One fantastic thing about teaching high school is that I get to cover the same material over and over each class period, and at about the same time each year. Some people might think that sounds boring, however I have come to learn it makes me a more successful teacher as well as a lifelong learner. I am constantly looking for new ways to teach the same topics and skills to keep things current and interesting, while reinforcing the core purpose and content for myself. And in the process, I make new discoveries about both the content I am teaching but also the ways my students learn and apply knowledge.
Just like getting to revisit a time period in history or a component of American government, as a student retaking the HMR Core class, I am getting a chance to revisit information and practice skills in new and old ways, reinforcing behaviors and expanding my knowledge base both about health and nutrition, but also about myself. And in the process, I get to make new connections.
Last night’s HMR Core class was a perfect example. One of the slides presented demonstrated how a person could “cheat” and go out of the HMR “box” of foods, while still losing weight. This could potentially reinforce bad behaviors because “hey I still lost even after I had that one handful of chips” or “I can add a Snickers bar and can still lose weight because the math shows that.” However our instructor continued on, showing that even if that math works sometimes, it will take significantly longer to lose the weight because it will be slower. And once the floodgates are open to outside foods, all bets are off on how long you can continually follow the program and stay motivated.
The first time I learned this information in 2013, it compelled me to stay in my Decision Free Box. I was paying too much to not be successful and wanted to lose fast. And I stayed in the box for the entire time I was in Decision Free (over 9 months)!
However last night I took away a different lesson. I already know that staying in the box in Phase One works. I know how motivating it is to lose quickly and how that success continues to build upon itself to some serious big weight loss. I watched people over my tenure make choices to leave their HMR box in Phase One, and I have said goodbye to some as they lost the motivation to continue.
Last night I realized that “cheating” can also happen in Phase Two where the world is my oyster. And that I allowed those unnecessary choices corrupt my box and disrupt my success cycle. By allowing lots of small extras, I lost my calorie balance needed to maintain my weight. But for the longest time, those gains were small. A half of a pound or a tenth of a pound, or “just a pound but I can lose that by tightening up my diet this week.” Except once you make exceptions a habit, they are no longer an exception. And nibbles outside of my Phase Two box became a part of an unsupportive open world while my box fell to the wayside until eventually those small gains became an overwhelming large gain, and I struggled to stay motivated to maintain or to begin the process of losing weight again.
As I relearn those habits that made me successful in Phase One Decision Free in 2013-2014, I am also learning to apply them to how my world will be once I transition to Phase Two again. My first time in Phase One my head was in the sand. My only goal was getting the weight off. But this time I realize how that’s the easy part. I need to create positive behaviors that support my health beyond just this phase. Which means I need to stop allowing exceptions to be the norm in my diet.
Sure I could make excuses and leave my box, or I could recognize my need for consistent positive weight management behaviors. #InTheBox #HMRStrong
A few weeks ago, I wrote a post talking about gaining weight over the last 16 or so months while training for three different marathons. I kept jumping into cycles of trying to lose weight during these months, only to end up gaining, as I would find myself needing more nutrition during training, but rather than control the needed increase, I would just eat whenever I wanted. It wasn’t planned nutrition, it was just eating to eat. And this failure to plan meant the scale just kept going up.
The NYC Marathon is over. I finished and will write more about that amazing adventure later. But as I promised myself weeks ago, I hit the reset button on November 9. And I will be sharing this journey with you in an effort to hold myself publicly accountable.
One of the realizations I have had over the last 18 months is that I did not have a system in place to track my food that worked for me. There are dozens of ways of keeping a food diary and I had tried many of them – from various apps on my phone to paper logs. I loved the HMR Program application for my phone, but it became difficult to track outside foods, and so I would only track the meal replacements and fruits/veggies. Which meant lots of outside foods would creep in. With other applications that tracked calories, I would find myself looking for the lowest calorie options, and not the most nutritious or filling options. And with paper, I would forget it at home or wouldn’t take it when I went to social events because I didn’t want to draw attention to myself (and would inevitably forget to log). But I loved the paper log because it allowed me the freedom to just write everything I consumed, and not have calorie anxiety or the judgement of many of the free trackers to causing me to avoid logging.
You will find a new tab on the top of this blog that is a page with a Google document embedded in it. I have this linked on my phone, where I can have the ease of electronically logging, while having the freedom of my paper log. And I have chosen to make it public – because I think sharing food logs is helpful for accountability but also to share ideas with each other about what works and what doesn’t work.
I am taking this reset in stages, recognizing going cold turkey doesn’t always turn out well for me. So the public log is part of this first week’s steps. And I will continue to add in healthy behaviors each week and share them with you as I commit to them. Most of the nutrition based will revolve around the healthy behaviors I have learned in my time with the HMR Program, because they work.
The second goal of this first week is to work on crowding out calorically-dense foods by intentionally increasing my fruits and veggies. I am shooting for nine servings (using HMR measurements) of fruits and vegetables per day, every day this week.
I will also be adding in new physical activity programming in the coming weeks and can’t wait to tell you more about it along with the dietary changes. Step-by-step, day-by-day, week-by-week – using what I have learned along my journey to get rid of this excess weight while also recognizing and celebrating the significant weight loss I have managed to maintain. I also promise to try to post some pictures here (although you can also follow me on Instagram where I definitely love to share pictures!)
What works for you to maintain your weight loss? Do you have a secret strategy for success? And if you are struggling to lose weight, what is something that you are finding difficult? I’d love to hear from others about your successes and struggles!
It’s been awhile since I have written a lengthy thoughtful post, and with Back-to-School Day just around the corner and a pile of tests to grade, I can’t promise this will be long. But it will be thoughtful.
