On June 1st, 2016 – the day before my 54th birthday – I made the same decision which I had pretty much been making every year around this time. And that was to lose the extra 15-20 pounds I had been carrying around on my frame. And with diabetes being the hereditary culprit that sunk it’s claws into my grandparents, parents, sister and brother (almost), I didn’t want to begin the count-down as to when I was going to be it’s next victim.
No…..not going to happen.
Little back story – both my dad and sister contracted diabetes in their early 50’s. My brother was 58 when a blood test showed his sugar to be ‘elevated’ , but he immediately went on a health kick, dropped 50 lbs. and is now training for marathons twice a year! My dad – God bless him – is now 89 and still manages it with insulin (and my 86-year old drill-sergeant mother controlling whatever went in his mouth for the last 30+ years!) My sister was another story. She was diagnosed at 52, went from being pill controlled, to insulin controlled to having the pump installed. By the time she was my age, her diabetes had developed a life of it’s own and – yes – she was about 60 lbs overweight which didn’t help. Nothing seemed to control it to where her doctor approved her for gastric bypass surgery just to get rid of her diabetes, which she had the day before her 55th birthday. Although I’m happy to report that, 11 years later, she’s off all her meds and down 65 lbs, she had to go through a lot. Something I don’t want to go through.
So, with that in mind, you can see why reaching this certain age concerned me more than prior years. I don’t have any medical conditions and aren’t on any medications and want to keep it that way. In order to do that, I needed to stop faffing around and get serious. At 5’5 with broad shoulders and bone structure, I had been able to carry extra weight without it being in-your-face obvious. Until…..I saw photos of myself (eeesh!)
This was taken two years ago and my weight was somewhere between 160-165. Regardless of those who said how ‘lovely’ I looked, all I saw was a thick middle, upper arms that lacked muscle tone, a moon face and capris (or this awful verion which fall mid-calf, as true capris fall right below the knee) that didn’t do my legs any favors. Now that I remember, those and one other pair of pants were all that was in my closet full of clothes that had fit at the time. There was also what you don’t see in this photo, like the creeping presence of back rolls, excess belly fat, thighs that had never known a ‘gap’ and excess flesh that was only enhanced by my bra strap. Yes, I’m getting TMI here. No sense in sugar-coating it. The camera told what the daily mirror did not. And as I got older, what I was carrying was only going to get harder and harder to get rid of.
So, how am I doing it now?
There’s no magic formula. No pills, no boxed meals, no counting calories or points. I simply started by cutting out certain foods, adding certain foods, taking daily supplements and increasing my physical activity. Walking for an hour 3 times a week was not going to cut it. Again, I’m not in my 20’s with a better metabolism. Keep in mind that this is what’s working for me. Everyone’s physical condition, state of health, ways their system reacts to certain foods, etc. is different. You need to determine what works best for you, your current state of health, any physical conditions (especially if you’re under a doctor’s care) and listen to your body. I just want to put that out there. And the 10 items listed below are based on my own research and the effect they are having on me. So,officially – on June 1st – I weighed in at 161.5 (which was actually lower than I thought as this past winter I topped at 167!) and began.
So….what did I do?
Wheat-Free. At the time I began I was getting frequent migraines and occasional discomfort in my stomach. I’m not someone who eats a lot of bread or pasta, but when I did, I always chose either whole wheat. Although a healthier choice than white flour, a little research on wheat (I’ll let you look it up for yourself) told me that, even though I’m not gluten intolerant, the components of wheat weren’t doing my gut any favors. Reading labels on certain products like oat-nut, rye and pumpernickel breads all have wheat flour as the very first ingredient. Again, because I’m not a bread person to begin with, I didn’t mind omitting it altogether. And when I did hanker for a sandwich I used a low-carb wrap that, although made with wheat, didn’t bother me when it was once in a while. And I won’t lie and say that I didn’t (at certain times!) give into a craving for a fresh piece of Italian bread with butter or smeared with mayo and layered with slices of fresh, vine-ripened tomatoes – YUM! I’m only human! But it was so few and far between that it didn’t hinder my progress or cause any gut issues.
No To Joe. I can hear all you coffee addicts gasping. As much as I craved that first hot cup of fresh coffee in the morning, that was pretty much all I had all day, with the exception of a mid-day iced coffee during summer when I got the hankering. After that, I’d drink water the rest of the day. The migraines were concerning me, so I didn’t see a great sacrifice in giving up coffee for the first 15 days of June. Why the first 15 days? Because on the 16th I left to visit my parents and sister until the 24th and wanted to enjoy my morning coffee with them. I just wanted to see if going without for 2 weeks would have any effect on my headaches – which it did. Though I did wind up finding out that strong-brewed coffee can actually alleviate headaches, I had begun to wonder if it wasn’t the coffee itself, but what I was putting into it – artificial sweetener (research that and see the lovely side effects!) as well as the preservatives in the fat-free half and half I was using. These two items, consumed every day – even if just once a day – could very well have not only led to my headaches, but weight gain as well over time. During this interim, I drank brewed, decaffeinated green tea with pure honey as label reading research also taught me what kinds of hidden sugars to look for. I’ve lost that morning coffee craving and only have once or twice a week now.
Apple Cider Vinegar. For the last week, I’ve been diluting a few capfuls of it into my post-morning workout water or in iced green tea which I drink most of the day. Be forewarned, it is an acquired taste in the beginning – bitter, tart and more acidic than lemon juice. But once I got past the initial shock of the taste, I got used to it.. The benefits were very surprising – one of them being controlling bloat – as it has a positive effect on certain……functions! Okay……moving on.
