Hitting Rock Bottom and Finding a Way Out

This is for people who know they are ready to make a change. I am not here to convince you, but if you are willing to do whatever it takes to become healthy, Please read my real life story of what I discovered and how I started losing weight the healthy way.

I lost 52 pounds in 90 days with no exercise, simply by changing what went into my mouth. I ate plenty of food, three meals and snacks, ate when I was hungry, saved a ton of money on groceries, and continue to feel amazing and lose more weight.

Here is my story…

A little over three months ago I decided I was going to completely change my way of eating. I call it a diet but I don’t have a hate relationship with the word. My diet is simply what I choose to put on my plate and eat. I am proud of my diet and how it is making me feel.

At first I thought I would just give things a try and see how I felt. I couldn’t say for certain if I would stick with it or if I would eat that way for the rest of my life. I hoped I would, but I couldn’t say for sure. After all, I was going into it with a history of dieting failures and serious issues with food.

Here is how I went from a crazy unhealthy food-fixated life to a centered, in-control, way of healthy eating.

Food Obsessions

In December of 2012, I was eating a lot of bad food. I liked movie theater candy when they were on sale 3/$3.00 at Walgreens. Chocolate covered peanuts were my favorite. I ate a lot of fast food – Wendy’s cheddar burgers, Sonic hamburgers, McDonald’s sausage breakfast sandwiches, french fries, waffle fries, fried chicken sandwiches with cheese, cinnamon rolls, ice cream, danishes, pizza, etc. etc. etc. I was in a line to get food and ate something in my car at least two times a day.

Before2

I liked restaurants where they gave you super gigantic portions like Cheddar’s chicken tenders and TGIF hamburgers and french fries.

My stomach hurt. My knees hurt. I was getting headaches. My blood pressure was going up. I was pre-diabetic. My ankles were HUGE and swollen. The list of health issues was getting long and I felt terrible.

The only energy I had was in short bursts from the foods I was eating. Nothing was sustainable. I knew I was on a sketchy road to an unhealthy decline. I was hiding food in my desk, my car, and in my bedroom. I threw away wrapper and bag “evidence” and then ate normal meals with friends and family. I felt like I needed the junk to deal with daily stress and to just make it through each day. Each meal or binge left me numb, euphoric, bubbly…for a little while.

I can’t begin to explain to you how debilitating it was to be so enslaved by my need for certain kinds of foods, or volumes of foods. I really didn’t think about it, I just went through the motions. Waking up was depressing because I knew what I would need to do to be able to just function. If I didn’t go and get the foods I thought I “needed,” I would be light-headed, shaky, get more headaches, fatigued, and sometimes nauseous.

The shakes were the worst. They told me when it was time to eat. I didn’t know what hunger signals from my stomach were because I never gave my body the chance to tell me. I kept feeding myself, dragging through the day, and then falling asleep with a heavy body and mind.

Whenever I had tried to lose weight before, I would go through this “ramping up” phase where I tallied, organized, prepared, journaled, made collages, and everything else I could think of to “get ready for battle.” I felt that if I could only prepare enough I could guard myself from the temptations, withdrawal responses, and habits that were so hard to break. The act of dieting this way completely consumed me. I just kept trying to be stronger than the last time to make it stick once and for all.

I didn’t know exactly why it wasn’t working. The last time I was trying to lose weight, I lost about 50 pounds. Each day was mentally and emotionally exhausting. It was like having an anxiety attack every hour of the day. I had to fight so hard and there were many times that I just wanted the madness to stop.

I dreamed of living in a cabin in the woods, far away from televisions, the Internet, fast food signs, etc. In my fantasy world, I would lose weight magically and the psychology of it all would be non-existent. I would just be. I didn’t realize that could actually happen for me – not in a cabin in the woods, but in my own unhealthy, food-obsessed world.

Learning About Weight Loss, Food Addiction, Health, and Nutrition

I had a job where I was surrounded by food. In fact, part of my job was to actually eat food! As an inspector for a major hotel chain, I was pampered for all of my meals. I ate glorious steaks, fat-ladened salad dressings, delicious chocolaty desserts, and then I would go up to my room and order it again for room service.