Earlier this year INKnBURN, a small art-focused activewear company that I love, selected me to be an ambassador for their clothing. I wrote about it earlier this year, and am still pinching myself over the honor. I never imagined someone might think I was worthy to be a face of “activewear” and wearing this clothing makes me feel like a badass, so it meant even more to me that I could share my love of their work as an official ambassador.
One of the parts of this company that I have appreciated is their response to their customers and helping to spread the physical activity love by showing all shapes and sizes in their social media communications. No, they may not be able to provide clothing that is perfect for everyone, but they are working incredibly hard to try (especially considering how they are a small company that does all of their production in-house here in the United States). INKnBURN recently released a fit chart and I am proud to have been included. No, it doesn’t include every size – that chart would be never-ending – but it does show women of various heights and weights and shapes, many of whom are wearing the SAME size.
This picture means a lot to me. It helps to communicate that a size number on a tag shouldn’t be your end goal. It tells me that it’s about wearing what fits and how you feel in what you wear. It’s that awesome activewear makes you look and feel like a badass! And that keeps you active!
I am not 150lbs any more. I have struggled in the process of weight management to balance the high-calorie foods with the high-volume foods. I have had weeks where I have thrown in the towel and then spent four weeks trying to correct it. Weight management is rough, but I know it’s a lifelong process and the secret is not to give up.
However, I am proud of my journey. And while I may not be my lightest weight, I am still more active and more health-focused than I ever was before my HMR journey. I lift weights, I run, I do yoga, and I play. Yes, I would like to be lighter and yes I know this will require me to put my nose back to the proverbial grindstone. But I am also working to find a manageable balance in my Phase Two world.
And I am a lot stronger mentally than I was before HMR. I am realizing this as random strangers comment on the size of my body and the fit of my clothes in a public space. From women who said there were no bigger girls pictured (I am the heaviest person on the picture, so I guess I am not a big girl) to women who appreciated the bigger girls pictured (now I guess I am a big girl) to the women who specifically tried to pinpoint how I could wear the same size as a woman 55 pounds lighter than me (including one who said I was just wearing the wrong size – funny because it seems to fit wonderfully – worked out in those shorts this morning!). Reading some of the less sensitive comments (people who may have forgotten we are real people who have also commented on the thread), hurt at first. But then I realized I was okay with it. I know my body. I know what fits comfortably when I go punch a heavy bag or run 13 miles. What I like to wear for 90 minutes of hot yoga or an hour of OrangeTheory. And that’s what matters!
When I was 150lbs, I wore a pair of size 2 petite skinny jeans and had a body fat % of under 20. Even at that weight, I would still have been heavier than several of the amazing athlete who I was being compared with in the fit guide. They are rockstars and so am I. We wear what we want to wear and we all look good.
I have learned along my journey that I am more than just the number of the scale or the number on the tag in my shorts. I also have learned it’s easy to judge others without knowing them or their stories. And it’s easy to judge or make comparisons about those lighter or heavier, bigger or smaller, but in the end what does that really do for you?
Not that many of the comments were negative – and that is important to note. Many women saw themselves in the picture and that is fantastic. That women who feel however they may feel about themselves could see themselves rocking cool workout attire and getting their fitness on. That makes me happier than I could ever explain. Because I love how I feel in my INKnBURN. It inspires me to get out and get active. And I want others to feel like physical fitness badasses too regardless of your scale or shorts size!
Last week I wrote about my new favorite travel tool, and even offered one up as a thank you in my post. This thank you giveaway has ended, and I wanted to congratulate Mary S. from Wisconsin as well as thank her for reading my blog. I will be sending her a new Crockpot Lunch Pot this week!
Today, I want to share a double-entree comfort food that MANY of you may already be familiar with, that I have prepped in my Lunch Pot recently. The HMR Program Turkey Chili and Chicken Pasta Parm! I throw them both in the Lunch Pot along with some Sriracha and let it warm for a massive bowl of comfort.
Here’s why I am really sharing this HMR Decision-Free favorite. Because I think in Phase Two, it’s easy to shy away from double-entrees. We are integrating outside foods in our diets, double-entrees seem so high in calories, and maybe we think we are tired of HMR entrees! But two entrees is still fewer calories than many of the GAP foods out there, and what worked in Phase One (i.e. super-filling, higher-volume, nutritionally-packed meals) still works in Phase Two to crowd out GAP foods and keep you full — more bang for your caloric buck! And yes, fruit and veggies and double-shakes will do the same. But the double-entree is adds some extra oomph after a hard workout or before a big event (especially on the road!) that you might not find with some of the other high-volume choices.
As I recommitted to increasing my meal replacements this summer, I am finding reflecting on what I did during Phase One to be invaluable in my continued journey to manage my weight. What is (was) your favorite double entree combo? Have you revisited it lately?
With the first couple days of summer vacation under my belt, I finally feel like I can come up for air and reflect on my first year teaching new classes in a new department (and drastically reducing my work travel!). Over the course of the last year, many things have changed, including the HMR enchilada entree! (Bet you didn’t see that transition coming, did you?)
I am trying to reconnect with my HMR meals – in Phase Two it is easy to forget about focusing on high-volume foods or on portion-control. And increasing my use of HMR meals has allowed me an opportunity to reeducate myself. But I don’t have a microwave at home, which means getting creative with entree prep.
In honor of my Decision Free Chips & Dip recipe made with the beef enchiladas, I decided to attempt another “finger food” recipe with the new chicken enchiladas. Super easy and still something people on decision free can have in their rotation!
(Warning: I used a toaster oven, so times and temps may vary)
- 1 HMR Chicken Enchilada entree
- Hot sauce, salsa, FF sour cream (your choice!)
- Cooking spray
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cover mini cookie sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.
