There is so much information out there, it seems pointless for me to write down my own thoughts, but I will tell my story and what I have done differently. Whew...this will take a lot of courage to be this honest.
This was me, January 1, 2010. I weighed about 185 pounds and wore a size 14. I was happy that was back down into the 180s because I'd been teetering in the 190s. I hadn't really done a whole lot of regular exercise. I'd gone into a funk of sorts. IF I ran a mile, it would've just been one or two and I would probably taken 12 minutes to do each one. Not a bad time, but not a time that I knew I could achieve. I became pregnant with Tesla later on this year.
This is me on February 16, 2013. I weigh 160 pounds and wear a size 10/12. I'm training for a half marathon. I'd like to finish it without injury with an average pace around 10 minutes each mile. I also want to be able to do 25 good unassisted pushups. I can do 6 really, really good ones right now.
I'm not a tiny person. I never have been. I am 5'7" (and 3/4 inches...those matter!). I have always been athletic. As far as clothing is concerned, I've worn at least a size 10 since I was a Freshman in high school. In high school, I also weighed 145 lbs. My ultimate (never thought I'd ever reach it) goal weight is 155. I can't believe I'm this close! Also, I'm not obsessed with weight. My biggest objective is to be healthy. On the surface, I measure my health by my legs and back. I carry a lot of my extra weight in my belly area. I had a lovely, squishy pansa! No doubt because of all of the heavy fat, sugar, and processed foods I'd consumed.
January of last year, I wanted a dramatic change. My friend started eating a vegetarian diet and I saw changes. For years I'd read stories of celebrities who had eaten only vegetables and their bodies were lean. I gave myself a challenge, to see if I could do it and also to see if there would be any dramatic changes. There were!
And then I watched Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead, Food Inc., and Forks Over Knives. My thinking shifted. I wasn't just going to limit myself to this 6 weeks of no animal eating diet. Because quite frankly, I was just eating salads and breakfast foods. I needed to make a dramatic lifestyle change and embrace what my husband had been telling me.
I was worried with how expensive it would be, but then I considered medical bills and the cost of clothes, my overall quality of life and unhappiness with how I felt about my image. I NEEDED to make this investment into my family. Immediately, anything with high fructose corn syrup or corn sugar was tossed in the trash. (That stuff is in EVERYTHING!) Also, no more white flour breads or pastas. Everything had to be whole wheat. No unbleached flour at all. No more foods with ingredients I couldn't pronounce. No more instant meals from the frozen food aisle. No more canned vegetables. Everything was fresh. I went back to basics. Regular sugar, real butter, organic milk, fresh (in-season) vegetables, and as much locally sourced foods as possible. We ate more diverse foods and the Asian markets, as well as, Bountiful Baskets, became our best friends. We saved quite a bit on our budget from eating animals, but similarly, we spent more because we were eating fresh foods. Likewise, in the weeks where I didn't meal plan, we spent money going out to eat because the issue with cooking foods is that you have to prepare it!
And then I started running again. I was regularly running 2-3 miles twice a week. I didn't take any supplements. I didn't drink any protein shakes. I ate a lot of peanut butter and jelly. I also still drank a glass of wine with my meals twice a week. Since we are being honest, I would drink a few shots of tequila or a couple vodka sodas once a week (on average) when socializing.
Then, we went to Costa Rica. I witnessed first hand what it meant to have fresh fruits and vegetables. I was also struck with the sheer volume of waste, we as humans produce. I saw it washed ashore onto those beautiful beaches. I went to the market and made some of our lunches while we were there and realized that I could continue to be creative and eat just as healthily. I didn't have to be so limiting, I just needed to continue to keep the processed junk out.
This is where it is tough. I grew up with processed foods. I grew up with convenient foods. I was well aware of frozen meals and how to fix them. I also knew the food offered in them was far tastier than the hamburger helper I would make. Hamburger Helper is pretty good in its own right, too, though! But it should be. When I read the ingredients on the back, I noticed that those that were all chemical-y sounding were engineered to get me to crave them and want more. The New York Times recently had an article on this Extraordinary Science. (long read, but well worth it) It is so difficult to make a change in your life when you have so much against you. You want to gather and socialize with friends, but at the same time, if you go out to eat, you don't know where they get their ingredients or what they put in the food. You don't want to have to second guess each mouthful, but you do. You don't know how it will affect you in the long run.
This isn't to say that we don't go out to eat. This also isn't to say we NEVER eat fast food. This also isn't to say I never eat animals, after all, I call myself the Worst Vegetarian Ever. I do make it a point that when I do eat them, I know it is of the highest quality ingredients and I've tried to know where they come from. I also only eat animals (or something with a face), once a week. I still use butter. I still use milk when I cook. I also use white sugar when I bake. I try to make better decisions. Instead of McDonald's, we choose Chipotle. In stead of fried chicken, we opt for baked or grilled. Steel cut oats instead of instant oatmeal. Small changes in the right direction that yield greater results. READ THE LABELS...see how many calories you are consuming and see the ingredients you are putting in your body. If you can't pronounce it or don't know how it'll affect you, you probably shouldn't put it in your body.
My face is cleaner and brighter. My allergies have subsided. In the year when they were at an all time high and everyone around me was affected by them, I was sneeze free. My lactose intolerance isn't as bad as it was, especially with Organic Whole Milk (Central Market offers Moo Mondays, where milk is half off, yes, even organic milk w/o antibiotics in it). I continue to have good blood pressure and an excellent resting heart rate. My energy levels are higher.
The down side? I still very much want a fast food hamburger. There are times where a Marie Callender's fettucine alfredo microwave meal and chocolate cake sound amazing. I also want to indulge in a Braum's Black Forest sundae. I crave these foods. Also, eating all of vegetables, you system becomes more regular. Yeah, I poop more than I used to. I'm not constipated, but I do go more. For the record, I don't like pooping. It isn't that I don't like going in public, I just don't like going to do that at all. My own issue, I own it. There are times where I go hungry. The right food may not be available for me to eat, so I just won't. I'll have water instead. Then I get grumpy.
All this to say, you find balance. You find what works for you, but you have to be willing to make a big change if you want a change. You can't expect to take a pill or drink a special drink and think that you will suddenly be healthy. Make real goals for yourself. Read labels and most of all, keep going! Keep trying. Forgive yourself if you slip up. It's ok. Just start again.