The other day I looked at some scantly-clad photos of myself taken by my wonderful boyfriend who loves me for who I am. They were taken on a day like any day since I’ve dropped several dress sizes, and have felt more confident about my overall appearance. When I saw those photos I wasn’t in denial, but in shock that instead of not looking toned (because the gym has gradually been helping me with that part), I still could so easily see that “my battle is not yet won” with fat itself–the fat that hangs around my torso–the kind that leads to Diabetes and Heard Disease… Oh! To feel defeated yet again after so much hard work!!! And the next day I really ate whatever I wanted–let me tell you… when you try so hard consistently and think you’ve finally beat the game and then see you are STUCK instead, it’s just the most frustrating feeling!!! I’ve been struggling to lose fat around my waist, and overall gradually return to a healthy/military weight, for about 10 years… having been a dancer for much of my life (both for pleasure and for a living), having gained the weight, lost it, gained it, lost it has been an embarrassing struggle. Many other dancers I’ve met throughout the years have not suffered the same battle of losing and gaining 40 lbs as quickly as every 6 months sometimes, and I’ve sometimes been so embarrassed about it that even if I ran into a former dancer I worked with, I deliberately tried to hide or shy away.
Diabetes. No, I don’t have it… yet. My great-aunts both died of complications with Diabetes. Cancer runs on both sides of my family—even my little sister had it and is in remission. My grandfather currently has it. And, most recently my own father was diagnosed with Pre-Diabetes II. My dad is convinced that we are all doomed to get it since we are offspring. I have been officially been challenged. I do believe, that my percentage chance of getting Diabetes II is higher than others whose family history does not have it. I also believe that diet and exercise can do amazing things when altered and looked at closely. And so, I’ve been put to the quick.
In the last 2 years I’ve dropped 38 lbs. It wasn’t a 6-month battle this time, but a 2-year battle… granted, I had held onto the heavier weight and fat longer prior to losing it too this time around. When my little sister got cancer, I switched to all organic, about 3 years ago… meaning, I switched to grocery shopping all organic. I still ate “whatever” out at others’ homes and restaurants… today I specifically only eat organic which are on the Top 10 Dirty Dozen. Some of those include: celery, apples, Chilean grapes, spinach, strawberries…
Lucky for me, I’ve always been interested in health and nutrition. When I was in high school one of my favorite late movie stars, River Phoenix, died of a drug overdose. It affected me so adversely that I really read into his lifestyle and habits. I learned he’d been a vegetarian, an animal-rights-activist, among other things… and I suddenly became therefore curious and began heading to the library on weekends studying vegetarianism. Within a year from then, I was a full-blown vegetarian (not vegan)… and battled with my old-fashioned-“eat-your-meat” family for the next 10 years… until I met my (ex)husband, who was carnivorous… and I felt the best way to sustain a working relationship was to cook and eat together. It was too hard to prepare separate meals all the time. Gradually I became what I call “a conscientious omnivore.” And then when my sister got cancer, I looked at my diet again more closely, so that the meats I bought were at least free-range and antibiotic-free… and that’s where it halted for a while. I was eating soba noodles with marinara in huge portions by suppertime, eating as many “healthy foods” as I could stomach—literally. I was so afraid of NOT getting my nutrients I overate… and I did that for years.
…and then, I hit my highest weight ever: 199. The day I got on that scale and saw how close I was to 200 lbs, I had a mixture of a revelation and inner fury… something HAD to change again, and majorly! By that time I had injured my hip, I had torn a muscle behind my right knee, I felt immobile, fat, irritated, joints ached, and yet, I had to wonder “WHY? I eat all organic! I eat HEALTHY complex carbs! What is the deal??” The deal? The deal was that complex carbs, what we thought was healthy to eat, are not necessarily being translated as “healthy” by our bodies… some of those are, and some of them aren’t.
Last year I was able to begin incorporating walks into my days at lunch time. Those 30 min walks 5 days/week helped me to lose 15 lbs. But, I hung around 185 then and plateaued.
Then, almost exactly 1 year ago today, I joined a gym, working on my joint health, working on stretching and elongating muscles that I’d torn in the past and have been unwilling to get surgery for to actually “fix.” I then began resistance-training and increasing my cardio too. A few months later I randomly found “livestrong.com” – a website dedicated to healthy living started by Lance Armstrong, a cancer survivor… and began logging my calories and fitness… this was a breakthrough moment for me. Finally, I was able to manage my portion sizes. It has been written that 80% of Americans actually do NOT know the calories they are consuming or what they should be eating total for each day. This website offered me a free way to control my calories. And, I lost another 23 lbs this year for it. Around June or July, about 4 months ago, I plateaued again. I hit 161, would work back up to 165, go back to 161, work my way up again… it’s been a struggle. For the 3rd time now I hit 161 and for the life of me could STILL not hit a “healthy normal or military weight”, which at my height would be 158 max. I just couldn’t break the 60’s plateau. And, today, as I write this, I still stand at 161!!!