Scrap sauce off enchiladas and cut into 6-7 “coins” each. Lay on side on cookie sheet so it looks like a coin (as pictured above). Will produce 12-14 “bites” total. Put in oven and bake 8-12 minutes until tops and sides have started to brown.
While bites are baking, mix the sauce from the entree with your choice of hot sauce, salsa (if you are allowed to have it in your program), and/or fat-free sour cream. I just used Frank’s Buffalo Sauce for the bites pictures above to add some additional heat to the dipping sauce.
Enjoy! And then share how you like to prepare the chicken enchilada entree… I could use some new ideas!
I have had a lot of ideas flying through my head the last few months and have had difficulty putting any of them down in words. But I read a post this morning that was discussing a study about “Biggest Loser” participants having difficulty maintaining their weight loss and a part of that article resonated with me:
“If you want to succeed with long-term weight loss, it’s crucial that you embrace both reality and imperfection. Remember, too, that your best efforts will vary. Your best when facing a challenging time in life will be different from your best when everything is hunky-dory, just as your best on your birthday, or on a vacation, or at a holiday meal will require indulgence.”
The article hit a place in my gut that really isolated a lot of what I have been juggling in my head. I have struggled with weight management in my first year teaching new subjects and dealing with some personal stresses, and I have felt like I am constantly hitting the “reset” button. Like I wasn’t giving my best effort to maintain what I had worked so hard to accomplish.
My health educator recently told our class that we always check-in to tell him what we are doing wrong. That we often fail to celebrate what we have done right. And reflecting on my own check-ins, I can see what he means. I can easily pinpoint when I have succumbed to the GAP and eaten everything in my purview. I know when I have skipped a workout. I know when I have decided to eat a high calorie food when a veggie or fruit would have worked just as well. I have seen my weight go up and down over the last 18 or so months since I transitioned out of the Phase One HMR classes. I have beaten myself up for the gains, and when I have had a loss, I have beaten myself up that I even needed to lose in the first place.
It’s hard to define what your best effort it, especially when we live in a world of comparatives. I struggle daily when I look at people successfully maintaining their weight and want to be like them but then I see others around me who don’t have to count every calorie and I want to be like them as well. I want to be free of managing my health but I want my health managed. I want to be a social butterfly but I also want to have the body of someone who lives at the gym and never eats a gram of fat. I know I can’t have all of these things as some of them operate on completely contradictory orbits. And I know this.
Everyone is different. Everyone’s “best effort” will be different. And everyone’s definition of a “tough time” will be different. The secret is figuring out what my own personal definition is – figuring out what is maintainable, what is my push-effort, and when I am not giving it my all.
We discussed the Biggest Loser study in health class last week and while many focused on the negatives, I wanted to learn more about the success story. The woman who not only kept it off, she continued to lose weight. Erin Egbert was quoted as saying she continues to struggle daily, but somehow she has found success. However, there isn’t much in the news about how she has managed to do it. The popular media instead chose to also focus on the failures, and not the successes.
So where does that leave me and my mental struggles?
First, I must continue to embrace the reality that weight management is really an EVERYDAY responsibility. I won’t make the comparison to brushing my teeth because I think that’s too simplistic. Instead, let’s compare it to sleeping. I could choose to not sleep – and I have done so in the past – but the implications of not giving myself ample time to sleep are magnified with each hour I shave off in a week. I can try to “catch up” on sleep but it isn’t the same, similar to crash dieting after a few weeks of ignoring weight management.
Second, I must realize that my best efforts need to be in relation to my own experiences and not the experiences of others. Just because some people can abstain from comfort eating easily, can deny themselves of food groups by just saying no over and over, I may still struggle with this, especially in times of stress. But I need a clearer definition of what a challenging time looks like, or when I am just making excuses. It’s like the sleep analogy. Choosing not to sleep so I can watch one more episode of a television series is not a responsible method of managing my sleep patterns. However, not being able to sleep due to nightmares or stress would be a challenge I might have less control over.
The reality that I need to accept is that this will be something I will struggle with my whole life. Weight loss was the easy part, but keeping it off will be with me forever. Some day it might get easier, but just like getting a regular and consistent amount of sleep (and forsaking a late night social event or television marathon), it will still be something I will need to be consciously aware of. I need to continue to celebrate my successes while acknowledging when I slip up, so I can keep myself on track.
I want to be the success story. I *will* be the success story. And I won’t let my journey be reframed to focus on the negative storyline.
Alright, it’s January 21 and I am just now getting around to sharing my 2016 goals. I wanted to make sure I could implement the biggest change before I shared it. And yes, I know accountability is a huge motivator, so I did share with many of my Facebook friends and those who I see face-to-face. But I wasn’t ready to write it out here until I knew it was sustainable.
I have some goals that are very time bound which are fitness focused. I will run the Little Rock Marathon on March 6, my first full marathon, with my sister. We are sticking together the whole way and not worrying about time. If I like the distance, I may do another on my own.
I also want to work towards a sub-2 hour half marathon. Yikes! That one may not be in the cards this year but I will put in the work to try to achieve this goal – my target race is October 1 at the San Jose Rock and Roll Half Marathon.
My final goal is to end 2016 at the same weight or lower than I started. I struggle a lot in 2015 to figure out what works and doesn’t work for my weight management efforts. I did put on some weight but I also lost some of the weight I gained. One of my takeaways from Core and Phase One is that I have the tools to catch a gain early and to take it off. And that life won’t always be stable. Nor will my weight.
For example, I was working out 2+ hours 6 days a week when I was losing weight. I cut out my social life. I gave myself one year to focus solely on regaining my health. But when that year was over, I may have gone too far the other way. Reduced my physical activity too much in order to regain parts of my life I was missing. So it’s about finding a balance that isn’t “all or nothing.”
