One Year Grain Free and Going Strong

Hello friends! 

I’m writing in a celebratory post for my official one-year anniversary of going grain- and sugar-free! It’s been one heck of a trip, but I can say nothing but positive things about my journey so far. After 365 days, 30 lost pounds (where did they go?!) and a renewed love of the culinary arts, I’m so happy to say I made it to this point, and I can’t wait to see what happens in during the next 365 days of grain-free living.

I made my very first post on this blog on April 26th, 2012, after deciding to jump head-first into grain-free living. My views have definitely evolved over the past year, but the learning experiences I’ve had so far have been invaluable, not to mention the connections and friendships I’ve made along the way! Read my first post here: What is a Ketogenic Lifestyle, and Why Should I Care?

And just for fun, here’s a little facial comparison from Winter 2011-2012 and now:

Photo on 2011-11-09 at 00.48

Fat n’ Happy, Winter 2011

One-Year Anniversary, Spring 2013

One-Year Anniversary, Spring 2013

Oh, and if you haven’t heard, I recently did a guest post on Paleo Lifestyle Magazine about my newest creation: thumbprint cookies with homemade sugar-free strawberry preserves. Go check it out!

Bridal Fitness: A Reconciliation With My Body (and how Paleo brought me here)

How do You Measure Up?

If you’ve been reading for a while, you may recall a post I made back in the October about trying on wedding dresses. I was notably down about it, mostly because I’d found myself in a lull between losing weight and falling off the paleo bandwagon. The first time I tried to squeeze into a dress, all I could think about was my pudgy stomach and flabby arms that stuck out like two big sore thumbs. It was a pretty disappointing thing to go through.

Two weeks later, I came back with a progress report where I’d managed to drop 6 pounds. Ah, there it was! My motivation was back! It was exhilarating!

Now, with only 35 days standing between me and my big day, I haven’t gotten down to the svelte 130 pounds I was hoping to be in my (idealistic) mind. Since that October post, I’ve managed to slowly and steadily drop 20 pounds, going from 190 to 170, and a drop in two  pant sizes.

While I may not have the kind of loss as some out there (dropping 50 pounds in three months?! for real, guys, that’s crazy), I’ve really started coming to terms with where I’m at, and I think that’s a really important part of a whole-body transformation: acceptance of yourself, your capabilities and limitations, your zones of comfort and your willingness to go beyond those zones, your physical appearance, and the inner thought processes that control your relationships with food and your environment.

There have been plenty of times in my life where I’ve taken an unhealthy approach to losing weight. In high school, I would binge, then purge, several times a day, while literally running myself ragged on the race track. In college, I took the approach of simply cutting out meals. Later on, I would drag myself to the gym 5 times a week and exhaust myself to the point of frustration and zero weight lost.

Even in my journey into eating clean, I’ve hit a few bumps in the road. Through several month-long plateaus and moments of nutritional indiscretion, I’ve continued to re-shape and re-assess my attitude about the fuel l I put in my body.

Which brings me here, to this point: I’m 5’6” and 170 pounds. Technically, still overweight, but the reason this doesn’t bother me is because the dress I bought back in December that was snug and limiting now fits me like a glove, and I feel pretty! For once, I’ve looked at myself and felt the combination of the somewhat masculine world of paleo and the feminine world of weddings collide, almost perfectly.

It’s important to always keep the big picture in mind, is what I’m really trying to say. I’ve had my fair share of moments with paleo where I want to grab the scale and throw it out the window, shake my stubborn belly and yell at it until it shrinks into itself. But then I stop, take a step back, and think about how much growing into the paleo life has helped me. A year ago, I was nearly lost without hope of ever finding a way to control my expanding waistline. My hormones were out-of-whack, my emotions went up and down consistently, I wasn’t close to Josh in the ways I desperately wanted to be, and I’d basically given up on finding a solution to any of these problems.

