Hello Again

So it’s been over a year since I last posted. This blog has always been something of a diary for me, but now my Twitter account tends to serve that purpose even better–a diary written 140 characters at a time.

However, some things are suited to long-form posts and so here we are.

A lot has happened in a year. I finished writing two books. One is an urban fantasy that I had worked on for years, and one is a romantic science fiction that I wrote in a matter of months. I pitched the urban fantasy at RT2016 and eventually signed with my dream agent: Sarah Younger of the Nancy Yost Literary Agency.

My goal of becoming a published author is one step closer to fruition. I still can’t believe it’s real.

On a more personal note, I’ve managed to maintain my weight-loss for over a year. While I would still like to lose a little more, I’m happy just to have maintained because it has never happened before. I’ve probably lost several hundred pounds in my life, but sadly, until this time, it was the same weight over and over.

We’re doing the Whole30 again this month, and it’s reminding me to pay attention to what I eat and to check labels. It’s funny which products have hidden sugar added (I’m looking at you bratwurst and breakfast sausage).

Overall, I’m excited for what 2017 has in store. Let’s just hope it’s not another year before my next post. :)

On Resolutions – Losing Weight

I’m generally not big on New Year’s resolutions. I think the arbitrary calendar date of January 1 is not more likely to make you stick to a goal than starting on, say, April 2. But I know a lot of people love them, so I’m striking while the iron is hot.

One year ago today, I was on day four of the Whole30. You can read all about it here. It wasn’t a resolution so much as “I really need to get my eating under control and I suppose I’ll survive thirty days.” I did not expect great things. I didn’t expect any big changes, except that for a month I’d eat a lot more vegetables than I’d seen in a while.

I think these are possibly the best kinds of “resolutions.” Small, not too hard, and with a definite end point and success criteria.

So, for thirty days, I followed the plan exactly. I did not cheat. I did not waver. I used all of my innate stubbornness–and I have quite a lot–to stick to my goal.

At the end of thirty days, something miraculous did happen. No, I wasn’t suddenly a model. But I realized that I’d lost a bit of weight, I felt better, and it really wasn’t that hard.

So I kept going, sticking to a plan I called pseudo-paleo.

And going.

And going.

It turns out that this healthy eating thing isn’t a great mystery: Eat fruits and veggies and meats and skip the stuff that comes in boxes. Yes, I skip the stuff that many, many food companies spend millions of dollars promoting as “healthy.” After eating it for years and getting no healthier (only fatter), I am skeptical at best about their claims.

And now I sound like I’m on the woo-woo train. Well, all aboard, because in 2015 I lost over seventy pounds.

Seventy. Pounds.

That’s like losing an average ten-year-old. Or, if you’re a dog person, it’s like losing a large golden retriever.

Before and after.
Before and after. Sorry for the watermark, but shady diet companies have been known to steal images.

Don’t get me wrong–I had a lot of weight to lose. I’m just now getting out of the obese category according to my BMI. I could stand to lose another forty or fifty pounds. But I’m still going. I’ll get there, slow and steady.

Now it’s time for some bad news: I have no idea why it worked this time.

Something in my brain just clicked during the Whole30. A friend said she had a “click” moment, too, and after that, weight loss worked for her.

Let me be very clear: THIS IS NOT AN EXCUSE NOT TO TRY.

I never would’ve had the click if I hadn’t tried the Whole30. Maybe you’ll start counting calories, and that will lead to your click. Hell, maybe you don’t need a click and it’ll just work for you once you start.

A year ago I never, ever expected that I’d end the year seventy pounds lighter. It wasn’t even on my radar. But I’m glad I started when I did, because time passed anyway and now I have something to show for it.

So here’s my challenge to you, if you want to lose weight: Try to eat healthy for thirty days. If the Whole30 works for you, do that. If you can’t abide the thought of giving up breads, count calories with MyFitnessPal.

Do something.

Be strict. Stick with it for the entire thirty days. No cheating, not even if your best friend is getting married, you’re going out of town, or for any of the other million excuses we all have.

You can do it. I believe in you.

Pseudo-Paleo – Two Months Post Whole30

My husband and I started the Whole30 on January 1st this year. You can read about my experience. Since then, we’ve been sticking with heathy eating, just not as extreme as the Whole30.

I call it pseduo-paleo.

I’m not super happy with this name, because I think Paleo is a dumb name. As a friend pointed out, if we really were eating Paleo, we’d all be skinny because we’d spend our days running away from predators and constantly moving to find food. But Paleo is what the world has adopted for a name and since our plan is similar, it’s just easier to go with it.

We came up with this plan when we were coming off of the Whole30. It works for us, but it might not work for you. The key is to slowly add things back after the Whole30 and see how you feel.

Eat lots of veggies. This is a good idea no matter what. Veggies are filling and packed with nutrients. Try to limit potatoes, especially white potatoes. You don’t need mashed potatoes with every meal, promise. And no, french fries do not count as veggies. Sorry.

Eat protein. Meat, nuts, and eggs. Personally, I skip the processed protein powders because I’d rather get protein from real food. Protein helps satiety and it’s delicious.

Fat is not evil. Fat also helps satiety and it makes everything taste better. Coat cubed sweet potatoes in coconut oil and roast them in the oven at 400F for 30-40 minutes. I dare you to tell me that isn’t the greatest thing ever. Avocados are delicious. I’m not advocating eating a slab of lard, but don’t be afraid of fat.

Drink lots of water. Did you know that a lot of “hunger” pangs are actually your body asking for water? Stay hydrated!

