Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Weight-Loss Journey

Muscle vs. Fat

5 lbs Fat (top) vs. 5 lbs Muscle (bottom)
You've probably heard people say "muscle weighs more than fat" and it probably reminds you of the joke you heard as a kid, "What's heavier? A ton of bricks or a ton of feathers?" Neither right? A ton of each weighs the same: one ton. What people really mean is that by volume, muscle weighs more than fat. If you put 5 pounds of muscle next to 5 pounds of fat, you'll see that the muscle is more densely packed and is smaller by volume than the fat, which takes up more space.

Recently, people have asked me if I've lost a ton of weight, and the truth is, I really haven't lost as much as people might think. I guess the concept of looking slimmer always makes people think of drastic amounts of weight. But being that you now understand that fat is lumpier and bulkier than muscle, you can see why a person who has slimmed down may appear to have lost a lot of weight. Actually, it really all depends on the amount of fat and/or muscle lost. If someone loses a lot of muscle and not a lot of fat, they may not appear much slimmer, but the scale has made them think they "lost a lot of weight" and this may, in turn, make them think they're doing a great job of trimming down, which is not true. Losing muscle is the last thing you want to do. The best scenario is when you lose fat and gain/maintain muscle. If this is the case, you will not seem to lose much weight on the scale, but you will definitely appear more trim. How do I know? I know because that's exactly what happened to me.

My Journey

Over the last several years my weight crept up till I was the heaviest I'd ever been in my life. Mind you, I wasn't morbidly obese, probably only 20-30 lbs above my normal average, but I was disappointed with myself. It was 2007, and I had just gotten married to the love of my life. Whether it was the neglect of my health during this time or perhaps my intense happiness for finding my soulmate, I gained excess weight. (Sometimes I blame "the pill" because so many other women do, and it's probably not far from the truth. It's completely unnatural, and I will never, ever take it again.)

Anyway, in 2008, I'd had enough. Desperate about my weight, I wanted any help whatsoever, and I was a bit vulnerable and probably depressed. I had been slim my whole life, and being heavy was something I had never experienced. I developed a deeper compassion than I already had for people who tried to lose weight and could not. (I know now why they could not, but more on that later.) One day, I was talking to one of my girlfriends, and she told me about Nutrisystem. She had lost 20 lbs in about 3 months, and she was super happy. This was too tempting to pass up at that time, and I signed up for 4 months. I will never use it again, mind you, and I wouldn't recommend it now that I have learned more about nutrition, but I did manage to drop about 12 lbs in about 3 months (if it was 12 good pounds or 12 bad pounds, I don't know). If you're wondering what happened to month 4, you may have guessed right. I could not finish it. As you may have guessed (perhaps from your personal experience) I got depressed. I felt restricted. I ate the same stuff all the time, while Wesley ate whatever he wanted. Plus, I never ate out, so I felt like a hermit. At least I had Wesley to keep me company, though.

For about a year and a half to two years, I didn't do much else. I was focusing on Wesley at the time, who was going through chemotherapy treatments and drug trials. When he passed away Independence Day 2010, my need for distraction was great—probably the denial/ignore stage—and tackling the weight loss seemed like a good idea. Soon after, I met a chiropractor who specialized in weight loss in a more natural way, by cleansing/detoxifying the body. I decided it sounded better than anything I'd done before, so I planned to do a 5-week cleanse, and I blogged about it to keep myself motivated. The detox diet consisted of fresh foods including vegetables, fruits, meats, and oils like nuts, avocados, olive oil, but it restricted dairy products, plus any high-carbohydrate foods like bread, rice, pasta, starchy vegetables, and anything processed. Yes anything processed. Sometimes a bit of rice or lentils was allowed but very little, and I had to calorie-count everything. Needless to say, it was very difficult. So much so that I couldn't complete my 5th week. I did lose some weight, maybe 10 lbs, and I was happy about this, but I was also depressed because, once again, I felt restricted. I could eat almost nothing that I liked or wanted, and my social life felt nonexistent. I ate every meal at home... and alone.

Now, I may be digressing, but I'd like to say something in regards to dieting and depression because I think it is important to mention. No matter how good or healthy your diet is, if you are unhappy or depressed about it, you will be less likely to continue with it. You may go as far as never doing it again. Yes, it sounds obvious, but the point I want to make is that if you want your diet to become your lifestyle, it should not be extreme for you. It should be something that you can do for the rest of your life, and no one forces you to do it, you want to do it. And because it's not extreme, you cut yourself a little bit of slack every once in a while.

