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Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Eating Clean With a Dirty Mind

In the summer of 2012 I weighed about 195 lbs. I'm about 5'5 soooooooo....that wasn't a good thing. I've had a weight problem almost my whole life and will till the day I die. I haven't had much up and down either, it's mostly been all up. In the early 2000's I lost about 30lbs.. It was awesome. But little by little it crept back up. Then it crept waaaaay up, up and up till I reached DEFCON 7.

Aside from the obvious health risks associated with being overweight, there are the less obvious, or less talked about, mental side effects. I know some people are absolutely happy at a certain weight, and as long as you and your doctor aren't concerned, then please feel free to continue life with my compliments. That just wasn't me. I felt horrible. I felt ugly. I had no energy. Literally, the first thing out of my mouth when someone said "How ya doin?" was "I'm tired".

My health was also heading in the wrong direction. Although in my early thirties at the time, my father's death at 59 from heart disease meant a visit to my doctor was in order. By my doctor, I mean the doctor I found when I realized I should probably have one. I hadn't been to a real doctor in years. My levels associated with cardiac health were not great for someone my age and we discussed the fact that I needed to loose weight as a first step towards managing things. A first step....hmmmmmm.

Life is funny. We say all the time that we're going to take first steps. Tomorrow. Next Monday. First of the year. Sometimes we're successful and sometimes we aren't. This time I was. There's a few different reasons why I had my very own "aha moment" that I'll be writing about on a friend's blog soon, so stay tuned. For today, I wanted to take you through the nuts and bolts of how I did it.

I always loved reading stories about regular people who'd made those successful first steps because it made me feel like I wasn't alone. It made me feel like someone understood there was a person literally trapped inside of a person that was screaming to get out. It made me feel like maybe one day I could do it too. So here's a few ideas and tips from me to you about how to take that first one if you're ready.

Chapter One

Step One: Find Inspiration

Have a little conversation with yourself. Talk about what you want. What's your goal? Be honest with yourself about what weight loss method might actually work with your personality. I'm horrible at cold turkey. I'm horrible at just saying "no you can't have that!". So a diet that cut out certain food groups and felt restrictive was never going to work for me. I had read the book Why French Women Don't Get Fat before and thought I would give it a second glance for some inspiration. Something just clicked that day as I was reading. The french are so good at life. They love food, but more than that they love pleasure. Food should = pleasure. Sign me up for that! I took a few of the tips in the book and set out inspired.....

Step Two: Eat On a Plate at a Table and Stop When You're Full

I was guilty of eating on the couch in front of the TV, eating in the car and a host of other things that were guaranteed to make me eat more than I needed to. By sitting down and eating a bit more formally, it gave my stomach time to signal my brain that it was full. It was still hard those first couple times. I would feel full but still stare at the plate and have to wrestle with myself not to eat what was left. That was also a huge indicator to me that I wasn't listening to my body. I was just mindlessly stuffing things in my mouth and getting a reward from the taste, but not the experience.

Step Three: Track What You're Eating

I'll start out by saying that this may not work for everyone. I love being organized. I love lists. So writing down what I was eating was a good fit for my personality. I also started using an app called My Fitness Pal that made tracking my food extremely easy and showed me the calories and nutrients for what I was eating. It's simple math people. If you burn more calories than you eat, you'll loose weight.

After a few weeks I realized that my biggest problem was dinner. At the end of a looooong day I felt like I deserved a "good meal" and one (several) glasses of wine. I did deserve a good meal and some fabulous wine, but I deserved to feel great even more. Armed with this little insight, I planned ahead. Knowing when I would be weakest, I gave myself more room for that meal which meant I wouldn't ruin my whole day even if I went a little overboard.

Step Three: Get Moving

I'll be honest, exercise has never helped me loose a lot of weight. It's all about my diet. That being said, exercise helped me sleep better, look better, increased my energy level and enhanced my ability to deal with stress.

