Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Start Again

It is funny and frustrating the path life takes you on. Or you take yourself on. Though sometimes the journey is necessary. I have taken the long way to essentially realize I need to do what I did nearly twenty years ago when I first started thinking about making some healthier choices. Back then, it was more to lose weight than be healthier because that’s what 20-something me worried more about. Now here I am, nearly forty, thinking more about health than weight. But also a bit of vanity is swirled in. Though it’s about 30% of it, rather than 99%+ of it.

Now I’m thinking about my blood pressure. I was put on a low dose last year for the first time. And feel like I could probably get back off, at least in the short term, if I lose a little weight and work on my endurance.

I’m also thinking about how much harder it is to start the more sedentary I become. Everything is harder now than when I was a similar weight in my twenties. How much harder will it be in three years? Ten years? Twenty? NOW is the easiest time to start.

I’m thinking about my distant future. What a future looks like for older people I know who have taken care of themselves and made health, diet and activity a priority, versus those who haven’t. Retirement definitely looks more fun when you’re mobile and aren’t lassoed with many health issues. I know NO path guarantees health. But some paths guarantee less freedom. I want to stack the cards in my favor and enjoy retirement.

I work on future planning at work, and some of this thought has made me want to develop a mission, vision, goals, strategies and an operating plan for ME. It is a bit nerdy, but successful businesses do it. Why can’t a successful person? And part of success is checking in. How can I figure out what I would like to do and check in on it?

Over the past year, through having a horrible experience with a coach I have realized.

  • No one knows me better than me
  • No one can ever learn or understand the whole of my experiences or my unique body
  • Coaches simply tell you to eat less and exercise more, and mostly are placating you when they listen. Not hearing, understanding or remembering anything.

I can do all of these things better. And I will see success on my own!

Hiring a Coach: My Worst Decision

Disclaimer: I know this is just my story. I have heard so many great stories about people who have hired coaches. Before I hired mine, I asked around and heard just as many not as loudly told stories to the contrary. But I wanted to believe it could be true, it would help. And maybe I just got a bad match in a great company. What I think is I got sold that a company I formerly trusted would have something different. It was just a sales job. And here’s the kicker. I lost so much ground, got hurt, lost all momentum, and GAINED weight. Yes, the weight I worked so hard to lose soooo slowly. All of it is back now. Plus some. It brings tears to my eyes.

This is my story.

So, I’d tried it all. Calorie counting, low car, keto, paleo, primal, autoimmune protocol, fasting. It’s been a terrible roller coaster where I lose some, gain more back. And now I’m at a point that even with extreme fad diets like keto and fasting, I barely lose, and I plateau quickly, then start gaining. Go off, gain more back.

So I’d quit fad diets. Beginning of last year that was my resolution. No more diets, start walking. And I did. And then I got dumb. About May I saw the ad. I was at a point I thought, I’d like to add something else in. But I’m bored with all the stuff I’ve already done. Maybe a coach could customize something for me. They even touted not doing diets, but customizing to your genetics, lifestyle and preferences. My genetics? How did I not know this was a scam? Someone kill me.

Anyway, I signed up, and I tried to explain my food issues. My tendencies to be obsessive and extreme. That I didn’t want to track calories because of this. So he has me take pictures of my food, then starts asking about my food. So then I get into this disordered eating shame space and try not to eat at all. I was miserable. Tired, frustrated because I knew I’d broken my resolution and spent this money and was ready to quit, and hungry. I was fucking hungry.

Called my mom. She told me to eat whatever I want. Then tell the coach I did and this isn’t working.

So I did.

It was like I’d talk and talk about my issues but he never seemed to “get” it. He’d prescribe workouts that were boring and slow progress and I could do them but they were so basic. After I’d said I was burnt out with weight lifting but whenhe asked if I could try again. Yeah, I can try whatever. I guess I paid for you. But the fitness was supposed to fit my interests. This wasn’t interesting. And the one thing I was enjoying, I now wasn’t doing to fit in these uninspired workouts. Did I have time to walk? Sure. But I was so overwhelmed with the eating situation, I didn’t want to walk. Or workout. And I wanted my money back.

