Minimalist Weight Loss Program

I didn’t even know it was happening, but a couple years ago, I was steadily and sneakily gaining weight.  At doctor’s appointments, I was used to saying “Start it at 250,” but one day they had to move that big metal counterweight over to the next slot on the scale.  Ka-CHUNK. Over 300.  I was used to being stuck at 280, but where did an extra 20 pounds come from, and how could I make it go away?

Being fat, or large, or overweight, or obese, or whatever you want to call it – being fat doesn’t necessarily mean you are unhealthy.  I believe in the health at every size movement and I believe that you can have a healthy lifestyle while wearing double-digit pants sizes.  However, I was not healthy.  Not only was I obese, I had low energy, I could hardly get up the stairs, and I was depressed.  Something had to give.  And I sure wasn’t happy with that big 3 in my weight.

I did workout videos.  I joined a gym.  I drank more water.  Blah, blah, blah.  I got back down to about 280 where I stayed for over a year.

Last year in the summer, I began a goal of taking a walk each day.  And I did.  It wasn’t always a long walk, but I took a walk every day.  It helped boost my mood and made me feel overall better in my body.  Sadly when the weather turned cold, I stopped going outside to walk.  So I joined a gym, and promptly ignored my gym membership.  I have gone to the gym 5 times in 6 months.

How, how, how could I focus on getting healthier and losing some of the excess weight?

As my regular readers know, I changed my eating habits a few months ago and reintroduced meat into my diet  after a year of being nearly-vegan.  I also cut gluten.  A funny thing happened as I started eating eggs and bacon (sans toast) for breakfast.  My pants got looser.   Diet change alone lost me about 15 pounds in about four months.

I was intrigued.  Now that I was eating a healthier, more mindful diet that was helping my body to thrive, perhaps exercise would help really kick it into gear.  I am still struggling to exercise each day, but I do find my body “craving” movement if I sit too long.  I want to get up and move, to go to the gym, to go for a walk.  Just incorporating a little bit of exercise here and there has lost me another ten pounds.

At last weigh-in, I was at 254.4.

Do I have a goal weight? No.  Well, sort of.  I have a target weight that I think I will end up weighing, but I’m not stuck on the numbers.  My goal is to be able to get up my stairs without breathing heavily.  My goal is to be able to jog a mile without stopping.   My goal is to provide a healthy role model for my friends and family.

Caitlin’s Minimalist Weight Loss Plan

Step 1: Food.  You cannot out-exercise a crappy diet.  Stop eating processed food.  At least 80% of your diet should NOT come from a box, bag, or jar.  Eat what makes you feel good, but eat real food.  Mostly plants.  High-quality meat, eggs, and dairy (from humanely treated animals).  If it says “low fat,” put it away.  (A) You’re not supposed to be eating things with labels in a box, and (B) the words “low fat” can be effectively be replaced with the words “chemical shit storm.”  No.

Step 2: Exercise.  Devote 30 minutes each day to intentional movement.  If you want to include household chores in your “movement” count, that’s fine, but really be moving for those 30 minutes.  Sitting on the floor sorting a box of stuff is not high-octane physical activity.  Be honest with yourself.  Go for a walk, go to the gym, run around in the yard with your kids.  Just MOVE.

[EDIT] Step 3: Water.  I cannot believe I forgot to mention how important water is to your health, wellness, and weight loss goals.  Your body NEEDS water, and many times what you think is hunger (cue mindless snacking!) is actually thirst.  I don’t always succeed at getting enough water in my day but I find that if I start early, I continue drinking it all day.  If I forget to get a cup from the dispenser at work in the morning, I’ll forget until lunch and then I am way behind.  I have read that you should divide your body weight by 2 to find the number of ounces you should drink.  If I’m 250, that’s 125 ounces of water that I need each day.

You do not have to join a gym or eat special diet food.  In fact, special diet food is mostly crap.  Joining a gym is great IF you want to spend the money and IF you will actually go.  I have not been utilizing my membership and I’m out $20 a month to stay at home and write blogs about why you should be exercising.

The importance of food

I write a lot about food.  I think food is miraculous.  We take in something from the earth, or from an animal, and turn it into fuel for our bodies.  When you understand the function of food, you appreciate the importance of good, healthy foods instead of processed food-like things.  I used to mow down candy bars, and now the sugar in a piece of fruit is sometimes too sweet.

