My weight has always been a battle. I come from a long line of tall, thin women and I’ve always been an athlete but I have always struggled with my weight. I have lost (and gained) hundreds pounds while frantically attempting just about every diet craze out there.
I remember being on Weight Watchers in high school and eating all 30 of my points in fat-free microwave popcorn and sugar-free jello. Just so ya know, you can eat a freakin truckload of those things and stay under 30 points.
In college I went nearly 2 months eating nothing but protein shakes and chicken broth.
I’ve gone months eating nothing but apples and tilapia and others counting every.single.calorie while crafting my diet around fat-free ice cream and sugar-free cookies.
Then there was the purging. And the days I’d not allow myself to eat anything at all. The weeks and months of barely eating and spending hours a day in the gym. The doctor appointments I’d cancel because I didn’t want to have to get on the scale. The times I seriously abused both over the counter and prescription fat burners, diuretics and laxatives. Seriously.
I jumped from one “diet” to the next – reading about the latest food trend or guaranteed way to drop 10 lbs in two weeks. If someone said it was possible, no matter how weird, I tried it. When someone wrote that grapefruits burned fat, I’d go out and buy a dozen. When someone suggested that carbohydrates were the enemy, I’d eliminate them. I’ve followed low carb, high carb, low fat, no fat, high fat, high protein, low protein, low calorie, calorie cycling, carb counting, blah blah blah.
I was exhausted. I obsessed over food every day. If I was “on” a diet I wouldn’t go out with friends or my husband because I didn’t trust the food choices (not too many places you can ask for an extra large bowl of fat free popcorn and 6 cups of sugar-free jello, ya know?). If I wasn’t “on”….oh man. Bad times. I’d pick up Mexican food on the way home from work and eat it in front of the tv. I’d make a special stop at the grocery store and buy something to address each type of craving: salty, sweet, creamy, crunchy, chewy. Train wreck of epic proportion. No lie.
I spent most of my time and energy – literally years of my life – trying to find that one diet that would rip all the extra weight off me and keep it off forever. I was so obsessed with this pursuit that I walked away from college scholarship and transferred schools to study nutrition. After graduating with a BS in Human Nutrition, I got a job as a nutrition educator. I simultaneously started pursuing my master’s degree in nutrition. A few years later I got a job in product development working with dietary supplements and weight loss products….I devoted my entire life to finding the Holy Grail of weight loss….the product, the food, the food combinations, oh my word it was exhausting. And I was fat.
Even though my head was stuffed full of information from my degrees plus the bazillion books I read and the trillion blogs and news outlets I followed, I felt like I had no answers, no solutions and no way out.
I was miserable. I was embarrassed of my body. I didn’t feel comfortable going out with friends. I didn’t want anyone to see me – in any way, at any time. I hid from the camera. I’d avoid traveling home to visit my family because I was ashamed of my size. I was depressed. I isolated myself. I was struggling with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) and infertility. I really felt completely hopeless.
One day my life changed. I get a lot of questions about how I was able to turn it all around. People ask what precipitating event made me able to transform my life. The truth is: it was an honest conversation with myself while I was driving home from work one day.
I started to think about my recent achievements. Up until this point, I had identified certain goals which I felt would make me happy and I tackled them with a vengeance. My husband and I paid off over $130,000 in student loan and other debts in two years. It took tremendous discipline and sacrifice, but we did it.
I had worked my tail off at work and received a number of promotions. Overall, I was regarded as a very hard worker – a smart woman who gets things done. I had the respect of my peers and of the Executive Management team and I was constantly taking on new responsibilities.
I had accomplished big goals that I felt would make me happy but I was still miserable. That day on the drive home I questioned what would make me happy. I was in such a dark depression that it was difficult to identify anything that might turn things around, but I did know that the thing making me unhappiest was my weight.
As I often do, I had a conversation with myself, aloud, in my car. It went something like this: “Elizabeth, you’ve totally let your health go. You aren’t ok with it. It stresses you out all day, everyday. You’ve harnessed tremendous discipline, will power and persistence in these other major areas of life but clearly they don’t matter to you as much as your health does. You have the knowledge. You have the ability. The only reason you haven’t conquered this battle yet is because YOU haven’t DONE IT yet. You’re the only one in your way.“
It seems so obvious, but in that moment I realized that I couldn’t blame anyone other than myself for my current state. It wasn’t that I lacked discipline or motivation – I clearly had demonstrated that in other areas. It wasn’t that I lacked an understanding of how to change – I knew what it would take. If it mattered to me more than anything then I needed to act accordingly. Starting that minute, getting healthy became my top priority.
I started walking. I bought a treadmill and put it in my home office. If I was on email for work at night, I’d do it from my phone while walking. If I was watching TV, I’d do it on the treadmill. I walked before work and I walked after work. I just walked as much as I could.
I started focusing on clean proteins: fish, chicken, eggs, salmon. I made sure protein was the center of every meal. If I wanted a treat, I’d write it on a list in my phone and promise myself I could have it at that weekend’s cheat meal. Yup, I had one cheat meal every week. Most of the time, by the time it rolled around I didn’t want 90% of the items I had written on the list throughout the week, but it was important to acknowledge the cravings as they arose.
I followed that plan for 3-4 months and lost 2-3 pounds each week but then found that I wasn’t bouncing back after those cheat meals. Not only that but they made me feel like crap. I wasn’t craving that food anymore and was eating it because it was part of my plan. I decided it was time to commit to lifelong health, not short term weight loss. I wanted to create a body that was a lean, strong, fat-burning machine. The solution was obvious – only whole foods go into this body. This is my life, this is my health and my goals are far more important to me than ColdStone Creamery (though that stuff is damn good, huh?).
I started doing some reading about a whole foods based lifestyle – not so much to learn but to find good recipes. It was the right time in my life – I had made the commitment, I was tired of complicated solutions and I wanted to change my body and my life…..it was the perfect time for me to find Primal.
Never heard of Primal? Paleo? Paleo is a little more mainstream and refers to a lifestyle that is aligned with the way our ancestors ate, moved and lived in the Paleolithic Era before the advent of processed foods. As Diane SanFillipo puts it in her great book (highly recommend) “Practical Paleo” – the dietary components of the lifestyle are simply about eating whole foods that fuel your body and avoiding processed foods. Pretty straight forward, huh? Food as nature intended it. It’s hard to avoid becoming a lean, fat-burning machine with the Primal principles.
I fell in love with the philosophy as I adopted it. My energy went through the roof. My skin cleared up. My mood and confidence improved. I was burning fat, building muscle and finally conquering the dietary demons of my past.
I was eating foods I love. I wasn’t hungry. I didn’t feel deprived. I was able to eat out and enjoy food with friends. I was exercising more intensely but for less time and seeing fantastic results. I managed to lose 130 lbs! I stripped all the clutter away. All the years of diet news, research, fads and get to the simple truth of a way of living that made me feel good, look great and get healthier than I’ve ever been.