That before picture at the top of this post was taken on my last baby’s blessing day. I remember going to our house afterward for a luncheon and I asked my mom to see the pictures she took of all of us. I had to leave the room. Have you ever had that moment when you don’t recognize yourself? I thought, “I didn’t look like that this morning in the mirror.” I knew weight didn’t just fall off of me after having a baby. This was my 7th child and I knew how my body loved to hold on to that baby weight. I also had to remember that 6 weeks after having a baby my hormones are still all over the place and I’m exhausted and emotional. Still, seeing that picture of myself made me realize that I had some serious work I wanted to do. My sweet father followed me into the living room and asked what was wrong. I told him, through my tears, how embarrassed I was at how I looked. He lovingly asked me, “Would you trade your children for the body you used to have before kids?” Of course not! And it is true, I know many woman who struggle getting pregnant, staying pregnant and having children. I know women who wanted nothing more than to hold their own baby in their arms, and will not have that blessing in this life. I am so grateful for the sons and daughters we have. We have been happy to welcome each child into our home and can’t imagine our life without any one of them. So, I don’t want to be misunderstood, I am grateful to have those sweet children. They were worth every stretch mark, pound gained, and morning, day and night sickness that I experienced. I’d do it again in a heartbeat! I also want to acknowledge that my husband has told me everyday of our marriage how beautiful I am and that he loves me, seriously, everyday. It makes me laugh sometimes, I can be in sweats with greasy hair and baby spit up on my shoulder and he walks in from work and asks the kids, “Guys, isn’t mom beautiful?” The best part about it is, he means it! I love him. He’s never made one comment or suggestion that I lose weight or get in better shape, he loves all of me and for who I am. I love him for that and for so many other reasons and I know how blessed I am to have him.
That all being said, I wanted to feel great again! I wanted the energy to keep up with my kids, to feel confident and feel like myself again. I want to live to 100 years old and see my children have children and be a healthy, active grandma. I want to be there for their recitals, programs, plays, games and concerts. I want to know my grandchildren and make memories with them. I want to do everything I can to avoid type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. I want to avoid the health problems that occur naturally from being obese. It was time to get serious. I knew I was done having children and I was ready to have confidence and to love wearing clothes again.
It took a year and half to lose the first 40 pounds. For 18 months I moved more each week. This meant waking up a couple times a week at 5:45 a.m. and meeting my friend outside to walk for an hour before my family needed me. I also said no to MOST desserts. I’d have a small treat once a week. I was trying to eat better, making healthier food choices and I wouldn’t eat after 7 at night. There were times that I’d plateau and see not progress for weeks at a time. There were times of weight gain because I stopped eating the way I should. But I kept at it. It felt good to see results and I reminded myself that although it was slow, it was progress that I could maintain and keep off.
After 18 months I had a friend on Facebook share her health journey and a before and after picture. I was amazed by her progress and she said she is a health coach and would love to help anyone that wanted to get healthy. I reached out to her and started the Optavia program (previously called, Take Shape For Life). The program uses Medifast and Optavia foods. I ate 6 times a day and my energy was way up. My blood sugar was stable and I felt so good. Another benefit was I stopped having headaches. I have had headaches since I was a teenager. Before starting the program I was taking medicine for headaches about 5 days a week. I remember being 2 weeks into it and thinking, “I haven’t had a headache for 2 weeks!” My health coach was so supportive and incredible. She reached out to me often and was always available to answer any questions I had. She taught me so much and I lost 18 pounds in 8 weeks. After one week, my husband also started the program and he lost 28 pounds in 8 weeks!! One of the great benefits for him was being able to run again. He has arthritis in his ankle and it bothered him most days, and made running, which he really enjoyed before, impossible. His arthritis pain has gone away and we just ran a 10k together, 6 miles! I believe so much of his arthritic relief came from the lack of excess sugar, which causes inflammation. It was so motivating to see the weight and inches decrease so quickly! Our bodies were burning fat instead of excess sugars as we kept ourselves in a mild, dietary ketosis state (fat burn). Below are the before and after pictures of these 8 weeks on the Optavia program.
Can you believe the difference 18 pounds makes? And to get there in 8 weeks was awesome. I am so grateful for the Optavia program and I don’t regret doing the it for one minute. I’m grateful for the success and knowledge we gained, but for expense reasons and wanting more fresh food options we stopped the program. After about 4 weeks of eating the Medifast and Optavia fuelings, I started wondering if I could make my own meals, which would be approximately the same calories, grams of carbs and proteins. So after 2 months we started eating the meals I had calculated to keep us in a ketonic state but have more options. We continued to lose and it was so nice to have more food options. I have lost 8 pounds from eating the meals which I created to keep my calories, grams of carbs and proteins where the program had me.
