The Most Successful Fat-Loss Plan of My Life

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Right out the gate, let me be clear about one thing: I don’t believe in the term ‘weight loss’ as a healthy mindset.  Lots of things add up to your body weight — organs, muscle, bones, fluids that keep you alive.  And believe me, you wouldn’t want to trade your heart to weigh a few less pounds.

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But realistically, a lot of people gain muscle when they lose fat, and then they get discouraged because the scale they check daily says they’re ‘gaining weight’.  I don’t own a scale.  Instead, I have gone from a size 18 to a 16 to a 14 (with 2 new belt holes I had to create ’cause I’d run out of old ones).  And that’s just been in ten weeks.  Even more dramatic is how I look and feel.

Found on fitgirlsdiary.com

So stop chasing a weight goal and start pursuing your best, most perfect self.  Believe me, weight from muscle looks SEXY.
So, when I decided to FINALLY get to my perfect shape I knew I needed to do something I’d never done (because I wanted to get something I’d never gotten before).  Some goal-setting plans talk about assuming it will be HARDER than you think.  I do believe that’s a good way to go.  I assumed it would be the hardest task of my life (so far) to achieve one of the greatest successes of my life — and you should too.

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Which is why you need to make sure you know your goal and really, really want it — for yourself.  Don’t do it just because your friend’s going on a diet, you want to impress some hot guy, or you think you ‘should’ for health.  You have to want it in your marrow.
You have to be willing to do anything (that’s healthy and safe) for this goal.  If you want it, you CAN achieve it.  After my success with earlier goals this year (getting my first tattoo etc), I went about this from the viewpoint — ‘They can slow you down, but they can’t stop you.’
I’m hungry right now.  I’m sitting in a car dealership getting my oil changed (this was true for the first draft).  I can’t eat their free popcorn or walk over to the Sonic for a shake as was my tradition — and I LOVE it.  I got myself an unsweetened tea before I came here and I’m so, so excited about how I’ll look and feel by my birthday (Nov. 1st).
I don’t even want the shake — I want the change.
So, here’s what I’ve been up to, but bear in mind that the successful diet is the one you can stick to.  There’s nothing magic about what I’m doing.  The magic comes from the dedication, the excitement, and the positivity with which I’m pursuing this goal.  So banish ‘can’t’ from your vocabulary, and know that the math works and you can do anything you set your mind to — you just have to want it badly enough.  And if you say you can’t give up a favorite food, imagine if your children or whomever you love most would drop dead if you took one bite of refined sugar.  You would NEVER touch sugar again — it just wouldn’t be a choice; you’d find another way to live.  So don’t say you ‘can’t’ — say you choose not to, or that you choose to.  Because you can do this.

physicalculturist.ca

Clean Eating —
This is the way you lose excess fat: a calorie deficit.  That’s it.  And while exercising can help the process, you basically have to eat less while your body reverses years of bad eating (in the early days of this plan, I sometimes liked to say ‘today my good eating and exercising will make up for June 2002’ or ‘November 1998’.  This made the day seem big and important and reminded me what I was doing at a certain month and year and how I eat better now than I did then.
Now, I don’t like counting calories and I’m a world class exception-maker (‘a customer yelled at me; now I deserve a shake’).
So I decided to ‘go paleo’ — 100%, for six months.  You can learn more about paleo here, but the main gist is that (before agriculture) our bodies spent hundreds of thousands of years adjusting to us being hunter-gatherers — so vegetables, lean meats, fruits, nuts, and eggs tend to make our bodies happy and healthy.  By the same rational — grains, dairy, and refined sugar are not foods our bodies have yet evolved to process well, and so they can make us sluggish, fat, and sick.

