I used to be overweight! I used to be FAT!

I used to be fat

I used to be FAT! The phrase, a picture speaks a thousand words, hit home with me in the spring of 1999. It was then that I saw a photo of me from my last beach vacation. A frightening picture of me wearing a bikini and being FAT, really, really fat. Denial is an amazing thing, I knew I had put on weight but somehow the fact that I was wearing size 16 pants had not hit home. Sure, it bothered me, but I dressed well and wore clothes that were hip and stylish but covered up my fat areas. I was in denial, but I will never forget the picture I saw of myself, because there was no denying that image. I was fat and I didn’t even recognize myself. That was my turning point, that photo and the realization that started a long and challenging journey to being healthy. I had no idea at the time that it would take me five years to lose the weight, as well as learn how to eat. Because the real truth to losing weight, ironically, is that you have to learn how to eat! Plus, you have to understand why you eat! And it’s freakin’ complicated because everyone’s got a theory, an opinion or a quick fix and trying to figure it all out is insane.

My History: Growing up I was an active kid, I was sporty in my teens and was a runner. I was not overweight but I always had a belly. I was raised to always finish what was on my plate. It did not matter if I did not like the food or was full; you finished your plate of food. In our family home there was no candy or junk food ever. But, when I was about ten years old, I would sneak to the corner store and eat bags of candy as a way of dealing with my unhappy home (that’s a whole other story). In my later teen years I worked at McDonald’s (we all did) and I ate McDonald’s food twice a day/seven days a week for 2 years (yup, I shudder when I think about that, but it is true). Somehow I survived but I was also training for triathlons at the same time. How hilarious is it that I was training for triathlons fuelled by McDonald’s, but in the eighties, we had no idea what was in McDonald’s food. We thought it was all healthy. By my mid-twenties, I had exited an abusive relationship and was carrying an extra 15 pounds, but that was no big deal because I was active. It was at that point that I moved to Whistler and over that first year packed on what is referred to as the Whistler 20! It’s the 20 pounds that all the chicks put on when they move here as a result of drinking and partying.

Well, those 20 pounds just kept on growing, as did the fun of being in Whistler in the late 90s. It was the golden time. Whistler was growing rapidly, business opportunities where plentiful, the resort was busy and everyone was making money. We worked super hard, played hard, partied harder and ate like shit! But damn, did we have a good time! Lots of great cocktails, epic good food and fabulous wine pretty much every night of the week. After five years in Whistler, I had packed on 50 pounds, but I was still having a good time, however my body was not. I was fat and in complete denial!

I used to be fat

My Reality: In the spring of 1999 after looking at my fat photo, I took off the rose-coloured glasses and stepped on the scale, it read 192! I remember being stunned. How had that happened? Now, I stand at 5’2” on a good day, and I have a small to medium build. Being 192 put me at a size 16 with double D tits (those were the only bonus). The other reality was that I could not bend over and touch my shins, let alone my toes. Snowboarding was exhausting because I couldn’t bend over. I had stopped running and my only form of exercise was walking my dogs. Also, I had gone surfing for the first time and loved it but I was so fat that I could barely pop up, and putting on a wetsuit was a humiliating experience. I felt and looked like a penguin!

The Change: The reality hit home and I went back to what I had always done to lose weight. I started running again. Well, that was shocking. In the past I had been a good runner, but running with an extra 50 plus pounds was a whole other experience – it hurt. My lungs hurt, my legs screamed in pain and my knees and ankles where not happy, but I kept going. I also increased my home yoga practice (as yoga studios did not exist).  I started following a yogi named Bryan Kest, his positive words encouraged me, he spoke about yoga being about yourself not anyone else and that comparing was futile. His videos were challenging and inspiring and I found myself practicing every day. That summer and fall, I dropped 15 pounds and started to feel better, but I was still eating whatever I wanted.

I had reached a point of frustration in early 2000 because the weight wasn’t coming off and I had reached an all-time low in my self-esteem. I hated getting dressed and going out because I just felt fat. Styles had changed from empire waists and loose, flowy clothes so I couldn’t hide the fat anymore. Styles were more form fitting and when I tried them on, I just looked fat and that made me depressed.  I had a client who was on the “Zone” diet and told me how she was having great success. So I decided to try it. This is when I entered the yo-yo world of dieting! The rabbit hole opened and I jumped in feet first.

Over the next year, I tried them all: The Zone, Atkins, Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, The Cabbage Soup Diet and all the others I can’t remember. They were all the same, they worked in the short term. I would lose ten to 15 pounds but then I would come off the diet and it would go right back on, plus a few extra. I also got into doing cleanses which helped with getting my body healthier by removing the toxins, but weren’t solving the problem of what went in my mouth. Starving the body on the “Master Cleanse” or “Wild Rose” has its benefits in the short term, but if you come off a cleanse and then go eat sugar, fat and fried food, all you’re doing is taking that fat and calories and attaching it directly to your belly and ass. Which is of course what I did.

