Tag Archives: Overweight

Losing the weight

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Most people are struggling to lose weight. Probably because most of us are overweight, or if you are brave enough to look at a BMI chart, even obese. Unfortunately there is no magic pill, hidden button, genie granting wishes, no fast lane. Because we are a nation of instant gratification, we don’t really want to put in the hard work. The standard American diet isn’t healthy. You can try 100 different things, all proven, and yet nothing works. Or worse, you put in the hard work and either you don’t lose enough (or any) or the second you “cheat” it all comes back on carrying along some new friends.

You might look at me and think I haven’t had that struggle. You’d be wrong. I’m 5’4 (and no, I won’t prove that because I don’t want to be 5’3) and my weight has been everything from 100 pounds to 200 pounds.

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When I was in high school, I couldn’t have weighed more than 100 pounds, fully dressed, in shoes. I ate the typical spoiled brat diet of M&Ms and Doritos with a side of Pizza every weekend. I drank soda instead of water. My exercise was wondering around the mall, probably eating more junk along the stroll.

I wasn’t all bad. I remember now the walks I’d take before I got my driver’s license. I’d want to meet a friend, or go to a certain store, or whatever, and I’d walk miles to get where I wanted to go. If I couldn’t beg up a ride. Now I think about how I’d walk home from school, then turn around and walk back down the hill to meet my boyfriend (now, my husband) and we’d walk downtown and if we were lucky we would either have enough change to get the bus home or we would time it to meet my mom after she got off work for a ride home. There were many times I would “need” money and I’d make that trip downtown just to get to my mom, get cash from her then go off to the mall or movies, whatever. I’d walk far just for that $10. And yes, that dates me a little if ten bucks could last me all day and I’d come home full of junk food with a shopping bag of goodies.

Nowadays with a car, I don’t walk that much. Not for $10. Maybe if I ran out of gas, but I fill my tank up to avoid that exact situation. I’d love to say I’m a passionate runner, triathlete, cyclist, or a rock climber. The truth is I don’t really do much of any of those things.

So how did I lose the weight? My husband and I changed our ways. I was up to 200 pounds whenever I’d get hospitalized for my Crohn’s disease and put on steroids. My husband was up around 275 by eating a healthy diet of fast food and beer. When I wasn’t sick, my weight would sit around 160, maybe 150 if it was starving.

Most of my weight came off when I was sick but my husband wasn’t that (un)lucky. His loss was all hard work and dietary changes. But, I’ve kept it off and I’ll tell you how we have done this.

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I’d like to first say that not everything that works for one person can work for others. If you’ve been trying to lose weight then you already know this. It can be frustrating, especially when some skinny says, you should _____ as if you haven’t tried everything and are still waiting to hear back if your soul was sold to the biggest bidder.

My husband went vegan. After watching documentaries like, Hungry for Change, Engine 2, Forks over Knives, Food Inc and so on, we then read books. Books like, The China Study, Thrive, Finding Ultra, Fat Sugar Salt, Food Rules. There are tons out there. Read one and chances are they will reference a book in their book, then go read that one. It’s like a scavenger hunt.

All these resources plus online sources really establish a strong base for going vegan. Now, I’m too picky for that large of a jump. Since my husband says he is “plant based”, I’ll steal that as well even though I do eat animal products. I am adding more and more healthy choices, which are starting to crowd out the less healthy.

My husband is completely vegan and limits any oil intake as well. He trains for things like the Leadman Epic 125 and other insane events. I’m not running 10k events or cycling 100 miles and I’m definitely not swimming more than a lap or two. If you can get into some zone and do all that, awesome, you’ll be losing weight like crazy. If you don’t have the time or drive for that (yet), welcome to the club.

How I have kept off the weight, is pretty easy, now. I switched so much stuff around that in the beginning it was a steep learning curve but now it’s actually easy.

Step 1
I watched, read and researched the diet I wanted. I use the word diet here meaning the foods I am going to eat….not necessarily the plan in which I wanted to lose weight.
For me, that meant local meats, dairy for a local family owned farm, fresh produce from organic and as close to me as possible, and very little packaged foods.

Step 2
I changed grocery stores. This slowed me down since I wasn’t sure where anything was. I paid attention to where items shipped from. How it was grown. How it was packaged. Instead of reading claims (fat-free, no sugar, gluten-free, etc) I looked for fresh and real. Having crohn’s this was a challenge and I’m still slipping occasionally and eating blah packaged something if I’m flaring too bad but it’s getting more rare.