Found on buzzfeed.com

What does this means for the modern diet-seeker (because a GOOD diet is something you want to be on for the rest of your life, not a fad to be discarded as soon as you goal is reached)?
It means that you can eat almost as much as you want if you’re paleo — just the kind of foods you can eat are limited.  So a lovely homemade meal of salmon, kale, and broccoli?  Eat as much as you want.  For me, having good food always available (even a can of tuna), means I never really, really feel deprived.
So I’m eating smoothies or eggs for breakfast (yes, I drink a little fruit juice and kefir which isn’t quite paleo).  I’m also loving salads, and having great dinners of fish, shrimp, and chicken along with copious servings of veggies.
For sweet snacks, paleo pancakes with honey, paleo chocolate pudding, 100% juice pops, and chocolate milk (almond milk, raw cocoa, and a bit of honey), and smoothies with raw cocoa, are all good options.
My sister Sarah and I have also got in the habit of taking vitamin C, D, E, Magnesium, and Fish Oil — I don’t know if it helps, but it seems nice.
I know it’s easy to think — bleh!  Salads and fruit, oh joy.  I’ve felt that way in the past too, but keep in mind one thing: your palette is used to unhealthy fats, refined sugars, and heavy flavorings.
After just a few weeks, you body resets (even after a lifetime of fast food eating), and suddenly you don’t want or need sugar in the same way anymore.  I remember just a few weeks into my no-sugar plan a co-worker was leaving and they had a giant cookies-and-cream cake for her going away party.  I was trapped in a tiny room with this giant cake — and already, I didn’t want it.  Not really.  Those cakes were always such a sugar-high treat, but already it didn’t look like REAL food to me.
REAL FOOD:

thefitfork.com

 NOT REAL FOOD:

wefollowpics.com

I’ve been looking for my next sugar ‘hit’ most of my adult life.  That’s sad to admit.  But even when sipping a shake I’d be wondering what was next.  So, at least once in your life, take a break from being addicted to sugar, eat real, recognizable food for a few weeks, and see how you feel.
You owe it to yourself to know what feeling awesome feels like.
Strength Training —

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In a recent large study, two groups both lost weight while exercising, but the first group did only cardio and lost equal amounts of fat and muscle, while group two only did strength training and lost only fat.  Strength training can make that big of a difference.
Basically, strength training makes your muscles grow and that tells your body that you need strong muscles and are using them all the time, so then your body grabs fat instead.  With cardio, you’ll lose more, but more of everything.  For me, a balance is good and I enjoy both.
I have a friend who has lost a LOT of weight over the last nine months.  That’s great, but they only reduced calories and did no exercise so they look a little ‘wasted away’ right now.  It’s great to get the dangerous weight off, and now he has started exercising, but for myself I want to feel strong AND sleek, every step of the way.
So I’ve found some core exercises online to strengthen my torso and I’m also lifting free weights.  I do three sets of the five exercises (all of which are done while lying down, so it’s hard to say I’m too tired to lie on the floor 😉 ).  It takes about 20-30 minutes.
I’m looking lean and feeling very strong.  I really like seeing my arms and torso get hard and sleek.  And please forget the ‘myth’ of getting too muscular, you’re not gong to wake up one day and look like a young Arnold Schwarzenegger — but you might wake up one morning with a killer bod.
Cardio —
Ah, I love me some cardio.  Specifically, I love me some cycling.  Sarah and I cycle three times a week (heat waves depending) going anywhere from six miles to thirty miles at a time.  And it is giving me strong, slim legs, great lungs, and a great heart.  That said, even though I think cycling is a perfect exercise, you need to find the perfect exercise for you.
Anything that gets your heart rate up, and you’d love to do for an hour or more at a time can be great — I just ask that you keep trying activities until you find at least one you love.
Actually, the secret to all this is filling your life with things you love, and cut out the things that stress you out.
  • Any healthy diet (based around veggies) can work; you just need to find real foods you can enjoy eating, day in and day out.
  • Find strength training exercises that are fun, make you feel kick-ass, and get the results you wouldn’t want to live without.
  • Do cardio that you would do for fun even if it wasn’t good for you.
In the end, just never give up — either on yourself or your potential.  It’s taken me a long time to put all the pieces together, but I never gave up on improving myself.  Don’t see yourself as ‘having’ to diet and exercise, see yourself as getting to train up to be stronger, sleeker, and more awesome than you’ve been in your whole life.  I’ve been working toward improving my body for over ten years.  I’ve had setbacks but I’ve never been at such an exciting place as I am now.
So do a little research, steer clear of too-good-to-be-true promises, and get prepared to work harder than you ever have before.
And then get ready to change everything — starting with yourself.

