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: 2-Week Progress Report

I started tracking my weight on October 25th; when I started, the scale read in at an even 190 (eek!). As I stand at 5’6’’, that technically categorized me as obese (whaaaaaaaat) with a BMI of 30.7.

Last week was my first real week of my new gym routine, which includes light cardio and intensive weight training five days a week, with my weight routine alternating between muscle groups each day. Mondays and Thursdays, I work on my arms and upper body. Tuesdays and Friday I work on my legs and butt. Wednesdays, I work my core. In addition to this, I stuck to my diet of high-fat, medium protein and low carbs, with only one day out of the week that I had a single, zero-carb mixed drink.

So, did it get me anywhere? You bet it did. Although I’m only in the beginning stages of this weight-loss routine, it’s going much more quickly for me than what I think may be “normal” for most people. Of course, most things about the keto and paleo lifestyle can be considered “abnormal” by those who don’t participate, but that’s another conversation all by itself.

In the 12 days that I’ve been officially tracking my weight and watching my intake, I’ve gone from 190 to 184.8 (5.2# loss), which brings me from a BMI of 30.7 to 29.8, officially out of the dreaded “obese” category and into the “overweight.” Thats an average of 0.44# lost each day. If I can even maintain half of that amount of loss over the next 180 days before my wedding, that’ll help me shed almost 40#, bringing me to a healthy, beautiful 145#, exactly where I want to be.

This is no magic diet, though, and it’s definitely not something that can be taken lightly. Although I had immediate success when I started keto the first time back in April–and I had that success without going to the gym or changing my activity level by much, only my eating habits–the reality is that a lifestyle like mine requires at least some effort in order to keep things moving. Before, I would usually sit on my couch and eat cheese and pork rinds at night, then marvel at the fact that I could lose weight so easily. Of course, that was before, when I still had college classes to attend and a million places to be every day, making it easier for me to get up on my feet and move.

Now, I have a desk job, where I sit for 8+ hours a day, and then go home to watch television. At least, that’s how it used to be. Even though I maintained my diet through this lifestyle change, it became easier to over-indulge in beer, sugary fruits and other foods that ultimately stalled my weight loss (and even reversed it for a month or two.) After trying on those bridal dresses, though, and feeling so unhappy about how I looked, I knew that the new lifestyle I had wasn’t going to help me get where I wanted to be at all. So I reapplied myself and am being rewarded with my efforts quite nicely so far.

Here’s a breakdown of an average day for me:

  • Breakfast: Two eggs fried in butter with a side of bacon, a cup of espresso with 1 Tbsp. heavy cream, a dash of cinnamon and a packet of stevia (which, by the way, I may be cutting out of my diet relatively soon, because it contains Dextrose, which is glucose in it’s active form). I also take psyllium husk capsules for extra fiber.
  • Mid-Morning: Coffee, black
  • Lunch: Usually a large salad, mostly made up of greens and other vegetables, with added fats such as bacon crumbles, full-fat salad dressings, nuts and cheeses. No lentils, starchy foods or sugary additions. Avoid dressings made with soybean oil, too! I also try to take at least 30 minutes to walk during my lunch break; I’m fortunate enough to have several neighborhoods I can walk through to occupy myself and get in some physical activity during the day.
  • Mid-afternoon: Chugging water. Exercise after work (20-30 minutes of light cardio, such as treadmill walking, elliptical or jogging) and 30-40 minutes of weight training on selected muscle group.
  • Dinner: Larger protein meal (pork chop, steak, burger, bratwurst or drumsticks) with a salad or a side of vegetables sauteed in either bacon fat or butter.
  • Late night snack: ¼ cup of blueberries with ¼ cup of almonds–a good source of antioxidants and healthy fats with a limited amount of sugar. Berries, especially blueberries and blackberries, are some of the fruits lowest in sugar filled with great health benefits. We buy the frozen organic blueberries from Costco–the value for the amount we get is insane!

All of this food usually shakes out to be between 1,500 and 1,800 calories, never going over 50g of carbs (it usually stays around 30g) and averaging 15-20g of fiber. Most of my carbs come from the leafy greens and vegetables I eat throughout the day.

The nice thing about this lifestyle is that I rarely ever feel hungry, I can go hours between meals and not lose my energy, and I usually end up eating less than what I have on my plate because the fats satiate me more quickly than any carbohydrate-based meal ever could. On top of it all, I still lose weight while being able to eat foods like fried eggs, bacon, steak, cheeses and buttered vegetables. I couldn’t ask for a better diet!

Do you have a routine that has worked well for your grain-free, sugar-free lifestyle? Or maybe you’ve found pitfalls that you can warn others about when adhering to a keto/paleo lifestyle? Let me know in the comments!