I had a revelation yesterday.
See, I had asked the fabulous Gina Garbero of Garbero Photography to take some photos of me for this web site. I wanted all of you to see me in all my dorky glory, and I desperately wanted something that I could use as a header image on the site.
The shoot was amazing. I never thought I would be the type to be comfortable in front of a camera, but Gina put me completely at ease. I love all the photos as is, but Gina’s nothing if not a professional, and she wants to edit them before they’re released into the world.
There are a couple I have access to now, though, and they caused me to make some pretty astounding realizations.
Gina did exactly what I asked her to do. She got some terrific hair shots… like this one, for example:
There were also a lot of full body shots, though. And an unexpected consequence of having photos taken was making some realizations about my weight loss journey.
Here is a photo of me from August of 2009 next to one of the photos from yesterday:
Seeing these photos side-by-side results in some serious mixed feelings.
I hadn’t realized just how much of a transformation has taken place. While I recognize that I’m wearing clothes that are smaller now, I hadn’t fully recognized just how different I look. It’s something I’m actually having trouble wrapping my head around.
In my brain, I’m still the person on the left. It’s requiring a lot of external support and congratulations for me to even begin to start to recognize that I look much, much better now. (And in case I haven’t thanked my family and friends enough yet for all of their support, I just have to say, once again, THANK YOU. There’s no way I could have done this without you.)
I posted these photos on my facebook page, and there have been a few questions about how the loss was achieved, and, specifically, what I mean by this word “Paleo” that I keep using. I mean, we all know that proper nutrition and exercise is important, but where does one find the motivation to get started? And how does one do it in a way that is easily sustainable? For me, Paleo answered those questions.
I think when it comes to trying to be healthy, a lot of us fall into one of two categories:
(1) Those of us who try to change everything all at once and adhere to some vague idea of a “healthy lifestyle,” and have some mixture of successes and failures in the course of every day or week. That’s a pretty accurate description of what I’d been doing my whole life. I didn’t have a very clear idea of what it was that I was supposed to be doing beyond thinking that getting as close as possible to the USDA food pyramid every day was a good thing, but I constantly felt like I was failing at that. I tried counting calories and measuring all my portions for a while, but it wasn’t something I was able to stick with for any period of time.
(2) Those of us who try to change everything all at once to adhere to a well marketed (and well intentioned) weight loss plan, and possibly succeed in losing some weight, but don’t feel healthy or happy and don’t successfully maintain the new habits over the long-term. I put traditional “diets” and plans like Atkins, South Beach, Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, and HCG into this category. The weight comes off if the person adheres strictly to the prescribed plan, but the prescribed plan is not one that a person can happily live with for the rest of their life. It is, quite frankly, a pain in the ass, and generally the meals are unsatisfying and leave the person wanting more. Inevitably they return to some version of “SAD” (Standard American Diet) and the weight comes back on.
My world was forever changed when I discovered Paleo Nutrition, by accidentally stumbling upon The Paleo Solution on Amazon.
I had been trying to avoid gluten and dairy for health reasons for over a year, but had been failing in my attempts. When I was successful I noticed a huge difference in how I felt, but it just felt so difficult to remember what had gluten and what didn’t, and gluten-free products are so very expensive, and meals felt like a constant challenge.
Once I read The Paleo Solution, though, I realized that I had been making “living healthy” far harder than it needed to be. I also realized that Paleo Nutrition was likely going to save my life, my boyfriend’s, and his son’s. I have a strong family history of heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease, and he of diabetes and obesity. I hadn’t known how closely linked these health concerns are to grain and other high carbohydrate foods. To be honest, I had been trying to avoid gluten primarily just hoping and praying for some relief from my chronic sinusitis! And my boyfriend had been trying to avoid sugar, but hadn’t realized that even “whole grain” products cause insulin spikes that are just as harmful (if not more so) as downing straight sugar by the spoonful.
Paleo Nutrition is, in brief, based on the idea that humans were far healthier before the agricultural revolution; meaning, of course, during the Paleolithic Era. What one eats is simply what one would envision a caveperson having access to. Meat, vegetables, seeds, nuts, some fruit, and so forth. It’s ridiculously easy to adhere to. No measuring. No memorizing or analyzing ingredients lists. It’s just food, plain and simple.
I know, I know. I hear it all the time: “But what about grains!? Bread!? Pasta!? HOW ON EARTH COULD I SURVIVE!?”
Quite happily, actually. Your body needs carbs, it’s true. That’s because your body needs vegetables. Lots and lots of lovely vegetables. You don’t need grains and, once you give them up, you’ll miss them about as much as a hole in the head.
It’s rather like me and smoking cigarettes. I quit smoking over a dozen years ago. I’ll still inhale wistfully once in a while when I smell someone’s cigarette… but man, if I tried taking a puff, I would feel awful. I know that, so I don’t really crave it. And now, it’s the same way with grains. Why would I want to eat something that makes me feel sluggish and bloated, and increases my likelihood of suffering a broad variety of health concerns? That’s just crazy talk.
(A quick aside: I wish Everyday Paleo had been in print when I started this journey; it was only released a few weeks ago, so wasn’t available when I was just starting to get into all this. It’s fantastic, and I highly recommend it. If you’re less interested in the science and just want to get straight to the recipes and the “what to eat,” this is the book for you. I also recommend Mark’s Daily Apple; it’s a wonderful resource as well, but perhaps a bit overwhelming as an intro to Paleo Nutrition and Fitness.)