And he wanted to check in though chat.

I did finally negotiate quick weekly calls. Only they were during work. I don’t want to meet during work. I don’t have an office. I have to go sit in my car because I’m not talking about diet and exercise and how I feel in a shared space. Only every single call i was on time, and he was late. Not like hours late. But five or ten minutes late. So I am sitting in my car for my entire lunch break WAITING for him to call. And then he’d say pretty basic stuff. I thought, well, maybe this is like therapy. People say therapists say the most obvious stuff. But it never helped. I still hated “reporting” my food to him, and now my head was in the “on or off” diet mode and if I was off, I was binging, and if I was on, I was starving. Which, by the way, I finally quit this mess in, I believe November, and I am STILL in this mode and can not get out of it. To say I’m full of regret is an understatement. I’ve gained fifteen pounds since then. I had to buy some bigger clothes. I’m miserable at this size.

And all I can think is, “If I had just kept doing what I was doing, I would have been fine,” why do we think we need help? We don’t. These coaches give us the very basic advice, only they don’t know us, and don’t really seem to want to. They give us workouts that are either easy to get going and don’t challenge you, or are way too hard. And have you do all of this pre-work – videos, answer questions, etc., then don’t really seem to do anything with that information. I know that walking is working, so I continue. That’s my only plan. To walk 2-4 miles 5-7 days a week. If I want to ride a bike instead, I will. Go to a cycle class, I do instead. Add in some weights, I do. Dance instead of walking because it’s raining? Great! Hit up kickboxing? Sounds fun today! Maybe I want to lift once or twice a week, so I do. Maybe some weeks I don’t left at all. If I want to go for a bike ride, I do.

I now appreciate my body’s capabilities. I try to challenge it some days, and other, enjoy the simplicity of the walk.

As for eating? I think partly it’s tied to the depression of the weight gain. I put on the workout clothes I bought this time lest year and the loose fighting stuff doesn’t fall as flatteringly. The leggings are too tight in the waist. My work clothes are less flattering. And I remind myself I’m not what I look like. And my value doesn’t come from my weight. And I keep saying it. And some days I eat fast food three times a day. Others, I crave steamed broccoli, chicken and roasted potatoes. I’m trying to be patient. To slowly get back where I was. To listen to ME because I was on the right path before, and I lost it by making someone else’s uneducated opinion a priority over mine.

I still have some nagging injuries I’m working on. But even those are slowly improving now. I try to say I don’t regret it because I’ve learned. Now I know:

1. Diets are only short term successful for me. If I want to think about my lifetime, I will NEVER go on a diet again. Ever. No matter what.

2. A coach doesn’t know me better than me. I’ve been doing this health stuff for nearly twenty years. I know my body, my needs, my brain better than anyone.

3. No matter what I look like, I’m worthy of love, acceptance and success. And if I never lose another pound, that’s ok.

4. I can be the best version of me at this weight I can be. Someone who is active, capable, strong, independent and compassionate with myself! And being the best me isn’t a destination. It is endless. I will stay active today, tomorrow, forever. Only goal is to keep moving.

Health Beyond Diet

This topic is a bit convoluted. Over the past several months since I quit the relationship with a coach because it wasn’t going anywhere but toxic, I have really been diving into my relationship with food. And finally I had to step back and ask, “Is there even such a thing as a healthy diet?” Is there even, universally, a diet or parts of a diet that are considered healthy?

My first instinct is fruits and vegetables. Though, keto alone says fruits aren’t healthy, and some vegetables aren’t. What is health? Macronutrients, micronutrients, vitamins, minerals, low carb, high protein, low calorie density? There is simply no one answer.

So what if there IS no answer?

As there isn’t one specific diet that’s ever worked for me long-term, what if I accept that as truth? Not with the intent of giving up, but with the intent of being the best version of me, independent of diet.

