It is true, I Dropped Three Jean Sizes and Even Ate Cake, since October 2017, and no one likes knowing how I did it. I wasn’t going to write about this, and I have rewritten it over and over in my mind hundreds of times before hitting publish. I am just going to say it, my food blog made me fat. I had control of lifting my hand to my mouth but ultimately, sharing something that I love, that being food and cooking, caused me to pack on the pounds. Pounds I never realized were there even though I looked into the mirror every day.
I did not realize until recently how many pounds I had packed on over the course of nine years. It wasn’t until friends, clients, and acquaintances started commenting on how great I looked. Then they started asking the questions that come after complimenting someone who has dropped some weight. What diet are you on? Did you give up gluten? Are you Paleo? Are you sick? My answer is always the same; no, no and no.
Why have I decided to share any of this? A friend who is beginning a diet provoked me to share what I have learned and what has worked for me as well as Lenny. She is tired of how she looks in the mirror and how snug her jeans are. She is planning a trip with her family to the Caribbean this summer and doesn’t want to buy shorts, let alone a swimsuit. She also thinks the only way to lose weight is to starve herself and spend hours in the gym.
Other contributors helped contribute to the pudgy pounds creeping up on my thighs; going through menopause at 37 and most likely being depressed over it. Turning 40 and not being able to shake those couple of pounds I thought I should lose so I could button my jeans easier. I mean, it couldn’t be me and all those baked treats I was making or the sugar glazed pork chops that were the biggest craze on Pinterest. It must be my jean company, and they will change the way they made their products. Right? I was not the one to blame for lifting that fork to my mouth.
When I turned 49, my doctor said she wanted me to lose ten pounds before I turned 50. That would bring me down to 145. I put it off for six months, and then decided I should probably drop the weight before my next physical which was six months away. Six months left, and I was finally going to do something so I wouldn’t get in trouble with her at my yearly appointment. You can read about my journey here where I reported each week what I was doing with exercise and diet.
I thought it would be a piece of cake, so to say, and guess what? It wasn’t. It was damn hard. I was watching what I ate, by that, I mean depriving myself of all the food I love, and I was working out all the time. 90-minute spin sessions are no joke. I was shy of five pounds when I went in for my physical. She was okay with that, so I was okay with that.
Last year after spending time in Peru and Cuba, I came home and knew I needed to make healthier changes in our lifestyles. While I was able to climb the climb to Machu Pichu, I knew I could do better, and I knew I could feel better. It wasn’t the physical activity, as I had been doing those 90-minute spin sessions, so I was reasonably cardio fit. It was seeing what people were eating and not eating in other countries. Super fresh produce, and happy animals that roamed the fields. No pesticides. Healthy people, people who commented on how they have heard how unhealthy Americans are. We supersize everything, in both countries the portions are small and filling. We don’t stop and chew while we eat, we shovel our food into our faces and then wonder why we are fat and unhealthy.
Two of our parents are diabetic, the other two are fine, besides some high blood pressure, and too much salt in their diet. Both Lenny and I agreed, that we did not want to head down that same path and that we had to be proactive about it now, and not wait until we were sick. Do you know how scared I am of being sick? I can barely get blood drawn, let alone be sick.
It was a lifestyle change that we had to make. We were not going to diet. I hate that word, and I firmly believe it is a good thing to make long-term changes in your eating routine.
I started thinking about my past with food and my future. I have been reading a lot about chronic illness and using food as a healer. A few things have stuck with me:
• Chez Us made me fat – I was cooking for my audience and not for me or us, any longer.
• I was becoming lazy in the way I approached food. I knew better. I became aware of the politics of food in my early twenties when I read the book Diet for a Poisoned Planet. I needed to rethink food and where it came from, and to make better choices.
• My friend, Maggie, made terrific changes with her diet for a better quality of life. I had to take that approach to my pantry, eating and cooking.
• I have been a fan of Seamus Mullen; I enjoyed his cookbook Hero Foods and was intrigued with how he used food to control his RA. I heard a podcast, where he and his doctor, Frank Lipman shared his journey and his approach to using food as a healer. What Dr. Lippman said resonated with me – think about the word Diet, and what the first three letters are. I grabbed his newest book Real Food and started implementing his best practices into our lives
• Darya Rose of Summer Tomato has been writing about better eating choices for as long as I have been blogging. Her book, the Foodist, sums it all up. You are what you eat, in a nutshell. I always consult her site when I am confused about an ingredient or how to make a better choice.