Anyway, I stopped eating grains and sugars. ALL grains – even corn and the supposed “gluten free” grains. I started only buying the items that were available around the periphery of the supermarket – the meats and the produce, primarily. I cut out processed foods completely. I stopped worrying about my fat and calorie intake – in fact, I stopped measuring portion sizes completely. I ate when I was hungry, and stopped when I felt full.
My energy level skyrocketed. My mind became clear – “brain fog” became a thing of the past (for the most part… my boyfriend might disagree on that point!). I started needing to work out in ways I never had before. I craved muscle fatigue. I was aching to lift, pull, punch, and push myself to the maximum I was capable of.
Trying to keep my fat intake at the recommended levels had brought me only misery and lethargy. Embracing fat brought me energy, clarity, and lightness of spirit.
The author of The Paleo Solution, Robb Wolf, asks his readers to give it 30 days. Just to give it a shot and see how it goes. After a week, I knew I was never going back.
As far as my workouts went, I have this little elliptic machine in my living room. I love it and it slides easily under the coffee table or an end table when not in use. I had been doing 45 minutes on it, 3 times a week, for about a year and had dropped 1 pants size (size 14 to size 12). To be honest, while I was on the elliptic for 45 minutes, I probably wasn’t really pushing myself as hard as I could. I hate cardio. Still do.
Spark People was really what changed the game for me. I’d been a fan of the site for years, but in March of this year, right around when I discovered Paleo Nutrition, I discovered that their 10-minute bootcamp routines are simply amazing. They are created to encourage strength-training newbies (such as I) to go at their own pace, learn proper form, and to get in the habit of carving out a little time every day for just a small amount of exercise.
At first I couldn’t even use weights! Just lifting my arms was enough to get me sore the next day! But soon I was able to use little one pound dumbbells, then 3 lbs, then 5 lbs…
I tried to get some cardio into my routines, too. Leslie Sansone’s “Walk Away The Pounds” videos were excellent for getting me moving when nothing else could. I also recommend Prevention Fitness “Get Moving.” While Jillian Michaels’ DVDs get rave reviews, I do NOT recommend them for a newbie. I injured myself quite badly with 30 Day Shred a couple times, and it still isn’t one of my favorites (I do like “No More Trouble Zones,” though).
Finally… I tracked everything like you wouldn’t believe. Tracking workouts on the computer didn’t work for me. I marked up my wall calendar. Each month I would write my weekly workout goal for the month right on the calendar. Then I would have it up, on the wall, in plain sight, all the time. That was probably my best motivation, now that I think about it. Blank squares on the calendar depressed me and I couldn’t ignore them when they were on the wall, in front of my face, all the time!
It took over a year for me to get from a size 14 to a size 12 with regular workouts and trying to eat healthy. It took two months for me to get from a size 12 to a size 6, and I was barely trying. All I was doing was sticking with Paleo Nutrition and focusing more on strength training than cardio.
I still do a little cardio here and there, but mostly just to warm up. Strength training has become my new love, reinforced by articles like this one: Skinny Fat
(Yes, I’m tempted to do CrossFit, but haven’t summoned up the nerve to go check it out in person yet).
My routine now is 10 minutes of cardio followed by about 45 minutes of strength training. This is the routine I’ve been using lately, but I like to switch it up pretty frequently so I don’t get bored.
One other thing: I never weighed myself. I know this will shock some of you, but it was simply a personal choice. The scale depressed me. It actually still does, funny enough. I hate numbers. I’ve only lost about 30 pounds. Thirty pounds? What does that mean? Nothing, to me anyway.
Instead of weighing myself, I took pictures every two weeks… in front of a full length mirror… in my workout clothes. Scary, yes? Tell me about it. I learned a lot more about how my body was changing through pictures than by stepping on a scale, though, particularly since I was putting on so much muscle.
I wish I had thought to start taking pictures sooner, but alas, I did not. My first photo is only from February of 2011. This side-by-side comparison is February compared with… well, a few seconds ago, actually:
While I recognize that I have accomplished a lot, I can’t help but look at the pictures from yesterday as new “before” shots. Fat loss has been fun, but now I have new goals.
I’m strong now… but I want to get stronger and more toned, simply because I never, ever thought I’d be able to do something like that and it feels like a possibility now. I’ll be so proud of myself if the next time I post something like this it’s to show off that I’ve gotten really cut.
And you know what? Being proud of my appearance is kind of a new thing for me. I have to admit… it’s a pretty awesome feeling. :0)
That’s all for now! Thanks for reading!
Two things I should have mentioned:
(1) The book “Everyday Paleo” came to be because of the fabulous website of the same name, which I also highly recommend taking a look at: http://everydaypaleo.com/ (The only recipe I can vouch for so far was the Quick Curry Soup, but it was definitely a hit and really easy to make!)
(2) If you like how my curls came out the day of the shoot, here’s the lowdown:
- Deep conditioning treatment that morning with (of course) Jessicurl Weekly Deep Treatment.
- After rinsing, applied a huge dollop of Aubrey Organics Honeysuckle Rose conditioner mixed with a pea-sized dab of Biosilk Rock Hard Gelee.
- Flipped my head upside-down and used a hair pik on it before scrunching with my Curl Ease towel (GOD I love that thing- it’s definitely essential to any good hair day!).
- Plopped for about half an hour.
- After removing the towel, shook my hair out like a dog, then scrunched a little more with my towel to make sure curls re-formed.
- Finally, scrunched a tiny bit more gel into the ends, clipped the roots, did my make-up, then diffused dry.
Yeesh, I think it took longer to type all of that out than it took to actually do!!