Get your Body in Balance for Effortless Weightloss
A year ago, I was facing 50 and my weight was creeping up. I was struggling with weight loss, my waistline was growing and I was feeling sluggish and easily tired. Weight “management” had always been a thing for me and I have had my ups and downs. Never one to be exceptionally thin, I’ve easily gained and lost up to 30 pounds many times over the past 30+ years. I have spent thousands of dollars on formal weight loss programs (Diet Center, Weight Watchers, LA Weight Loss, and Well4Life). Don’t get me wrong, I’ve learned different tactics from these programs over the years, some better for me than others, but this time was different. I went back to my book of tricks and nothing seemed to be helping. Calorie restriction, carb restriction, cardio workouts; none of it was working. The weight kept piling on. I almost resigned myself to the middle age spread and threw in the towel. But being persistent, I started doing research in hopes of finding something different, something that could be causing the weight to not come off, something I could FIX.
What I Read (and Listened to)
During my dive into research, I stumbled upon several doctors and researchers that opened my eyes to healthy eating and exercising beyond the ubiquitous Food Pyramid and the Low Fat/Aerobics craze of the 80’s and 90’s that I grew up with. I had always tried to eat low fat and limit sugary foods. More recently I dabbled in low carb eating, losing initial weight but always putting it back on, and feeling miserable while I was at it. For exercise, I was a huge believer in constant cardio, the longer the better. I occasionally tried weight training and had good results but if I was strapped for time, cardio always took priority. I ran half marathons and numerous fun runs. Even with that, I was never thin like my running counterparts. During my research, the first thing I found was a Podcast called Bulletproof Radio. I could listen to this while commuting, at the gym and while sitting on an airplane travelling for work. All of these things contributed to my effortless weight loss of 20 pounds.
Listening to Bulletproof Radio and being introduced to the research and protocols of Dr. Sara Gottfried and The Hormone Reset Diet, Dr. Mark Hyman’s book, Eat Fat, Get Thin and Dave Asprey’s Bulletproof Diet became the basis for my new lifestyle. I am hooked on Dave Asprey’s Bulletproof Radio podcast (also available on YouTube). He interviews scientists, doctors, researchers – all top-level professionals in their fields– two times per week. He talks with them about their research and what they recommend to patients. Most of the guests on his show have personal stories of health challenges that they have personally overcome which has led to their passion for health. Hearing the latest research first hand from these professionals, before this information hits the mainstream (if it ever does), is amazing and empowering. Hearing how Dave himself “hacked” his own weight loss by trying different protocols and finding what worked best for him has inspired me to do the same for myself. Over the last year and a half, I have learned so much and become wiser in choices I make for my life and the ones I love. Read on if you are wanting to find out more about my weight loss.
What I’ve Changed (Research links are included in the text):
Cutting back on Gluten
Although I know people with Celiac can become desperately ill if they eat gluten, I was always suspect of people who claimed to have a gluten sensitivity. Wasn’t gluten free just marketing hype to get people to spend more on food? This particular podcast made me forever change my mind. Hearing Don Huber, Professor Emeritus from Purdue University, the #1 Biological Agriculture school in the US (US News and World Report, 2018 Rankings), talk about research restrictions, lack of transparency in research reporting and the evolution of industrial farming over the last 30 years, I realized it’s not only gluten that can be causing issues but the chemicals used in the growing process. There is so much documentation about glyphosate levels being high and a strong correlation of it being tied to chronic diseases. Based on hearing this research and my desire to limit my exposure to glyphosate, I gave up gluten and most grains.
Okay, okay…I will admit I felt the same about eating organic. Wasn’t this all a hoax to get me to pay more money than I have for food? That same podcast that got me weary of gluten and grains made it clear that I should be feeding myself and my family organic food.
Steering Clear of Environmental Toxins
More hype? Looking back, it’s clear I was one of those non-believers when I heard people talking about plastics or chemicals in the air. And this from someone who even helped her dad’s consulting business make sure semi-conductor clean rooms were clean and the chemicals being released into the air met the minimum safety standards. Did I have my head in the clouds, or what?!?! As I followed Dr. Sarah Gottfried’s Hormone Reset360 program, I began to understand the sheer number of toxins that are in our daily lives. That led to finding out how many chemicals are not regulated by the FDA. I also learned that the European Union restricted many more chemicals than in the US. Why would this be the case? The US chemical industry has a very strong lobby and the process of banning chemicals are very hard to do. What the research shows is that toxins create xeno-estrogens (fake estrogens) which lead to many of the hormonal problems that women (and men) face. I also learned that excess toxins your body can’t eliminate are stored in your fat. This is a way your body protects itself from toxins. I began to see cosmetics, beauty products and household cleaners in a different light.
