Posted on February 1, 2014 by Jennifer Lilley
Ah. The seven year itch. Yes, the movie. But also a phrase applied to the rest of us in real life that’s embraced by shrinks and Cliché Clingers, associated with waning commitment levels. You know: roving eyes and temptations galore after being so lovey-dovey and “good” for so darn long.
February 2014 marks my seventh year (yay, me!!) of keeping the 70 pounds I lost in 2007 off. It’s taken a lot of effort to be good and fight off bad-for-me temptations during those, oh, I don’t know . . . , 2,555 days. Whew. So, I can relate to the seven year itch theory . . . with a weight loss spin.
You better believe I’ve given chocolate cakes the “you know I want you” once-over, fighting hard to resist temptation. Heck, there was a time I would have devoured the entire cake in one sitting. No joke. I’ve smiled coyly at a bag of potato chips over the past seven years, looking but not touching, now not even looking, no longer fascinated with the “cheesy” lure. No. Just no.
My Weight Loss Highs and Lows over Seven Years – Top 3 Things I’ve Learned
Keeping my weight off for seven years has come with its share of ups and downs.
My most exciting ups, besides reaching (and staying within) my 130 pound goal weight range and being healthy again, included my appearance in several national magazine ads for the Medifast meal plan, the plan that helped me initially shed those pounds in six short months. Then there was the 2012 in-studio CBS Evening News interview in New York City, where discussions about how I’ve kept my pounds down on my own (no diets, no fads, no surgeries, nope, not even Spanx) ensued.
At my worst? I packed my scale in the suitcase during a vacation and for a period, went through a Fear the Calorie phase that ultimately led me to make peace with food, not ketosis. Fuel, not foe.
Throughout it all, I’ve gained a growing love of and interest in all things exercise, nutrition and wellness. So, here I am, the person who is not a “gain it back stat” itching to tell you what I’ve learned in these past seven years.
1. You Can Have Your Cake & Eat it Too (This one took me a while)
Yes, indeed. You can eat cake, even the quadruple layer kind that oozes with chocolate goodness, and still keep the weight off. It’s all about balance. During my Fear the Calorie phase, I admittedly lost track of that concept, caught up in my svelte new me, terrified that eating anything even remotely “bad for me” would pack the pudge back on, as if one bite would instantly dump 70 pounds on my body. Along the way, though, I realized the absurdity of this.
I have friends who have also won the weight loss battle, continuing to inspire me with pictures of themselves in dresses they probably never imagined fitting in as well as pictures of their homemade cupcakes. Wait. Cupcakes? The same lady in that dress? She eats cupcakes and keeps the weight off? Yes. My friends, it’s all about balance. Have that slice of pizza, just be careful about the “finishing it off with a pint of ice cream” part.
The book, Eat Fat, Lose Fat by Dr. Mary Enig and Sally Fallon, played a large role in helping me reverse my thinking, easing me from the “low or no-fat is best for me” mindset I put myself in. Frequent grumpy moments and irrational thoughts no doubt set me in motion as well because my silly, self-made food rules became tiring after a while. The book focuses on coconut oil (which I absolutely adore, by the way), but I applied its overall concept to my ways of eating, gradually introducing the things that I used to shun. Gradually, I started to eat breads (which at one point I abandoned completely) and nuts (ditto. These days, I’m wild about walnuts and Brazil nuts). Truffles? Oh yes. I make them “clean” though, using the likes of black beans, raw honey and you guessed it – coconut oil.
The oil is wonderful, FYI, with benefits from keeping weight in check to improving skin. I have a jar in my pantry and one in the medicine cabinet.
2. Be Kind to Yourself – Love the (Loose) Skin You’re in
Unless you have oodles of money (and the desire) for surgery to get your skin as taut as your before-the-weight-gain days, there’s always going to be the issue of excess skin.
Those seeing the glass half full say their hanging, leftover parts of skin are reminders of where they were, a way of staying in touch with the “old them” which never completely goes away. It’s a bittersweet notion that doesn’t bother them at all.
