Here is the full story of my 100+ pound weight loss (plus some resources)

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promI was always a chubby kid. I remember wearing shorts in 5th grade and hating the way my thighs looked. I lost 20 pounds in the beginning of high school by experimenting with diet pills, not eating breakfast and only having a 20 ounce bottle of Wild Cherry Pepsi for lunch (yes, really!). But I was never happy with myself. At 5’2″ and 150lbs, I was still not within my normal BMI weight range. It wasn’t long until I started to regain the weight and was a bit over 200lbs by senior year. In February, my parents paid me to quit my sedentary after-school job and go to the gym instead. I got down to 190lbs by graduation.

beforeWW

But a summer traveling through Europe and then sitting at home with nothing to do soon got my weight back up. And first semester of college didn’t help any. The “Freshman 15”? It was the “Freshman 30” for me. When I joined Weight Watchers in January 2005, I was at 231.6lbs and officially at my highest weight ever. It took me two and a half years but I lost 90lbs with their program. I was down to 140lbs by the time I graduated school a year early. But going out after turning 21 and starting a full time job that summer took its toll on me. I slowly started to regain the weight and was 175lbs by the end of the year.

postWW

That New Year’s, I met somebody who loved my body for everything I didn’t. I had never had anyone appreciate me that much and it wasn’t long before I stopped paying attention to myself. I refused to cancel my Weight Watchers membership even though I never went to meetings anymore and had pretty much given up. A year later, I had regained 80 of the 90 pounds that I had spent two and a half years losing in college.

I realized for the first time that not only was I clinically obese, but I was exactly .5 points away from being classified as “morbidly obese.” I was terrified. But no matter how much I tried to lose the weight (and trust me, I did anything I could think of), it wasn’t working for me anymore. I tried diet pills again, Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, exercising more and eating less, but my weight simply wouldn’t budge. My lifelong issues with emotional and compulsive eating had completely taken over my life.

Colombia

And so, in January 2009, I made the scariest and best decision I could make for myself at the time: I elected to have weight loss surgery. Per my parent’s suggestion, I traveled with my mom to see a family doctor in Barranquilla, Colombia, and had a gastric bypass.

I read a ton of books about the pro and cons of WLS and ultimately decided that it was the right choice for me. It’s not that I wanted an easy way to lose weight, it’s that I wanted a lifelong tool to help me lose and keep the weight off. Nothing else was working for me anymore, and I couldn’t stand the thought of it getting worse and my health deteriorating further.

postsurgery

A year later, I reached 120 pounds in weight (my very lowest!) though I quickly found that this number wasn’t ultimately healthy or sustainable for me. Despite losing the weight again fairly quickly, one thing I took away from this experience is that weight loss surgery, like Weight Watchers, is just a tool to help you. In the past, I learned the hard way that the most difficult part of it all isn’t losing the excess weight but maintaining your weight loss over time.

It’s now been almost eight years since I first got my surgery and, to be honest, it can still be a daily struggle. But by cooking and eating healthier, along with regularly going to the gym (something I’m still working on), I am keeping the weight off. Currently, I am happily settled around 140 pounds. It’s a number that has proven sustainable and, although it took a while for me to accept, I’m now (mostly) happy with my body.

I hope that by sharing my weight loss story, healthy eating adventures and everything else in between — mainly on this blog, in the articles below and in an upcoming book — I will continue to keep the weight off as well as inspire others on their own weight loss journey.

Resources & Articles I’ve Written

Disclaimer: I am not medically capable of giving anyone advice about their own weight loss journey. If you are interested in hearing more about my own personal experience or have questions about what a gastric bypass is like and how it’s affected my life, please feel free to e-mail me here. But do not take anything I say as the word of a medical professional. Please consult with your doctor about any serious thoughts you have about weight loss surgery.

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How my boyfriend got me to eat healthy again (and visa versa)

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Sometimes it takes falling in love to remind you of some of the things that are important to you. For me, that something was healthy eating.

I have quite a complicated relationship with food. After a lifetime of being overweight, losing 90 pounds with Weight Watchers in college, regaining most of it shortly after and finally getting a gastric bypass in 2009, I’m finally settled at a weight that I am happy and comfortable in.

