That was me. Just over two years ago (May 2009) and over 110 pounds ago. This is such a hard, emotionally raw topic for me that I’ve written dozens of posts about it over the past year and discarded them all. But I really want to start sharing my story as I begin work on my newest project – a low-cal, full-flavor cookbook (which I haven’t gone so far as to look for a publisher yet but imma get on that part real soon).
I’ll share a little background with you… by sixth grade I was 180 lbs. By 18 I was pushing 200. By 29 I was 265 (ish… that was the last time I stepped on a scale months before I started losing weight. Probably a little higher than that in reality but I wasn’t able to face it.) I’ve been “overweight” or “obese” the majority of my life. As a kid, my mom always said “oh the allergy shots you had at 7 years old made you gain weight” but lets face it, eating large portions of unhealthy food mixed with a lack of exercise are what really made me gain weight and continue my upward course. It’s so. Effing. Hard to change your habits, regardless of what they are – eating, drinking, smoking, exercise, etc. It’s so easy to say, whatever, I’m fat, this sucks, there’s no end in sight. No way to imagine how to shed 100+ lbs. Shit, it’s hard to even own up to the fact that you need to lose 100+lbs. Nobody starts off life at 265lbs, but over the years somehow you just wake up one day and it’s gotten to that point. And you don’t like looking in the mirror. And you don’t like stepping on the scale. And you can’t stand photos of yourself or, god forbid, video.
Me, also from July 2009, on a trip Tyler and I took to Chicago.
Having been overweight for nearly all of the first 30 years of my life, I know exactly how people treat you. In grade school you get called names like “thunder thighs” or the likes there of (that one still echos clearly in my mind), as you get older people just stop looking you in the eyes. Everyone makes judgments or assumptions on the type of person you must be to have “let yourself” get to that point. I even had a local vendor at the Ocean Beach farmer’s market say to me “Yeah, you should definitely eat some more [grapefruit] and lay off the french fries” as I went to sniff the citrus at his stand. Another time when I was a personal chef in Rancho Santa Fe, I went to buy some beef jerky for the family I was working for and asked a store clerk for help finding it. He took me to the tofu jerky section, aisles away from the actual beef jerky section, and said, “I think this would be better for your needs”. Really? Do you know my needs? Because I “needs” to keep my freaking job and buy beef jerky for my client. Don’t assume, people. (Sorry, 2+ years later, it’s still as raw as if it had happened yesterday.) If you’re overweight, or have ever been overweight, you have undoubtedly shared similar experiences. It sucks. People are mean. I, personally, consider myself a judgment-free zone. (If you know me, this is a phrase you are well-familiar with.) In all situations, not just regarding weight, I try not to judge other peoples actions, choices or lifestyles. Nobody knows what life situations anyone else has been through to evolve and shape them into what/who they are today. Just be nice and treat people with respect and love.
So, August of 2009 my two best friends from high school came to visit with their significant others. My friend Cristin’s husband happens to be obsessed with video documenting all aspects of their life (which I love/hate). We were on the beach and he, unbeknownst to me, took video footage of the day. Later that evening he plugged his camera up to our TV and started playing the recording. There I was, 265+ lbs, IN A BATHING SUIT ON A BIG SCREEN TV!!! I was mortified. It took all of my self-control not to run into the bathroom and start bawling. It’s one thing when you never have to see yourself and avoid mirrors, it’s another when your moving, breathing image, in a damn bathing suit, gets slapped up onto a big screen. No way to avoid the truth.
Just a couple of weeks before my friend, Nicole, had started the Couch to 5K program – a jogging program that lasts for 9 weeks and starts off with you jogging for 60 second intervals at a time and works you up to jogging for 30 minutes straight (or 5K) by the end of the program. Though I had always said I would never be a jogger, I begrudgingly started the program alongside her. Not gonna lie – in the beginning I didn’t even know if I was going to make it through the entire 60 seconds of jogging. But each week I continued to surprise myself and was able to succeed at increasing the length of the intervals on schedule with the program, though some weeks that meant pushing myself more than others. About half way through, the flip switched in my head. You know what? I can do this. And that’s the thing! It’s all in our freaking heads! When your inner dialogue is filled with “I can’t run for 5 minutes” “I can’t say no to that slice of pizza” “there is no way I’m ever going to shed 100 lbs” “I’m fat, I’m ugly, even I don’t want to look at me, how can anyone else” all of these negative thoughts just constantly circling over and over and over, yeah – you know what? YOU NEVER WILL BE ABLE TO MAKE ANY CHANGES. You have to believe in your ability to do it first. It’s going from having an “I can’t attitude” to an “I can” that allows change to happen. Seriously – I truly believe that anyone can do anything if they really put their mind to it and STICK WITH IT! No, nothing will change overnight. It’s thought patterns that have allowed us to reach the weight that we’re at and it’s thought patterns that will similarly allow you to make healthy changes in your lifestyle. That’s the problem with weight-loss surgery as a “solution” and why such a high proportion of people who have it continue to struggle with their weight even afterward. The real problems come from our relationship with food and why, for whatever personal reasons, we over eat.
September 2009, about a month after starting the Couch to 5K program.