For me, the "detox" diet got a little bit closer to what I was searching for in a lifestyle change, but it wasn't quite perfect yet. It was too restrictive for me at the time. More importantly, I honestly didn't understand the reasons for cutting out so much. I'm a dairy lover, and not being able to add cheese to anything was nearly unbearable. I was a bread lover too, so I had a hard time with that, too. And then there was the calorie counting. I can spreadsheet anything, but calorie counting every single ounce I ate?... Really?? That was just a bit too much for me. The most positive thing I did notice from the "detox" diet was that, as I lost "weight," it wasn't so much the weight I was losing, as I was losing "inches" around my midsection. Most interesting was the drastic reduction in, get this... cellulite! Yes cellulite!! Something I eliminated from my diet had stopped the production of that bulky, lumpy, dimply substance that is known as fat. My body was now using the fat instead of storing more on top what I already had. The less fat I had, the fewer dimples of cellulite I had. I know it sounds gross, but it's true. The problem was that I didn't know what had caused this positive reaction (the loss of cellulite) because I had cut out too much at once. Today I can tell you what it is (and it's probably not what you're thinking), but I will save it for a future blog post, I promise. (Hint, if you watched "Fat Head,"mentioned on my previous post, you might already know.)

Since that "detox" diet, though, I was determined to lose the rest of the weight, but dieting was just not working for me. For one, "dieting" is so short lived. I knew I would revert to my old habits, and that was the problem. I longed to find the most natural way to be healthy, and I wanted the plan to be doable, but no diet was convincing. There were so many diets out there, and none of them made any logical sense to me. I didn't really know nutrition. I didn't understand how food was broken down once it entered my body. No one had taught me, and I didn't know who to ask. My doctors had never taught me, and plus, I had lost a lot of faith in them. I knew they did their best, and they don't usually have ill intentions, but since doctors learn everything through Medical School, very few, if any, question what they learn because they assume the "medical" system has already "proven" it to be true. Those who do question it—whose research results go against the medical textbooks—get banned from their universities for publishing information that goes against what the "medical system" has supposedly proven. Having said that, my little inquisitive mind didn't even know where to start asking or who to trust. The only thing I thought I could do was pray, and ask God to please help me find the most natural way to lose the excess weight.

In late November of 2011 (as I explained in my first post), my prayers were answered. I heard about the documentary "Fat Head" and as I watched it, I knew it was life-changing. This movie confirmed everything I ever wondered about nutrition. Nothing has ever explained to me in the most basic way how our bodies are affected by the things we eat like this movie. It laid the groundwork for the research I began to do regarding nutrition, and it led me down the path to seek natural remedies for my ailments and to blog about it. My life has never been the same since, and I'll never go back to the way I used to eat before. I highly recommend watching this movie, and again, watch it with an open mind. Many people I've told to watch the movie never get past the first half. If you suspect this might happen to you, start halfway. You can always go back and watch the beginning. The meat of the movie (no pun intended) is the last half, so please watch that, at the very least.

Since I found this new lifestyle, I drastically changed my diet immediately, but I did so because I wanted to; I knew it was imperative for my health. Mind you, I have been eating this way for over 4 months now. Yes, I get tempted to eat what I used to eat, and sometimes I allow myself a little bit, just so I don't feel deprived, but then I go on with my lifestyle happily. I have lost about 8 pounds in these 4 months, but what's more obvious is the fact that I have slimmed down, and it's drastic enough that people notice it, and they ask me about it. Strangely enough, a couple of close friends have pointed out that I used to appear "puffy" or swollen. Again, that makes me think of bulky fat. Nevertheless, what's more important is that after eating this way for almost 2 months, I had my blood work checked during my annual physical, and my triglycerides went down significantly from the year before (from 77 to 43, where <150 is considered good). If you didn't know, triglycerides are basically fatty deposits in the body, so it's no wonder to me that these went down, as the fat on my body started to "melt" away. As far as other numbers go, my cholesterol, which had always been within the normal range, did not change much (137), and the rest of my blood work was normal, as well. Having said that, I know my new lifestyle is not affecting my health negatively, and seeing how I've lost more "inches" around my midsection, I can suspect that I'm doing something right...

Are you ready for more naturEvangelism?

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