we’re in the midst of a slamming heat wave in minneapolis- average temp with the heat index is 102 this week. as a result, i’m planning beach dates and/or reading in the shade outside because as a minnesotan, it’s my duty to extract as much pleasure as possible from uncomfortable weather. what comes with beach weather are bathing suits, and 5/6 years ago you never would have caught me in one.
i often forget that i used to be a fat vegan**, and people always jump to correct me; “no, you weren’t fat, you were just curvy“, which always angers me because i think that strips ownership of my health/situation, and my weight was my fault and having lost it should be my victory. let’s face it- at 5’3″ and 168 lbs, i wasn’t just fat or curvy, i was borderline obese. what always shocked me was that each year when i hopped on the scale for a physical and had grown 10+ lbs since the last, not a single doctor took the time to ask me what was going on in my life. i worked 12 hour days and lived off of red bull, cigarettes, vegan convenience foods, and chipotle. i was stressed, i wasn’t taking care of myself, and i wasn’t happy. had a doctor actually had the gall to embarrass me, i might have done something sooner.
eventually i started to change. slowly. i’d given the gym a shot for 2 weeks and then quit, and bought various exercise DVD’s that eventually got shuffled in with comedies. i don’t exactly remember what sparked me to really try, but i think it was getting engaged and the fear of being a “fatty” in a white dress.
by the time i got married 4 years ago, i was down to my high school weight of 145 and without committing to a gym or a strict diet. i’ve come down another 15 pounds since, and have been happily maintaining my weight ever since. it wasn’t the easiest thing in the world, but considering i didn’t make any radical changes to my diet (besides quitting processed foods and going back to cooking) i can’t say it was hard either. it took me almost 3 1/2 years to lose roughly 40 pounds, and i think my “slow and steady wins the race” approach was crucial.
i will admit that even now, i use apps like “my fitness pal” when i think i’m being over-indulgent, and i try to never use food as a soother or a cure for boredom. sometimes you feel like you’re in a state of recovery- especially when it comes to body image. it took me years to get over not shopping in the plus sized department, and i still get dumbfounded when i can buy a size small t-shirt. on average, i have to wear my bathing suit for an hour around the house before going out, just so that i feel comfortable with myself. regardless of my remaining “baggage”, i’m happy with myself and i’m healthy.
i always get asked “how did you do it”, so here’s some of the changes i made that made serious improvements on my health and my weight- i took almost 4 years to casually lose 40lbs. everyone’s body is different, what worked for me may not necessarily work for anyone, else but the main point is to just take a hard look at your lifestyle, and make improvements where you can!
1. portion control. i grew up in the ‘clean plate club’ household so portion control has always been my #1 problem. if i see it, i eat it. i started eating out of small bowls and off of salad plates to visually trick myself, and i kept telling myself “if you want more, you can get more later”.
2. put the beverage down. whether in the form of soda, beer, or a processed juice-drink, i drank a ton of calories a day. first i went down to just diet soda (ish!) and then i discovered coffee, tea, and stevia. i kept alcohol to the weekends, and would get things like vodka with plain soda water to help cut calories.
3. BYO Lunch. depending on my grueling work schedule with clients sandwiched in between clients, my lunch was either nonexistent, leaving me primed for over-eating when i got home, or it came in the form of sandwich delivery or chipotle. and let me tell you, i could eat an entire chipotle burrito back then, as well as 14″ sub’s from Caffrey’s Deli. to make things simple, we cook meals that serve 4, and then package up the leftovers for lunch the next day.
4. make dinner a priority. just as with lunch, if we don’t have plans for dinner we can easily get lured into the take-out trap, and thai is never as healthy as you tell yourself it it. every sunday we’d sit down and make a meal plan for the week, and buy all of the ingredients needed to accomplish them. we stopped buying processed convenience foods, including vegan-centric things like faux meats, frozen dinners etc and i made friends with quinoa, brown rice, and dark greens. we’d pre-make items and freeze them for nights that seemed like they’d be hectic, and took weather into consideration as well- no one wants a salad when it’s -30 out, or stew when its +95. this was crucial for making #3 possible.
5. movement = exercise. had i started exercising vigorously from the get go i most likely would have slimmed down far quicker, but my own self-self-consciouness and fear of embarrassment kept me out of the gym for the first 2 years. instead of beating myself up for being “lazy”, i found other ways to get some movement in my life. i bought a bike, and i rode it. i walked to work, took the stairs, and did yoga and cardio DVD’s at home. by the time i hit the gym, i felt more confident and less awkward, but i didn’t get the most out of my membership until i bought a few training sessions.
6. no scales. scales are discouraging, but tape measures are not- at least to me. scales are misleading in the sense that your weight might not change for 2 weeks, but you’re losing inches and gaining muscle, so i always went by how my clothes fit.
7. learn to sew. * or befriend someone who can. shopping for new clothes every time you drop a size can be costly, and schlepping around in baggy, ill-fitting clothes is horrible for your self-esteem. i truly believe that you can dress to flatter any body type and size, and keeping the fit of your clothes in check via simple alterations will help you feel more confident, and help show off all of your hard work. my arms and waist improved the fastest, so i started wearing tank tops, and cinched the waists of my skirts as i shrank underneath them.
8. stop saying FAT and SKINNY. i know, i’ve said ‘fat’ or ‘fatty’ a couple of times now, but being in the habit of saying “healthy” and “unhealthy” is far more encouraging when you’re trying to slim down. besides, who doesn’t think of kate moss when they say ‘skinny’, and then get depressed that they’ll never look like her?
obviously there are other things i could touch on, like “get more sleep”, and “quit your shitty stressful job”, but those aren’t as easily attainable- especially in today’s job market, so instead my last ‘words of wisdom’ are:
9. be happy. being unhappy helped get me unhealthy in the first place, and finding what made me happy helped get me healthy in the end. i went into weight loss with no “goal” except to be happy, whatever size that shook out in the end.
**people seem to always equate veganism with being thin- you can be heavy or thin with any diet or lifestyle and i think that “go vegan lose weight” campaigns can be a huge disservice- especially when people think that veganism = boca nuggets, processed soy, and seemingly “guiltless/healthy” pints of coconut bliss. yes, veganism means no cholesterol, but that’s really about it unless you actually prepare healthy meals. /end rant