It is hard to find support of this approach, even on the Internet. Though I did find an answer on a Quora that came the closest. Giving the benefits of exercise independent of diet.

Three things that are promising:

  • Decrease risk of chronic disease/increases heart elasticity- the primary reason I’m trying to be health!
  • Improve mood and sleep/energy – two things I struggle with
  • Improves stress adaptation

I had a hard time choosing just three (and combined a few), and am bummed I left some off my list. So, that’s a pretty good argument for exercise. Plus, improving strength and endurance in general makes everyday life easier.

So why am I stuck on diet? Why am I stuck on weight loss? Weight loss doesn’t equal health, despite what many internet trolls say. I feel like I’ll be healthier, more agile, and more capable by focusing on exercise over diet, and I enjoy exercise more. I have plenty of workouts I look forward to, and lots of options for variety.

Diet, on the other hand, is letdown after letdown.

So I’m trying it. I’m not weighing. I’m not measuring. I’m just working out. I’m not over-eating, but not restricting and not trying to eat more or less of anything. It’s better than nothing, that’s for sure. Whether it’s the long-term solution is to be determined!

The Newcastle Diet – Day 5

Well, today was the easiest day by far. I’m short 100 calories for the day, and feel like I won’t eat them unless sudden hunger hits as I try to fall asleep. I’m one of those people who it can take awhile to fall asleep, and my hunger has been the worst in those moments on days 2 and 3. Last night I ate half f a protein bar right before crawling in bed and it helped. Tonight I’m not hungry at all and right now don’t plan to.

In fact today, I ate a later than normal lunch AND fasted through breakfast. I even had a protein bar more as a treat, because I wanted to try it (got some new ones today), and not after staving off hunger. It’s pretty freeing to not think about food all day long!

I was down 3.6 pounds this morning. I know a lot of that is glycogen stores water + less food in general in my body. But I can’t help but believe so few calories won’t result in weight loss.

My energy levels are good, surprisingly so. Though I haven’t tried lifting weights yet. Just a light 15-20 minute workout most days to keep moving. I’m trying to not be too obscene.

My only struggle is sleep, which is a struggle no matter the diet. I’m going to bed early tonight and hoping for a rested day tomorrow.

So far, this might be the best diet I’ve ever been on! I’ve been thinking a lot about how I’ll transition off, which I guess is the biggest trick with this diet. And I haven’t decided, yet. Right now I imagine staying high protein and veggies with some treats a few days a week. I strangely haven’t even had any cravings so far! I told myself if I were insane hungry I’d eat one big meal Saturday and carry on. Right now I have no reason to eat more.

I’ll keep checking in!

The Newcastle Diet – Day Three

Well, I’m on day three. Day two, evening was the worst. Maybe because it was day two, and I had to work for the first time. Maybe because it was the day before my period. Day three has been, generally, a breeze. We’ve reached the evening, I haven’t had dinner, yet, and feel like it will be a far better evening than yesterday.

I am getting about 90-95 grams of protein per day, and 25-30g fiber. I’ve even had energy to do short workouts each day. I’d love to get to a point I feel like I have the energy to do a strength workout to further increase my muscle maintenance. I’m worried those workouts will spike my appetite, though.

I have been drinking a ton of water, so I’ve been peeing like crazy! I don’t drink the water because I’m thirsty, but more because it’s taking the place of eating. My strange treat today was eating raw carrots, which sounds silly. But they were so satisfying. I’ll take more to work tomorrow.

I’ve also still been playing with veggie soups. I haven’t quite found the holy grail, yet. And some soups have been mostly inedible, haha. But some haven’t been terrible. I’ve also purchased more protein powder and bars, as I want to have powder that isn’t too chalky and separates less.

I’ve also considered the potential of working some actual meat into the diet, and what that might look like. It’s definitely more work, and it would be small servings, but if I craving meat, is it a bad idea? It seems like it would be ok. I also ended up with a huge serving of soup tonight that let me add some cheese, which I have been craving more than anything. So I’m sprinkling some cheese on my soup and living like a queen.

