The HMR Diet Beef Stew entree has always one of my least favorite entrees. It wasn’t ever bad, per say, but it just never spoke to me and I never felt fully satisfied eating it alone.
A few months ago, I wrote about a device that I was finding super useful when I travel. And now I keep one in my classroom too! And it’s through the use of this tool that I have been increasing the volume of my entrees, finally finding a way to love the Beef Stew entree.
It’s super easy too! Just one chicken bouillon cube, 1.5 cups of water, and one Beef Stew entree. Throw them all in the mini crockpot and let sit for several hours. It has a super flavorful broth which permeates the chunks of potato and beef cubes, leaving me full and satisfied.
So is there an entree you are having trouble with or often avoid? I love a good challenge and also think crowd-sourcing is a fun way to find new ideas. So please also share your favorite entree “fix-up” here and hopefully it will help someone else!
Last Fall, I wandered into a 6am gym class with motivation to get fit. To lose weight.
I left less than 20 minutes into the class in tears. I couldn’t keep up. I felt like I was dying. I was embarrassed and I swore I would never go back.
Before anyone blames the teacher, it wasn’t him. He was awesome. It was me. I was ashamed at how heavy and how out of shape I had let myself become.
I did this to myself.
No one made me fat. Yes, life happened. Shitty things have happened in my life. Things that motivated me to stuff my face full of fatty foods. But no one sat there force feeding me except me. Wonderful things also have happened in my life. Things I had celebrated by, you guessed it, stuffing rich fatty foods in my mouth. And I had all the reasons in the book why I couldn’t work out. Hello I teach six classes a day, coach after school, and work at tournaments at least half the weekends during the calendar year (many of which require travel). I obviously had no time… except the time I was sitting on a couch stuffing my face or at a bar drinking and (you guessed again) stuffing my face.
So I was ashamed. And guess what I did?
Bought myself a high calorie beverage from Starbucks and drove myself through the McDonald’s drive-thru for TWO sausage McMuffins (with cheese!) and TWO hash browns. And a full sugar soda. You know, to wash the candy coffee drink down.
Here’s the deal. I know someone reading this is judging me. And that’s fine. I am putting myself out there and expect to be judged. It’s the Internet for heaven’s sake.
I know there are people who are out there who think that obviously if we just stop eating like what I described, we would all be thin. But for those who know me, or who have struggled with their weight, once you start packing on pounds, even if you switch to healthier choices, it is still incredibly difficult to shave off enough calories to start the scale moving down. I didn’t eat every meal at McDonald’s. In fact, I ate a relatively balanced diet most days out of the week. But between the amount of healthy food (portion control) combined with the comfort food combined with a lack of activity, my scale just kept climbing.
I was ashamed when I left that fitness class. And I never went back.
November 13, 2013 — I left work and took myself out for sushi. It would be my last meal where I would stuff my face freely and not worry about the consequences. I enjoyed and savored all the foods I knew I would be leaving behind. I was bloated and uncomfortable when I left the restaurant and I drove across the street to the HMR health class.
Nine months into HMR, I transitioned from Decision Free to Healthy Solutions. And six weeks after that I began the transition to Phase Two. I have spent the last six weeks battling life in the real world. And I won’t lie and say it’s been easy. It has been two of the hardest months I have had in a long time.
Losing weight in HMR, if you stick with the plan and don’t give yourself excuses to cheat, is incredibly easy. You are isolating yourself from the real world of choice. It’s safe. It’s easy. And throughout the process, the classes prepare you for life in the real world.
Some people have made judgey comments about HMR because they feel as though they are “better than that” and people should be able to lose weight on “real foods” and you “don’t learn how to manage life” and “the weight will just come back on.”
Here’s my take on those who judge.
Wow. I have been wanting to say that for years. Because I have struggled with my weight since I was a teenager. And I listened to those judgey people for almost that long. And every time I attempted to “just eat healthier” and failed, I would spiral further and the scale would climb higher.
