Wendy and I met in 1999 in Los Angeles when we were pregnant with our children (who are about to turn 16!!) We became fast friends and have kept in touch even though we no longer live in the same city. I have had a lot of struggles with my weight over the years, and Wendy and I successfully attended Weight Watchers back in Y2K after our children were born and lost the weight we wanted to lose. Sadly I could not maintain my food restrictions and put the weight back on over the years.
I have been following Healthy Girl’s Kitchen since it’s inception and have tried to lose weight but have not had the success that I was hoping for. Last year, Wendy told me that I “HAD” to meet Chef AJ. Wendy said I HAD to, so, of course, I did. I didn’t know much about Chef AJ and wasn’t really sure what I would learn from her, but Wendy recommended her so off I went.
I first attended a cooking class with Chef AJ and then attended an in-person, four week, Ultimate Weight Loss challenge class last summer. Then I did another 21 day challenge, the Chef AJ and John Pierre 30 day challenge, and at least one or two more challenges including the current 21-day challenge. Actually, this is now my life and how I eat. Over this past year, I have been reading voraciously, listening to talks and teleclasses on-line, doing these challenges and attending events like Healthy Taste L.A. to see in-person speakers share about how to successfully adopt and stick with an Unprocessed, Plant-Based, SOS (salt, sugar and oil) free lifestyle.
I went into this with some healthy skepticism born of a lifetime of struggles with my weight, body image, and self-esteem. Honestly, I marveled at Chef AJ but was not super convinced that this plan would work for me. I have almost always been overweight and though I am rather fit, healthy and exercise regularly, I have never had permanent success with weight loss. But now, in the words of the Monkees, I’m a believer!!
I have had tremendous success with getting healthy and losing weight on this program.
I have found that it is really true that once I was able to abstain from the trigger foods (salt, oil, sugar and chocolate), I was able to break free of their hold over me and my brain chemistry and my body. It was very difficult at first, but I recognized the cravings and understood that I was breaking free from an addiction.
I remember what a hard time I had at Thanksgiving when the pies came out…..of course all eight of them were calling my name. But I walked away and hid out for about 10 minutes in another room until the cravings passed and most of the people were done eating dessert. Then I had to deal with all the left over pies that materialized at work on the Monday after Thanksgiving, but I was determined not to relapse because of pie.
I have been developing strategies to stay on track (like bringing my own food to a wedding and eating some of it in the car, or calling a restaurant ahead of time and arranging for a special meal to be made) that are working for me to and helping me to overcome challenges. My taste buds and brain chemistry have neuro-adapted and I really do enjoy wholesome, healthy foods (fruits, vegetable, legumes, grains and potatoes) A LOT. They taste delicious to me. Of course I still miss processed foods and chocolate like I would miss a drug if I were a drug addict in recovery, but I don’t want to go there anymore and suffer the consequences.
I have begun to do a big shopping and then batch cook a number of different dishes on the weekends so that I have many choices for breakfasts, lunches and dinners throughout the week. I have also prohibited my teenagers from eating non-SOS foods in the house. They were very angry when I withdrew their “drugs of choice” from them (i.e. pizza, cheese, white flour, yogurt), but they have adjusted. I do have one locked cabinet for my 15 y.o. son who is very slender and does not have major food issues where he can keep his snack foods (chips, juice boxes, pretzels, nuts, etc.) so that my daughter and I can’t get to them.
I have been about 95% compliant for the past 10 months and have been fine-tuning my program as I learn and understand more and more. In the beginning, I resisted giving up dark chocolate until AJ helped me to realize the painful truth that I have a problem with it. In the past, I have not been able to control myself around food in general and around sweets, salty snacks or chocolate specifically. The food controlled me, not the other way around. But with the support of Wendy, Chef AJ, John Pierre, Dr. Lisle and my friend Cynthia, I have been able to transform my health, my brain chemistry and my figure. In terms of exercise, I have been doing “sweat pilates” for about 14 months and also practice yoga at least once a week. I now wear a pedometer and try to walk 10,000 steps per day and also have converted my work station to a standing desk at work which has been a tremendous and positive change for me. I also am very careful to get enough sleep every night, to go to bed when I am tired and to take good care of myself and not “overdo” things.
I found that reading the Pleasure Trap and watching Dr. Lisle’s talks and following his advice helped me navigate the social challenges of my weight loss. Thanks to his teachings, I did not expect people to agree with me or support me and I actually expected people to try to sabotage me (which some did.) Therefore, I did what he recommended and kept it all on the low-down, saying I was just trying out “this new cooking class,” and being careful not to dress in a way that displayed my weight loss. Within the first six months, my cholesterol, which was not super high to begin with, dropped from 203 to 145. My physician was so proud of me!! In addition, some weird, “pre-Crohn’s” inflammation in my colon resolved itself within six months without any treatment. I am slowly titrating off of some psych meds with my doctor’s guidance because I am finding that I may not need them anymore now that my brain chemistry is balanced. I have more energy, have had very few headaches, and am down to a weight that I have not seen for over 30 years. It really hasn’t fully hit me yet, and I can’t believe this is happening to me. I am so grateful and at the same time I am really am very sad about how many people in our world are suffering from unnecessary diseases and weight problems that can be reversed with lifestyle changes. At the same time, I realize how challenging it is to make the lifestyle changes. Having done it for myself, I see that staying compliant is not really that difficult. It is my new normal and is not a struggle at all. The more I do it, the more I want to do it and the less I crave foods that used to have a hold on me. Being free from that addictive cycle is really very liberating and meaningful.
Recently, I have been cleaning out a lot of clothes that no longer fit me at all. Many of my old pants, even my so called “skinny pants” are so baggy and some even fall off of me. I have been buying new pants that are incredibly flattering and I don’t recognize myself in them. I think I will get used to this in time, but it is still so new and surprising to me. Last week I hit a big goal weight and am down 20 lbs since beginning this journey last June. I don’t know if I will be able to lose any more weight. I am open to seeing where I will stabilize and never thought I would even make it this far. The way that I have done this is just one day at a time. I have just stuck to the program and done this for me.
Thank you, Karen, for sharing your struggles and successes with us and allowing me to publish your story on Healthy Girl’s Kitchen. Thank you Chef AJ and John Pierre for your tireless work in bring this information and hope to thousands of people. My hope is that in sharing stories like this, readers can see that there is real possibility for recovery from processed food addiction and that calorie counting is NOT the only way to achieve your desired weight and health goals (cough cough).