The first milestone I want to see is comfortable in size sixteen jeans again. I can put them on, but I have a decent muffin top. So to feel comfortable wearing them for a whole day will be a good accomplishment.

I also have my first restaurant challenge tomorrow. Luckily, I was able to find simple, steamed broccoli and a chicken breast on their menu, and it won’t throw me off, really at all!

So far, I like this FAR better than full on fasting. I also love it leaps and bounds over keto. I can’t even explain how much. I have moments of hunger, but on keto, it was constant hunger, and I only lost water weight and some fat, but so, so, so, so slow (about a pound a month). And that was probably more because I realized I couldn’t just keep eating because I was hungry. In this case, I have snacks as low as 30 calories, or I eat half a protein bar, or some soup packets that are 70 calories. It’s just a lot of low calorie, high protein, high fiber food. All. Day. Long. It’s far, far easier, so far, than even eating in moderation but trying to control calories, which seems insane.

I do think my body likes lower fat better than higher fats. And I have said before that lots of veggies and lean meats was kind of my way to success but I was letting “fat is good” diet talk with paleo and keto get in my head. So what if low fat was a fad of the past? If lower fat foods work for me, then I need to accept that.

I’ll see if I feel the same next week, and a month from now, and two months from now. But I am trying to be aware of what’s working because I’ll need to find a lifelong approach that works for me!

The Newcastle Diet – Starting and Why

I’ve decided to give The Newcastle Diet a try. It’s a bit extreme, so let me tell you why. I’m not diabetic. But I’m sure I’m not a terrible way off if I keep gaining weight. I’ve been having tons of sweets cravings lately, and simply doing moderate or slightly lowering calories wasn’t working. Over the past two years I’ve done two things that have helped me lose some weight:

  1. Keto
  2. Fasting

And I don’t mean intermittent fasting, which I found didn’t work at all. And I was endlessly miserable, similar to lowering calories. I mean a full-on fast. I lost a great amount of weight in two weeks, mostly water, and when all was said and done, kept off 6-8 pounds. That weight is still off.

After that stabilized and I couldn’t lose anymore, I dabbled in keto. I lost water plus some fat on that, but was endlessly hungry, and never had that energy surge. I had trouble with constipation and found the restriction on veggies to be, quite frankly, dumb. After I plateaued for almost two months, I lost interest. Once the water weight came back, I maintained for awhile, then started to gain back.

Next I tried simply walking. I walked every single day, usually for 40-60 minutes, and tried to work on emotional eating. I lost some of the keto weight again, but again stalled. So I started to wonder, what if I use extreme diets to lose some weight, come off the diet, stabilize, then move onto a new extreme diet? Whatever that is. And instead of doing it once per year, just keep consistently working to not gain back, and slowly tick away at weight loss.

The Newcastle Diet is a very low calorie (800 calories total) diet. They used shakes for 600 calories, then allow for 200 calories of non-starchy veggies, and that’s it. I chose it because low carb, high fat did NOT work for me for appetite. And I needed some fiber for regular stools. When I try to cut calories, I often do it by cutting fat. Extra fat makes me feel sick to my stomach.

When I fasted, I lost muscle. This diet attempts to retain as much muscle as possible by going high protein. Those who participated, after 3-4 days, claimed their appetites leveled off, and it might be some combination of what happens when you fast longer term (first few days suck, then you adapt and hunger comes in short bursts you can outlast, intermittent fasting, for me, was essentially the worst few days over and over and over, and when I adapted, I never lost weight, I just ate more during the eating widow), as well as all of the fiber from the veggies.

Instead of only doing shakes, which I am doing, I’m also adding in high protein soups, which will give me a savory option. And then protein bars when shakes (which are only an option for me at home) and hot water for soup aren’t convenient. Then I’m planning to adjust veggie options each week. Maybe some roasted veggies, or soups with veggies, or simply raw veggies to chew.