Maybe preparing all of your own food from scratch and choosing healthy options on every menu works for you. That’s awesome! I am not judging your lifestyle so please stop judging those who make the choice to seek outside help in getting weight off and learning to manage that weight.
But I live in the real world of balancing an 80 hour a week job. And I don’t have the luxury of just “finding a new job” or “taking some time for myself.” I have to work. I actually LOVE my work. I am changing lives. I LOVE being a teacher and a debate coach. And that’s not going to change.
So let’s stop the judging and the diet shaming. Because I want to tell you something.
I got the pounds off quickly. I learned a lot about myself and the real world in the process.
And although I alluded earlier in this post that the last six weeks have been a struggle, it’s not because of HMR. It’s because the real world is full of choices and I am battling between the person I was and the person I have become.
I am healthier. I am stronger. But there is still a part of me that wants to override the healthy choice machine and pick the worst item on the menu. So every meal is an internal struggle. But in reality, it has always been that way. Now the healthier side is winning more of those battles and the unhealthy side is protesting.
I will continue to attend the HMR Phase Two classes for at least 17 more months. They hold me accountable. They offer me support. And they continue to teach me valuable lessons about myself and about the world around me. Last night I tried to talk myself out of attending this “Total Athletic Conditioning” class. I needed sleep. I have been incredibly run down as I have not had a day off without teaching, coaching, or traveling with students since the first weekend of October. But then I remembered how I have empowered myself. How amazing I feel after getting in a workout. And how I wanted to celebrate life and not make excuses.
So I woke up and went to this 6am class described as combining “athletic sports drills, weight training and other techniques that are specifically designed to improve your speed, agility, quickness, balance and muscle definition. Start with a cardio warmup – progress into active stretching – move into strength and endurance – then some speed and agility – balance and core and added PLYO… You will enhance your cardio anaerobic threshold.”
Scary description right?
I was scared.
I remember running out of that studio. I remember hiding in the bathroom. I remember crying.
I looked in the mirror and began to follow the instructor’s direction. I felt strong. I felt empowered. I felt alive.
After the class, one of the regulars (who had been there when I ran out last year) approached me and complimented me on how well I kept up for my first class.
I mentioned I had tried it once before over a year ago. But I didn’t mention running out. I didn’t mention the tears. I just ended by saying I planned on coming back.
And I do.
Wow. Today is September 13th and I went to my very first class on November 13th. Ten complete months on the HMR Diet. I have a bajillion (it’s a real number in my world) thoughts running through my head about the past ten months and what the future holds. But I will try to contain my ramblings and keep this post somewhat focused.
Today I saw many of my students’ parents for the first time this school year and for many parents I hadn’t touched base in person since our conferences last November. Many were very open about their surprise and open happiness for my improved health, including one or two who thought I was a different teacher and they had come to the wrong room. In light of the many questions I answered throughout the day about my journey, I thought I would select ten common questions I get now in order to celebrate the ten months since I started this incredible journey.
1. What did you do to lose all this weight?
Well this one is easy for those of you who have been reading my blog for awhile. I started on the Decision Free diet with HMR which is a medically supervised diet where I was prescribed a minimum of two entrees and three shakes/cereals/soups a day. Yes I could only eat the HMR food but between the balancing of the meals themselves plus additional vitamins, I stayed healthy – in fact I had the fewest amount of sick days in a school year that I can remember! I could also eat more than my minimum if I wanted and I would still lose weight (due to the high volume and low calorie make-up of the HMR meals).
On my nine month anniversary, I transitioned to Healthy Solutions where I began introducing a minimum of five vegetable/fruit servings a day, again embracing the more is better mindset. While the weight loss slowed, I have still continued to lose most weeks. It has been more difficult to make decisions because now the outside world is open but it’s also great to have the additional options.
This week I began the transition to Phase Two by each day introducing one outside meal replacement of 300 calories or less with ten grams of protein or more. This has been an interesting week as I explore foods I really missed like eggs and while I will write more on this transition later, in short I realize I haven’t been missing much over the last ten months.
