Sunday, September 14, 2014

Differences After Weight Loss...

After a recent conversation with my mom I was inspired to provide a short list of notable differences in my quality of life after reaching and maintaining a "healthy" weight... This is by no means a comprehensive list - just a few that comes to mind. 

1. Tolerating Heat
This is what actually prompted the blog post idea.  We've been experiencing a heat wave for several days. Today the high is 95˚F.  Yes, I understand that might be cool for people who live in Nevada, Arizona, or even Africa - but it's unusually hot for those accustomed to San Diego's typically comfortable mid 70's. 

When I was obese - I felt absolutely miserable in any weather above 80˚F.  I'm not exaggerating when I say I would cry because of how uncomfortable the heat made me.  I experienced heat rashes, headaches, and sweated profusely - all while doing absolutely nothing but sitting.  

Now?  I feel warm but I'm not uncomfortable or miserable.  I even went outside, exercised and ran errands for a few hours today.  Before my weight loss I wouldn't have even considered going outside in this weather unless I absolutely had no choice. 

2.  Shopping
Here is a perfect segue to my next point... I had a love/hate relationship with shopping when I was obese.  This may sound insane - but I never wanted to go to the store without my kids when I was obese.  I used my children as a visual excuse for my excess weight.  I figured if people saw me with my 2 (and subsequently 3) children they would think, "She must have gained weight when she had kids."  The truth is, I was technically overweight prior to ever having kids - but no one else knew that.  I always irrationally felt that people were mentally judging me when I went shopping. 

I don't feel that way anymore!  Now I'm whizzing down aisles and hopping onto the back of the shopping cart as I ride it through the parking lot!  Weeeeeeee....

3. Clothes
This ties in to shopping but deserves a feature on it's own. I've abhorred clothes shopping for as long as I can remember.  I started getting chubby when I was about 9 or 10 years old... and back in the late 80's/early 90's there weren't really sizing options for fluffy kids.  I couldn't wear the cute/stylish clothing because they either didn't fit or didn't look right on me. I resented having to settle for frumpy clothes.

Of course now I absolutely LOVE shopping for clothes.  It's a wonderful feeling being able to pick clothes off the rack and have them fit and look great (ok, so sometimes I have occasional fit issues since I have large breasts - but I'm okay with that). Oh, and I don't have to spend a fortune either - I always find great deals for things on clearance or at the thrift store.

4. Social Butterfly
I've always been a life-of-the-party girl... however, during my morbidly obese years I completely fell off the social spectrum entirely. I stopped going to events and friends parties.  I was ashamed and I didn't want anyone to see me.  An old friend/acquaintance from high school invited me for coffee and I casually said we should be never did.  I dreaded that awkward moment someone you know digests the drastic difference in your appearance. 

Although I prefer to maintain a light social calendar - I no longer shy away from invitations (or going to the store).  Now when people digest the drastic difference in my appearance - it's in an entirely positive way which leaves me feeling proud of what I've accomplished. 

5.  Sex/Intimacy
Yes, I have no reservations in addressing this very important topic.  It's incredibly hard to be sexual and intimate with your spouse when you're completely embarrassed and/or ashamed with your body.  How do you give yourself to another person when you're constantly holding back and hiding?  Quite frankly, you don't - not the way either of you deserve.

For more than 9 years of my marriage I would not willingly let my husband see me naked!  I would always wear some sort of clothing - either a baby-doll nighty or tank top with panties.  I covered myself with sheets or pillows...  I would even dive behind furniture or a door if he accidentally walked in on me simply changing my clothes. 

There's a lot I'm not going to say - but I will say that sex is amazingly different now that I have energy and confidence in my body. 

6. Energetic
I always had one extraordinary and feisty personality.  Oftentimes I wondered how much of my personality developed as a coping mechanism for my personal insecurities with my weight... For what I lacked physically I more than made up for with my smashing personality!  (I concede my personality wasn't always so fabulous...  in high-school I was a bit of a loud-mouth *itch - or in a more eloquent word, arrogant.  Thankfully I lived and learned from my shortcomings.) 

I can finally physically keep up with my own energetic and frisky personality!  I took the bull by the horns - it was worth the challenge! 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Back on Track

My weight loss journey was spectacular.  Here's a recap for those who don't know or don't remember...

I lost 135 pounds in 17 months (and lost another 5-8 pounds while I was on maintenance mode).  Yes, I lost weight but I gained!  I gained self confidence, energy, and an entirely new perspective on life. My larger than life persona was trapped in a cumbersome box (my obese body)... losing weight was like gradually unwrapping a phenomenal gift - the "real" me - a dazzling yet spunky firecracker!

Please don't misunderstand... the process wasn't all butterflies and rainbows.  There was/is no magic pill, shake or wrap for losing weight. You have to put in the hard work and dedication.  I repeat - hard work and dedication. Note: I did not mention motivation. Losing weight has absolutely nothing to do with motivation.  I didn't always desire to go run/exercise or only eat one piece of cake (truth be told - I really do want to eat the entire cake)... life isn't about our desires people! 

The hot question everyone asked me was, "How did you do it?" Once people adjusted to seeing the new me they stopped asking "How?" and started asking "Why?" - "Why haven't you gained back the weight?" I was slightly surprised by the question...

Why haven't I gained the weight back? I've read people comment on the statistics of obese people regaining their weight (if not more) after weight loss.  I believe those who gain back their weight didn't approach weight loss for the right reasons or they followed some ridiculous diet (if you couldn't or wouldn't eat that way for the rest of your life - then it's not a sustainable "diet").

