Wednesday, October 21, 2015

"You Are a Catastrophe"

Before that title scares you and in case it was a little too harsh of a statement to swallow along with your mid-day cup of coffee, I wanted to start at the beginning. And friends, just imagine sitting there as someone looks you straight in the eye as they say those words, knowing in your heart and in your gut that they are right. 

Without boring you to death with my medical history, I was diagnosed with PCOS as a teenager. Although I am not diabetic or pre-diabetic in the slightest, I do have insulin resistance, which in my case, goes hand-in-hand with my PCOS diagnosis. Being told this at the ripe and awkward age of fifteen pretty much meant nothing to me at the time.. until they said a low-carb diet is best and that I would more than likely struggle with my weight even more so and that gaining weight would become easier and easier as time went on. Awesome. In the days of wanting so badly to fit in and obsessing about finding clothes that fit and all the awkwardness that goes with that age in general, the fact that my weight would be even more difficult to manage was the last thing I wanted to hear. Fast forward to today when this diagnosis means so much more than my weight being difficult to manage. It means not knowing if I'll struggle with fertility and starting a family when we are ready to. It means forcing myself to think about my future goals and the goals that Ben and I have as a family, and putting down that cinnamon roll or that piece of pie and being extremely dedicated to tweaking every recipe & planning ahead for meals in hopes that getting healthier and losing weight will help make all of our dreams come true when the time comes. 

Like a lot of you, I have struggled with my weight and a sincere, genuine, REAL addiction to food for so, so long. Particularly potato chips. And, let's be serious, potatoes in any form. Strangely, though, I always just thought I was eating like everyone else, whatever that means. It took a lot for me to feel terribly, uncomfortably out of place before I took a look at my health and re-evaluated the importance of said potato chips. It took trips to the amusement park and riding all the rides being out of the question- even when our sweet, adorable nephews begged and pleaded for us to join them, "just once, Auntie Liz!" 

It took flying on airplanes with a seat belt extender in my bag so I didn't have to humiliate myself in front of a plane full of strangers with a face full of embarrassment. It took buying clothes one size bigger and then the next size bigger after that until I literally had a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear. (And thus, my love of scarves became very real.. those little darlings always fit!)

In January, I was referred to a medically managed weight loss program run by phenomenal doctors and was affiliated with the local hospital. And by local- I mean nearly 2 hours away from my house. The place had it all: image consultants and physical therapists, mandatory routine blood work, weigh-ins and scientifically proven exercises and workouts that melted fat. On the brochure, it was everything I knew I needed. In real life, it was so much more. 

It took a solid month for me to make the first step to call for my initial consultation. And when that day came and I drove in the insanity that is Dallas traffic bright and early in the morning to the clinic two hours from my house, I was seriously having my doubts. I am, how do I put this, perpetually terrified of doctor's offices, their scales and blood work and all of their concrete facts that all generally pointed in the direction of my weight and health becoming out of control- and finally- more than I could manage on my own. 

In the first ten minutes, the doctor sat me down and we talked about the program, his weight loss story, my ancestors who allegedly ate primal foods (I am fairly certain he has never met my biscuit-making, pie-loving southern kin that go back more than a few generations, but whatever..) and in the most genuine, empathetic tone I've ever heard, he said, "Elizabeth.. you are a catastrophe." Never have I ever needed someone to say that to me more than in that moment. It was as if he saw me nearly sinking and gasping for air in the ocean when he threw out a life preserver in the form of some hope and a plan. This doctor just got me and promised me that if I followed the program and put in the work, I would see results. He left the room for a moment and I quickly fumbled for my phone to text my husband that this was it and that our lives were about to change for the better.

I am happy to say that my husband, Ben, received that text message from that small, cold exam room 8 months ago and slowly but surely, our lives have indeed changed and improved more than I could have ever imagined on that day. 60 pounds later, I am here sharing my life with all of you and that fact is something that I do not take lightly. For the first time in a long time, through years of self-sabotage through food and just giving up on myself and my dreams, I am finally doing this the right way-my own way, once and for all. 

The first day we started our journey, we cleaned out the pantry and gave away some of our favorite foods to friends and family who happily took it all off our hands. 8 months later, our pantry is now a glorified storage closet. 

