My new persona

In the past week I have been called inspiring, brave, and a role model. I am quite taken aback by this because in all honesty I’m just talking out loud (or here) about my experiences. A fellow Weight Watchers member remarked that I did a drastic diet change. I started talking to him about why and what the true motivation behind this life-altering dietary path was. It was amazing to have such positive feedback from just telling my story.

What’s funny about that is that I love success stories. I love reading or hearing about how someone else lost weight, what they were thinking, how they changed their diet and activity, and how it changed how they see themselves. There is another Weight Watcher I am still star-struck by. He lost over 100 lbs and is a fantastic individual. I love that he friended me on Facebook and still get excited when he wants to talk to me at meetings. I see myself dealing with so many of the same challenges that face him every day. So why would I not think anyone might see me in the same way?

One thing I do is show how vulnerable I am. I talk openly about my feelings, my weaknesses, and when I’m struggling. I also like to share what is helping and working well. I think, though, it’s seeing someone overcome some kind of adversity that makes that person seem more inspiring. And in that way, I am happy to continue sharing the hard parts along this journey. 🙂

I am noticing, though, that my reaction is changing. Since I started following Dr. McDougall’s recommendations I am eating a lot more carbohydrate than I used to which is giving me a TON of energy. I don’t think that was enough emphasis. I have A TON of energy!!! These days I am waking up on my own usually between 530 and 6 am. I don’t usually get up, but I have some quiet time to read while the hubs sleeps a little more. Then around 7 I get up and take Sammy for his morning stroll. If M is around and has time he comes, too. It’s not too far, just around the outside of two city blocks that includes a slight incline/decline depending on direction. But it’s about 1500 steps and 20 minutes of nice movement. Then I do my regular workday stuff. At work I sit at a desk in a highly visible workspace so I don’t have much freedom in terms of office workouts. However, the building is nice a big so several times a day I take a lap. If there are a lot of people in my path I zigzag through the aisles adding more steps along the way. I find that I actually need to do this since sitting for too long is causing discomfort in my legs. What?! Yes. Amazing, right?! When I get home I am usually pretty antsy since I sit in a decent amount of traffic. I change my clothes quickly and M and Sammy and I head out. In the evenings we go for a much longer walk, often about twice as the usual two-block walk, sometimes more. Recently we went up the hills a few blocks from us. Each time we go I get stronger and can take more incline, which is great! Most days I walk between 6000 and 8000 steps. Some days, usually my off days, we do much more. Yesterday we did over 13,000 including a trip to the store. Today, my feet are sore, but I still have energy!

I am trying to figure out how to walk without hurting myself, though. I am currently wearing some shoes that were designed as walking shoes. However, I am reading Born to Run by Christopher McDougall (I don’t think there’s a relation to the Dr.) which talks specifically about the biomechanics involved in moving forward. The book is specifically about running, obviously, but has made me aware of my foot strike and shoe issues. I have been reading about how to strengthen my feet so that they can support me in motion without causing me to limp for a day or so afterward. Eventually I hope to run in the style described in the book. Having less weight will help, but having the right form is better.

A year ago I would not have believed it if someone told me that I would want to start running. I have always hated running. The only game that uses running I ever liked was tennis and I haven’t played that since the summer before 5th grade! In middle and high school I was never able to run a full mile. I could run and walk together, but my best time was still about 15 minutes. No records broken here! Yet, I feel something in me when we go into the woods yearning to just take off like a wild spirit. I also feel it as we walk around the lake or along the beach. It’s something in the wind. Reading this book has given me hope that I may be able to learn a technique that will allow me to start running in a way that won’t cause permanent damage and will let me go far enough to feel that freedom I long for.

I am starting to feel it when I walk. Especially in the woods. I told M yesterday that I am starting to feel peace in my heart. It is like a small lake, surrounded by mountains, with crystal blue water and a mirror-like smoothness. Not a single ripple across the whole surface. It is simply beautiful. When I told my mom about the inner lake she asked me if I understand what she always meant when she told me to “let it go.” I said I was starting to get it. She said that was the best news I’ve ever told her in my 33 years of life. It was a great conversation.