Stress effects everyone in different ways. For me, stress interrupted my sleep which led me to feel cranky and sluggish. I also found pounds would add onto the scale on days that I was stressed without eating or exercising any differently than other days. How could that be? Wasn’t weight loss simply “calories in/calories out”? Hearing about the industrial cattle industry and how they found ways to fatten up cows prior to slaughter, not by feeding them more but by adding hormones to the feed (USDA Extension, 2015) gave me pause. Stress releases cortisol which messes with your hormones. The other light bulb moment came when I was taking my blood sugar every day (after first waking up and an hour after eating), weighing myself, taking waist measurements and correlating that data against what I had eaten, how much I had slept, the exercise I had done and my perceived stress level. The correlation became shockingly clear. On days when stress had kept me awake, my fasting blood sugar was 10 points higher than normal and the scale went up 5 pounds. That was a wake up call for me. Instead of only focusing on what I was eating, I needed to focus on managing my stress. I came up with strategies to help with that and getting a good night’s sleep is so important. See Jen Mastroianni’s post about managing stress, I now have my own list just as she suggests.
Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
Tying in with reducing stress, I know I need to get a good night’s sleep and I knew I wanted to do it naturally. Prior to this health shift, I had tried prescriptions and at times Tylenol PM was my friend. Those strategies were not going to cut it anymore. Doing the research on this, I learned that blue light blocks melatonin (Harvard, 2015) and that I should cut that off several hours prior to bedtime. I reminded that alcohol at night disrupts sleep and Eastern medicine believes that waking up between 2-4 am is a sign your liver is having trouble processing toxins. Also eating too much too late can cause havoc on your sleep. To manage stress, I go back to that list I wrote and remind myself that worry is just wasting time on things I have no control over. If my to-do list seems overwhelming, I write it down to realize it is more manageable than I think. I have given up any alcohol at night (except for special occasions), I don’t usually eat past 7 pm and during the day I get some sun time and exercise. I use the blue light filters on all my devices starting 4 hours before bedtime. I use a lavender essential oil at night as part of my ritual and go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. I might still have an occasional bad night but my sleep is much better.
Eat More Fat
A BIG change for this lifetime low-fat girl was accepting that fat was okay to eat. Both Dr. Mark Hyman’s Eat Fat, Get Thin and Dave Asprey’s Bulletproof Diet were motivators for this. Their recommendations were not the meat heavy Atkins diet but a diet full of fresh organic vegetables, high quality protein and high-quality fats. Grass fed butter? Yes please! Organic olive oil, of course. Avocado, olives, walnuts, pecans? Don’t mind if I do! I even learned what Grass Fed Ghee (butter clarified to remove the casein protein) and MCT Oil (medium chain triglyceride) were. I did feel a little guilty with the butter, nuts and fats at first, worried about the extra calories, but I noticed such an amazing difference. Adding the fat back into my diet gave me energy, woke up my brain and left my whole body feeling nourished. This bread loving girl did not crave carbs or sweets as I once had on low calorie/low fat diets, which was an amazing change. For me, restricted diets induced crankiness and agitation. But with the extra fat, I have not had those issues. I ate more calories than before and I was losing weight. Best.Thing. Ever. My favorite butter is Kerrygold Grass Fed Butter. My favorite ghee is Bulletproof Grass Fed Ghee which has a Carmel-butter taste that is amazing and my favorite oil is Brain Octaine Oil, also by Bulletproof. You can read more about it here. I add these to my morning shake, into my coffee (Bulletproof Coffee recipe here) and on my veggies.