Which brings me to yet another exciting point: on the 25th of April, I’ll be celebrating my one-year anniversary of going grain- and sugar- free. Assuming I don’t lose another pound until then, I’ll have lost over 30 pounds total as a result of my change. Beyond straight weight loss, I’ll be proud to say that my bodily systems have successfully re-programmed themselves (hormonal, digestive, emotional, etc.) and I’m at one of my highest fitness peaks since high school.

I’ve still got a ways to go, but I couldn’t ask for a more enjoyable or educational journey to take part in.

So for now dear readers, keep calm and paleo on! 

Hooray for Bacon!

Hooray for Bacon!

One-Year Progress Report: How Paleo Changed My Life

Jan12_vs_Feb13

Left: January 2012, approx. 205# | Right: February, 2013, approx. 175#

I love success stories.

It’s always thrilling to see others who have managed to turn some aspect of their lives around and reach a goal, such as losing a certain amount of weight or fitting back into their high school prom dress.

I guess I have my own success story, though at this point, I’m merely at one singular point in this journey I’ve started. I wouldn’t even call it a half-point, even though I’ve lost 30 pounds since this time last year, and have about 30 to go until I reach my “goal weight.”

No, I don’t think it’s a half-point. I’ve come a long way from where I was a year ago, but my journey won’t be done once I lose the last 30 pounds. In the spirit of every major lifestyle change, the journey is never really complete; rather, you reach milestones and progress your way through the ups and downs, forever.

I’d like to share some of my progress through Paleo with all of you out there. Hopefully it will inspire some of you to make the leap for yourselves.

******

 In January of 2012, I started out as overweight (approximately 205 pounds), mildly depressed, frustrated and consistently tired. I tried exercising for an hour every day at the gym while restricting my calories, and probably lost around 5 pounds in the process, but wore myself out before much progress came and stopped going after about three months.

Winter 2012

All the while, I was working toward completing my BA in English at the U of MN, and found myself buried under piles of Shakespeare, Bates and Kincaid. It made it hard to focus on my health.

Josh and I would order pizza two or three times a week and hole ourselves up in our closet-sized apartment, which we were renting from an older woman with a crotchety cat and too many things. The winter dragged on and I kept searching for a solution to my weight problems.

In April, I discovered /r/keto. At first, the thought of abandoning wheat and sugar terrified me. I couldn’t imagine my life without it. I couldn’t bring myself to believe that everything I’d ever been told—fat is bad and whole wheats are good—was a lie. 

However, as I researched more and dove deeper into keto, I became more convinced that I had to make the leap. For my health, for my mind, for a last-chance grab at something that might actually help me.

******

In June, Josh and I packed our bags and moved from MN to CO. I kept losing weight and managed to get myself down to 175#. I was ecstatic.

As the summer dragged on, I became more and more slack with my eating. I started drinking more beer and, after Josh proposed to me, I felt too busy to keep tracking my food on MFP.

Eventually, I landed back at 190#. I realized that I didn’t have all the time in the world to fit into a beautiful wedding dress, and that I needed to act fast to lose the weight in time. I started strategizing, and found that it was time to start taking my health more seriously.

It was at this point that Josh and I made our slow transition from Keto into Paleo. I started training harder, faster and longer. I got sick, I got hurt, I got frustrated and tired and couldn’t figure out why my weight loss would stop and start so often.

I fell, and I pulled myself back up—over, and over, and over again.

******

Today, I stand at 5-foot-6 and weigh 175 pounds. 

When I started my weight loss journey back in January of 2012, I weighed around 205 pounds. That’s a loss of 30 pounds.

Winter 2013

I went from a loose size 18 to a cozy 12.

I went from hours of monotonous elliptical work at the gym to intense plyometric training done in half the time.

I can do push-ups now. I’ve never been able to do push-ups before. I can also do Rock-style sit-ups.

When I flex my abs, I can feel the six-pack beneath the remaining fat. 

