Health and Fitness Part III: Lifestyle Eating Change

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Make eating healthy a lifestyle.

I’ve always had issues with food and my weight. The eating issue began in my adolescent years. I was training to be a professional ballerina, and the body type for a ballerina is not just thin but “no meat on the bones” thin. At the age of 13 I can remember trying to lose weight when I tipped the scales at 85 pounds. Granted I’m small boned and short in stature (5’ 3” inches now and at the time probably 4 foot something height) but dieting at 85 pounds?

The Same 15 Pounds

Thankfully, I never struggled with anorexia or bulimia, but I did begin the cycle that still haunts me today. The cycle of following a strict diet, losing weight, then rewarding myself with food, eating everything in sight, and gaining it all back. I have gained and lost the same 15 pounds so many times that when added up it is close to 400 pounds. Seriously. 400 pound at least!

There are times in my life where I am in the “I have to lose weight because” mode. Now, this “because” mode could be any of a multitude of reasons: swimsuit season is almost here, mom and dad’s 50th wedding anniversary reception, or even that I will soon see my beautiful, skinny sister-in-love who lives out of town. You know the drill. There’s normally something that sparks us women to lose weight and start a diet. My life consisted of either days I would “eat and be bad” or days that I would “eat healthy and be good.” There was never a balance.

It’s Everywhere

I eventually hung up my toe shoes and gave up the dancing dream. Instead I went on to pursue my career in dentistry and graduated from The Ohio State University in 1986 with a Bachelor of Science in Education and a Certificate in Dental Hygiene.

In 1990 my husband and I moved to the glorious south where we live today. I love everything about the south: the weather, the friendly people, the hospitality and the food. The food, yes the food. It’s everywhere. We celebrate and comfort with food. Graduations, birthdays, good report cards, a new neighbor moves in, an old neighbor moves away, a sick friend, or death of a family member.

Even the dental office where I am currently employed as a dental hygienist is no exception. When in a healthy eating mode I would strategically not enter the lounge in my dental office. Why? There is always food! Not just food, but the kind of food that women like me can’t resist. Beautiful desserts brought by appreciative patients, leftover Halloween candy brought by staff who want to get it out of their house, gift baskets of delectable treats sent by dental specialists as a thank you for referrals, leftovers from yummy, but not so healthy, staff meeting lunches.

And Soft Drinks?

You name it, and at any given time it has been on the counter in my dental office waiting to be devoured by women like me. The final kicker is this: my dental office provides soft drinks for the staff! Okay, I know you are reading this now with your mouth open in shock or possibly even picking yourself up off the floor. You can’t believe it, but yes, our fridge is always full of any type of soda you might want. How was I ever going to maintain a healthy weight with all of these temptations?

Enter Alex, a twenty-something personal online fitness coach who is a dental patient of mine. Alex changed my life by introducing me to IIFYM (If It Fits in Your Macros.)

Life Change

My favorite part of dentistry is the relationships I develop with my patients. The day that changed my life was really no different than any other typical day in my dental world. I was cleaning Alex’s teeth and we carried on a conversation during treatment. (Isn’t it amazing how in dentistry we perfect the art of carrying on a conversation strategically timing rinses and instrumentation to keep the conversation flowing?) I knew Alex was an online fitness coach, but I had never asked him details of why he became one until this visit.

It was a time in my life that I was in the dreaded “because” mode of weight loss. Our son was getting married, and I had already lost close to my obligatory 15 pounds. During the dental appointment, my thoughts were drifting to after the wedding when I knew my “because” would be over and it would be inevitable that I would gain the weight back. Alex shared with me his struggle with obesity and how he had lost 100 pounds and managed to keep it off. His passion had become helping others develop a healthy lifestyle like his own.

The 80/20 Eating Plan

What inspired me was how he had managed to change his eating habits and keep the weight off without dieting! During that appointment, he taught me the basic principal behind IIFYM and how he did his online coaching. The basis of IIFYM is balancing macros (short for macronutrients.) Balancing macros and calories while eating “clean” for 80% of your calories and eating anything you want for 20% of your calories each day was Alex’s secret. This became my solution to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. When you can eat what you love every day, you don’t feel restricted or deprived. It isn’t a diet it’s a way of life.

I learned to use MyFitnessPal to plan and track my macros and my calories. Immediately I discovered that I wasn’t eating nearly enough protein, and that I was taking in too many carbohydrates and too few calories. The first thing Alex did was add 350 calories to my day. At first I thought he was crazy and begrudgingly I ate the amount of calories he advised me to eat. But in the back of my mind I was doubting him and thought that I would have to have my dress let out before the wedding. With that many calories, I thought there was no way I wouldn’t gain weight.

I Kept on Losing!

That never happened. I continued to lose weight until the wedding and after. Exercise has always been a part of my life, so I was already consistently running. Alex added weight lifting to my exercise program to increase muscle mass and boost metabolism. The big celebration of my lifestyle change took place after Christmas of this year when I didn’t gain back one ounce over the holiday. There was no deprivation. I enjoyed my pumpkin pie and Christmas cookies right along with the rest of my family.

Alex has gone on to pursue his dream of being a Physical Therapist and no longer does online fitness coaching. However, if you are interested in changing your life with IIFYM, research it online and connect with another online fitness coach to help you with the process.

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