Friday, January 11, 2013

Personally: A Weight Loss Journey, Part 1 (and Weekend Cooking!)

Weekend Cook from Beth Fish Reads
When I left my job as an administrator and instructor at a Dallas career college last year (March), I was the heaviest I've ever been. I don't even want to put the number out there -- I'm still so ashamed. I had Greyson in 2010, and while I only gained about 15 pounds with him, and while I shucked those pounds pretty quickly, I kept eating as if I were pregnant. Whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, with little regard for health, food quality, or portion control. I was also struggling emotionally in many respects, which I'm sure added to my weight gain and disregard for my health.

I've tried fad diets out the wahoo over the years because I've ALWAYS been overweight. Atkins, South Beach, and a handful of others, the names of which I can't even recall. Every time I tried those methods of weight loss, I felt deprived, constricted by the choices, and generally miserable. I went right back to my old habits.

But over the last year, some things have changed dramatically. I lost 40 pounds. I didn't really try. I didn't make any big resolutions or proclamations as I have before. Instead, I made small changes. Slow changes. And somehow my weight loss journey is well on its way, and it's been a quiet, introspective journey. One I've kept to myself, for the most part.

Looking back, I don't think there was any one "aha" moment. But I did decide to do a couple of things and they've made all the difference. And it just sort of happened. It wasn't a one-day decision.

1. Eat only when I'm really hungry. Sadly, it took me a while to learn what real hunger felt like and as I made that discovery, I figured out what it means to feel yucky when I'm too full.

2. I've tried to slowly reduce the amount of processed foods in my life.

The rate at which I lose weight has picked up a lot since I moved into my house back in June. I stopped trying to lose weight, and I started trying to eat healthy food.  

I know you're thinking, "like, duh." But it hasn't been easy for me. I was raised on chicken fried steak, fried catfish, and Little Debbie squares! Am I blaming my upbringing? Heck no. But I was one of those people who was not raised to read food labels, I was surrounded by homegrown garden veggies (which I totally took for granted), and I never thought about food much. I just ate it. And ate it. And ate it. And my tastes ran toward the processed and horrible.

Throughout my teaching career I've tried to bring a lot of current events and social issues into my classroom. One of those issues, beginning back in 2009, was food quality and the ethics of food. Spurred by my reading of books like Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and Why Animals Matter--as well as documentaries like Food, Inc. and Super Size Me--I started learning and talking about these issues. I couldn't help but become more cognizant of what I was consuming. For a long time I was aware, but I wasn't ready to make a change. Admittedly, that has happened over time and with more reading and viewing under my ever-loosening belt.

With a space of my own and total control of my shopping list, I've made this change. I've internalized the new knowledge and parlayed it into a much healthier lifestyle.

Over the next couple of weekends I hope to share with you some of the changes I've made, share some of my favorite recipes, and get feedback and ideas from you.

I don't have all the answers. I don't even have a third of the answers, but I know what's worked for me. And the funny thing is, I didn't even realize it as it was happening. I literally did not register my weight loss until family and friends started to point out that my face was looking thinner, my clothes were getting baggier, and I look goooood. For the first time in my life, this hasn't been about weight loss. It's been about health. It's made all the difference. The journey is nowhere near its conclusion, but it's a fun journey now. A healthy, productive, good-time adventure.

I hope you'll join me and share some of your tips and tricks for healthy living over the next few weeks!


56 comments:

  1. So awesome, Andi! Thanks for sharing and go you for making such monumental changes! Food information becomes kind of addictive, doesn't it? I saw Food Inc in Feb of 2010, and that started it for me, and it's funny how I don't even think to buy some of the stuff I used to consider staples in my kitchen. I look forward to reading more of what you post in the next few weeks. :)

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    1. Katie, your blog has been a lot of inspiration. I know you've fought the good fight cutting out processed foods and making lots of healthy snacks/meals for you and your kiddos. Love love love reading your posts and trying your tips and recipes. :) You got me to cook tofu, for heavens sake!

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  2. Excellent! As someone who's been sucked into the Weight Watchers world for years, without reaching (or coming close to) goal, I'm so intrigued by this! I've often thought about "just" eating healthy, but have been afraid to try it without a structured program. So silly. I can't wait to read about your experience!