I have a long way to go. Unfortunately, I was too embarrassed in 2012 to take my “fat” measurements, so I’ve got little comparison beyond what I see in the mirror and what I see on the scale. This can make it hard to see the real “measurements of success,” even if the face staring back at me is slimmer.

But I’m happy with where I’m at. Paleo has given me a new sense of power. I finally feel in control of what goes into my body, and the kind of output I’ve got in my daily life. I don’t feel unsure about what I should be doing or eating. Food no longer scares me like it used to. Instead of wishing myself slim, I’m willing myself strong.

And that, my friends, is what makes all the difference.

Bridal Fitness: A Progress Report, and Sweet Potatoes to Boot

Aaaaahh!Happy Wednesday! I’m here with a brief progress report and a featured recipe that I just can’t get enough of: oven-roasted purple sweet potatoes.

First, a progress report. As you may have seen in my last post, I finally broke through my plateau by cutting alcohol out of my diet. I was going through a nasty bout of some bug for about 3 weeks during the holidays, which stunted my exercise efforts and made me crave good ol’ comfort foods (though I had an answer to that problem).

Nevertheless, once sickness had passed and I figured out what I needed to do, I dropped several pounds and started feeling back on top of my game. Oh, but it doesn’t stop there… I’ve lost even more!

Since my post about a week ago, I dropped below the 180 line and have managed to fit comfortably into several older pairs of pants that had been too small for me for the past two years. I’ve also started running again, and managed to complete a walk-run 5k in 45 minutes.

It’s a great feeling, folks.

I’m hoping that by the time my wedding rolls around, I’ll be under 170 (I’m about 7-8 pounds away) and a lot more comfortable showing off my arms and back. Heck, maybe I’ll even be able to run a 5k without stopping. Who knows?

Oven Roasted Sweet PotatoesWell, enough blabbing about myself. Here’s a recipe that’s super simple and melt-in-your-mouth delicious:

Oven-roasted purple sweet potatoes. 

You’ll need:

  • two purple sweet potatoes, medium in size, chopped into 1-inch circles
  • 1/4 C. virgin coconut oil
  • ground cinnamon
  • tinfoil
  • an oven heated to 325
  • 1.5-2.0 hours

So, all you need to do is cut those potatoes up into circles about 1-inch wide. Melt the coconut oil and toss the potatoes with the oil in a mixing bowl. Sprinkle in a tiny amount of cinnamon, just enough to get a bit on each piece. Wrap the potatoes in tinfoil, then bake in the oven for 1.5-2.0 hours. They’ll get extremely moist and lightly fragrant. Once they’re out of the oven, coat them lightly with cinnamon, serve and enjoy!

Give Yourself a Break (literally)

Relax!Sometimes, all the body needs is a little break.

Fortunately and unfortunately, our bodies are usually pretty good at letting us know when they need us to take a step down and relax. For me, that meant a week of sickness. And a weight loss plateau. And weeks of frustration. And another bout of sickness.

Ladies, gentlemen, cave people: while the impetus to continuously challenge and change the body and the mind is a strong force for many of us, heed my words of caution and GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK! As I once outlined in a post about the dangers of chronic cardio, it’s important to give your body and mind a chance to play catch-up, especially if you’re in weight-loss or muscle-building mode. This might seem like common sense to some, but it’s a good reminder for those of us who tend to get tunnel vision (ahem–me) when working toward a goal, especially when that goal is something like weight loss.

If you’re hardcore into CrossFit and find yourself starting to lag during your workouts, don’t get angry with yourself and try to “push through it” by working yourself harder or longer. Instead, take a day or two off, do some light yoga, go for relaxing walks or just hang out and keep your mind off the gym for a few days. By giving yourself some time away, your muscles can heal, your stress levels will go down, your mind can take a break, and you’ll be able to return to the gym in a few days’ time, stronger and better-able to rock the dead lifts you were struggling to complete before. I might even venture so far as to say that you can take several days away from the gym and come out better than before.

