Tag Archives: Changes

What’s In, What’s Out:  Elimination Diet & Training Update

Jen April 2017

A month after my elimination diet and new workout routine, I’m feeling strong! I’ve been on this weight loss journey for almost four years, and I’m happy to share that it keeps getting better!

Yes, I did it.  I survived a month on an elimination diet .  I managed to do this while starting a new workout schedule with a personal trainer.  Besides surviving and losing some weight, what are the results of the diet and training?  Here’s what I’ve learned:

*For a month, I avoided wheat, dairy, almonds and sugar.  Now that the month is over I’m adding a new food group for just three days and then waiting two more days to see if I can note any reaction.  So far, I added back in wheat.  The only response I’ve noticed is a bit of gas.  Not very ladylike perhaps, but not the worst reaction.  Will I keep wheat in my diet?  Maybe on occasion, but I didn’t particularly miss it.  When I reintroduced wheat-laden foods, I realized most of them weren’t healthy or particularly enjoyable.  I eat crackers mindlessly and that’s not good.  I stopped eating toast with peanut butter as a snack and switched to apple slices and sunflower butter.  As I test the foods I show a sensitivity to, I plan to be more mindful of how healthy that food is and if I really like it.

*Reading labels isn’t so bad.  In the beginning of the diet, I was thoroughly annoyed that I had to read every food label for items like sugar and almonds.  It made me realize, especially with sugar, that there are ingredients in foods that really aren’t necessary.  Bacon without sugar is just as good, if not better than bacon made with sugar.  I plan to keep buying sugar-free bacon as well as the vegan Caesar salad dressing I discovered.  If I keep sugar as just a “sometime food” as opposed to an everyday food, I know I’ll continue to feel better.

*Making meals from scratch is getting easier.  To eliminate sugar from my diet, I found it easy to make some foods instead of buying prepared foods.  Yes, it takes more work to make meatloaf than to throw a preseasoned meat in a crock pot, but I got into the hang of it.  My Pinterest food page has more recipes for me to draw from.  I’m still searching for new recipes, but I’m more confident in my cooking skills.

*I feel a bit like a cavewoman with the meat I’m eating, but that’s a good thing.  Since my iron was at 2 when the range is 10 to 232, I knew I needed to eat more iron in addition to taking supplements.  While I didn’t follow through on my nutritionist’s suggestion of adding liver to my meatloaf, I did eat more red meat than in the past.  I’m happy to share in a month my iron went up to an 8.  While it’s improving I did have my first IV iron infusion this past weekend.  It was really easy actually and I didn’t have any reaction.  I’m going for a second one later this week and we’ll see what happens from there.  My symptoms of itchy skin and fatigue are gone, so unless eating a certain food bothers me when I reintroduce it, I think my low iron levels were causing them.

*An elimination diet is more than just finding out which foods are causing issues, it helps reset your eating habits.  For me, this past month was a good reminder that I need to eat mindfully.  Making better choices like eating less processed foods and more whole foods is making me feel better, I’m sure.  Also, even if I’m eating healthy foods, I need to watch the amount.  Macadamia nuts are better than chips, but they still have calories, so you can’t eat them mindlessly. This month has been a bit of reset to my old ways of eating after I had gastric sleeve surgery and with my four-year anniversary two months away, it’s been a good reminder of how I need to eat to continue to be healthy.

*Along with the diet, I began working out with my trainer with the initial goal of improving my running.  Yes, it’s improved my running!  When I first started, H., had me run 1.5 miles for a baseline.  I ran that same 1.5 miles last Friday and I’m excited to report I did it without walking.  As I’ve mentioned in many blogs, I’ve been a runner/walker since I started my weight loss journey.  And let me say that I think there is nothing wrong with doing intervals.  If you’re moving, you’re doing great!  For me, I wanted to improve my pace and see if I could improve my stamina.  After a month of twice weekly workouts and a day or two of working out on my own, I’m excited to say I ran that same 1.5 miles without walking and beat my original time by 1:09 minutes.  I will never forget when I started the Couch to 5K program, my pace was 18:30 minutes per mile.  Four years later, my new pace is 12:07 per mile.  My body can do more than I ever thought it could!

*This brings me to one of the best parts of increasing and improving my exercise routine:  I believe I can do more.  I know that it was my mental block that was part of the reason I couldn’t run without taking a break.  While I’m working on my muscle memory (my body getting used to working out harder), I’m also retraining my brain to be more positive and open to changes.  I’m learning to trust my body when I exercise.  When my head and body work together, I can accomplish my exercising goals.  