• I had a work colleague who was a marathoner and a vegan. She was on the heavier side despite running miles every day and couldn’t figure out why she couldn’t drop the weight. Open her fridge, and everything was non-fat or low-fat and processed quick and easy eats. Her freezer was full of Lean Cuisine and other processed vegan options. I kept telling her to eat some Real Food, and she would probably feel better and would probably lose the weight. This was twenty years ago. I wonder where she is at now?
What I have learned since I began this journey, people do not like hearing how I (or Lenny as he has lost twenty pounds too) lost the weight. They don’t like hearing that I stopped eating like a jerk, and by a jerk, I mean making the wrong choices. I wasn’t stuffing my face with ho-hos, I was making good decisions but not BETTER decisions. I started enjoying food again, by not limiting what I wanted. I started giving a shit more than I did in the past. Which meant reading labels, meeting the farmers who grew my food and finding out where the animals roamed or swam. After all, it wasn’t a diet, which I think is a quick fix to an issue. Instead, it was a journey and lifestyle change.
Last September, without telling Lenny about the changes I was going to make in the kitchen, after all, that is my domain, I cleaned out our kitchen. Almost anything that came in a box or plastic got tossed. I tossed out refined carbs or anything with a high salt or sugar content. My goal was to keep sugar, refined carbs, and salt at a low. Sugar and carbs under 150 grams a day, I average 55 – 60 grams a day now, and sodium under 1500mg. Did you know that the average American takes in 3400mg of sodium a day? That is a lot of sodium, folks. I revamped everything in the pantry and refrigerator and freezer. We were going to eat Real Wholesome Food, which meant very little processed and by processed, I do not just mean frozen pizzas or cookies. If the first three to five ingredients are not real food, then it is processed. If you do not know what an ingredient is and cannot pronounce the word, it is most likely processed and you probably do not want to put it into your body. You can read about our pantry staples here.
I felt sluggish the first couple days of cutting back on salt and sugar as well as refined carbs. After a week, I felt great. I had more energy, my thinking was more precise, and my clothes were a tad looser. TMI, but my underwear was getting loose as well as my shoes.
I still did not think I was shedding pounds until I went to buy a new winter coat at J Crew in October. I knew the size I was when I went through this same tedious process the year before. I told the salesperson I needed a 6 or 8 petite, and petite because of my short arms. She looked at me and said that wasn’t my size. For sure, I thought she was going to go up, and she went down to a 2. I didn’t believe her, and then she handed me a coat. It fit perfectly, so perfect that I got it. I had not been that size since my twenties.
I kept up this new way of thinking about food. I cooked the same recipes I was making before but using what I consider healthier options. I felt stronger and healthier than I have in a very long time. I went down two jean sizes as well as two sizes in my tops, and I have lost 8 pounds. A lot of it was belly and thigh fat. The best part is that I feel fantastic! I am eating everything I love and have been told is the devil (meat, ice cream, etc..) and I am only exercising moderately, which is 30 – 60 minutes of cardio plus yoga, three to four times a week.
What is working for me or us? I honestly feel that eating a wholesome diet that is loaded with real food that is rich in fiber, little sugar or salt as well as no refined carbs is what is helping me lose weight, free energetic and think clearer. Precisely what are we eating? Tons of vegetables, beans and legumes, meat, fish, grains, alcohol and even a sweet or two. Basically everything except food that is labeled, diet, non-fat, low-fat, fake foods or prepared foods.
Labels: I read labels, and guess what? It only takes a couple of seconds. Stop saying you do not have time. If I do not know the first five ingredients on a list, then I do not buy it or eat it. I had to buy apple juice recently, and I hardly ever buy juice. It was interesting how each brand had different amounts of sugar. I went with the one with the lower amount of sugar which was fifty cents more than other brands but in my opinion better than the other options.
Organic produce: I go to the Farmer’s Market and buy what is in season, and I buy tons of it. Why isn’t aren’t there more veggie bins in the refrigerator? We eat a hefty vegetable-rich diet 4 -5 times a week. I hardly ever buy frozen vegetables except when I am in a pinch. Such as frozen peas or corn. Frozen is better if you cannot find fresh. I never buy canned. I think that something Green should be in every meal and try hard to do this. It has become a game for me.