At this point, my plan is to go 6-12 weeks. I haven’t decided if I will be strict the entire time or give an option for an off meal once a week. Sometimes an off meal gives me a compromise so I stick to it longer term. Sometimes I’ll go a few weeks then really need a one meal break. If I do one meal, I usually bounce back. Longer than a day (a whole weekend) is often hard to recover from. So, I’m leaving that option open. Though I’d like to make it through the month of March, if possible, without a break. I WILL allow myself some berries if I really want berries. Or even a small amount of potato. It seems silly to quit entirely if fruits or veggies are what I want!

So, there it is! I started today. 217 pounds for those keeping track. My goal “weight” is actually a pants size. I’m kind of between 18s (wearing most of my 18 jeans) and 16 (wearing 16 dress pants). So first goalpost is 16 jeans. Then 14 dress pants. And we’ll see how it goes! I ave a small headache and am kind of fussy, but otherwise, not terrible!

Finding Motivation and Inspiration Through Trial and Error

I’ve been struggling with finding inspiration to BE healthy. And I don’t mean that in a fad diet way, or an extreme way. Rather, I mean it in the same way I make decisions about money, career, and even relationships. I’m able to see the long game, and make decisions today that are healthy for the future. I don’t spend my entire paycheck, I save, without question. It isn’t painful at all, and doesn’t seem like I’m sacrificing. I do the work today without knowing if I’ll even be here to enjoy it in the future.

Same with career. I make sacrifices today in hopes of a better tomorrow – whether that’s a raise (preferred!), promotion, or even more autonomy or being involved in stuff I enjoy, now or in the future. I’d say the career path is harder, as there’s not always a concrete end result. Doing good work, especially as a woman, NEVER guarantees success tomorrow. And I don’t mean that in a victim way. Just that I watch men effortlessly (and without much commitment) get promoted, while the women around me struggle and grind more. But it’s life. It’s unintentional, and I can’t change it. so I roll with it.

Even in relationships, I’m able to look at a situation and determine quickly that some things aren’t worth arguing over or being right just to be right. Or that I won’t take offense to something when my friend is just that way. I see the big picture. I still want to be friends, so I let a lot of things slide for the long-term of the relationship. On the other hand, I’m also good at saying, “This relationship doesn’t benefit me, why do I continue with it?” and sever that relationship. I don’t want EVERYONE to like me. And don’t mind if they disagree or think I’m uncool. I have a good set of friends I feel lucky to have, and I spend time taking care of those relationships today.

So why do I struggle so much with health? Do I like eating more than I like spending money, calling in sick to work or slacking at work, or even being right or putting myself before relationships? I know I don’t do everything right with money, career or friends, but those areas of my life are super successful. Why can’t I care that over to moderate success in health?

I have been trying to find a better fit this past year, and I think part of my issue is depression (which I tend to eat through). Not debilitating but enough that food does bring me pleasure when other things aren’t. And anxiety affects my sleep cycle, which affects my hunger and give a damn. Fatigue also affects other parts of my personal life, mostly my organization at home, which plays directly into some of my food choices. But I’d say by and large, I simply can’t get into a groove I can maintain with eating “well” (whatever that means). Though I’ve done better with working out.

This year I’ve made walking a priority. It’s low impact, low energy requirement, and I’ve even found it’s a huge stress relief. But it’s time-consuming, and I only like to walk outside, so weather can impact my success.

I’ve posted before about being a huge fan of The Firm and Cathe. I do their workouts still (been a fan since the early 2000s). And over the past two years have found some great, encouraging, supportive social media groups of people who are fans of the same workouts. And I’ve actually found The Firm groups to be the most down to earth and long-thinking of ANY diet or exercise group I’ve been a part of. But it feels like time moves so fast. Those in the groups are slowly moving through their lives, intentionally. But I blink and the day’s over and I haven’t done as much as I’d like.