So after a month of “dieting” and a new exercise routine, I am excited with all the changes I’ve made.  Sugar and wheat are mostly out, but in on occasion.  Mindful eating is in, but mindless eating is out.  Cooking is in, but prepackaged food is out as much as possible.  Exercise and working with a trainer is most definitely in, but doubting my abilities is out.  As crazy as this month as been, I’m glad I followed the elimination diet and new exercise routine.  I feel healthy, empowered, and ready to keep going Down the Scale…

Jen April 2017 Part 2

With the spring weather approaching, I’m excited to have my sunroof open and the ability to run outside! My weight loss journey continues as Spring arrives!

From 18 to 48

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From my senior high school prom to my last trip to New Orleans, here I am! While I’d love to have part of my eighteen year old body, I’m a happy forty-eight year old today, much in part to my weight loss journey at Down the Scale!

Today, my senior high school prom date, J.,  sent me a photo from that night.  Wow, how have eighteen years passed by this quickly?  It’s always fun to see photos from the past, but this one was a good reminder my current success in my weight loss journey.  My face and body have been bigger at times during the thirty years in between photos, but I think I still can see my old self in my current photo.  Many of my pictures from, especially when I was in my thirties show a much heavier person…both in body and spirit.

While I wish I had the wrinkle free face and perkier breasts of the eighteen year old Jen, I am  happy with who I am now.  Sure, I’m always working to better myself, but I am  proud of where I’ve been and where I’m going.  Life is always changing and I am happy to change along with it, especially as I go Down the Scale…

 

Prom 1987

And here’s the whole photo from my senior prom! Thirty years pass by quicker than you imagine…

Is it Over Yet? Day 1 of the Elimination Diet

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Here I am making a new recipe, dairy-free asparagus soup! My gastric sleeve journey continues as I strive to be the healthiest person I can be!

So I survived Day 1 of my elimination diet! Only 29 more days to go…oh my! As I wrote in my last blog post, “Standing Tall”,  dairy, wheat, cane sugar and almonds are no longer a part of my meals for the next month. The food sensitivity chart marked these foods as ones I should avoid. Yes, coffee was on the list, but for my sanity I’m not giving it. A woman can only handle so much in one month!

So, how was the first day? At times, it was ugly and other times it was just fine. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

*Cane sugar is in everything! My beloved bacon is full of it and of course, all the flavored dairy substitutes have it. I must have shopped twice as long at the grocery store yesterday to find items that didn’t have it.

*Almonds are in everything, too. I was excited to find cashew butter and milk, but the first brands I looked at also had almonds. Again, it took a lot of label reading to find items without it.

*Yes, you crave certain foods when you can’t have it. The sugar-free chocolate pudding is taunting me from the back of the refrigerator. I forgot it was even there until yesterday. Is it that good? Not really, but when you plan to take certain foods out of your diet, you think they’re the best food ever. My guess is the apple I ate instead last night was just as good as the pudding.

*There are tons of resources to help including doctors, nutritionists, family, and friends. Naturally, I’ve been on the web researching new recipes and food alternatives, but the best resources are actual human beings! My new doctor and nutritionist took the time to answer all my questions and gave me the tools to set up this month-long diet. I am extremely fortunate to have a sister who is well versed personally and professionally in healthy eating. The information she shares, but more importantly, her encouragement and support make the world of difference to me. My friend, N., texted me throughout the day to check in on me which helped tremendously! My biggest cheerleaders are my ever-supportive husband and children. They always back me up no matter what I need to do, but I think they were more relieved than me when I decided to keep coffee in my life!

*Cooking from scratch will be my saving grace. After spending over an hour grocery shopping yesterday, I concluded it would be easier to do as much cooking as I can. So many repackaged foods are full of sugar and sodium, that I fear I won’t really learn much about my body if I eat them this month. So yesterday, I picked up ingredients to make my own meals like meatloaf, sausage patties and soup. And don’t mind me when I tell you my first soup, was great! While this does mean more meal planning, shopping, and cooking for me, I think it is well worth it to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

*Exercising is the same so far. Day 1 of the elimination diet was also another hour-long training session. How was I going to lift weights and run on such little food…OK, how would I workout without having had my coffee and sugar-free creamer? Umm…just fine! My session was tough, which is normal as I have a great trainer, but I didn’t feel any different having had my coffee with cashew milk and stevia. My breakfast of bacon, kale and brussels sprouts was plenty of energy to get me through the morning.