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    1. It sounds too easy doesn't it??? And if you're anything like me, you like to see quick results. That's the hardest part. That's why it was so effective for me to "forget" about it, and just let this happen over time. I used to jump on Atkins, lose 40 pounds in a few weeks or a month, but then it would yo-yo right back on. This feels like a forever thing!

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  3. Whoohoo! Congrats on those 40 lbs! And, what you've been doing, basically, is "Intuitive Eating (that's my old blog about it). You eat only when you're actually hungry, and you eat only enough to satisfy -- not stuff yourself. I lost 25 lbs this way back in 2005, and have been re-starting with it this year, and am pleased to announce that I'm already making progress, just one week in! :D

    If you're interested, I just got offered a book for review that talks about both intuitive eating (though, he doesn't call it that), and choosing healthier foods... email me and I'll send you the contact info. I chose not to take him up on the review offer, as I don't need to read any more books on the subject -- I need to start PRACTICING what I've learned.

    ~MizB

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    1. Exactly! And I thought about your intuitive eating posts as I was going through this process. Good luck with restarting your own intuitive eating. Definitely want to know about the book. I'll FB message you. :)

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  4. Thanks for your blog. Congratulations with your progress and sharing your journey with us. Eating healthily and only when you are hungry are certainly the way to go. Best wishes for your ongoing quest.

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    1. Thanks, Diane! It sounds so simple but it's amazing how hard it was to internalize these simple steps for so long!

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  5. Congrats to you Andi! Keep up the good work.

    After many failed attempts at dieting, I've finally found something that works. Exercise. When/if you get into the routine of exercising, you don't want to eat things that are bad for you. Before my hip replacement, I was walking a mile and a half on my treadmill and I'm hoping to get back to that level soon.

    It's the only thing that works for me...focus on moving and the food will take care of itself. I also eat/keep a lot of fresh fruit, vegetables and nuts around.

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    1. Robin, I've been slow to adopt a full-on exercise routine. But this is another area where in the past I would jump in with both feet, burn out, and stop. I've taken to walking more at work -- even if it means a stroll around campus at work. I also am much more active around the house -- constantly cleaning, organizing, straightening, and playing with/chasing my son. That helps a lot too without the bore of tedious exercise.

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  6. Wow, what a great story! Cutting out all processed foods really helps, and I'm glad you noticed a major difference!

    I stopped eating processed foods and ingesting chemicals in general (including medicines, prescription drugs, etc) in 2009, and I also lost tons of weight naturally. I actually still eat some of the same stuff I ate before (cookies, baked goods), but only the all-natural/organic versions, never anything processed.

    I love these types of blog posts, and I can't wait to read your next update! :)

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    1. Thanks, Sarah Ann! I haven't made it to cutting out all processed foods, but I'd say I've cut our processed intake by about 60%. Tonight was an exhausted night and I needed something comfort-foody to take for lunch at work this week. I made a casserole out of leftover turkey, some noodles, green beans, and some canned soups and spices. I've cut down on the use of "cream of" by probably 80% and the next step is to make my own homemade versions for nights like this one!

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  7. This is awesome Andi! You're very right - it's about eating real foods, and enjoying what we eat, and knowing our hunger cues. I know too many people who try to lose by calorie deprivation, who are hungry all the time and think that their stomachs are the enemy. It's just too bad, because real permanent weight loss has nothing to do with dieting. This is fantastic!

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    1. Thanks, Amanda! Amen to real foods. Definitely have some blog posts coming up about that topic. I often find that I skip dinner. People's first reaction is "you're starving yourself!" But the truth of the matter is that I'm hungrier for breakfast and lunch, and by the time dinner rolls around I'm REALLY NOT HUNGRY! But there will be a post about that. lol

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  8. I find it's way easier for me to eat healthy when I'm working out regularly, because if I work my butt off at the gym I'm horrified at how many calories are in candy and stuff. If I'm not working out, I just don't care.

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    1. Lisa, I hear ya. I get extremely bored with exercise. I don't particularly like watching TV or anything while I'm on a treadmill; I much prefer scenery. It's a little binding in the fall/winter months when the days are short, so I find I purposely move more at work, stay on my feet more at home. All that good stuff. Exercise is tough for me, but there will be a post about that. lol

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    2. I'm with you - it should be easy. Eat less and exercise more, but why do we have such cravings?
      Ann

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  9. Good for you! It's amazing what healthy eating can do for you. I bet you feel better too.