Okay, at this point you have got to be wondering about the title of this post and the photo of goodness knows what (I bet you figured out it’s green soup!). So I apologize for the lengthy intro. But it’s really all related, I promise.
One of the parts of my life I have figured out is that despite losing the weight, I still face decision-anxiety over food. And that increased variety of food options means I eat more. So part of my solution is to decrease my variety. Especially during the week. My menu is relatively the same from day to day.
A morning staple over the last three weeks was inspired by one of my health educators who talked about her green soup. So every week, I take all the veggies that are near the end of their life (and some that aren’t) and throw them in a slow cooker with herbs and spices as well as broth or water. I slow cook them for 10 to 12 hours and then blend it all up. It makes a massive amount of green soup!
Every morning, while getting ready for work, I cook 2 to 3 cups of the soup in a saucepan on the stove. When it comes to a boil, I pour it into my thermos. Then when I get to work, I pour it into a coffee mug over the course of the morning and have a warm and filling soup that doesn’t need a spoon and that is incredibly low in calories. Not to mention all the filling veggies in it!
So that’s it. My magical secret. It keeps me full. It keeps me sipping on something. It gets me some veggies early in the morning. And it’s part of my morning routine that I have developed to help me reach my goals.
At some point, I will write up some of my favorite combos. But really you can’t go wrong with an onion, some broccoli/kale/spinach, a carrot, Italian herbs, garlic powder, and chicken broth. However, I really do just throw everything in there. And I have yet to not enjoy my morning green soup.
I have been sitting on this post for about a week. I wrote it in my head and then rewrote it about 60 more times before I finally opened up my computer and started writing. So what you are getting now is a stream of conscious thought that has been overthought. And that’s about where I am with this topic right now.
I had a very stressful series of incidents occur recently in my life. Without going into detail, I will leave it as one of the more stressful moments in recent history. And now, in the aftermath of the initial fallout, I am left reflecting on what I did well and where I need to continue to work on my stress management strategies.
First, a good practice, is that I exercised. A LOT. I worked out every day for at least an hour and on top of that took long hikes several days with friends. This physical activity helped me to relieve a lot of the physical anxiety I was feeling about the events that had unfolded. For an hour, I could just run, bike, row, kick, jump, sing loudly to music and leave my stress at the gym door.
I also tried to ensure I met my minimum intake of vegetables and fruit each day. I didn’t alway make it. But I kept it in the front of my mind and would opt for produce if it was available and in front of me.
But then there was the bad. And if you have been reading my posts for awhile, you can guess where I am going with this. I ate and drank just about everything in front of me after consuming that produce. I didn’t shovel food nonstop, but I did not make conscious choices about what I ate or when I ate it. I ate to comfort myself from the emotional and mental stress that I was facing. I would go out with friends to avoid facing the stress and would drink (in mostly restrained quantities) but this loosened my inhibitions which resulted in even less restraint about food choices. And it was a holiday week which meant those bad choices were everywhere around me.
I didn’t stop to think. I didn’t stop to evaluate how those food choices would impact my weight management. I didn’t consciously, in most cases, even realize I was making decisions about food. And now in hindsight, I can see where I didn’t use my other tools to manage my emotional and mental stress.
I am trying to regroup. I have meal plans and have food prepped. I am preplanning in order to reduce my choices about food. Which will help me continue to work through the current stress factors in my life. But I want to continue to build my stress management toolbox. And I think there are some pretty awesome people reading my ramblings. So I am throwing it out to you.
If you are still reading this post, please take one minute to reply. Share one way you manage stress. Or one way you combat emotional eating. What’s in your Stress Management/Weight Management toolbox?
During my journey through Core and Phase One on the HMR Diet, I nourished my body with packaged entrees, shakes, soups, and oatmeal. I lost a significant amount of weight. And during all of my classes, I would be reminded how important it would be to use these and other variations of “meal replacements” to continue to maintain weight loss once I transitioned to Phase Two.
It makes logical sense. These are pre-portioned, nutritionally-balanced, lower-calorie options to keep you satiated and nourished. You could have two HMR entrees and an HMR shake for the calories in a lot of fast food kids meals. And you would be much fuller for a lot longer!
However, as good a student as I was during the weight-loss process, I harnessed my inner teenager and rebelled a bit once I transitioned. I eschewed “meal replacements” in favor of “real food.” And I fought a battle of what is normal and “got tired” of tracking and other habits I had created during the previous year. And I did it all during the busiest months of the debate season where I was on the road almost every weekend.
From November to early April, I regained 20 of the 130 pounds I had fought so hard to lose. I had let the Gap push “meal replacements” out of my life meal by meal instead of embracing “meal replacements” and the role they play to maintain a reasonable calorie intake.
Over the last six weeks, as the debate season has wound to a close, I have struggled to embrace the habits I know will help me maintain my weight loss. But I realized that one of the hardest habits I have had is this notion of a “meal replacement” replacing a “meal” and during a recent health class, I realized why.
Another student who had transitioned from Phase One was complaining about the idea of consuming “meal replacements” and how she thought it was only temporary. She didn’t want to continue to make them a part of her life. She wanted to eat real meals. I knew exactly how she felt. But I also knew exactly why she shouldn’t kick them to the curb.
I have drastically increased the number of “meal replacements” over the last six weeks. But I have taken a new approach.
They aren’t “meal replacements.”
They are “decision-free meals.”
Not to be confused with the Decision Free portion of the HMR Diet, I have spent a significant time reflecting on why these 300-calorie or less meals that have 10 grams or more of protein are such a vital part of weight management.