*I feel like I’m back at the beginning of my gastric sleeve surgery and that’s not a bad thing. Once you’re done with the liquid stage of post-surgery, you get to eat food with the emphasis on protein. Because of my low iron levels, I’m really concentrating on protein. And since I’m eliminating wheat, I’m focusing on more vegetables. By resetting my diet I hope it will help with weight loss in addition to finding out what foods my body truly needs.

I fully admit I was whiney when the day began and I’m sure I’m going to feel deprived and frustrated as the month goes on. When I really stop and think about how I’m feeling physically and mentally I know that it’s really not that bad. I plan to stay focused and positive. Change is always hard, but I find that it’s always worth it. I look forward to feeling better and continuing to go Down the Scale…

Standing Strong in the Midst of Uncertain Waters

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Here I am on a floating dock, but standing tall. It’s the perfect metaphor for where I am in my gastric sleeve journey. While I’m not sure where the water is going to move me while I’m on the dock, I’m still standing firm. I am happy that I am confident where I am in life, but I know it’s OK to change direction and seek help no matter what!

 

I looked at this particular photograph the other day and realized it was the perfect metaphor for how I am feeling these days: standing strong in the midst of uncertain waters. For the past few months, I’ve felt out of sorts and I couldn’t quite figure out why. Oh, I could say that say that the move to new state and all the changes that come along with it is the cause for my fatigue and stagnant physical and mental health. Even with trying new exercises, going to bed early and eating better, I just seem to be coasting along on my continuing journey to being the healthiest “me” I can be.

Even though I’m standing tall and living my life happily, something kept nagging at me, that perhaps all wasn’t right. Falling into bed exhausted at 9 PM wasn’t typical for me, a former night owl. I cut out all the sweets from the holidays and still felt hungry and in need of caffeine constantly. I kept trying to improve at my swim class, but I was still tired after each class.

Finally, I decided to do something about my health. While I’m almost four years out from gastric sleeve surgery, I reminded myself that my journey isn’t a straight line. I am always looking to improve and sometimes you need help when the improvements you make on your own aren’t working. There is no shame in admitting you need help, whether it’s with physical or mental health. It was time to look for help.

Since we’ve moved to a new state, I needed a new doctor. I picked a naturopathic doctor. I wanted to get a new perspective on my health and while it might seem contradictory, I want the least about of medical intervention in my life. Going off high blood pressure medicine was one of my favorite successes with my weight loss, so I would like to improve my health as naturally as possible. Trust me, I’ll all for medicine when necessary, but if I can be better through proper eating and exercise, I prefer that method!

My new doctor looked at my June 2016 blood work in shock. She couldn’t believe I was functioning with such low iron levels. I told her my previous doctors didn’t seem too concerned but I could tell she was. And when the new blood work came back in, my fatigue all made sense. My iron is extremely low and might be the cause of other symptoms I have like itchy skin. I’m on iron supplements in hopes it will bring my levels up, otherwise I need to do an IV infusion. Between my supplements and improved diet, I hope to avoid the IV, but I will do what is necessary to for my health.

Besides the regular blood work, we did a food sensitivity test since that could also a reason for my low iron absorption, although gastric sleeve patients can have vitamin and mineral absorption issues as a result of surgery. The look of horror on my face when I read the results must have been Oscar-worthy. It said high sensitivity to wheat, dairy, sugar, and coffee. Yes, I said coffee. Losing wheat and dairy from my diet wasn’t as horrifying as the thought of coffee and sugar.

No, I didn’t run from the doctor’s office. Instead I went to see a nutritionist to work on a month-long elimination diet. I will eliminate the foods that show I have a high sensitivity for a month and then slowly add them back to see how I react. I’m not starting it until after my birthday on March 8th, but I’ll keep you posted. Or perhaps you’ll just hear a crazed woman calling out for coffee and know that it’s me.

OK, yes, I’m nervous about this diet, but with the help of my nutritionist I feel like I can do it for a month. Really, I barely ate anything for the first month after my gastric sleeve surgery, so I know I will survive. Her suggestions of new meals that included bacon are encouraging. Really, as long as I have bacon I’ll be OK. And I have a list of coffee substitutes to try so I might just get through it without sobbing every time I pass Starbucks.

So, I have a plan to improve my nutrition, but what about improving my exercise routine? While the swimming class  I’m doing is challenging and different, my first exercise love is running. It’s the perfect activity for me physically since I can do it indoors or outdoors. Mentally, I love it because I can do it alone with just my music, or I can run with a friend. And while I’ve been running for over four years now, I just can’t improve my time. No, running isn’t all about pace and distance, but I feel like I’m just not going anywhere with it, so to speak.