The same goes for your diet and intake: of course, in the simplest sense, you require a caloric deficit to lose weight. Although the calories in/calories out method isn’t quite as effective as we all think, monitoring your intake and controlling portions is a good way to make sure you’re not overfeeding yourself. But, as many dieters can tell you, you can only sustain a markedly low intake level for so long before your body begins to realize that it’s not getting enough food, therefore holding onto body fat and consumed calories with vigor in order to stave of starvation. This is called biological science, and you can either make it work for you, or against you.

Now, there’s no true scientific evidence to support this theory, so I’m telling you to take my words of advice (and any words of advice not coming from a medically trained professional) with a grain of salt, BUT: instead of keeping a major caloric deficit day-in and day-out, or even worse, lowering your calories gradually until you get to 900 calories a day, try calorie cycling. Essentially, when you cycle your calories, you eat at a “dieting” level for a few days out of the week, then you eat a higher amount of calories the rest of the days. So, for example, Monday you’d eat 1,400 calories, Tuesday you’d eat 1,600, Wednesday you’d eat 2,000, and Thursday you’d eat 1,400 again, so on and so forth. By continuously “confusing” your body, the chances of it thinking that it’s starving is much less likely.

Listen, I know it’s scary to be told that you should stop exercising as much and that you need to eat more when weight loss is the end goal, but take the advice from someone who stressed herself out a bit too much when the pounds stopped falling off and got sick for three weeks. It’s much better to take a few days off than it is to be bed-ridden and stuffy-headed because you couldn’t get yourself to relax.

Bridal Fitness: Musings

Photo on 12-7-12 at 10.43 AM #2Well, it’s been approximately nine months since I first started my journey into a life without grains. It still amazes me every day to think about all of the positive effects this lifestyle has had in every part of my life, as well as in the lives of others who have caught the paleo bug. The baby of my efforts? A new sense of strength, something I didn’t have for most of my life.

The last time I felt this kind of strength was in 10th grade (which was, dare I say, around 2004) when I decided to join my high school track and field team on a whim. I didn’t actually stay with the team for the entire season, but boy did I run. I ran and ran and ran, and I dropped 45 pounds in the process. My former teammates who used to laugh at the fat girl huffing and puffing around the track were pretty surprised when I came back the next year as a different person, slim and athletic and carrying around a big smile. That felt strong. But not the kind of strength I have today.

Today, my strength is both measurable and conceptual. My arms and legs feel solid, and in my head, I walk around knowing and feeling that I’ve changed myself for the better. All previous battles I fought with food have become obsolete. I love food now, and I love eating! I love every aspect of a complex avocado, the hearty taste of steak dry-rubbed and grilled to perfection, the sizzle of bacon (even if it tends to spit hot grease onto my arms as I’m cooking it), the sweet, fatty texture of macadamia nuts paired with a few blueberries as a late-night snack. I love moving my body, even if it hurts, even if my arms give out mid-push up, even if I can’t breathe for a good 30 seconds after completing an intense interval of Insanity Fast&Furious. I love it–it makes me feel good, whole, strong.

Even though I’m a good 20-30 pounds from where I’d ultimately like to be, for once, I finally feel like I can like my body. Sure, it upsets me sometimes, and I wish that things could have been different (you know, body, it’d be really nice to not gain a million pounds if I decide to eat pizza, thanks), but I like it. It can do things that many people’s bodies cannot. It’s not perfect, but it’s mine.

As I’ve started to slim down and tone up, a few things have crossed my mind, particularly about how I can incorporate this part of my life into something that’s useful not just for me, but for others as well. After doing a bit of research, I’ve decided I’m going to start saving my money for a chance to become a CrossFit trainer. I’ll probably be saving for a while, and it will definitely have to wait until after my wedding and the following crazy period, but it’s something that I think would help solidify this new commitment to physical and mental health that I have.

Has anyone out there taken the leap and jumped into a career in fitness? What made you make the jump?

Bridal Fitness: One-Month Progress Report

Weight Loss Progress

Well, folks, the numbers are in and it’s looking good from where I’m standing (on the scale, that is).