2. Don’t you get tired of the same food all the time?
Yes and no. I have obviously been very limited in my choices however I have mixed it up with various condiments and preparation methods. My weekly homework assignments have challenged me to be creative and this has kept me engaged. During the ten months, I didn’t allow outside foods into my life. I learned many valuable lessons from my classmates about how to handle stressful situations and manage life should I find myself slipping off course.
3. What does it taste like?
Food. So here’s the deal. I know it’s all packaged. And the thought of consuming it made me gag a little a first. I almost threw up after my first couple of bites of a cold entree in an airport during my second week on the diet. But it was all in my head. I had to reframe in the first couple of weeks to think of it as a prescription and separate the word “food” from the equation. Once I got over the mental hurdle and actually tasted the food, it was quite tasty! Yes, the barbecue chicken, for example, doesn’t have the same texture as a commercially plumped chicken breast because it is vacuum-sealed. But everything has good flavor and you can change them up with the dozens of allowed condiments and spices.
4. Do you plan on losing more?
I am still above my BMI range for normal. I would love to be within that range. But I also know my body and mind are tired focusing on losing weight. I fit in a size small in most tops and a size six petite (sometimes four!) in pants. While my numbers-focused brain is still catching up with this realization, I logically know that I am at a reasonable weight for my size. I would like to lose ten to fifteen more pounds, especially from my stomach, to get to my “half-my-size” weight but I am choosing to transition now because I know I need to learn how to incorporate outside foods “safely” in my life and wanting to lose a little bit more would help me to avoid going hog-wild in the outside world. I am probably at the top of my happy weight range, a range I want to develop and to try to live within after recognizing that a single goal number isn’t practical (thanks to my health educator).
5. How many hours do you exercise a week?
This is where some people I know call me crazy. To be honest, when I started this diet I maybe did two to three hours a week broken down into much smaller bits. It was all low intensity.
Now I do six to twelve hours most weeks and it’s usually 30 to 60 minutes a block multiple times a day. But it’s not because I have to do it… it’s because I LOVE doing it. I was sidelined earlier this week for a day and missed my training session and boxing class and I was super cranky.
I know I may have to dial back during the debate season but even my most conservative schedules have at least six hours. I can’t imagine doing less. I feel amazing when I work out and the feeling extends past the actual sweat session.
6. What exercises do you do?
In short – I do a LOT of things. I get bored easy.
When I started HMR, I walked. A lot. I used the elliptical on the easiest setting. I did spin class without a ton of resistance. And I started swim class. I am still taking swim lessons and my teacher encouraged me to go to masters swim sessions, so I try to include one a week when I can (although I am still no where near as fast as those guys, it’s a fun way to structure a swim workout!).
A month into HMR I gathered up courage to ask a trainer about the free session that came with my membership. I met Eliana and the rest was history. I have been working out with her for one to two days a week since. She started with building small muscles to help stabilize weaknesses and we have worked our way through her program and she has helped tailor my workouts based on my needs and abilities.
I have also tried almost every class our gym offers — I know what I like and what I don’t like. And if I didn’t like a class, I made myself go again a month later to make sure I really didn’t like it. I discovered in some cases I didn’t. But in some it was that I either wasn’t ready for it yet or it was just an off day for the class the first time around or in some cases I just needed the chance to adjust to the type of activity it was and learn some of the basics.
When I had lost about 60 or 70lbs, I took my walking to running. I ran my first full mile in late February and worked my way up to running 13.1 miles. I learned I hate running on a treadmill and I actually prefer running without music most days. Some days I run fast and some days I run slow. I also love races because of the challenge and also the community of runners I get to run with.
A few months ago my gym offered a small group (3-5) boxing fundamentals class and I fell in love. I wish I could keep this one up during the school year but once this session’s final happens, I will have to take a break because I will miss too many classes with my travels. However between the technique and conditioning, I get a ridiculous workout.
In late June I also tried a free OrangeTheory class and decided it would be a great supplement to my running by giving me speed and hill workouts during these classes.
7. How do you fit it all in?
My health classes are non-negotiable. They are once a week and unless I am gone for a full week, they can’t be missed. I need that accountability and built it into my schedule.