Step 3
I buy local. Remember back, way back, maybe your parents but more than likely your grandparents use to talk about so & so’s store/farm/restaurant? They knew the owners and chose to support them. I do that now. If I am going to go to a restaurant, it’s going to be a small locally owned place where I feel my money is well spent. That means goodbye to all the fast food joints and even big box stores. I try to keep my money near me.

Step 4
I tried a bunch of new recipes. Since I was now cooking almost all vegan meals, this means you can now sample the foods throughout your cooking process. Since I’m picky, I got to try things raw, semi-cooked and then cooked. I found I actually do like more foods than I thought. By cooking more, I’m more invested in my meals. I eat slower and less often. If I want cookies, it takes a lot longer when you have to make them by scratch then back when I could just pop open a bag of them.

Step 5
I don’t count calories or fat grams or carbs or make sure I have enough protein. I just eat. If I want butter on my baked potato, I use real butter, and only a tiny it goes a long way when it’s the real deal. I only buy foods at the store that I need for my cooking and that way when I get snacky, all I have around to grab is fresh produce or whatever I’ve most recently cooked. I also don’t drink my calories. Drink water all day long. I drink nonstop. (That line makes me smile)

Step 6
I got out of the habit of shopping only once a week. By going whenever I need something, I no longer have a weeks worth of food to eat all at once on Monday. I also get smaller portions of things since I know I’m going back to the store in a day or two. It also allows me to meal plan day to day rather than guessing on Sunday what I will eat on Wednesday. If planning helps you, then by all means, schedule it out. But you may want to still only buy foods for a couple days in advance.

Step 7
I look at food as fuel. Usually people will say this and mean they eat kale all the time and while its not tasty, it’s fuel. Yuck. I mean, it’s expensive. When you go gas up your car, you expect high prices. You get the right kind of fuel for your car so it doesn’t break down later. So when my grocery bill is more than normal, I remind myself I am buying quality not quantity and its to fuel my body and my family. It also helps that I break my shopping up and only see smaller dollar amounts because I full weeks worth can top $200 pretty easy. Just remember to shop for what you want to be putting in you and not because its on sale or a bargain.

Step 8
I move more. I’m not in training. Once I lost weight, I actually did run a 5k but that was torture. I do try really hard to do more than I use to. I walk more, I climb more stairs, I play outside more and I just get up and go more. If you can fit in any exercise, you’ll be that much more healthy. You don’t have to set up something where you have to run 3 miles a day, or else. Just plan on doing something active everyday. One day, you can run, another day maybe you’ll swim or cycle. Just commit to a healthier lifestyle.

Step 9
Remind yourself why you are doing this. Are you losing weight? Getting healthier? Becoming more active? Just remember why you started. When it gets tough, remind yourself and get re-motivated. Re-watch the documentaries, go online and research foods. Become more involved with what you are eating and why.

Step 10
Give yourself a break. That doesn’t mean flop on the couch, although sometimes that is totally needed. Sleep really does aid in weight loss so nap if you can, but definitely go to sleep early. Just don’t beat yourself up. Maybe today you can’t run a mile without stopping (I can’t) but maybe tomorrow you can. As you eat real fresh foods, your body will start to level out. Your weight will drop and stay in a normal range. Once you stop eating processed crap that claims to be fat free, you’ll feel better and look better. Mostly though, be ok with yourself. I started wearing shorts again. I thought for sure, everyone would see the saggy skin, the stretch marks, the pale see through white skin…..no one looked. I started realizing that it was only when I compare myself to others that I worry what others think of me. When I stopped looking at others, I stopped thinking they were judging me. I wear my shorts. In fact, I now wear a bikini and it doesn’t even bother me that my body sags…..ok, that’s not true. It totally bothers me that I’m not tan and fair but it no longer stops me from wearing what is comfortable and doing whatever activity I want to do.

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Tying to lose weight is so difficult. While you can have support groups, friends struggling with you and goals, it’s really an individual sport. You need to do what works for you. If you focus on getting healthy, eating healthful foods, eating right, then your weight will fall into your goal zone. Add in the active lifestyle you want now. Don’t wait until you are thin to do what you love, do it now and focus on yourself and don’t judge others. They really aren’t judging you. If they are judging you, really they are comparing and judging themselves. So, don’t buy into their insecurities and make them your own.