The most important thing about changing your diet is that you understand it’s not “going on a diet.”  It is changing. your. diet.  Your diet is the food you eat.  Change the food you eat, change your diet.  For me, it’s quite simple to turn down food that I know is bad for me, because I simply do NOT eat those foods.  Hot dog at a fair? No, I can’t eat the bun and I am certain the meat doesn’t meet my standards.  Popsicle from the ice cream truck? No, I don’t eat processed sugar or corn syrup.  Doughnut at the office? Absolutely not.  (In fact, office visitors have started to bring me apples, strawberries, and salads instead of doughnuts).

I was told on a recent vacation that I would probably have to relax my rules s a little because it would be hard to find food that met my high standards.  Challenge accepted and met.  I didn’t eat a thing that I would normally avoid.  You just make a commitment to only allow certain foods into your body. And then you do it.  Once you understand that food has a direct impact on your wellness, you eat differently.  Or at least I do, your mileage may vary.

The moral of the story

I am apprehensive about sharing my weight on such a public forum, but it helps me to share my journey with my readers, even this journey.  When you don’t like something about your life, you need to change it.  I didn’t like weighing over 300 pounds, so I changed it.  I didn’t like weighing 280, so I changed it.  I have weighed at least 250 pounds since high school.  I am currently at my lowest weight in seven or eight years, and it’s great.  I feel more energetic, I have far less joint pain, and I feel happier.  My weight does not define me, but it is something I have to literally carry every day.  By deciding to change it, I am taking control of my life and my health.   It really is as simple as eating and moving.

Growing groceries

I joined a CSA for the summer.  Every week, I get a box of produce!  So far, I have been blessed with greens like lettuce and mizuna (which I didn’t know was even a thing), turnips (with greens), beets (with greens), carrots, garlic, pearl onions, sage, and oregano.

Here are some of the reasons I love my CSA:

  • I know where the food comes from.  I went to see the farm, I walked around the beds.  I know where it comes from, I know who plants and picks it, and I trust it!
  • Low carbon footprint.  The plants are grown in Cleveland and they travel to Lakewood.  Not a far commute.
  • It’s fresh. So fresh.  This stuff comes out of the ground and goes into a box and then into my fridge and then into my belly!
  • It’s sticking it to the man.  Planting a garden is a revolution against corporate control of our food system.  I am supporting local farmers!
  • It forces me to try new things.  I never had turnips before.  I can tell you that I am not a huge fan so far, but I have to make them work!  I am also reading up on how to freeze my greens because there’s no way I will eat them all before they turn bad.  Then I will have fresh, seasonal greens available when they are no longer in season, because I’m saving them now. Planning ahead is a great thing.

My friend is in two CSAs, providing her family with local quality produce, meat, and eggs.  If you can’t grow your own food, supporting a local farmer is the next best thing!

Speaking of growing your own, I have planted a garden with potatoes, carrots, zucchini, spaghetti squash, and basil.  My mom and I are also going to add peppers and tomatoes.  Updates to come 🙂  One day I hope to have chickens to “grow my own” eggs too! Currently I buy eggs from a few local farms.  I just love keeping it local.

Do you grow your own groceries? Buy local?

On food, and listening to my bossy body

Last week, I mentioned my eating habits — basically, the fact that I’m a dairy-free vegetarian who only eats local backyard hen eggs.  I also noted that I was going to cut gluten from my diet because I had come to understand that it was upsetting my body – and it’s important to listen to your body.

My body has been pretty talkative lately, ever since she realized that I listen to her more.  We’ve been chatting a lot.

My body wants to exercise more. I feel a real craving to do it.  I have yet to muster the motivation to go to the gym more than once a week, but even once is better than people on the couch, as they say.  I’m a work in progress, but I want to go.  I feel amazing when I go work out.

My body wants more greens.  Not liking salads, I bought a blender and I’ve been making green smoothies.  I feel energetic and overall healthier because of the increased vegetable consumption.  If you are afraid of green smoothies — I was too! The secret is to blend the greens with the liquid first, and then add the other ingredients.  Get the spinach, kale, or whatever greens you’re using really pulverized with the liquid (juice, almond milk, whatever) and then add more stuff.  My favorite so far is: Spinach, vanilla almond milk, frozen pineapple, and cucumber.

