I used to be thin...
...And then I went through two pregnancies. Not to mention my husband and I really enjoy cooking together and going out to eat. It did not take long for my weight to creep up, a few pounds every year, until one day I stepped on the scales and realized I weighed 222 pounds. I had tried so many ways to lose weight, and few of them had any effect at all. Even when I had a personal trainer and was building muscle - so much that I could leg press 375 pounds and take any crazy set my trainer threw at me - I still could not lose more than ten to fifteen pounds. I reasoned with myself - "At least I'm really strong!" "I guess it's worth a little bit of extra weight to be able to enjoy the foods I love." The most frustrating part was that it seemed no matter how I changed my diet, the scale wouldn't budge - unless it was moving in the wrong direction.
I was never any good at "dieting".
I tried weighing my food, keeping a calorie journal, reducing red meat, fats, carbs, but none of it worked. I never saw any of the methods as being enjoyable for a sustainable amount of time. Seriously, who wants to spend the rest of their life weighing their servings or looking up calorie counts on an app? I knew that my life was not going to get any less hectic anytime soon, and I simply didn't have the time to investigate my food every time I ate. The calorie counts of foods didn't make any sense to me, either, so I wasn't very optimistic about being able to wean myself off of a calorie counting app. Why did Brand X's strawberry yogurt have so many more calories than Brand Y's strawberry yogurt, even though Brand X was supposed to be the "healthy" kind? Maybe counting calories was a sensible approach forty or fifty years ago, but there are so many options now that a person could spend an entire day at the grocery store trying to figure out the calorie counts of a week's worth of groceries!
Many people I talk to struggle with these same issues. I have friends that cook their own meals, visit the gym every day, enroll their children in daily physical activities, and avoid sodas yet still can't manage to look in the mirror or step on the scale and feel like they are where they want to be. It is always a hot topic when we get together - "I lost a couple of pounds this month because I stopped eating (fill in the blank with the bad food du jour).
Then my husband was given a research assignment...
After retiring from the Army, my husband returned to college to complete his Bachelor's degree. His options were somewhat limited based on what would allow him to retain the most transfer credits, and he elected to enter the Community and Public Health program at the University of Central Oklahoma. One of his most intensive assignments was a research paper over the health topic of his choosing. He had done a small assignment previously about sugar and its effects on the body that had piqued his interest, so he took the opportunity to research it further. The more he read, the more shocked he became at what he was discovering. He would talk to me about it and I would continue folding laundry and half-listen, but I could tell he was starting to get excited about what he was learning. Finally, a couple of months after he turned his assignment in, I sat down and read the full paper and the accompanying resources.
I was blown away - and angry.
I had no clue that sugar was so prevalent in food, and that it was capable of the havoc it is wreaking on our bodies. Yes, our bodies require sugars to work properly, but those are natural sugars - fructose, glucose, and lactose - that occur naturally in fruits, dairy, and other foods. The sugars that are added (!) to so many foods, though - those are the culprit in many of our physical ills. And artificial sweeteners? Don't get me started! My education was not laden with science courses, but I have a good grasp of chemistry and biology. Still, my layperson's knowledge was more than sufficient to see that it's a miracle that any of us are alive if we eat the processed foods that have taken over our grocery stores! Don't get me wrong - I truly appreciate the convenience of these foods, and I enjoy eating many of them, but I feel like we have been betrayed by the producers of these foods. We really have no idea what some of the ingredients in our foods are - and that is purely intentional, in my opinion.
I put my newly acquired knowledge to work.
I knew that if half of what I had read was true, this surely was the key - the reason that none of the other approaches had been effective. Having a firm grasp of the effects of added sugars helped to steel my resolve - but it still took several weeks for me to really commit to what seemed to be a HUGE lifestyle change. I am a dedicated coffee drinker - but that used to mean that I was constantly replenishing our stock of liquid hazelnut creamer and sugar (pure cane, of course). I always assumed that sugar was absolutely the best choice since it had only 16 calories per teaspoon. According to what I knew about calories, that was practically nothing! Now, however, I was beginning to realize that calories are very different when sugar is involved, and I knew that my flavored coffees would likely be the most difficult sacrifice I would make. Once I decided to take the plunge, though, I made sure we had plenty of real cream in the refrigerator, since that would be all I would use in my coffee from then on. I was sure I would just completely give up coffee, or end up with my "coffee" being fifty percent cream. At first I wasn't crazy about this new way of getting my caffeine fix, but once my husband told me that cinnamon and nutmeg were perfectly acceptable add-ins, I was more satisfied.