Be healthy. I’ve found my gut is following my lead. I’m eating better therefore my flare ups are getting better. My weight is stable because I eat as well as I can without too many cheats. Cheating for me is eating dairy because my goal really is to be vegan.

Be happy. I know when you are overweight, it is hard to be anything but focused on the problem. Focus instead on the solution. The cure. Get healthy and your body will follow. You will have more energy and drive to do even more when you are using the right fuel.

Last, just keep going. Spend free time researching and watching documentaries or reading books. It’s really hard to sit down with a large diet soda, a bowl of chips and a dish of ice cream and watch a movie about food, health, diet, etc.

You really can do this. You are the real rockstar!

What are they feeding us?

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I read constantly. I will read any book that happens to get in my reach or happens upon my nook. I finish every book I read, no matter how bad it might be. I love to edit and research and learn. When I find a topic that interests me, I like to look at it from all angles before forming an opinion. Even after I have an opinion, I’ll change my mind if I learn more or differently. I am not without fault, sometimes I get it wrong. Very wrong.

I use to believe that I couldn’t make a difference. Now I am ashamed I might have passed that thought to my son. Each person does make a difference.

I use to think one didn’t matter. Such as, one more time won’t hurt; just one will be fine. Boy, was I wrong there too. One becomes two, two becomes a dozen, a dozen morphs into hundreds and if you allow yourself to just “one more” or into thinking one doesn’t matter….it does!

I use to say that it didn’t matter if I bought this or that because it was already made, already there. It’s not like my getting it made a difference. Like my dollar spent even counted.

I bought the name brand products. I loved junk food. I liked the ease of popping something into the microwave or grabbing “food” in a drive up for dinner. The speed dial of pizza delivery. The Standard American Diet…..sad.

Then I woke up. From a nightmare.

My health was horrible. My crohn’s was flaring like never before. I was dropping weight, taking meds, pleading with doctors to not hospitalize me.

My husband was overweight. He was worn out, grumpy, depressed. He slept with a CPAP. His days of Ironman Triathlons were done. His back hurt, his feet hurt.

My son was tired all the time. He didn’t want to do anything anymore. His energy level was dropping along with his spark. He munched on the crappy snacks I provided then chowed the crappy dinner I served.

We were all starving. Starving not just for REAL food but for life.

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I took my love of reading and went crazy. I have read dozens of books about food and diet. We’ve made some huge changes — that have actually been easier than you’d think.

My crohn’s isn’t perfect but I don’t expect it to be. I push my limits with my new diet. I don’t just eat white processed foods. I am trying to expand my diet to a plant-based diet full of variety. I lost 50 pounds in the process.

My husband has dropped over 70 pounds (and not by pooping like me) by changing the way he sees food. He eats only plant-based meals. His diet is most easily defined as strict vegan. Zero animal products or by-products. He’s thin, fit, exercising comfortably. He’s running races, cycling, swimming, all in preparation for a triathlon at the end of the summer. I can describe him as an athlete again. He sleeps without the loud machine and looks 10 years younger and refreshed. His work has improved. He quality of life has dramatically improved. All he did was switch to an all plant diet. It is an amazing and formation. I wonder how I’ve changed? I know I have…..

His transformation has been so inspiring that my son and I are trying desperately to mimic him. We are just such picky finicky eaters that we can’t eat the variety my husband eats yet. YET. We are working on it. With my crohn’s, I do add in and try new foods a bit slower but I’m doing my best without pushing myself so far I flare. With that, I am encouraging my son to try new foods. He has been so great at trying, unfortunately, he hasn’t liked much he tries….still, baby steps.

After eliminating the junk food, stopping all the fast food and educating our whole family more, we are all improving in leaps and bounds. My son is active again. His skin looks terrific and his smile charming. His outlook is very positive. He is so supportive of the plant powered diet that I love listening to him explain the benefits to an adult. He’s very passionate about health and food and quality.

Let’s pause on that word. Quality. That word is what made me grab my iPad and start tapping away at this post. Quality.

What the hay is up with GMO and other “food” like crap we are buying, eating, and serving to those we love? We are not educated on what GMO is or does unless we go look for the imformation ourselves. My father was agreeing with me when we talked about how horrible it is. Then I realized, he thought companies had to inform us when they used GMO ingredients. Nope, not in America. He was floored. He is a very intelligent man. He watches the news, reads the paper, he is well-informed. So how did he miss that? How did I?