I made reasonable dietary changes with no restrictions (except two things: no soda or artificial sugar). I eat everything in moderation.  Pasta? Bread? CARBS?  Oh my!  YES.  Pasta, bread, and CARBS aren't evil.  In fact, they're good for you (in as close to their natural state as possible (read: whole wheat and whole grain). Meat, fish and dairy are also good for you.  I don't care what documentary claims otherwise - unless you have a genuine allergy, I call BS on all that nonsense.  Furthermore, I established an exercise 5 days a week rule/commitment, no excuses.  Through sickness, through injuries, through vacations - I exercise 5 days a week (with very few exceptions - less than 5 times in 2.5 years). 

I didn't change my entire way of life to simply lose weight, to be a certain size or a certain number on a scale; I changed my life to get healthy!  I didn't gain the weight back because I continue to stay committed to myself and my health. I didn't stop eating healthy, well balanced meals and exercising once I lost my weight... I continued the process. It's really that simple.

With all that said, I have a confession. I have gained about 10 pounds.  Ok, technically 15 pounds but allow me to explain (why so defensive Serena?).  HAHA!  Earlier this year I decided to regularly add strength training to my exercise schedule.  Previously I was a cardio queen... honestly, I still love cardio.  However, I wanted/needed to strengthen and tone my body (in hopes of shaping areas I'm not too thrilled with - namely my flabtastic upper arms).  After a couple months I noticed I actually gained 5 pounds - however, I was slightly smaller physically. I wasn't concerned with the 5 pounds on the scale because I knew it was an increase in muscle mass and not fat.

The other 10 pounds... well, I had a few rough patches with binge eating over the last several weeks. I love to bake and when I bake - I do it right!  Butter, cream, sugar... you know, all that oh-so-delicious richness that make baked goods and pastries worthwhile!  I went a wee bit overboard and lost my grip on the reins for portion control.  I began compensating with increasing my exercise (which more often than not I used to justify my overindulgence in the first place). Exercise isn't a punishment and it's not a means to an end... it's for my health!

You may be thinking what's 10 pounds in the grand scheme of things? As previously stated, I don't care about the number on the scale.  I focus on how I feel in my own skin.  Since I typically gain weight in my midsection so those 10 pounds make me feel just as uncomfortable and bloated as I did when I was morbidly obese - and that is a feeling I do not wish to continue feeling! My favorite jeans don't fit well (one pair I can't even wear). Even a few dresses aren't as flattering and comfortable with the extra fluff beneath.   

So... here I am, refocused and ready to get back on track.  Although I have been fairly successful at intuitive eating for more than a year I decided I would go back to an old habit that I know works extremely well: food/calorie tracking. With a few minor adjustments to my eating habits and balancing my exercise routine I look forward to rediscovering my "comfortable self" soon.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Cilantro Lime Chicken with Avocado Salsa

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner; Styling: Jan Gautro
Cooking Light /

I rarely ever follow a recipe as written.  Given my experience with cooking and my personal flavor profiles/preferences, I find there is always room for personalization with a recipe. I took this recipe from Cooking Light as inspiration.  Following is my spin on it - it's a new family favorite (quick and easy too)!

1 whole chicken, skin removed cut into quarters (leg w/thigh and breast w/wing)
1/3 cup fresh lime juice (about 4 limes)
1/2 cup cilantro (about a large handful)
2 cloves fresh garlic
3 T. plain yogurt
1 T. avocado oil (or olive oil)
2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp ground cumin

2 medium-large tomatoes, chopped
1 ripe avocado
3 T. finely chopped red onion
2 T. fresh lime juice
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
a dash of avocado oil (optional)

In a blender combine the lime juice and remaining ingredients (through cumin), blend until smooth. Place the chicken pieces in a gallon sized Ziplock bag (or shallow glass/ceramic baking dish). Pour marinade over the chicken, coating all pieces.  Allow chicken to marinate overnight. 

Preheat over to 375˚F.  Line a "sided" cooking sheet (or a shallow baking dish) with parchment paper.  Place chicken onto parchment paper and bake for 45-60 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.  NOTE: Cooking time will vary depending on the size of your chicken.  My chicken was approximately 4 pounds (fairly big) so it took 60 minutes to bake.  If you have a smaller chicken it will cook faster.

Meanwhile prepare salsa.  Combine the tomato, avocado and onion in a bowl.  In a separate small bowl combine the lime juice, salt, pepper and avocado oil and whisk until blended.  Add to the salsa and gently mix well.

Served with saffron rice and a Mexican green salad with cilantro lime dressing. Alternatively you can saute or stovetop grill some Mexican zucchini for a complementary vegetable side dish instead of salad if you prefer.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014


Here I am... Can you believe it?  I haven't completely forgotten about my blog.  The thought of it has been quietly buzzing in the back of my mind for quite some time.  In fact, I even jotted down a variety of topics and thoughts I want to write about over the summer.

More than a year ago I wrote, quite fittingly, how saying "I don't have time to..." is an excuse for simply not making the time for what is important. Writing is tremendously important for me.  Sadly, I've lost sight of its significance and benefits over time. Thus, I haven't made time for it.

I cannot promise any regularity in my posts - however, I will endeavor to write as often as possible.  Although I may have a small non-existent audience at this point in time - the purpose of my blog has always been an avenue to express myself.