^srry about that title, I needed to post this and couldn’t think of anything.
I have been debating writing this post for months after so many of you kindly reached out with encouragement, and asked for diet/exercise tips, after noticing the physical changes I have made in the past year and a half.
I went back and forth on whether or not I should share for all of the reasons but mostly because:
One: I am not an expert. I have consulted many experts over the years, from trainers to nutritionists to various studies and diet programs, and while I learned a lot from those various sources along the way, what ultimately worked for me was a unique combination of personal factors that came together at the right time. So, I’m not sure what worked for me will have any bearing on what works for you.
Two: I worry about endorsing certain ideals, and contributing to the toxic narrative about womens bodies that has hurt me in the past. I appreciate the compliments I have received, but at times I recognize an implied subtext that correlates a woman’s weight with her worth, and I don’t want to validate that bullshit in any way.
If I seem like I am feeling myself, I am. Not because Pete isn’t too hot for me anymore (though I do hope all of the perfect monsters on the internet who monitored the situation in earnest for years finally feel some peace on the matter) but because I set a goal for myself, and I achieved it. Finally confronting a lifelong struggle with self-worth was an unexpected bonus that has improved my quality of life way more than a crop-top ever could, and I really enjoy a crop top.
I decided to share because I have been inspired and comforted over the years hearing about other peoples experiences with life’s struggles, and in sharing mine.
I have never had a healthy relationship with my body, diet, or exercise. My weight fluctuated a lot throughout my teens and early twenties, but regardless of what size I was at the time I was always self-conscious about my body.
Six weeks after Pete and I were married, when I was 24, I got pregnant with Grace. Having spent the majority of our engagement chasing a certain wedding weight, the wheels really came off for me as my body started changing and pregnancy cravings replaced obsessive dieting.
After we found out about Grace’s complications, the last 5 months of my pregnancy was terrifying and really difficult on me not only emotionally, but physically as I had to have weekly- and then daily- often invasive and painful tests and procedures so that they could monitor Grace’s development. My body was truly no longer my own, and I disassociated even further from myself and reality in general.
I remember having an “OH FUCK!” moment when they recorded my weight at an appointment, and then immediately thinking to myself “Meh, it’ll be fine, everyone says the weight will just FALL OFF breastfeeding” which- bless you if that was your experience but LOL, no. Breastfeeding does many wonderful things, but it does not magically turn back the scale 70 pounds.
Upon that crushing realization, LOSE THE BABY WEIGHT was written in ink at the top of my to-do list. And there it remained as a great many other tasks like starting a business, moving, even having another baby, were entered onto and then crossed off the list. So that no matter what I was working on, personally or professionally, I was always multi-tasking with this one nagging assignment.
And multi-tasking is actually a cognitive illusion that keeps us stuck, according to neuroscientist Daniel J Levitin:
“Multitasking has been found to increase the production of the stress hormone cortisol [&] adrenaline, which can overstimulate your brain and cause mental fog or scrambled thinking. Multitasking creates a dopamine-addiction feedback loop, effectively rewarding the brain for losing focus and for constantly searching for external stimulation. To make matters worse, the prefrontal cortex has a novelty bias, meaning that its attention can be easily hijacked by something new – the proverbial shiny objects we use to entice infants, puppies, and kittens…
We answer the phone, look up something on the internet, check our email, send an SMS, and each of these things tweaks the novelty- seeking, reward-seeking centres of the brain, causing a burst of endogenous opioids, all to the detriment of our staying on task.
It is the ultimate empty-caloried brain candy. Instead of reaping the big rewards that come from sustained, focused effort, we instead reap empty rewards from completing a thousand little sugar-coated tasks.”
I recognized that cycle of instant gratification vs. sustained efforts presence in many aspects of my life, and at a particularly tough point last year when a bunch of random unfortunate situations came together for a crap-caucus right in the middle of my world, I had a moment of clarity:
I realized I could either choose to continue distracting myself with busy-ness and its quick, little rewards- OR I could work on myself and build something truly rewarding from the inside out.