Those seeing the glass half empty say, “Great. I’ve come so far and lost so much weight and now look at me. I’m more of a freak show than when I was fat.”
I’ve learned that yes, the entire physical transformation can do a number on us. I have curves and a silhouette and bones I never knew I had. Energy that’s out of this world. And yes indeed, some excess skin and stretch marks to go along with it. But look at what I’ve accomplished! I feel great, have vastly improved my health and have more confidence. So, I prefer to relish in that, not wallow in silly stretch mark misery. Besides, I joke and like to refer to them as my “wild streaks.” We all have one or two, right?
Don’t beat yourself up with “yeah, but if I hadn’t gained weight in the first place, I wouldn’t have this extra skin” nonsense and make peace.
What’s done is done. Be kind to yourself.
3. You are more than Your Weight (and Weight Loss)
When you lose weight, it becomes such a life focus that it seems to completely take over. I’m not talking about our excitement of hitting the gym and eating more veggies. That kind of life focus is the good part. I’m talking about the people around us and many times, the negative focus.
Through the years, whether at work, social functions or while shopping, friends feel compelled to talk about weight. And weight. And weight. It’s as if they’ve forgotten other interests of mine (or theirs), or for whatever reason feel the need to keep my weight loss ball rolling. Not to say I don’t appreciate it or understand their intent (at times) and enjoy it immensely, because I do. My friends and family have been wonderful, asking for tips, expressing words of encouragement . . . and that’s the good part, the wonderful aspect of losing weight that I enjoy to this day. Inspiring others and talking about health is terrific.
What I don’t enjoy is the extreme focus on appearance-related matters. That, I can do without. The critical, comparing eyes and comments that fuel our commercials, sitcoms and even supermarkets, heavily focused on appearance. You see, just because I lost weight does not mean that, in the middle of a store, I appreciate a friend’s “oh my goodness, Jen . . . look at the woman’s huge butt” comment. The need to point out that a person in a store is overweight is not only as obvious as saying “look, there’s a shopping cart in the store” (no kidding, I can see that) but more so, it’s insulting and needless. I mean, maybe the person just lost 50 pounds and are on their way to a fitness goal. Maybe they’re on medication that happens to cause weight gain. Perhaps their dog died and they’re finding comfort in pizza and ice cream. Let them be.
Let’s talk about more pertinent issues related to weight loss: improved health and happiness, our newfound sense of well-being, the importance of nutrition in our lives, the thrill of tennis or our enjoyment of a treadmill. And let’s talk less about People’s “Sexiest Man of the Year” or of bouncy, busting celebs turned youthless, dimple-derriered fatsos.
You are more than your weight loss. Remember that you did it for your health, and sure, while your appearance changes, it’s not all about the hot bod comparison silliness. Now that I’ve kept the weight off, I’m focused not as focused on how my new dress fits as I am on feeling great about the particular nutrients that are keeping my body fit and healthy. That’s what really matters.
What I’m Doing These Days
So, after all this time, where am I at today?
Enjoying New Kinds of Exercise: These days, I’m having fun discovering new ways of eating and exercising. While I belong to a gym (shout out to Planet Fitness, the “judgment free zone”), I’m finding new ways to enjoy exercise like playing around with the snow shoes my boyfriend and I bought on a whim a few months ago. We don’t get all Artic Adventurer on ourselves; trust me, just running, er, trudging through the snow in our yard after our first storm definitely got my heart rate up.
I Gave up Artificial Sweeteners: I gave up artificial sweeteners in 2013, writing about it in my other Flabby Road blog, “Practicing Safe Sugar.” It’s just not healthy, although the no-calorie lure with the bonus of a sweet taste was perfect for me. Or so I thought. It’s filled with chemicals known to harm our bodies and throw our brains out of whack. So, if I feel the need for sweetness, I use foods like raw honey or raw sugar.
More Superfoods & Juicing, Less Meat: As for food, I like to say I “play with my food.” In other words, I like to mix things up. Remember: balance.