Until recently, I couldn’t have told you what GMO even stood for. Yet now after learning more, I still can’t explain to my son why these big ass companies feel the need to use these products. Beyond greed, it doesn’t make sense. Have you ever tried explaining something to a child? Where you can slide stuff by some adults, maybe sway the story, leave out parts you don’t agree with or don’t understand; you tell that same story to a kid and they’ll call you out. They question the simplest things and man, they want answers!

So, in my research (and its far from complete), I’ve learned that big companies will bury the facts so deep that you start to believe what they want you to believe. You can easily fall into the trap of believing that you need meat twice a day (gotta get that protein) or that milk, it does a body good. You might even feel comforted that good ole McDonald offers more healthful choices now. Maybe you don’t feel GMO is damaging us. Or maybe you don’t think that children are effected by all the hormones in meat and dairy. Perhaps you haven’t heard of BVO or care much about essential amino acids. Maybe you are still sipping that diet soda hoping to lose some weight. No worries, we’ve all been there. Sometimes, I don’t feel that far off from all that.

Baby steps! My researching is opening my eyes. I’m teaching my family. I’m choosing where I want to spend my dollar. I’m not accepting just “one more”. I am done ignoring the facts. I am done with the excuses. I am looking for answers in that straight forward nature frequently reserved for kids and old folks. I’m making changes that will benefit me, my family, my community, my world. Because, I do make a difference. My dollar counts. My vote counts. My life relies on me making the right decisions. My health is too precious for me to keep ignoring it all. Hopefully, I can inform others of what I know, what I learn through websites, publications, news stories and my beloved reading. I learn so much from those I follow on twitter. I truly feel it’s a give and take exchange of knowledge. I learn from you while sharing what I know.

Together, we really make a difference.
Really.

Yo-Yo Dieting – Real Weight Loss

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Being a healthy weight isn’t the easiest thing for most people. More than two-thirds of Americans are overweight, half of which fall into the obese category. That means only one-third of Americans are of a healthy weight. Why?

Well, a lot can be said about food choices. The sad Standard American Diet at work. There are thousands of new food-like products being offered every year. Our society looks toward processed foods to nurture ourselves and our families. As if the packaged food that is enriched with vitamins is going to be better for us than the real deal.

What comes from this situation is a dieting frenzy. A new diet hits the market every time you turn around. TV doctors are promoting this way of eating, these exercises, that lifestyle. Meanwhile, most people will lose and gain the same chunk of weight over and over again. Yo-yo dieting is not only common, it’s practically expected. Some people will even say it is dangerous for your health, others say it’s better to yo-yo than to not. Excuses all around. But it is nearly impossible to lose weight and keep it off if you are eating today’s highly processed foods.

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My husband has been a big yo-yo dieter most all his adult life. His weight has gone down, stayed average, ballooned up, drifted around, soared up, slid down for years now. He had run marathons, done half Ironman competitions, had transformed himself many times. At the end of 2012, he had decided once more that the Pizza & Beer diet wasn’t working. He was tired all the time. His back hurt, his feet hurt, actually, everything hurt. His health was hurting. He was hooked up to a CPAP machine while he slept. He was depressed and felt so overwhelmed when he thought of trying another diet. He also feared not trying one. His father had died of a heart attack when he was just 51, and this year he was turning 40.

The last straw was going into an IHOP for breakfast. Most booths at restaurants are comfortable, the table moves and adjusts for who needs more space. This table didn’t. It was in a fixed position and when he tried to slide in, he couldn’t. Instead of asking for another table, one he could fit into, he opted to stay there and uncomfortably order and eat his meal. That was difficult.

Meanwhile, my crohn’s was flaring away and had been for months. Stress was a huge factor in the home. I was in bed or in the bathroom more than anywhere else. My husband was falling asleep on the couch in middle of the afternoons. Our son, Sir Picky, was deciding which drive-up we should grab our dinner from. Heck, I didn’t care. It wasn’t like the food was going to stay down. He didn’t care, because really, what is just one more? Our son, he didn’t complain. It tasted great.

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Finally, the time came. My husband signed up to do the Biggest Loser challenge at his work. He pulled what he knew from different plans he had done in the past. He changed his eating to a “more healthy” diet. Anything was healthier than how the family had been eating but as he changed, Sir Picky and I really didn’t change much. Instead of red meat, my husband ate ground turkey or leaner slices. Instead of denying himself, he had a cheat day once a week where he, in theory, could gorge himself full of junk. Starting with McDonalds for breakfast and ending with a bellyache at night. To give him credit, with the Biggest Loser competition (and $500) on the line, instead of cheat days, he only ate cheat meals here and there and stopped all fast food.

