Here is a true confession that I don't include in my bio on my website. In the not so long ago past I had been carrying an extra 20 pounds on my not so large 5'4" frame. How much I weighed doesn't matter. It was too much for me, my height, my age and my body type ( I was not a body builder so I hardly had that excuse).
So how did it come to be that someone who has extensive training in nutrition and whole foods cooking (healthy cooking) carried around an extra 20 pounds? I mean, I knew better, right? I know all about carbs, fat, protein, and more importantly, I know how to cook.
I have a couple of excuses. The first being that I love good food and I love to eat. I live with a husband who likes to eat. And that is where it started. The simple act of getting married. Every night was a reason to celebrate.
Next came the unexpected twin pregnancy and then another pregnancy right on its heels. If you have ever had the chance to be pregnant with multiples then you know where your hunger is headed - to the kitchen to feed my growing babies but to also soothe myself from my ever expanding uncomfortable physical state. The second pregnancy was significantly different but I was working with the weight I had not lost from the twin pregnancy.
My years in between then and when I lost the weight were not about me. It was about them. What did they want to eat, how can I make everyone else happy, what did they like? What three young children like to have for meals is a whole world away from what I considered having for myself, but I convinced myself that it was not about me. It was about all of them.
I did other things. I ignored how much I was eating, not giving any awareness to portion sizes. I ate in response to my feelings rather than my hunger. Having a bad day? I was all over that ice cream my kids love to eat. Food soothed me and made my crazy life with three very young kids seem manageable.
Except it didn't. The bowl of ice cream didn't take away my stress, or fatigue, or keep me from wondering if I was being a good mother.
After years of focusing on everyone else first, I realized what a mistake that was and all the time I had lost on taking care of me first. I like to use the example of flying. I always used to be perplexed when the stewardess would tell you to put your oxygen mask on first, then help the small children you were with. How selfish, I always thought. My kids are going to be suffering while I get to breathe?
Then it dawned on me: you cannot help ANYBODY if you are not helping yourself first.
Me first, then you. It's not selfish at all. In fact, its the most selfless thing you can do.
I had an "Aha" moment years back when I turned 40. My father had died of an incurable cancer when I was very young. As I was nearing the age he was when he had passed away, I felt very strongly that I did not want to be responsible for a future health issue I might cause myself because I was carrying this extra weight. I needed to surpass his last age in the healthiest way possible. I needed to do that for my kids, and more importantly, for myself.
I started tracking my food and became a vigilant planner of my meals and of my family's meals. Knowing how to make healthier food taste good is a skill I am incredibly grateful for as I had that working in my favor. My attitude about family dinners changed a great deal. Vegetable heavy, nutrient dense, delicious meals were the order of the day. Not catering to everyone's whims also took center stage. Checking in with myself daily, asking myself why am I eating (Because I am hungry? Bored? Lonely?) was, and still is, of supreme importance.
More importantly, focusing on eating fresh, unprocessed foods and not getting caught up in the hype of new food trends is a priority. I listen to my intuition, and it wins every time.
I lost 20 pounds and have not gained any of it back. I changed my attitude, embraced the skills I needed and became extremely mindful of my food. I became mindful of me. It has paid off in many ways. I feel more in control of my health and the health of my children. I feel powerful. I set out to accomplish a task and I did it.
I would love to hear from you. Do you struggle with those "last 10 pounds" or weight you have been carrying for a long time? What have been your struggles or successes? I would love to keep this conversation going in the comments below.
Heather Carey, MS is a culinary nutritionist who helps women lose their last twenty pounds while gaining health, energy and vitality. She can be reached at www.heathercarey.com