I know a lot of the changes have to do with the antidepressant I am taking. I don’t know if I will ever not need to take it. But that’s okay. It is simply one more tool I am using to live the life I want. A lot of it has to do with the foods I’m eating as well. Having so much extra energy in my body has literally caused me to want to get up and go for a walk when no amount of guilt or rationale worked. I honestly WANT to get up and go for another walk! It’s amazing! The diet has cause physiological changes that are affecting my mental and emotional state. The interconnectedness is astounding. And who knew something as simple as boiled potatoes and sprouted whole wheat bread would have such a far-reaching effect on my whole life?

I am adjusting to this new part of me as well as I can. It is surreal to receive such positive feedback from so many people. It is also a little strange to feel so happy and motivated! After so many years of wanting to stay in bed all day I kind of love getting out of the house. I do worry about a relapse so I try to just take it one day at a time. I rarely make advanced plans, just in case. But on a whim I am finding myself up for just about anything! And I love it!

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Doctor appointment and my progress

I saw a fertility doctor in June who got a fire under my butt about my health. I honestly did not know the effects of estrogen dominance other than my cycle was always wonky. But that appointment was truly a turning point in my life. I am so grateful that I found how beneficial a starch-based diet is for anyone with excess estrogen in her body. I went for a follow up visit not long ago and this is where I am now.

My blood pressure was still elevated, but not as much. I know that a lot of it has to do with the stress of dealing with fertility issues and the guilt associated with losing two pregnancies while trying to move forward. I was also a little nervous about talking to my doctor about the diet I’m using since not all medical professionals appreciate the value of a very low fat, whole food, starch-based diet. Plus we were getting the results of my husband’s semen analysis so there was another thing to stress about. I know that my everyday blood pressure is fine. I can feel when it rises. I feel the thumping of my pulse and the tightness in my chest. I know when it goes up before a doctor visit. I work in a grocery store that has a blood pressure machine and think I’m going to start checking it, just to see. I also might buy a monitor for home use. I checked them out at Walgreens yesterday. Not right away, but a good investment in my health for sure.

My weight has dropped quite a bit. In the time between visits I lost 19.4 lbs at Weight Watchers, including losing over 5% of my starting weight. I am thrilled with that. One thing the doctor said in the initial visit was that even if the excess fat was not specifically causing adverse effects on my fertility it was still a good idea to lose as much weight as possible to have the healthiest pregnancy and least complicated delivery possible. As I have been learning about the health effects of obesity I can completely agree with that point. Excess adipose tissue takes up valuable space that the placenta and fetus need to grow into. I am crushing my organs with the fat built up in my chest and abdominal cavities. The best thing I can do for myself and my future child(ren) is lose as much of the extra weight as possible BEFORE I conceive. I also have been reading about the negative effects of toxic buildup released from fat cells as pregnant women burn through their fat stores. Knowing this I feel that much more strongly that I need to lose as much weight, specifically fat, as possible before I get pregnant. The good news is that as I lose weight and reduce the overall estrogen load on my body I will have a much easier time conceiving. I am completely optimistic about this process and know that I will be able to finally conceive a healthy baby that I carry to term and deliver without complications or interventions.

I told my doctor what I’m doing and why. I told her that I am walking everyday (about 20-25 minutes in the morning and 30-45 when I get home from work, longer on off days) and eating in a way to increase insulin sensitivity naturally. I also am making sure I get a lot of fiber to help reduce the estrogen currently in my system. She said that it is absolutely a healthy way to eat and that I am doing everything right. She also said that she wishes all her patients would do what I did. I love that she sees how seriously I take this process and that she sees the positive results as proof of increasing health. It was a great visit in terms of my progress.

I have been taking the Provera (progesterone) following the directions on the bottle. The directions are to take one pill a day for 10 days each month. Given those directions I have been taking the medication on the same day of the month, every month. I was not entirely sure that was correct since it could have been on the same day of my cycle. But she confirmed that I am taking it correctly and that soon I should start to regulate when I get my period which will give us a better idea of where ovulation should be.

