Do you know how people talk about putting on a few "love pounds?" How when you just become so happy, and feel so fulfilled, you stop worrying so much about what you weigh, and before you know it, you can't fit into your jeans?
This really is all your fault, you know.
I know this is a blog about DIYing furniture, but at the heart of it all, I believe we are simply DIYers in general. We DIY dinner and kids and solutions to all life's problems, whether it's with a saw and a drill or with whatever's in the fridge or whatever you can remember your Mom telling you. We do things ourselves, and that's what brings us together.
And while I've been DIYing furniture, helping with the Momplex, and everything else that goes along with being a Homemaker, I've been quitely DIYing something else: my health.
If you are one of those lucky people who never have to worry about your health and weight, know that you are indeed lucky, and that there will be lots more furniture plans posted - you don't have to read this. I myself have been going back and forth for months now on whether or not to share with you my health journey, as it is deeply personal and revealing, but in the end felt that if just one person can improve their life from my experiences, it is worth it.
For as long as I can remember, I've always been gaining and loosing weight. It's been a constant struggle for me to stay in shape. I've done just about every diet out there, spent months running on tread mills, tried pedometers and even went 14 days without eating a single carb. And it was torturous, somedays I'd be so hungry I couldn't fall asleep at night, dreaming of food. And then would come the fateful day where it would all become too much, and I would gorge myself on junk food, and gain it all back again. This was the vicious, excruciating cycle of gaining and loosing the same 10-15 pounds several times a year. For years and years and years.
Then along came you.
When I started blogging, two things happened. One, I started sitting. Alot. And two, I became so fulfilled and happy, with friends that accepted me for who I was inside, that I stopped caring as much about my weight. You couldn't see what size jeans I wore, and nor did you care. You made me feel valuable, regardless of my size.
With the support of my beautiful family, a job that fulfilled me and that I loved, and new friends that accepted me, I made a very bold decision. I decided that I was no longer going to worry about my weight, and just focus on being happy and healthy.
For a year, I did not weigh myself. Happy and healthy was the goal. I skipped the donuts and ice cream and instead ate lots of whole grains, brown rice and fat free foods and took daily walks. I ate vegetables and oatmeal, never skipped breakfast, ordered skinny lattes with sugar free syrup. I ate less for dinner, said no to desserts, and enjoyed an occasional glass of organic red wine. Never did I let myself go more than a couple of hours between meals, never letting myself get hungry.
I did what all the experts say, followed the pyramid to a tee, and this is what happened to me:
When I first got on the scale, I did not believe the number that showed up. Unconvinced, I went to my neighbors house and weighed myself. But the scale was not broken.
I gained 20 pounds.
At first I was in disbelief. I thought, how can this be? I've been doing everything right. I eat healthy. I exercise. Is this the weight I'm supposed to be? Is this my normal?
Unwilling to go back to torturing myself with diets and punishing workouts, I decided to accept my new size and continue to focus on health and happiness. My weight was still in the "healthy" range, and I decided to love myself regardless of my size.
So I got a new wardrobe in larger sizes, started fixing my hair and smiling more, and kept focusing on happiness and health. I kept eating whole grains, religiously ate breakfast, hungry or not, and watched my fat intake.
This was in April of 2011. By July of 2011, I decided to get back on the scale and see if my healthy habits and positive attitude had paid off.
The number on the scale shocked me.
I had gained more weight. I was now knocking on the door of becoming overweight. What was next? Would I gain 20 more pounds next year? And every year after that?
And I was doing everything right.
Or was I?
My goal was to become happy and healthy. But was I?
I was tired all the time, sleeping sometimes twelve or more hours, but still waking up tired and grumpy. I had headaches all the time, and had trouble focusing. My skin was covered in pimples even though it was dry and required moisturizer constantly. I was irritable and disorganized, my days a blur of brain fog, doing the bare minimum to survive and get to a spot where I could lay down and nap. I did not feel good.
And as I looked around my house, it did not look like the home of a happy healthy person. Dishes were piled in the sink, clothes molding in the washer, piles of paperwork left unsorted, toys scattered everywhere, nothing put away or organized. I could only do the housework that had to be done right now. I had no extra energy to do a single thing more.
I was not happy and healthy.
A few days later, I can remember being at my sister-in-law's house one late afternoon, and watched as she mopped floors with her baby on her back. I could not remember the last time I mopped my floors. I simply did not have the energy to even sweep or pick up to get to the point of mopping. I felt lazy watching her. When she finished, she grabbed an apple, and started eating, and said, "I haven't had a chance to eat all day, I've been so busy!"
And I looked at her, thin and full of energy, organized and clear thinking, and thought, You mean you skipped breakfast???? How can that be? Thin healthy people eat breakfast. They never skip breakfast! They have oatmeal and fresh squeezed orange juice every morning!
Or do they?
Once I started questioning what a healthy diet is, I started questions everything I had learned about health. If I eat the healthiest whole wheat bread ever, on a sandwich made of veggies, hold the mayo, and end up with a headache so bad I have to take a nap ... is that sandwich good for me? If I'm not hungry, but force myself to eat breakfast anyway because the happy smiling people in the oatmeal commercial tell me to, and I feel lightheaded and irritable, is that good for me? If I do everything the experts say, and find myself overweight and tired and unhappy, am I healthy?