A few weeks into the year, he started watching lots of food related documentaries. The one that told us a story flat out, in basic language, was Hungry For Change (www.hungryforchange.tv). I’m always supportive of anything my husband dreams up. So, I was watching the shows, researching meals, reading up on whatever he mentioned. Hungry For Change impacted the whole family. All three of us needed and wanted to change after watching it.

My weight had already been dropping. At that point I had gone from my pre-flare weight of about 165 down to about 130. Enough, that people started feeling comfortable to ask me what I had been “doing”. For me, life would have been so much simpler if I could have just grabbed my food, rushed into the bathroom and promptly flushed it. My crohn’s wasn’t tolerating anything. Not a great way to lose weight. In recent years, my weight had gone from a prednisone high of nearly 200 and a flare low of 135 and everything in between, twice. 130 was light.

As a family, we decided to start adding healthful foods – real foods – fresh foods. Then, started reading books. Anything that had been mentioned on the HfC film. We read books that those books mentioned. We consumed books. We finally learned. The more we learned, the more we realized that we had been looking too much at our food, and yet, also not enough.

We never really bought into the organic movement, now we do. More importantly, we now look for location. Is that grown nearby? Was it grown organically by farmers we agree with and want to support? Is it in season? We use to look at nutrition facts on labels, not at the ingredients. We looked at foods that would help us, live up to their claims but would still taste good. We weren’t looking for basic regular whole foods. How could an apple be healthier than this food created by scientists that did everything an apple could do, plus more!? Wow, we had a lot to learn.

In our research and reading, I began reading more about the food industry. (I highly recommend any book by Michael Pollan, I especially love his food rules. Another great is Fat, Sugar, Salt book by Michael Moss). Meanwhile, Mr Extreme became Mr Vegan. He watched the Engine 2 film, Forks Over Knives, and read their books. He read all about the China Study and started in on books by athletes that were plant powered (Rich Roll, Scott Jurek and tons more). He learned our bodies could not only survive, but thrive on a full plant based diet. He went vegan. (Yes, the V-word)

Many months later, here we are. He has not eaten any meat or animal products in several months and is loving life. Yes, he constantly gets those questions and advice, because everyone has something to say when they learn this little fact.

But we need meat, how are you going to get protein?
We are built to eat meat, see our teeth.
You need your milk otherwise you’ll get osteoporosis.
How will you get calcium?
Won’t you miss (fill in the blank)

I don’t remember ever having anyone approach my husband when he was eating pizza to tell him not to eat that. Or tell him to eat more of something. If anything, people were there offering him another beer, another burger, some chips. Cake to celebrate.

Now, I’m a bit more use to people commenting on my life. I have crohn’s so everyone has something to tell me.

My mailman has crohns and he is fine!
I had the flu once so I totally know what you feel like!
Are you sure you should eat that?

I am also picky. (OK, beyond picky) I recently heard the word neophobia and totally related. I am afraid to try new food. So people love to offer advice on that too. (I would like to say, I would totally know it if I tried to hide something I didn’t like in my noodles. Because, I made it! It’s not like I could later forget, space off and accidentally eat something gross. Ugh!) I will admit, my pickiest is embarrassing (who else keeps a PB sandwich in their purse during a dinner out?) and it unfortunately rubbed off on my son, Sir Picky. However, we are now trying.

Our lives are better and I believe the string on the yo-yo has been cut. I would love to keep adding foods until one day, I like enough variety that I could be a full-time vegan. For now, I season my meals with meat, sometimes. We try to eat plant heavy. Anything I bake, I make sure it’s completely vegan so we can all enjoy it. We research our foods and get to know where they come from and how they were grown. I planted herbs. I know the difference between chai and chia. We are still learning but standing strong, as a family. A real family that wants to make a real change.

Currently, I’m weighing in at 112 (5’3) and my husband is back to running races and training for a triathlon. He has gone from 265 to 193, consistently losing weight each week and can now see his goal weight (165) approaching (he’s 5’9). Our son is healthy, happy, fit and is also learning. Like me, he looks forward to the day our whole family is vegan plant powered.

Thanks for reading our story. Please follow me on twitter (@ShellJacobson) and my husband (@jake946) and be sure to share this blog with others. I hope to share with you my adventures on this journey as I explore and learn more about healthful living.

Have a great day and Happy Father’s Day.

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Michelle & Neal – June 2013