A day for new things

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Hi! I’m Theresa, the owner of The Monarch Effect, a health and wellness company helping the people in Phoenix, AZ understand their food issues so they can finally resolve them and lose their excess weight for good. http://www.themonarcheffect.com

Today is a day for new things. My philosophy has always been that I should live life to its fullest, which means I am always looking for new experiences, new habits, new hobbies, new knowledge, new friends, new exercises, new foods, new recipes, new…you get my drift 🙂 Well, one thing I have never gotten into was social media. I believe that to get the most out of life, you need to be out and about living it rather than reading or writing about it. However, I really want to help educate, inspire, and motivate people to embrace a healthy lifestyle. Since I can reach more people through social media than I can face to face, my first new experience for today is blogging.

Let me give you a little bit about my background. I am the only girl in a family of boys, so I had the best of both worlds. My mom was thrilled to finally have a girl to play with so we did all the typical girly things together. We would play dress up, put on makeup, go shopping, get our nails done, read romance novels, etc. Then, with my brothers I would play in the mud, climb trees (and sometimes fall out of them :)), play baseball and football, practicing wrestling moves, catch bugs (and sometimes eat them – I don’t recommend that on my nutrition plans so don’t worry :)), get in snowball fights, etc.  My childhood rocked and I got to live life to the fullest! Perfect, right?

Well, as we all know, nothing is perfect. One thing I forgot to mention is that all of the men in my family are naturally fit and trim and have no issues with food. The women in my family, on the other hand, were all overweight and battled with various food issues. Unfortunately, those same food issues passed onto me.

I was a very active kid who just happened to have the appetite of a horse, so I ended up being a bit chubby when I hit 10, 11 years old. My mom wanted me to have a different life than her own, so she taught me about good nutrition and moderation, but she battled her own food issues, and so I learned from what she said but then also from what I saw. Food was the focal point during family time, celebration, mourning, comfort, reward, mommy/daughter days, etc. For any emotion, good or bad, there was food. For many people, eating a bite or even a serving of macaroni and cheese, or pizza, or chocolate cake is not an issue. They have their taste and they are done. I’m not those people. For me, there was no such thing as a taste or a serving…I wanted it all! Once something processed, fattening, or sugary passed my lips, cravings set in and control was lost. As a kid, if it wasn’t for my mother moderating my portions I would have been the size of a house. Even with her watching over me, I still put on some weight and by the time I hit my young teens I felt uncomfortable in my body and very self conscious.

I bet you can guess what came next.

Yup, I became anorexic. If you’ve never been anorexic you can’t really understand it because it is a mental disorder more than a physical one, but the key take-away from this is that it is obsessive and compulsive and very destructive.   Luckily, I never got to the point where I put my life in danger, but I did become very thin, my hair started falling out, and I stopped getting my period. All signs that I was not getting the nutrition I needed.

At 16 I began working at a fast food place, as most teens do, and I gained 20 lbs in 1 year. Then, of course, I then gained the freshman 15 when I went off to college. By the time I was 21 I was about 40lbs overweight, which at 4’11”, is a lot of weight.  In fact, that’s about 40% of my current body weight!

I was hanging out at karaoke bars most nights, drinking, smoking, eating pizza and wings and hanging out with other people doing those same things. It is easy to rationalize your behavior when you are surrounded by other people doing the same thing or worse. However, there wasn’t a single person in that bar that I envied. We were all having fun, no doubt, but I can’t say anyone in that bar was living the life they wanted to have.

After a failed backpacking trip, where I was too out of shape to go more than 5.5 miles (we were supposed to go 35 miles), I realized I wasn’t living the life I was meant to live. I was working at a low paying job, living in government housing, hanging out at bars at night. Is that what I really wanted? The answer was pretty simple…No.

Now, what I haven’t mentioned so far is that I started exercising in gyms at the age of 11. I was a gymnast, a ballerina, and a figure skater throughout my childhood. I studied exercise and sports science in college and had a lot of experience and knowledge about health and fitness. The crazy part is, I wasn’t using any of it on myself! Then again, I was also in denial. “I don’t eat that badly. I only splurge every once in a while.” (I splurged every single night at the bar!) “I have a gym membership, so it’s not like I’m not working out.” (I had a membership…I didn’t actually use it very often.)

After that failed backpacking trip, I couldn’t remain in denial anymore. So, I decided to make myself a science experiment. I decided I would do everything that I had learned to lose weight in a healthy manner and if in 6 months I didn’t see any results, I could go to the doctor and get a diet pill.

So, I immediately stopped smoking and drinking. ( I’m addicted to food, but not the rest of it, so those were pretty easy to quit.) Then I started meal planning, cooking my own food, and eating the proper portions. I cut down on refined carbohydrates, got rid of desserts, and added in more fruits and vegetables. I put myself on an eating schedule so that I could activate my metabolism without ever getting too hungry. Lastly, I began to exercise. I could only complete about 30 minutes of light to moderate exercise 3 days per week due to how de-conditioned I was, but I knew I needed to get moving.