We also talked about M’s test results and what we are going to do going forward. He just started Chantix to quit smoking cigarettes (he’s been smoking for over 2 decades). He also is starting a new job with regular hours on Monday so we’ll have much more financial stability. With that stability we hope to buy a second car since now he drives a motorcycle as his primary means of transportation. With both of those changes she said the best thing to do is give it 3-4 months then do another test and come back to see where we are before we start Clomid to induce ovulation. I am hoping that in the next 4 months I can lose enough weigh to be below 300 lbs. I am feeling confident about that as well.

I have been only weighing myself at WW and the doctor, but that left me with days at a time when I had no idea what was happening. So last week we bought a scale. Since Monday morning I have lost 2.8 lbs. I am still going to use my WW weight as my official weight until I stop, which will be when my prepaid time is up, next month. But I am so excited to weigh myself every morning and see the scale continuing to go down. I know I am doing the best thing for myself by following Dr. McDougall’s recommendations. I even bought his book specifically for women. I am in chapter 5 now and know for sure that I am finally supporting my body in the healthiest way possible.

Feeling pretty and “fried” rice

I have been following Dr. McDougall’s guidelines for 6 weeks now. In that time I have lost 16.2 lbs. I have already seen improvements in my physiology. I am starting to see a difference in my appearance, too. I am starting to see definition in my cheeks. My hair is very shiny and soft.  My skin actually is glowing!

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I felt very pretty this morning when I took this picture. I have pants that were too tight just a few months ago that now are getting loose. I am fitting into clothes I couldn’t put on for a few years.
How am I doing this? Starch! I eat starch all day, every day. For breakfast I eat oatmeal with some currants and a bit of brown sugar. Lunch lately has been frozen corn with veggies. Dinner is where things get exciting. I eat a lot of potatoes and rice. When I have leftover rice, I love to make “fried” rice.

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I am lucky enough to work with an amazing woman who is originally from Beijing. We had a potluck once for which she brought in the best chicken fried rice I’ve ever had. And she was nice enough to share her method! Since I am no longer eating chicken or oil, I modified it to McDougall it! All the flavor, all the comfort, no oil or meat. And what a perfect way to use old rice! (Old rice – a day or two -absorbs the liquid better than fresh rice. But if you only have fresh, play around. You might like it more!)
First I throw a little water into my biggest nonstick pan, maybe 1/2″ deep, probably less. I set that on medium heat while I roughly chop an onion. I love onions so I use big ones. I add that to the pan and spread it out evenly. If I have garlic on hand I might chop a clove or three. Garlic cooks much faster than onion, but the water tempers the heat well. I usually add it when the onion is translucent. When that is fragrant, add some mixed frozen veggies. If you want it to cook faster, thaw the veggies first. Or use fresh veggies of choice. There is no wrong answer here. When everything is cooked until not quite done, add the rice. To this I add Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, but your favorite soy sauce or tamari will work, too. Sometimes I add a little garlic powder or other herbs and spices to make a more Asian flavor. I also usually add a splash of rice vinegar. When everything is heated through and the liquid has evaporated it’s done.

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Serve yourself a big bowl and season to taste. Look at all those starchy veggies! Yum!
This method does result in rice that is softer than restaurant fried rice. I am still trying to tweak my cooking to get a better brown. But it is certainly delicious. And much healthier!

It’s been a month and here’s where I am.

I actually started incorporating the principles laid out in The Starch Solution right after the 4th of July. It is now the second week in August and I thought it would be a good time for a check in. Warning: this post will be talking in detail about my body’s reactions to the program I am following including digestion and menstrual changes. Read at your discretion. 🙂

First of all, the weight loss. Before I started this I had lost 3.2 lbs in three weeks on WW following the Points Plus program. Not phenomenal, but still a step in the right direction. As of this past Sunday which was the next five weeks that I have been basing my diet on starches I have lost 18.8 lbs and 5% of my starting weight. So in five weeks I lost 15.6 lbs. Not too shabby, if you ask me! That’s an average of over 3 lbs per week! While this is faster than the generally accepted speed of weight loss, I feel great, I eat when I am hungry and never try to limit how much I eat, and I feel like my body is just letting go of the excess it doesn’t need. There is no forcing it, I am not fighting myself, and I am not punishing my body with insane workouts that leave me in tears. And yet the weight is coming off easily! I am so happy about that. I can already see changes in how big my belly is. My clothes are already fitting differently. I am so excited!

