My Personal Weight Loss Journey

Clean eating my way back to health

 

Here is to a new year and of course new resolutions! New Year after New year, most of us find ourselves making all kinds of resolutions; resolutions to eat better, to work out more, to give more, to read more, to watch TV less, to be kinder, to be more forgiving, resolutions to just do better in every area of our lives. Personally I stopped making resolutions I knew I wouldn’t keep. For years I would make lists of things that I planned to do, that might have changed the world had I actually carried them out.

I would share my carefully thought out resolutions with my husband Allen who would quickly dampen my enthusiasm by dismissively saying “Just do it, like Nike”. I would walk away deflated; my feelings hurt, but still determined to stick to my resolutions. Unfortunately, that determination never lasted much more than a week or two. Did I mention I am a working mom of two with various other commitments, so of course, life gets in the way?

A little pound here another 2 pounds there

Don’t get me wrong, making resolutions is not a bad thing, it’s commendable actually, if you can keep them, unfortunately most of us don’t manage to keep them. One of my recurrent yearly resolutions was to lose some weight which looked good on paper but never seemed attainable. In fact year after year I was slowly gaining more weight, to a point where I had ballooned to my lifetime heaviest weight. I am barely 5.1 feet so I really don’t have much room to grow horizontally. Incrementally, the weight gain did not seem too significant, a little pound here another 2 pounds there. However, cumulatively I had significantly regressed from my initial yearly goal of losing a mere 10 pounds which of course I had not accomplished in previous years and now I was facing the seemingly impossible task of shedding at least 30 pounds. I understood the dangers associated with excessive weight; such as diabetes, hypertension, stroke, and cardiovascular disease amongst others, and I guess my borderline obsessive personality got the best of me, as I found myself waking up in the middle of the night worrying about developing diabetes and hypertension.

The real turning point was when we were on a family vacation and when I looked at all the photos I didn’t recognize the stranger I had become to myself. It hit me like a ton of bricks and that instant, something changed.

Not in January but in the middle of April I made a real resolution, not on paper but from deep inside me, I resolved that I would do something about the weight, I was finally sick of being overweight.

Contrary to common beliefs that your weight is primarily an indicator of the choices you make, there are several other factors that can contribute. Yes, what one chooses to eats is definitely important but not everybody’s weight problems are directly linked to food consumption. There are genetic and hormonal influences that can certainly contribute to excess weight. We all know that super skinny person who will eat a vast amount of any kind of food and still stay skinny. In that respect, I don’t think I won the jackpot there and since I had no control over my genetic preponderance for weight gain, I had accepted that l would always have to be very careful with what I chose to eat and be mindful about maintaining a routine exercise regimen.

Starting Over

I knew I had to make a change but had no idea where to start. I have never been a believer in crash dieting because the weight loss is not usually sustainable. Usually with crush dieting one loses the weight quickly but once the diet is discontinued, all the weight is regained and often ending up even heavier than before the diet. This would not work for me. I needed a lifestyle change which was not too restrictive and which was sustainable. I realized that weight loss would be slow and modest at best but I wanted my focus to be attaining a healthier lifestyle more than just losing the weight.

I started looking at different weight loss and healthier eating programs and I could not find one that could fit into my lifestyle and not leave a dent in my budget. This was important because I am cheap. The other important aspect of an ideal diet was that I needed to be able to retain control of whatever plan I chose and be able to maintain even when I was travelling which I frequently do.

Clean Eating

I finally decided to come up with my own plan. I started looking a little deeper into what I was eating at the time which I had honestly believed was healthy. I generally avoided fast foods, sweet snacks, soda, and so on and tended to look for those foods labelled as healthier options. To my surprise I started to realize that all those “healthier” options were often loaded with carbohydrates and sugars which ultimately defeated my goal of generally trying to eat healthy. Preservatives and added coloring were in abundance in a lot of foods that I had not expected. I also learned through my research that my life long corn based staple carbohydrate along with many other common every day foods like milk and soy were no longer benign. I found out that at least half of the corn grown in the United States was genetically modified and linked to weight gain and organ malfunction amongst other health problems. For the first time, my eyes were wide opened to the fact that food in the age we are living in needed to be approached respectfully with a different mindset.

Caloric needs are based on height, weight, and level of activity. So in theory to maintain your current weight your caloric intake should not exceed your caloric needs. Any intake that is in excess of your daily requirements is then stored as fat. Therefore since my goal was weight loss my caloric intake needed to be less than my caloric needs. This meant that I had to decrease my portions and choose foods with lower caloric values but higher fullness factors, so I would not starve while trying to lose weight. At baseline, my diet was carbohydrate heavy, so another important change for me was to decrease my carbohydrate intake. I cut out processed carbohydrates and cut out sugars for the most part. By reading labels to determine calorie counts and carbohydrate contents I could make better choices and avoid empty carbohydrates, processed foods, and preservatives.

The first couple of weeks it was not easy at all, as I had to be intentional about everything I picked up to eat. I had to remind myself to turn a blind eye to the abundant candy and cookies which always seemed so readily available in the office for that mid-afternoon “pick me up” snack. I had to walk away from the fresh bagels and donuts my colleague brought to the office on Thursday mornings. I had to remind myself to religiously drink gallons of water to maintain my daily goals. Then it seemed one day I didn’t have to try so hard. It became easier to avoid the things I had decided to cut out. The cravings were no longer an issue for me.

Success

The biggest payoff has been the slow steady weight loss, the increased energy, the clearer skin, and the renewed confidence. Being able to go down several clothes sizes by transforming the way I ate was just incredible. I was so motivated by the weight loss that I wanted to do better. What is really awesome is that for the most part I can still enjoy the foods I love, but really understanding what I am eating helped me to develop healthier and cleaner eating habits. When you know what you are eating it allows you to make better choices and it helps you to develop a healthier relationship with food. Making a lifestyle dietary change and adding routine exercise is definitely much more sustainable than crush dieting and I am living proof that it is possible to lose weight and maintain it without breaking the bank.

Not that I would never eat a cookie or chocolate ever again, I still do so every now and then but I won’t just put any cookie or any chocolate into my mouth. It has to be really worth it.

In keeping with the Word of God; would you defile your body with gluttony? I leave you with the words of the Apostle Paul. MT

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

About the Author:

Dr. Sandra Parawira-Chaza, DNP, AGACNP-BC.

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