What I’ve been working on now though, is a Diabetic Diet. Temporarily. I want to see how this affects my overall health. I do believe, already having hit 161 my 3rd time, that it is making a difference. What I’ve learned is that as all carbs will turn into insulin (sugar) in our bodies, diabetics have major insulin problems. Most Americans don’t even know it and have insulin problems that will lead to insulin resistance. The Glycemic Index can illustrate which foods ingested will break down into glucose/insulin/sugar fastest in our bloods… what spikes our insulin, will hold our weight. That is what insulin is for… so, the less sugar, the less insulin spikes, and the more sensitive our bodies become to insulin again and don’t resist. This is my next step. And it’s incredible. I love potatoes and they are very nutritious for someone Hypothyroid like me (and Hypothyroidism is another battle of mine and also contributes to my slow metabolism), but they are very HIGH on the GI meter. Especially baked and mashed. So, where I used to have a large baked potato every week, I now substitute the most unlikely carb instead: a small bowl of noodles. Noodles!!! Wheat at best, but noodles, unless they were Soba, were not something I’ve allowed myself in AGES, so I am STOKED to actually get to eat NOODLES!!! YAY!!! And, if I want potatoes, they have to be boiled and New Potatoes, so their GI drops, and then I ought only eat a small amount. Bread. Even if it’s 100% whole wheat… is out unless it’s pumpernickle or something really grainy. Not ok otherwise. No bagels. No fluffy bread. And at a restaurant that’s the hardest thing–you’re starving, you arrive, and the first thing they give you is a basket of hot white bread rolls. KILLER!!!! But, I can eat a pita here and there or a corn/flour tortilla, and in order to not eat processed frozen foods for my work lunches, really, the most realistic thing here is to at least wrap something in a pita. So, that I am doing. I eat more tuna, eggs, and luckily because I was already cooking a lot and making soups routinely every week, there I have not failed. I will continue to do as I was. I have switched my breakfast yet AGAIN though. Instead of raw oats with flax, protein powder, granola, fresh berries, and rice milk, for now I have STOPPED the rice milk. I LOVE rice milk—love, love, love, but it’s VERY HIGH on the GI meter. So, now I am eating bran cereal with a little raw oats, with a ½ cup skim milk (even though I don’t tolerate dairy too well, but because I can’t eat a lot of soy due to my Hypothyroidism), flax, berries and protein powder. I may even cut out the protein powder all together—we shall see. Starting with a majorly high-fiber cereal in the morning is only benefiting me throughout the day. I literally eat 100% of my daily fiber already at breakfast… and then eat more as the day goes on besides.
Did you know that cherries, sweet cherries, bing cherries, are actually low on the GI meter? Amazingly so… not to mention dried apricots, grapefruit, pears and plums. Some of this I knew already, because when I lost weight on Michael Thurman’s Body Makeover Diet (which is the ONLY other advertised-diet that ever worked for me but took SO MUCH WORK in preparation every week) about 8 years ago (one of the times when I dropped 15 lbs) my personal blueprints only allowed me to eat low-glycemic fruits and vegetables. I had to stay away from corn. I had to stay away from refined sugar, added salt, and high GI fruit. That was SO HARD to do ALL AT ONCE. Today, I still struggle with my salt. I don’t add nearly as much as I’ve seen other people sometimes add to their food, but I’ve learned that healthy living has to be managed one step at a time, or you’ll go BUST. I have learned so much in the past years, and for the last full year I’ve been working out in addition to daily walks, fairly regularly (3-4x/week), I have been logging my foods and watching my portion sizes, and I’ve really overall stuck to it… whenever I failed I jumped right back on the bandwagon again. Over… and over… and over. Because, it’s a lifestyle. It really is. And now that I pretty much got the knack of the calories, more on foods, and the burn, I am once again looking closer at my food choices and my family history… and human physiology for that matter.
So much is against me: hypothyroidism, family diabetes, family history of cancer, insulin resistance, unhealthy foods on the market and TV influences… but if it’s up to me, I am not defeated just yet. And I won’t be without a fight. So, the challenge is on. “Is that all you’ve got?”