After two years of dieting and trying to eat healthier, I ran into an old client. He had been out of town for a year working as a private chef in New York. When I saw him I was stunned because he looked like a different person. He had lost over 60 pounds and was seriously hot. I asked him how he had done it and to this day I have never forgotten his words. His answer was; “It’s simple really, just eat like this,” and he proceeded to list the following rules:

  1. Eat three small meals and two snacks a day. Basically, every 3 hours until 7 p.m.
  2. Eat fruit in the morning only, you need the natural sugar to kick start your body but don’t eat it after 12 p.m.
  3. Your lunch should be your largest meal with protein, veg, carb and a little fat.
  4. Dinner is protein and veg.
  5. Don’t eat after 7/8 p.m.
  6. Drink 2 to 3 litres of water a day.

He said the key is that initially you might put on weight because you’re feeding your body every few hours instead of starving it by only eating once or twice a day. So your body is going to hold on to all of the calories until it is retrained and knows that you will give it food every few hours, but once it responds, the weight will start to come off. Well it worked, I did put on 5 pounds over the first few weeks, but then boom, it started to come off and over the next six months, I lost another 20 pounds. I had started to feel really good – my running and yoga was improving because I had consistent energy.  I started to read about nutrition and what foods where beneficial and why. Plus, I had started to cook and really enjoyed it, but again I was cooking for taste and not for health or nutrition. I loved to cook Italian and I was known for my amazing garlic mashed potatoes.

I used to be fat

By 2003 I was around 155 pounds and a size 12. My self-esteem was a bit better partly because I had a great boyfriend but I was having massive health issues. Debilitating migraines headaches and energy crashes that would put me in bed for days. The Doctors sent me for tests but had no ideas what was wrong with me. At this point I ended up going to an old Asian naturopath who did blood analysis. He took my blood and talked about foods that did not work for my constitution. He said based on my blood type, I should not be eating wheat or dairy, plus some other things. I remember staring at this guy thinking, what did the cray cray old guy know? What the hell was my constitution? Plus, I loved bread and there was no way I was giving up my morning latte! But, he explained to me that some people have sensitive constitutions and are like willow trees. When they eat something that doesn’t agree with their bodies they experience an allergic reaction, so they don’t eat it anymore. My constitution was as strong as an oak tree and when I ate something that did not agree with me, I would fight it and the side effects would be more subtle, like feeling bloated and lethargic. However, he told me that my migraine headaches and energy crashes were the long term side effects of constantly eating food that my body could not tolerate any more. He gave me a food chart and book called Eating Right for your Type.

I took it home and gave it a try, it worked. My headaches subsided, my energy returned and I started to drop weight again. I was amazed. I had plateaued at 155 pounds for almost a year; I didn’t think I would lose any more weight. But, it started to come off again. After a few months, I had lost another ten pounds. But, what I had noticed was that when I stuck to my Eating Right for Your Type chart, I would feel good, but as soon as I ate wheat or dairy, I would get bloated. I had started paying attention to my body and how it felt when I ate certain foods. To this day, my Eating Right chart is on my fridge.

The Hard Part Was the Last Part: It was the fall of 2004; I was 145 pounds and a size 8/10 depending on the clothing brand. I could run ten kilometres in 55 minutes and put my belly on the floor in a spread leg, forward bend. I thought I was pretty fit and fairly healthy. But I was still struggling with my surfing. I just did not have the upper body strength I needed to paddle. My client had hired a personal trainer, so I decided to sign up for her workout classes. It was called “Boot Camp” military style fitness training. I had no idea that I was about to have my ass handed to me on a platter and that this fitness trainer and the group of people I bonded with over the next year, would completely change my health, my physical body and my life.

In all I had ever read and heard, it was the last ten pounds that were the hardest to lose. When I signed up for Boot Camp with Cat Smiley. I told her it was because I wanted to get stronger so that I could surf better, but what I did not admit was that I wanted to get skinnier! We set goals: weight goals, body measurement goals and fitness goals. I still have them in my boot camp book.

Spring 2005 Goals:  weight; 125  Measurements; Hips: 36 Waist: 32  Fitness Goals; 1.6 km run in 9 min, 50 push-ups, 110 triceps dips, 100 sit-ups, 2-min. plank. 

So what happened? I wanted to quit every morning when I woke up at 6 a.m. to work-out. I wanted to quit every day when I couldn’t walk down the stairs. I wanted to quit every time we did beach sprints. But, I didn’t quit. Not because of me, but because of my team, and I went to boot camp every morning because I did not want the rest of my team doing my push ups. I ran those freakin’ beach sprints because my girlfriend Jacky was running them and she was 50 pounds heavier than I was; if she could do it, I had to. I did my partners sit-ups because he had done mine the week before when I was puking in the bushes, and not because of the workout, but because I was hung over. Never, never drink the night before boot camp! I didn’t quit because no one else did. We were all in it together. I still remember the day when my girlfriend stepped on the scale and had lost 30 pounds, we all cheered for her.

