“Why are you fat, Mommy?”

I have said this before and I will say it again, my son is honest, candid, and doesn’t intentionally mean to be hurtful.  Keeping this in mind, it is still extremely hard when he asks such personal questions.

Two years ago, after my husband lost 50 pounds on his mail route, my son started asking me, “Why are you fat and the rest of us are thin?”  I would look at my small plate, with the smallest portions in the family, and say, “I don’t know.”

Last year, when I found two exercise classes that I loved, and committed to, he asked, “If you exercise, and eat healthy, then why are you still fat?”

Once again, my response would be, “I don’t know.”

“Why should I exercise if I can still be fat?”  He inquired.

“Because even if I don’t look the way I want, I want my body to be healthy.  When I get tests done at the doctor, my blood says that I live a healthy lifestyle.  I don’t know why I still look like this.” I said on my lips, but inside I cried.

Anyway, through my weight loss journey, my kids have watched me.  They have seen me come home from the gym sweaty.  They see what I eat, and they notice that they eat more than me.  They noticed right away when I quit eating gluten (wheat products), and they ask lots of questions along the way.  We are glad they ask questions, because we share genetics.  Who is to say they won’t have their own fitness journey someday.

This week, I learned the importance of working out in front of my kids.  I love my spinning and Body Pump classes, but I needed more exercises in my week that worked with my new work schedule.  Scott and I bought Insanity, so we could get toned together.  We have completed one month of this program, sweating, crying (at times), and getting through each intense workout.

The other morning, Scott wasn’t feeling well, and 5 minutes into one of the most intensive workouts I have ever done, he left me to do the hour-long workout ALONE.  I was sad and frustrated.  I tried to make my body do things that it has never done.

About 55 minutes into the workout, I was spent.  Done. Tired.  READY to be done.  It was too much.  Sweat was pouring off of my forehead.  I ran out of water ages ago.  Every single muscle in my body ached.

My over critical son, who is famous for pointing out the obvious walked into the room to watch me complete my workout.  I kept waiting for him to say something like, “You don’t do it as good as they do.”

INSTEAD he yelled, “YOU CAN DO IT, MOMMY!”

That’s all it took.  My muscles started working again, and I completed the last exercise before the cool down.  I finished the tape and have completed two more videos since that morning (with Scott).

My body might not be perfect.  I have MANY workouts before I am the size or the shape I want to be, but at least my kids KNOW how hard I am trying.  That is the lifelong lesson I want them to remember.

A Big Change: Gluten-Free Living

Technically, this is part 3 of my current weight loss story, but I felt the need for a new title.  First of all, I want to say, I am sharing MY story.  I am not recommending anything to anyone, nor I am claiming to be a gluten-free resource.  You can Google it, there is way too much information out there, and I am not qualified to decipher who is credible and who isn’t.

I also see a lot of people who are angry that gluten-free eating has become a diet fad, because for many it is a an allergy and they don’t have a choice.  I want to stress to anyone who is considering going gluten-free, that it takes a long time to rid your body of gluten and once you have it again, you start all over.  So you can’t just do the gluten-free thing off and on, it’s a long-term commitment and life style change.  And, it’s not a diet because it might not work for everyone.  I am certain I have an intolerance.  I didn’t just put on weight because of candy bars and laziness.  I have been struggling to find something that worked for my body for YEARS and YEARS.

“Why write about it then?” you might wonder.  Well, good question!  If you read part 1 or part 2, you understand that I have been struggling with my weight and thyroid for 11 years.  You also know that I was at an all time energy low, and I needed to find out what was going on for me.  I also THOUGHT I was eating a good diet. I tried to eat whole foods, whole grains, and avoid processed junk, but I still gained weight, despite my heavy working out.  I WAS AT THE END OF MY ROPE.  I had tried everything I knew how to do.  Maybe, someone out there is collecting information about weight loss.  Maybe someone is desperate and doing what I was doing and not seeing results.  Maybe, just maybe, my story will be another’s “Aha Moment!”  Or maybe I am WRITING THIS FOR ME.  So on days when I want Old Chicago’s deep dish pizza or Italian Nachos, I will go back and read what I went through and that will be enough to find a better alternative.

Instead of giving you my theories as to why I think gluten is bad for MY body, I want to tell you how I made gluten-free living work for me, my family, and our budget.  Once again, this is my story, but take from it what you want.  I am not giving advice or telling you to do anything.  I am just sharing.