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    1. Amen! I feel much much better (except when I have a month-long cold). lol

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  10. Awesome, Andiloo! I gained weight after moving but it's probably because I'm exercising less. We have a new gym and I miss my old one like crazy. It was so friendly and inviting! Gotta get back to work on the flab. We're eating better, though -- lots of fresh veggies. In fact, Kiddo keeps looking in the fridge and saying, "What's up with all this HEALTH FOOD?" LOL He eats it if it's fixed for him but he doesn't know what to do with it, otherwise. He might need a crash course in cooking fresh veggies.

    Can't wait to hear what all you've done and see your recipes!

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    1. Thanks, Nancy! I have never been a very good gym member. Maybe because I haven't found one that "fits" me. I used to find them intimidating, but now I have a problem of getting bored at the gym. I'm hard to please, obviously. lol

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  11. Congratulations, Andi! I've fought the weight battle too, and I know how tough it can be. But I also know that I've felt SO much better since I got to a healthy weight.

    I've found that I can eat most anything I want if I do it in moderation and exercise on a regular basis. Part of that is, as you said, not eating unless you're hungry, plus learning to stop eating when you're full! It takes a lot less to fill up then you think! I've found an exercise I enjoy, so I can do it four or five times a week and I actually miss it when I can't do it.

    Keep it up!

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    1. Thanks, Becca! Congrats to you on reaching a healthy weight! I'm well on my way. A lot left to do, but I'm pleased as can be with my progress thus far.

      And yes, I haven't restricted myself a lot as I find I'll go nuts and binge on bad stuff if I'm too restricted. 90% of the time I eat wise choices, so I don't even feel guilty about splurging from time to time.

      And what's your exercise of choice? I'm still searching. :)

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  12. Congrats. I'm with Robin and Bookfool on the importance of exercise -- not so much for the calories burned but the way it makes you feel-- so much better (and studies now suggest it affects not just self-image but mood and brain power) that you start eating better too.
    I went through a very hard time many years ago -- not about weight but I did all kinds of things to make me feel better and change my routines.
    At the grocery I tried to buy one new healthy thing -- something I had never bought before generally healthy stuff like weird fruit, new grains, vegetables that I had no idea how to cook -- things like kale and salsify. It made eating a little more interesting. Love kale. Have never bought salsify again.

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    1. Thanks, Barbara! And yes, I need those endorphins! :) And I love the idea of buying one new healthy thing at the store. Adventure is the key to not getting bored with the food routine.

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  13. I'll share my herbs (growing lots of sage :)) and veggies with you and I'll help you put together those wonderful garden boxes like I have in my backyard (we talked about this today). Here's a site that gives information regarding how to use your oven to dehydrate tomatoes, but the principles are the same for other veggies as well. And the next time I make my homemade tomato sauce or soup, I'll take pictures so that you can see how I dried the solids. Awesomeness all the way around! http://www.friedalovesbread.com/2011/10/summer-in-bottle-dehydrating-tomatoes.html

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    1. Susan, thanks so much for sharing! I'm genuinely looking forward to growing my own veggies this year. It's so nice to have stuff on hand to play with! lol Will be checking out the site!

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  14. So wonderful!! Congratulations to you!

    Looking forward to posts about healthy cooking!

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  15. Wonderful, Andi! It's great how switching your focus to healthy foods made all the difference - very inspiring.

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    1. Thanks, Belle! And so ridonkulously easy. It's almost like a game at this point -- cutting out the crud and forging my way to the good stuff. :)

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  16. Super awesome, Andi, and congrats on the 40 lbs. I know how amazing that feels as I've lost a similar amount of weight since leaving my job from hell a 1.5 years ago. I didn't make huge drastic changes either or follow any kind of fad diet - just stopped drinking my calories, cut out a bunch of fast food eating, and tried to only eat when I was hungry as well. Looking forward to reading more about your journey!

