It has been a little while since I have done a Trim Healthy Tuesday post, so today seemed as good a day as any!
Today I want to share something that is rather personal. In fact, I haven’t talked about it with very many people. The reason that I am choosing to share it with you today is because I am prayerful that through hearing it, some might find a little bit of freedom and healing in the midst of a battle that I know can be so hard.
As I have talked about before, I am a big proponent of the Trim Healthy Mama lifestyle. I have been following Serene and Pearl since I was a little girl (before they wrote THM!) and have eagerly read each of the books and cookbooks as they have been published. For reference throughout the rest of this post, the basic principles of THM are cutting white sugar and refined carbs (white flour, white rice…. all the white stuff), centering every meal around a protein, and separating carbs and fats. This results in lean, “E” (energizing) meals that utilize a healthy carb source as fuel, and filling “S” (satisfying) meals that utilize a healthy fat source as fuel. Separating the fuels allows the body to efficiently burn them without have to store excess fuel as body fat.
When I first got on board with THM, I was an incredibly active and healthy 19 year old. I didn’t have any weight to lose but I loved how the THM way of eating made me feel. Cutting sugar and centering my meals around a protein source healed my skin, helped to balance my hormones, and steadied my emotions. Without even trying, I lost a few pounds here and there but I compensated by eating more crossover (fat + carb) meals. I was riding and training horses every day, teaching horseback riding lessons, running, and working in a restaurant in the evenings so I quickly burned off most anything that I ate.
Fast forward a few years… I started college, stopped riding horses, and spent most of my time sitting at the computer working on my online classes. I also became very busy and found myself constantly on the road. Most of my meals were on the go, and most of them were not THM. Throw in a genetic predisposition to hypothyroid that was suddenly realized plus anemia and chronic stress; bit by bit, I started to put on weight and saw my hormones and health fall apart. I was always tired, my period was irregular, and my desire to exercise was all but gone. I wasn’t excessively overweight, but I knew where my body’s healthy place was and I was about 10 pounds north of that.
This is where I want you to hear me, because I know what you might be thinking- “10 pounds? Really? That’s all? Get over it!”
This. Is. Not. About. The. Weight.
10 pounds or 100 pounds, it doesn’t matter- my body went from being in a healthy and nourished state to a state of distress, and the weight was a symptom of deeper issues that needed to be addressed. Needed to be… but I chose to ignore them. Like most of us do. We feel a little guilty, like maybe we should go for a run or skip dessert, but we are too busy to stop and figure out what is really going on inside our bodies.
So I just kept on going. At one point I hit a wall and visited a functional medicine practitioner who did some blood work and got me on supplements for my hypothyroid and anemia, but even with that I was irregular with how often I actually took my supplements, and my diet wasn’t doing me any favors.
A year ago, at 23, I spent the summer in San Diego where I ate a steady diet of authentic Mexican burritos and tacos. It was great for awhile, but I could feel my body steadily swelling. My emotions were a mess, my period was still out of whack, and I felt tired and bloated all of the time. At one point during the summer I stepped on a scale just for fun and I was shocked to see I was now 27 pounds over what had once been my constant, “gain-a-couple-lose-a-couple” number I always hovered around. I started running which was really helpful for my mind, but it couldn’t undo what I had been putting into my body.
By the time I came home, I felt awful. Suddenly jumping back into running with extra weight and little strength had resulted in severe back pain. It turned out to be a pinched sciatic nerve that I am still dealing with. My clothes didn’t fit. I was tired. I was always, always, always hungry. I was so angry with myself and ashamed of my body.
I got straight to work, cutting out sugar and refined carbs once again. I picked my “good” foods and my “bad” foods and I lived in fear of the bad ones. But half the time, my “good” foods weren’t really even food. Living on a budget and cooking for myself, I made the strangest concoctions of vegetables and protein that satisfied the numbers I was looking for but were in no way enjoyable to eat. So I ate more, always feeling hungry. While my meals may have served as fuel, they were never satisfying. I started going to the gym where I found the elliptical was the one machine that didn’t aggravate my back. Adding in exercise helped me to lose a pound here and there, but I always gained it back.