First of all, people have asked me over and over, “How do you afford the expensive food?”  Well, I will be the first to admit I hate to spend money on the junk of life.  I hate to buy groceries, gas, and household items.  They annoy me, but they are necessary.  Instead, I do my best with sales.  I make sure our family dinners have lots of meat and veggies in them.  I use salsa, GF soy sauce, cilantro, and ginger to add different flavors.  I also use BBQ sauce that is free of gluten and high fructose corn syrup.  The only GF specialty food I buy is my Udi’s bread and pizza crust.  I only eat one or two pieces of bread a day, and nothing more.  I have also learned what stores have the cheapest products.  For example, Trader Joe’s has very inexpensive brown rice pasta and gluten-free chicken broth.  Whole Foods has the best prices on almonds and cashews, which I lightly bake in my oven with traces of olive oil and sea salt.  Whenever I am near one of those stores, I try to stop by and pick up a small amount of their cheapest items, I rarely make a special trip to Omaha for just those items.  The rest of our groceries, I shop according to the sales, and we eat accordingly.  We have shopped like this for years and years.  I also am not a baker, so I am not supplementing my love of muffins or cakes with gluten-free options.  I am choosing not to eat them because they are not good for me.  However, if I had a huge craving for either I could easily go to our grocery stores freezer section and by frozen muffins, cookies, waffles, or really anything I could want.  I haven’t yet, but knowing the option is there, makes me NOT eating it MY choice.

“What do you eat?” is another popular question.  Well, I make stir fries with veggies and meat.  What I put in them varies.  I did learn from my Biggest Loser Cookbook about combining a cup of gf chicken broth, fresh cilantro, ginger, fresh garlic, and 1 tablespoon of gf soy sauce in a small food processor and them simmering my stir fry in it.  That adds a ton of good flavor to my stir fries.  (If I want a different flavor, I add different amounts of ginger, garlic, and cilantro.  Changing the amounts of those things makes a new flavor.)  I also make sure to eat MANY servings of protein and veggies each day.  I also try to eat my fruits in the morning, or at least before 3.  This time of year, an apple and peanut butter make my favorite snack.  I eat eggs for breakfast.  I also eat rice pasta, brown rice, and bread very sparingly.  When I do eat them, I eat just a little bit and try to have the gf bread as close to my workout as possible.  I will be the first to admit I am ready for a new cookbook with new ideas.

Some people have told me, “You are so lucky to have so much time for healthy cooking.”  Well, I don’t have as much as time as you think.  I am subbing, working out, and doing my grad school work, my husband works MANY hours, and I still have the mothering, wife, and family thing going on.  Plus, don’t forget about my photography addiction, and now blogging addiction.  However, I use my time wisely.  I let my crock pot cook for me A LOT. Okay, I admit, it cooks for me EVERY night.  I often cook all of my like meat at once, then I can quickly add it to my meal.  I cut all of my veggies as needed and cut up the whole bunch.  I wash all of my grapes at once, etc.  You all know these tricks, they have been around for ages, and I didn’t invent them.  I do little things each day to make our nights when we are running here, there, and everywhere easier.  McDonald’s is not an option, so I make sure we have things that are options for the whole family, and easy to make or reheat.

I could never give up pizza.” Yeah, me either, so I don’t.  I heard that Godfather’s has a take and bake GF pizza, but I haven’t tried it.  Instead, I quickly throw together my own pizza, as soon as I order for the family.  I eat two slices and put the rest in the fridge for another time.  The best thing about that is that I ALWAYS get my way on what kind of pizza I make and I don’t have to think about anyone else. I am really loving that option, honestly.

I really try to just eat the food that God put on the planet for our bodies.  If He made it, then I can have a taste.  If people made it, then I should avoid it.  

OK, I am sure that my eating habits are not that interesting, but I am writing all of this for two reasons.  One, when others ask what I am doing to lose weight, I have a few links to refer to, so I am not constantly rewriting the same tips and story over and over.  Two, these are LIFE changes, and I know for the long haul there will be tough times.  I HAVE to come back to these to remember why I gave it up in the first place.  I don’t ever want to go back to where I was earlier this year, EVER again.

