OK friends… This post about my health and weight loss journey goes deep. It’s difficult to write and frankly pretty personal. Who out there has had a TOTAL rollercoaster with their health and weight loss as well as body image?? I want to say almost everyone at some point or another. I cannot tell you how difficult “trying to be healthy” has been for me. I feel like I’ve tried everything under the sun striving for some sort of clue or “break through” on my health.
WHERE IT ALL BEGAN…
This hasn’t been something that just started when I was in high school or college. Sadly, this health and weight loss journey has been a battle since puberty for me. Even in elementary school I was the biggest one in my class and once I was in 5th-6th grade, I probably was one of the biggest kids in the school. (Which felt just great btw…)
I looked like I was 17 when I was only 11. I never understood why I was doing exactly what the other girls my age were doing but I looked SO different. I remember graduating from 6th grade in 2002 and excitedly, taking some of my graduation money to the mall. (I’m pretty sure it was to buy a “butterfly chair!” HA! Remember those!?)
I’ll never forget when I went to the counter to check out, striking up a conversation with the sales girl. We discussed why I was there and how I had just graduated. Her eyes lit up and she said, “Oh congratulations! What college are you going to? Do you think you’ll stay in town?” (In a show, when the people talking have something surprising or awkward happen, the script would say something like “beat”… or “pause…”)
IT HAS BEEN EMBARRASSING
I was so confused. I was embarrassed. I hated being the girl who looked so out of place next to her classmates. And sadly, this was just the first of many times (even still that summer!) that some one thought I was WAY older than I was. In ways I felt like I missed a lot of my childhood since I looked so adult. And unfortunately, there were many times I was treated differently for looking different than the kids my age.
I come from a family with imbalanced hormones, low serotonin with high cortisol (stress hormone… fun..), and (what the doctors call) a “sluggish metabolism” (insert “unamused face” here…). This basically means I have never been thin or “fit”… basically ever.
When you have imbalanced hormones and adrenal fatigue (i.e. too much estrogen, too many stress hormones, stress adrenals) it makes your body do a few different things. It tells your body that you’re starving when you’re not and makes you keep every single bit of food or caloric intake on your body “in case of emergency.”
When you cut calories a bit to try and burn fat, these hormones basically tell your body “Oh no! We’re not getting enough calories! We must be running for our lives!” or “Our body is starving! We need to store all food for the famine or harsh winter ahead!” It’s one of our body’s primal responses to stress…. It’s just lovely… (No sarcasm there at all…)
If your hormones are imbalanced in this way, your body also gives this response when you exercise. Any rigorous cardio literally sends a signal to your body that you’re “running for your life.”…. Once again- NOT FUN!!
IT HAS BEEN FRUSTRATING
You can imagine how frustrating all of this must be! I saw so many people just start working out or eating healthier and the pounds would just fall off of them. I would try the same SO SO many times only to usually GAIN weight and or feel miserable in the end.
I had hopes after having my first baby that breast feeding would help me lose the baby weight. But of course, as it has so many times before, my body decided that since it was working so hard to make food for the baby, it better keep every last pound LOCKED in place just in case we starve… awesome…
You can imagine how incredibly disheartening this was! Which of course led to REALLY unhealthy binge patterns.
MY TYPICAL PATTERN
Here is what a typical pattern looked like for me. Something would inspire me and I would feel totally motivated to work hard on my health picture. I would stop eating whatever current junk I was feeding my body to “cover my feelings” and buckle down on whatever plan I had found that I thought would help me.
At first I would be SO strict, no cheating whatsoever. After a while, I would start to see a bit of progress! The scale would start to read just a few pounds lighter. This would then motivate me even more to focus. It looked like my hard work was starting to pay off!
Then I’d hit a wall. After a month or so of focused eating and/or exercise, I would stall. This of course happens to everyone, so even though I’d be discouraged, I would “keep on keeping on” and stay on plan as best I could.
Sadly, week after week would pass. The scale would not only be stuck it usually would start to rise again! I would be SO angry, so frustrated and over all just devastated at my so-called “failure”.
This uuusssuually would send me into a nosedive. I would reach for whatever comfort food was closest or whatever seemed to be “calling my name” at the time. Something I didn’t mention before about what low serotonin levels, high estrogen, and too much cortisol do- they make you crave things. The estrogen wants to make more estrogen and to do that, it wants to be fed ALL. THE. CARBS.
FIGHTING THE CRAVING MONSTER
If you know me, you’ll know I’m a carb-o-holic. I could sit and eat several loaves of fresh baked bread for dinner with some dinner rolls on the side and a few waffles, donuts-heck even cake for dessert. I’m telling you… the carb struggle is REAL!
Fighting those cravings for comfort food against those hormones is a CONSTANT battle. At times, it would feel overwhelmingly impossible.
I’d have thoughts like “Why did I even try?”, “Why did I just waste 6 weeks or 2 months of my life doing this?!”, “I hate my body!” Really dark thoughts would flood my mind and I would usually give up.
