Monday, September 30, 2013

the W A Y Before and the N O W

This is a longer post, outlining my journey for healthy living to date. For those who are only in this for the quick tip... read the last two paragraphs, but know that there's to life & health than what we put into our bodies than food. Our fuel is both physical and spiritual because that's how God made us. Thanks for stopping to read about my journey and hopefully you come away encouraged.

Me, as a young adult.
Most of my childhood and even young adulthood, I was thin, to very thin (105 lbs by the time I was 18 at 5'3" tall). I didn't worry one bit about what I ate or how much I exercised because it simply didn't make a difference (though I was not "lazy") my weight never really changed much. I was very grateful for that because, for so many young girls, looks were a very high priority and thin was the only way to be. Growing up, I watched my mother and so many of her friends struggle to keep those extra pounds at bay. Some succeeded but more often than not they gained even more. This made no sense to me at all and so I vowed
 to never do the "diet" roller coaster.

Fast forward to my mid-twenties eating a poor, fast food diet and add to that a desk job and you could say that my unhealthy lifestyle began to catch up with me FAST. It started with 1lb here and 3 lbs there and it wouldn't just go away as in the past.
Me with my work pals.

My bad habits formed since childhood felt impossible to change. Obviously the fast food was cut out first because we all know that stuff is no good. Like so many others, I joined a gym to get that cardio and weight training in that I wasn't getting from behind my computer at work. These times in my life were also very stressful mentally and spiritually. I was eating to comfort myself and build up walls to protect myself emotionally. In short, I was doing exactly what I vowed as a youth to NEVER do and didn't even know it. I was destroying my body's ability to stay healthy and create the need for one of those "diet" plans.

At 22 years old I was 145 lbs (not huge I know, but a gain of 40 unhealthy lbs in only 3 years is not good). After a visit from my doctor (who always knows best right?) I was advised  to cut out fat and count calories, staying under 1500 calories a day. This was back when Oprah and Bob Greene were all the rage and I figured that if the doctors approve their plan than it's not a "diet" right? So I rationalized my way into a diet program. I kept a journal back then and to read it now just makes me shake my head. The stuff I thought was healthy was clearly going to kill me. But at the risk of sounding cliché,  I'll quote a classic Dr. Phil-ism "When you know better, 
you can do better".

The good thing about this journal is that I was accountable to eat better and exercise and it showed me my bad habits so I could work on them. Nearly two years later I was eating better; no more skipped breakfasts, more veggies and fewer processed foods but I was weighing in at 165 lbs. How could this be? I was doing exactly what the doctor & Oprah were telling me to do; counting calories, reducing fat and cardio daily! Fast forward two more years on that same, impossible program and I was 174 lbs... one more year 180 lbs but changed I changed the plan to consuming only 1200 calories, 33g fat, 50g protein and 175g carbs per day and working out cardio 1hr 5x per week (more like Weight Watchers). Then I stopped journaling...  No wonder! I would go on to gain another 6 lbs tipping the scale at 186 lbs and only 26 years old. Clearly this was not working and not for lack of trying. I bet this resonates with the majority of people out there as I've heard this story myself so many times over the years.

Me at a family gathering in 1999.
A HUGE wake up call for me was when my doctor told me that I was on the cusp of having to take high blood pressure pills and if I kept this weight gain up I was going to die very young. I thought, What is going on here? This is not who I am! At this time in my life the stress was reaching it's breaking point as well, something needed to change and FAST. Inside I was fighting this battle over who I really was and how do I change my life to make it better. I knew the answer needed to start in my head and in my heart or I would have no hope at all. I knew from my youth that the only lasting changes are made when God is your strength and guiding force but  "How could God possibly fix the mess I was in?".
Few months before getting married.
It started with me sucking it up and going back to church, being around other people are also working toward that same goal and getting into the habit of praying and letting him change my hard, hurting heart and make His plan my priority. I focused on healing at the core of where the problem began. Why was I so stressed? This process (something I might share at another time) happened very, very quickly for me and when change happens that quickly you've got to know it's going to be painful and it was devastating at first, but then I felt peace for the first time on over 7 years. Real peace! In turn I lost 30 lbs in a month, gained confidence in who I was and motivation to live better. I am not going to fool you, most of the weight loss was due to not eating regular meals due to stress and the business of piecing life back together. Most of the time, I was just not at all hungry! Beyond that, something had shifted in my heart and I was able to see food as fuel for the first time in my life. No more calorie and fat gram counting... just don't eat food that wasn't real food (no processed stuff). I continued to lose a bit more and had the energy and drive to work out again (all this within 2 months, like I said for me things happen FAST). This time I joined a Kick Boxing Gym rather than an aerobic style program. I enjoyed getting rid of that stress kicking rather than eating and my body thanked me for it by dropping down to 145 lbs, increased energy and more importantly hope. Ironically this was the starting weight of my initial battle; now I had a "clean slate" and that's exactly what it felt like inside and out.

15 years after the start of my healthy life journey and 3 babies later, I am weighing in at 142 lbs (nice to be healthier at 38 than when I was 22). My road to educate myself about food has taught me that, if I misused it, my body will get sick. The bottom line is: grains and sugar cause inflammation and fat cells to be stored in my body. Healthy fat, from natural sources, is my friend now; it helps to fuel my body to care for our 4 children, husband and new puppy. Is it a "diet"? Well, some might call it Paleo, Maximized Living, Trim Healthy Mama, or Weston A. Price but the reality is simple;  
we put on our plates what our bodies can use as fuel and keep that other stuff away the best we can. You can find many of the recipes and links we use on this blog.

Me, on an average Saturday afternoon, Sept. 28, 2013
Some might think that chasing after 4 young children would be enough exercise for me, but the reality is I am still not moving my body enough to keep it as healthy as I can. I prefer to join a sport or activity rather than a work-out routine but for right now, where we live I'm gonna have to suck it up, again. Since my cousin began her work-outs I thought I might be able to do those and hopefully encourage her to keep going at the same time (I have the feeling she'll encourage me more). She has Jillian Micheal's Ripped in 30 and Turbo Jam going on so I'll try those out, though it comes back to carving out the time and making health a higher priority. I also have some Tracy Anderson Dance workouts I found on You Tube. Add to that the walks to & from School with our foster son and the dog and we'll see how much more I can conquer. It's my job to take care of my body the best way I can, not the health care system. There are no guarantees in this life but at least I know I can look back and say I did my best.

Hope my story encourages you to not give up and live the best you can from the inside out.