Although it’s technically been a month and four days since I started with my new regimen, the results have been fabulous so far. Here are my stats: (note: I stand at 5’6’’)

 

  • Oct 25, 2012: 190#, size 16
  • Oct 29, 2012: 186# (we’ll attribute that loss to mostly water weight)
  • November 5, 2012: 184.8#
  • November 29, 182.4#, a comfortable size 14


When I started, my BMI was 30.7. It’s now 29.4, down over 1 point, which is still technically in the “overweight” category, but thank god I’m no longer above 30. At my highest weight of 202 pounds, which was just this last winter, my BMI was 32.6. Yikes! No wonder I was always so down all the time.
My goal is obviously to be in the healthy range, which is always a bit difficult to calculate when you’re weight training instead of just losing fat. This is because the weight of the muscle can disproportionately skew your results. In reality, I’ve probably lost more fat than the scale says, and have gained back some weight in muscle because my routine has been so intense with muscle training. So perhaps, for the most part, a bodyfat calculator would be a better measure than BMI.

Some NSVs for me now are:

 

  • Better fitting jeans, one size smaller than I was able to wear at the beginning of my routine in October;
  • My quads are solid (like rocks!) and my legs are starting to firm up all around (hello, calves!);
  • I’m now onto level 3 of Jillian Michael’s 30-day shred (I’ll admit, I skipped level 1 and didn’t do a full 10 days of level 2). It’s difficult, but I’m able to follow along at least 80%;
  • My face is definitely slimming down, as is my stomach (still a ways to go, though);
  • I haven’t smoked since Halloween! One month milestone! According to my little smoking cessation app, I’ve avoided smoking an entire carton of cigarettes, and have saved nearly $60.
  • My shoulders are starting to get more definition, and I’m able to do the entire set of traveling push-ups with Jillian Michaels (I can’t begin to explain how weak my arms have been for my entire life. Doing more than 5 push-ups used to throw me into a terrible pain with burning sensations, and I’d just give up.)


So, if you haven’t had the time to read through my earlier entries, you may be wondering exactly how hard I’ve been having to work to get this much progress in a little over 30 days. Here’s what I’ve been up to:

 

  • Like I mentioned a few times above, I’m currently doing the Jillian Michaels 30-Day Shred. I skipped level one and went directly to level two, which I did for about 7 days. I’m now onto level three. Her workout is a version of HIIT that is extremely effective in building muscle and upping your metabolic rate. I think that I will be moving onto the 20-minute Insanity workout DVD once I’m up to an adequate level with Jillian Michaels.
  • As far as exercise frequency goes, I work out 5 days a week and rest on weekends. I have, on occasion, missed workout days, but who doesn’t? Workouts last an average of 20 minutes, but by the end, I’m sweating my butt off!
  • I try to take daily walks during my lunch hour, usually between 20 and 45 minutes in length. Living in Colorado has made this incredibly easy.
  • I eat Paleo 80% of the time, and consume non-paleo foods such as cheese and craft beer 20% of the time. I rarely ever have anything grain- or sugar-based. This means fried eggs with bacon and coffee for breakfast, a big green salad with oil&vinegar dressing and avocado slices for lunch, and a medium-sized portion of protein for dinner, such as pork chops, burgers or bratwurst in natural casing, with green beans seared in bacon fat or butter on the side. My macro-nutrient ratios usually end up with me eating 65% of my calories in fat, 25% from protein and 10% from carbs, though those number fluctuate daily.
  • I track everything with My Fitness Pal. Both the mobile app and the website make losing weight a lot more fun and easier to handle, especially with the social aspects involved.
  • I have fun! I know losing weight can be extremely frustrating, especially if things stagnate, but I always try to enjoy myself when I exercise, prepare new foods or take myself on a daily walk. It’s like a competition with myself that I’m destined to win either way.


How is everyone else doing in their paleo adventures? Let me know in the comments below!