As confused as ever, I decided to just go back to basics. I decided to eat the foods that made me feel good afterwards. Meat, fish, vegetables and fruit. I reasoned that these were the foods we were intended to eat, not processed or packaged.
And I started listening to my body. I started asking myself, am I hungry? What am I hungry for? What food will give me the most energy? How did that food make me feel? Am I full or do I need seconds? Am I thirsty or hungry?
I found my diet took on a simple pattern:
Coffee in the morning
An apple or grapefruit for mid-morning snack.
A light lunch of salad, leftover dinner, always with lots of veggies.
Homemade dinner of meat and vegetables.
Because I was trying to shed the twenty pounds I gained, for a couple of months, I avoided sugar and starch. And always, I avoided any processed food. Yes, sugar, flour, oatmeal, cereal, even milk and dairy - these are more processed than meat or fruit or vegetables.
Most importantly, I avoided gluten. It started with a suggestion from a friend that I may have a gluten intolerance, and I suddenly noticed whenever I ate gluten, I was immediately rewarded with a giant headache and overall feeling of tiredness and brain fog. I also noticed most grains, with the exception of rice, had this same effect on me. Yes, the whole grains that had been the basis of my diet for the last year were the worst of the worst.
My body responded by shedding the twenty pounds within a couple of months. But it wasn't the pounds that inspired me the most. With the new simple diet, I was most startled by the mental change in me. Suddenly, the brain fog and headaches were gone, and I could wake up early and think clearly. You probably noticed I started writing my posts in the morning about this time because I could think so clearly. My skin cleared up and my hair became shiny and thick. I was alert and felt good for the first time in as long as I can remember.
With the headaches gone, I could do more than the bare minimum around the house. I found myself not just doing the dishes, but organizing them as I put them away. The house was suddenly clean and organized all the time. Laundry was folded and put away. My car was clean. When I worked in the garage, I didn't just put the tool down. I now had the energy to put the tool away.
As I emerged from years of being burdened by health issues, I could suddenly see how bad it had been. It was almost like I had ADHD issues my entire life.
Over the next year, I continued to avoid processed foods, choosing natural whole foods. I ate to appetite, and listened to my body. Sometimes I had treats like cheesecake and ice cream on occasion (and chocolate probably more often than I should!) but there was no way I was going back to feeling tired and sick all the time. And it occurred to me that I could stick to this new lifestyle because I was motivated to be my best self, the best mom, wife, and friend I could be, rather than trying to simply loose some vanity pounds.
But guess what?
Here's I am a year later:
The weight has not come back.
But more importantly, it's how I feel. I'm alert and happy. I have so much energy, I can't sit still. My house is clean and organized. Dishes are done, laundry is put away, floors even get mopped (once in a while) and I no longer feel overwhelmed and tired all the time.
I know this is a terrible iphone picture taken by my six year old in poor light, but I wanted to show you a picture of me in the same dress for contrast.
When my birthday came around last fall, my family asked me what I wanted. And guess what I said?
I asked my family (Jacob and Grace) if they would eat like me for three days. You see, for a year, I had been making separate meals for us. My family continued to eat as I had previously, and it was alot of work to make two separate dinners every night. And I wanted them to experience how difficult it is to fight this battle alone.
So for three days, they ate like me: meat, fish, vegetables and fruit - and nuts and healthy oils. And after three days, my husband was convinced, and stuck with it to go on and loose ten pounds himself and feel dramatically better. We also noticed a marked behavior change in our daughter. Now we eat as a family, and maybe I do get a little complaining on why we are eating cookies made with squash or the meatloaf is full of vegetables, but everyone understands the importance of what we put in our bodies.
With my family on board, things changed. When I was just cooking for me, I ate simply. But Grace and the Ram, they wanted cookies and brownies once in a while, and I honestly wasn't ready to say I'm done baking for the rest of my life.
I tried the gluten free mixes, did some gluten free recipe googling, but it seemed when they take the flour out, they replace it with weird ingredients, chemical additives, and you guess it: sugar. And it just tasted terrible. Grainy and gummy and artificial. And I decided if we are eating junk food - it better be good, and it better be at least somewhat good for you.
Somewhere in this new quest to develop a lifestyle that our family could live with for the rest of our lives, I stumbled on the Paleo Diet and baking with Almond Flour. This really was the game changer for my family. Suddenly I could make chocolate chip cookies that were the best EVER, so delicious and moist and chewy that everyone (even outside our family) loved them, but made with ground up almonds instead of white flour. I could make cupcakes and brownies; for the first time in a year, I could make a blueberry muffin and eat it myself! I could have battered fish and pancakes, made with a superfood!
So why am I writing all of this?
Well, plain and simply, I feel cheated out of 15 years of my life. If someone could have told me what I know now 15 years ago, I'd have spent my late teens, twenties and early thirties awake and alert, excited about life and happy and healthy. But instead, I've had a headache and brain fog for 15 years. It's like I've had a hangover for 15 years ... without the partying. I know I'm still young, but I still can't help but feel cheated that my youth was wasted by being so darn tired and yuck feeling All. The. Time.
If this one blog post helps just one person out there, battling the same issues I had, it is definitely worth my time to share. And if you are a mom like me, controlling what goes in the bodies of your growing children, if I can share anything that will help you feed your family better, it is worth it to me. And hopefully, my openness (trust me, it's painful to share that before photo of myself) is valuable to many of you, because I'd love to share some of my recipes and ongoing healthy lifestyle journey with you as well.