Heather's Weight Loss Story
Reflections on weight loss after losing 55 kg
My mom took me to a Weight Watchers meeting when I was 8 years old. I really can't remember a time when I wasn't the fattest kid in my class. Looking back on pictures I didn't look so big, but because my mom was morbidly obese, I am sure she was trying to get me to a healthy place and not repeat her struggle.
Unfortunately her diet mindset and all or nothing approaches to food and binge eating didn't help me along the way. It's taken me 40+ years to unpack the reality that I inherited her eating disorder as a way to cope with the complexities of life.
Going to Weight Watchers was just something we did and I was good at it. Like that pop song, I had that shit memorized. I knew the points value of every food in the manual. We probably joined and quit 2 dozen times before I was 18. Sometimes my mom would quit but I would keep going and make her drop me at the meetings by myself. Imagine it, a child less than 12 years old going to WW herself. If that wasn't embarrassing enough, I also sat down and wrote Richard Simmons a handwritten letter asking him for his help. I really wanted to lose weight so badly but was chronically unsuccessful.
Once, when I was in 7th grade we were reading a Jack London book and there was a passage where the sled dogs had to pull a woman who weighed 170 pounds (77 kg). There was a discussion about how that was very heavy and would be a challenge to the dogs. But I was hit with the realization that *I* weighed 170 pounds (77 kg) at 12 years old and was officially very fat.
I'm not sure I ever gave up on dieting but I eventually decided to just accept it. I've always been a high functioning person and by the time I graduated high school, I had dieted and comfort eaten my way up to a size 20 US surely weighed over 200 pounds (90 kg).
After university I got a job and a boyfriend and played out the well known trope of packing on the pounds while in love. I remember weighing 230 (105 kg) when I got married and stayed there give or take 20 pounds (9 kg) until I got pregnant. There was one exception when I tried low carb Weight Watchers (then called Core) and lost 40 pounds without tracking or exercise. But of course I didn't maintain it and then with 2 pregnancies I got up to 275 pounds (125 kg). I remember thinking, wow, that's very close to 300 (136 kg) and I can't handle the thought of that number.
My own mother died when I was pregnant with my youngest. I vowed to myself not to repeat the same cycle with my girls. I had a lot of emotional baggage to unpack but I promised myself I would get to a healthy body weight for my girls. I did not want to die early or worse leave them with a mother who couldn't do things because she was just too fat.
I started with the 4 Hour Body Diet in 2013 which is a whole food slow carb diet without dairy. That worked pretty well and I dropped about 20 pounds (9 kg) and then over the course of a year gained and lost the same 10 pounds (4.5 kg) -- over and over every week. In hindsight I contribute it to the program's cheat day which didn't work well for me.
Late 2013, I started to think about food and nutrition and a friend recommended I watch the Peter Attia Ted Talk and it was a lightbulb moment for me. I had so much deep shame and had beaten myself up for not doing enough, trying hard enough to lose the weight. Yet all I could think about all day was food or other women's bodies. It consumed my thoughts and I just wanted to turn it off for a minute. But maybe he was right, there was a medical hack I could exploit and solve my fat problem.
I had tried low carb eating with Atkins before, and was always fatigued. Of course I was eating pints of Dr. Atkins ice cream and working 2nd shift so that was a disaster from the start. Watching Peter Attia's talk led me to read Nina Teicholz's Big Fat Surprise and then Good Calories Bad Calories by Gary Taubes. I felt like I had a religious conversion. Everything I had believed about eating, nutrition, diet and exercise were deeply flawed. Not completely untrue but I had mixed up the cause and effect of just about everything. I realized I had insulin resistance and likely high insulin, low blood sugar. I certainly had the anxiety, hunger, obesity and fatigue to accompany it.
In January 2014 I decided that I was going to try nutritional ketosis, but do it differently. No junk food, and find the supplements to deal with the fatigue and leg cramps of keto flu. I would eat less than 20 g of carbs a day and see what happened. Really that's how I started with eating Christmas leftovers of lamb and drinking Coke Zero like crazy.
I spent about 1 week going through this weird fog but after the cramps and fatigue wore off (hadn't bought sugar free electrolyte powder yet) I had a clear head. Things that used to bother me and wind me up in a fit of anxiety just washed over me like it was nothing. I had a moment sitting at work when it was around 2 pm and I had forgotten to eat. This was all extremely new. I was not the kind of person who forgot to eat. When to eat, what to eat, what not to eat was a running commentary in my head all the time. And suddenly that noise was turned off.
For a time I was deeply in love with keto for just controlling my hunger and managing my anxiety. I could have cared less about the weight loss, although that was also a nice bonus. I was able to lose about 50 pounds (22 kg) just counting carbs and not calories. Eventually, things got harder and I had to begin tweaking my diet, changing habits and really finding what worked and didn't for me.
I did bits of carnivore, the beef and butter diet, one meal a day, multiple day fasts, calorie counting, macro tweaking. Honestly I have tried each and every low carb hack out there. They all work really but then you get tired and want something new. My latest food program is to eat PSMF macros as designed by Lyle McDonald. I've found there's a lot of truth out there in the bodybuilding community of weight loss and nutrition and it's worth exploring.
Lastly and I shouldn't fail to mention the therapeutic effect of walking on my weight loss journey. For the last 6 months, I've been putting in 20,000 steps a day (mostly low slow walks) but it's been a game changer for the mind and body. I highly recommend the Japanese concept of shinrin-yoku (forest bathing) to shake off feelings of sadness when the come on. Also fitness is a bit addictive and seeing how much more you can do than the last time is a game I can play with myself.
Now I've about 6 pounds (3 kg) to my goal weight and in the homestretch of this journey. What I can tell anyone reading this is that there is hope. It's possible even with a troubled family history to recover from obesity and maintain a healthy body weight. Also I want to say and this is difficult to share, but obesity is an eating disorder. Keto really helped me unlock the insulin resistance, but I had to do the work to understand why I still wanted to eat when it wasn't mealtime, and I knew that food was not on my plan.
I had learned and had made it a habit to eat to numb my feelings. Now without the food to "change the channel" I just have to sit with my feelings. It's strange and uncomfortable to sit with a feeling of sadness or anger or whatever is coming my way that moment. Sometimes I can distract myself with a long walk or hugs from kids and cats. And then there are times I just let myself be upset and moody. It's better than eating the feelings away which I refuse to do anymore.
Last night I got out the blood pressure meter and for the first time in years I am not high-normal, but normal in blood pressure. So a few pounds away from a normal weight, normal blood pressure. It's a strange place to be, just everything being normal, not at medical risk for something tragic.
I'm proud to say I am also completing the Couch to 5K running program, which is also a power tool I highly recommend. I used to joke that I was allergic to exercise, but now I really do enjoy it and the feeling of accomplishment when I am finished with a training session.
My best advice is simple -- find one habit to change, then fix it and stick it. Stack another and keep going. It's really just that simple.
I started Sweet Life because keto changed my life and I wanted to help others recovery from obesity. I hope my story will help and inspire others and I will post updates on my progress going forward.
Keep going as it's worth it and I promise you, the sweet life is waiting for you.