Let me share what I learned during my weight loss journey and specific guidelines that brought us success.
- This book , Dr. A’s Habits of Health is the most helpful book I’ve ever read on health and diet and exercise. I read most of it before starting the Optavia program and it all made so much sense to me. I learned about sugar’s effects on our bodies, blood sugar levels and insulin, the importance of exercise and he includes an eating plan, which gave me the idea of making my own, go-to meals.
- Eat within 30 minutes of waking up. (60 minutes if you are on thyroid medicine) This gets your metabolism going and is like throwing a log on a dying fire, your body wakes up and starts burning and doing its thing. If you will keep your grams of carbs and grams of proteins under 90 a day each, you will keep yourself in mild dietary ketosis (fat burn). I learned that fat is a high energy fuel source, which explains the high amount of energy I felt after day three, once my body had burned off the excess glycogen stores and started burning my fat instead. I shoot for approximately 12-15 grams of carbs, 12-15 grams of proteins and about 150 calories in each of these 5 small meals/snacks. I eat every 3 hours and I eat 4 of them before dinner and 1 a few hours after dinner. Dinner is made up of about 8 oz of lean protein and 2 cups of veggies and some healthy fat.
- Eat small meals often, every 2-3 hours. This keeps your blood sugar from dropping too low and helps avoid cravings, especially the cravings of simple carbohydrates like sugar, and white bread. It also prevents getting so hungry that we binge, stuffing ourselves with food, our blood sugar spikes and then crashes and we repeat the cycle.
- Drink TONS of water! I used a large, 24 oz. water bottle and filled it up 5 times a day. You’ve heard people say, take your weight in pounds, divide it by 2 and that is how many ounces you need to drink everyday. I say shoot for 100+ oz a day. I know it is a lot of water, and you’ll be heading to the restroom like you are in the first trimester of pregnancy, but it is so good for our bodies, and it helps flush all sorts of things out. A few days into this I realized I have lived most of my life being dehydrated. I bet this helped with my headaches too.
- Sugar is the culprit and it is addictive. I know, isn’t that terrible!! It tastes SO good. It is also in EVERYTHING in America. It is in ketchups, breads, yogurts, pasta sauces, dressings, sauces, etc. Not to mention all the cookies, candy, ice cream, cakes, and doughnuts! But if it is addicting then it makes sense that the food companies add it to their products right? It makes things taste good and we’ll want more of it. The other day my doctor told me it is the most addictive substance in America. I knew all of this before, but it took the 8 weeks of no sugar to realize how great I feel without it before I realized how poorly I feel with it. I am not anti-sugar, but I do limit my intake to a treat a week. My husband and I try to stick to one dessert on Sundays. My children eat less of it because I have made small changes in what I buy and bring home from the grocery store, but they still get more than enough at home, in lunches, at school, scouts, after game snacks, church functions, etc. What I found interesting is all the ways our health improved from eliminating most sugar from our diets including, arthritis, headaches, joints, sick stomachs, and digestion. Each time I go crazy and eat more sugar than I should I feel sluggish and yucky, I get headaches and stomach aches and think to myself “My body tells me in about 20 different ways that excess sugar is not good for me.”
- I have heard many times over the years that weight loss is 80% eating healthy food and 20% exercise. From my experience it is more like 90% eating right. We all know that exercise and strength training is vital for our over all well being. Plus, the more muscle you have the more calories you body has to burn, because it takes more energy to maintain muscle than fat. Exercise is good for our hearts, muscles, bones, mental health, helps prevent injuries, lengthens lives and a million other reasons. While all of this is true, I would work out, go on a long run, walk, bike, do a workout video, do strength training and still had a very hard time getting any weight off. I would work hard, but not change my eating habits and I’d sabotage myself and hard work with poor food choices. It has been my experience that weight loss comes from eating well; eating complex and healthy carbohydrates, getting plenty of lean protein every few hours, lots of vegetables and avoiding most sugar. Exercise helps, especially maintain the weight loss and I attribute it to maintaining my weight loss over the summer of vacations, holidays, birthdays, and wanting a cold treat on a hot day.
- If possible, find someone to either make these changes with you, or someone to whom you can be accountable. I cannot tell you how helpful it was that my husband was doing this along with me and I had a health coach checking in on me.
- Keep in mind, this is going to be hard, if not, everyone would already have the body they want. It will take sacrifices. You are going to want the unhealthy stuff, because you know it tastes good. You may not like low carb, seed bread as much as you like thickly sliced white bread with lots of butter or mayo on it. Is fat free greek yogurt with a little honey in it as yummy as greek yogurt with the sweetened fruit in it, probably not. Would you rather eat a cheeseburger with a bun than a veggie burger, yes. And will you be tempted to eat the starchy side dish you are serving your children with dinner, of course. But I promise lots of little changes will make a huge difference and it gets WAY easier, especially when you start seeing results. In moments of real temptation, think how excited you’ll be to wear those favorite jeans that are still in your closet, without a muffin top!
