Part 1 of my journey to a better version of me
This is a light hearted, from the heart blog about my journey to health and fitness
This journey began long long before April 2021. Most of my adult life I have suffered with my weight.
I would go on a diet, join various types of exercise classes – aerobics in my very hip 80’s unitards, step classes in my neon spandex shorts and extremely baggy t-shirts, I am sure many of you still have those items in the back of your wardrobes!
I moved to the USA in April 1998, but mid August, I was the heaviest I had ever been.
Back in the April, when I first moved here, I lived in an apartment complex that had a gym. I decided to try my hand at the stationary bike – after about 35 minutes I was being revived by Chester County fireman – I had passed out, my heart stopped and I was turning blue! A few weeks later I found out that I had something called Vasovagal Syncope – typically this is not as serious as the episode I suffered. And in fact I had been suffering this for many years (first episode I recall was in around 1980, but it was never officially diagnosed until 1998). I won’t go into details in this blog, as I want this to be about my current journey, however this little tidbit of background will help you understand of how I got here.
So, August 1998 I joined Weight Watchers through my work and within 15 months I had lost over 60lbs, joined a YMCA and competed in my first 10K – amazing huh! by 2007 I gained back 40lbs – back to WW, at this time we had a home gym – treadmill, elliptical and one of those multi-function workout machine things. 12 months later I was down around 30 of those added 40lbs. In March of 2010, aged 43 I left my ex-husband and dropped 55lbs by the the Christmas. I was at the lowest weight since I was 19 years old. I was in size 2 jeans – I felt amazing, I felt confident, my self esteem was coming back – and I was going to keep it off this time…….screeechhhhhhh – nope that didn’t quite happen!
Whilst writing this introduction I am procrastinating about sharing a picture of me from September 2021 – and I am going to do that, as I feel that I need to share the good, the bad and the fugly!
Fast forward to July 2019 – I was obese, and was on the verge of a stroke. My cholesterol was out of control, I was pre-diabetic, my liver was struggling, and my doctor basically told me I may not see my 56th birthday! WOAH! Wait! What? So now I truly needed to do something drastic. I couldn’t bear the thought of what could likely happen – what did I need to do (well, lose weight – DUH!). My doctor wanted to start me on medication to help me get my “numbers” under control – but I truly didn’t want to do that. I had previously confided in a dear friend who had similar issues, and she went “Plant-Based”, and this helped her regain control, and get her numbers to healthier level. Now to some, this may sound quite extreme. Well when you are faced with this kind of situation, and don’t want to be dependent on drugs for the rest of your life, then you have to think outside of the norms! I talked with my doctor and he agreed to support me as I chose to embark on a huge change in my eating lifestyle. On August 1st 2019 I started my journey back to health. I rejoined WW and I committed to a plant-based lifestyle for 4 months. In November 2019 I had a new set of bloodwork done. The 48 hour wait was excruciating – but it wasn’t in vain! This lifestyle change WORKED! My key numbers had improved DRASTICALLY! My cholesterol was still high, but within the range of “normal”, along with other key health factors. Also, with WW I had dropped 20lbs – I was still obese, but things were going in the right direction.
Fast forward to Spring of 2020 – a time that none of us will forget. The world was engulfed in the COVID-19 pandemic. Lockdowns, Isolation, Quarantine and a supply chain that began to wane. Oh, and I was unemployed (since December 2019). I was determined to try and keep up with the journey to health, and I did my walks every day around my neighborhood, and to other neighborhoods – some days it would be a 2 mile walk, others 5 miles. I dropped a few more pounds, then hit a plateau.
For anyone who has gone on a weight loss journey (or is on one now), you will likely know all about plateaus – that period of time you are doing all the right things, but the number on the scale just won’t budge! It is one of the most frustrating things for anyone trying to lose weight, whether it be trying to lost 15lbs or 115lbs. I later learned that although you are doing all the right things, there are other environmental and potentially genetic factors that may impact your weight loss journey (more about that later). I reached my 25lb goal in February 2020, and I decided to find a picture of what I looked like 2 years before – this is the first time I am sharing publicly such pictures – the shame I carry of how I looked will never leave me, and this journey didn’t get any easier!