Part of my job was checking on the quality and service so I HAD to order the food, but I didn’t have to eat it. I knew my surroundings had to change. While I could have ordered fruit and vegetables from the menu, the temptations (buffets of foods and a never ending supply of room service) were just too great.

Going back to get my Masters degree was always in my mind. I finally decided to leave my job, return to school, and get my degree in health. I wanted to learn from the smartest people I could find and apply those principles to my life. This was one of the best decisions I ever made. First, because I was truly happy being in a learning environment again and second, because I was surrounded by healthy, knowledgeable people.

Now I am working on my PhD and applying these truths I have learned from a holistic, centered place. I am not just “trying to lose weight by any means necessary.” I have done that before. It didn’t work long term.

In my current position, I teach college students about ALL of the dimensions of health. I also do research on food addiction, obesity, eating disorders, weight stigma, and the food industry.

I can’t remember the first documentary I saw that sort of introduced me to the idea of clean eating. In school I showed my students the movie Food, Inc. every semester, but I saw SuperSize Me prior to that, and I am sure there were others. But there were things I glossed over in these films:

1) How factory farming was really treating the animals I was eating

2) The health consequences of obesity

3) What was really in the foods I liked

I didn’t want to know. I knew knowing meant there would be internal conflict between my sense of right and wrong and my desire for the foods I loved. But as part of my quest to really know everything I could about food, I had to force myself to learn sometimes.

Animals as Food

Previously, I felt that nothing farmers and food manufacturers did to animals could be so bad (I mean, PETA and the government made sure animals were treated at least humanely, right?). I just never thought the treatment was something that would make me give up those foods forever. So what was the point of torturing myself?

I didn’t want to know the truth and I told myself those movies just showed extremely rare instances of bad things that maybe happened, rarely, because of a small handful of crazies. The burger I was about to eat certainly was from one of those California happy cows that spent her life on a green cartoon farm until she died peacefully in her sleep. Then I would enjoy my meal guilt-free.

I thought that for a long time, until I couldn’t hide from the truth anymore. A little snippet of a video of a cow being pushed by a forklift, a pig in a truck going down the highway with bloody skin from rubbing against the sides, something about pus and hormones in milk, male baby chicks being ground up alive because no one needed them – these bits and pieces were enough for me to say “Ok, you have to learn what is REALLY going on with the food you are eating.” I knew it might be painful, but I also thought, “I am going to find a way to justify eating meat because I can’t NOT eat meat.” I was going to look for the loophole! Yea, that didn’t quite turn out like I planned.

Obesity Consequences

During this time, I was also learning about some very real consequences of obesity. Working as an optometric assistant, I was seeing the effects of diabetes and high blood pressure every day. Taking patient medical histories as part of my job was very eye opening (no pun intended).

While I have always been a proponent of the idea that you can be both fat and healthy, I could not ignore the fact that the majority of obese patients had medical problems while many of the “normal” weight patients did not. These patients had lists of medications and associated illnesses that were far greater than their thinner counterparts.

I have always felt healthy myself, but I realized that at 40 years old, my obese body could not keep up the way it used to. I always told myself that my weight never kept me from doing the things I wanted to do, but it did. I started to avoid the things that were uncomfortable – airplane trips, going out with friends, exercising, pedicures (I didn’t want them to see my fat ankles), stairs, beach vacations, and the list goes on and on.

Trying….Making the Decision

After seeing a few documentaries and reading a few books, I decided to stop eating meat, dairy, cheese, and to give vegetarian eating a try. A friend of mine hates that word – try. But I really thought of it as something I would do short term, as I didn’t consider possibly never eating meat again.

I had read Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s Eat to Live book about five times over the previous year. The first time I read it, I thought “No way I could do that.” But then I would pick it up again when I had a health scare, or heard new information about diabetes, heart disease, or hypertension. I finally decided that I was going to do the six week plan.

At first, it was a little difficult. I didn’t know how to cook regular meals much less vegetarian meals. Things didn’t taste quite “right” to me without meat and I didn’t understand the vegetarian vocabulary. Tofu,Ezekiel, sprouted grains, daikon, vegan, flexitarian, nutritarian – I was truly a fish out of water.