It’s because you don’t have to make a decision! You can add veggies and/or fruit to these otherwise complete meals and you don’t have to portion things out or ensure there is a balance of protein/carbs/fat. The balance is there for satiety while the portion-control helps keep the over daily calorie consumption down.
However it’s the notion that these decision-free meals replace a meal that I have struggled with. Calling these complete meals a “meal replacement” triggered two things for me:
- I am missing out on something. When I am “replacing” a meal with a “meal replacement” then I am not getting an “actual meal.”
- I am on a diet and not embracing a lifestyle. Using the same technical terms I used in weight loss to describe my portion-controlled decision-free meals now makes me feel regimented in a way that doesn’t feel sustainable.
However, I am having real meals and it is sustainable. It’s all a matter of mindset and language shaping reality. When I did my post-graduate work on media reporting descriptors and the impact on female politicians credibility and electability, I found that subtle variations in something as minor as using the word “said” versus “argued” had an impact on voters. Language is powerful! An article in Slate Magazine explores just how powerful language can be in the justice system and policy making.
Thus, I will continue to embrace these decision-free complete-meals as a part of my fight against the Gap. They will be where I turn for a significant number of my meals because they are portion controlled and nutritionally balanced. But they will not replace anything. They are not substitutes. Because I am not missing out on anything anymore. I am embracing life in the best way possible.
As another year comes to a close, I surf my Facebook feed and read through emails attempting to digest and reflect on all that has happened in 2014. Everything that was lost and all that was gained.
I wanted to write that “this is a year that will go down in my history as a special year” but then I stopped myself. Because every year should probably be a special year. In fact writing that sentence reminded me of a short post in 2011 that I wrote when this blog was just a collection of randomness (oh wait, it’s still sort of that way, only more consistent!).
The fact that we highlight a specific timeframe. That we measure things based on a calendar. It’s always bothered me and yet motivated me.
Health class yesterday centered around this idea of timeframe. And more specifically about resolutions. About setting S.M.A.R.T. goals to help accomplish what we set out to do in the coming year. Goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time bound.
I set my goals for 2015. I want to run a full marathon (Portland look out!). I want to get under 150 pounds and stay there (the plan is to stick with a Healthy Solutions based diet). I want to journal at least once a week as writing has and will continue to be a release for me. I want to continue to raise money for community organizations. And I want to continue to strive for a better work-nonwork life balance which I will begin to accomplish through continuing to ensure I have “me time” through fitness and journaling.
As I set those 2015 goals out for the Internet to digest, my mind wanders back over everything 2014 brought to the table. I honestly don’t think I had any resolutions for this year. I just knew I needed to stick to the HMR Diet (I was still in the first months of Core) and that I just needed to continue to take small steps that would build upon each other towards the “yellow brick road to Oz” (sorry I just giggled and imagined an HMR class linking arms and skipping down a path to the Emerald City of Healthy and couldn’t resist sharing).
In January of 2014, I took a rare weekend off work. I traveled with friends. And I learned to put my needs out publicly rather than giving in to those who pushed back. Oh and on a whim, I signed up for the Disneyland Half-Marathon in August. I should probably note I had never run a full mile at this point.
In February of 2014, I ran my first mile (hmmm was there a motivation connection to the previous month? lol). It was at 4.0 mph on the treadmill. I stopped after one mile. But I ran a full mile without stopping. I also tried out every single group exercise class my gym offered at least once. And the ones I hated, I forced myself to revisit again later in the year, just to make sure I really didn’t like them.
In March of 2014, I celebrated my birthday at the gym. I invited all of my friends and we did BodyCombat and Zumba and it was so much fun!
In April of 2014, I ran a 10k. And I loved it. I felt strong. I felt empowered. I felt alive.
In May of 2014, I ran two 5ks with friends and learned how social running could be. I hit the 90 pounds lost mark after 6 months on HMR and blogged about it.
In June of 2014, I ran my first sub-30 5k. A number I had only dreamed about. And in a tutu! I also finished in first place in my Boxing Fundamentals class final exam. I LOVE boxing! Oh and I hit the magic 100 pounds lost.
In July of 2014, I introduced my mother to her first 5k. And she finished under her goal time. I ran a 6-mile race with my husband (the self-proclaimed “non-runner” in the family) by my side. I also ran through the streets of New Orleans after an impulsive race-day sign-up. And I stayed in the Decision Free box the entire time I traveled.
In August of 2014, I RAN TWO HALF-MARATHONS and finished both in under two hours and thirty minutes – one of which was the Disneyland Half. What?!?!?!? No but really… WHAT?!?!?! I also transitioned to Healthy Solutions.
In September of 2014, I ran a sub-60 10k. Can you tell how freakishly proud I am of my running? Probably because it’s super easy to measure compared to so many of my other accomplishments and because it’s something I used to try to get out of doing in high school gym class. I also transitioned to Phase Two.
In November of 2014, I hit my one year anniversary since starting HMR. And I ran with friends on Thanksgiving and scored a new 10k PR!
In December of 2014, I shaved some more time off my 5k (post coming in January) at the Santa Run. And I learned a LOT about myself. I spent the holiday season fighting in the gap. And I survived without too many bruises.
I am leaving 2014 on a high note. I know I have a lot of self-improvement still to do. A lot of goals I want to accomplish. But a renewed sense of self-determination and body full of energy (despite today’s 5:15am OrangeTheory class).
So in short, 2014, thank you for everything you taught me about myself and about the world around me. I am truly blessed to have gotten a chance to experience everything you contained and I look forward to jumping feet first into what 2015 has in store!
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.
Processing Phase Two: An Academic Exploration of Life Outside “The Box” and the Creation of a “New Box”
I lived inside of a bubble for almost a whole year.