I have a list of goals and some new things I want to try to keep moving in the healthy direction, but man, I am done writing about this stuff for now.  I will save it for another day.  If you have any questions about what or why I do, please ask!  I am not offended by people wanting to know.  I am not claiming to know anything other than what has worked for me.

Also, remember, I made all of these changes slowly and not all at once.  I am constantly growing, changing, and learning.  So, if you want to change your life, make a list of things you know you don’t like.  Pick one, and start today or tomorrow  but do it sooner than later. There is never the right time, and always an excuse.  We get this one life, shouldn’t we do everything we can to make it happy?

Thank you for reading!  I will return to my regular posts this weekend!

A Few Small Changes Add up to Whole Bunch, Part 2

Hey!  Thanks for coming back to read about my weight loss.  Today’s post is about the power of blogging, and how that can lead to the biggest change yet.  If you are wondering why I am welcoming anyone back, then feel free to visit my first post about my weight loss.  Click here, please.

Anyway, the first changes I made in 2012 were:

1. I turned soda into green tea.  Well, I guess I didn’t turn it into green tea, but I did an exchange.  I traded two sodas a day for a gallon of green tea.

2. I severely cut down on carbs and bread.

3. I started only using recipes from The Biggest Loser’s 30 Day Jumpstart Guide.

4. I drank many glasses of green smoothies each day and timing my carbs.  I make sure I eat carbs in the mornings, and after 3, try really hard to just have veggies and protein.  I will have some carbs like brown rice, or  rice noodles with dinner, but not much and not often.

5. I made sure I was active by attending 2 spin classes a week, and two body pump classes.

6. I made sure to avoid processed foods and alcohol.

7. NO SECOND helpings, ever.  Even at restaurants.  The goal was to eat less. Period.

Those changes took a long time to implement because I did NOT do them all at once.  I did them one at a time, until it became easy, and then made another change.  I keep that philosophy up, and I plan on doing it for life.

Overall, for me, the biggest change took place in my head.  I let go of trying to be perfect and look perfect.  I am not perfect, end of story. Plus, I am working on not caring about what others think, and this is SUPER hard for this hardcore people pleaser.  I am trying to be happy with where I am in this moment.  I don’t care what others think is the ideal woman or that my new “thinner” is still fatter than many people’s fat.  I am almost at a healthy BMI, and that’s what’s important to ME.  TRUST me, the mental stuff, has been a long time coming and it is SUPER hard to remember everyday.  However, I find it essential in order to keep plugging away at my LIFE CHANGES.

Yes, you saw LIFE CHANGES.  I mean it.  I am not going back.  That means when I reach my next goal, I am not reverting back to my old ways.  It means that clean eating, working out, and no soda are here to stay.  I am not giving myself permission to gain it back, EVER.

Okay, so enough of that, on with my journey.  I kept plugging away at my changes through May and June.  By July, I had lost around 25 pounds, when my doctor said she wanted to change my thyroid medicine.  I cried and refused.  I was FINALLY losing weight, this was not the time to play around with medicine.  Anyway, after a tearful conversation, that ended with me getting my way, I did what I do when I have emotions, I blogged about it.  However, I never linked that blog to Facebook or social media, because I wasn’t quite ready to share.  I figured my hard-core readers would see the post AND they did.

That afternoon, in July, I received a message on Facebook from a high school friend.  One simple message, changed my life.  She explained to me that she has had a similar journey with her thyroid.  She also talked about her severe fatigue (like me) and HOW she lost a lot of weight.  It was one simple solution, that is not as easy as it sounds.  She is GLUTEN FREE.

Well, those of you who know me, know that we tried the GF diet (we also gave up casein) when my son was diagnosed with autism years ago.  However, the market for gluten-free living has drastically changed in the past 5 years.  While I was a bit skeptical about whether or not I could do, I was TIRED of being EXHAUSTED ALL OF THE TIME.  When I say exhausted, I mean, I had a hard time getting to the basement to bring up laundry.  Some days, that felt like a HUGE ordeal.  I felt like that for years, even when teaching.  Some days, I wonder how I actually functioned.  It was time to take a risk, that only had a good end result.  It either would work and I would have more energy, or it wouldn’t work.  What did I have to lose?  At that point, I had only been eating two pieces of bread a day, so the daily impact wasn’t that huge.

