Saturday, November 1, 2014

What a Difference a Year Makes: Photo Evidence!

This post is not about "fat-shaming" or miracle diets. This post is about my own personal journey the last two years to achieve a more healthy lifestyle.  I went from feeling old and unhealthy to being healthy and fit and I wanted to share.  I am so proud of myself because I really did it and changed my life!
It is really true what they say; if you are lucky enough to live past your teens and twenties ;-) age will slowly sneak up with you.  One day you look at yourself in the mirror and you wonder when the wrinkles took over the acne and realize that if you pulled out all of your gray hair you would be almost bald.

I was aware that I was showing the signs of aging and I had noticed that I felt stiff and had achy joints. I also had been watching the scale and realized that my weight was slowly approaching the Big Five-Oh, as in 150 pounds.  My clothes were getting tighter and I felt old and gray but I told myself that I was in my 40's now and life was going to change.  This was the time I could be fat and happy because I was middle-aged!

But I wasn't happy…  Long gone was the slim Rita of my youth and I had to learn to deal with it.  I was eating pretty good, maybe 85-90% healthy stuff (according to the government's idea of healthy eating) and exercising pretty regularly.  I hadn't really changed my lifestyle and diet since I was in my 20's. And I loved my bigger boobs and rear (I know, TMI) for after all, they were in style! Sure, I could live without the floppy soft arms and belly, second chin, and muffin top that came along with my bodacious boobs and voluptuous rear, but I had birthed two kids and was middle-aged, so it all came with the territory, right?

Imp started having some health issues in October 2012 and we found out it was a gluten-sensitivity, and after reading about wheat we decided to all go gluten-free with him.  It was difficult the first months but we adapted.  I was excited to experience the miraculous weight-loss that supposedly would come with going gluten-free, but it didn't happen to me.   I lost some weight and promptly gained it back.  But I started feeling better.  Not great, but better.

Exactly one year ago we went to Pedernales Falls State Park and had a glorious time hiking.  Oh, I was achy and my jeans were a bit tight, but I was in great shape for my age.  At least that is what I kept on telling myself .  When we got home I started going through the photos and came upon this image.

I stopped and stared at the photo for awhile.  I hadn't seen myself from this angle in a while and I was a bit shocked.  The majority of my life I have been in pretty good shape without any work, yet the last ten years I was slowly blowing up from my 120's to almost 150 (146 to be exact).  All I could think of while looking at this photo was that I looked like a stuffed sausage.

I told myself that I was still shapely (true!) .  And everyone knows the camera adds 10 (or 20 or maybe even 30?) pounds. And it is true, I did love some of my new curves, but I was not healthy. I still felt sluggish, gassy, achy, stiff, depressed, and tired.  Even my blood pressure was getting higher and close to the "needing medication" range, but my doctor  assured me this was a normal part of aging.

But there was something wrong; I didn't feel 40, I felt 90.  I couldn't even put on my socks without sitting on the bed.  When did this happen?  Wasn't going gluten-free going to cure all of my ills? However, I decided to ignore my slow and steady weight gain and achy stiffness and just blame my age.  Even my doctor told me that I was simply middle-aged and should expect to have aches, pains, and weight gain.  Yes, he called me middle-aged to my face and yes, I now have a new doctor.

But something did change.  One day out of the blue I read about the Whole 30 eating plan, called my mom who also struggled with her weight and health, and begged her to do it with me.  And our life completely changed.

This is me and the boys exactly one year after the photo from above.  Both of these photos have not been retouched in any way in case you were wondering.  Gone are my luscious boobs and rear (sorry my dear sweet husband, I know you miss them!) , but also gone is my soft-as-jelly puffy middle (abdominal fat is supposed to be very dangerous), floppy old-lady arms, and thunder thighs.  I can FaceTime someone and not have to hide my double-chin as it is absolutely gone, no surgery necessary.

I started the Whole 30 in Feb. 2013 at 146 pounds and by May 2013 I was 128 pounds.  Note:  You only do the Whole 30 for thirty days, it is not a lifetime commitment.  It just helps you slay the sugar and carb dragon.  Now I am staying stable around 126 pounds, nine months later.  So I must be starving myself and exercising like mad, right? After all, I have a middle-age metabolism and had two kids...

Nope.  I eat tons of delicious food and usually my only form of real exercise is daily walks and bike rides around the neighborhood or hiking in the park.  I try to shoot for at least 2 miles a day but I don't power walk.  I simply stroll and enjoy the sites and being with my loved ones, even if it is only my doggy.  I also don't use a Fitbit or anything like that.  No electronic gadget is going to make me healthy by counting my steps and throwing out pretty graphs.  ;-)

Our eating has really simplified and I guess you would say it is "primal" if you want to give it a trendy diet name.  We eat healthy red meat, salmon, sardines, and some chicken and quite a bit of veggies and fruits.  We drink some whole milk from a local farm, and eat cheese and homemade yogurt.  We occasionally do some gluten-free grains when we have homemade pizza or hamburgers and occasionally beans when we have Mexican food or eat hummus.  But our main diet is healthy meats and plenty of fats (coconut oil, butter, ghee, lard), some fruits, lots of veggies, some nuts and dairy.  I DON'T DO DIET FOOD, YUCK!!!

