Hi, my name is Helene and I’m a 43-year old married, mother of four. Two sets of twins, to be more specific. Two sets of twins who are two years apart, to be…well, insane. You got to roll with the punches, right?
Growing up, weight was never an issue for me. If anything, I was underweight…not by choice, of course. I ate whatever my mom put in front of me. She controlled every morsel that went in my mouth…or didn’t go in my mouth. Not that she starved me or anything but I wasn’t one of those kids who had free access to the pantry or the refrigerator. And she never bought “junk food”. I don’t think I actually knew what a twinkie tasted like until my college years.
Speaking of college years, it was the first time in my life where I had the freedom to do my own grocery shopping. I went a little wild…eating whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. If I wanted a soda at 3 am, my mom wasn’t there to prevent me from drinking it.
Fortunately, and thanks to a fast metabolism, I didn’t gain too much weight and the weight I did gain, I was able to take off fairly quickly. What I loved my most about my body was how proportionate it was…I was your classic 36-24-36 kind of girl. My arms were toned and sculpted, my tummy was tight and flat and my legs were muscular and lean.
And then I got married…and had kids. Poof….my perfect body was gone. Just like that.
I had four kids, ages two and under….a husband who often traveled out of town on business…and I was frumpy and bloated and frustrated. Oh, and tired. Very very tired.
When I had time to eat, it wasn’t usually something healthy. And exercise? Who had time for that? I could barely squeeze in a 2-minute shower on most days.
Over the course of four years, I continued to gain more weight. And if I was in denial about exactly how heavy I had gotten, my mother was there to point it out, often making comments such as, “Helene, you’ve gained so much weight!” and “You’re getting as big as a house!” As if I couldn’t look in a mirror and see it for myself?
It wasn’t until I ran into an old friend at the store one day and instead of raving about how great I looked, she smiled politely at me and said, “Wow, it’s been awhile!” I immediately went into self-hatred mode and said, “I’m surprised you even recognized me, considering how fat I’ve gotten!”
She shrugged and said, “Cut yourself some slack. You just had another set of twins!”
“Yeah,” I answered. “FOUR years ago!”
I sobbed the whole way home, incredibly disappointed in myself. It was then that I vowed to make some positive changes. How could I expect my kids to eat healthy foods and be active when I wasn’t exactly the best role model? I didn’t want to be the “couch potato mom”, watching my kids from the sideline. I wanted to be the mom running alongside her kids, keeping up with them and cheering them on.
At that point, two friends and I joined a gym and hired a personal trainer. This was the first time in my life I had ever lifted weights and I fell in love with it. It made me feel strong…powerful…invincible.
Our trainer continued to challenge us….box jumps, Bosu burpees, walking lunges carrying 25-lb kettlebells in each hand, walking on the treadmill at a 10% incline with a 50-lb child on my back. Every time I said, “I don’t think I can do this”, our trainer was right there screaming, “Yes, you can!” And I did.
Now that I had a regular workout routine in place, it was time to focus on my diet. When my trainer said I wasn’t eating enough food, I laughed in her face. In fact, I think I might have even snorted once or twice.
She went through the whole “your muscles need fuel, you’re starving yourself, blah, blah, blah” speech with me but I refused to listen. Finally, I agreed to increase my calories from 1200 a day to 1400 a day but that was my limit.
Within a couple weeks of eating 1400 calories, the weight began falling off of me at a quicker rate. Hmmm, maybe she was onto something here. So I increased again to 1500-1600 calories. And the weight continued to come off. My trainer continued desperately to get me to increase to 1700-1800 calories but I wasn’t hearing any of it.
After 6 months, my commitment to work out with a trainer was done and I had lost a total of 25 pounds. People were noticing the changes in my body, especially my husband. I cried tears of joy when I went through my closet, found the dress I had worn at our rehearsal dinner the night before we were married and it fit!!!
I continued working out on my own and managed to lose another 7 pounds. But then I hit a plateau, which was extremely frustrating considering how hard I was working out.
So I did what most people do when they hit a plateau… decreasing calories back down to 1200. It makes sense, right? Decrease your calories = lose weight. It should be that simple.
