Little Heather

Me as a kid, the toothpick.

Growing up I was always teased about how thin I was. I was called “tooth pick” by the kids at school and one of my family members kept telling me that I should be a model because I was so thin (it as supposed to be a compliment).

I never worried about how much I ate. To be honest, I wasn’t really in control of my food growing up. We were poor and we weren’t allowed to eat what we wanted, when we wanted. My brothers and I ate what was served to us, and if we were still hungry then too bad. When our financial situation improved, we still were not allowed to eat when we wanted. That’s just the way it was. The moment we got our hands on junk food or soda somewhere else (like my grandmother’s house), we went crazy. Cake, candies, cookies, were all devoured instantly without a care in the world.

I never worried about how clothes fit me in high school. I just grabbed a small or medium size and went with it. Pretty much anything fit. As I started to spend more time with friends whose food was less controlled, I got carried away with fast food that I didn’t get to eat often. I’d drink a 12 pack of soda in a weekend at their house BY MYSELF. I ate spoonfuls of Nutella from the jar in front of the computer while playing video games.

After about a year of that, I exploded my favorite pair of jeans. It wasn’t a big deal because I was still thin, but it shocked me a bit. So I threw myself at pitiful dieting by drinking Slimfast (like it was a drink and not a meal replacement.. oops) and diet sodas (which I would later learn were the cause of my migraines).

The problem was I had spent so much of my life cut off from these foods I wanted to eat and try, that it was as if I was making up for lost time somehow. I never learned to be in control of my own food. I was also depressed which didn’t help and I engaged in a lot of mindless and boredom eating.

Years later, when I found myself married to Frenchman living in France and unable to speak the language, my food problem got worse. We survived off pasta and I ate my meals in front of the computer when I was alone.

While I somehow managed to still remain thin in high school, it all started catching up to me really quickly. His family started making comments about my weight, and the older adults would offer me clothes that were too big for them.

I became offended. At the same time, I was unable to buy clothing that fit. French people are generally far more thin and short than we are in the US, and if my height wasn’t already a problem, my weight was. I was having to wear clothes for older ladies to have things that fit which is not what any young 20 something wants to wear.

Heather's Family

The picture that changed everything.

I ended up pregnant and my weight went up even more. At first, I was actually LOSING weight (nausea left me without an appetite), but after complaints from my doctor, I started forcing myself to eat and took on even more weight. When I saw photos of myself after my daughter was born, I could stand still no longer. Something had to be done.

Around the birth of my daughter, I met another young American woman in my town who had a child recently as well. We got along great and she would tell me how hard she was working to lose weight. I thought she already looked really great. She had a gym membership (which I could not afford) and lived off smoothies and health food and all that stuff. We decided to try to lose weight together, and she would get on my case any time I had a soda or a burger or something like that. So I started trying to eat like her, and with the recent approval of Alli in France, we jumped on that diet.

Being on Alli was hard. I was really hungry. You were limited to 15 grams of fat per meal or you would suffering horrible embarrassing consequences (I’m sure you can find more details on Wikipedia). I learned quickly which foods were ok and lived off a lot of salad. I went from about 180lbs (or more, I had stopped weighing myself at some point) to 155lbs and loved the way I looked. I was hungry, but I looked good. The problem with pills and things is you can’t do that forever. Alli was expensive, and I thought that since I had lost the weight, I would keep it off. Boy, was I  wrong.

My friend returned to the US and I was stuck again alone (sans friends) in France with no one to get on my case. I continued to eat like I had with Alli, but my weight wouldn’t budge. It started slowly creeping up and with that I became discouraged and slowly stopped trying. I gained back to 185 lbs.

In 2013, I joined My Fitness Pal determined to hold myself accountable. I started on the 1200 calorie diet that it threw at me, which reminded me a lot of when I was on Alli, and I was miserable. I became grumpy, grouchy, and was having constant headaches. I used RunKeeper to track any tiny bit of walking I did to hope that I could eat more food. Digging in the forums didn’t help me at first. I found so many topics of people saying how easy 1200 calories was to live off of if you ate the right foods and “ate clean”. That I just needed to wait for my stomach to get back to a normal size and I would be fine. Despite my best efforts and following MFP, I was not losing weight. I was about to give up again or just starve myself to get results.

Further digging would lead me to posts about IPOARM and EM2WL. People who ate REAL food and didn’t deprive themselves (which I knew from experience leads to binging). People who maybe didn’t weigh 115lbs or anything, but looked like a million bucks. They were healthy, they were fit and they weren’t going to extreme measures to get those results. I read a lot of the science behind it, and testimonials. I picked up the starter kit when it was offered for free one day and read it. It made sense. I was scared to up my calories (as everyone is at first), but I felt I I had nothing to lose.  I wanted in.


Heather Crop top

After a few months of EM2WL, I’m daring a crop top!

How long have you been on this journey?

I’ve been working on trying to lose weight for years. I can’t even remember anymore. Regarding EM2WL specifically, I started at some point last year. I admit it hasn’t been perfect. During the metabolism reset I lost 5lbs. It was crazy, I was ecstatic. However, I had surgery for an umbilical hernia repair and for a while I let the calorie tracking slide as I needed to recover. After a few months I took a look at the scale and wasn’t happy. Over all these years of attempted weight loss, I developed an unhealthy relationship with the scale (which I am still working on) and when my weight went up and then got stuck, I fell back into eating even less calories.

It was only at the beginning of this year, that I took the cliché New Year’s resolution to do EM2WL, as that had actually worked before and was sustainable. I intended to actually STICK to it. I wanted to work on doing strength training as well. Unfortunately, (before I even started trying to strength train) my hernia had come back, but I decided to try to take it slow and do what I could.