I plan more workouts than I can practically do. Some are set in stone and I treat like doctor’s appointments like boxing classes and my workouts with Eliana. Others I am more flexible with. By scheduling extras on my calendar, I don’t feel guilty if I have to cancel one or two. As long as I get in the majority, I am having a good week.
I try to prep lots of fruits and veggies in one bout and portion them out to grab all week. And I have HMR entrees and shakes in my classroom and car and purses so I am never without and thus have no excuse to not stick with my eating plan.
And honestly I have had to let some things go. My apartment is probably not as clean as it could be but my husband is luckily super amazing and he takes on a lot of the dirty work. I also don’t spend as much time randomly surfing the web or other time sucks.
I have also found I have more energy and am more focused which means I get a lot more done in the day than I used to.
Finally, I don’t let myself make excuses any more. When I don’t want to do something, I ask what excuse I am trying to use. If there is a legitimate reason and not an excuse, it’s fine. But if I can counter it with a solid response, it’s an excuse and I need to suck it up and get over it. I deserve the best I can give myself and that means not getting lazy and countering all my hard work because of some lame excuse.
8. How do you keep up with work travel while doing this diet?
Super easy! Lots of planning ahead by making sure I have enough HMR food packed. I have written a number of blog posts here about traveling on HMR that you can find for more details using the tags to the right of this post.
9. How much better do you feel now?
Honestly I can’t even begin to explain this one. I feel like I have my life back. Actually scratch that. I feel like I have more life back than I ever had before. It is absolutely unquantifiable!
10. Is it expensive?
Yes and no. For someone like me who ate out a lot? I probably saved money the last ten months. The meals range in price from $2 to $4 and you consume 5 or more a day. So it does add up. Plus health classes and medical tests depending on whether you do Healthy Solutions or Decision Free and your insurance may or may not cover those things.
However most diets are expensive. And none of the others worked for me. So it was a bunch of wasted money. I knew this would be an investment going into it. However in some ways the investment also was a disincentive to cheat. I have spent so much on diets over the years – I needed to stop flushing money down the drain.
Plus, I can’t begin to quantify how much better my quality of life is. How more productive I am and how much I have saved myself in future weight-related medical costs. How positive my outlook is (yes someone told me to “shut up Pollyanna this week and I beamed). I can’t even begin to think of how many years I have gained back in my life. And these things are truly priceless.
I swore I wasn’t ever going to post progress pictures on my blog. When I first started writing about the HMR Diet, I wanted my experience to be anonymous. I just needed a place where I could explore what I was learning, thinking, and feeling. However I realize now that I can’t be anonymous at this point. Not because so many people I know read this blog now, but because it would be selfish of me.
When I started HMR, I craved success stories. I wanted to see progress pictures. Even now I buy magazines like People touting normal people losing weight because it inspires me and shows me we can all do it. So at the end of this post I will share my nine month pictures.
First, I want to explore my thoughts. I am officially down 122 pounds at nine months and one week. I have also begun my transition to Healthy Solutions (started last week at the nine month mark). When I started this program I gave myself one year to be on Decision Free. My mental framing that it would take this long kept me going — knowing there would be an eventual end. However a year seemed too long so I think the desire to transition earlier motivated me to stay in the box and to seize every fitness opportunity I could.
I have been in the box every day since starting the program. I have had a few emotional eating days but used meal replacements when other tools like journaling or exercise weren’t cutting it. I have had two or three weeks where I didn’t lose weight (also didn’t gain) and I missed two weeks of weigh ins for travel (one week in June and one a couple weeks later in July). I can say from experience that being away from class made it harder to stay on the program because those in person accountability points aren’t just to keep up in check but also have me leaving class feeling refreshed and motivated.
When I started this diet walking at 3.0 on the treadmill was fast and there were days where walking at 2.0 for 40 minutes while watching an episode of Scandal was a big workout. I swam laps but only a couple and very slowly.