Grass-fed and pastured raised meats: I try to limit to once or twice a week.
Dairy: grass-fed, whole milk dairy and pasture raised eggs.
Sugar: Unrefined sugar when I am baking, yes, I still bake and enjoy it. I am starting to experiment with coconut palm as well as date sugars and syrups as they are lower glycemic.
Wild caught fish that is high in omega 3s: I limit this to once a week, would buy more if it wasn’t so expensive and if I could find more reliable sources.
Grains: I do not cook very often, maybe a couple of times a month. Usually, it is steel cut oats or perhaps brown rice. When I do, I try to find the heartiest and organic versions. Never Uncle Bens or a quick cook brand.
Bread: Yep, we eat bread and sorry to say it isn’t white. It is from a local bakery and made from wholesome grains and fulfilling ingredients. Never whole wheat as that is over processed, it has to be a whole grain or a really hearty rye in order for me to buy it.
Sweets: It would be a lie if I said no. I am not about depriving ourselves. Instead, we indulge in a good quality dessert when we do go for it. It isn’t every day, and it isn’t a box of diet ice cream or some low-fat dessert from the store.
Alcohol: We haven’t given up wine or cocktails, but usually enjoy on the weekends and occasionally during the week.
Water: We are HUGE water drinkers but when we want something besides water, then we grab a komchuba. That fermented juice is low in refined sugars and it great for your gut.
Coffee and tea: Yep, we still enjoy both. We have been black coffee drinkers for over 8 years. Once you find a great coffee, you do not need to put milk of any kind in it.
Fats: Olive oil, ghee, and animal fats are being used for cooking in our kitchen. Better for you, and they taste better so I use less.
Breakfast – black coffee (if you find good coffee, it is easier to skip creamers and sugar), about a 1/2 cup whole Greek yogurt, loaded with fresh fruit (blueberries, blackberries, strawberries or apples, and dates – depends on what is in season).
Lunch – dinner plate sized green salad (we buy the darkest red leaf lettuces we can find) loaded with a protein (tuna, chicken or an egg) as well as radishes, green onions, carrots, fennel, basically everything that we have in the house.
Dinner – either a veggie filled dinner or one with a protein along with a vegetable and another big green salad.
I try to balance it out – if I have yogurt for breakfast one day, then the next will be steel cut oats or an egg. I also try to add something green to every meal and by green, I mean a fruit or vegetable. Lunch may be salad, soup or even a sandwich but I try to keep it very green and with lean proteins. Dinner is really our big meal and we tend to eat very vegetable heavy 4 – 5 times a week and meat or fish the other days.
The next question I get after I tell people what we are eating is if I weigh out portions. Nope! We fill our plate, not overflowing, about a fist full of each recipe, and we eat slowly. Or at least we try, as Lenny eats way too fast. If we are full, then we do not go back for seconds.
I am finding that if I eat a whole-fat instead of a low-fat diet that my body fills up on smaller portions, and it holds me over until the next meal. I am not snacking and when I do get bored or peckish then I grab a piece of fruit or a handful of pumpkin seeds. Guess what? I am not hungry at all.
When I started in August 2016, I weighed 155 and after six hard months, I was down to 140. Then I bounced back and forth between 140 and 145 for the next four months. When I started changing our lifestyle and my approach to cooking and eating, I was at 143, that was in September 2017. By January 2018, I had lost 8 pounds and have consistently kept it off. I have one pound left to reach my original goal of 135 that I set in 2016. For me, it isn’t really the weight, it is more about feeling good about myself and being healthy. Being proactive as we age, so we do not get sick later on in life or even now. I feel that if I have a healthy body then it would be easier to fight illness if it did happen. So, when people ask me how I have done it, I reply that I stopped eating like a jerk!
** disclaimer I am not a dietitian or nutritionist. I read a lot, I ask doctors a lot of questions and I try to follow best practices that work for us. I have talked to my doctor about what we are eating and she has said that it seems to be a good balance of everything and to keep at it. We have used this approach since September 2017 and it has worked for both Lenny and myself. He has lost about twenty pounds and I am shy of one pound of my twenty pound goal.