My Journey to Better Health

If reading real life experiences help you, then this is for you... Three vital points to my journey can be found in the previous posts regarding the Spiritual, Emotional and Physical aspects of health and weight loss. There is an abundance of information here!
Good, healthy food was never a foreign substance for me.  I believe my mother was the seed of the original health nut. I remember some of my youngest years being part of a mostly vegetarian household.  There wasn’t a plant product that I was foreign to me. So how did I allow myself to rollercoaster through every weight on the scale between 138 and 220? Quite simply: lack of focus and discipline.
There have been seasons when I held fast to a diet and other seasons when I have banished the scale like somehow IT was the problem. I always cooked with elements of the healthy background from which I came; I also allowed too much of the unhealthy non-food in as well. Sometimes I would say, “Oh, you only live once.” Other times I would say, “It is cheaper to buy the boxed stuff.” I could look around at all of the other people, eating what they want and staying slim, and being completely oblivious to their inner health and think, “There must be something wrong with ME.” 
Now I see things completely different. The fact that my body showed the weight that I gained as a result of eating poorly was actually a GIFT! How many times have we come across someone who we think is getting away with something that is really not good for them (physically, mentally, emotionally), only to find out that their misdeeds catch up with them all at once, with vengeance?  That is exactly what happens inside our bodies when we neglect to nourish ourselves as we were intended. Some of us can get away with eating junk for years with no external signs of trauma, but then suddenly, with very little or no warning, a diagnosis of a preventable illness or disease! The fact that my body was my “tattle-tale” helped me to see that what I was doing was poisoning instead of strengthening this vessel that I’ve been given.
My eye-opening, about-face, get-serious-about-being-a-healthy-adult moment came in May of 2011. I was too embarrassed to step on the scale and admit how far out of control that I allowed myself to get. My best guess is that I was about 195 lbs. I was talking to my sister, who is a physician, and a healthy lady herself, about what in the world could be hindering my weight loss. I was praying that there may be a safe pill or a wave of a magical wand that could solve my problems. Without specifically saying it, she helped me see that there were 2 things hindering me: my fork and my couch.  She suggested that I check out I dug in and read all kinds of articles. I set up a profile and began tracking every morsel that went into my body.
The first realization was that I was consuming way too much of the wrong kinds of foods, and my activity level left too many calories at the end of the day that had not been burned.
I reduced my allowable carbs and increased my proteins primarily because I understand enough about my body to know that the carbs stick with me too long and the proteins help me stay full when I reduce the carbs. Something that I always kept in mind though is that vegetables and fruits have carbs, but I treated those carbs different than I treated grain and potato carbs. I ignored the carbs from veggies and fruits in effort to persuade myself to eat at least 5 of them a day. I never wanted the fear of their carbs to prevent me from eating those fresh foods. Another trick that I implemented was one that my grandmother (who was a little bitty lady) used with great success. On Friday nights, I would allow myself to eat anything that I wanted, without any guilt. A strange thing happened though. While I would indulge in chips and salsa, I no long desired the fatty, fried, super sweet stuff that I was once drawn to.
Making this simple change created some momentum in the weight loss area. I began implementing some exercise in here and there and reading about how some people who were never runners were able to successfully begin a Couch to 5k program. Me? A runner? Never! I was the girl in school who always went to the nurse’s office if we had to run mile in gym! But something bit me…I suddenly wanted to conquer this! Perhaps it was the encouragement of a bit of weight loss, or maybe seeing others who were older than me, and perhaps even heavier than me do this without backing down.  So in June of 2011, I downloaded the Couch 2 5k app on my iPhone and set out to “run” my first workout.  I think I prayed the entire running portion that I would not die on the pavement and some stranger would have to call my family and tell them. I imagined the look on my children’s faces when they heard the news that their mother croaked on the last leg of a 30 second run interval. Then to my surprise, the workout was done and I in fact had completed the first day of the program.
The weirdest thing happened.
