Growing up in the South
I grew up in Plano, Texas (a suburb of Dallas) in the 70’s-80’s. I was the skinny kid who dreaded meal times because I was such a picky eater. I loved breakfast foods and fruits, but meats and vegetables were not my favorite. Growing up in the South, my favorite way to eat the meat and vegetables was deep fried. Fried catfish, chicken fried steak, French fries, and fried okra…all with a side of sweet tea.
When fried foods weren’t on the menu, it was a casserole or boiled vegetables: all traditional Southern recipes. I just wasn’t a fan. My parents would make sure I ate my serving of vegetables. I would try to sneak them to the dog or hide them in my napkin. I would love to snack instead on salty, crunchy junk food, but thankfully my mom didn’t buy it regularly. Pretzels and Doritos were my favorites.
Once I started college, I finally had complete control of what I ate each meal. I discovered pizza rolls and ranch dressing, lots of chicken strips and gravy, and fried cheese. This was also when my extreme addiction to Diet Coke began. I only occasionally ate vegetables at restaurants or the cafeteria. I was walking to class a lot and still doing aerobics, so the freshman 15 crept on slowly throughout my college career.
Here comes the …. weight
After graduation, Brady and I got married and started our careers. I loved to cook, and he loved to eat! I knew he loved chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes and lots of homemade desserts. I became quite practiced at making these. I loved being in charge of meal planning and grocery shopping, because we only ate what I liked which still didn’t involve a lot of vegetables. As you can imagine, the weight started piling on a little faster. I was a facility engineer, so I was still walking around the factory some, but doing a whole lot more sitting at my desk.
When I was pregnant with our first daughter, Taylor, work was super stressful, and I felt like I had a license to eat what I wanted. I was eating for two, right? I did give up Diet Coke for the 9 months only occasionally drinking Caffeine Free Diet Coke. After stressful days at work, I would swing by Sonic for an order of French fries and a milkshake. Brady kept up with my eating pace and we both gained close to 50 pounds!
I thought the weight would magically drop off a few months after delivery. Wrong! I didn’t lose the majority of it till after our third daughter Katelynn was born. My best friend, Melanie, and I decided to try Weight Watchers. We learned to calculate points and plan our meals. We learned all the tricks like dipping your fork in the dressing instead of pouring a bunch on your salad. I remember loving fat free pudding, low fat microwave popcorn, and skinny cow ice cream sandwiches, and I really liked the accountability of the weekly weigh-ins and group meetings. I reached my goal weight and thought I would stay there.
Eventually, I got tired of counting points. I was busy raising our girls and trying to get them to eat somewhat healthy. I went to Jazzercise three times a week. Free babysitting helped my motivation. I knew it was important for my health, and I just kept thinking if I worked at it harder that I could exercise off those stubborn pounds that kept coming back.
Over the years, I’ve tried calorie counting on the MyFitnessPal app, carb cycling modeled by Chris & Heidi Powell on Extreme Weight Loss and experimenting with new vegetable recipes off Pinterest. My family still teases me at my failed attempt at making mashed cauliflower to taste like potatoes (they did NOT taste like potatoes!). They would all work for a while…then I would tire of being hangry and all the extra effort required.
When Katelynn was in middle school, she and I ran/ walked a 5 K at her school. It was mostly walking, but I was so proud of finishing. Running a 5K was something I thought I would never do because of my asthma. I slowly started incorporating run/walking into my exercise routine. Runners were skinny people, so I could be too! I also joined 24-hour fitness and loved all the group exercise classes they offered. You would think I could get my weight down into the healthy range, right? It didn’t happen.
Looking for health answers
The week before Christmas in 2016, my sweet dad went into the hospital with several minor health problems that together took his life 10 days later. He had done everything the doctors had told him to do. He took his type 2 diabetes seriously and monitored his blood sugar closely. He went to his cardiologist regularly. He walked on the treadmill consistently even though the pain in his legs was bad. He took the medicines they prescribed. Yet he still ended up in the hospital with catastrophic illnesses.
During my time of grief, running became comforting to me. Running still wasn’t easy and music wasn’t distracting enough. I discovered podcasts were like listening to the morning radio shows without the commercials. I love learning and found podcasts on health.
I have always been a light sleeper. I was so desperate for better sleep and more energy that I looked for podcasts on sleep hacks. I eventually found Shawn Stevenson and his book Sleep Smarter. I implemented his tips and improved my sleep. Through his podcast and others, I started hearing a lot about intermittent fasting (IF) for weight loss and healing as well as the importance of nutrition to self-heal.
I had tried fasting as part of our faith tradition a couple of times and HATED it. I was miserable the whole time and binged as soon as it was over. I was skeptical about IF, but I researched it and eventually found a coach. I learned the right way to fast and it quickly became an easy adjustment to my way of eating. At first I changed nothing about what I ate, just when I ate.
The scale finally started to move slow and steady. I would stop eating after dinner and resume eating at lunch. It slowly got my hunger hormones under control. After the initial adjustment, I started having more energy. I was feeling better than I had in a long time! Now full disclosure, fasting is not the answer for everyone. If you have had an eating disorder, diabetes, or are pregnant, fasting isn’t appropriate. Fasting can be used as a tool to improve your digestion and your health.
Better Health for Brady
While I was overhauling my health and feeling better, my husband, Brady, was feeling awful. He was diagnosed with Rheumatoid arthritis, Psoriatic Arthritis, and borderline Lupus on the day my dad went into the hospital. He was put on autoimmune suppressant drugs. Methotrexate (a common chemo drug) was one of them. Every weekend he would take it and feel the side effects. Months later he did eventually get relief, but the side effects continued. He was exhausted all the time and was susceptible to sickness.
This inspired me to start researching ways to help him feel better. I look forward to sharing what we did to get him not only feeling better, but reducing his medicines by 50 pills a week and dropping 50 pounds, in my next blog post.