A sincere exhale as I start to write this blog post. Since the end of last year the daily number one ask question, in-person and online, is all about my health journey. I know it’s because that’s when others could start to see progress on my health journey in the form of my body changing, but what no one knew is that so much had changed over the year from my mental health to my goals & beyond. But what most people focus on is the weight loss & I get it…. it’s quite obvious & I was in those shoes two years ago wondering where to begin & what steps I needed to take. I have been pretty reluctant to share my journey for a few reasons, but mainly because I don’t like putting the spotlight on myself as an individual, especially my body. But after a lot of thinking & praying on this I do believe I can share some wisdom & what finally clicked for me in hopes that I can answer some of the frequently asked questions to help guide another health journey for the better. I want to also preface by stating the obvious, what has worked for me does not necessarily work for others. I am not a doctor, nutritionist, or fitness instructor in any sense of it all. I am just a girl who was fed up with being tired, inflamed, & overall not living a healthy lifestyle. About 19 months ago I really started on this journey full force after reaching a low in so many ways. The results may have seemed quick to you, but it’s been a very long journey to where I’m at & I am not done, but let’s celebrate the progress together today & go over what worked for me…
Before you read ahead:
You are beautiful. You are amazing. You are worthy. You do not need to lose weight to have more value. You are valuable the way you are right now in this very moment no matter what size you are or where you are at in your journey. Your health & happiness is most important overall. You should eat to feel fueled, satisfied, & happy. Your health journey will look different than everyone else’s so don’t compare yourself or your journey to anyone. I loved me then & I love me now. I am not ashamed of either person & I’m proud of both for trying. Here are some very scattered thoughts of my health journey that I hope make sense in the end…
Two years ago:
A few days ago I put a question box on Instagram, looking for questions people had regarding my health journey. Here are the questions, and my answers:
What was the turning point that made you make the changes in your health?
This is a great question to start the post. I knew I wanted to be healthier in general, but especially for Cope. Unknowingly at the time, I didn’t necessarily see all the unhealthy decisions, and in-turn, the results, I was forcing onto my body. I knew I no longer looked forward to going for walks outside, I noticed areas in my life that should be effortless, tasking, and at this point I wanted to change something. Little things like putting my shoes on were hard for me to do, none of my clothes fit, & I just felt uncomfortable in my own skin. I also had a few doctor visits where the doctors highly recommended losing weight & leading a cleaner lifestyle. I ignored it for a very long time & tried a few times, but never gave it enough effort to really see a change so I would give up. I truly think in order to make big changes & stick to them you need to make that decision on your own & truly want to change no matter what it takes. I reached a low & I needed to change in order to keep going.
Where did you start?
I started with the mindset of wanting it to be a forever change & not just a “quick fix diet” like I had tried so many times. I finally realized there was no secret pill, drink, or diet that would instantly make me healthier & that it would be a combination of many changes that I needed to make myself. So I started making one small change at a time. Cutting things out, moving more, adding in supplements, & so on. I knew that in order to completely change my lifestyle I had to do it slowly & steadily or I would give up. With each small change I started to feel better so it motivated me to keep going. Knowing from the beginning that nothing is instant & it all takes time & patience was really helpful. I started going to the gym first, then after a while of doing that I started to change my diet up, & after that I kept making small changes slowly so that they all became a habit.
Just how did you do it?
Learning, being firm, being consistent, & developing better habits.
The short answer is, learning about what foods I need to put into my body and general exercising. It may sound silly, but I never taught myself how to eat or move for my health. I don’t obsess over numbers, in fact I refuse to weigh myself, because that isn’t what matters to me, it’s making healthier decisions every day to better my body to hopefully keep me healthier longer for many years to come. The details on how I specifically changed are like most, before I would just jump on supplement recommendations, a few diet fads, but also like most, nothing stuck. Jose and I joined a local gym, and I started my exercise journey doing an incline treadmill, while Jose would go weight-lift. I felt great just getting my body moving. After a few months, Jose convinced me to join him in weight lifting and we began working out together. I loved moving my body, but I was a little shocked that I wasn’t seeing a huge difference in my body. This is roughly when I started taking my diet into consideration along with moving my body more.