Then, the strangest thing happened. In October, my boyfriend and I got back together after taking a 6 month break. My weird eating habits got a wake up call when we visited a favorite breakfast place and I decided to splurge and get a half biscuit with sausage gravy. I wasn’t losing weight anyway, so might as well enjoy myself, right? I slowly, very slowly, savored every bite of that blessed biscuit. We ate and talked and sat on a patio overlooking the river. When I finished that biscuit I felt something I hadn’t felt while eating in a long time
I felt satisfied.
Not stuffed, just satisfied. I didn’t immediately crave 5 more biscuits. I didn’t feel sick. I didn’t even felt bloated. I felt happy and grateful and ready to eat a nutritious dinner later, which is exactly what I did.
The next few months followed a similar pattern. A small dessert here, a glass of wine there, even occasional pasta and bread. All balanced with lots of nutritious and delicious vegetables and protein. I ate slower. I ate with others. I cooked my food mindfully and ate my food mindfully. For the first time maybe ever, I could hear my body telling me what it wanted and needed and I was happy to oblige. I ate less at meals and hardly snacked in between. Not on purpose, I just was so satisfied with my meals that I didn’t feel the need to. I also hopped back on the supplement train and found that by controlling my hypothyroidism and anemia, my cravings were minimized and my body seemed to be better at utilizing what I was feeding it.
As I learned to listen to my body, another funny thing happened- I got this weird urge to get off the elliptical and play around with some weights. At first it was so intimidating. I felt weak and clueless about how to use the equipment. With some help from my body builder brother and the good people of YouTube, I noticed I was getting stronger. Not only that, I started noticing muscle definition when I looked in the mirror. My confidence soared each time I was able to lift something heavier or perform an exercise I hadn’t been able to do before.
I had sworn off the scale for awhile, but this crazy thing happened when I stepped back on- even with the slowly savored holiday treats and my progressively accumulating muscle mass, I was losing weight.
I hadn’t even been trying! I was just living my life and taking care of my body. But sure enough, my loose fitting jeans hadn’t been my imagination after all. I was glad to have the number validation, but really it didn’t matter. I felt good. I felt strong, nourished, satisfied, and healthy. Even with occasional flare ups, improving my core strength seemed to reduce the pain from my sciatic nerve. That was a huge blessing. My period was finding normalcy once again. And finally, I didn’t feel bloated after every single meal!
Through the spring and into this summer I have gone through weeks of eating better, and weeks of eating worse; weeks of working out regularly, and weeks of not working out. It has been a busy, crazy, chaotic year so far and my health has not always been my #1 priority, but I don’t go long before I realize I stopped listening to my body and it’s screaming for something. Sometimes it wants to go for a run. Sometimes it really wants an entire package of green beans. Sometimes it wants so. much. water. Sometimes it wants a glass of wine. Sometimes it wants to lift something heavy. Sometimes it just needs to go to bed.
So I listen, and I do it.
My priorities are always to move my body regularly, avoid sugar and processed carbs, and separate my carbs and fats. But you know what else is my priority?
Living. my. dang. life.
If my boyfriend wants to get dressed up and go get dessert, there is a 0% chance I am saying no. If my little brother makes a batch of cookies all by himself, I will be first in line to give one a try. I will enjoy every moment and every cookie and every bite of cheesecake. I might even lose weight in the process! Not because of the nutritional content of the food, but because of the effect the experience has on the brain and hormones.
This wellness journey must start in the mind.
You are not going to lose weight with elevated cortisol levels due to your stress about losing weight. I’m not a doctor or a scientist so I won’t even bother butchering the scientific explanation behind this, but I would urge you to research it yourself. Understand the damage that stress is doing to your body, and if you are trying to lose weight- chill out.
Listen to your body. Eat slowly, eat mindfully, and eat for satisfaction. Food should be more than fuel but less than idolatry. Eat a lots of things that nourish your body and just a little of the things that nourish your soul. Figure out a form of moving that makes you happy and strong. Maybe it’s walking, maybe playing a sport, maybe lifting weights. Figure it out and do it.
I’m riding around 24 pounds lighter than I was this time last year, but that is nothing compared to the progress made in healing my mind, gut, hormones, and confidence in my ability to live this lifestyle. And y’all, it’s all connected. Getting healthy is a holistic process. We have to start seeing it that way.