Every day I am thankful to my ever-supportive husband who knows just when to encourage me out of my comfort zone. While the whole family met with a trainer at our new YMCA, the hubby asked about running trainer for me. Forget candy and flowers, this woman is happier to have a trainer! My first training session was last week and it was encouraging and humbling. We did some tests and exercises to see where I am in my physical fitness. I’ve come along way since my pre-weight loss days! But when I stumbled during the session, it was a good reminder that there is always room for improvement.

And this is the main reason I am working with a trainer: to improve what is already working. I exercise more than I have in my life, but I’d like to be more efficient. I’ve researched fitness online and through books and magazines, but having an expert work with you one on one can’t be beat. You can’t hide in the back of an exercise class when it’s just you and your trainer. This is getting me out of my running comfort zone.

Now, I don’t want to make it sound like I’m unhappy with where I’m in my weight loss journey. I spent too many years thinking that “life would get better once I (insert any goal here)” and I know that’s not true. I am proud and ecstatic with the success I’ve made in becoming a healthier and happier person. What I didn’t know before I began this journey was that there isn’t an ending to it. Sure, I might reach my goal weight, eat healthy every day, and run races, but those are just milestones along the way.

There will be times that I need to adjust what is working and there will be times I need help from professionals. And I will always need help and encouragement of my family and friends. Thank you for supporting me here at Down the Scale while I continue to stand tall in the midst of ever-changing waters of health and happiness.

Pretending to be Wonder Woman

While it's not the most elaborate costume, I am participating in Halloween this year. Here's to enjoying the spirit of Halloween!

While it’s not the most elaborate costume, I am participating in Halloween this year. Here’s to enjoying the spirit of Halloween!

Happy Halloween!  Normally, I go all out and dress up like Snow White or Joy from the movie “Inside and Out”, but this year I went simple.  Just a Wonder Woman T-shirt and crown is all I can muster up.  I hope that dressing like a super hero will make me feel more like one this year.

Why do I want to feel like a super hero?  Well, we’re in the midst of a very quick out-of-state move.  It’s a very positive move, but even good change is hard.  It’s difficult to say goodbye to friends, places and the “known.”  We’re heading into the unknown with about two-weeks to do it and let’s just say it’s crazy!

My healthy habits, both mental and physical, have fallen a bit to the way side, but not horribly so.  Well, I haven’t been running, I am walking as much as possible and I’m trying to eat healthy.  Although I throughly plan to indulge in some candy tonight!

So, maybe I am a bit more like Wonder Woman than I thought.  Even she has ups and downs, too.  You know what, I’m going to wear my costume proudly today and be positive about all the things I am getting right during this hectic time!  I’ll enjoy Halloween and be Wonder Woman today even if I’m not always her when I go Down the Scale…

I’m an Imposter and I’m Owning it!

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Yes, I’m Jen the Imposter. Not for long though as I’m back on track with my weight loss journey!

Yes, I said it. I am an imposter. At least that’s how I feel these days. I feel fat. I feel defeated. I feel I’m heading on up the scale, not down the scale. I am lost, frustrated and terrified.

Mostly I feel this way because of the dreaded scale. Of course I’ve said in the past that the scale is not the end all, be all in weight loss success. I can’t deny it’s importance in keeping track of my health and right now I’m four and half pounds above my weight window. At least that’s the number that’s in my head. I haven’t entered it in the My Fitness Pal program for the past two weeks since it doesn’t count if it’s not written down, right?

Before my gastric sleeve surgery, a gain of five pounds didn’t mean much. What was another five pounds on an obese body? Now that I’ve lost 100+ pounds, five pounds means more. It means I have the start of a muffin top and my breasts feel a little bigger. I can still fit in my clothes so that’s a relief, but I’m sure another pound could make my jeans tight and my bra tighter. Pudgy and doughy are good for pastry, but not on my body! Especially in light of all the work I did to get to this place.

So I’ve felt like a fake thin person for the past two weeks. While on the outside I think I look the same as before this five-pound gain, but on the inside I don’t. I feel like a fake healthy person. I started eating more protein bars and the scale is showing the results. So I stopped buying them and what did I do, but start eating my kids’ protein bars. Sigh. Bars are out in this house as well as bread for me. A bagel and cream cheese here, a slice of peanut butter toast there is not something I can handle these days. Time to own that face and step back from the carbs.

