I'm talking weight loss this week. If you missed The Prologue, Part One, Part Two or Part Three check them out first. If you are not into this kind of stuff, here is your warning: Go ahead and skip this one.
The important thing to say about the challenge of weight loss is that it is not the only challenge. Sometimes it's painted as this constant, overwhelming daily dramatic struggle with oneself and I think it doesn't have to be that way. It is not always your fault and it is not an indicator of Who You Are. Sometimes we are just missing a key piece of information -- a life changing efficiency, even. Sometimes we are dealing with more than one thing at a time and (OMG) losing weight is not the Most! Important! Thing!
That is not to say that I don't think being overweight is hard -- it is hard. But so is losing a parent, being in debt, having relationship problems, and not getting along with members of my family. It’s ALL hard but we rise to the occasion and fight the good fight and relish the successes we do have. And I think that viewpoint is underrepresented in the whole weight loss oeuvre. What I’ve wanted to do with this entire story is not gain sympathy for this one struggle that I’ve had, or propogate healthy ideas that aren't really all that helpful (ie: eat less, move more). I want to say – hey, this struggle was hard for me but maybe it doesn't have to be hard for you. Wherever you are in your journey, you will be ok. But on the off chance this info will help you, here are some ideas that changed my life -- use them on your own journey if you can.
(See also: Good luck, friend. It's a crazy world out there!)
Life long journeys aside, about a year ago I did a little bit of that Navel-Gazing Inventory that us bloggers are so well known for and realized that no matter how free I felt from the chains of the weight loss game (and at that point, I felt free! It can be done!) physically I was not where I needed to be. I was tired of having the “Have you thought about eating a little less and moving a little more?” conversations with my doctor. I was also coming to terms with the fact that my increase in blood pressure was looking less like white coat hypertension and more of a consistent reflection of what was going on in my body.
What really got me freaked out though was that soon Garrett and I would pursue our dreams of having a family and because of that I would basically be contractually obligated to put on a few pounds. Most people love that permission, but honestly all I felt was fear. I knew I didn’t want to go back to Weight Watchers, and since I felt good that I was already exercising regularly and eating intuitively and “healthy” by the standards of conventional wisdom, I was sort of at a loss. What other options were there?
Boy have I been waiting to answer that question!
The first thing I did was go see a Naturopath, and yes I know that sounds like a douchy hippie thing to do, so thank you for mentioning it. But as I said earlier, traditional doctors were not giving me advice I found useful and instead I was getting a lot of the raised eyebrows when I said “Yes, I exercise 3-5 times per week with a combination of cardio and strength training.” And “No, I don’t eat fast food so forgive me, but that advice to quit isn’t all that helpful actually.” I don’t hate Western Medicine or anything but DUDE, COME ON! So I thought I’d get crazy and try something different.
I’ve talked about my experience with my Naturopath here and here but I'm not sure I've ever recounted the best thing he did for me: he listened to me talk about my lifestyle without a raised eyebrow in sight. Then he looked at not only my blood pressure, but an extensive panel of blood work, hormone levels, and neurotransmitter levels (seratonin, norepinephrine, glutamate, etc.) and said, "I have an idea of what's going on." Two things stood out to him, and both were not only terms I had never really encountered (and I consider myself someone pretty engaged and curious about my own health) but HUGE game changers with respect to my weight loss.
1. I was Insulin Resistant.
If you have had trouble losing weight in the past and take just one thing from this post – please research insulin resistance. It is a fairly common condition where insulin (a hormone, by the way not just some random thing in our body) becomes less effective at lowering your blood sugar over time. If you are Insulin Resistant and you are eating a diet high in carbohydrates, or even really "in moderation" (as delicious as they are) it probably isn’t doing you any favors. Your body is failing to absorb the “energy” (which is the great thing we all hear about carbohydrates) and instead it is negatively affecting the rest of your body. Obviously this is a gross oversimplification, but I am planning on recommending a few reads about this in the future that really lay it out for you. If you have difficulty losing weight, if you store weight around your middle, if you are hungry shortly after eating, if you find yourself tired often (especially after meals) – this is a condition you may be contending with. It is not just your “lack of will power.” It is unfortunately becoming an American condition.
Hormones like insulin have A LOT to do with feelings of hunger, satisfaction, contribute to how and where our body stores fat, and are DIRECTLY CONTROLLED BY THE TYPE OF FOOD YOU EAT – meaning carbs, fat, protein. Because I was eating the Standard Recommended High Carb/Low Fat American Diet, I thought I was doing everything right. But really I was doing so much damage.
2. I had Severe Adrenal Fatigue
The best (read: easiest to understand) overview of Adrenal Fatigue that I have ever read is right here. This sounded like a hippy dippy diagnosis to me at first, but the truth is the more reading I did, the more I realized that this is not only fairly common and undiagnosed, but also a major contributor to overall health problems. The main reason for this is that the adrenals control the balance of all the hormones (there’s that word again) in your body -- directly or indirectly. Many women who suffer with untreated Adrenal Fatigue end up triggering infertility, PCOS, and long term hormonal imbalances. My Naturopath took one look at my levels and told me that he was surprised that I could get out of bed each day and function in society.
I've always been someone who could push through tough times, but hearing that was definitely a wake up call. I needed to make some changes. I left his office feeling sort of dumbfounded that all these things were happening inside my body without me even really having a clue. I was causing damage and aggravating things inside of me when all I had ever tried to do was to be healthy and thriving. But I felt relieved because my body was holding on to all this weight as a reaction to these things. I wasn't just someone who couldn't count calories correctly. But the best thing I felt was hopeful, because I finally had a plan for the future that was just right, just for me.
In Part Five I will outline exactly what that plan has been, and how it has so far helped me drop 70 lbs in 6 months with relatively little effort. It can be done. And it has been done. And I really can't wait to tell you about it.