My body is open-minded about trying new foods.  I made roasted beets.  Delicious.  I made roasted acorn squash. NOT DELICIOUS.  You might like it. I don’t. I gave it a good try.  I am going to try and turn it into a soup.  But I am not optimistic.  Something about the acorn squash does not agree with my body, and I like to listen to her now!

My body has recently told me to stop being a vegetarian.

Ever since reading about the amazing healing properties of some good old-fashioned bone broth, my body has continually whispered, “Hey, you should buy a chicken. We should try that out.  Make some broth, yeah? Yeah.”

So last night, I bought a chicken.  It’s a cage-free, humanely-raised, not-antibiotic-fed, not-given-hormones chicken.  I asked a lot of questions, and the very nice lady at the Earth Fare meat counter answered them all, to the result that I felt really good about my decision to buy a chicken that had had a pretty decent life.

I am not totally opposed to meat.  I realize that we have pointy teeth for a reason, that we evolved to eat an omnivore’s diet.  I believe that animal proteins offer some nutrients that we cannot effectively get from plant sources without supplementing.  I believe that some people thrive on a vegan diet while others feel very sick, and the same is true of a diet with meat.  Everybody is different, and every body is different.

What I am opposed to is animal abuse.  Chickens should not have their beaks cut off or be stuffed into tiny cages.  Pigs should be able to move around.  Animals should be able to live a decent life.  I do not want to eat any animal that was treated poorly while it was alive.  Animals are deserving of our respect and appreciation, whether or not we consume them for sustenance.

 

While my body was fine with this plant-based diet for the past year of being vegan-except-eggs, now my body needs something else, and I think occasional (ethical) meat and regular servings of bone broth are what it needs.  I think the veganism was a reboot for my body, as I learned about healthier foods.  Now I’m ready to begin re-introducing meat again.

Cutting gluten is a big change, and one that requires me to re-learn how to cook and eat.  It used to be so simple to just have a sandwich or make some pasta or heat up a veggie burger or frozen dinner… but now, I have to be aware of everything, moreso than when I was vegetarian. When you have a gluten intolerance and resulting intestinal permeability, eating the tiniest amount of gluten can cause a flare up and hurt your whole body.  Gluten sensitivity/intolerance is linked to autoimmune disorders, arthritis, and joint pain.  I didn’t believe it until I ate a huge bowl of whole-wheat pasta and two slices of bread for dinner one night, followed by insane pain in my knees the next day.  The inflammation was apparent, and that is the moment I knew going gluten-free was something I wanted to do for my health.

I realize that some friends and readers may be disappointed by this decision.  Some may even think it a betrayal of sorts.  To this end, I must point you to Alex Jamieson’s blog post, “I’m not vegan anymore,” which says all the things I want to say about compassion and health and being kind.

I also want to add that, regarding ANYTHING – any topic at all, whether it is about nutrition or medicine or politics or movies you like – when you talk to others who disagree with you, it is important to be kind and compassionate.  When you attack people, they will not listen to you. We must approach everything from a place of openness and knowledge and help people find the truth they need.

Some people’s truth is that they only eat plants.  Some people’s truth changes.  My truth, right now, is to make some bone broth.

Special note: I say a brief word of thanks to the chickens who lay my eggs every time I eat the eggs, and I will continue this practice to thank the animals I consume for nourishment.  It’s important for me to stay grounded in the circle of life.  When I die, I’m going to be a tree!

 

What’s in a label?

I’m not talking about food labels.  I’m talking about people labels.  Life’s little hashtags that allow people to put us into boxes in their organized waffle-brains.  I’m going to discuss a few areas of life in which those of us out of the mainstream are viewed as weird, strange, or abnormal.

Food habits:

I am vegan once I leave the house.  At home, I eat local pasture-raised eggs, zero dairy, and zero meat.  I am vaguely considering adding the occasional meat product, but only ethically-raised meat.  I avoid GMOs and buy organic groceries.  I’m preparing to cut gluten from my diet after realizing that when I eat it, it makes me hurt.  I am learning to listen to my body.

Raise your hands if you just thought something like “That sounds like a bunch of froo-froo hippie crap” or similar. Veganism is not the norm. It’s more common than in years prior, but it still gets questions.  On top of that, try adding a gluten-free diet!  People just freak out. “What are you going to eat?!” “Uh, vegetables. Try them, they are good for you, and they don’t come in a box.”

