good starting amount is 4 ounces. Next, I can either scan the bar code on the greek yogurt ranch I used for the base, or search for the brand manually. I do the same thing for the Flat Out flatbread. I typically don’t enter in things like spinach, green onions, or the Frank’s Red Hot buffalo sauce I used. I don’t fret too much about foods with very low caloric values. I’m not trying to be in a bikini show, and they aren’t going to make that much of a difference for me. Keep in mind, starchy vegetables like potatoes, corn, or carrots, do have more calories and carbs and would need to be accounted for. Also fruits like bananas, or oranges that can be higher in carbs would need to be added in.
Now I just need one more snack. Snacks can be whatever you like that fit your numbers. However, one thing that helps me, is to pick one sweet snack, and one more salty snack like crackers and a baby bell cheese wedge. That way, no matter what I’m craving throughout the day, I have something to satisfy me.
Crunching The Numbers
So we’ve got all of our food for the day plugged in, now it’s time to see where we’re at with the numbers. If you don’t know what your macros should be starting out, it can be kind of confusing because different websites can give you different numbers. When I started, I used a calculator online that I’ll link here. Then you can go into the goals section under settings in My Fitness Pal, and change your macronutrient goals to those numbers.
When you get all of your food entered in for the day, you can scroll down to the very bottom of your daily food diary, and click on the black nutrition button. Under nutrition, you’ll find sections for calories, nutrients, and macros. For me, the most helpful section is the nutrients section. Here I can see not only my daily goals, but how many grams per macronutrient I still have to work with. I’m using my numbers as an example, just keep in mind that my macros are calculated based on my height, current weight, age, and activity level…and your numbers will be different and specific to you.
I’m not a major stickler for the numbers, I just try to get them in the ball park. Protein, carbs, and fats, are my main concern. However, I do try to not go crazy with sodium or sugar, and I try to get the daily recommended amount of fiber. Word to the wise, fiber may be something that seems insignificant, but when you’re eating a higher amount of protein and not as many carbs as you normally would, fiber becomes very important. I won’t get graphic…just make sure you’re paying attention to your fiber. Your intestines will thank you!
The easiest way I can think to teach you how to make adjustments if you’re over or under on a macronutrients, is to just give examples. So let’s say you’ve entered all of your food. For breakfast you’ve decided on a protein shake,
and an egg scramble with turkey bacon and cheese. For lunch you’re having pork tenderloin, potatoes, and green beans. For dinner: a chicken burrito bowl with 1 cup of rice, sour cream, cheese, pico, and salsa. For one snack you want a protein bar, and for the other one, some fruit and a string cheese.
So you get everything in, but now see that you’re over on your amount of carbs for the day. Breakfast didn’t have that many carbs, but we can take carbs from lunch with the potatoes, or we can decrease the amount of rice in our burrito bowl. Or if we’re low on carbs, we can add more.
If we’re over or under on protein, the easiest thing to adjust is the meat, so adding or taking away pork tenderloin with lunch, or chicken with dinner. It’s the same with fat, we can take away one of the egg yolks with breakfast and add in more egg whites, or adjust the cheese or sour cream. It’s just like working a little puzzle to get the numbers in the ball park. Once you get them close, you can check the pie chart under the macros section if you wish. Just like anything, the more you do it, the easier it gets. Eventually you’ll start to compile a list of “go to” meals, and planning out your meals will get a lot faster.
Pulling It Together
Now all you have to do is get the groceries, make the food, and eat the food! If groceries shopping isn’t your favorite thing, Kroger and many other grocery stores now offer online ordering, and it will rock your world. Most of the time, I’ll still go into the store to shop, but if I’m ever really busy or short on time, it’s amazing.
As far as meal prep, I try to keep it as simple as possible. Lately I’ve been wearing out my InstantPot, but typically I’ll make one crock pot meal, and one meal that I have to make on the stove top or in the oven so that I can multitask. Meal prepping can seem like a chore at first, but it truly saves me so much time and money throughout the week…and also helps me stay on track with my eating. When I know I already have food prepared at home, that fits my macros and will get me closer to my goals, I’m much less likely to make poor impulse decisions about what to eat.
I hope that gives you kind of a broad overview of how I make my meal plans each week. I know it can seem overwhelming at first, but just know that taking the time to learn proper portions and what is actually making up your food can be life-changing. I just tried to remind myself of how much time I had spent learning bad habits and gaining weight, and to remember that it’s going to take some time to learn better habits and lose the weight. However, it truly is amazing how simply adjusting your macronutrient intake can drastically transform your body over time.
I truly enjoy eating this way, which is how I’ve been able to keep doing it for so long. It’s like a little game or puzzle that I figure out each week, to keep working towards my goals and see what I’m capable of achieving. They don’t call it flexible dieting for nothin’! It really can cater to your personal preferences and eating habits. If you’re a person who prefers eating a larger volume of food, eating more whole foods can allow you to eat bigger portions. If you have a bit of a sweet tooth, there is also room to fit those things in as well. Personally, I prefer a balance of both. I feel my best physically, when the majority of my foods are whole, clean foods. But I also know, that mentally I’ll eventually feel deprived if I don’t fit a few processed sweets like protein bars or chocolate pancakes into my day!