Packin’ It. I’m at work from 8-4. It’s too early for me to eat breakfast before leaving the house, so the second item on my daily page in my planner (pictured above) is to pack breakfast and lunch. Bringing my own meals not only helps me to control what I consume, but is easy on the wallet. I pack my breakfast, lunch and a snack. In addition to that, I also keep the fridge and cabinets at work stocked with healthy food-stuffs for times when I forget to bring something.
Several Small Meals. I learned a long time ago that eating 5-6 smaller meals throughout the day not only allows the body to digest better, but also keeps blood sugar level stable – an important factor in my fight against diabetes. I usually have my breakfast by 8:30, then maybe a small snack around 11, lunch between 1:30 – 2, then – if I feel hunger – another snack maybe around 3:30 as we usually eat supper between 6:30 and 7pm. I don’t have that stuffed, fatigued, post-Thanksgiving 5-course meal feeling.
Daily supplements. I take a variety of different vitamins on a daily basis. B-Complex, C, Cinnamon, Calcium, D, Garcinia Cambogia w/coconut oil and Fiber. The calcium and D are very important for my bones, especially at (AK!) my age, and also because I don’t consume a lot of dairy. I’m not a milk-by-the-glass drinker. My main sources of calcium from foods are plain (not fruit or granola laden) Greek yogurt, kale and almonds. What about cheese?
Who Moved My Cheese? Oh, cheese, how do I love thee! Especially a nice slice of sharp provolone with a slice of pepperoni or hard sausage on a savory cracker. Or a nice slab of fresh mozzarella to go on that tomato mayo sammich!. Or when hub serves me scrambled eggs made creamy and smooth with a slice of American cheese blended in. Okay.Must.Stop.Torturning.Myself.With.Mental.Images!! But some of these cheeses are high in saturated fat. When I do need a cheese fix whether in my eggs, sprinkled on a salad or in a wrap, I (sparingly) use feta, fresh, shredded mozzarella or part-skim ricotta
Unprocessed. Reading labels really turned me into a pain. Really. But when I began reading the massive list of additives and preservatives that I can’t even pronounce in foods I had been normally consuming, I wondered how I wasn’t radio-active by now! Oh, and the sneaky terms for hidden sugars. First, I cut out artificial sweetener altogether. I use either pure maple syrup, honey or low-glycemic agave nectar to sweeten foods like plain yogurt and oatmeal. For some reason, real sugar gives me dry mouth. Salads are dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar over bottled dressing. I make a sauce of Just Mayo, a squeeze of scirachi sauce and a dash or Worcestershire sauce for sandwiches and dips. I dice up a vine-ripened tomato, add half an avocado, green onion and spices to make my own salsa. Basically, I’m trying to creatively use fresh ingredients to substitute for foods normally pre-jarred/boxed/canned.
Move It! With input, there has to be output. And as I mentioned above, if I was going to get these additional pounds to budge, I had to increase my normal exercise efforts. I don’t have to begin getting ready for work until 6:30. I’m in bed the night before early enough so there was no reason I needed an extra hour of sleep. I began setting my alarm for 5:30, take 15 minutes to wake up then the next 15 to check any emails, news or posts. I’m then up and out of bed by six where I do 20-30 minutes of strength training with 8 an 10 lb. dumbbells. I rotate working different parts of my body six mornings a week (I rest on Sundays). Since I’m home by 4:15 and usually don’t start supper until around 6, I do some form of cardio. Power walk with weights, climbing up and down the cellar stairs, several sets of burpees or mountain climbers – anything that gets my heart rate up for 20-30 minutes. The results of my twice-daily workouts have been worth the grumbly early mornings rolling out of bed. Just about everything in my closet (even those pants and skirts pushed way to the back because they never stood a chance!) now fits. I wanted to cry when my denim, low-rise capris (the kind that stop at the knee!) that I couldn’t get over my hips last year not only fit, but were loose in the waist. I’ve basically increased my wardrobe without shopping! I didn’t need a fancy gym membership or state-of-the-art machines and equipment. Two sets of weights, a mat and a stability ball are all I need! Our basement isn’t very inviting nor is it finished, but the length also allows me to jog in a circle between sets to keep my heart rate up.
Willpower. The 11.5 lbs I lost in two months were hard-earned, but worth every second. If not for effort and sacrifice, I wouldn’t have lost an ounce. I had to make the decision not to have something or to have this instead of that, even if the ‘this’ was 6 (yes, exactly six!) peanut M&Ms after supper rather than a slice of cannoli cake our neighbors sent over (knaves, they are!) Willpower is a choice. Though I don’t believe in total deprivation, I had to gage the line of moderation. Rather than say to myself that I can’t have something, I tell myself I can’t have it…. now. Cookies aren’t going away. Ring Dings aren’t going away. That pint of Haagen-Daaz Salted Caramel Blondie Brownie ice cream isn’t a limited-edition only. But if I wanted one cookie, or split a package of Ring Dings with hub or buy that pint of ice cream and have 2 tablespoons of it at a time, it’s not going to hinder my progress if the craving is strong
In a nutshell, it all came down to (finally) executing it my decision after years of wavering. But more important than the choice I made on June 1st is the reason why. In addition to doing my part to be sure diabetes never claims me, I’m also believing God to be with me every step of the way. I don’t receive any disease or sickness upon my body as the Lord took that upon himself at the cross
Isaiah 53:5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed
I’m not going through this journey alone!
Hopefully in another month or so I’ll post some update photos of my progress. Here’s to wishing everyone being blessed with good health!