What also happened? Cat taught us how to eat! She initiated a food journal that was mandatory and it was a shocking experience for me. Even though I thought I was eating healthy, I was also eating way too much and I was drinking way too much! Go figure, wine has calories. She taught us not only what to eat but how much. How to use smaller plates and eat less, how to stop eating when we are full. It was also during this time that I figured out through a great counsellor that I over-ate to fill me up and feel loved. It was what I had taught myself as a kid. When I was sad or did not feel loved, I ate and I ate a lot!

What also happened? Initially I gained weight, yup muscle weighs more than fat. This really screwed with my head because I wanted to see that magic number on the scale “125” but every week it did not happen. I was getting discouraged after six months of not meeting my weight goal. Cat suggested that we remove that goal and I stopped stepping on the scale. That was the best thing I have ever done. To this day I still never step on a scale, I use my tape measure instead.

The Results: Fall of 2005 (that was 32 weeks or 8 months of Boot Camp Hell)

Fall 2005: Goals weight: 125 Actual: 131  Measurements: Hips: 36/37 Waist: 32/33  Fitness Goals: 1.6 Km Run 9min/8:20min, Push ups 50/52, Triceps dips 110/115, Sit ups 100/111, Plank 2min/3min.

I used to be fat

Did I see my magic number on the scale? Nope, but for the first time in my life it did not matter. Why? Because I was freakin fit, I was the strongest I had ever been in my life. My biggest physical accomplishment was 52 push-ups. When I started I could only do two in a row. Following eight months of Boot Camp, I went surfing for the winter, and during those months, I actually became a surfer. Why, because I had the physical strength to paddle out and catch waves. Plus, I also had the endurance.

Has it lasted? As of today (July 2015) I weigh around 135 (it’s a guesstimate as I don’t have a scale). My hips measure 37 and my waist 35. This is me, and has been for the past ten years. Sometimes it goes up to a 39/37 and then I reign in the wine drinking and good food and it comes back down. Because that is life, it is all about moderation. My fitness goals? Can I still do 52 push-ups? Hell no, but I can do 30! Do I eat? Hell ya, I love food! But, I eat till I am full and no more. I still eat three meals a day and two snacks. I still drink 2 litres of water a day and I still eat macaroni and cheese late at night when I feel sad. Because that is life. But, it’s organic mac and cheese and the next day I run like hell, because that is also life.

My Conclusion

When you are fat, you have to go inside yourself to ask why. Sometimes it can take years to answer that question, but if you keep asking, it will be answered. It took five years for me to put on 50 plus pounds and it took six years to take it off again. In order to truly lose weight, it can never be about vanity or the scale (it will be at times and that can be a motivator), but it has to be about being happy, healthy and keeping your body strong. Losing weight has to be about honouring your body and respecting it as the vessel that holds your spirit. Treat your body better than you treat your most prized possession and watch what happens. One of the best things in my life was BEING FAT, for if I had never been fat I would have never gone on the amazing journey of learning how to be healthy and honouring my body.

Top Tips for Being Healthy and Losing Weight (aka Looking Hot and Being Happy)

  1. Ditch the scale. Use a measuring tape and see how your clothes fit to gauge your weight.
  2. Buy a great outfit one size smaller than you are, hang it up in your bathroom and look at every day. Picture yourself in it! When it fits, go buy another one, one size smaller!
  3. All diets are a crock of shit; you will lose and then gain more. You have to learn how to eat a well-balanced diet and nutrition. Find a good naturopath and or nutritionist and learn what foods serve your body and what foods your body can’t handle.
  4. Eat three meals and two snacks a day (see above). Eat organic, whole foods. Avoid processed and fast foods at all costs.
  5. Eat small portions on small plates. Eat slowly and consciously without being distracted and observe how your body feels after you eat your food.
  6. Observe how your body feels after eating certain foods (wheat, dairy, sugar, etc.). If you feel like shit, than don’t eat that food again. Duh! Or eat it RARELY, knowing you will feel like shit.
  7. Learn to cook. Relax, drink wine and enjoy it.
  8. Hire a GOOD fitness trainer who specializes in weight loss. If you can’t afford one then find one online and follow their workout plans, blogs and health tips. Ex: Cat Smiley.
  9. Find a great counsellor and go inside and find out the true reason for why you eat. Because it’s not about the food. It’s about something else. Everyone has a vice, for some its alcohol, or drugs for others its food. Food is just another vice, to help us feel better when we are not dealing with our true problems.
  10. Drink wine! Seriously, do it. It has health benefits! However (this is the part that sucks) try not to drink it every day and when you do drink it, keep it in moderation. (Yup, under three glasses).
  11. Bonus Tip: Think of eating and drinking like this: Would you fill the tank of your Porsche or Ferrari with cheap gas? Nope, you would only put in premium plus – same idea with your body. Fill your mouth and belly only with things that are of the highest grade!
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