Problem is…it’s not that simple. Well, in the first week it was. I dropped about 4 pounds (probably mostly water and some hard-earned muscle). And the second week, I lost another 2 pounds (and more muscle).
Then I got stuck….again. I decreased my calories down to 1000. Not only was I hungry all the time, I was miserable and cranky. I watched other people enjoy their food, eating whatever they wanted, and I secretly wished on them an embarrassing case of explosive diarrhea.
Before I knew it, Thanksgiving and Christmas were upon us and after being stuck for a couple months at the same weight and virtually starving ALL. THE. TIME. I waved the white flag and allowed myself to eat whatever wasn’t nailed down.
Feeling miserable and defeated, I ended up gaining 20 of the 32 pounds back.
One evening, after the kids were in bed and my husband was on a business trip, I was flipping through the tv channels and stumbled upon an infomercial for Jillian Michael’s Body Revolution. I was intrigued and continued watching it, thinking, “I could do that! I CAN do that! I WILL do that!”
I googled it, found the website and ordered it almost immediately. Then I went in search of others online who were also doing the program, as a means of encouragement and support.
I ended up on My Fitness Pal and found a wonderful group of people who were also doing the program.
When I received the DVD’s in the mail, I poured through the information and began the program the next day. While I enjoyed the workouts immensely, I wasn’t enjoying the food plan, which only allowed for 1200 calories a day. My tummy growled almost all day long and I barely had enough energy to get through the workouts. There was no way I could continue this for another 11 weeks.
That’s when I found the Eat More 2 Weigh Less group on MFP. I stayed up late one night reading all the threads on the forum and trying to wrap my head around the process. I plugged my numbers into one of the online calculators and was completely blown away that not only was my BMR 1576 but my TDEE was 2400!!
I decided to increase my calories slowly, going from 1200 to 1400. And then from 1400 slowly up to 1800. I lost three pounds within the first week but then I got stuck losing and gaining the same lousy two pounds.
My brain screamed, “Decrease your calories! You’re eating too much!!” but my gut told me that there was something to this EM2WL process. I can’t explain it but I truly, whole-heartedly believed this would work for me. So, without hesitation, I increased my calories to 1900 and my weight began the downward spiral yet again.
I invested in a BodyMedia Fit so I could get the most accurate numbers possible. Imagine how shocked I was to learn that my actual TDEE was around 2800!! So even eating 1900 calories still wasn’t enough!!
Now, I’ve finally got a handle on things and I can say with all honesty that I love this way of living. Since I’ve been consistently eating the same amount of calories day in and day out, I’m dropping anywhere from .5 to 1.5 pounds a week.
In the 3 months I’ve been part of the EM2WL group, I’ve lost 9 pounds and over 20 inches. 9 pounds in 3 months may not seem like a lot but just look at my pictures and you can see how much my body has transformed in that short period of time. Last year at this time, I was 15 pounds lighter but my measurements are EXACTLY the same now as they were back then!
I cannot imagine ever going back to eating 1200 calories again. Or even 1500 calories. This is not a diet for me. It is a lifestyle change. I eat a clean diet for the most part but I do indulge in treats about 1-2 times a week. Nothing is off limits for me as I have learned how to integrate any food I want into my calories and macros.
I’ve completed the Jillian Michael’s Body Revolution program and have since moved on to ChaLEAN Extreme and Turbo Fire. My workout schedule includes 3 days of strength training and 2-3 days of cardio. I also enjoy swimming and bike riding, which I’ll sometimes do in place of a cardio DVD.
It’s all about being informed and making good, healthy choices. I now think of food not as the enemy but as fuel for my body.
Instead of feeling badly for what I’ve put my body through these last few years, I thank it now. It was strong enough to grow and give birth to 4 beautiful children. So the least I can do is continue to reward it with a healthy amount of nutritious foods.
Of course, I’m still in the middle of my journey. I have about 30 more pounds to lose. However, I don’t see myself giving up out of frustration like I have in the past. I have finally found something that works for me (and it does not involve decreasing calories)!!
Read part two of Helene's journey here.