I do drink coffee and have a few glasses of wine a week.  And I confess I still go on complete junk food binges at times.  For example, last month I went through a Marzipan addiction and had some every night for a week.  I gained a pound or two, stopped eating marzipan, and lost it immediately.  The kids eat as healthy as we do, but like us they have their occasional treats (fudge on trips, homemade cookies, etc.) and they have learned to read labels and question mystery ingredients.  I was lucky I started them on this health journey when they were still so young.

We don't eat any gluten and try to stay away from added sugar/honey/maple syrup except for special occasions.  The kids and I always say that fruit is God's candy.  :-)  Our grocery bills aren't higher (processed food and going out are more expensive) but I do spend more time in the kitchen.  However, I usually enjoy it and consider it my new hobby.  I keep it simple and prepare easy dishes.

These days my weight is stable, my everyday aches and stiffness are gone,  my blood pressure is in an athlete's range, and I am happy and less anxious.  And hopefully I will be around longer to enjoy my friends and family.

If you want to follow my "feeling less like a stuffed sausage" journey you can read these posts as I documented much of it here.  I really hope to inspire you if you feel old and gray and sad and blame it on your age.  There is an easy, affordable solution that does not involve calorie counting, fancy exercise classes, or prepackaged diet food.  It is really true, you are what you eat and a simple change in diet can change your life in ways you can't even imagine.  My family and I have never been healthier (and happier), which is something money can't buy.

I mentioned above that my mother also did the Whole 30 and you might wonder how she is doing.  Well, she now eats like us and walks daily.  She is in her 70's and has been overweight since her 40's.  She texted me a before/after to post up here on my blog.  She not only lost quite a bit of weight, going from obese to normal  (according to her BMI), but she also doesn't have the aches, pains, and stiffness that made her feel like an ancient old lady.  Her cholesterol number ratios are outstanding (her total cholesterol is still a bit over 200 but we don't worry about that) and she has really reduced her blood pressure medicine.  See, age doesn't matter!

The government is stuck in the 80's.  We shouldn't be so scared of simple healthy food and fat. I really believe sugar and and other refined carbs are the delicious devils that are slowly killing us.

I would love to hear your story of your own personal health journey.  Please tell me about it or leave a link in the comments!!!  And if you are fed up like I was a year ago and are ready to make a commitment to eating healthy and changing your life, please check out the Whole 30 for inspiration.  They are not a paid sponsor, just a site that saved my life.  :-)

And tomorrow this blog will be back to normal with a new Photoshop/PSE action.  ;-)

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  1. You look amazing!
    Congratulations, you have so much to be proud of!

  2. Wow, great transformation! The main thing is you feel great! I, too, agree that sugar (soda is evil) and processed carbs are bad for us. Thanks for sharing your journey.

  3. You look amazing and, more importantly, you're feeling amazing... that's awesome! Congrats!

  4. Rita,

    I wrote to you several months ago, thanking you for mentioning the Whole30. My experience was very similar to yours but I had more weight to lose and I sure did. I started shortly after reading your Blog post in February and, as of my last weigh in, had lost 50 pounds. I won't say it was easy because the first Whole30 is a bit of a shock to the system. But I was so stoked on feeling good that it actually did make the Whole30 choices easy once I completed my first one. I have done 3 Whole30s since February and some Whoe20's etc. depending on the calendar. It also became a family affair for us and other converts included two of my brothers and their wives and my sister who has been eating no grains for several years. Just wanted to mention to Melissa Hartwig and her husband are working on another book and were looking for success stories. Not sure if you have shared your story with them but it sure motivated me, so you might want to send it on over. Thanks again!

  5. Wow, you and your mom look amazing. Those before and after photos make me want to do the same thing for my family.

  6. Thank you so much Lisa, Shirley, and Ponytails!!!

    And Paula, what a wonderful thing to hear about your success stories. WOW! It really does change your life, doesn't it? And thanks for the tip about sharing my success story, I might go ahead and do that. I am their biggest (well, not so big anymore!) fan. ;-)

  7. You, last year, is where I am now. At 43, I'm feeling so *blah* that I barely have the energy anymore to do something about it, except in sporadic bursts of anxiety or (I'm ashamed to say) anger. (Say it with me: pair-ee-men-oh-pawz) SO many of my local acquaintances are 'doing this' and 'trying that' and 'buying whatever goes with it'. There always seems to be a catch, and I don't 'do' catches any more than I do 'fads'.

    I am going to pick your posts apart, my dear, not because I doubt you, but because I feel I'm to the point that I need real baby steps in order to do this.

    Thank you, so much, for posting this. I've always loved your little goodies you share, but now you're my hero :)

  8. Thank you for sharing this. I saw one of your posts earlier and was inspired to do my own whole 30. It's made a huge difference in my life and I feel good knowing I can control how I feel by what I eat.
    Can I recommend the documentary Fed Up? If you haven't seen it you should. I really believe it should be shown at every school as well. It addresses childhood obesity and how sugar is killing our kids. It also talks about how powerful food lobbies have kept the government in the dark ages w their regulations and recommendations!