It wasn’t a real bubble. That would be a little bit strange. But it was a world where I had protection in the form of a very strict diet called HMR Decision Free. For those who have been reading for awhile, you probably already figured that out. But it still amazes me that for a whole nine months, I lived in such a confined world of food choices and after so long inside my bubble, I think I had forgotten what existed outside of that world.
As I transition from my bubble world to the real world, I have found that a lot of academic texts that were shared with us in health class have become much more salient for me. I wanted to use my journal (blog) today as an opportunity to explore my transition while linking some of these texts as well as next texts to help me connect my personal experiences with broader research. Because I have learned a lot in the last several months but it helps me know that I am not alone in this world full of food that we call “The Gap.”
Cornell researchers Brian Wansink & Jeffery Sobal found that we make more than 200 decisions about food every day. While we learned about this study in our HMR health classes, I dismissed it at the time, because those were not choices I needed to make at that moment. My choices were much more limited. Did I meet my daily minimum of shakes and entrees? Which of the limited selection was I eating next? Since everything was tasty and nutritionally calculated, it was rare I really felt compelled to make a clear decision.
When I transitioned to Healthy Solutions, the number of decisions increased. Suddenly I needed to decide how to get my fruits and veggies in. I needed to go into grocery stores to acquire said produce. I needed to prepare them and write them down and it became more complicated that just jotting down the same several items in my journal each day.
And because I thought I missed variety, I quickly delved into produce diversification. However, perhaps I should have stuck with buying only what I needed each day to minimize choice and over-consumption. Pierre Chandon and Brian Wansink found, in the Journal of Marketing Research, that stockpiling food leads to over-consumption. And so while I thought I was saving money and time in buying in bulk, I have since realized that I consumed even more produce just because it was there, not because I was hungry.
Fruits and vegetables are not the worst things in the world to overeat. However, the habits created could possibly transfer to other items. And so by discovering this in Healthy Solutions, I was able to minimize the total amount of food in the house and as I transitioned to Phase Two, I had to keep this in mind. Because even frozen dinners, that would soon supplement my HMR meal replacements, could be abused.
As I have transitioned to Phase Two, I have worked hard to keep my home environment and work environment as clean as possible. But I have learned a lot in the transition.
I learned quickly that I couldn’t be trusted to just show up in the school cafeteria to select a meal on the fly. The temptations of everything around me would add up. And even if I grabbed small portions of lots of healthier options, it would still add up to way more calories than I needed in a meal. And because I was now socializing at lunch instead of eating in my classroom, I found that I consume far more despite the fact I could have done with less. And I am not alone. According to John M. De Castro, a professor at Georgia State University, in the British Journal of Nutrition, “Simply eating with one other person increases the average amount ingested in meals by 44% and with more people present the average meal size grows even larger.” And so I either have a shake about an hour beforehand and strategically plan which stations I will go to and which I will avoid, or I bring my own meal and bypass the cafeteria entirely.
The social pressures to consume “normal food” have led me to stray from guidelines we are encouraged to follow in Phase Two of HMR. While traveling, I worked to fill my plate with mostly vegetables. I used shakes and produce and entrees to offset hunger, and I walked when I could. But eventually, I found myself caving to the pressure to consume the “special homemade meals” that were offered near where we were sitting. The food was free and the families were so eager to share. And it was delicious. But I have struggled to pull myself back into real life day to day living. It is so easy to justify everything as something special. And yet I lived for nine months where nothing was special enough to eat and I had a few events that probably were once in a lifetime events where I resisted!
I know it is easy to justify my choices. Not just because I teach debate, but also because in the Gap we are handed justifications to make bad food choices every day. However, although I may have had trouble with defining my life after Phase One, I am able to bring myself full circle. Brian Wansink writes in Physiology & Behavior:
“This Laboratory of Life experience – trying to change mindless eating in the real world – brings lessons of both discouragement and encouragement for those of us interested in helping change eating behaviors. On one hand, some results are discouraging because they show how some of our most robust academic findings are often not implemented by people because they do not recognize their relevance, they lack the motivation to make them work, or they lack the step-by- step encouragement and direction they might need. If we fear we are often talking only to other academics, perhaps we initially are.”
While I had some trouble with motivation during some of my initial weeks in Phase Two, I think my health educator helped me assess what a bigger problem was for me. I still hadn’t figured out what my new box was. I had done so much work to stay in the HMR defined box, and now that I “could have” things, I was having them because there wasn’t a box I had clearly laid out.
In the past few weeks, I have figured out my triggers. I also know that severely limiting myself forever won’t work, and I do need to eventually allow for life events to happen. But I also need to write out a box for myself that I can stick with day to day.
I am writing out my Phase Two box here. In published form. To hold myself accountable. While I know that eventually it may change, this is how it need to be for the moment. In order to continue my weight loss efforts and prevent the Gap from consuming me.
I will continue to allow shakes and entrees be a part of my life. The definition of a meal replacement being 300 or fewer calories with more than ten grams of protein. I will allow myself one bar a day but bars must be under 200 calories with at least ten grams of protein and cannot be consumed in my house (in other words, bars should be used as portable meal replacements when necessary, not a daily requirement). I will continue to enjoy fruits and vegetables as these are important for my nutritional health but also to practice “more is better” with. And I will limit myself to no more than one serving of lean protein outside of prepared meal replacements each day. Finally, I will allow myself no more than 200 “other” calories. This might be popcorn. It might be a small cookies. It doesn’t have to be limited in scope (variety) but it does have to be limited in magnitude (calories) and I must ask myself “is this worth it? will it keep me full? if it won’t, why am I eating it?” and if I am satisfied with the answers, I can have it.