I’ve complicated the matter by purchasing a year with an online coach. I love the coach. He doesn’t try to get me to adhere to HIS diet and workout routine. He and I work together to try to figure out what works for me. I try to tell myself this is going to be good for long-term me, but so far my weight loss is minimal and I still feel lost. But I’m going to carry on until the year is up, in hopes I’ll come out the other side with a clearer outlook. So far, I can say, having someone to check in with has made me very consistent in workouts. And I feel somewhat stronger, but I can’t help thinking if I had somehow just said, “I want to walk, maybe work on jogging, maybe do some gym classes and add in workout videos when I want” I might be in a better place strength-wise. His strength workouts he gives me don’t seem to do a lot for building actual strength. And I don’t get the same sweaty burn (and after-glow) I do with Cathe or The Firm. It could just be at my age I won’t feel the same I have in the past. Or maybe I’m just uninspired.

My eating is a roller coaster. I’m trying to be VERY aware of over-eating. Why am I doing it? Is it because the food was good? If so, why? Is it because I’m sad/stressed? If so, does over-eating help? But I just can’t seem to make my revelations carry forward from day to day. And I know the eating is what’s hindering weight loss. But I also REFUSE to go back into a restricting cycle. I want to enjoy eating, but not have eating control me. Idon’ want to count calories and feel ashamed if I eat more than whatever my arbitrary limit is. Or have to make up for it with exercise.

Then again, I DESPERATELY want to be two sizes smaller!

I’ve been working through an intuitive eating workbook. Some sections and chapters are more helpful than others. One I’ve really enjoyed and think has helped is honoring what SOUNDS good. Not (well, probably sometimes) just as an excuse to eat whatever I want. But sometimes pasta sauce sounds really good. And I explore whether it’s actual pasta I want (or pizza as they’re similar cravings). Or maybe it’s the sauce itself. If so, what sounds good with the sauce? In the past, I would often just order pizza or pasta. But over the past few months, I’ve found I want pasta sauce with chicken. So I’ll make up a crusted chicken (I also have found I often crave textures, and crunch is a huge one for me), and eat that with pasta sauce and a salad. Kind of like a parmesan chicken. Other times, the WANT for pizza is overwhelming. And I TRY not to judge it, though I’ve found I judge so many things I want, and just order the pizza and eat what I want.

If I get in a judgement space, I find I eat MORE. I eat like, “this is the last time I’ll do this for awhile.” If I tell myself, “This is delicious. I can have this whenever I want” I find I eat less pizza right then AND order it less often. It is SO HARD to stay in the non-judging space, though. But I think that’ll be a key to success.

This past chapter I’ve been working through is being aware of hunger signals, which has been MADDENING for me. I struggle with wanting to eat as a distraction. And thinking about food leading up to a meal in itself is a distraction. If I think about what I’ve brought for lunch, it’s less interesting and distracting than talking about all of the POSSIBLE foods I can eat, and discussing them with a co-worker. I haven’t sorted how to deal with this, yet. But I do know it’s a root of part of the problem.

I’ve also found I want to eat lunch for a break. Meaning, it’s near lunchtime, I can eat and take a break from work. I’ve actually found boredom to be a strange nagging thing in my life recently. When I was in school last year, I found myself mid-final exam wanting to get out my phone and scroll because I was bored taking a test! I think with a lot of the technology in place now, and messaging being fast, fragmented, short blurbs, I struggle with focus and attention on things. To try to counter that I’ve tried to limit my time on social media, and tried to get back into reading. It’s definitely a struggle. And progress is SLOW.

Later in the same chapter, which I finally moved on because I felt like I wasn’t getting much out of these exercises, there is talk about honoring your hunger. If you’re hungry when it’s “too soon” treat it like if you have to go to the bathroom after you’ve just gone. Honor the hunger, and don’t try to shame or ignore or distract yourself from it. I’m going to try that this week along with still honoring what I’m hungry for and why, and being aware of over-eating, while also trying to work on improving focus and not distracting during boredom.

So many things to do! On the workout front, I did purchase a Cathe On Demand subscription because she has a really cool workout blender you can put workouts together with segments of ALL of her fantastic workout library. I’m going to use it to build workouts around the strength workouts my coach gave me so I can still do his workouts and try to get that sweaty afterglow I’m missing!

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