The first two steps to correcting my diet was portion control and learning more about proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Prior to changing my diet, I would consume whatever and whenever I wanted. I remember the year prior, we would visit DQ on an every other week basis for either ice cream or ice cream cake. I drank almost a 2 liter of cherry coke every single day. I didn’t portion control & I had no idea how many calories or nutritional value anything I was eating added up to for the day. I now prioritized adding more proteins into my diet, ensuring I am getting my daily recommended dose of fiber, and continue to learn how my body responds to foods. The body burns more energy breaking down protein, and how it uses fats and carbs, and re prioritizing those foods that are higher in some ingredients than others, has truly transformed my cravings and fat burning.
A great tool when you are learning about how food is broken down, look at the nutrient information on everything. It breaks down, your carbs, fats, and proteins, adds it all up to total calories. You can find free calorie calculators online for your height, weight, and ideal body weight. This isn’t necessarily completely accurate, but my goal was to truly identify how much “energy” I use, and doing my best to be in a calorie deficit, each day, or relatively over the week. If you really want help tracking this information, there are great mobile apps out there like “myfitnesspal” that allows for you to scan the barcode and get all the exact nutrient information to be logged. Jose used the apps for a while, I did not. All I used what my ideal daily calorie intake and made conscious effort to what I was consuming… this was the biggest impact to my journey I think.
The biggest thing I learned is what foods work for me & I am so thankful it comes naturally now. I truly was very ignorant before now about calories in and how much I was consuming daily & now I feel like I can make better decisions & know what my body needs to fuel it properly. Through this journey I have learned to listen to my body more & that’s been a huge positive change.
How did you heal your inflammation?
This was a big part of my health journey from the beginning. To be honest with you, I didn’t really know about inflammation, what it was, that I was struggling with it, or how to heal from it. This is another thing that you should check with your doctor about & do your own research because it’s different for everyone. My issues came from inflammatory PCOS which leads to obesity. I always think of it as some people can eat the way I was eating & live the way I was living without any issues, but for my body, sugary foods & processed foods lead to excess inflammation in my body so I needed to start eating an anti-inflammatory diet to combat that side effect of my PCOS & take supplements to fight it as well. Omega-3 foods, vegetables, high fiber, & less processed foods & sugary foods.
I also worked very hard on my gut health. Healing your gut can help immensely with weight loss & overall health. I started taking probiotics, taking apple cider vinegar daily, & consuming a lot more fiber to get my gut back on track. Drinking more water, moving my body more, & trying more greens daily. There are many other ways to heal your gut, but that was where I started & saw a huge difference right away. Look into turmeric & foods that are anti-inflammatory that are great to eat no matter who you are.
I would do a lot of reading & research supplements to heal & nurture your gut health.
What small changes made the biggest impact on how you felt?
During my cherry coke phase I hardly drank ANY water at all. Adding in water daily made such a huge difference & that can seem really obvious, but for many of us I think it’s something we push to the side & don’t really see the importance in. Well, turns out it’s very important. Drinking water helped me mentally, physically, & emotionally really. I became more regular, less bloated, & my cycles became more regular when I upped my water game.
Going to the chiropractor seemed like a small change in the beginning, but it turned out to be a huge contributor in my health journey. I truly think getting my body all aligned helped so much in allowing my body to do what it needed to do & function properly. Such a great decision!!
Just saying “no”. It actually feels powerful and rewarding to say no to things. I started saying no to food when I wasn’t hungry just because it was there or being offered. I started saying no to desserts & no to certain foods when they were being offered & not feeling bad about those decisions when we were out or with other people. I’m a people pleaser to my core, but for my health I started say no & guess what? no one was offended & I felt much better.