Not the best pattern, I know. After years of searching for holistic and preventive doctors to see if they could help me to nail down my hormone issues, and to finally help me get myself in order.
A VISUAL TIMELINE
Just to paint the picture for you, here’s a visual timeline of my health and weight loss journey. Most of these pictures are almost physically painful for me to look at.
Before I hit my limit and started looking for answers to my hormonal imbalance.
During my health and weight loss journey, I wanted to try and “run the pounds off”. This was after running over a mile 3-4 times a week and GAINING weight. I hadn’t learned that running and other heavy cardio stressed my body out. Before I knew this, I ran for an entire year with almost no success.
Pregnant with my first baby, Jaden. (You can probably tell I am a bit thinner here. This is because of how my first trimester went. Be sure to subscribe for my soon to come pregnancy stories!) – Read my 14 MUSTS when bringing home your newborn baby!
After delivering Jaden earlier in the year, I still struggled to lose the baby weight.
However, I did discover some answers along the way…
WHERE MY TRIM HEALTHY MAMAS AT??
Trim Healthy Mama is a faith based eating plan that helps mamas feed their bodies (and their families!) with good whole foods that truly nourishes them. Their philosophy has to do with the two fuels our bodies break down and burn- carbs and fats. Following the THM (Trim Healthy Mama) plan, crossing the two is a “no no” when trying to lose the stubborn weight. (Be sure to check out my NEW post – a “How-To” on Trim Healthy Mama !)
This eating plan changed my whole thought process on “dieting” and taught me so many different things about how our bodies work (especially mom bods). This was the first time I truly was eating healthy as my lifestyle. Not just as a diet or a trendy way to “lose the weight”.
While eating on the THM plan, I did in fact lose close to 25 pounds! Unfortunately, I was my own worst enemy. I let the stress of my life get in the way of my success and soon fell back into old habits of over eating (even healthy foods), using food as comfort and then getting discouraged.
However, I did have many “take-aways” that were life changing perspectives on food as well as so much knowledge on what real foods are and where to find it. Not to mention SO many amazing recipes and great substitutions for unhealthy (yet amazingly delicious) foods! (For some of my favorite recipes, be sure to subscribe!)
I am still using many of the THM recipes and eye opening information I learned. I have a mental Trim Healthy Mama “rule of thumb”- If the dish or ingredients would follow their guidelines, then I’m definitely eating clean and feel good about what I’m eating.
HOW I LOST 60 POUNDS
Back in 2012, I had just graduated college and I was in one of my bad cycles again.
I weighed close to 200 pounds. I’m only 5’ 3” with a size 6 shoe. All that weight on my small frame was so taxing and so visible. There’s no hiding a few “extra” pounds. It was humiliating. Especially as a performer on stage constantly. I felt so vulnerable and lacked my usual confidence.
I had one of my “I-can’t-stand-this-one-more-minute” moments and finally started reaching out for help. I was referred to a doctor who just started helping people with a somewhat new eating plan.
The plan was called Shape Reclaimed and was designed for people with “sluggish” metabolisms and hormonal imbalance. (Be sure to subscribe for a post on Shape Reclaimed coming soon!) It was mainly meant for those who were middle aged and/or even menopausal whose metabolisms had slowed over time.
This of course made my 22-year-old self feel just GREAT about trying it …. But at that point I was ready to try almost anything.
The eating plan uses homeopathic drops with active ingredients that curb your appetite, rev your metabolism and also targets specifically yellow fat (the bad kind). While following this plan (the first time) I had a very difficult time not straying. (It is SUPER strict. Here’s an example of a typical eating plan). I was able to lose about 30 pounds though, which felt great!
Like I said, the Shape Reclaimed drops target yellow fats on the body. The plan starts you off with 2 “fat loading” days in which you eat LOTS of foods with high fats (creams, fried foods, nut butters, foods with olive oil, avocados etc) to train the drops what to go after.
After the fat loading days, you pull the fats away and eat very clean (and very little) so that the drops can burn YOUR fats and use your energy stores as fuel. Because of this you can lose about a pound or so a day.
Once again, this worked for me for a while but my mental headspace and outlook was just not as focused as it could’ve been. I kept thinking about all the food I was MISSING rather than all the food I COULD eat. Sadly, I fell back into old patterns again.
- Shape Reclaimed in 2012
- trying to become a “runner” in 2013 (and realizing my body could NOT handle that)
- getting pregnant with my first in 2014 and gaining ALL the baby weight, trying to nurse the baby while losing the baby weight in 2015
- focusing on Trim Healthy Mama in 2016, and STILL going up and down in weight…
I was ready to try Shape Reclaimed again.
SHAPE RECLAIMED TAKE #2
I knew that even though it was very strict, I would see results quickly. So once again, I buckled down and this time my hubby decided he wanted to try and lose weight with me. ( He was close to 300 lbs at the time!)
It was SO awesome to have a partner doing the plan with me and also someone to keep me accountable! Being a guy, the pounds started flying off of him. I felt like quitting SO so many times.