There are also other physical changes that are worth mentioning. The first is my skin. I have historically had very dry hands. My hands get rough like sand paper and often crack and bleed. It is incredibly painful. I use lotion several times a day and have tried most designed specifically for very dry hands and still nothing. I even had to take my wedding ring off months ago because the skin was so irritated by it I couldn’t tolerate it. But a few days ago I noticed that my hands are not super dry. I still use lotion regularly, but much less often. And it only takes a little squirt to fully soften and hydrate my hands. So I put my ring back on. 🙂 It is amazing to be able to wear my wedding ring again after having it off for so long. And the skin around it is fine!

I also have adult acne. It’s embarrassing to say the least. 33 is not an age that most people have to deal with giant, cystic pimples. But I do. Often the break out is around my period and several days before. I thought for a very long time that it was just hormonal and there was nothing I could do about it. But I got my period last week with only one or two tiny whiteheads beforehand. Saturday night we got Indian takeout. I ordered it with as little oil as possible and I think I irritated the woman taking my order by being so picky because everything was drenched in oil, even the plain rice. I ate anyway since it was dinner time and I was definitely hungry, but I felt sick right away. My entire digestive track was upset with the amount of fat in that meal. I watched a video of a set of twins who cleared their acne using Dr. McDougall’s dietary recommendations and their biggest trigger was fat. So I started paying attention and lo and behold I have been breaking out since that meal. I had two large, deep pimples on the side of my chin and I am still dealing with some smaller ones around my whole face. It’s interesting to see the effects of my diet on my skin. Before I saw that video I would have just blamed my period, even though it had all but stopped by that point. But still, the hormones, you know? Now I can see that my body is still clearing the excess oil out of my system. And I can see the effect of eating so low fat in healing the pimples that did erupt.

I also am seeing a major difference in my hair! My hair is a major source of stress for me. It’s growing out from a terrible haircut, I heat style it often, and I get dandruff from shampoo. My roots are constantly oily and my ends are dry. It gets frizzy. The wave pattern is all over the place. And I can break a brush just by brushing it out. Since I switched to starches, my hair has more shine all the way down. It also isn’t as oily at the roots. The ends don’t feel as dry. I have not changed my products or my styling routine, just my diet. It doesn’t tangle as easily, unless we drive with the windows down. Since it’s longish I try not to do that often. But it is looking better all the time and I find myself liking it more and more. Major bonus!!!

Now for the internal stuff. I am very gassy. I have always been super gassy at night, but now it is much more so. That said, even though it’s loud and embarrassing, it doesn’t have much of an odor. So I’m okay with it. As long as it doesn’t happen at work! Haha! The solids are moving through much more easily, too. There is so much fiber in my diet now that everything just goes right through. I wish things were a little more firm than they are, but I’m more glad that they are not hanging around inside my gut. So I’ll take it how it is.

I also just finished my period over the weekend. In the past few years my cycle has been incredibly irregular. I could go for six weeks with nothing and once I went for eight weeks with blood every single day. It was miserable. I also often have a very heavy flow with large clots of tissue that are very painful to pass. I take a ton of ibuprofen, pushing the limits of safety, just so I can function. I live with a heating pad on my belly and always try to stay in a position that creates less pain. It is terrible. I am also taking progesterone to clear out excess endometrial tissue that has built up from lack of ovulation. The first cycle my period was miserable as usual. I could barely tolerate it. But this time I spotted for a few days then I had a light day, a medium day, then a half of a light day and it was over. I only took two Advil the whole time! I could not believe the difference between the two cycles. I know for certain that what I am doing with my diet is allowing my body a chance to breathe and heal. I am so thrilled with this change!