Skip the (added) sugar, both real and artificial. While we’re not as strict as we were on the Whole30, we very rarely add sugar to a dish. Sweetened drinks are right out. This also gets rid of most candy, cake, etc. Fruit is still allowed and encouraged, as long as it isn’t coated in extra sugar. If you’re craving sugar, have a few pieces of dried fruit.

Figure out which grains work for you. We’ve decided to add oatmeal, rice (brown preferred), and corn back into our diet in limited amounts. This is one area we majorly differ from Paleo. A large bowl of steel-cut oatmeal topped with fresh fruit is our breakfast of choice. Wheat remains forbidden, less because of gluten than because most breads, pizzas, etc. are made from wheat flour. We don’t look for gluten-free substitutes, either. That way lay dragons.

Skip the dairy (maybe). Much like grains, this is one you’ll have to decide for yourself. For us, skipping diary isn’t too hard. I’m lactose intolerant, so it was easy to switch to almond or coconut milk, which I still use sparingly (mostly in iced coffee). We occasionally use butter, but cheese, sour cream, etc are all out. If you do skip diary, make sure you’re getting enough calcium either from an alternate source or a multivitamin.

You will have cravings. It’s part of the process. Stay strong. My cravings are the worst when I’m hungry. In fact, I can tell when I’m getting hungry because cake starts sounding like the best thing ever. Do not give in. Drink some water, eat a healthy snack, and keep going.

Choose a cheat day. For us, it’s once a week, generally Saturday, but only if we’re really craving something. Plan to fail on your cheat day and do it guilt-free. BUT and this is important, go right back to your normal plan for the rest of the week. No “it’s only a little bit” arguments with yourself. Cheat on your allowed day and ONLY on your allowed day. It’s okay if you need to move it to accommodate an event, but don’t start eating future cheat days today. That’s how you fall off the wagon.

Now it’s time for some real talk.

If you jump straight into this plan without doing the Whole30 first, expect a rough couple weeks. (You’d have those same rough weeks on the Whole30, too.) You will want to eat everything, most of it sugared or carb-loaded. Hang in there.

Unlike all of the diet books ever written, I’m not going to tell you this plan will definitely work for you. It may not. I have friends who absolutely could not do this plan. They can’t take the limited choices and they will always crave all of the food they “can’t” have. If this is you, there is hope. You need to become a calorie counter. Log everything you eat into a tracking app (MyFitnessPal is the one most people use). Set a calorie goal and stay under it. It’s more work, but it WILL work for you and you can eat whatever you want (lucky you!) in moderation. I recommend the LoseIt subreddit for tons of good info.

I’m also not going to lie–it’s hard. I go to bed hungry most nights, but that’s because I eat dinner early and go to bed late. During the day I’m generally only hungry before meals, as it should be. You have to say no to that piece of pie that looks delicious. People are going to (very politely) try to derail you.

It’s worth it.

I’ve lost twenty-seven pounds since I started in January. I’m at the lowest weight I’ve been in ten years. And while it’s hard, it’s not impossible.

Time is going to pass either way. In six months, are you going to regret not starting now?

A Month with the Whole30

The holidays are never the best for eating, but this year was particularly awful. December was a month-long inhalation of carbs and processed food. It was bad. So when I heard my brother and sister-in-law were going to kick off January by starting the Whole30, I jumped on board and dragged Dustin along for the adventure.

The Whole30 is basically an extreme version of paleo: no sweeteners, no grains, no dairy, no legumes, and no alcohol, even for cooking. And any food that contains a banned ingredient, even in small quantities (I’m looking at you, bacon), is out.

So what do you eat? Veggies, meat, and fruit, preferably in that order.

If you go to the Whole30 site, they make the ridiculous promises that all diets make–basically, follow this plan and we’ll cure all your ills. I wasn’t in it for the woo woo. I needed to make a clean break from my previous out-of-control eating, and this seemed like a good way to do it. In the world of moderators vs. abstainers, I’m definitely an abstainer.

Armed with an iron will to succeed and the knowledge that even a tiny slip meant you had to start over, I embarked on thirty days of “clean” eating.

Here are a few things I learned:

  • Sugar or soy are in pretty much everything that comes off of a grocery store shelf, even in the deli section.
  • Grocery shopping is both easier and harder. You get to avoid most of the middle of the store, which speeds things up, but you have to look at every single label. And fresh fruit and veggies don’t keep that long, so plan to go fairly often.
  • There will be dishes. So many dirty dishes. When you are cooking three meals a day, it adds up quickly.
  • Breakfast is a test. I’m not a huge fan of eggs, one of the only “traditional” breakfast foods allowed. So you get used to eating whatever in the morning.
  • Trader Joe’s Salsa Autentica is good on just about everything. We used it on salads, eggs, and lettuce-wrapped tacos.
  • After eating no sugar at all, a couple pieces of dried apricot after dinner taste like heaven.
  • Avocados are delicious and we should all be eating more of them. We ate one almost every day.
  • Eating out is fraught with danger and temptation. We ate out maybe five times all month, and some of those only because we were out of town. It’s just easier to cook.
  • I didn’t have many cravings. I think it’s because December was so bad, but my body happily let go of bread and sugar. If it was in front of me (like the amazing chocolate brownie for a friend’s birthday dinner), I wanted some, but mostly I was fine.

As for all of the woo woo claims, those are harder to quantify.

I did feel better this month, but December’s eating was so bad it’s hardly a fair comparison. I dropped eleven pounds and my blood pressure (which wasn’t high to begin with) dropped some as well. I’m assuming both of those are at least partly due to the decreased amount of sodium intake.

The Whole30 did not, however, magically fix my relationship with food or do any of the other more outrageous claims they make.

But overall, it was easier than I’d expected. In fact, I will probably continue with some form of modified paleo as my normal diet. And that’s a win in itself.

Now on to daily yoga February!