Wednesday, May 1, 2013

My Weight Loss Story

Seriously, if I can do this, so can you.
This may be a long post and I may break it up into a few posts, but I feel like it's long overdue. I've been uncomfortable talking about my weight loss, but I realize that not putting myself out there vulnerably may inhibit my ability to truly connect with other people who can benefit from my journey. And so, in service to anyone who may be suffering from a severe case of letting her/his thoughts dictate what's going on with her/his body, I'm ready to talk about it.

There are lots of possible titles for this post. I've tossed around a bunch of them:

Mindfulness over Matter
I'm Only Human... and I Did It
What Losing Weight Means for Your Brain
My Thoughts Liked Me Better When I Was Fat

... and on and on...

But let's start from where I am now. I lost some weight last year. Okay, I lost a lot of weight last year. For most of my adult life, I'd hovered on the larger side of what I thought was "normal." And so, through losing weight, I went from thinking -- truly believing! -- I was one thing... to discovering that I'm something else entirely. I'll get to that in a bit, but first things first. We all love statistics, so here are mine:

At age 41, in a span of about 8 months, I lost 40+ pounds. I went from 172 pounds to 130. For years, I've worn a fairly comfortable size 12/14 and now I'm a solid size 6 (and that's all the time, PMS or not).

What changed?

BEFORE: June 2012
The short answer is I joined Weight Watchers. But that is the tip of the iceberg. If you want to know the truth, here it is:

I changed. My idea of my self changed. And then my body started changing.

More often than not, when I think about the first step of any journey, Mary Oliver pops into my head. The first line from her poem "The Journey" is One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began...

With regards to my weight loss, that day was June 29, 2012.

Raf and I had gone to an eco-surfing event in San Diego without the kids, a fairly small gathering of artists and environmentalists and surfers. Because we'd already begun our quest for a more organic, clean-eating, green-smoothie lifestyle (thanks to Kris Carr's "Crazy Sexy Diet" book, which is so not a diet book but a lifestyle change book), I was thrilled by the raw vegan menu and the feeling that we were among like-minded souls. But when I looked at the picture above, I wondered, "Who's that lady standing with Raf?" 

My physical image didn't match the spirit inside of me, the curious soul who was striving to eat a more plant-based diet, drank green smoothies every morning, worked out at Bar Method 3 to 5 times a week, walked the dog every single morning, believed in the old maxim "everything in moderation"...

Clearly, there was a major disconnect and I didn't know what it might be. I'd gone to a fabulous nutritionist in my early 30s but even then I never felt entirely comfortable in my body. I was never "thin." I was always heavier than my friends. I blamed it it on a gluten sensitivity, an intolerance for sugar, a lactose "thing," genetics, big bones, being petite, having three young kids, too much volunteering at the school, not enough time for "me," approaching middle age, blah blah blah (I'm making myself bored even writing my excuses). 

You get the picture. I didn't know how to help myself any more. So I examined what I did know: my mother-in-law had just joined Weight Watchers. I had noticed an immediate change in her physical appearance and, although I had never been an advocate for WW (their old programs seemed nutritionally outdated), I needed something to help me change. I found myself at a crossroad and I thought, I can either keep doing what I'm doing... which isn't working... Or try something different.

It was worth a shot. Time would pass regardless of what I did with it.

So on June 29, the day after the party in San Diego, I found myself at Weight Watchers. I walked in like a petulant child, arms crossed, judging everything and everyone. To the sweet woman behind the counter, I said, "I don't think you can help me because I have a gluten intolerance and I eat mostly vegetarian and vegan meals..." 

Instead, her eyes lit up and she said, "I'm a vegetarian, too! You'll love this plan because you can eat what you want... Here, let's get started!"

I'm a sentimental mush-pot, so I'm sure I cried. A voice inside said, "It's okay, have faith, just try it like an experiment."

And so I did.I put my faith in the fact that, if I tried it and it didn't work, I could choose a new path.

So I continued to eat the way I wanted - more raw, vegan or vegetarian - but increased my veggies and fruits, drank loads more water, continued my Bar Method workouts, added one yoga class a week, really watched my sugar intake (turns out I was fooling myself about "moderation"), and tracked every single thing I ate (which I still do). 

I made a deal with myself just to do the program, go to meetings, and have faith. That's all. 

Eventually, the awesomeness of feeling in control of my food fed on itself. I actually liked food again, rather than just eating to numb boredom or fill space with friends and family. I eliminated a lot of the sugary and processed foods I'd relied upon for years and was able to feel the physical effects of them when I did eat them again - and it caused me to rethink whether or not I had the tolerance for them anymore. I began to realize that this "thing" I'd loathed for years - my own body - was simply a delicate organism that, like a little plant or flower, required proper care and nourishment to thrive.  I realized that I was truly the only person who cared whether or not that body was healthy - because if it wasn't, I was the one who'd have to deal with the consequences.

More than that, I began to feel like I was worth the trouble.  

Like everyone, I had "up" weeks and "down" weeks - and I still do. In fact, after telling my friend Christine about a weak moment, she immediately sent me this note, which I taped to my wall:

Fries are not allowed in the quest for awesomeness. Instead, green shakes please.

Slowly, the relationship I thought I'd had with food began to lose its grip on me. The emotion I'd tied to it began to slip away. The tradition and comfort we associate with food became mere thoughts - seriously, is it the food I craved during holidays, or my family, which is in Texas and Virginia? When I realized I missed THEM and spent time either thinking about happy holiday memories or buying gifts for them or just calling/texting/facebooking, I no longer wanted to eat a big Thanksgiving feast or gorge on Christmas cookies in their honor. I felt what I needed to feel: the love and happiness of my family connections.

(Yes, I did make our traditional Russian tea cakes for cookie parties, etc., and I ate them, but I tracked every bite and put the leftovers in the freezer. I don't believe in deprivation at all, just mindfulness.)

I want to write more about the emotional aspects of losing weight, but I'll work on that in another post. For now, I'll close with another picture. I won't call it an "after" shot because I feel like it sort of captures the "real" me. It's pretty fancy (thanks to my good friend Christine Rose Elle), but I like the look of it. For me, this is the result of mindful weight loss.


  1. LOVE it. I'm still struggling. Hubby is allergic to SOMETHING and can't eat ANYTHING right now except rice and bland chicken and cooked carrots/potatoes/onions. He has an appointment with an allergist next week. I feel a sea change in the way we eat coming...

    1. Thanks, Christine!! Be gentle with yourself and don't think of it as a "struggle." Think of it more like a flower bud just starting to blossom. With that comes a shape shift and a new identity. And it takes time! :-) Best wishes.

  2. I LOVE YOU!!!!! You are my heroine! You inspire me so much. Thank you for sharing you amazing wellbeing story, you vulnerability, struggles, and triumphs!!! I am proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with you sweet friend. Here is to the journey unfolding!! With friendship, gratitude and so so much love!

    1. Oh, Christine!! I have no words! *bows head to hands in gratitude* :-) xo

  3. Thank you Christine for sending me over- I loved this!!! So nice to "meet" you Erin- thank you for sharing this with us~

    1. Thanks so much, Mimi! Nice to *meet* you, too!!