Let’s be clear, this is not to say I never exercise now, I certainly do. I love, and have always loved, the way moving my body makes me feel. I love the mental clarity, the loosened-up joints and strong muscles I get from any kind of exercise. What I changed was the belief that cardio was the only way to burn fat and thus, the only exercise I should focus on. I realized that the constant cardio might be taking a toll on my adrenal glands and was leaving me feeling depleted not energized. I began to look at exercise to improve my overall health not as a panacea for poor eating choices or as a means to “thin”. I came up with a plan based on Dr. Sara Gottfried’s suggestions from Hormone Reset that suggest ways of taking care of your adrenals while giving you the fitness you need for aging well. I traded in training for half marathons (5 runs per week, up to an hour at a time) for High Intensity Interval Training (H.I.T.T.) workouts just 3 times per week up to 25 minutes. I gave up trying to love sweaty Hot Yoga and turned to Yin yoga, where you hold a stretch position for up to 3 minutes to loosen the tendons, fascia and ligaments. Those stretches felt amazing and I began to do them in the morning and before bed. Lastly, I added in one super-duper hard strength workout per week called ARX (find more information here). I am quite lazy when it comes to working out with weights on my own, so Vicky at the chiropractic office where I use the ARX machine, kicks my butt and the data driven feedback helps with the motivation. I walk with my fiancé when the weather is nice and enjoy hiking and exploring.
I am not talking about entering Celebrity Rehab or some other drug detox program but I am referring to helping your body get rid of environmental toxins naturally. Knowing that fat is one of my body’s way of protecting it from toxins, I began to try to assist my liver by limiting and removing toxins in as many ways as I could. I eat as organically as possible and enjoy cooking from scratch so I know what is in my food. I limit plastics, using stainless steel water bottles and glass storage containers. We are careful of what we bring in the house (new furniture often equals off gassing of flame retardants and other chemicals). To assist in the detox, I sit in a sauna to help sweat out toxins or I soak in a mineral bath. I eat plenty of cruciferous vegetables which helps eliminate toxins in food as they pass through the intestines. I work hard at eating the right types of foods to make sure I have a bowel movement every day. Women are quiet about this but I have found so many to have issues with constipation. Fixing digestion is important in allowing toxins to leave your body. To assist with digestion, I start the morning with a shake so I can add fiber and other nutrients my body needs. I have enjoyed the Reset 360 Vanilla, Star Energetic’s Heal and Seal or Orgain Organic Plant Based Protein. I take a probiotic at night as well as magnesium based supplements to help keep digestion flowing.
Ask for Help
I preach this to my kids and the students I teach but for some reason it has never been easy for me to ask for help (see my Parent Yourself post for more). In this search for health, I listened to varying points of views, I sifted through research and I talked about strategies and these changing ideas with friends close to me. I discussed protocols with my physician and asked his opinion. About 8 months after starting, I enlisted the help of a Clinical Nutritionist who has an amazing background in Eastern Medicine and is a candidate at the Institute for Functional Medicine as an IFM certified practitioner (find more information about Diana DeGrosso and Bright Path Wellness here or about the Institute for Functional Medicine here).
Track and Hack
All those organized weight loss programs had one thing in common, they tracked your weight and what you ate frequently. Some were daily (Diet Center) and some weekly (Weight Watcher) and others were in between. None of them tracked your mood, your blood sugar, your heart rate – all of which can ferret out food allergies and sensitivities. None of them suggested eating fewer processed foods, in fact most of them sold their own products. None of them cheered your ½ pound weekly victory but instead the big group congratulations came from the, “I was down 4 pounds this week!” exclamations. *Sigh* First, I started this with the mindset that I WAS going to figure out how to hack my health. Second, I knew there were likely trigger foods for me that I didn’t know about and that this process was NOT going to be a quick one. With determination and persistence, I began tracking my weight, took measurements, tracked foods, tracked blood sugar, heart rate, mood, energy level, sleep. I used Dr. Sarah Gottfried’s Hormone Reset tracking form, but you can create your own. I found foods that made me feel alive and energetic and I found foods that made me want to curl up in a ball and go to sleep. I discovered foods that made my tummy churn and make funny sounds. I realized what foods kept me up at night and what foods made me feel calm. I scrutinized my environment and environments of past, remembering pollen and medicine allergies or sensitivities as a young girl. I adjusted my lifestyle to help support my body system. I experimented with exercise, food timing, sleep, supplements and meditation. I am in charge of hacking my health and tracking the metrics so I can see more clearly what works and what does not.
Taking charge of my health feels empowering and I have lost over 20 pounds during the past year. I’m not perfect and have days where I don’t eat exactly the way I plan or I don’t get my exercise in. I still want to lose about 10 pounds and tone up but I am confident I can continue with this healthy lifestyle. If I can do it, you can too! I have heard of many people who are off medication and have created health by making these similar adjustments. Follow ThePaxi.com to find out more about what has worked for myself and for others. Share your story by contributing your own article. Find out more a thePaxi.com/writeforus.
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