Let me share with you some simple ideas and easy choices and adjustments that I use to keep me on track.
- Have a dinner that consists of a lean protein and lots of vegetables
- Before you get started, get rid of all your cookies, chocolate and junk food so it won’t be there staring at you when you get bored or snacky and look in the pantry
- Make Protein Hot Chocolate for an indulgent treat that is shame free
- Use spaghetti squash instead of pasta
- 1 corn tortilla loaded with meat and veggies instead of a flour tortilla
- Whole Wheat pasta
- Brown rice
- Leave the food in the kitchen, not on the table where you’ll be tempted to eat seconds
- When plating your dinner, take up 1/2 the plate with veggies
- Deconstruct casseroles. For example, turn chicken and broccoli casserole with cheese and cream of chicken soup into a grilled chicken breast and steamed broccoli with a small amount cheese sprinkled on top of the broccoli.
- Whole grain and seed bread
- Open face sandwiches, with one slice of cheese or low fat cream cheese, lean turkey or ham and veggies like lettuce, tomato and red onion
- Baked, not fried
- Grill, bake or poach your protein
- Use a nonstick pan to reduce oil
- Cook with olive oil or avocado oil for their healthy fats
- Use a little low-sugar ketchup
- Light salad dressings
- Whole grain and seed tortilla chips
- Rice crackers
- Lite string cheese or a pickle for a snack
- Have a tray of cut up veggies in the fridge for quick snacks
- Boil a dozen eggs and keep them in the fridge for a healthy, quick snack
- Almonds and pistachios are a healthy snack, I especially love the almonds that are dusted in a little cocoa
- Choose broth based soups over cream based
- Stir fry protein and veggies with ginger and garlic and sprinkle a little soy sauce over them. If you want rice, use brown rice or riced cauliflower.
- Make a salad for dinner, adding some seeds and protein like boiled eggs and sliced chicken, to lots of veggies and lettuce.
- Choose half a baked yam sprinkled with a little cinnamon instead of potatoes.
- Use low fat sour cream
- Use plain greek yogurt in place of sour cream, your family will NEVER know, mine didn’t and I first tried it right on top of their tacos!
- Buy lean ground beef
- Instead of ground beef in any recipe use ground turkey or chicken, especially in dishes that are in a sauce, like spaghetti, sloppy joes, or seasoned with taco seasoning, they’ll never know
- Make homemade pizzas with part skim mozzarella and whole wheat pizza crust, loaded with veggies and turkey pepperoni or sausage
- Use a whole romaine leaf as your taco shell, load it up. SO yummy!
- Make taco salad without the chips, using seasoned ground turkey and greek yogurt instead of sour cream
- Drink 16 oz of water before each meal
- Take a probiotic to aid in digestion
- Take a multivitamin each day
- When dining out, ask the waiter to not bring out the bread or chips, avoiding the temptation altogether OR ask that it be brought out with your dinner, you will eat way less of them this way
- Sprinkle seeds on your salad for a crunch, instead of croutons
- Ask a friend or spouse to go off sugar with you for 30 days. This helps you say no, when you know someone else is counting on you and they are doing the same
- When faced with a dessert that is a rare treat, like on your birthday or your favorite pie, which you only get once a year at Thanksgiving have 3 bites and enjoy them slowly
- Make zoodles out of zucchini in place of pasta
- Split a dessert with a friend or your spouse
- After a long, emotional day, go on a walk instead of eating the pint of ice cream
- If you must eat in front of the TV, pre-portion your snack and put the rest away before sitting down
- Sit down to eat your meals, be present in the moment and enjoy each bite
- Keep protein bars in your bag or purse for a healthy and quick snack and to prevent getting so hungry that you end up making terrible choices later
- Eat 1 1/2 c of Skinny Pop when you need a salty snack or on movie night
- Ask for your salad dressing on the side, dip your fork in the dressing and then stab the salad
- Add turkey bacon to breakfast, salad, or sandwiches
- Shop the perimeter of the grocery store, the outside of the store has the fresh healthier options, it is when we get lost in the aisles that we make some of our poor choices
- DON’T grocery shop when hungry, remember the protein bar in your purse or car? Eat it before you go in!
- Buy the produce! Even if it isn’t as cheap as it always is. Think of how much you are paying per pound compared to a pound of cookies, it is usually about half the price for the produce.