I was asked as I transitioned where I saw myself in five years. What is my five year plan. And the truth is, I am still thinking about it. But I know I don’t want to regress. I want to move forward. To better understand and support my health with healthy behaviors. And I will continue to contemplate this as I learn to live inside the box again. The white board has returned. And I look forward to building up those numbers because I am #HMRStrong!
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.
On November 13, 2013, I started the HMR Diet. Walking quickly left me out of breath and running was out of the question.
On January 28th, 2014, I logged on to Facebook during my lunch break and saw on Facebook that the Disneyland Half Marathon was 90% full after only opening a couple of hours earlier.
I signed up.
I had not yet run a full mile.
On February 20th, 2014, I sent the following email to my health coach:
“I arrived early for a class and thought… Wonder if I could run a mile before class?
I did it! It was “only” at 4.0mph but I don’t care. I didn’t walk at all!!!!I am stupid excited and just had to share. Thank you for the motivation!”
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.
This has been a hard post to write and I have been mulling about it for a couple of days. I am currently in New Orleans aka “The Big Easy” aka Food Culture Lives Here aka a really tough trip to be on while on the Decision Free HMR Diet. However, I needed to work some things out and since that’s why I started this blog, I need to get it all out here.
I have been on Decision Free for 35 weeks and am currently in week 36. I have not slipped outside of the box once. Knowing my history with diets, I knew when I started that I couldn’t have a cheat meal and not risk derailing like so many diets before.
I am now at my lightest weight ever. Heck, I showed up on Saturday morning on a red-eye and decided to sign up for a 5k in downtown New Orleans that evening and ran it in under 31 minutes! I am so much healthier than I was in November when I started. (And crazier… do you know how hot and humid it is here?!?)
The problem with getting lighter and healthier is that I am finding it harder and harder to stay HMRStrong and inside the box. I have been on the road for most of July between personal and professional travel – I have survived three red-eyes, a week in Disney World, hours upon hours of stressful travel delays, revisiting old eating haunts in Boston… so much temptation. It’s becoming ridiculously hard to say no to temptations because I feel so much better than I ever have. My willpower is weakening by the day.
My health instructor has this demonstration that he does when he talks about willpower. He holds a pencil up in the air and tells us that eventually that arm will give out. Willpower isn’t enough – it can only take you so far. And my arm definitely wants to drop the pencil.
So I am in one of the most food-centric cities in the world and trying not to eat everything around me. Instead I am practicing more is better but second guessing after the ninth meal replacement if maybe that one bite of duck sausage or crawfish wouldn’t have been easier. Yet knowing full-well it wouldn’t have been “just one bite.”
What isn’t helping is that my weight loss has slowed down to about a pound a week for the last couple of weeks. I knew it would probably slow eventually. I also know how water math works and that I might see a bigger loss in the future. Additionally I have been weighing in right after returning from trips and I know that travel fundamentally messes with my routine and body. But the slowdown has me second-guessing if it isn’t time to stop. Rationally, I know I have a ways to go. I am still overweight and still have so much to do to make myself healthier.
The siren call of food will continue to beckon for the rest of my life. I know this. It will beckon whether I am “Decision Free” or in “Healthy Solutions” or fully transitioned into “Phase Two.” I know that the time I live “in the box” allows me the time to evaluate “The Gap” and learn how to handle these tough situations while still holding a barrier to protect myself from making those decisions now.
This is going to be a tough week. I will continue to be tested. I planned ahead and made HMR muffins and biscuits to carry at all times (like last night in the French Quarter) and brought bars and extra shakes and entrees. I have fitness plans in place. And I have work to throw myself into during the weekdays to keep me away from food. I have worked way too hard for way too long to not see this to the end. I want to be as successful as I can be. I want to do this the right way. I just needed to talk myself through my thoughts and remind myself that I can do it. It will be hard. Life is hard. As I tell my seniors going into their last debates – “Give it everything you have. Leave it all on the table. Do your absolute best. Because win or lose this debate, you want to look back and have no regrets about the choices you made. You’ve got this.”
Cut off an arm!
But on a serious note, I have recently learned from friends that a few acquaintances have been overheard saying I am losing weight “the easy way” and my only wish is that I had heard them say it.
I am not big on confrontation, but I do think this is an issue that needs confronting. There is not an “easy” way to lose weight and I am so sick of all of the judgement that exists about various diet and health choices. From the stigma of weight loss surgery to the negative attitudes about meal replacements, I just don’t understand why people feel they have the right to label one method or another “easy.”
I have been on the HMR Diet for 227 days. That is 227 days where I have had to say no to all the delicious food out there in the world. It’s 227 days of eating the same general meals. It’s 227 days of dragging my butt to do some sort of exercise. It’s 227 days of mental and physical battles.
And yes, I have lost over 100 pounds in those 227 days. And yes, that seems fast. But to me those 227 days seem like years and years of struggling.
In truth, it has been years of struggle. My first attempt at a diet was in high school when I went with my mother to a Weight Watchers meeting. And I have been dieting in some form ever since.
I know how hard it is to count calories, points, carbs, vegetables, meal replacements, cups of juice, glasses of water, grams of protein and more. None of it is easy.
The difference this time is that I have found success because I have found something I can manage. Which makes it look easy.
However, I still have to fight to get every pound off. I have to take notes and learn in every health class so I can continue to form habits to keep the weight off once it is gone. I will have to continue my health education when I begin the long process of transitioning from Phase One Decision Free to Healthy Solutions and eventually to Phase Two. It is a long and time consuming process but it is what I need to do to be successful.
Ultimately when I hear someone say someone took the “easy way out” to lose weight, what I hear is jealousy. It is the same jealousy I could hear coming from my mouth years ago when I watched someone else be successful in their weight loss journey taking a different route than the diet I had prescribed myself to. I wasn’t successful. She was. Clearly her path was easier.