We had a road trip coming up, so I decided to take some time to make a plan, slowly move my taste buds over to different foods, fit it in our budget, and figure out how to do it right.  It takes a few months to work gluten out of your system.  So any time you eat gluten, it’s like starting over.  I decided that August would be a great month to dive into gluten-free living and see how it worked.  In the meantime, I would have my favorite foods little by little, one last time, while trying to not eat gluten anyway.  Even on our road trip, the closer it got to August, the less gluten filled items I ate.  Once we came home, that day, I was completely done with gluten.

The first few changes I saw, was my skin rash that I had been fighting on my knees for years, slowly cleared up and it hasn’t returned.  Next, I noticed that my gums that had been bleeding, despite my CRAZY teeth habits (I am so obsessed with good mouth hygiene, I should probably see a psychiatrist about it), stopped.  Then I realized that my stomach no longer hurt after every meal.  I started feeling lighter, and not just because I was still losing weight.  My mind started clearing up, and the fog was slowly lifting.  It’s so hard to explain, except each day feels like I wake up even more.

Am I ready to run up and down the walls?  No. I have been sleep deprived lately, however, I only feel tired, not EXHAUSTED.  I am excited to see what happens once I get back into good sleep habits.  Everyday I am not eating gluten, I feel better than the day before.  I guess you could call it an awakening.

So when people find out that I am gluten-free, and say I have a strong will power, I respectfully disagree.  It’s not will power, but an understanding that this food is REALLY bad for my body.  It’s not just bad, but it is keeping me from the life I want.  I look at it as poison.  If it could kill a dog, it could kill me.  I know, this is drastic, but it is HOW I say NO to rolls, bread, fries, muffins, and other yummy treats EVERY SINGLE DAY.

I have come to accept that I have a thyroid disorder, so I need to treat it like a disorder.  I also have a gluten intolerance, and I HAVE to stay away from it.  It’s not a diet, but a lifestyle.  A lifestyle that is slowly giving me my true self back.  Knowing that I am living my best life, is worth every single struggle with being left out of the treats.

OK, this is LONG enough.  I have more to share, but I will sign off for today.

Do you have any questions about gluten-free living? I am going to write a post about how I try to keep it simple, so let me know if you are wondering anything.

Thank you for reading my personal story.

Little Changes Add up to a Whole Bunch

Me, at my heaviest in May 2011

I have been putting this post off, but I am at a point, where I think it’s time to share pieces of my recent and not so recent weight loss story. The WHOLE story would take a long time and no one wants to read a HUGE blog post in one sitting, so instead, I will share different pieces at different times. Since this is my personal story, I am going to share the pieces of it that I think might help others, which is often why I share the personal stuff with the world. Like many things in my life, this is a process, not the final destination.

I will begin with that back story that might help you understand how I could tough out the real changes. I will do my best to make it brief. 😉

I have struggled with my weight for years and years. However, I am not going to share the big whys and hows of the deep past. In college, I was able to get down to a great size, and ok shape. I was soft, but I was sort of happy with my body (I don’t think many college age girls are ever really happy with their bodies, but I could be wrong.) Anyway, right after I got engaged, without doing anything different, I gained 50 pounds REALLY fast. My mom sent me to a nutritionist, who found that I had a thyroid problem and that has a lot to do with the past 11 years struggles.

Anyway, for the past 11 years, my weight has gone up and down with my exercise routine. However, no matter what I ate, or how much I worked out, I was missing energy and the ability to lose a lot of weight. I was keeping my body from gaining weight, but I could not LOSE anything to save my life. I even tried Body for Life, and that worked a small amount, but not the drastic weight loss that I wanted.

In 2010 after many life changes, I started working out almost everyday. I went from a full-time teacher to a stay at home mom, so I figured it was worth a try to get in the best shape of my life before I went back to work. I worked out as hard as I knew how, tried to eat healthy, but in moderation, and instead of losing anything, in 18 months, I gained another 20 pounds. In the middle of the 18 months, a friend suggested that I start spin classes. There were morning options that fit with my schedule, so one morning a year ago, I started going and I was hooked. Despite the 3 spin classes, and two weight lifting times a week, I still put on weight and not the good muscle-building kind either.

I cried many nights of frustration. I hated the face I saw in the mirror, and I always wondered who that was looking back at me. I felt completely missing. I really was afraid that I was destined to be fat forever. I say the word fat, because that is how I felt. Plus, my son, who is VERY blunt, used that very word to describe me. It was so hard because I really didn’t know what I was doing wrong. For two years our family only ate whole grains, we gave up processed foods, and high fructose corn syrup. We tried to make sure all of our ingredients could be pronounced, and were out of real products, and yet my body kept gaining weight.