Unlike many people who have had weight loss surgery, I’ve been able to maintain (most of) my 100 pound weight loss. I did it largely thanks to embracing healthy eating and starting to exercise (kinda, sorta, sometimes, maybe… okay, I’m still working on this!). Mostly, I went back to the kitchen and taught myself how to cook healthier meals.

For a while, I was what I called a “flexitarian” – a part-time vegetarian while I focused primarily on trying to actually find vegetables that I enjoyed eating. It took many years but I’m now happy to report that I eat a varied diet full of leafy greens, healthy fats, whole grains and plenty more things that are typically found on the Good For You list.

But what also happened over the many years since I initially lost weight and forced myself to eat better is that I went from an 80/20 approach to healthy eating to… well, a lot less than that.

You see, as I gained more and more experience as a food writer and editor, my culinary tastes became fancier and a helluva lot more complicated. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy kale and quinoa anymore, but that now there was just SO MUCH variety and so many new dishes to explore that I kept on exploring – even if that dish wasn’t what anyone would call “healthy.”

I was mostly happy with my diet, but at the same time I also knew that it wasn’t my ideal. My weight is about 15 pounds higher than my Goal Weight (ugh) and I noticed that I was eating a lot of meat and animal products and, often, eating a LOT more of them than veggies.

That’s where my life was in April of this year: I had a vague goal to lose a little weight and to go back to focusing on eating much healthier, but I didn’t really have a huge push to do so.

Until I met Adam the vegetarian.

He told me about his food preference early on. In fact, we talked about food for at least half of our four hour first date, and I liked it that way. I discovered that he had become vegetarian just over a year ago, and that he was what I would call a “transitional vegetarian” (also: lazy vegetarian) who still largely depended on meat substitutes and tons of cheese pizza.

Not that there’s anything wrong with pizza, mind you, but part of my journey into the food world meant that I fell in love with clean eating – meaning I try to avoid processed foods as much as possible. Faux chicken and bacon is just NOT the way to go, in my opinion.

I know that many people who go vegetarian or vegan tend to depend on these meat substitutes for the majority of their protein needs, especially early on, but I immediately wanted to get Adam away from that mindset. Or at least steer him toward some other options as well.

And so it began!

Slowly but surely, exploring healthier eating with him made me go back to my healthier eating habits too.

I would estimate that, by the time we met, I almost never had an entirely vegetarian or vegan meal (unlike when I was eating at least one of those a day, about six years ago). These days, things are MUCH different.

As we got closer, fell in love (pause for “awwwwwww”) and moved in together shortly after, I realized that keeping my meat-heavy diet just wasn’t an option. The only solution? Going semi-vegetarian again.

After Adam chose to go pescatarian with me during our Whole30 experiment, our house became pretty much veggie-only. It never made much sense to me to cook one meal for him and another for me, so I don’t.

Instead, he’s remained pescatarian-ish (with a LOT less fish than during Whole30) and I’ve remained flexitarian-ish.

When we go out to dinner, I let myself off the hook and order chicken or steak or pork if that’s what I really want. But more often than not, especially in the last month, I find myself still sticking to our pescatarian way of life.

Just as we share our healthy meals at home, I’ve found pleasure in sharing our meals at restaurants too. If he orders the Thai tofu with broccoli dish, I might order the spicy scallops with brown rice. When he goes for the Buffalo shrimp appetizer, I opt for the mussels and French fries. We ask for a side Caesar salad to share, and dinner is set.

Now that he’s accidentally pushed me back into the healthier eating habits, I’ve been feeling much better. During Whole30 and before, I couldn’t resist a good chicken quesadilla or scrumptious carnitas tacos. These days, while I still sometimes indulge in those things, I don’t find myself going for meaty dishes quite as often.

And for Adam? Well, there’s no more “fake” chicken strips as a go-to lunch in his freezer. Instead, I make us a brown rice and lentil dish or veggie frittata. 

While I can’t exactly speak for someone else (even my life partner), I’m pretty happy with the way we have inspired each other to eat better. Sure, we still indulge in pizza once a week. And yes, brunch almost always consists of an ooey gooey French toast. But more often than not, our meals are on the healthy side. They include real ingredients, plenty of vegetables and definitely *lots* of love.

It still surprises me that falling in love is what reminded me how important it is to eat (mostly) healthy. But boy, am I glad it did! After all, I’d like to stick around for a LONG time to enjoy my life with him. And if that means a lot more veggies and a lot less meat, I’m cool with it.