We all get those “On this day” kind of reminders, such as the Facebook memory or time-hop, or even your photos on your phone / tablet. When I achieved my 25lb goal, in February 2020, I was so proud of myself, especially since I got a reminder of what I looked like exactly 2 years prior!
So why would I stop this journey? Why would I regain all those pounds, and more? AGAIN!!!! I honestly cannot answer that. Life went into a spiral, I wasn’t taking care of myself and I lost my focus. I could “blame” / find excuses, such as job loss, the pandemic-15-pounds and even my home burning down. But quite honestly, although those may have been social and environmental triggers, I just wasn’t equipped at that time with the right knowledge or strength within myself to keep going and achieving my goal – It all went to shit in late 2020 after my home burned down…oops there is that excuse… but no, not an excuse, a reference of time. Whilst many think that being plant based also means being healthy and skinny, well I hate to break it to you, that is a myth! There is so much processed “alternatives” out there, like plant based burgers, which are no healthier than a big mac or whopper!
Women’s Health magazine did an article back in 2020, comparing the Beyond Burger to a regular hamburger – well folks, you may be surprised, but the difference was not what you may think it was (check out this article).
During a period of “between homes” (about 3 weeks), I probably ate more impossible burgers than I had eaten in a 2 year period! My focus was elsewhere, and by this time I had not weighed in with WW for about 6 months (damn you pandemic and no in person classes!!).
So in September 2020, I moved into my new home, I got a job contracting, things were starting to turn around for me – yet my weight gain was getting out of control – AGAIN!!!
What is wrong with me, do I have a desire to have no self esteem? Don’t I want to be happy and feel comfortable in my own body? The simple answer is yes! I do want these things. And the only way to get them is to concentrate on me!
Restarting the journey – AGAIN!
The weight I had lost with WW was all gained back, plus some! I really needed to get my shit together and give myself a good talking to!
By April of 2021, I had secured a permanent job, via the contract job I had. It is a dream job! I love it, and I love the people I work with. The company is all about health and fitness – and then there is me, with my wobbly bits, and struggling to tie my shoe laces and wipe my own bum! What a mess!!!!
I had done this so many times before – lost 50/60 and more pounds, it stayed off for a while, but gradually crept back on. And why? Well to be honest, because I lost focus, I lost my way and life got in the way. But more importantly – I never did retrain my brain. I was “on a diet”, therefore when I reached my goal, I would “come off the diet” – how stupid that sounds now.
It really is not about being on a diet, it is about refocusing my lifestyle, my habits and making choices that will help me lose weight, but more importantly, give me “tools” to keep it off.
Exercise! Oh boy, exercise and me have had such a love / hate relationship.
As a kid, I was very active, ballroom dancing, gymnastics, horse riding, swimming, marching band, athletics – you name it, I did it. And I was pretty decent at it all too!
As an adult, my hobbies became more sedentary – driving – oh I love a great road trip! Sat in a car for hours, hopping out for a few scenic photos here and there, or hanging out at the bar watching sports and drinking myself silly. And then there is my knitting – yes, my hands get a workout, but it isn’t exactly heart pumping is it now!
Now don’t get me wrong, as an adult, I would do some various kinds of exercise – remember the unitards and aerobics? The step classes? Yup I did those too – but like those “Fame” outfits – they went out of style, and they stay in my memories!
Then there was the time that I took up running (twice) – running a 5K in 27 minutes (I doubt I could do it in an hour at the minute!), then running a 10K in 57 minutes – yep I really did!
And there lay one of the roots of the yo-yo weight issue – my “hobbies” were not exactly helping with my ability to lose weight!
So what do I do? I still enjoy road trips (and am actually typing this as I drive around Andalucía), and I still love to join friends at the bar. And knitting is actually one of my mental health / stress helpers – it is good for my mind!
Joining a gym is not for me. I am too self conscious and full of ZERO self esteem to be seen publicly in workout clothes!
Home gym! But wait – my apartment isn’t exactly a palace – where would I put any kind of gym contraption?
Enter Peloton! The bike takes up 4 feet by 2 feet of room – a little rearranging, and it will fit!
And off we go! Spinning away – 10 minutes at a time.
I started off (excitedly) slow and cautious, I didn’t want to overdo things.