September 2011, right before I started spinning

Finally, in February of 2012, I tried the Super Cleanse. For 7 days, I didn’t eat anything, I just drank 6 homemade lemonades a day, plus drank a cleansing solution of water and sea salt each morning. It sounds totally crazy and it WAS. However, I lost about 10 pounds quickly. That told me that I COULD lose the weight, I just had to figure out how to do it for the long-term. The big change that happened in February, was that I decided to give soda up for lent. I didn’t think it was harming me because it was diet, however, I knew it really wasn’t that GOOD for me.

For years I have seen the message, “If you want something you have never had, you have to do something you have never done.” I took it to heart, and decided that I could get caffeine out of green tea, instead of soda. So I said, “Good bye” to it for 47 days during lent. I wish I could say it was easy, but it was not easy. I love soda and had one pretty much daily for 15 years. I felt like I was banning a good friend, however, soda is expensive, not good for me, and it was the one thing I had never tried giving up before. I was lucky because my son also gave up something he loved for lent too. He was big motivator for sticking with it.

Once I was able to switch from soda to iced green tea for 47 days, I really did not want to go back to it. Fear is a big motivator for me, I became afraid of wasting my effort, so I continued to give it up after Lent was over. Those of you who know me well, know that this was so hard for me. During the 47 days of no soda, I didn’t lose one pound.

Finally, at the end of March, I said, “Enough is enough, it is time to make MAJOR changes in my life. This is not how I am going to live.  Period.” Plus, I have two kids who share may genetics, I NEEDED to figure it out in case they had similar problems years from now.

Feb 2012 – The month I gave up soda

The little changes weren’t giving me the results I wanted, so it was time to try something else I had never done before: a strict eating plan. I started easy, with the Biggest Losers 30 Day Jumpstart cookbook. I also got the whole family, kids included, to understand that our dinners would be straight out of that book for one month. We were all going to try something new. Some days we might like the food, others we wouldn’t. We all had room to grow our palate.  In order to get my daily veggies in, I also started making green smoothies.  Instead of following a recipe, I started buying the veggies that were on sale, and then blending up fruit with them until I could only taste the fruit. Some have been wonderful, and others terrible.  However, I, a veggie hater, have grown to tolerate and like more veggies than ever before.  My kids love them too.

The kids were afraid of the dinners from The Cookbook (it’s what they call that particular book) at first, but they soon realized that they liked the recipes. Actually, they did better with some of our menu items than I did. The biggest thing that the Biggest Loser cookbook did was get the processed food out of the house. I didn’t use bottled sauces, instead, I used homemade sauce combinations with fresh ingredients. We stuck to the dinners in the cookbook, but I did rearrange them according to sales in order to keep to our food budget.  The meals did not take long to prepare, they had simple ingredients, and LOTS of flavor.

Mid-April, I also gained enough courage to finally attend Body Pump classes at the Y.  I was tired of lifting weights, but not seeing any real results.  Although I had read SO MUCH about it, there is nothing being instructed by someone who KNOWS what they are doing.  After one class, I was hooked, and have been able to get out of bed at 5am most class mornings since.

Finally, I learned the biggest lesson of all: I needed to stop caring about others in my weight loss journey.

“Wait, what do you mean, you had to stop caring about others?” you might be asking.

I mean, I had to stop COMPARING myself to others. Who cares if the woman on the treadmill is running faster? Who cares if so and so makes fresh organic food from their own garden? Who cares what others do? I had to meet my body and mind where I was at, in that moment.  Acceptance does not mean that you give up, instead I have learned that it means to understand myself where I am, and to keep working toward my goals.  Acceptance is not the end of the journey.

By sticking to my April guidelines, by May, I lost the first 12 pounds since 2008!  YAY!  I honestly cried, I was so happy.

Ok, that’s enough for today. I will continue with my big and little changes another day. I started simply, by first getting more active, then giving up my favorite drink, and finally learning how to cook healthier, all natural food. However, there are more things that I did to get to where I am today. I hope you come back to read more of the story.

This is what I look like as of yesterday, September 2012.

Do you have any questions so far? If so, please share them!