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    1. Thanks, Brooke! Amazing how the job/stress can take a toll, eh?? I'm actually surprised I lost instead of gained at my old (hell) job. I think I was too busy to eat much of the time (not good!). I have also made an effort to cut out fast food, though I've slipped a little since I'm getting back into a work routine. Even when I eat out, though, I think I make better choices and that's really important to this working.

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  17. That is awesome … and I think the way you looked at eating more healthy food rather than dieting may be the mental key to doing this!

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    1. Definitely the key for me, Jenners! :)

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  18. What a wonderful post, Andi. Congrats. Thanks for sharing this with us. I'm looking forward to reading more about your journey.

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    1. Thank you, Natasha! Cheers to more fun healthy posts! ;)

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  19. Yay you! That's always the problem with "dieting" -- it's restrictive and it implies that it has an end. Being more healthy, eating more healthfully, and learning about yourself are ongoing, satisfying, and positive. I can't wait to read more.

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    1. Thanks, Candace! It is definitely restrictive and does not lend itself to a lifestyle change.

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  20. Congrats on your weight loss journey!!

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  21. If you were here I would give you a giant hug. Way to go, Andi! And guess what? I did the same thing last year. I made small changes (eating lots of fruits and veggies every day, getting more exercise, eating sweets and goodies in moderation, drinking plenty of water, etc) a bit at a time, and now they're practically habit. My weight loss has happened slowly (it was months before anyone actually noticed) but so far it's stayed off, which is the important thing. And I feel better, too! I never really noticed before how lousy bad food made me feel.

    Thanks so much for sharing this, Andi! I'm proud of you :)

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    1. Awww, thank you, Emily! Good for you for doing the same!!! And yes, staying off is the key. I gained about 3-4 pounds over the holidays, but I'm back to my good habits and they've fallen right back off. It's so much easier when it's a life change and not a "diet." :)

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  22. It's wonderful that you have made the changes in your life to eat healthier. It shows that even one change, in resolving to eat healthier food, can make a big difference. Can't wait to read some of your tips over the next few weeks.

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    1. It makes a HUGE change, Janel. And it feels good -- like a new challenge. :)

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  23. How wonderful that you've been making these small changes for the better! Hope you have a healthy and happy 2013!

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  24. I read this on Friday afternoon but then didn't open up my computer at all this weekend. I just wanted to tell you again how awesome I think that this is and how awesome I think that you are. For some reason working out comes more easily to me than watching what I eat but I do try to be mindful and make sure that the good outweighs the bad. It's easy to get caught up in numbers but it's amazing what we learn when we just stop and listen to how our body feels and the cues it is putting off. Can't wait to read more and to continue to celebrate this journey with you.

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    1. Thank you so much, Trish! I never realized the importance of the natural cues. I was trying to FORCE myself into a new, unnatural routine, and it just never ever worked. :D

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  25. You're awesome, Andi! You make an excellent point here: when you focus on health instead of weight loss, the transition is so much smoother. I'm actually getting ready to start Weight Watchers in an attempt to get control of my habits and health, and I hope I enjoy some of your success!

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    1. Isn't it, Meg? I hope you have good luck with Weight Watchers and that it's a good fit for you. I tried some websites and stuff to help me in the past, but it just felt like one more obligation. Ultimately it worked for me to just be more laid back and intuitive about the whole thing. Looking forward to hopefully hearing more from you on your experience. :)

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  26. Well done, that is awesome! I really need to lose weight but I eat far too much crap for it to happen.

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  27. You've inspired me to get serious about my workouts, Andi. I'm on my feet all day and use that as an excuse to skip the treadmill after work. And it's time to getting moving and start eating healthier meals. Time to give up that second glass of wine, too!

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  28. Love the new look of your blog background, and I know you yourself look lovely as well. I naturally crave the things that are bad for you, being raised in only the things that are good for you I've tended to over indulge the processed things. But, you're right of course. Eating good things, in small amount, works. Like my mother who has three lettuce leaves on a rice cracker and calls it lunch. No wonder she's a size two!

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    1. Forgot to mention that falling madly in love is also a great diet plan. Twenty pounds gone last time that happened to me.

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  29. I'm so thrilled for you! I'm trying to get back to being really mindful of how much I'm eating after having my son last year. Hopefully I'll be able to start exercising; that seems to help me keep my hunger under control for some reason.

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