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The Defining Moment of Your Life

Welcome to Awesomeville

Population: YOU

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I’ve been MIA from my blog for a little while, for a few reasons:

  • I’ve been launching a website for ‘How to Come Alive‘ (see last post)
  • I’ve been hitting it hard in terms of exercise, eating right, cleaning, and novel writing (more on that soon)
  • I wasn’t sure what to write

WHaaa-aat?  Yes, I felt clearly this spring that I and my posts were changing.  It was time for the dawn of a new era.  I first thought I should just power through, and do what had worked before, what I had enjoyed immensely since launching this site three years ago.

But instead, I took a step back.  Till I was ready, renewed, excited — till now.

Found on etsy.com

Because part of the slow-up was that I too — in my life — had hit a wall and now had to change.

My ‘perfect year’, which started on ‘Black Friday’ 2014, now has moved into Phase Two — starting May 1st, I have gone paleo for six months, am exercising a bunch, have plans to clean the whole house and give away a ton of stuff, and am moving forward with my writing.

And I have been following the idea of ‘What if THIS is the defining moment of my life?’  Up or down, yes or no — the life I’ve dreamed of or a sad mirrored distortion of my hopes and plans.

Found on andersonandgrant.com

I’ve also been on a success streak this year —

  • My sister Sarah and I got our first tattoos
  • We finished the state park ‘climbers club’
  • We started cleaning the whole house
  • I trained Sarah so she could join me on the Twilight Gambler Fun Ride (a 34 mile cycle ride) for the first time and she finished with no problem.

So these small successes propelled me forward.  I asked myself — what’s next that I want to accomplish?  The answer was: I want to reach my ideal shape/weight/strength.  Oh, I’ve been improving, but like a lot of us, I’d have ‘big plans’ that didn’t quite happen in the eating right department.  So I decided that I’d use the successes of this year to build a ‘perfect shape’ plan.

And it’s working.

It.

Is.

Fucking.

Working.

It’s also one of the hardest things I’ve ever done — but that doesn’t bother me one bit because I look great, feel great, and can’t wait to see where the next day finds me.

Found on fitbie.com

Now, you may want the details — but you may already know them.  You may have heard them your whole life.

That’s right: exercise and eating right.

I know I’ve heard them my whole life.

So what’s different?  Focus.  Like I said, absolutely-defining-moment-of-my-life.  I’m not trying to make this work in addition to everything else, this is the whole fucking show.  My main goal right now is Perfect Shape.  Everything else is a hobby, an interest.  Every day I want to be better at the end of the day than the day before.  And this goal is super-important because, aside from health and happiness, it will prove my ready-aim-fire planning success at one of the biggest goals I’ve ever taken on, a goal a lot of people never reach.  And when I reach that goal . . .

Found on othertees.com

I’ll be ready for THE defining goal of my life, my reason for being.  Starting after my birthday in November, my #1, most important, all-consuming goal will be PROFESSIONAL WRITER.

I wouldn’t bet against me.  And a big part of what makes writing this blog fun is making YOU impossible to bet against also.

So go visit the website version of my book, How to Come Alive.

Get ready for an exciting NEW level of awesome in your life.

And in my next post I’ll dig into the hows and whats-its of my new perfect shape success.

Just know this — my focus has made my current life more exciting than ever before, and I’ll do everything in my power to help you make this the defining moment of your life too.

How I got Healthier (and You Can Too)

My friend Jill Hartmann-Roberts recently asked me for some info about the health and fitness things I’ve been excited about in the past couple of years and I thought, ‘Why not share this info with all of you?’

First of all, know that whatever health, body, mental or other challenges you’re facing, I completely believe good food, exercise, and giving yourself peaceful, quiet time can improve your life.  Some people have problems that keep them from the activities mentioned here, but most of us (thankfully) don’t — and even if you do, there is probably something, even just looking out a window, that could improve the quality of your life.  As always, you may want to talk to your doctor before making any of these big changes (he’d probably love to hear some good news).