Personal reasons aside, weight-loss happens when you burn more calories then you are consuming. That means that a) you should be aware of absolutely everything that you eat and b) you should be aware of how much you are burning! There are some really great online tools these days that allow you to do this super easily and quickly. The one that I’ve been using for the past couple of years is The Daily Plate (which livestrong.com eventually picked up). You put in your height, weight, age, gender, etc, and then tell it how active you are and what your weight-loss goals are and it tells you how many calories per day you can eat an still achieve your goals. BUT BE HONEST! By claiming to a machine that you worked out more than you did, move more in your day to day life, or don’t record your honest caloric in-take, the only person you are cheating (and trying to fool) is yourself! I, personally, didn’t share (and still don’t) my account with anyone. I find it easier to be upfront with my slip-ups when it’s only my eyes that see what I’ve eaten. Hiding what I’d eaten is part of what got me to 265 in the first place. Having an honest relationship with myself about the amount of food I am honestly consuming has allowed me to continue eating bacon every day, or a serving of insanely rich mac & cheese or devilishly delicious peanut butter mousse brownie pie and still continue on a downward track from 265 to 153 over the past two years. Shit, I wrote and ate a cookbook on food porn after I started my weight-loss journey. Yes, some days I eat more than what the calorie counter says I should (hello football game days!), but I don’t hate myself for it and I don’t give up! I just log it in, sigh, then try to do better the next day… and the next day… and the next day.
Also – one thing that I really want to touch on before I move on is the importance of not making unrealistic goals! Sure on reality tv shows where you have a trainer whipping your ass 6 days a week, no job to focus on or kids/spouse’s mouths to feed it’s possible to lose 8 or 10 lbs in a week. That’s an insane and unrealistic goal in the real world. From the beginning, I never set goals of more than 2 lbs a week. Two pounds is an attainable goal for someone with a significant amount of weight to lose. When you set a goal that you can actually reach, you can accomplish it, feel great about it and set a goal for the next week. If you set unattainable goals you are just going to reinforce that “I can’t” attitude as opposed to reprogramming your brain into an “I can” state of mind.
Taken on my first vacation to my new home, Rincon, January 2011
So why am I now, after two years on this journey, sharing my story with you guys? Well, I’m finally getting comfortable with my new self, and trust that I am not going to return to my old way of life. I mean, I spent nearly 30 years obese. I was really scared for a long time that I would be just another statistic and revert back to my old habits. After two years of building positive habits I no longer have that fear. I believe in myself and my ability to maintain control of my life and eating habits. But more importantly, food is what I love. It’s what I live for. Beyond that, it’s my livelihood. I run two websites dedicated to food and write cookbooks. I’ve always wanted to spend my life doing something to help others and right now, I feel like I have a great opportunity. I know that I have a low-cal cookbook in me that will show that getting healthy doesn’t mean you have to give up things like bacon or cheese or chocolate. It just means learning correct portion sizes, feeding your metabolism regularly and moving a little.
Less than a month ago – after we cristened our new-to-us Puerto Rico car with stickers. Dang it, Rincon!
Yes, I will continue to post desserts and high calorie content foods on this site, because true to my life, I will continue to make and eat them. But I’ll do so along side of healthy, delicious recipes. I hope you guys will continue along this journey with me. I have about twenty more pounds until I reach my goal weight, and these last twenty are the hardest. Let’s all be accountabilibuddies, through the good, the bad, the mac & cheeses and the bean & corn salads. If anybody needs support, I’m here. If you’re just beginning your journey and need an ear or want to chat, not in a public forum feel free to email me rather than comment below. (My email is at the bottom of the about page!) Or, alternately, let’s start a community of support. We all need someone to give us a push when we aren’t feeling it, or uplift us when our inner dialogue is weighing us down!
Eating healthy can be EFFING delicious.
You know I couldn’t do this post without sharing a healthy recipe, right? The super flavorful baked spiced tilapia filets with black bean and corn salad & tangy fresh tomatillo salsa verde below serves four and rings in at 373 calories per serving! So good it’ll make you wanna slap yo’ mama but so healthy that you won’t feel guilty about cleaning your plate. (Now you might feel guilty about slapping yo’ mama, but that’s a whole different story!)
For the Salsa Verde:
6 medium tomatillos, husks removed, rinsed and roughly chopped
1/2 medium yellow onion, peeled & roughly chopped
1/2 - 1 1/2 jalapenos, stem removed, roughly chopped (vary depending on how spicy you like it)
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/4 cup (packed) fresh cilantro
juice from 1/2 fresh lime
3 tbsp water
1/2 tsp kosher salt, plus extra
1/4 tsp freshly cracked black pepper, plus extra
For the salad:
3 large ears sweet corn
1 (15.5 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 jalapeno, minced
1 large clove garlic, peeled & minced
1/2 medium yellow onion, peeled & chopped
1/4 cup (packed) fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 medium red bell pepper, stem & seeds removed, chopped
1/4 head red cabbage, core removed & finely shredded
juice from 1 lime
1 tbsp canola oil
1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper, plus extra
3/4 tsp kosher salt, plus extra
For the fish:
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ancho chili powder
1/2 tsp chipotle chili powder
1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
4 (4oz) tilapia filets
1 tsp canola oil
Make the salsa:
Place all ingredients for the salsa into a blender. Blend until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired with kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Refrigerate until ready to eat, up to 72 hours.
Make the salad:
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Boil corn for 3 minutes. Remove from water and run under water until luke warm. Cut kernels off cobs and place in a large mixing bowl. Add remaining ingredients for the salad into the mixing bowl with the corn kernels. Stir until ingredients are evening dispersed. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired with more kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes to allow flavors to marry. Before serving, toss to coat with juices and taste once more. Adjust seasonings as desired.
Make the fish:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Mix together first six ingredients for the fish in a small bowl. Place tilapia on a sheet pan and drizzle filets with oil. Toss to coat evenly with oil. Season each filet evenly with 1/4 of the spice mix. Bake at 450 degrees until fish is just cooked through, about 7 to 9 minutes.
Spoon 1/4 of salad onto a plate. Place a fish filet on top of the salad then spoon salsa over the fish and around the plate. Garnish with cilantro leaves.
Calories per serving: 373
Total cooking time: about 1 hour