I was wrong about her path. And if you think my path has been easy, you are also wrong.
It sure as hell hasn’t been easy. But it does work for me. And I am healthier because of it. You are welcome to join me.
This week I officially hit the 100 pound weight loss club. Spoiler alert: It’s not an actual club. No clubhouse and no secret handshake. At least not that I am yet aware of.
As friends have learned about my accomplishment, I have had a couple ask me how it feels to have lost 100 pounds. And I don’t really know how to answer.
I want to say it feels fabulous. I want to tell them how awesome I feel. I want to extrapolate on the health benefits I am seeing both physically and mentally.
But I am hung up on something bigger.
I let myself get to the point where I needed to lose over 100 pounds.
In this truth lies the complexity of the triumph.
I started running while on this weight-loss journey. I have run several races and have signed up for many more. Every race so far I have had a faster time than the previous race. I want to shout my PRs from the roof top. I earned those. I am taking myself to new places I have never been before. I was never a runner and now I am. That makes me feel fabulous.
But reflecting on the 100 pounds lost yet only being a pound lighter than my lightest adult weight… It means I was a failure in the past. I let myself gain those 99 pounds. I treated my body terribly. I hurt myself and now I am making reparations.
Yes, I could say that “hey at least I caught it and am doing something about it” but in all honesty I feel like that’s a cop-out right now. I am instead choosing to use this time to reflect on the why and the how. Not why and how I lost the weight but on the gains. I think it is important to reflect on the reasons I gained so that I don’t repeat my mistakes.
So while I am happy to have finally hit this milestone and I don’t want to dwell on the negative, I am holding off on celebrating. I am realistically approaching the accomplishment. I still have many pounds to lose until I am at a healthy weight. The reparations are being made and the real journey is just beginning.
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.
Last night was my 133rd day staying “in the box” on the HMR Decision Free diet.
On my first night of class, my health educator showed us a graph. It showed data that the longer a person stayed “in the box” (eating only HMR food), the higher the likelihood they would stick with the program and the average amount of weight lost. The data included everything from the probability of success if you “cheated” the first week all the way up to 19 weeks.
So I bought a small white board and decorated it with permanent marker after calculating how many days were in 19 weeks. I then used a white board marker to update the number of the board. And then I set that board where I would see it every time I entered the kitchen. I also kept some helpful tools within reach, as you can see in the photo.
The first few weeks, it was struggle each day to stay in the box. But knowing I would have to reset that number was motivation to keep going. And changing the board felt like a triumphant win!
Eventually, I stopped updating each day and would change it every couple of days. However on a difficult day, the visual was a good reminder of how far I have come and how I didn’t want to reset the board after so much work.
Today is my 134th day on the diet. I still plan on keeping the board alive, but I am in the process of setting new goals. Goals to keep me going.
Because I can’t rely on the scale for motivation.
When I get on the scale at the clinic, I try to imagine what the new number will be. In the beginning there were huge jumps most weeks. Some were two or three pounds but many were four to six. And I knew logically that it would slow down as I had less to lose and my body adjusted to a lower-calorie diet.
The last three weeks I have lost one pound, four pounds, and then two pounds. In the real world, losing seven pounds in three weeks is a big deal. And I know I would have been so happy on previous diets with that loss. Yet last night, with a two pound loss on the scale, I felt disappointment.
Practical me knows that this process is going to be an ultra-marathon. That it’s a lifestyle change. That it won’t happen over night. And that I have works for 19 weeks but I knew going in that it would be a much longer process. Finally, I know that I have gotten stronger and have had so many non-scale victories that I should dance with joy.
Today I begin the process of setting new long-term non-scale goals. From fitness goals I am currently working on, to food based goals I need to figure out. I am determined to succeed one day at a time.
I keep wanting to write posts but as per usual, I can barely keep my head above water during the competition season. And I have been taking all my spare time and spending it earning PA (HMR Speak for exercise or Physical Activity calories).
However Friday, February 21, marked a special day. I have been on the HMR Decision-Free diet and “In The Box” for 100 days straight. I feel like being able to stick with anything for 100 days is gosh darn near impossible and worth a mini-celebration and reflection.
First, the question you want answered if you are anything like I was before this diet… How much weight have I lost?
When I weighed in on the first night, I was 280 pounds. My height is approximately 5’4″ which would be a BMI of 48.1, which according to the calculator on the Stanford Hospital site made me “morbidly obese.”
Fourteen weeks later (or 98 days), my weight at the clinic was 220 pounds. While my BMI is still an unhealthy 37.8, it dropped me down to the “obese” category and is a loss of 60 pounds (an average of just over 4 pounds a week).
So I lost weight. Which is ultimately expected when you don’t veer off a medically-supervised diet. But what else?
I feel so much better about myself. I feel like I can do anything I set out to do, including lose the rest of this weight. I have more energy and actually crave physical activity (really? did I just write that?).
After 100 days, the selection of 14 or so entrees, oatmeal, soup, and shakes may seem old. Yes, if I have to eat another cold five-bean casserole at a competition soon I may throw it at someone. However for the most part, I have been enjoying trying new seasonings and preparation methods as well as rediscovering some of my favorites from the first couple of weeks.
Also, and this is so foreign to me, life isn’t always about food. Lately I have been primarily focused on food as fuel to get me through the new activities I am discovering. I don’t revolve my life around what my next meal will be, I just eat when it’s the appropriate time before or after a workout or when I am hungry. And I am learning a ton about what size meal I actually need to stay full as opposed to what I used to pile and clean off my massive plates.
I still have a long journey ahead and I know there will be bumps along the way. However after 100 days, I feel like I am over the mental hurdle of “can I do this?” and have moved on to “what else can I achieve?” And that may be the best takeaway from these past 100 days.