I am a sauce-lover. I love sauces with everything! When I started looking at the calorie counts of items, to include sauces, I was shocked. My beloved chick-fil-a dipping sauce is 140 calories in one little dipping container. I wanted my diet choices to stick, and I knew that being overly strict wouldn’t last, I wanted to continue to eat my favorite food like pizza, and better small decisions, would help me keep those favorite meals on my plate. Making changes like my 140 calorie chick-fil-a sauce (that I would easily finish off 3 dip containers), to 45 calorie barbecue or 50 calorie honey mustard are the small victories that get you to your goal. Reading the nutrient information on your common things will help you portion control your intake, and help you understand foods, to a point where you can guess (pretty accurately) most of your frequent items to curb your intake int he right direction. The key for me to making everything stick is not to obsess over any aspect of weight loss, from calorie counting, overall weight number, or body fat percentage. If you change you mindset to making smarter diet decisions every single day, you would be surprised with the success you’ll have.
Consistency. This was a small change with a HUGE impact. Every other time I tried to get healthy and make better decisions I was never consistent & then I would just say that “nothing works”, but what I didn’t know is just how consistent you need to be & for a long time to see results. It’s hard in the beginning when you are not seeing big results to be motivated to keep going, but trust me.. the one key thing is consistency.
More Weight lifting/cardio, or both?
For me, I found the most significant transformation shortly after I started weight lifting. When Jose and I started going to the gym, he would weight-lift and I would walk on the treadmill at an incline. It was great, but when you break down the difference between calories burned, all within the target heart range for burning fat, I found it more efficient in my 45 minutes workout time each morning. The bigger muscles like your back and legs require more energy to use for exercise, and also burns more energy for repair. I am not talking about lifting heavy weights. I am talking about lifting weights slowly, steadily, & with purpose & resistance. I was intimidated by weight lifting, but thankfully Jose taught me some very simple weight lifting exercises for each group of muscles.
How has your journey helped your PCOS symptoms?
One of my lifelong issues is tied to my PCOS has been all about regularity (or lack their of) in my cycles. While on my health journey, I have noticed a few steps closer to regularity. Not perfect, but definitely more frequent. This is very important, as I have never been regular, so it goes to show, your current weight or BMI does not necessarily coincide with health. When I was younger I was on the smaller side, and the fact that I am adding the right elements into my body, and it drastically changing, proves that you need to be conscious with your journey and cannot just close your eyes and apply a general diet, listen to your body. I still struggle with PCOS & hormone imbalance, but I have noticed my acne, mood, & cycles have all leveled out & it makes me cry sometimes after years of suffering with inflammation from all of these things.
I remember never having clear skin & having painful cysts all along my jaw line, being super bloated & swollen in my face & all over my body, & not getting a period for a whole year. I truly thought I was going to have to live with these things. It turns out that cutting most sugar, upping my water intake, & eating a little cleaner was the best medicine for my PCOS.
Go to snack that actually fills you up?
Currently my nearly every day snack is chopped apples (honey crisps to be exact), peanut butter, a few chocolate chips, a small serving of fiber, and protein powder. I mix it together, and sometimes add a splash of oat milk or almond milk to lighten the texture. Mix all but the apples together, and when you eat, I place a layer onto of the apples and have at it. I have found that basically mixing protein powder with anything like pudding, peanut butter, & other great recipes you can look up is so filling & can satisfy your sweet tooth. Plus more protein is great for weight loss & gives you great energy!
How much weight did you lose?
Here is the fun fact, I have not weighed myself in over 19 months. When I started, I weighed myself for a starting weight, but as I continued on the journey I didn’t want to feel tempted to judge my progress in numbers, but understand that my progress is putting better foods into my body. So, I still haven’t weighed myself as I don’t want to obsess over the number. Even at the doctors I asked to turn around & for them to not tell me my weight. I simply asked them to give a review of what they thought of it & let me know if I was on the right track & healthy. They were happy to do that & it has made this journey a lot easier. I do know I lost a lot of weight as my clothing sizes have changed, but what I work for every day: Feeling healthy, energized, & fulfilled. Will I weight myself? I might soon. I just don’t have the urge to do it quite yet.