Even though I’m almost two years out from my surgery, I am very fortunate to have the support, encouragement and compliments from my family and friends. For the past two weeks it’s felt so wrong to say “Yes, I’ve lost 100+ pounds.” to people when in fact it’s only 97.5 pounds these days. I feel like such a liar.

But you know what, I’ve finally realized that we’re all imposters at some point in our lives. We all put on masks and act like who we’re supposed to be either to our community or to ourselves. Sometimes things just go off course or just plain wrong. I think it’s important to be who you want to be and need to be, but if you mess up, it’s really OK. Deep down, I know I’m not a failure. I have accomplished a lot and it’s fine to fail from time to time. It’s coming back from the failures that help define who you are.

So, yes, right now I may feel like a weight loss fake. And technically I am since I’ve gained weight and I let my exercise and eating habits go to hell for the past few weeks. But you know what…I’m going to own it. Yes, I’ve screwed up like I’ve done in the past, but this time is different. I now know that I can be successful. I’ve maintained my weight loss since July 2014 and that’s damn impressive! I can do it again if I really, really try. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Thanks for letting me share my failures of the past few weeks. If you see me with a bagel, feel free to gently remind me to put it down. Or actually feel free to slap it out of my hand. Perhaps it’s time for some tough love to get me to the next stage of my weight loss journey. Time to build up my strength, pride and accountability as I go back Down the Scale….

The Latest Balancing Act

Here I am about a year and a half into my gastric sleeve journey and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s one big balancing act. I feel like I’m a kid playing on a teeter totter by myself. I’m always trying to find that sweet spot on it. There’s a thrill when I’m out of balance, but what I really want is the joy of being in the middle with a sense of control.

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I will admit I am more confident having my picture taken now that I’m 100+ pounds lighter. While we did take a family photo with Thor at Disneyland, I wanted one alone with him. Who wouldn’t?

What am I trying to balance these days? In the beginning of my journey, it was relatively easy to keep balanced with my success and failure. With the weight coming off quickly, I was motivated and excited. People noticed and complimented me regularly. My body, my mental state and my spirit were constantly changing. Although the journey was difficult and at times I stalled or doubted my abilities, I was always changing for the better.

Now that I’ve maintained the same weight for six weeks, I’m happy and disappointed. I’m still about nine pounds away from my initial goal weight. I feel sad, but I also feel healthy and strong at this weight. I’ve gone from a size twenty-two to a size ten so I really can’t complain…but I really want to be size eight. I can run faster than ever, but I still do a combination of running and walking. I am in the best shape of my life, but some days all I see is flab and stretch marks.

So I find myself balancing success and disappointment. I wonder, though, wouldn’t it be OK to just learn to enjoy where I am right now in my journey. Isn’t it all right to be happy with what I’ve done so far? Isn’t it enough?

Perhaps it is enough, but I worry that thinking that way will make me complacent in maintaining my health. Because that’s my usual modus operandi. I’ve achieved weight loss goals many, many times in my life…for a short time. In the past, my success was always short-lived as I let any type of real or perceived crisis, depression or even happy events like my pregnancies disrupt my healthy path. The weight would always come back as I would just give up until the next time. The cycle always continued. I am terrified of this happening again. But I’m also exhausted of stressing about my weight. How do I balance this fear with the joy of being a continually healthy person?

My first plan of attack is to add new goals that will help maintain my weight loss. I really enjoy running 5K races so my new goal is to run a 10K race in April. I hope this new goal will inspire me to keep up my running program and add in other exercise like yoga to keep fit. I also think making reasonable goals is important. Jumping from 5K races to marathons would be foolish on my many levels, but mostly it would be setting myself up for disappointment and failure.

An important part of my continuing success is setting new, realistic goals. Losing so much weight so quickly was amazing and made me feel very powerful. The new achievements I reach for aren’t going to be quite dramatic and I need to be OK with that.

I also need to find a sense of accomplishment and success outside my weight loss journey. Just as I learned I could be and needed to think of myself as more than a mother and a wife, I need to learn that I’m more than just a person who lost 100+ pounds. I’m still working on this. I hope that writing will give me the sense of power and pride and perhaps even become a career. I’m sure I can find many other goals. It’s time for me to try, isn’t it?

It’s back to the teeter totter I go. Learning to be proud and content with my success and learning to strive for new goals is my new balancing act this year. Although I’m not going “down the scale” literally any more, I know that I have much more to accomplish in my life.