The bike arrived at the end of April. Not only was I ready to jump on the bike, I also told myself I needed to review my eating habits.
My eating habits are not all bad, but I still needed to adjust a few things. Less processed plant based stuff, more fresh veggies and fruits (more about that later).
My first two months were amazing, and I dropped 21 pounds (1.5 stone in England / 9.3kg)!
Then tragedy hit my family, my amazing grandmother died. I was (am) heartbroken. My mind was not on my bike at all. It wasn’t on myself, or any kind of self care. What made things harder for me personally, was that I couldn’t travel back to England to attend the funeral, be with family and say a “proper” good-bye. It truly broke me.
July came and went, August came and went – and apart from working (and a trip to Florida – a blog for another day), I honestly do not remember much of those 2 months. I hardly went out, I sat, and sat and knitted (on and off).
September arrived – 12 of the 21 pounds “miraculously” came back – I had been living on Chinese dumplings (sometimes steamed, many times pan-seared), along with other bits and pieces, that may appear to be “good”, but they really weren’t. I had lost all care of myself.
On 12th September, something happened. A dear friend posted a picture of herself, and mentioned a journey to health and fitness she was on. She looked amazing – not just physically, she LOOKED radiant, there was an aura of peacefulness about her. A smile on her face that spoke volumes to me.
Of course I sent her a message – first congratulating her, and secondly, I was curious!
We are very good friends, and are quite open with each other. We didn’t necessarily speak every day, or even every week, but we knew each one of us was there for the other if needed.
She told me that with her line of work (sorry I have to keep her anonymity), she had struggled, and really needed to start taking care of herself, not just what she put in her mouth, but her mind and body as a whole.
Oh how this resonated with me! It isn’t that I don’t know what to do, and even how to do it. It is quite simple really – exert more calories than you consume, and you will lose weight. But that is only a part of the answer. The other is a bit tougher – it is about rewiring your brain to “unlearn” things that go back to your childhood and even your culture!
My friend had joined a “cult” (we can’t help but laugh about this, bear with me!) – that cult is called “Noom”.
I am sure many have heard about this “phenomenon”. But what really is it? Do they brainwash you? Just another “fad” diet?
Well this blog isn’t about telling you all about Noom, but I can tell you this:
- It does cover weight loss
- It does cover self care
- It does cover re-learning how to combat our inner demons
- It does cover lifestyle and diet myths
- It is based on facts and science
- It is NOT a diet program
- It is NOT a “fad” diet
I was at an all time low in self esteem and self love, and at an all time high of self disgust, and in what I can only describe as a “Catch-22” vicious circle.
I signed up to Noom! OK, I just committed to something!
OK, let us just catch a breath here. What had I signed up to?
I had signed up to committing to myself, that I wanted to re-evaluate my life, it was more then just needing to lose weight, I needed help to rewire my mind and not be on a diet! I needed to change my life / lifestyle to match what I wanted out of life!
I have (like so many people) a very critical perspective of myself. I know this isn’t necessarily what other people see – and honestly (selfishly) I don’t care what others think – it is all about what I think of myself. I want to be able to love myself again, I want to look in the mirror naked and not be disgusted with what I see. I want to be able to run a 5K in 27 minutes again (maybe not the fastest, but a target for me!). I want to be able to run a 5K with my granddaughter. I want to wear clothes that are somewhat formfitting, and I don’t feel like a busted sofa. I want to be happy! I want to improve my mental health, that impacts all these wants!
I am not looking for empathy, sympathy or any other “thy” – I am not looking for affirmation or anyone saying that I don’t look fat or like a busted sofa – these are all things that are personal and in my mind.
Now is the time for me to start to do something to change that mindset. It won’t happen overnight, in a week or even a month. It will take time to re-learn to love myself. It will take time to be comfortable in my own body. It is connected with weight-loss, but it is bigger than that.
To make changes both physically and mentally, I may think I know what to do, but with a negative mindset, I need help to get me started. That is where Noom comes in. It isn’t just about losing weight, but more about how our minds work and how we can apply things we know to a sustainable way of living, and a sustainable mindset.
It may not be for everyone. Many people “know it all” and don’t need help. Many people have the right mindset and never have an issue with their weight. I do have a problem. My adult life has proved this.