Any tips on how to stay consistent with change? How to stay motivated?
For me this was a “get healthy” eat “healthy” motivator. That never changes, and the struggles I had in the past was if I set goals like a weight or size of jeans, once I achieved that goal it was hard to continue to stay motivated. The endless goal of healthy living is something I wake up and decide to do each and everyday without any struggle and regret about decisions I am making. For me obsessing over numbers & sizes was discouraging so just having the desire to be healthier every day is great motivator.
Of course when you start seeing results after you are consistent is a HUGE motivator, but of course that comes with time. If you are reading this I just want you to know that it really is just consistency that works as far as losing weight or seeing any results. I learned that the hard way, but oh my it was so worth being consistent!
Did you consult with anyone about your journey?
Besides my routine doctor office visits & weekly Chiro visits, the biggest step for me was figuring out my mental health & regulating meds. That journey is ever changing & of course the end goal for me would be to not have to take anything, but for now I am still being treated for my anxiety/depression/adhd & I’ve worked for over a year of trying to build better habits, use self control, & regulate my emotions. I have found that a diet change has really helped with a lot of this thankfully.
How tall are you, your BMI now?
I am 5’2″. I have no idea how much I weigh and my BMI. I found it very helpful to know this in the beginning as a BMI calculator online can let you know roughly how many calories daily will allow you to lose weight, but after that I’ve left it up to my doctor for now.
What’s your current calorie intake?
Roughly 1,800 to 2,200 calories each day. Again, I don’t obsess over these numbers & really just eat to feel fueled. I don’t let myself be “hungry” or not energized as that was the entire point of my health journey. So when I was actively trying to lose weight if I was hungry after my calories were “up” I never restricted food & it still worked. I feel like if I was strict with myself I wouldn’t have stuck to it or made it my new lifestyle.
Do you eat sugar?
Yes, as most foods have sugars, but I have cut out a lot of items I was eating and drinking before. Example, I no longer drink soda, I have cut out all cookies, cakes, sugary snacks. I love replacing all of these things with fruits, peanut butters, & zero sugar added chocolate daily. I do not think that everyone has to do this, but for me it helped to cut it all cold turkey because I do struggle with moderation so it was easier to just say no to it all.
What do you do for daily movement?
I have added in routine visits to the chiropractor, and chasing a little 3 year old around. We tend to the farm here, and will be returning back to the gym this fall. I love walking!! I don’t do long distances, but little walks make me feel good. We are also setting up our treadmill in a gym area in our home that I hope to use daily as well. I’ll keep you posted. Writing about this makes me want to get back into lifting weights… I’m even motivating myself!
Biggest attributions to your weight loss, inflammation, supplements, hormones?
One of the biggest things I recommend everyone do is to work with your doctor and get a full panel to check all of your vitamin levels and general bloodwork. This is help with any additional supplements that you may be deficient in. Getting your body back to neutral, is the a great step forward in your health journey. Also being your own health advocate. I know for me I have suffered through 11 miscarriages, pcos, & more so I had to stand up for myself & ask for things to be checked/tested. You know your body best! I think the biggest thing was finding the right balance for me. Not over exercising, not over eating, & not being over restrictive. That looks different for everyone, but in that balance I found happiness & peace both physically & mentally.
I am daily Alani Nu kinda gal. Do we think they are bad? so stinking good.
I am no health expert & I’m sure they would just tell you to only drink water, but Alani Nu kicked off my health journey. I had a weird (and I mean weird) obsessions with cherry coke. Needing something with caffeine I found Alani Nu, while we were in Sarasota Florida’s a few years ago. I loved the low 10 calorie count, and the high caffeine. I was able to phase out my cherry coke obsession and substitute it with an Alani Nu and water, a much better combination than cherry coke. Now nothing is better than just plain old water, so I’m sure there are some con’s to having one or two Alani’s in a day, but for me I kicked my soda habit and add in much more water than I previously was drinking. They helped me in a big way so I’m just thankful for them!