Now, just a few short months later, it is relatively easy. I say relatively easy because I can’t get the rest of the world to get on board with me so there are sometimes “distractions” such as the free pizza in the break room at work….

Pizza Break Room

Or the bowl of candy…

IMG_20130223_140737

I didn’t indulge but…Ugh.

Overall, it was relatively simple and the biggest surprise is that I kept at it even after the six weeks. I really can’t say for certain if I will ever eat meat again. Right now, I feel like I will not as I don’t normally miss it, but I am listening to my body and giving it what it needs. I do know that if I do ever eat meat again, it will be sustainable, humane, non-GMO (salmon) and without antibiotics or growth hormones.

Spirtuality, Stress, Health, and Weight Loss

At first all of the distractions such as the pizza and the candy were so difficult to handle.  I literally had to stop and meditate to get rid of the crazy self-talk in my head. “You are never going to be able to avoid it, and what is the point in that? You are always going to want it so bad that you will feel miserable every day. Deprived. Different. Stuck.”

Meditation is NOT something I have always done. I thought it was kind of kooky when I first started, but I opened my mind, gave it a chance, and found it to be not only relaxing but effective. I turned on music, breathed deeply, and I forced myself to believe there had to be a better way. I believed in the power of the good foods I WAS eating. They would heal me if I gave them a chance.

I took opportunities to relax, to slow down, and to focus on my goals. This is still a challenge as a PhD student doing a dissertation…

Office

…but it is so necessary for success. I also have found some like-minded people who I can connect with when I need some awareness.

The Perfect Storm – The Switch

Between returning to school, surrounding myself with healthy people and concepts, learning about obesity and weight loss, reading countless books and articles on food and nutrition, watching documentaries about factory farming and vegetarianism, discovering meditation and re-discovering spirituality, and eating whole, nutrient-dense plant-based foods…something clicked.

This change or switch in my entire way of thinking is completely fascinating to me. There are no more ups and downs throughout the day and my every thought is not about the next meal I am going to eat. I feel very strong, able, and centered. It sounds a bit hokey pokey but that is the best word I can think of to explain this transformation.

I don’t think that I know what everyone is going through or that you are having the same kinds of struggles that I had. However, I think there are some things that are somewhat universal to many of us who are attempting to lose weight and be healthier. In other words, some common elements that we need to both admit and address before we will ever find true success. Here is my personal opinion on just a few of those key elements…

1. Honesty to yourself. You may imagine you are not eating how you are eating. You may hide things from others but the truth will always appear in your weight, your test results, and your energy levels. Find someone else you can be honest with too.

2. Admitting that your food will actually kill you sooner rather than later. I have learned a lot about the food industry and marketing. Many companies are tricky, very tricky. With a primary goal of making money, they are not interested in your health. You decide if you are going to be a minion and succumb to their tactics. Learn as much as you can!

3. You ARE smart enough and ABLE to take control of your diet. Yes, there are certain factors that have come together to create your weight problem – the low price of sugar, corn crop subsidies, increase in portion sizes, high fructose corn syrup, the move from active to sedentary jobs, the foods your momma cooked, etc. etc. etc. You have a lot of life to live (and I say that whether you are 18 or 88) and YOU get to make the choices from this point forward.

I started this blog to help myself while on my journey, but most of all, to help others. I am 40 and I wish I had this information when I was in my twenties. It is very cliché but I really believe there is ONE person out there who will hear what I am saying, and if I can reach her (or him!) then this will have been worth it.

Healthy Living Resources

The following documentaries/presentations had a profound effect on my ability to consume a primarily plant-based diet:

Earthlings

Food Matters

Forks Over Knives

Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead

Vegucated

Vegan college lecture

 

Other resources:  

Recipes

Dr. Joel Fuhrman

Dr. McDougall

Dr. T. Colin Campbell

Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn

Engine2 Diet

Meditation overview

One Moment Meditation

I hope that you will continue to visit as I work my way along this new path of food awareness. Be Healthy! ~Amanda Rae

Comments

  1. Thank you so much for being so open and honest about your journey, you are an inspiration.

    • Amanda Rae says:

      Thank you, Joyce! It is difficult to do, to open up about so many things that have been painful. But when you know you are on the right track, it is a lot easier.

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