I am going to give it to your straight - this isn't pretty and it may not even be "fun". Everything you hear about nutrition being just as important to fat loss AND lean muscle gain as exercise IS TRUE. Why? Because: SCIENCE.
Do you still think nutrition is 2nd to exercise to obtain best overall health? Exercise can only do so much to aid in fat loss - it can do a lot more in gaining lean muscle mass and all of that can be A LOT more when you pair it with good nutrition for YOUR body. By exercising, and especially strength training while you are losing fat, you get the benefits of gaining lean muscle mass providing your body energy while aiding the fat loss, increasing bone density, AND when the fat loss occurs, you have lean and toned muscles revealed: WIN:WIN. (endorphins are the super bonus)
My Mission: After being on a serious fitness journey for a few years - I mean serious enough to become a fitness instructor and a certified personal trainer, I set out last Spring 2017 on a quest to find out why I was not burning fat at the same rate I used to when exercising regularly. I became my own guinea pig since I was determined to not only get myself on track to good health from the inside out, but being able to comprehensively help other people do the same, and maybe make the process a little more simple - I can try. This is NOT about getting skinny - this is about being strong, as strong on the inside, in my organs, my gut health, blood, etc. as I am on the outside.
I had a trying Winter with some stress a couple of years ago. I did partake in emotional eating over some months that caused weight gain, no matter WHAT I was doing at the gym, which was quite a lot. I then tried several different ways of eating on my own and tracking foods, calories, macros. I tried a couple of different things for 2 months each way. Just calorie counting for two months with no real food "changes" (still ate the gluten, grains, etc.) and then tried just cutting sugar for another couple of months. I saw no fat loss during that time. More frustrated and baffled, I invested in a DXA scan up in Boston to see my body composition in the Summer of 2017, consulted with my general practitioner, 2 endocrinologists and a functional medical doctor (the only person that did comprehensive and more investigative blood work testing on me).
I already knew I was mildly hypothyroid. My DXA scan was very disheartening and showed a much higher percentage of body fat than I am comfortable sharing with most people even now.
I found myself, a fitness professional, at risk for diabetes (I had gestational diabetes in both pregnancies and family history), I had high cholesterol (my doctor wanted to discuss a statin drug with me), high triglycerides, high uric acid, topped off with the hypothyroidism. All this while I worked as a fitness instructor and trained people to become their healthier selves.
I consulted with a nutritionist I knew and had met in the past in the Fall 2017 knowing that it was time for the BIG shift. I found out that I had a lot of inflammation in my body. I also found out I was sensitive to many different foods and/or ingredients in certain foods that kept my body in a state of inflammation fighting these things that I brought into it and preventing my body from functioning as it should. It took all I could muster to set out on a new way of eating WITH the understanding that this would be my way of eating for THE REST OF MY LIFE if it worked. I seem to have a fructose intolerance that makes most fruits off limits, including some other foods that contain fructooligosaccharides (some vegetables do and it is also used as a sugar substitute in some foods and supplements) - that also includes anything sweet, even natural sugars from honey, maple syrup and other sources like xylitol and stevia would effect my insulin level and possibly perpetuate cravings for sweet foods and my body's insulin response to that.
So what happened next?
I did what my nutritionist John Bagnulo told me - and I knew he was a hardcore nutritionist and we were not going to be messing around. It was down to business. Since end of October 2017, I've experienced many changes in my nutrition lifestyle. I will not say it was EASY, but I can share that it is WORTH IT. I have not changed much since beginning my "plan" and I recently had my my annual physical with my doctor. I shared what I had done with her - eating low carb (carbs coming from sweet potatoes, carrots, beets, parsnips, a rare white potato), getting enough good saturated fats (olive oil, grass fed butter, coconut, macadamia nuts), eating enough protein (grass fed beef, lamb, poultry, rarely fish/seafood) and lots and lots of green vegetables.
I basically kept my exercise routine the same with some variety thrown in here and there. I took only the vitamins my nutritionist prescribed directly - I did not use any supplemental nutritional products, shakes, meals or anything like that. I did not use a meal service or plan and prepared 98% of my own foods. I do enjoy eating out and it is totally possible to enjoy LIFE, eating out and celebrations when you are on a special and quite restrictive way of eating! When you put your overall health first before "losing weight", your perspective changes and you find a way to navigate and make a way for things to be manageable - awareness and acceptance are very liberating when you allow them to be.
Here is what happened INSIDE:
- my cholesterol dropped 45 points
- my triglycerides went from 152 to 66!
- I lowered my c-reactive protein several points and combined with insulin numbers, I am officially NOT at risk for diabetes
- An InBody270 bio electrical impedance body composition scan showed my weight loss AND a 14% reduction in my body fat percentage since the DXA scan mentioned above. In addition, my continued strength training and teaching shows the development of lots of lean muscle mass.
- Better attention span, focus - less "brain fog".
- Great energy due to being fed the right foods for my lifestyle.
- Uncomfortable digestive symptoms disappeared.
-35 lbs loss and going down - I have about 17 lbs to go for my goal "size" since the scale weight will fluctuate due to lean muscle mass gains I intend to continue to work toward. By focusing on how my clothes have fit and body composition scan results, my journey became much more tolerable than just getting on the scale.
- I am still hypothyroid - and even more so - NO symptoms and no plans to go on medication at this time without thorough consulting with my doctors (all currently in process) - My nutritionist informed me that eating a low carbohydrate diet raises TSH in 80% of people.
UPDATE AUGUST 2018:
I began taking thyroid medication advised by my doctors in June 2018. Total weight loss since one year ago is now over 50 lbs. The medication was definitely necessary to treat my hypothyroidism. I continue to lose 1-2 lbs per week and now have just 10-12 lbs to go, if even that! I am pleased with the results of all of my hard work and being able to share this journey and prove that it is absolutely POSSIBLE for anyone.
My mission continues...
It is ongoing and there will never be a "finish" date and there will always be something to address. Do I still pay attention not only to the foods I eat, but to the portions and amount of calories eaten? Yes, most certainly and I am committed to doing so for the rest of my life. Please remember: The investment of time, effort and ATTENTION to your overall health is worth it. It can undeniably give you the most benefits in quality of life than any other investment. I am glad to discuss your journey with you and guide you to the resources you need to make the most of your investment! YOU!
Thank you so much for reading this post -- I wanted to find a way to share this information and make it available to anyone interested without making it a "mandatory" read. Let me know what you think - was this helpful for you? Did I leave anything out that you would like to know about? Let's connect - contact me here.