Are you at a weight that you are comfortable with?
I don’t weigh myself, so hard to say yes or no to this. I do feel healthier, more energetic, more limber, and have a lot more fun chasing a toddler around. That was always the goal, and I’ll continue to do my best to generally make smarter decisions when it comes to what and how much I eat. A while back I started to up my calories because I didn’t want to lose any more weight. Even though I don’t weigh myself I was comfortable where I was at so I upped my calories & from what I can tell I’ve maintained & maybe gained a little, but I feel comfortable & that’s all that matters.
Did you do anything with regards to checking your hormonal balances?
I did not, but I still want to. Jose did have a full panel bloodwork done, as he constantly battles fatigue. He could fall asleep after drinking a few energy drinks and a coffee. I highly recommend everyone do this, because more times than none we are all deficient in something, most commonly Vitamin D. Some vitamins are so hard to achieve recommended levels just from diets, you need to purchase supplements. I love the idea of targeting those areas specifically. The tough part about fixing vitamin deficiencies is that it takes a while to really adjust, something we all don’t have patients with. I supplement vitamins pretty heavily, and need to get updated bloodwork done to see where I am truly at.
Tips on maintaining self discipline?
Change the mind to healthy living, rather than weight or pant size goals. Because what happens when you achieve it is that you get mad at yourself if you fluctuate in the wrong direction, or become so obsessed it can become unhealthy. Make better decisions daily and you’ll feel better – plain and simple. Giving yourself grace & not developing such strict boundaries that if you fail you want to give up.
Do you count calories?
Not really anymore. In the beginning to lose weight I did & that is truly what helped me drop the pounds. I have a pretty routine morning and afternoon as far as eating & I’ve found eating the same foods daily has helped me stay on track. From there I know that I am only about 800-1000 calories in, this allows for me to have some pretty large meals and even a nightly subtle snack to maintain my deficiency. This is of course different for everyone. I know there are many people who love large breakfast meals, but for me I have never liked a big breakfast & I’m more of a large dinner kind of gal. After a while of counting calories it became second nature of knowing what foods had what calories & then I could just add it loosely in my head to know if I was in range. After a while the habits started sticking so I no longer have to count as much. Developing habits of the past year has truly allowed me to be free of counting calories or obsessing over numbers.
What did you omit from diet?
I try not to drink my calories. I just find no joy in it, but for some that love those tasty treats from Starbucks have at it, and work it into your planning. I have fully cut out soda, and Jose and I have not permittaly omitted it, but have removed a lot of red meat from our diets. Red meat does have some links to inflammation of the body, and Jose is pretty convinced that he doesn’t need it and you’ll usually catch him going the chicken, turkey, or fish route. I do struggle with dairy, so I have removed ice cream from my routine foods, but that’s simply tied to not responding well. I love finding ways to enjoy a little sugary sweets like adding chocolate chips to a nightly snack with apples and peanut butter, but generally try not to slide down the slippery slope of straight candy and dessert. Again, some people may be able to do this, but for me it’s best to not start as I struggle with portion control & needing it every day,
Best tips on maintaining healthy habits and not reverting back?
Find the reason for the change and do your best to flip the switch. Jose and I, do eat our fair share of fast-food, pizza, and hot dogs, but we make the conscious decision during the day and mostly during the week to pick the naturally grown fruits and vegetables. Its crazy how fast you start craving stuff like apples and grapes, when you just add it into a routine a few times a week. My parents just started looking at their diet along with walking a little bit more, and man the changes already. My dad says today, he rarely drank water over the years, now its all he drinks and he craves it all of the time. Seeing my parents make small changes & see big results so quickly has furthered my believe that you don’t need to be restrictive to completely change your life.