September 2021 saw yet another return to the weight-loss journey. But this time it was different. It is not just weight loss, it is also about un-learning habits of a lifetime (literally), such as “you can’t have pudding if you don’t eat all your dinner” or “you can’t eat after 4pm” or one of my favorites “well you are building muscle and it weighs more than fat” (erm…1 pound of lean meat is the same weight as 1 pound of fatty meat)!!
It was time to take control of my life, and build a journey of sustainable weight loss, and not a diet! So if you ask, I will tell you that I am not on a diet! I am on a health and fitness journey, with the added bonus of weight loss. Once I hit my target weight, I will have the tools to sustain it. It is all about retraining my mind, breaking certain habits and creating new good habits. It is about choices, and having tools and learning to use them to help me make better choices. It does include understanding foods better too.
Not all breads are equal, and not all bread is bad!
Bread! Oh how I love thee! But I will just have to accept that we can no longer be in a relationship…….REWIND!
Actually there are breads out there that are not bad for you – I am not on a low carb diet – in fact, as previously said, I am not on a diet!
What I am on, is a crusade to health and fitness, and weight loss along the way. Yes I can have bread – but let me be mindful about the kind of bread that I put into my body.
With Noom, they teach about “Caloric Density” (nope not going to spill the beans on this any further), and some breads have a higher density than others. The lower the density, the more you can eat (and no, I can’t eat a loaf of low density bread in one sitting!).
I have found that many of my vegan / plant based foods are higher in caloric density, and so am working on reducing my portions for those foods.
The higher the caloric density, the more stringent we need to be with those foods – it is all about moderation, apart from green grapes – eat them to your hearts content.
We are all individuals, and we all have a different mentality and outlook on life.
And so with the help of Noom and a couple of friends that are on a similar journey with Noom, I have clipped back into the bike, I am taking daily lessons to train and control my inner elephant, and have embarked on a new life!
This new life is reality, and it will come with all the typical obstacles that life likes to throw at us. But this time I am being taught how I can counter-attack the things that have led to me giving up in the past. As I write this blog, I am embarking on week 8 of this new journey.
I don’t know when my belly will stop hitting my thighs, but what I do know is this:
I have to keep doing the right things EVERY day, I have to get on the bike (or another form of exercise) every day. I have to be mindful about what is going in my mouth – and re-learn that certain foods can be eaten in moderation, whilst others can be eaten abundance (hello green grapes, good-bye potato chips!). It doesn’t mean I can never have potato chips (crisps in England!) ever again, but right now I am cutting them out of my weight-loss journey, and I may treat myself once I arrive at a weight I am happy with (or even before – there is no time limit, just a personal choice).My (rather long) mantra
There are two major changes I need to make in order to succeed:
- Accept that weight loss is gradual, and there may be plateaus
- Learn to deal with frustrations and obstacles – and don’t just give up
As I embark on my 8th week with Noom, I am 10 pounds (4.4kg) lighter, and 2 pounds away from my original 21lbs lost at the end of June. I won’t deny that I have been frustrated (had a bit of a plateau recently!), but overall I am feeling energized, determined and most of all I am feeling less stressed! By making changes, better choices, and learning to tackle the inner elephant (that really wants those potato chips!), I am feeling that I can succeed!
I recently reached a couple of Peloton milestones, and to say I am happy is an understatement. The belly is still hitting the thighs, but one day in the not too distant future, the belly will stop hitting the thighs!
This is just the beginning, and I don’t necessarily have a “date” in mind for reaching my weight loss goal, but I do have a number of interim “smart goals” – I will share in another blog sometime.
For now, thank you for reading. I will provide updates sporadically – now it is time to go climb a mountain (quite literally!)
5 thoughts on “When will the belly stop hitting the thighs?”
Congrats Laura, I have struggled my whole life and at the point now that depression has set in. I can’t seem to stick to anything. So be proud of yourself, you look amazing and I enjoy your blogs and you fur angels❤️💙💚💜💛
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Thanks! If there is ever anything I can do to help – please reach out.
Wow you are really inspiring Laura
You been through so much yiu are amazing person and you look good
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Thanks for the article! Really needed to read this!!
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