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Why I quit Whole30 early (and why it’s probably not for everyone)

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I woke up this morning feeling pretty great about myself.

The sun was shining, my skin looked good and my stomach was feeling pretty happy with me. The only problem? It’s what should have been the start of Day 22 of my Whole30 adventures and I was feeling GREAT – after having officially quit the night before.

The last full day of my Whole30 was technically a few days before, on Day 18. You see, although it was not at all intentional earlier in the week, I realized that I just couldn’t do it anymore.

About halfway through the afternoon on Day 19, I absolutely positively snapped. No amount of encouraging texts from my boyfriend (who I dragged into doing this with me) were helping. I was writing a freelance piece on July 4th desserts and DESPERATE FOR A BROWNIE.

But that’s not what made me give up.

The reason why I quit that day wasn’t because the Sugar Dragon was calling or because I couldn’t take a deep breath and wait out my craving. It was because I had started to realize that the frustrations I felt with being a food writer and doing Whole30 at the same time were no longer worth it. It wasn’t fair to myself, my body or my mental health that I was launching into a full-on rage right around 3 or 4pm every day for the past week. I refused to do that to myself.

That wasn’t the only reason, however.

I also realized that I was starting to enter into some seriously disordered eating habits (NO, THANKS!) and that, at the end of the day, I wasn’t really seeing many benefits from Whole30.

I was sleeping fine, but I always slept fine. My skin was clear, but my skin was always clear. My stomach didn’t hurt or feel awkward, but that never happened anyway.

I realized that my reasons for trying Whole30 were kind of flimsy in the first place. I wasn’t someone who suffered from unhealthy eating habits or was a subscriber to the SAD diet (that’s Standard American Diet for those not in the know). I ate pretty well and I felt pretty good and I was very happy with my body and my weight.

So what exactly was my reason for doing Whole30 in the first place?

Well, I was snacking a bit too much before. And I was most definitely drinking too much soda and eating too much candy.

But like… that’s it? These things could have been easily fixed by a low sugar diet for a couple of weeks. Instead, I opted to push through for a Whole30 to figure out if I had any sensitivities to foods that the plan asks you to give up – namely, legumes, grains and dairy.

I already knew I was consuming too much sugar, so no problem there. And I no longer drink alcohol, so not really something I had to give up in the first place. But part of me wanted to say I DID IT just to say I did it and the other part of me was genuinely curious.

Yet as me and boyfriend got into the third week of our mostly pescatarian Whole30 (he’s a vegetarian who I convinced to eat fish just for this experiment, and MAYBE later if he wanted to), neither of us were really feeling any benefits because the truth was we didn’t really NEED them.

Neither of us had ever suffered from the kind of stomach ailments that often hurt those who are lactose intolerant or suffer from gluten sensitivities. The truth is neither of us really suffered from any real side effects, diseases or ailments to speak of – just your basic sugar crash when we knew we had too much.

We both knew how to eat healthy, and almost always did. He had been consuming a bit too much soy and definitely too many processed foods since becoming a vegetarian a year ago, but didn’t really need to go to the extreme of a Paleo-like diet to do away with that.

Did we learn? ABSOLUTELY.

I learned that making frittatas is the BEST THING EVER. It’s an easy brunch dish on lazy Saturday mornings, a quick lunch when the boyfriend comes home during the week and a simple dinner for when I’m too tired or lazy to make anything else.

I learned that snacking is still essential for me, someone who lost weight through a gastric bypass and therefore I can’t eat normal people portions ANYWAY. If I stuck to a “three meals a day” rule, I’d starve. And the boyfriend had to snack too due to needing extra fat and calories from non-animal proteins (namely, guacamole and nuts) to not lose all of the muscle mass he’d been building the past couple of years.

I learned that knowing how to make a baked fish with roasted veggies was my favorite weeknight dinner that takes almost no effort. I would splash some olive or coconut oil on my sheet tray, lay salmon or sea bass or mahi mahi in the middle and then spread chopped veggies all around. Sometimes it was green beans, sometimes it was broccoli, sometimes it was potatoes or (my favorite) a mix of different veggies. I’d top it all with salt and pepper, as well as whatever other spice I was in the mood for that day. And then I would stick it all in a 350F-heated oven for roughly 20 minutes. Voila! Easy peasy yummy dinner.