I also have hope. I feel so good physically and mentally. I am starting to believe that I can actually and finally lose this weight. I am starting to believe that at some point I will get pregnant naturally, I will carry to term, and I will deliver without complication. Given my history it is easy to see why this hope is such a big deal for me. And the best part is that I am not at all stressed about it. I know that I can just keep eating potatoes, rice, bread and corn and I will keep moving toward true health for possibly the first time in my life. Needless to say, my month long experiment has left me a firm supporter of starch!

Small signs of big changes

I work inside a grocery store. I am currently not eating probably 90% of the foods sold in this store. There is a deli that serves hot foods and a soup bar, both of which are very fragrant. When I go to the bakery section I have to walk past these plus the cheese cooler. You know the cheese cooler. It is full of every imaginable kind of cheese from all over the world. I love(d) cheese. So it’s been a bit of a challenge for me to be comfortable with my current eating program with all of these “bad” foods around me. Not that they are bad for everyone. Or maybe they are. It’s not my place to make dietary decisions for the world at large. I can say with certainty that fats and animal foods are bad for my body. Since cutting them out a month ago I have lost over 10 lbs. I have less acne. I am experiencing less hormonal disruptions with my cycle. I have been reading about diet and hormones and firmly believe that everything I have done in the past to “get healthy” ended up hurting me even more. So I am delighted to finally feel good!

Back to my original idea, I just took a walk around the store since it’s a bit chilly in here and I wanted to warm up. I walked past all kinds of things that in the past have felt like they were calling out to me. Today they just sat there quietly. I felt great but a little leery as I rounded the last corner toward the deli and cheese section. I got hit with the cheese smell first and was pleasantly disgusted. It smelled like soured milk! Which is what it is, but the deliciousness was no longer there. That’s amazing! Then the hot foods smell. That didn’t smell good either! I have loved chicken strips for most of my life. Today they smelled greasy and old. Not at all appealing. Wow!!! For me this is huge!

I have a dinner date with a friend later this week. We’re going to a sushi place near our work. She’s not a huge fan of sushi and I’ve never tried the restaurant before, but I already scoped the menu and feel like there are enough choices I’ll be okay. I’m just happy that I don’t need to worry about “temptations” like I have in the past. They just don’t tempt me right now. That said, I did eat quite a few Red Vines last night. They have no fat and are not a regular part of my diet so I think they are totally acceptable. We also went to a block party last night as part of the National Night Out. I brought a veggie tray and snacked on my way home. I was not at all hungry when we got there. M didn’t want to eat anything since he’s actually been pretty careful with his food choices lately, too. But after probably 20 minutes of talking he was finally hungry. I think he ate two or three plates of food. It all looked great and I was pleased to see him choosing more starches and veggies than meat dishes. He also passed on the cookies and brownies since he filled up on those on Sunday at another party. Silly guy! Everything smelled great but I didn’t have any desire to eat the foods there. Afterward, we walked our dog then I had rice and veggies leftover from my lunch. Simple, easy, and tasty.

I am also noticing that my clothes are starting to fit differently. I have a pair of black pants I wear quite often. They ride up a lot and I constantly have to rub my legs to pull them down. Yesterday I noticed that they aren’t riding up much anymore. I am also wearing a peasant style blouse today that often shows my belly due to it’s bright solid color. Today I noticed that my belly doesn’t stick out as much. These are small changes, for sure. But I am feeling great from it. I love that food is not in control of me. And I don’t have to be in control of it, either. I just eat foods that are not hurting me and when I’m full I stop. I have a ton of containers in varying sizes so nothing goes to waste. I just pack it up and eat it later. There is so much freedom in this. I have been looking for a way to create a healthy relationship with food for most of my life. Who knew all it took was cutting out added fats and animal foods?

Did you participate in National Night Out? Have you even heard of it? You can find more info here. Basically it’s a chance for neighbors to meet and get to know each other to build community and strengthen the neighborhood watch. It’s nice to get to know the people I say hi to when walking the dog. And it’s also good to know who you can turn to if you ever need help. So make sure you find out about your local block party for next year and get to know your neighbors!