Before I go to a restaurant, I have to look up the menu online and see if anything is vegan.  I also try to avoid soy and corn because of GMOs.  Now that I’m going gluten free, eating out will be nearly impossible.  Hooray, challenges!  They make us stronger, right? Right?  Whatever, I’m going to Chipotle (and ignoring the soybean oil because even I have to have a line somewhere.  I have also been known to demolish corn chips at Mexican restaurants.  I’m not perfect, okay?).

Here’s an example of how my ordering usually goes:

Hi, sorry, mine’s going to be annoying, I’m a craaazy vegan!  I’ll have the spaghetti (listed in the menu as spaghetti and meatballs, with cheese), without any meatballs or cheese – just noodles and sauce.  And the garlic toast, and do you know if any of the salad dressings are vegan?  Okay, no salad, I just won’t worry about it.

Another recent dining experience:

Prior to ordering, I was lamenting the fact that this restaurant had a vegan burger but not a vegan bun.  That just seemed stupid to me.  I wondered aloud if I could just get the burger without the bun.  My dining partner said, “Or you could just deal with it this once.”

The pressure to just stop being a crazy psycho vegan hippie was enough to make me just eat the damn bun.  I got sick, but I lack evidence to say it was really the bun. It might have been the greasy fries.  Sorry, body.

When I introduce myself in situations as a “dirty hippie,” or a “crazy vegan,” or a “crunchy granola freak,” even in jest or to break the mood, I am putting forward a bad image of myself.  Dirty. Crazy. Freak. These are all negative words.

If I don’t eat meat, eggs, or milk at a restaurant, I can ask for the vegan options without making a joke at my own expense to make the server feel better about having to serve me.  I am 100% sure there are pickier customers out there.  When it comes down to it, I’m pretty easy.  Now that gluten is on my chopping block, things will get more complicated (and may result in fewer restaurant outings, sorry friends).

Now if only I can get Chipotle to stop dropping other people’s cheese in the guacamole.  Seriously.  Join me on this brief diversion from my point:

chipotle correct

Correct placement of burrito when placing cheese on top. Directly in front of the cheese container.

chipotle incorrect

Sometimes they move the burrito in front of the guacamole, and then put the cheese on. This results in cheese falling into the guacamole, which makes me a very sassy lactose-intolerant vegan. (All acceptable labels).

Back to my point:

Those of us with dietary restrictions, whether self-imposed or medically necessary, should own them.  Ask your questions and order your meal the way you want it without apology.

Some tips:

  1. Print a list of your dietary restrictions for the chef to read, including cross-contamination concerns (i.e., if you order rice pasta, make a note not to boil it in the wheat pasta water)
  2. Do your homework before you go out.  There are a lot of gluten-free and vegan dining websites that can help you find a diet-restriction-friendly restaurant.  Check out restaurant websites for the online menu and allergen information
  3. Dine with patient, supportive people.  Someone telling you to just deal with it and eat the bun is not going to help the situation.  It is stressful to handle dietary restrictions in your own kitchen, let alone in a restaurant.  Sure, a vegan can compromise on a dubious bun, but if someone had an allergy, they wouldn’t have that freedom.
  4. If you have food allergies, bring your medication/epi-pen just in case.

Personal care

I don’t use commercial shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, or toothpaste.  I smell and look like a normal human!  (I may still be figuring out the deodorant, to be perfectly honest; experiment #1 did not go smoothly… literally).

Consider the following explanations:

  1.  I don’t use shampoo, because I’m a dirty hippie freak.
  2. I don’t use shampoo, because shampoos contain a lot of questionable chemical ingredients and I don’t want them in my body.

I have used both of these explanations.  One of them is detrimental to my cause.  If I want others to consider the implications of slathering themselves with chemical ingredients, I need to frame my explanations with an educational and health-conscious perspective.  I can’t just say, “I’m a dirty hippie,” because (a) I am not dirty and (b) unless YOU want to identify as a dirty hippie (which I am sure you don’t), you won’t even listen to my explanation of why (insert commercial product here) is bad for you.  It’s all about presentation.

Medicine

I think medication is seriously over-prescribed.  I focus on natural healing and nutrition over medication, and I feel much better for it.  I have not gotten sick all winter, and I haven’t had any medications in months and months.  I’m happy with it, and I’m happy to talk to people about it.