I won a Fitbit in a “New Year, New You” contest which helped beat into my brain that I was actually doing far more activity than I thought (I don’t have a car and walk everywhere) and that eating more wasn’t going to ruin me.

I understand that you have dealt with disordered eating in the past.  How were you able to overcome it?

For me to admit it was disordered eating still doesn’t register. I wasn’t eating well. I had a bad relationship with food. I would eat very little and then binge. It was bad and self-defeating. I found that when I allowed myself some of the things I wanted (burger, soda, cake or what have you), I was less out of control later. After I upped my cals, I found that I could make room for the things I wanted. I’d be more reasonable with portions. Instead of eating 5 slices of pizza, I’d have 2, for example.

There were also days where I went over. I stopped letting that control me. If I noticed I was over, I made sure to ask myself whether I was really hungry or just being bored or gluttonous the next time I wanted food. The next day, I tried to do better, but I stopped punishing myself. I still have days where I am over, I accept that not every day will be perfect and try to do better the next day. It’s just food, it isn’t a crime.

Heather is rocking leggings - clothes she never thought she could wear.

Heather is rocking leggings – clothes she never thought she could wear.

When did you first learn that you needed to eat more to reach your goals? What was your original response?

When I started reading about TDEE and BMR I learned that I was not eating enough at all, that was the end of 2013. I was skeptical at first, but I was just so hungry. I was really happy to get to eat over 1200 cals and was glad that science seemed to back that up. I figured if what I had been doing wasn’t working (and it wasn’t), what did I have to lose with trying this method?

As I’m a non-working housewife who tends to play a lot of video games and didn’t exercise much, I had estimated that I didn’t do much all day. I worked out my TDEE to be 1900 cals or so, and my BMR around 1500. Based off of that I was eating at about 1560 cals a day. It wasn’t until I acquired my Fitbit Charge this year that I found of my TDEE was actually between 2300 and up to 2800 cals a day (depending on how many errands I had to do). If I thought 1560 was ok to eat at, I was ecstatic to be able to eat at over 2k cals a day and even more when it actually WORKED.

How did others around you act about your decision to discard the usual low cal methods for weight loss?

Honestly? My husband thought I was just finding an excuse to not stick to my goals. He was tired of me complaining about my weight. He told me “do something about it, or stop complaining”. He said it didn’t matter to him what I did, but that I wasn’t allowed to complain about it while I was doing nothing to change it. So when I said I was going to eat more after I had been working on eating less, there was some eyebrow raising. When I tried to explain it to people, they didn’t seem to follow. They’d regurgitate something about “eating clean” or that I needed to go running at least once if not twice a week for results. Eventually, I just stopped saying anything and quietly stuck to my goals.

After my progress though, I’m willing to fight tooth and nail and shout from the roof tops that I eat more without any extreme measures.

How did your body react to the initial increase in cals?

During the metabolism reset, I lost 5lbs. I know it isn’t typical, but I was really happy. The only problem was it set a high precedent for me and the first time I attempted the EM2WL method and when I actually lowered my cals more and it didn’t seem to move much. I got disheartened rather quickly.

I know now with the help of my Fitbit that my “reset” was probably actually closer to a TDEE -15% goal as I had poorly estimated my TDEE. That would explain why things slowed down when I cut that by another 15%. I could honestly probably use another bit of a reset (a real one this time ;) ) as I have been eating at a deficit for a while now.

Heather's progress

Heather is shrinking!

Did your family notice or comment on any changes once you upped your calories for a period of time?

At some point during my first attempted run through EM2WL I was back in Texas visiting my family for 2 months. I was eating everything. There were so many foods I missed, like tacos! My mom would get on my case and tell me I was overdoing it. That I was going to lose all my progress I had made because I was eating too much. I had days where I went over, but I was generally mindful. I was having a hard time making her understand that my progress was actually due to eating more. Her and my dad rolled their eyes at me, they were not convinced. They see my progress, but just say things like “That won’t work for me”.

I know first hand that the weight loss industry has a lot of people convinced that deprivation is part of losing weight. I hope to keep showing that one doesn’t have to deprive themselves nor run themselves ragged to reach their goals. That weight is just a number on a scale and focus needs to be more on fat loss than weight loss. In time, I hope to change more minds.

Can you describe your typical workout schedule prior to EM2WL and today?

Prior to EM2WL when I was actively working on trying to lose weight, I was doing my usual walking that I do from not owning a car. I now know it is quite a bit (I have no issues getting 10k steps on a normal day and sometimes have over 20k). I was also going to run 3 miles once or twice a week with a friend. I combined that with cardio workouts from Your Shape Fitness Fitness Evolved 2012 (an xbox kinect exercise game) and did that 3 to 4 times a week.

In January this year when I resolved to follow EM2WL more closely, I decided to focus more on strength training. I grabbed myself some starting dumbbells (2 x 3 kg/6.6lbs, knowing I had to carry them home on foot lol) and picked back up Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2012. I’d start with general warm up type exercises (hula hooping, arm circles, squats etc) and then go for a full body strength routine that lasted about 13-16 minutes. That routine included things like bicep combo lunges, sumo squats and the like. I’d finish up with a 13 minute yoga routine to help with muscle soreness (and the days I didn’t, I regretted it!) with some more cool down stretches after. I did that twice a week on top of my daily errand walks (10k steps+ a day). Honestly, it was really easy. It made for about an hour of workout a week, not a lot at all!

However, by the end of April I had to give up the strength training as my hernia had gotten pretty bad again. So progress has slowed a bit, but I’m trying to be better about my food in general at least. I hope to get this hernia addressed again (with a mesh instead this time) so that I can work on strength training again as the results were so much more pronounced and I really enjoyed it. It didn’t even take a lot to make a difference!

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