I learned that there’s sugar in EVERYTHING you can buy in a store, ever. Well, let me rephrase that: I reminded myself of that and also taught the boyfriend that. Yes, it was difficult to buy spices, condiments, dressings, sauces, etc, because almost everything has added sugar. But, at the same time, it’s also easy to avoid. You just read the label and put the jar/can/bottle back if it mentions any kind of sugar or other not-natural sounding ingredient. So, really, we ate hella healthy the whole time.

And ultimately, I learned that Whole30 just isn’t for me.

I know that some devotees (many of whom I am friends with) will argue that I just didn’t do it right. That by doing a pescatarian version, I was dooming myself from the start. That by quitting early, I never got to the point at the end when I’d feel that Tiger Blood or whatever. That I cheated myself by not finishing. That I don’t really GET IT anyway.

But I feel good about my decision. I know what my body was telling me, and it was telling me that none of this was really all that necessary. And luckily, the boyfriend’s body was saying the same.

Do you know how I know? Because last night, after already testing to see if we had any sensitivities to legumes, we had pizza.

We had a full-gluten pizza with tons of dairy cheese after not having either for three weeks. And we felt TOTALLY FINE.

Neither of us got sick or overly tired. Neither of us is exhausted or has pain this morning. Neither of us is irritable or suffering from any of the other emotional or physical side-effects we could be.

Instead, we enjoyed our pizza. And we lay on the couch watching a movie, seeing if anything would happen. If either of us had a sensitivity to dairy OR to gluten, we’d have known it. TRUST ME.

I know I’m right there, because I remember the tales I’ve heard from friends who DO have a sensitivity to either of these. And even giving them up for three weeks should have put us over the edge when reintroducing them. But there was no edge to be had. Instead, our stomachs were fine and our brains did a big YIPPEE.

Sure, sugar can still be a major craving but we avoided ordering soda last night too, something that I have NEVER been able to do before when ordering pizza. That’s about it, though.

We don’t plan to go back to eating sugar all the time. In fact, we agreed to only allow ourselves soda when we go to the movies (and a small one at that!). I’m not sure when I’ll want to try eating candy again, but I do know that I’d like a real and really nice so-totally-worth-it decadent dessert. Perhaps a creme brûlée. Because if you’re going to do dessert post-Whole30, then you better do it right.

Overall, Whole30 did EXACTLY what I wanted it to: it kicked my butt back into eating even healthier than I already have been. But it wasn’t and never would have been sustainable for me.

Instead, I am going to focus on what I already know: my body feels best with a Greek yogurt for breakfast (hold the honey, though), a high-protein lunch, fruit and baby carrots and guacamole and hummus and nuts for snacks… and a healthy dinner. I know that I really enjoy a cup of black tea with a little bit of sugar at the end of the day, or sometimes at the start of the day too. And I know that I also enjoy the mental clarity of NOT STRESSING over having a few indulgent meals throughout the week.

And if those indulgent meals include pizza or French Toast once a week… Well, so be it! After all, as I always remind even myself, eating 80% as healthy as possible is what works for me. And the other 20%? Well, I just don’t worry about it – and that’s good for my body AND my mental health.

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The 6 healthy food trends you NEED this year

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This was probably one of the most fun stories I’ve written in a while. Partially because it’s a topic that I am very passionate about (healthy eating FTW!) but also because I got to talk to some of the top food bloggers, writers and editors about what their thoughts were on the healthy trends we all need to conquer in 2016.

I admit: there were many other trends we all talked about, but these six are a great first start. So what are you waiting for?!

Check out my story on the 6 healthy food trends you should be trying right now on Brit+Co!

And please do me a favor and follow their sites:

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My 6 food resolutions for 2016

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When it comes to starting the year off right, we all make New Year’s Resolutions that are often pretty much dropped by the time February rolls around. I’m certainly guilty of it, year after year after year.

That’s why this year I’m doing things a little differently. Instead of setting broad goals like “lose weight” or “save money,” I’m making food resolutions that are going to help me feel a little better, eat a little better and do a little better in general.

They involve things like eating healthy fats (whoa!) and cooking new foods. So far, I’ve been pretty successful with my goals – and I can’t wait to tackle all of them throughout the year.

Ready to take your own cooking and eating habits to new heights? Check out the 6 easy-to-make food resolutions for 2016 on Brit+Co!

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