Shopping

The minimalist in me doesn’t shop much anyway, and the environmentalist in me wants to shop used.  I do confess that I bought a blender on Amazon for $60 because I couldn’t find a used one that met my criteria.  I’m a really picky eco-minimalist I guess.  My Christmas list included “cloth napkins, from Goodwill is fine” so I really don’t require “new” to be satisfied.  This goes against the grain of so many people’s inclinations that it stands out and gets questions.  Instead of  the tried-and-untrue “Oh, I’m a tree-hugger and MALLS ARE EVIL,” next time I’ll try a little “It’s better for my bank account and the environment to try and buy things used first!”  It might get some better feedback.

Be proud!

If you differ from the mainstream in any way, celebrate it.  Don’t apologize for it.

Be awesome, like this mom whose photo showed up in my Facebook feed:

Not_Me

Stop pinning, start doing

We live in age where knowledge about nearly everything is at our fingertips.  We are plugged in and constantly connected, and “I don’t know how” is no longer a valid excuse for anything.  If you can type it into Google, you can learn it.

I recently made myself a degree from the University of Google to display on my wall.  I think I have learned more from Google than I did at college.  I don’t have a problem with that.

I have noticed, however, the phenomenon of learning without follow-through.

Pinterest is the most obvious offender.  On Pinterest, you can soak up a ton of information in the form of pictures and links and recipes and how-to guides, stick them on a board (perhaps entitled “Craft ideas” or “DIY” or “Recipes” or “Must do this!”), and then never, ever look at them again.  I am guilty of this.

For instance, the following pins are ones that I pin with the intent to read later and execute but then forget about:

But look! These are things I have actually utilized:

Some other pins are things I can’t follow through on until I have a house or kids, so those are okay to wait on.

I’m making a new goal to learn something new, or follow through on some project, each month. In this age of information, there is no excuse not to learn something new!

What have you learned lately?

Some thoughts on food

As we minimize the clutter in our spaces and minds, shouldn’t we also minimize the clutter in our food?

I’m pretty much over eating anything I can’t pronounce.

I had heard about these “GMOs” that have had people up in arms in recent months and years, but only recently have I done more digging and come up with the conclusion that I’d like to lead an organic lifestyle.  Genetically modified foods and pesticides on conventional produce terrify me.  It may be more expensive to buy some foods organically but for me personally, the peace of mind that I’m not eating a vegetable with pesticides written into its DNA is worth it.

On that note, apparently 86% of corn in the US is genetically modified (as of 2010. Forgive me for citing Wikipedia).  Yikes! Corn is in so much of the food we eat, and we don’t even think about it.  Canola and soy are also huge GM crops, and they are also in basically everything.  I can’t even imagine having a corn or soy allergy, but more and more people do as GMOs become more prevalent.

I will be instilling some minimalist virtues into my new eating habits.

  1. One in, one out – Technically this one is going to be reversed.  As I finish a non-organic/GMO/non-pronounceable food item in my kitchen, it will be replaced with a whole-food, organic/non-GMO alternative.
  2. No clutter – Buying fresh produce means less packaging, and it also means I can’t stock up on things because they will expire faster when they’re not full of preservatives.  I will only buy what I plan to eat in the next week or so.
  3. Quality over quantity – I will be paying more for a healthy food option over spending the same amount on several unhealthy food items.  Junk doesn’t have a place in my kitchen or my stomach anymore!

I’m already nearly vegan, so this is just one more way to make my friends and family dread entertaining with me!  Sorry, family. I love you very much.

A perk to this new plan of mine is that I’m seriously turned off by junk food.  If I don’t know what’s in it, I am very wary.  I am not perfect, however, and succumbed to the will of a doughnut in a work meeting recently.  For shame.

One issue I foresee is that of eating out at restaurants.  I’m not sure how I will handle that, besides not eating out at all.  Who knows what they put in their food?  I know Chipotle Mexican Grill sources organic and local ingredients when they can but I am not sure about other restaurants.  There’s probably corn and soy products all over the place!   If anyone has a good source for finding restaurants that use local/organic ingredients let me know in the comments.

Do you follow a particular diet?

Also, here’s a great source for more info on GMOs: http://www.nongmoproject.org/