How I am thinking like a loser – in the best way possible

I have been reading a lot of success stories on the internet lately. Most are of people, usually women, who have lost significant amounts of weight. I read one the other day about a woman who lost 85 lbs and thought that she would be beautiful then. It got me thinking. In the story, she mentions that a man offered her parents 1000 camels for her sister since she was so beautiful. When they refused he looked at the author and offered 100. It was a devastating experience that I can relate to. When I was at the music festival a few weeks ago some women were talking about what it must be like to grow up with a sister you are constantly compared to. I had just shown one of them pictures of my sister who I absolutely adore. I was chattering on about all the things I love to brag about including how pretty she is and how fun her wedding was. She made a point to stop me and say that yes my sister is beautiful and so am I. That was nice, but didn’t sink in very far. When we were talking about being compared to sisters I told them that for most of my life my sister has been the pretty one and I have a pretty face. They both looked at me with kind of a stunned look on their faces because honestly what do you say back to that. But the conversation moved on as it usually does.

This summer Weight Watchers has a focus on happiness. Last week our task was to take one negative thought we have about our bodies and turn it into a positive. I used that. That my sister is the pretty one and I have a pretty face. When you think about it it’s pretty rough. Saturday as we were walking back out of the park I told my husband how good I feel. I am beautiful. I am powerful, I am strong. I made it past where I made it to the last time we’d followed the same trail. I feel worthy. All the effort of being so careful with what I eat is totally worth the work. I deserve it. I shared this transformation at my Sunday morning meeting. It feels completely different to want to go for a walk with my family just for the sake of going for a walk than it does to try to force my body to lose weight. I love this new feeling!

As for my sister, she is the best. She has always been beautiful. And it’s from who she is as a person as much as is from what she looks like. The worst thing about her is that she moved pretty far away for her family and I miss her terribly. But she’ll be visiting soon and I’ll get to cook for her and our mom which will be a lot of fun.

polenta 1Speaking of cooking, I thought it would be fun to make polenta fries over the weekend. I love polenta, but can’t stand the premade tubes. So I turned to my trusty advisor Google and asked for some inspiration. Oh did I find it! I found this recipe that looked amazing. Of course I modified it a little but the method was great. I added a little onion and garlic powder to the polenta when I measured it out along with some Italian seasoning but no salt to the water. After cooking to creamy I spread it onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. It probably would have been okay directly on the sheet, even with no oil. I let it cool while I did some other stuff. polenta 2When we were hungry enough I cut it into strips and broiled on high until the paper was smoking. 😳 Cooking is always fun at our house! By the time I checked it it had been about 7 minutes or so. There was a slight color to the top and one darker spot. I pulled it out then and served it with some warmed pizza sauce I had in the cupboard. I topped that with a little salt and some homemade “parmesan” sprinkles. Can we say delicious?! Next time I will probably add a little salt to the cooking water. It’s not quite the same on the surface of a dish like this. But boy it was tasty.

So go make something yummy and know how wonderful you are today. It is not an easy journey but the ride is beautiful!

A beautiful day

I went for a walk today with my husband M and our dog Sammy. We went to a park near our house and walked along the Sunset Trail for maybe an hour and a half. There were a few times when my lungs lost their air (I have asthma that is brought on by physical exertion) but I was able to do some breathing exercises and did not need my inhaler. Sammy lost patience when I started taking baby steps on inclines so M took him and I caught up. It was a great walk though.

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On our way out I felt like my legs were jelly. I definitely got a good workout on this walk! It felt so nice outside. The weather was perfect with a gentle breeze and lots of shade.

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We talked about how I am changing since I have been the McDougall guidelines. One major change I have noticed in myself is that I want to go for walks like this. When I get home from work I want to walk the dog and have a few minutes of conversation with M before we zone out to the TV. I have even been walking Sammy in the morning most days. It’s not a huge amount of exercise, but it’s way more then what I was doing. And it feels great!

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M told me that he is looking forward to not smoking cigarettes anymore. He has a doctor appointment this month and will be getting a prescription to help him quit. I cannot wait for him to be able to go a day without a cigarette. I am so happy he wants to regain his health, too.

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All in all, it was a wonderful day. Tonight we might go out to dinner. We don’t do many dates or spend the whole day together like this so it is great to get to connect like this. I hope everyone is having a fantastic weekend, too! Enjoy the gorgeous weather!