Figuring out your preferences, what works best with your body, and the strategies that are going to make this something sustainable for you long-term are key! I hope this has answered some questions about meal planning and crunching the numbers, but always feel free to reach out to me if you have any other questions that I may have forgotten to cover! Just take comfort in knowing, that even if it takes some experimenting and practice to figure this out, just the fact that you’re paying attention to what you’re putting in your body, means you’re already making huge strides in the right direction!
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!
Let us pray. Dear Lord, be with me. Guide my fingers, as they dance swiftly across my keyboard, while I attempt to explain my severe distaste for everything related to fad diets, gimmicks, or “magic pills”. Please help me to share my experiences…the money lost and the extra pounds gained, in such a way as to minimize the offense that may be taken from said advice. Help me to use this platform, small as it may be, to save my dear friends some time and heartache by owning up to the truly idiotic things I have done to lose weight. Amen.
Where to Begin?
Like a lot of first time moms, my introduction to the woes of yo-yo dieting, began after the birth of my first son. I had tried to diet in the past, with decent success, by making small changes here and there. Nothing drastic. But I feel like there’s a mental shift that tends to happen regarding weight loss after the birth of a child. I think it probably stems from always being told as women, that your body will never be the same after having children. The horror. Choosing to become a mom, can truly be a terrifying prospect when it comes to body image. It’s a total crap shoot. While you may be one of the rare diamonds in the rough who never develops the first stretch mark and leaves the hospital in your pre-pregnancy jeans…you really have no idea what might happen to your body when you become a mom. From everything you’ve been told, you’re destined to live out your days, marred with stretch marks, widened hips, sagging skin, stubborn body fat, and let’s not even get started on what the actual act of childbirth may do to your body. Yikes.
So you throw caution to the wind! YOLO! You’re a mom! You trudge through the first few months of motherhood, sleep deprived, but falling in love with this new little human. Eventually, you clean the crust from your eyes, brave the bright lights of the bathroom mirror, and it’s time to assess the damage. For me, stretch marks and extra pounds were my proof of pregnancy. However, It turns out I was a slow adjuster. I was in pure survival mode for a long time, and it wasn’t until after Levi’s first birthday, that I decided it was time to tackle the “mom bod”.
I was 204 pounds when I gave birth to Levi, and by the time I was finally ready to do something about the baby weight, I was up to 215. I started out pretty conservatively, joining Weight Watchers with my mom. I have heard so many great things about Weight Watchers…it’s actually a lot like flexible dieting! I know many people have had great success with their program, but at this point in my life, it was working too slowly for me. I was 23 years old, and I didn’t have time for slow and steady. Impatience got the best of me, and after a few short weeks, I had enough.
That Escalated Quickly
So after my short stent with Weight Watchers, I did probably one of the stupidest diets I’ve ever done in my life. You talk about a quick fix recipe for disaster. Enter the HCG diet. Human Chorionic Gonadotropin Hormone. If you’re unfamiliar, that would be the pregnancy hormone…the same hormone that your placenta produces, and is what makes that pregnancy test turn positive. My brilliant idea, was to lose my baby weight by injecting my thigh daily, with pregnancy hormone for a month. A true stroke of genius.
Not only did I inject my thigh daily with HCG, I paid $250 to do so, and followed the diet plan that went along with the program. The diet plan was extremely restrictive. Like 500 calories per day restrictive. I lost 30 pounds in a month, all of which I gained back in the next couple of months after I stopped the injections. Who would’ve predicted that injecting yourself with expensive pregnancy hormone was not a sustainable diet strategy?
On to the Next One
After that disaster, I can seriously remember googling how to qualify for the Lap Band. I know, I know…hilarious. It turns out I wasn’t quite ready for that yet. I would’ve needed to gain another 50 pounds or so to be in the BMI range to qualify, and honestly for a brief moment I considered living it up for a few months…plumping myself up, like a fatted calf preparing for the slaughter. I thought I could gain just enough weight for what I felt would be the “easy way out”. That’s how naive I was, I thought having surgery and permanently altering my anatomy was the easiest option, not realizing that even surgery requires diet modification to be effective long-term. Oy. I quickly realized how irrational I was being, and briefly tried out a diet pill called Alli. Any diet pill that states on the bottle that it may cause “oily stools” is probably not the greatest option long-term. I decided my next course of action would be Phentermine. It was way cheaper than the HCG, and it also gave you energy!