This past Sunday, just a couple of days after my nine month anniversary, I ran my first half marathon since starting HMR. And by ran, I actually ran and killed my previous PR by over 50 minutes! Super proud of this picture because I feel like it captures how far I have come:
Was it easy? Never. But did it become habit? Yes. When you reframe away from what you can’t have and focus on what you can, it makes it so much easier to manage Decision Free. When you focus on each day as becoming the best person you can be, the days pile up into making you an awesome person. When you seize every opportunity for fitness and give it everything you have rather than make excuses then you find yourself seeing physical results even when the scale moves slowly or not at all.
You can make excuses or you can make your move. I had ALL the injuries. Bad knees. Sciatica. Lower back pain. Asthma. I work 40+ hours during the week and 20+ weekends a year. I am traveling ALL the time. I am not wealthy. I don’t live alone. I spend time around temptation EVERY day. And I HAVE found success but it wasn’t handed to me. I had to fight for every single pound and while I have had people tell me I “make it look easy” — it hasn’t been. But nothing amazing is easy.
Now I am transitioning to Healthy Solutions and although I am loving the produce and I am trying to take it slowly, I won’t lie that I am also scared. I have confidence in myself but I am anxious and I can’t articulate why, other than I am constantly entering new territory and that keeps me on my toes.
I teach public speaking – it’s one of the biggest fears in America. Thus I understand having unexplained anxiety and trying to manage and overcome to the best of our abilities. I practice positive visualization (ordering a Healthy Solutions option at a restaurant when I inevitably go out) and I carry a touchstone to keep me grounded when I need to make a decision. I journal my food and exercise. I practice tricks like always keeping a zero calorie beverage in my hand in social settings. And I expel the rest of the nervousness through exercise. I will manage my anxiety like I will manage my weight. One day at a time with mindfulness and positive energy. And no excuses.
A rather lengthy post. And I feel like I have so much more to say. But tomorrow we meet up with our students for the first time this school year so I am off to bed. But as promised, here are my nine month progress pictures. I am proud of my hard work and continue to motivate myself every day to excel so that the work I have done is honored and not destroyed.
If someone had told me seven months ago that I would be eating prepackaged entress and shake packets as my sole form of food, I would have laughed you out of the room.
If someone had told me seven months ago that I would be running a sub-10:00 mile and swimming a mile, I would have looked at you like it was a pipe dream. “Someday… maybe….” But my heart would ache because I would doubt that I had the ability to ever pull it out.
If someone had told me seven months ago that I would be down almost 90 lbs after six months, I would have asked what limbs would I be losing in the process.
I was recently asked why I decided to take a drastic move in my life starting HMR and all of my physical training. Why now? What prompted this move?
If you have known me for years then you will know that I have had a series of struggles with my health. I gained a significant amount of weight right out of high school. I continued to put on weight when I started teaching and commuting 90+ minutes each way to work. I then lost some of that weight in 2006 counting points but some significant events in my life brought back the stress eating and the pounds. I attempted to learn to run in 2009 and lost a bit of weight but improper training and an injury uncovered bigger health issues. All the while I half-assed various diets in an attempt to both control my health but also my weight. Finally, I gave up on all of it and just “enjoyed life” while the pounds piled on.
This past summer we took a cross-country road trip. And roadside hikes that should have been easy were extremely difficult. We went to Hawaii and I felt limited in everything I attempted. I was constantly out of air. I got tired easily. I didn’t find physical activity pleasurable because I wasn’t fit and was carrying so much extra weight. Multiple people in my life passed away in the months leading up to my starting HMR and many were due to weight related health issues. I had trouble sleeping at night worrying that every ache and pain was a sign I was next.
A friend had recently gotten weight loss surgery and I was seriously contemplating it after hearing about her experience. However I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it until the summer at the earliest and we were just a couple months into the school year. So I went to my medical group’s Web site and looked at what programs they were offering to help. I saw orientations for HMR and thought “well it couldn’t hurt to check it out?”