Praise be to Oprah! I know it sounds very goop-y but its true, and I can’t tell you my relationship to carbohydrates without this context about my relationship to myself. Mkay?
I realized that in the past I had set myself up to fail by focusing on shiny goals like fitting back into my wedding dress, which was an overwhelming place to start, not realistic to my life, and didn’t really matter to me at my core. The result was that whenever something came up that might be fun in the moment, but would throw me off my path, I wouldn’t think twice about saying yes.
And for me that was the thing that was the hardest realization, and the #1 thing that I think made this effort work, was that I committed to shutting down my life for 2 months to do this for myself. It’s a controversial move, it felt selfish, and it wasn’t fun missing out on parties and vacations. But I knew for myself that I might be able to go out once and keep to my program, but that it was really another form of multi-tasking and eventually I would put the immediate gratification of having fun with my people over doing what I needed to do for myself.
So I stopped multi-tasking, I threw out my old to-do list, and set new goals for FREEDOM and BALANCE.
Mental freedom, that I could be more present in my life without the nagging anxiety of this one major item on my to-do list that never got crossed off. And emotional freedom, since carrying extra weight became a physical reminder of that traumatic period and made me feel stuck in the past.
While there was a weight loss number attached, my true goal was sticking to my program for two months no matter what. After that it would be about maintaining healthy habits in balance with everything else in life that brings me joy.
DIET // Ideal Protein
I started a program called Ideal Protein in May. One of my friends had done it with amazing results, so I figured it was worth a try. It’s a ketogenic diet that has three phases, and you work through them based on your goals with a program director who you meet with weekly to get food, weigh in, do measurements etc. Here is the guide for Phase 1.
Other diet programs where you cook, count carbs/calories, etc. just make me obsess over food. They can be helpful in teaching better eating habits, but I know what I am supposed to eat, that’s not the problem. The problem is making that healthy choice multiple times a day when there are so many fun reasons not to! I was never hungry on the program, but it did take most of the fun out of eating which began my mental shift to thinking of food as fuel.
The program promises weight loss between 8-15 pounds a month. I wanted to lose 35, and I stuck to the program to a T for 2 months with major ups and downs- but because it was a program and I had someone guiding me, I didn’t blame myself for setbacks. I blamed them, lol!
I think that helped me keep in alignment with my goals and not turn on myself and quit. I stuck to it because either I was going to lose the weight I felt I was promised, or if I didn’t I would know I had done everything right and have someone else to blame. Probably not mentally super healthy, but I’m not going to overthink it. It worked.
EXERCISE // Daily Steps + Home Gym Videos
They don’t recommend exercise during Phase 1 of Ideal Protein because- according to them- you are being kept right at your maximum weight loss metabolic rate and exercise can send your body into starvation mode and slow down your weight loss. Which, sure. Who knows. I followed the program, I’m not endorsing it.
Even though I hadn’t lost much weight from exercise before, I had developed some good habits over the years with daily step counting and working out 3-5 times a week using various apps and DVDs. So even though the program didn’t recommend it, I kept walking every day and did light weight work because I worried about losing the muscle/endurance I had gained.
At first, I was losing 2.5-3.5 pounds a week- but then I started stalling and had a few weeks where I would lose less than .5 pounds, but I kept to it for 8 weeks. No drinking, no cheating. By the end of the 8 weeks I was OVER it and didn’t really walk through the last 3 phases as recommended, but I also didn’t fall off completely. I kept doing their shakes and snacks, and generally eating a lower carb/high vegetable diet.
Also, as I phased out of the program, I stepped my exercise back up. I got really into LEKfit after going to some of her classes in LA, and bought a trampoline so I could stream classes at home. I got back into my Couch to 5k app which I really like because I feel rewarded by increases in my running stamina instead of focusing on weight loss. I also kept up with Kayla Itsines workouts, most of which I found I could do anywhere even if I was traveling, and are hard but quick.