It took me ALMOST 8 months but … (drum roll please) I went from 187 lbs -128 lbs from Thanksgiving of 2016 to June of 2017.
I have NEVER been that thin (maybe not even as a child). I honestly didn’t even recognize myself most times. I also had trouble really FEELING thin. My brain was so used to seeing “me” a certain way that looking in the mirror I often still saw my old self and body.
I was able to keep the weight off mostly until we started trying for our second baby in 2018. Because of my hormonal imbalance, my body didn’t want to stay that thin either. I had gained some back before trying for a second baby (and to be honest, I knew I was trying to get pregnant so I wasn’t too concerned or focused on being SO thin at the time).
We were pregnant with Parker James by November of 2018 (pregnancy and birth story post coming soon!) but just a few months prior I had a miscarriage. This pregnancy was not like my others. It hit hard and fast.
A FAILED PREGNANCY
Within 3-4 weeks I had gained more than 20 pounds, my back had expanded like I was 25 weeks along, I felt like I needed to pump (I was SO sore!!), my nose was unbelievably strong, food tasted SO weird and nothing sounded good, my belly started to change shape and get round. Only maternity clothes fit me!
You can even see my baby bump in this picture (as well as Jaden cheesing SO hard) from our West Virginia family vacation.
Most of these things happened in my other pregnancies but NOT that quickly and NOT to that extent. I was completely convinced (as was my entire family ha!) that I was Preg-O!
However after taking test after test (that were all negative) my doctor finally told me that they think I was pregnant but lacked a certain hormone this time around to make the pregnancy successful. And judging by the amount of hormones that burst into my body, they think I lost twins.
This was obviously a crushing, shocking and devastating blow. My body now looked like it had been carrying two babies for several months. I was emotionally exhausted as well as physically.
A SWEET SURPRISE
To our surprise, just 6 weeks later, our sweet Parker James went from just a twinkle in our eye, to a reality. We were, of course, thrilled!
But this didn’t give my body much time to recover or settle from the other pregnancy. I was more than 20 pounds heavier at the start of this pregnancy then I would’ve been. I can’t tell you how taxing this was on my joints, bones, muscles etc.
I’m only 16 weeks pregnant in this photo from Jaden’s 4th birthday/Baby Gender Reveal.
By the time I had Parker James, I was close to 200 pounds again. I had only gained about 20 pounds or so during my pregnancy with Parker James, but those extra pounds in addition to my miscarriage baby weight felt so huge! Even once the baby was delivered, I was the heaviest I had ever been in my life.
Like I said earlier, my body does NOT like losing weight while breastfeeding. Once I came home with Parker James (after an incredibly traumatic delivery) losing the baby weight felt next to impossible. Once I had recovered a bit, moving around with all the extra weight was so difficult and sometimes even painful.
My mindset and body image was TERRIBLE! (Also, due to the trauma I experienced delivering Parker James, I had a hard time with PPD as well. This of course just made a perfect storm. Be sure to subscribe for posts coming soon about that.) I’m pretty sure I wasn’t pleasant to be around at all.
Once again, I hit a wall and reached out for help. It would have been so easy to just jump back into Shape Reclaimed since it worked so well for me beforehand, but it is not an eating plan you can do while nursing.
After doing some research, I found a doctor who specializes in Nutrition Response Testing. NRT gave me some HUGE insights to what my body was lacking and how to start healing as well as shed the extra weight I was lugging around. My doctor also set me up with some incredibly amazing digestive enzyme supplements that help my body break down my food and basically flush out things that are unneeded.
Throughout my health and weight loss journey with Nutrition Response Testing, my nutritionist has helped me learn how to keep a food log (something I have been terrible at in the past). I’ve been able to find a system that works for me and it actually keeps me accountable! I mean who really wants to write down that they ate a handful of cookies??
In addition to food logging and meeting with my nutritionist several times monthly, she suggested I try Intermittent Fasting. This has been LIFE CHANGING for me. I have ALWAYS been a midnight snacker mostly just out of comfort. Intermittent Fasting has completely cut that for me and helped with my digestion and weight loss tremendously! (Subscribe for posts coming soon on the “ins and outs” of Intermittent Fasting!)
WHERE I AM NOW
Since starting Nutrition Response Testing, along with the supplements and intermittent fasting, I have lost (as of now) just over twenty pounds. For the first time, I don’t feel like I’m doing a diet or restricted from a million different foods or counting every single calorie. I’m just LIVING. Although this is SO much easier said than done, I’m learning to eat to LIVE, not live to EAT.
I know I have not “arrived.” To be honest, I’m not sure we ever do. That’s why it’s called a journey. Health is something that is a constant battle. It can come easier to some than others and each journey is completely new and unique.
I will be keeping you updated on this health and weight loss journey I’m on and share the good, and even the bad and the ugly because even though it may be raw, unattractive and down right embarrassing for me, I will always strive to be genuine and authentic.
Be sure to be tuning in for updates on my health and weight loss journey, recipes, info on the health plans I’ve done and more!!