The plan: I was handed a print out of the Duke University No Starch No Sugar Diet plan. It can be found here.  When I met with my doctor on the first day, I asked a LOT of questions about foods that I felt were "on plan" but were not listed in the packet, so if you're going through the list, just know that the takeaway is this:
  1.  I try to consume at or under 20 grams of net carbohydrates a day. (That's carbohydrates minus fiber on a nutrition label). These carbs should not come from bread, wheat or oats, etc. As we have adjusted certain aspects of this to our diet now, we will occasionally use almond flour or coconut flour in recipes. Occasionally
  2.  I eat lots of fresh vegetables and 2 cups of leafy greens a day. I typically get my salad party on for lunch and have vegetables on my plate for dinner, too.
  3.  I didn't start incorporating a cup of fruit a week into my diet until month 3 and I know that made all the difference. Now, when we have our cup of fruit a week, it is so much sweeter than it ever was when we consumed sugar regularly.
  4.  I try and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated-- but this is something I have always struggled with. I'm just not naturally thirsty and have to sit at work with water and sparkling waters scattered everywhere to remind myself to keep drinking. 
  5. I don't count calories or fat grams, just the carb count and protein.
  6. Although the plan mentions not drinking any alternative milks (cashew, almond, etc) I do have a cup of unsweetened cashew or coconut milk in my morning smoothie occasionally since it is very low carb/low sugar. However, I didn't start doing that until the last four months or so. 
  7. Although you can have pretty much unlimited amounts of saturated fat found in beef, sausage, bacon, etc, I try to limit them to a few times a week. I incorporate fish, chicken, turkey and healthy fats into my diet as much as I can.
  8. It took about a month for me to get used to this way of eating. The first week was awful, emotional and just flat out weird as I went to the grocery store for the first time and adjusted to pretty much only shopping on the outside perimeter of the store. My husband, however, was fine after about a week. Bless that man.. 
  9. Having a partner to join you in the journey truly makes all of the difference. I know for a fact that had I sat down for my first meal of meat and veggies while watching Ben eat fried chicken and biscuits across from me, well, it wouldn't have been pretty. And I would have fallen off the wagon before even starting. Between him, my family and our friends, I have been so fortunate to have people who are incredibly encouraging, supportive and always willing to eat at places where I can find something on the menu.
  10. I didn't start having fun with recipes and tweaking them for about a month or so. For the first month I was extremely basic with my cooking and meals. It was almost as if I didn't have the brain space to think about eating this way AND finding ways to make it interesting and fun. Once I got used to this way of living and being really bored with meat and steamed veggies every. single. day, I started seeking out blogs, recipes and cookbooks that my mom would find and send my way. My love affair with food has continued but in such a beautiful, different, exciting way. Never did I think I'd look at a head of cauliflower and see endless opportunities, meals and potato-like dishes that we now love and eat weekly.
So many of you have messaged me about the specific plan my husband and I are following and who am I to keep it all to myself? Although Ben did not do the program at the facility or the workouts, he as lost over 60 lbs just by following the diet alone. (Men..) Nevertheless, he has worked so incredibly hard and I could not be more proud to be that man's wife. So, simply put, it works. 

Same jacket, same guy.. a year's difference 

The plan is kind of a mixture between Ketogenic, Paleo and Atkins. Yes, we have have cheat meals-even days- I mean, hello, State Fair of Texas! My annual Fletcher's corny dog is kind of a big deal in my life. The difference now? I was sick as I've ever been after an evening at the fair last month and I realized in the parking lot of the fairgrounds that my body doesn't do corny dogs or fried ANYTHING anymore- both a victory and a curse in my mind. 

The difference a year makes at the State Fair of Texas! 

I believe in following my plan and occasionally having that glass of wine (VERY occasionally.. I just had my first glass of wine last week) or that ice cream cone on vacation but my "parties" last a meal, not weeks, and I always get back on that wagon. It is imperative that I get back on that wagon. Because that 15 year-old girl who sat in the doctor's office and was told she had PCOS never had the guts or the courage to and never believed that she could. 

Same dress, two years later

Week one vs. Month 8 


  1. You are amazing Liz, I am honestly so inspired reading your story. I truly look forward to the next post!

  2. Yay! I'm so so happy to hear that. Always so good to hear from you, Shannon!


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