At the time I was opposed to processed food. I wanted to lose weight on my own. I wanted to do it naturally. I was judgey-mcjudergerson about everything I thought HMR stood for. I thought “well even if I lose any weight I won’t learn how to keep it off and it will come right back on.” I had tried Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem so I was *obviously* an expert about meal replacement diets… Ha!
However I forced myself to enter the medical offices with an open mind. After all, I had kind of sucked at doing it on my own. Despite years of weight loss meetings and web sites and books and talks, I was at my heaviest weight ever. I ate more veggies than most people I knew but along with that ate and drank super high calorie foods and considered 20 minutes on the elliptical as an intense workout. In other words, I knew I needed help and I wasn’t afraid to ask for it.
At that orientation meeting, I began to understand that the HMR Diet would be a major overhaul to my social lifestyle. No alcohol? No outside foods? A WEEKLY meeting? I work over 80 hours some weeks… where was I going to fit all of this in?
But something inside of me said that I could do it. That my life depended on it.
So I drove straight from the orientation to speak to my doctor. She said I should try it. She had been an HMR doctor at a previous practice. She thought it would be harder than surgery but it would be good to do it, even as a precursor to surgery, to learn healthier habits. And so I went in for all the lab work.
As a high school student, I didn’t follow good study habits. However as a high school teacher I have learned a few things about setting myself up for success. And so I spent the couple of weeks between orientation and the first night of class preparing my environment, talking to those closest to me, and mentally preparing myself. Confession: I also had a number of “last meals” where I ate whatever I wanted and committed those tastes and textures to memory. I will write more about preparing to begin in a future post but the process itself really set me up for a successful journey.
I have social anxiety. I get nervous in new situations and meeting new people. But luckily I have an amazing health educator, a fabulous clinic full of super positive staff, and a class that had some really nice and positive people in it to provide a safe and supportive environment. The clinic is my safe haven. The first couple months I would show up an hour early sometimes to protect myself from wandering off to a drive-thru because I didn’t know how to spend that hour. I cannot stress how that support helped me get through some tough time. When I felt judgement from others for taking on this diet, I knew I had a judgement free zone.
Judgement is a big thing on this diet. Because you isolate yourself from outside foods, people feel like they can make all sorts of snide and snarky comments to you. I am not open about being on this diet, both because I don’t want my diet to define me, but also because I want to spare myself the nasty comments. If someone asks and seems interested, I will tell them about it. But unlike previous diets where I would declare to everyone what I was doing, I started this one quietly and have remained relatively quiet about it. However through my health classes I have learned how to empower myself and to deal with some of the comments. I know I will have more to face along the journey, but I am building a toolbox of responses.
Cost is the other big hang up for many people on this diet. Yes, the medical tests and supervision is pricey and yes the shakes and entrees cost money. The gym, training sessions, new clothes all cost money as well. You know what else costs money? All the bad food I was eating. All the medical bills I paid. All the unproductive hours where I couldn’t focus and didn’t get things done that needed to be finished. And losing my life day by day to my obesity was the most expensive part of my life. So yes I have depleted some of my savings but I also know I am saving money in the long run. I also know that the improved quality of life is worth the investment. And honestly, I just cut out a bunch of crap I had been wasting it on. Even at happy hour prices those beer and french fry orders add up!
Over the last six months I have been on the road more than half the weekends. I have attended galas and other social events. I have run multiple races. Attended family events. Tried a variety of fitness opportunities. Struggled through exhaustion and stress. Celebrated life and mourned loss. In other words, I have lived. And I have lived “in the box.”
I will be honest. It has not always been easy. And it is getting harder. Because as I see results and feel stronger, I question why I am still in the box. I miss outside food. I feel like I can take a cheat meal… But I won’t. As long as I stay in the box, I am working towards my final goal. This time is truly different and I don’t want to give myself an excuse to halt the journey before I finish it.
I am on a lifelong journey of living the best possible life I can. I believe in myself and my inner strength. And while life happens, I am building skills to pursue health and happiness in spite of life obstacles. It takes dedication and a sense of purpose. But it also takes faith in whatever diet program you choose to pursue. The HMR Diet does work, if you put in the work. I am #HMRStrong.