- I love PB Fit Mix it up and use it just like you would peanut butter, I like it spread on a piece of seed bread toast topped with apple slices, stalks of celery or in a chocolate protein shake
- Steamed Edamame is a fantastic snack with lots of protein
- I like to weigh myself once a week when losing weight so the ups and downs of water retention, etc. don’t get me discouraged and twice a week when maintaining because if you aren’t making great food choices it is much easier to lose the added 3 pounds than it is 8 or 15. We know and feel when we have been naughty, and I understand being scared to get on the scale but be accountable, it will help you say no when you know you are going to see the number on the scale.
- Remember to measure inches not just pounds. This will help you not get discouraged when you’re doing everything right and for some reason the scale didn’t move or you gained. When I see that my waist or hip measurement is the same or smaller it keeps me going in the face of a pound gained.
Here are some samples of the meals I created. Hopefully this gives you a good idea of how I did this.
1/4 c. protein hot chocolate mixed with 1 c. water =130 calories, 15g protein, 15g carbs
1/3 c. fat free plain greek yogurt, 1/4 c. Kashi GoLean Toasted Berry Crumble =126 calories, 10g protein, 14g carbs
1/2 english muffin, 3 egg whites, 1 slice deli ham = 131 calories, 16g protein, 14g carbs
3 egg whites, 1 T. shredded cheddar, 1 slice ham, 1/2 grapefruit = 123 calories, 15g protein, 10g carbs
1/2 c. fat free plain greek yogurt, 1/2 c raspberries =92 calories, 12g protein, 19g carbs
1/2 c. fat free plain greek yogurt, 1 tsp honey =115 calories, 12g protein, 11g carbs
1 slice turkey bacon, 3 egg whites, 1/2 slice Aspen Mills honey wheat bread =145 calories, 15g protein, 12 carbs
1/2 c. low fat cottage cheese, 1/2 cherries =143 calories, 13g protein, 16g carbs
1/2 c. low fat cottage cheese, 1/2 c raspberries =121 calories, 13g protein, 12g carbs
1/2 grapefruit, 3 egg whites =89 calories, 12g protein, 10g carbs
1/2 slice Franz Sourdough Rye Bread, 1 wedge laughing cow lite cheese, 3 slices deli turkey =140 calories, 15g protein, 11g carbs
2 c. salad greens, 1/4 cup drained canned chicken, 1/4 avocado, 1 T. Olive Garden dressing =205 calories, 13g protein, 12 carbs
2 c. salad greens, 2 T. canned, drained tuna, 1T. diced red onion, 1/2 c. cucumber slices, 1/2 c. cherry tomatoes, 1 T. Olive Garden dressing =114 calories, 10g protein, 9g carbs
1 Flatout flatbread, 3 slices deli turkey, 1 T. hummus =150 calories, 20g protein, 18g carbs
1 corn tortilla, 2 oz. lean ground beef, 1 T. shredded cheddar cheese, 1/2 c lettuce =165 calories, 14g protein, 13g carbs
2 c. salad greens, 1/4 c. drained canned chicken, 1/2 c diced cucumbers, 1/4 c. cherry tomatoes, 1 T. diced red onion, 2 T. light ranch dressing =132 calories, 11g protein, 8g carbs
4 Milton’s crackers, 1/2 long cucumber, 1 T. Miracle Whip Light, 1/4 c. drained tuna =135 calories, 14g protein, 8g carbs
1/2 slice Franz sourdough bread, 1 T. 1/3 less fat chive & onion cream cheese, 2 slices deli turkey, 1 slice tomato, 4 slices cucumber, 3 thin slices red onion, one pinch of sprouts =140 calories, 11g protein, 13g carbs
1 can Light PROGRESSO Roasted Chicken and Vegetable soup =140 calories, 12g protein, 22g carb
1 can Light PROGRESSO Savory Beef Barley Vegetable soup =140 calories, 10g protein, 22g carb
1/2 c. edamame =93 calories, 9g protein, 7g carb
1 stalk celery, 1 T. Adams Natural Peanut Butter =110 calories, 7g protein, 7g carb
2 Cache Valley Lite string cheese, 7 Milton’s Crackers =165 calories, 13g protein, 13g carb
1/2 slice Aspen Mills Honey Wheat Bread, 1 wedge lite laughing cow cheese, 3 slices deli turkey =150 calories, 16g protein, 13g carb
1 peach, 2 Mini Babybel lite cheese =157 calories, 13g protein, 14g carb
2 Cache Valley Lite String Cheese or 2 Mini Babybel lite cheese, 1 cutie =145 calories, 13g protein, 14g carb
1/2 c. fat free plain greek yogurt, 1 medium peach =105 calories, 13g protein, 15g carb
I hope by sharing my results, tips and guidelines, I can help others who are looking to do the same. I think it goes without saying that we are all different and I can’t guarantee anything. I am also not a doctor. GOOD LUCK!