I have learned that a healthy lifestyle is different than dieting. You can be healthy, exercise every day, eat well, and still not lose weight. You can diet- and if you then fall off the wagon the shame, and frustration becomes a cycle. I wanted off of a cycle on onto a journey.
To date, I have lost 30 pounds on my journey.
5 was from stress right before I started my program, and I lost 15 in 8 weeks doing Ideal Protein. I stopped doing the program in July, while stepping up my exercise routine (at least 1 hour a day, 5 days a week I would do some combination of walking/jogging, light weights, LEKfit or Kayla Itsines) and maintaining the intuitive eating I began practicing on IP. I didn’t gain anything back, and noticed I was losing about a pound a month during that time.
Then, after daylight savings last year, I was waking up every morning at 5:00 am unable to go back to sleep which started driving me INSANE. One morning, I got up and tried a Soul Cycle class- I ended up kind of loving it. I found a few instructors I particularly enjoyed (Hi SoulRyden!), and started going 3-4 times a week. It’s funny, I had lost 25 pounds before Soul and felt great, but it was a few weeks into my Soul habit when people suddenly noticed changes in my appearance. I did lose about another 5 pounds doing Soul, but I think it changed my body much more than that.
I read somewhere that if you can keep weight off for a year, your body readjusts and that becomes its new normal. So far, I have found that to be true. This summer we were traveling a lot and I got off my road (as they would say in Soul) and gained back a couple of pounds. As soon as we got back into our routine, though, they came right off. I still have more weight I want to lose, and other fitness goals I am working towards, but I have found that maintaining and enjoying this balance in life is a valuable piece of the process I hadn’t figured out before.
A few tips & in conclusion:
Create a culture of self-care. Dieting can take you away from some of the fun in life, and your mind starts playing tricks on you making you crave that novelty/reward hit that can throw you off. I found that positioning my weight loss program within new habits of self-care satiated that reward-seeking reflex and kept me on track. I scheduled spa treatments for Friday & Saturday nights to help me through my FOMO. I got really into my home skincare routine, which made the dieting and not drinking feel like smaller pieces of a bigger overhaul that included practices I actually enjoyed.
Use Apps! Losing 30+ pounds felt overwhelming, and just like the proverbial eating an elephant, I had to find a way to do it one bite at a time. Wherever possible I used apps to log the various steps I was taking- Waterlogged tracks your water intake, MyFitnessPal is where I tracked recorded my food and exercise. I logged my weight loss twice a week through LoseIt! (which you can also use for food/exercise) on Tuesdays after I met with my IP Counselor, and then on Fridays since weekends were my temptation times and recording my weight before and after the weekend, watching the graph go down, kept me motivated. All of the little checkmarks and badges in the apps basically worked like a sticker chart for adults and gave me a sense of accomplishment during times when weight loss stalled.
Cosmetic Procedures: I’m going to be super real, and if you are feeling called to judge me please immediately take that shit right on out of here. I have ZERO time for it. To the rest of you: I lost 30 pounds, people told me I looked great- and I believed them, I felt great! But no amount of diet and exercise could fix the way my c-section scar emphasized the herniated muscle in my lower abdomen, or the stretch marks.My breasts had come out of it all pretty unscathed, but when I decided to meet with a plastic surgeon, I told her I would be open to showing them a little love as well.
In the end, there was nothing they could do about the stretch marks, and what they could do for my boobs wasn’t worth it to me. They were able to repair my muscle tear and shine up my c section scar a bit and I have to tell you- it was surprisingly emotional for me.
After my body had been put through so much, after I had learned to love and embrace my body after a lifetime of feeling ashamed, and after spending a year giving back to my body what I could on my own- it truly felt like a gift. If that makes me a Kardashian- well then actually that sounds fantastic. I’m in.
My point is- do what you gotta do. Addressing a perceived imperfection with plastic surgery will not solve any core issues of self-worth, just like living with stretch marks or other scars doesn’t mean you above them either.
And that’s all I have to say about that.
To those who reached out, thank you for showing me so much love and support, I hope this was helpful.