That brings us to the end of chapter one of my weight loss story. By the summer of 2013 I'd lost 40 lbs. To say that I felt better would be the biggest understatement of the millennium. It wasn't easy and there were some very hard days and weeks, but I did it and I'd never been prouder of myself. the winter of 2015 I'd gained 10 lbs back. Whoops!

Chapter Two

Step One: Figure Out What Caused You to Gain Some Weight Back

This is going to happen. The trick is not to beat yourself up about it. Easier said than done, I know. Luckily, I still had a lot of my mojo left from the first round, so once I realized the scale was going back up I knew I could do something about it.

For me there were a couple of different reasons that this happened. First, I started biking and training for a 50 mile race. This meant two 35ish mile rides a weekend for months. What it also meant was that I thought I could eat whatever I wanted after I rode. Not really. Some of what I gained was muscle, but some was from the tray of nachos and three mimosas I had just eaten. I was also still struggling to get over something I'd lost in my life. Ever notice how being overly full feels like a hug? Sometimes we use things we shouldn't to make ourselves feel better. Please refer to my earlier reference to tray of nachos and three mimosas.

Step Two: Use the Tools that Worked Before

Oh look it's a picture of that app again!

By the summer of 2015 I'd taken the 10lbs back off and felt really good again.

Then something unexpected happened.....

Chapter Three

Step One and Only:You Are What You Eat

Around the fall of 2015 I looked in the mirror one day and my body looked very different. I got on the scale and it hadn't moved more than a couple pounds, but I looked leaner and stronger than I ever had in my entire adult life. What the heck? I didn't feel like I'd been doing anything special. I looked back at what I'd eaten for the past few weeks and realized I had made a few changes without even realizing it. By cooking at home more, or at the very least eating at restaurants who used actual food and not man-made chemical concoctions, I had eaten mostly proteins like this....

And veggies like this.....

And a ton less of this......

It wasn't just about calories or portion size, it was about what I was putting in my body. Along with exercise and this small change in my diet, I had lost body fat and gained muscle. Kinda cool. Then one day I was talking to someone who asked me about what I'd been doing. After I told them they made a face and condescendingly said "life is short, I want to live it!".

Me too!

Which brings me to the title of today's post. First of all, I can't take credit for it. I read it on another blog who credited it to another blogger who then did the same and so on and so on. Not sure at all who originally said it, but I identified with it immediately because I think it encapsulates how I look at food now. I want it to be as healthy and fresh as possible, but hearkening back to our French friends, I also want it to bring me a great amount of pleasure. Here's a few examples of what eating clean with a dirty mind means to me. 

Sweet Potatoes: A great, healthy alternative to pasta and white potatoes, but kinda boring on its own. After I roast one, I throw on a huge amount of blue cheese and devour the pungent creaminess accordingly.

Chicken: Super duper boring, but when you drench it in a Siracha and maple syrup marinade that will make your toes curl, it's a whole different ball game.

Desert: I'd love a piece of apple pie, but instead of going into a sugar coma, I bake an apple at 350 for 40 minutes with butter and coconut sugar and then grate some Gruyere cheese on top. Yum!

Snacks: Everywhere I go I carry a couple packets of instant miso soup. It's a warm, luxurious bowl of restaurant quality yumminess that makes you feel like you're in a great sushi restaurant even if you're in Terminal D of the Detroit Airport.

Libations: I saved the best for last. I love wine. It's almost the best thing in the world. Buy a great quality bottle and you'll be surprised at how one glass feels like enough. A glass of champagne with lunch? Why not? A bourbon that you slowly sip in front of the fire? What could be better. Just don't have eight of them. Let yourself savor the taste, think about how it feels on your tongue. Let your belly get warm and a broad smile reach your lips.

These are just a couple quick examples, but I think you get the idea. I never want to feel like I'm depriving myself. I won't give up anything I want in this life, but more than that, I won't give up on myself. I could run five miles right now if I wanted to or bike 50. I'm more than what I eat, but what I eat gives me the energy to do amazing things and live the life I want. These tips certainly aren't groundbreaking and I'm sure you've seen them all a million times before. But maybe, just maybe, today is the day you're ready. 

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