More from Grits & Gravy

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Fit by 30

When I created my Thirty Before Thirty list at the beginning of 2011, I identified that I wanted to stabilize my weight. Over the years I had been steadily gaining weight. First, there was the high school boyfriend weight that I accumulated by eating too much fast food and favoring cuddling on the couch over being active. Then there were the pounds you gain during college from alcohol consumption and a crazy schedule. With all of these little weight gains, I never topped an unhealthy place and I ate just healthy/worked out enough to to be okay. Not great but not overly worrisome either. In DC, I balanced my busy life with 5:00am workouts and a disciplined diet losing most of the weight I had gained during college. And then grad school happened to my body.

While I was busy being consumed by my classes, my assistantship, and fun with my cohort, it was wreaking havoc on my body. The days were long, caffeine fueled, and full of unhealthy food choices. Before I even realized it, I had gained 50 pounds within my first year. After graduate school, I continued on the all consuming path student affairs professionals sometimes find ourselves in and gained another 15 pounds at my first job topping the scale at 209 pounds.

During my second year at Arkansas, I realized that I needed to get my weight under control. I started dieting and trying different programs but my weight did not budge. When I came back to Florida, I got more serious about being healthy but I still could not yield any real results. For two years, I was gaining and losing the same 15 pounds. I found myself frustrated and defeated.

Summer 2011

In the fall of 2011, I visited my primary care physician to see what I could be doing differently. She instructed me to keep a food journal for 30 days and come back to see her. On my next visit, we went through my logs and she described the food pyramid to me and how I need xyz from each category and then told me that she did not see it feasible for my weight to be where it was if my logs were true to what I was eating. Rather than feeling as though I was making progress, I felt so ashamed sitting there. I was not going home and eating hoards of food every night but there was clearly something going wrong with my body. That visit was definitely the last straw for me. I got in my car, called my Momma, had a good cry, and committed to finding the root of my issue so that I could overcome this obstacle.

Over the holidays my Mom and I discussed some research she had been doing about hormone replacement therapy. In truth, she had been trying to talk me into this for a while but, finally, I was ready. Nothing else had been working so I was willing to give it a shot. To my great benefit, Momma found Age Management and Optimal Wellness and Jan, my wellness specialist.

During my consultation, we discussed the hormone (benefits and risks), the eating plan, blood work I would need, etc. I had just had a full panel of blood work done so I was able to get started right away. They found that my thyroid was not operating at the optimal level and I had several vitamin deficiencies so I began thyroid medication and a vitamin regiment. What sold me on them was not about the weight I could lose following the program but rather that they were looking at my individual needs and focused on getting my body back to its optimal, healthy place. The amount of weight I needed to lose was determined by me and then they provided the tools to help me achieve my goal.

In a meeting with the doctor, he asked me if I wanted to have children. I, of course replied with a big yes and then he asked me if I wanted them to be healthy.. yes, again. In that meeting I realized that I was not setting out on this path just to be thinner but I desperately wanted to be healthy and fit again. The final motivation I needed was realizing that the unhealthy decisions I was making for myself meant that I would one day be creating the same circumstances for my husband and children if something did not change.

Hormone replacement therapy is controversial but I did my due diligence in research. In studying up, I found that most of the causes for concern were not about the side effects of the drug but rather the severe calorie restrictions some used in order to drop weight fast. Age Management did none of that, I actually get in trouble for not eating enough. While I had no calorie restrictions there are a few rules I have had to follow:

1. Foods to eliminate - dairy, wheat, beans, high fat food (even the healthy ones), high glucose fruits, processed food, and alcohol.
2. No fruit after lunch to give your body time to burn off the sugar.
3. Always have a protein and a veggie at every meal/snack.
4. Get in some activity at least 2-3 times a week.
5. Sleep 6-8 hours a night.
6. Drink water and then more water.
7. Once my workouts became more intense, I had to add a 4th meal.

When I began my program in January, I immediately began to feel better and full of energy. Those headaches I had been getting every day for the last couple of years were gone. While I originally wondered how I would ever eliminate those foods from my diet, I discovered that the better I ate, the less I even wanted those things. I still love dairy and a glass of wine but now I have them as an occasional treat versus a staple in my diet. Some foods now just make me sick or give me a wicked headache so they are not even worth it. The reality is that sometimes even what we think is "healthy" is not so great for our bodies. After eight, almost nine months, I am not on a diet but rather this is the way that I eat and the good choices that I make for my body.

One of the great parts of this program is that I have not been alone. Each week, I meet with Jan who weighs me in, takes my body fat and measurements, and reviews my food journals. Day by day she reviews what I have eaten; when I have gotten off course, I get a highlight. Some weeks, I wear out that highlighter but let me tell you that there is nothing like seeing the bad choices you made on paper. She has kept me accountable and motivated me through the rough parts. My life is not any less busy so we talk through strategies for travel, long work days and balancing my active social life. I wish that everyone going through this process had Jan by their side because she has made all the difference for me.

As I went along this journey, exercise has become a huge component of my life. I began walking then running. I have completed two 5ks and am gearing up for a 10k in February. I do a crossfit-esque workout several times a week and, of course, hit the yoga mat every chance I get. I looked hard at my schedule and reallocated time to make room. My job nor my friends/family benefit from me being unhealthy. Now, I need this sweat time because it decompresses me, give me energy, and generally just makes me a happier person. In January, I could barely run for 3 minutes and now I look forward to the new ways that I can challenge my body. AND.. I love watching part of my body become more defined. I have some rocking triceps!

My second  5K, September 2012

My first goal was to be 150 pounds and to be in the normal body fat range by my 30th Birthday. Proud to say that was DONE! Currently, I'm working towards my final goal weight of 140 pounds - only 7 more to lose! When I started this journey, my weight and body fat placed me in the obese category. To date, I have lost 61 pounds and 11.3% body fat. I can happily say that I am healthy and fit at 30 years old. While losing weight was the initial goal, it has become less about the number on the scale and rather about how I can sustain a healthy body which ultimately lead me to a healthier mind.

Enjoying some much earned beverages on my 30th Birthday!

Many of you have followed this journey of #fitby30 on twitter or through pictures on facebook. I cannot thank you enough for the endless support and encouragement I have received. Some people thought I was crazy for my eating plan and questioned some of the foods that I was eliminating while others wondered if the hormone was safe. I recognize that my path is not for everyone but, for me, every day of this journey has been worth it.

I especially want to thank those of you who eat with me regularly and encourage my food choices rather than belittling them - it makes a difference!

Some of you have written me asking what I am doing or sharing your own story. I have been so touched by having this experience with you. Keep going because it will be worth it! And, if anyone wants my food plan, I would be happy to share it with you.


Courtney said...

I am so happy that you have the support to conquer this plan and that you FEEL great first, because it is obvious that you look absolutely fabulous. Congrats lady! <3

Reebs said...

Jess, you look great and I loved your post! So happy for you!

Leslie said...

Congrats! What a great accomplishment, and good for you for emphasizing health first over a number on a scale!

Mary said...

You look fantastic! I am thrilled that you are so close to your goal, and are living a happier, healthier life because of it! Congrats Jess!!!