Tiny bit of backstory — I grew up loving fried foods, sweets, and thought I was a ‘meat & potatoes’ girl.  I was also significantly heavier than I am now.  This change did not come all at once but by slowly starting to add in more and more good habits over the years.  So start small but be excited that your happiest, healthiest body may still be ahead of you.  My dad’s 59 and he just spent 8 and 1/2 hours kayaking on a river — you may say he has good genes but he also eats the healthiest and exercises more than anyone I know.  Where do you want your body to be at 59?

So, here’s what I’ve been doing in the last couple of years to take my body to the next level (this may be a little advanced for some people so remember that even half measures will get you going in the right direction) —

Cutting Back on Sugar

These days, I don’t really keep anything with refined sugar in the house.  When I want to make an exception (like a shake), I have to go out and buy it.  I’ve really been working to replace my desire for refined sugars with natural sugars like fruits, fruit juice, date-related products, and sometimes coconut sugar (Trader Joes has it and it’s pretty good in coffee).  Read my full post about sugar here.  Most of this new focus came about last year when my sister watched Sugar is a Toxin, a talk by Dr. Robert Lustig that changed the way we think about sugar’s place in our lives.

Now, I love sweets, and I’ll allow myself at least one hard-core exception a week (chocolate torte anyone?) but I want to remove the daily need for sugar from my life.  And doing that is also one of the best ways to avoid joining the heartbreakingly large number of diabetics in this country.  The amount of sugar we’re encouraged to eat everyday is f-ed up and we need take the power back into our own hands and live more like our grandparents did — when sweets were a rare treat.  Also read — Food Rules.  It’s wonderful.

Walking & Cycling

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I think walking is a fantastic way to get healthier.  Try to get out for thirty minutes and least five times a week.

But cycling, now there’s the gold mine.  If you’re able physically to cycle, even just a little ways, you can find relaxation, joy, and a great, fast way to lose weight and get in shape.  As my sister has said, ‘You don’t see any fat cyclists’ (or at least, not for long).

But if you can’t/don’t like to go cycling, remember the important thing is to just do some exercise you do enjoy more.  It needs to be done often, and be fun and challenging to whatever level you’re at now — but never hurt yourself.

Juicing & Fasting

Juicing is a great way to get a lot of vitamins fast and can give your body a break from the hard work of digesting food (yes, your intestines would like a vacation too).  The film Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead really turned my sister and I on to the power of juicing — you can change your body in ways you’d never believe and it’s never too late to get better.  Whether it’s just a breakfast replacement or a longer ‘juice fast’, it can change your relationship to food forever.  A juicer costs around a hundred dollars but you can buy used ones (or get a friend to loan you one to try it) — and either way, the cost is probably less than one month of the blood pressure pills you may have to take down the road if you don’t get healthier.

A word about fasting: done right it’s not dangerous, unhealthy, or harmful.  Fasting has been a religious practise for thousand of years.  Fasting can mean a ‘full fast’ where you might drink only water or consume nothing at all (best done for a short while [like a day] and on a day you’re off work and can lie down and rest often).  It can also be a ‘partial fast’ where you might still drink water, juice, and even eat a few fruits and veggies.  Sarah and I have done a 14 day partial fast and I’d love to do it again.  Just remember that you will probably ‘detox’ somewhere around day two and have a headache for a couple of hours.  This is natural and healthy and afterward you won’t have that happen again for the rest of your fast.

It’s also important to ‘break’ the fast at the end of the time and slowly start eating good foods again.  Remember: you are not dieting or starving yourself, you are giving your body a break for a specific amount of time.  Richard Hittleman’s Weight Control Through Yoga contains instructions for the first fast I ever did.

Paleo

My friend Jill said she’d heard me mention this but didn’t really know anything about it.  I was exactly in that spot last September but I believe Paleo is one of the reasons I’m on track to be my healthiest ever by the end of this year.

