It's been twelve weeks - and then some - since I started working with my nutritionist and it is still the best money I've ever spent on my path to wellness... well, if you don't count my running shoes! I learned so much that I thought I'd share some of the journey.
It started off with a test to see what my resting metabolic rate was so I would know exactly what kinds of calorie requirements I personally need. Sitting in a chair, doing absolutely nothing, my body burns fifteen hundred calories a day. Wow, so that means the twelve hundred calories I'd been thinking was a target - IF I counted calories - was way too low. Plus, the frightening dose of reality was that according to the metabolic test I was super close to being pre-diabetic. My body burned more sugar than fat even when I was at rest. This was not good, and the main reason I decided the money would be worth it to educate myself. I'd been a hard core runner for over a year and to see these numbers proved I was missing a very important piece of the puzzle. (I guess my trainer I wanted to blame was right after all...)
The twelve week program started with my nutritionist extraordinaire interviewing me about how I eat and giving me a plan of how healthy people eat which, turns out, were completely opposite. I wasn't eating enough of anything and I wasn't eating them in the proper ratios. Remember my fifteen hundred calorie metabolism at rest? I was only eating about eight hundred a day when we broke down what I ate into calories. No wonder I wasn't losing weight! I wasn't even meeting my minimum caloric requirements for being sedentary and then was running five days a week and lifting weights three times a week. All these factors combined to my poor body being in starvation mode and holding on dearly to every last fat cell I had left thinking we'd never have enough ever again. I needed tons more protein - which luckily I can get from things OTHER than meat since I'm not a huge fan. I needed less dairy, okay, no dairy; and no sugar. I needed to eat different fruits that weren't so high in natural sugars - bye bye bananas and pineapple. And I needed way more vegetables, which I already knew going into it. Three weeks later I had dropped five pounds and felt better than I ever have in memory. I had so much more energy and my running was better and I was sleeping better and my skin looked better. Everything was better.
After the first visit where we laid out the eating plan, the meetings with him were more like therapy. Not that I've ever had therapy before but it was like how it looks in the movies. We talked about how I was feeling, about what I was eating, if I was missing anything that I couldn't eat and all the emotions around food that most people have. About halfway through the whole program the aha moment came where I realized this wasn't some diet I was on with an ending date - like HCG - but how I would eat the rest of my life. If I stuck to "the plan" ninety percent of the time, I could lose weight. If I stuck to it eighty percent of the time I could maintain. It didn't mean I could never have a glass of milk or a sugary treat, just that I needed to make conscious choices about when I ate them and know going into it rather than just eating and giving no thought to what I would feel like afterward.
The most memorable conversation was when he told me I was pretty much over all the emotional ties I had with food and that I could now add in two "free" meals a week instead of sticking rigidly to the plan, but within reason. He asked me what my favorite meal was - where I would go and what I would eat if I didn't care about nutrition. That's easy: I'd go to Olive Garden and have a pasta dish with cream sauce, bread sticks dipped in Alfredo sauce, wine, and of course dessert. And then he told me it would take ten HOURS - TEN - running on a treadmill to burn off the calories in that one meal. Ouch!
It is amazing the transformation my relationship with food has taken since that conversation. Yes, I still go out but I make sure I have a dish that has mostly protein and I usually skip the bread basket before dinner and the dessert after unless someone will share so I only eat a few bites. I eat a lot of balanced meal replacement shakes and tons of fresh veggies. We eat mostly whole foods rather than processed; and veggies, not starch, are the main components. I don't miss milk or cheese - which was a total surprise since I LOVED milk. I eat a ton of eggs because they are my preferred choice of protein. And, when my daughter asked me the other day what my favorite food was, I couldn't answer her. Food isn't that important to me anymore to even have a favorite. It is a means to an end. A way to fuel my body for the activities I want to do. Nothing more. This from an Italian girl who was obsessed with food a mere year ago.
It amazes me the amount of money that is spent in marketing and creating foods that have been processed so much that it isn't really food anymore. By leaving all of that behind I've gone back to food the way nature intended and evolved to nourish the human body. The difference is amazing in both how I feel and how I will look when I'm finally rid of the last stubborn fat cells my body no longer needs to hold onto instinctively because I am properly fueling it for everything I am doing.
After three months of eating well and not dieting - which means not sticking to the eating plan formula more than about 75% of the time, I have maintained my weight and still lost a few inches from toning and building muscle mass. I was so thrilled and am now committed to my own personal twelve week challenge to stick with the plan 90% of the time. I know I already look amazingly better than I did when I started this whole fitness fad back in 2008 but until I am completely happy with how I look in a swimsuit the journey cannot be considered finished. Of course, do you actually know a single woman who can't find something to scrutinize about her body in a swimsuit? Could be a long time before I'm completely satisfied but at least I'll be happy and healthy getting there!