Lately, I’ve been very interested in cleaner eating and superfoods, happily scooping a teaspoon of raw hemp seeds straight from the bag into my mouth or making truffles with black beans and raw cocoa. I also enjoy juicing on occasion to give my body a powerful blast of healthy goodness in a cup. Beets, oranges and carrots are my favorite combo by the way. I love beets!
Occasional juicing has also become favorite way of eating for me. I’m a fan of the red fruits and veggies like beets, gala apples and watermelon.
I’ve also cut way back on meat: from the deli counter, on the grill, in the oven. I’m at the point, where, for about three days of the week, I swap chicken and steak dinners for omelets filled with green peppers, shallots and mushrooms, topped with feta cheese and seasoned with dill. Ah, dill. Another one of my favorites! I avoid meats throughout the day as well, not just at dinner. I snack on bananas, raw rutabaga drizzled with olive oil and fresh lemon juice, mix chia seeds in my yogurt and enjoy hot chocolate made with ingredients that include cocoa powder, raw honey, almond milk and cinnamon. My favorite meal by far has been cabbage (yes, cabbage!), which I slice thick and lightly coat with virgin olive oil, garlic and pepper, then bake. It’s filling and so healthy!
I’m Cooking More: My enjoyment of eating healthy has become about makingmeals and drinks just as much as consuming them. My boyfriend and I were recently given Cooking with Trader Joe’s: Gluten-Free as a gift and have tried several recipes from the book. Before that, I was reading Olivia Newton John’s book, Livwise: Easy Recipes for a Healthy, Happy Life, often incorporating many of the foods she mentions in my own meals: chickpeas, cashews and raspberries to name just a few.
I even submitted my own recipe to Sunflower Natural Foods (Laconia, NH), a local health food store that put a Community Cookbook together in 2013. My recipe, “Perfect Portion Egg Medley” is in the cookbook. Proceeds, all 100% of them, went towards local food pantries and organizations.
I Meditate: No, I’m not doing downward-dog poses at the crack of dawn while I balance my chakras (although I do believe in them, the power of positive thinking, energy and the importance—and need—for human connection). However, my entire weight loss journey has helped me focus on what is important: good health. Being happy. Feeling whole. Enjoying and playing with food, not fearing it. Appreciating the small things. Appreciating the big things.
I start the day with a glass of water (no lemon, no honey . . . just water, pure and simple). Then I’m on to less than five minutes of simple stretches, toe-touches and push-ups to get me energized, at times observing the birds from the window as they enjoy the seed from the feeder. I like to think of how happy they must be, nourishing their bodies with goodness, even if they are fending off the occasional squirrel in the process.
I notice more and critique less (about myself and others), and always give thanks for the availability of nutritious foods and the role play in creating my healthier body. I’m more in tune to the mind-body-food connection, more discouraged by hot shot food industries, big pharma and greed, and instead, very thankful for those (many of whom I work with) who put the spotlight on healthy, natural choices. Bravo.
So to everyone struggling with weight, happily losing weight or successfully maintaining their new weight: We’re in this together. I understand your highs and lows: the “wow” moments and the victories as well as the frustrations, temptations and “itches.” In the end, it’s a journey filled with hope, joy and determination, one that propels us to move forward mentally, physically and spiritually.
Here’s to the journey and a life filled with healthy choices.
©Copyright 2011-2014, Jennifer Lilley, FlabbyRoad.com, Flabby Road and Flabby Road: Moving on & Leaving the Elastic Waistbands Behind. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jennifer Lilley and Flabby Road with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
Jennifer Lea Reynolds
Jennifer Lea Reynolds is a weight loss success story who enjoys living a healthy lifestyle. A fan of the elliptical, roasted asparagus and remembering to put the lid on the blender, she’s appeared in many national and local print publications. She lives in New England where she writes professionally about health and wellness in online publications including U.S. News & World Report, Reader's Digest, Woman's Day, The Huffington Post, and more.