In a nutshell, the Paleo (or paleolithic) diet is a return to what people ate for our entire history up until we discovered agriculture.  From an evolutionary point of view, our bodies haven’t begun to integrate things like wheat, legumes (like peanuts) and dairy into our diet, which is why some people have allergies and others may still (unknowingly) have their bodies fighting against minor negative reactions their wholes lives.  And fast food and refined sugars are even harder for our bodies to use to keep us healthy.  Exercise is also a major component of being Paleo.

To help you get more started —

The Beginner’s Guide to the Paleo Diet

Mark’s Daily Apple

A ‘Is it Paleo?’ Chart

Ultimate Paleo Guide

And a basic rundown —

fourbarrelcrossfit.com

And I wouldn’t get too caught up in buying only grass-fed beef — I started with regular.  Also, almost every veggie’s good — excluding regular potatoes (sweet potatoes are good for you).

That about sums up my recent adventures in health.  I feel better than I ever have, am improving all the time, and can’t wait to see what I’ll be doing when I’m 59!  Take care of your body and you’ll free your spirit up for some amazing adventures.

Best Wishes.

Paleo Diet — I feel like I’ve fallen face-first into the Fountain of Youth

Now, I had never really heard of the Paleo Diet (and I don’t ever do ‘diets’ in the way most Americans think of them, BTW) until about a week ago.

My sister Sarah said she’d been reading great things about it online and we should try it.  And it’s changed my life in ONE WEEK.

At its heart Paleo is about taking us back to eating the things we have for almost all of our human history, the things our bodies was made to consume.  The idea is that, even as needs and population growth required us to become agriculturalists, our bodies have not changed.  Our systems simply aren’t made to perfectly digest grains, legumes, refined sugars, and dairy.  Man is the only creature on Earth that drinks milk after infancy.   It is about eating real, simple food, mostly from home, so don’t think you can eat ‘MacDonald’s ‘chicken nuggets’ all the time and get great results.  Read the websites and start walking or cycling too.

So I challenge you to just try it for the next seven days.  I was a total skeptic, but here’s what I’ve learned —

Ten Things Paleo Has Taught Me in One Week

  1. I’m never going back.  It’s a shock to say, but I feel like I’ve fallen face-first into the Fountain of Youth.  This is too good not to make it a permanent part of my life.
  2. I didn’t know I could have this much energy. I’m jumping, bopping, and skipping around like a five-year-old.
  3. When I don’t feel exhausted all the time, my mood is a lot better.  Tasks I usually hated (like cleaning the bathrooms where I work) can’t touch me now.
  4. It truly is a ‘natural’ high.  I feel buzzed all the time in the best way.
  5. I don’t really get hungry.  Because I’m eating eggs, meats, veggies, great smoothies, etc — I’m never starving myself or denying myself seconds.
  6. Eggs and meat can be good for you.  I was still thinking of old warnings but the new research shows that lean meat, cooked in a light way, is great for you.  Ditto eggs.  Research it for yourself.
  7. I feel like I’m going to make it to the life of my dreams.  Feeling this good makes everything seem possible.
  8. 12 mile cycle rides feel like nothing.  I really feel like I have as much energy at the end as at the beginning.
  9. I don’t love ‘junk food’.  I really use to think I did, but now, getting the nutrients I need, I start to look at that stuff less and less as food, and more as some sort of industrial waste — which, if you think about it, is kind of what corn syrup is.
  10. I need to keep being open-minded.  I really thought this was a bad, and possibly dangerous, idea.  I mean, we must eat grains for a reason right?  And I never thought of myself with any ‘allergies’ to wheat or dairy.  But this has truly been a transformative experience — and I’m only one week in!

If the Paleo diet sounds like a lot of change at once, do what I did (unintentionally): start with just removing 95%-100% of refined sugar from your diet.  That’s what I did two months ago and I’m sure it made the Paleo Diet easier.

You CAN have all the energy you dream of, and you can enjoy your bacon and eggs while you do it!  Now I’m off for a 15 mile cycle ride!