So I dragged my rear to a weight loss clinic, and started running. I continued taking the medication for 6 months, losing an average of 10 pounds a month. It definitely suppressed my appetite, but it also gave me horrible dry mouth, acne, and thinning hair. I quickly figured out that I could still lose weight eating Taco Bell and junk food…I just ate less of it. I got down to 150 pounds, but I was still 49% body fat according to the BodPod. It turns out, that when you lose weight that quickly, your body isn’t just losing body fat. It’s also losing water weight, and because I was doing only cardio and not eating enough protein, I was also losing lean muscle mass. That’s where the term “skinny fat” comes from. Just because someone is within a healthy BMI range, it doesn’t mean their body looks “toned”. They can be 125 pounds, but because they have very little muscle mass, they still feel like they look flabby. In order to “tone”, you just need to change your body composition, meaning gaining lean muscle mass, and losing actual body fat. After taking Phentermine, I got to just within the normal BMI range for my height, but I still felt like I hadn’t really reshaped my body, and I figured out it was time to shift my focus to losing actual body fat. I also knew that I couldn’t continue taking the Phentermine forever and it was getting too expensive to keep buying it every month.
After I stopped taking the diet pills, I actually kept the weight off for a while and started working on my body composition. It wasn’t until life stress and the comfortable flow of a new relationship came into my life that I began packing the weight back on. And then I absolutely PACKED it on. I had been starving my body for months, and it was having no more of that abuse! I gained weight so rapidly, that I swear it’s what caused me to need to have my gallbladder removed. My gallbladder was done trying to keep up with weight gain and food intake, so it just stopped functioning all together. I had it removed, and then got pregnant 2 months later! Looking back now, I can see that I have really put more poor body through the ringer!
So Here’s My Issue
Besides the fact that all of these “weight loss aids” cost a ton of money, none of them teach anything about nutrition or weight maintenance. Because let’s be honest, if they did, you wouldn’t need them anymore. My problem with diet pills, teas, wraps, etc…is that mentally they can really warp your perception of what a healthy lifestyle is, and make you feel like you’re always going to need some superfluous thing, to make you to be successful. Even if these products work, and you lose weight, it’s just not realistic to think that you’re going to use any product or pill for the rest of your life, and then what do you do? I know for me, for a long time, I felt like the only way I would be successful with weight loss, is if I took Phentermine again. If I couldn’t afford to do that, there was no point in trying at all, and I went completely in the other direction.
This time around, when I began losing weight, I was determined to not depend on ANY product, person, or thing, to make me lose the weight. I wanted to look back on my success and be able to say, without a doubt, that nothing had assisted my weight loss except for my body, the food I was eating, and the exercise I was doing. Because that is truly sustainable weight loss. If every supplement company, pharmacy, or diet book in the world suddenly disappeared…I knew how to eat to continue my weight loss, because I had removed all other variables except for my nutrition and my workout routine.
Now when I hear of a new miracle product or amazing new diet, I’m extremely skeptical. I’m a total conspiracy theorist when it comes to fad diets or weight loss aids. There’s always the same questions that run through my head:
Will someone stand to make a profit if I become mentally or physically dependent on this product? If any company truly created a product that worked, they would quickly go out of business. They would fix everyone’s weight issues, and then no one would need their product. Their company depends on my mental dependence on their product…because physically I know, I don’t need it.
Will this product help me lose weight without diet modification? Scientifically I can tell you the answer is no. No product can cause you to lose weight without diet modification. Surgery can’t even do that. However, diet modification can make you lose weight without the product, and you don’t have to spend any extra money!
Quietly Tip-Toeing Off The Soap Box
I truly hope that by sharing my mistakes with weight loss and crash diets, that I can save you some time and money. I think so many times, we can fall into the trap of thinking that we need some external thing to assist us with weight loss. We get impatient. We feel like we’re too old, we’ve broken our metabolism with motherhood, we’re too mentally weak, or any other reason we can think of. I hope that by sharing my weight loss journey with you, that you can see that it’s totally possible to do this. I’ve said it multiple times, and I’ll continue saying it…I’m no one special. I don’t have a super fast metabolism. I’m not naturally skinny. I don’t enjoy “healthy foods”. I wasn’t an athlete in high school. I’m a busy working mom, with stretch marks, and spider veins. I never found a miracle product, pill, or tea. I just figured out how to eat a more balanced diet, in a caloric deficit, and I figured out how to make my own body work with me. Although the term “Flexible Dieting” may be trendy right now…bodybuilders have been manipulating their nutrition for decades to transform their bodies. It’s nothing new.
I never thought I would want to share my weight loss experience publicly, but I’m becoming increasingly more passionate about it, because I truly feel like anyone can do what I’ve been able to do. Anyone can feel the sense of accomplishment that comes from completely transforming your body naturally with food, and the pride that you feel, knowing that you didn’t try to cheat the system this time. So instead of investing in a product that claims to be the next break through, invest in your knowledge about nutrition, and invest your money on good food that helps you reach your goals.
“And that’s all I have to say about that.”- Forrest Gump