Did you follow PCOS recs to go gluten free/dairy free?
We were actually gluten free for 7 years or so. This is the time period I gained the most wait. When I found sweets that I enjoy that were gluten free, I would over indulge. I’d find ways to supplement those items what weren’t gluten free and those decisions weren’t always the best. In 2020, we were having a hard time finding… well everything, so we slowly walked away from a gluten free diet. It took some getting use to, but neither of us are super sensitive, but more did it in hopes of correction any PCOS and fertility issues we were having. We are still non-gluten free, but generally speaking we unconsciously limit those gluten items, just based on the items we eat. I have a problem with straight dairy, so if I do have milk I am typically using oat milk or almond milk.
What are your daily “go-to” foods for energy?
Protiens, Peanut Butter, Fruits, & just Whole Foods in general I have noticed just make me feel good.
Do you intermittent fast?
I want to start this answer off by please everyone do your own research to determine if this is something for you. Jose does this a few times a week, and loves it. I’m not a breakfast person, so I do it, but it’s kind of a natural thing for me. You can easily google it to get a more credible definition, but we believe in the information regarding insulin and glucagon functions and how intermittent fasting manipulates them. Insulin and glucagon are a push/pull type of relationship, meaning when one goes up, the other goes down. Both are responsible for maintaining balanced blood sugar levels and metabolism, but the goal of intermittent fasting is to allow the body to fully process the last meal, to allow the glucagon hormone to take the front seat to break down the macromolecules (stored fat), and stay front and center much longer than it would when following the standard American diet we are so used. Every time we eat, our insulin levels spike while the body is trying to figure out what to do with the food you ate, insulin is all about absorption and storing (again opposite of glucagon). Once the insulin hormone is done, the glucagon steps in. The problem with the standard American diet (in our opinion), on top of heavy calorie intake, it leaves very little time for the hormone of glucagon to do its job. From a full breakfast, lunch, and dinner, by the time your insulin levels start to drop to allow glucagon to take over, we are sitting down for the next meal & start all over again. I read somewhere a moderate to large dinner, will take the body up to 8 hours to have insulin levels drop back down. If you have dinner around 6, it won’t be until 3-4am for glucagon to get moving, and a few short hours later, we are up and ready for breakfast.
Now when you hear the word fasting, most people think days and weeks without eating… that is not the case. The way we do intermittent fasting is we typically just will skip breakfast one day and resume eating around lunch time, maybe even have a little later lunch depending on how we are feeling that day. We’ll still do a cup of coffee in the morning, but other than that, its allowing the body to fully process and break down food start at 7pm, and not eating again until 11am-1pm the following day. This is all about balance & it’s not for everyone, but I have seen good results from it for us.
Did you take diet pills?
I am not sure there is truly a magic diet pill.. maybe there is, but I wouldn’t recommend just that over creating a better lifestyle. No diet pills, surgeries, or quick fixes. Just better decisions every single day that over time made a huge difference.
What supplements do you take?
A short list: Fish oil, magnesium, zinc, vitamin D, turmeric, DIM, NAC, probiotic, prebiotic, turmeric & a few more that have changed along my journey. But this is super personal to everyones individual journey & should be treated as such. If this is something you want to see more of I can share that in a later post.
Can you simplify what you did to get where you are?
-cut out a lot of/most of sugars & processed foods.
-move your body every day in some intentional way.
-lift light weights.
-eat a lot more fiber & protein.
-consume lots more fruits, vegetables, & healthy fats in all my meals.
-calculate your BMI.
-learn calories in foods & how much you are consuming vs. how much you need to consume daily to lose weight.
-get more sleep.
-drink a lot more water.
-stretch & work on flexibility/mobility
-check hormones/vitamin levels
-be kind to yourself.
I’m sure that is not it, but I wanted to answer some of the FAQ’s for you guys because I know it can be daunting on where to even start. I will update the post if any more frequent questions come up. I do hope this helps in some small way to someone. xx