I was absolutely diligent in this experiment and after a month of doing everything right…I didn’t lose a single pound!!!! Not one.

Yeah, talk about deflated. That was a toughie, I’m not going to lie. How can you do a complete 180 and have absolutely no results?!?!? It was mind boggling and very depressing. BUT! I swore I would continue with the experiment for 6 months no matter what the results were so I could feel confident when I went to the doctor that I had a thyroid problem. So, I continued. My reward was the diet pill the doctor would give me 5 months from now

Well, after another month of doing everything right I was down 15 lbs…yay!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Luckily, after that initial period of losing nothing, the weight started to fall off. My body finally figured out what it was supposed to do and it let go of the fat. By the time I turned 23, I felt fantastic! I was working out at least 5 days per week for an hour. I could run 5 miles with a short walking break every 10 minutes. I got a much better job, made enough money to buy a reliable vehicle and a house. I finally felt confident enough to start dating (yes, at 23) and fell in love. It is amazing how much more you are willing to experience and enjoy life when you are comfortable in your body. It’s that, right there, that I want for my clients.

But here is one of the greatest lessons I learned going through that process, and then keeping the weight off after that. My body will do what I tell it to. If I talk to it with lean protein, unrefined grains, fruits, vegetables, and other nutritious foods, then my body will be fit, healthy, capable and sexy.  If I decide to change my language to one of fast food and inactivity, then my body will do what I tell it to and it will gain weight. You see, there is no such thing as hitting your goal and then stopping. This is a forever kind of thing. Every single time I overeat, binge, or feed my body unhealthy food in combination with no movement, I gain weight. Every time I eat the right portions and add movement into my day I lose or maintain my weight.

It really is that simple. And, it really isn’t that simple. Remember, I mentioned those people that can take a bite of a cookie and then put the rest away? People that don’t associate food with emotions? I’m not one of those people. I’m a binger. I’m a gorger. I gain comfort from food. If I’m feeling a strong emotion, whether it is positive or negative, I want to eat. Then, there are certain foods that when I even taste them I want to gorge on them…chocolate, chips, (chocolate chips too :)), rice, pasta, bread…and the list goes on.   That will never go away. Just because I hit my goal weight doesn’t mean that I’m automatically cured of my emotional eating and food addiction issues. Nope, it just means I’ve learned how to overcome them successfully. AND…will have to continue to do so every day for the rest of my life.   Does that mean I have to live perfectly for the rest of my life? Hell no, I couldn’t even if I wanted to. I am human after all. What it means is that I simply need to win more battles than I lose and continue to fall back on what I know works for me. Not what works for Sue, or Bob, or Billy, but for me. Once I learned to accept that, it made it easier to stay on this healthy path.

So, with all of that being said, I’ve recently been struggling with my chocolate addiction and overeating tendencies.  I recently went from living a very structured corporate life in which I ate out of a lunch box, to owning my own business and trying to fit food in wherever I have a spare moment. Structure is one of those things that works really well for me; I still haven’t completely figured out how to create that structure in this new lifestyle. Luckily, because I’m a group fitness instructor, personal trainer, and health coach, I live a very active lifestyle and have not really gained any weight as a result of it. However, I have noticed that my cravings have gone through the roof and my mood is fluctuating drastically. I am not a fan of either of those developments, so it is time to make a change.

So, the second new thing that I am taking on today is another experiment. Starting today through May 30th, I am eliminating all sugar, refined carbohydrates, chocolate, and alcohol from my diet. The point of the experiment is to see whether the food elimination causes the cravings to dissipate and my moods to level out.

When it comes to weight loss I believe in a balanced diet that focuses on moderation.    However, this experiment isn’t about weight loss; it is about addiction. Handling addiction is a very different process than handling weight loss. Since my company focuses on helping those with emotional eating problems and food addictions, it only makes sense that I go through the experience myself so that 1) I understand what I am asking of my clients when I recommend food elimination, if that’s what is appropriate for them, 2) I determine once and for all if food addiction is a problem of mine or if I am just an emotional eater, 3) give my body a break from all of the crap I’ve been putting in it recently.

So, for the next month I plan to blog about my journey through this experiment. I expect to suffer from cravings the first 2 weeks and then level out for the last 2 weeks. My methods for overcoming the cravings during that time will be distraction through movement or business-related tasks, journaling/blogging, and finally using fruit as an alternative to what I’m really craving.

Wish me luck on my journey as I do you on yours. I would love to hear what journey you are on at the moment or maybe one you are considering beginning. Just like it was easy to smoke, drink and eat poorly when I was surrounded by people doing the same at the bars, it is easier to adopt healthy habits when you are surrounded by others doing the same.

– Theresa

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