As long as I can remember, I’ve been overweight. As a child, I remember feeling bigger than the other kids. Looking back now, of course, I see that I was perhaps growing faster than other kids, and definitely had a pudgy stage, but I wasn’t that big. I believe my own personal view of my body and low self-esteem from such a young age actually became a self-fulfilling prophecy over time. The worse I felt about myself, the more weight I ended up gaining.
I remember in grade four our teacher wanted to take a picture of each student to put on a board by the classroom door. One day when we were lining up to go outside, my friend pointed at my figure and said, “What’s that?” She was pointing to my tummy, which had a small roll in it (I was sitting a bit hunched over in the picture). It was the first time I realized that I was “fatter” than other kids and that this was apparently a bad thing. As an adult, lots of things have added to this problem – stress and childbirth to name a couple. When I was fifteen I was diagnosed with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) and insulin resistance, and so those both play a huge role in my weight issues, too. I put on weight much easier than most people and I have to work twice as hard to get it off.
There are two sides to this particular part of my journey. I need to learn to love myself as I am, first and foremost. I do need to learn to let go of what other people think and I need to retrain my mind away from the standards society has set for my body. The other side is that, while loving yourself is great, I don’t believe it is an excuse to be unhealthy. And I am unhealthy. My knees hurt, any form of exercise has become difficult, and overall I don’t feel very well. My health is compromised and, being a mom now, that just cannot stay the case! It is time to move past this and make some longterm changes. I want to be here for my daughter for the long haul, and I want to set a good example of health and fitness.
Taking into consideration my insulin resistance (the step before Type II Diabetes), calories in/calories out just isn’t going to cut it for me. (In fact, there’s a lot of evidence that that particular formula is pretty outdated and ineffective altogether, but I’m not here to start a brawl.) I’ve spent many, many hours researching my health and different lifestyle options that might actually produce the results I want. I could write pages and pages on what I’ve learned, but I’ll keep it simple.
Here’s a really simplified explanation: we know that insulin is the key to fat storage. When you eat, your body secretes insulin, which basically escorts the sugar you eat into your cells for energy use. If you’re like me, your cells have become resistant to insulin and your body has to create more and more and more insulin to try to get the sugar into the cell. It doesn’t work, and so you end up with tons of extra insulin floating around in your body, as well as sugar. Well, insulin causes fat storage and drenches your organs, which can cause problems on its own (i.e., polycystic ovaries). All food triggers some insulin production, but the biggest trigger of all is carbohydrates. Carbs require lots of insulin to help them find a home in your cells and when the process doesn’t work, all that sugar gets shoved into your fat cells instead. So, the solution is to cut your carbs as low as possible to allow for the smallest insulin spike possible. The lower your insulin, the more weight you’ll lose. When your body is deprived of carbs, it turns to fat as a fuel source. This is called ketosis (not to be confused with ketoacidosis which is very dangerous). Your body uses fat to produce ketones, which your brain can function on very, very well. In fact, one of the perks of being in ketosis is increased mental clarity and high energy. Interesting, eh?
This low carb, high fat way of eating is popularly called the ketogenic diet. I went on this diet about 6 months before I got pregnant with Bethany. We had been “infertile” for years and within a month of this lifestyle change, my cycles completely regulated and within 6 months, we were pregnant without even trying. I fully attribute it to the ketogenic diet. My hormones regulated, my body changed completely, I lost weight, I was energetic and happy, I could think clearly and quickly, and I felt amazing. If you’re interested in learning more, I recommend YouTubing “Dr. Berg Ketogenic Diet” or “Healthful Pursuit.” There are tons of resources out there and the science is hugely compelling. Since giving birth and finishing up breastfeeding, I feel confident going back into ketosis, mostly as a way to help my body heal and my hormones to regulate. The weight loss is great, but the biggest benefit for me is often the mood bump and the energy.
In addition to keto, I plan to practice intermittent fasting. YouTube “Dr. Jason Fung” or read the book “The Obesity Code” for more information on this practice. Basically, you can’t get your insulin lower than when you aren’t eating, and for those of us with lots of fat stores, we actually CAN go long periods without eating. Contrary to popular belief, there is a difference between fasting and starving. Your body will not eat its own muscles for fuel, it will turn to the fat it has stored away for such at time as this. People who consistently fast report higher energy, clearer thinking, and improved productivity. When your body isn’t busy digesting food, it can put its energy to lots of other good uses! Unlocking your fat cells and allowing your fat to become fuel is a difficult process and one that takes time and commitment. Do some research on this if you’re interested – the evidence is fascinating! Currently, I eat once a day- dinner with Tyler in the evening. I have morning coffee with a tiny bit of cream and water the rest of the day. When I do eat, it’s a ketogenic meal – low carb, high fat. I hope to work up to 2-3 day fasts, at least until I’ve lost a good bulk of the weight.
I do plan to exercise, but again, exercise is less about burning calories and more about feeling better, strengthening my body, and revving up my metabolic abilities. So, yoga is my go-to, along with walking, for now. I hope to be able to do more in the future, but right now, I’m just trying to get my body back to a neutral, healthy place and I don’t want to add stress to my mind and body (which for me, rigorous exercise can be just that).
I’ve created a chart (which I’ve included here) to help track my weight loss. It is hanging in my bathroom. Every ten pounds lost, I get a special “reward!” I am trying not to use cheat meals or food of any kind as a reward because that only perpetuates the problem I have with food. I won’t be sharing my starting weight because frankly I’m too embarrassed, but I also don’t feel its necessary. I think the pounds lost will be the most exciting part. I hope to share updates when I reach every ten pounds – I’ll share how long it took, things I did to get there, and anything else that’s relevant! I’ll also try to do the occasional meal ideas post and I’ll share anything new that I learn. This won’t be a straight line – it’s going to take a lot of time and effort and tweaking of my diet and my process. I do know that eating a keto diet is sustainable. My husband also eats a keto diet, but for him it is more about energy and mental clarity than weight loss – he eats a LOT every day.
I love questions about these two practices. I recognize that they sound very upside down, which makes sense since we’ve been unfortunately taught a lot of incorrect information based on incorrect research. You can check out the documentaries “Fed Up” and “The Magic Pill” for more info on sugar issues and keto. Do some research for yourself before jumping to any conclusions about what I’ve shared here. And, for the record, my doctor does know about my lifestyle choices and fully, fully approves.
That’s all for now! Thank you for your support on this journey – I couldn’t do it without the encouragement of my friends and family!