I came home and wanted to do the 2nd day right then. OMYGOODNESS. My 7th grade gym teacher would be so proud!  For the next few weeks I stuck to the schedule and progressed through the program to run (without stopping!) a full 5k on September 4, 2011 (happy early birthday to me!). Running gave me the biggest bang for the smallest time investment. At this point, I was happy to see my scale hit around 168 lbs. That means, in 4 months I had shed almost 30 lbs, fair and square. No pills, not gimmicks, just breaking the magnetic pull from the couch and changing my food choices a bit. Next goal was to conquer the 10k, which was met by January 1st, 2012.
Somewhere in this time I discovered the SparkStreak theory: choose a new habit that you would like to begin and each day in a row you do it counts towards your streak. If you skip a day you begin at 1 again. So I began my first fitness streak in August of 2011. My first streak was 120 days in a row. It was so exciting to keep it going. My friend Shaneka was my buddy and we cheered each other on. My next streak lasted over 100 days. And currently, my friend Angel and I have a 728 day fitness streak going. The best part of the streak is that it is motivating to others as well! That is the whole idea: to SPARK someone into changing their life too!
All of this created a newfound confidence. I had been feeling the nudging to go back to school, but never felt that I could muster the energy required to maintain a household of 3 teenagers, a struggling business and college. Even so, in October of 2011, I jumped in with both feet.  Success with maintaining discipline in body trickled over to success in maintaining discipline in the mind. In the spring, my biology professor (who held a bachelor’s in nutrition, among other things) helped me put together some missing pieces in my weight gain/loss mystery. He went into great detail of the impact of sugar and manufactured products on the cells in our body. He challenged the class with a 30 day sugar/artificial sweetener fast. He promised that there would be weight loss and a reduced bloating, along with increased energy. He explained that there are so many toxins in the manufactured foods which actually CREATE food cravings. It is like how tobacco companies manipulate the nicotine in cigarettes to ensure future customers.  I took the challenge, and saw great success! Within the first month I lost approximately 10 lbs and saw a difference in my waistline. Additionally, food tasted so much better and I no longer craved the treats that I had been allowing myself sparingly.
This set me in the direction to visit the idea of a lifelong love of food and nutrition. Instantly, I knew the direction I should go with my education and I began to turn my attention to the field of dietetics. It was like I had been reunited with an old friend.  The more I refreshed myself with the healthful attributes of God-given foods, the more I began to remove processed foods out of my diet, and saw even more weight come off without much effort.
Consciously adding natural foods into our diet does so much more for the body than just the circumference of our waistline. It is the most effective way to build our innate ability to fight off sickness and disease. A strong immune system is to the body as the Coast Guard is to our shores. Invaders may attempt to invade, but when we build the cellular response to attack the foreigners, the result is as we were divinely designed.
Today, my weight rests somewhere in the upper 130’s. My body is stronger from the inside out than it was 36 months ago. More than anything, my spirit, my body and my mind all come together in a balance of a disciplined lifestyle that can better reflect the life that the Lord desires for me to live.
The key components of my current lifestyle are comprised of:
·        Morning quiet time praying and reading The Word each day. A life built on Jesus is the core of a balanced life.
·        Drink my first glass of water for the day while my coffee is perking and eat something small shortly after awakening (whole wheat toast with natural peanut butter most days)
·        At least 10 minutes of exercise each day (sometimes it is an hour run, sometimes it is 10 min of yoga/stretching)
·        ALWAYS eat at least 5 vegetables/fruits each day (less hungry when these are eaten)
·        5-6 mini meals or 3 moderate meals w/2 snacks
·        Have a protein source at each meal/snack. Chicken, turkey, lean pork or red meat, tuna, nuts, beans, tofu, cheese (small amount), Greek yogurt.
·        Drink at least 3 liters of water per day
·        If sweetener is needed, honey, or pure stevia or raw sugar. This is used very sparingly as it creates cravings. Zero white sugar, zero sugar substitutes.
·        Choose whole grain, brown rice, quinoa, and whole oats. Zero white flour.
·        Read labels, and choose items that have food closest to its original form. Frozen vegetables are a more stable form than canned. Look for items with no additives, starches or syrups. Check things that you would not suspect. Dry roasted peanuts can contain sugar and starch. Canned beans sometimes are packed in corn syrup.
·       Stick to “Clean Eating” methods of food choices and preparation
This story is mine, but it is not anything that anyone else could not experience with a hearty portion of stick-to-it-tiveness... I hope this helps you find it! You can do it!

*Disclaimer: Please consult your physician before beginning any weight loss or exercise regimen. This information is offered as suggestions and encouragement.

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