Friday, February 24, 2012

Waiting for Monday

My friend Linda came over to cool off in my inflatable “redneck” pool one day when we were having an unusually hot Kentucky summer. While we were enjoying a leisurely afternoon of drinks and floating in the pool, we began talking about my new favorite subject, weight loss. I said to her, “One of the things I do if I cheat on my diet is to immediately go back to the diet as opposed to ‘waiting for Monday’ to come around to start my diet again. Doesn’t it seem like whenever you’re on a diet, you always wait until Monday to begin again?” Linda, being the marketing genius that she is, said, “What a great title for a book: ‘Waiting for Monday.’” I decided to not only give my note the title “Waiting for Monday,” but chose tonot make that my life’s motto. When you’re making big changes in your life, there is no room to continually wait on Monday.

Let me begin my story by saying that the mirror lies, but photos do not. I don’t know how many times I looked at myself in the mirror and never noticed the weight gain that had been sneaking up on me for years. Even though month after month and year after year my pants size started to slightly increase, the mirror told another story. Skinny mirror? Hmm ... you decide. Either way--remember, photos don’t lie.

It was 2009 when I spent the summer surrounded by friends, photographers and beautiful brides. A group of photographers and I would get together and photograph brides during a series of summer workshops. Oftentimes in the photos, my friend would step back and take a photo of the entire scene, complete with working photographers. I was one of the photographers. These photos would become crucial to my “life change.” When the workshop was over, the photographers would come back to my house and view the photos on my computer. I paid close attention to this one particular photo of three female photographers facing forward, only reveling them from the back. I looked closely at the details of this one particular photo of the girls, because I recognized the shirt of this one “chubby” photographer, yet did not recognize the photographer. In a moment, I gasped for air as the dreadful reality sank in: the “chubby” photographer was me. There I was--fat arms, out of shape and obviously overweight. The photograph revealed what the mirror had not. Mirror, mirror on the wall …

I wish I could say that this particular “fat” moment changed my life, but the truth is I wasn’t ready for change yet. A few months later I was in the car with my husband. We had been out clothes shopping, something I hated doing, but I was in need of new pants. My size 12’s were getting tight on me, and to loosen things up I purchased a size 14. This was in fact my lowest point. Maybe you are reading this now thinking, “Size 14, if only.” I am 5’1” at best, not to mention small-boned. A size 14 on me meant that something in my life was horribly wrong. I said to my husband through streaming tears, “I don’t want to be fat.” This wasn’t me, at least not the me that I remembered.

I grew up extremely athletic. Upon high school graduation and a few years beyond, I never weighed more than 100 pounds. When I hit my 20s, my poor eating habits--consisting of fast food such as McDonald’s, donuts, beer and pizza--were quickly catching up to me. At 23, my metabolism came to what felt like a screeching halt. I spent my 20s riding the weight loss and weight gain roller coaster, but never getting over 120 pounds. When I met my husband, I was in the best shape of my life. I have photos of my six-pack stomach to prove it. I was 25 years old, living in Florida and extremely active. But when I sat in the car that day knowing what my “unhealthy” future would look like, I told Jeff that I needed to get busy living or get busy dying. I was at a crossroads and I knew it. That was the day I decided to change my life. Being fat is a choice. Being thin is a choice. It was time to get the old me back.

This is where my friend Megan came in. Megan had lost nearly 30 lbs on Weight Watchers, and the change was dramatic. After a blisteringly hot summer afternoon acting as Megan’s groom at a horse show, I invited her over for dinner and to cool off with a beer. The biggest question I asked Megan, and one that still resonates today, was this: “Megan, did you ever think you would be thin again?” She answered, “No.” At that moment I didn’t feel alone. Something clicked within me, and as if in a whisper I heard myself saying, “I can do this.” I said to Megan, “I hate following all these weight loss books with specific foods to eat every day; it’s so expensive and tedious. Tell me in general terms what you ate to lose weight.” The answer was quite simple: A bowl of mixed fruits for breakfast; snacks during the day included granola bars, fruit, nuts, veggies and yogurt--basically grazing throughout the day (think small meals). Dinner was salad and lean grilled meats, such as chicken. Keep track of what you eat, drink lots of water and be accountable. Another fascinating thing Megan mentioned was that as you start eating healthier, your taste for food will change (more on that later). I liked the idea of eating all those healthy foods, and this turned out to be the moment when I started to think about eating healthy and ultimately acting on it. This was around June 2010.

I began my weight loss by getting on the scale. I know! It was scary. I vowed to get on the scale every week, and because I did so, it turned out to be not only rewarding, but a form of accountability at the same time. I loved getting on the scale and watching the numbers drop week after week. It also kept me from saying, “Well, I lost 15 pounds and then put back on 10.” If you are getting on your scale frequently, then there is no letting the weight sneak back on.

In the months that followed my conversation with Megan, along with my new healthy food plan, another critical moment for me was when I downloaded the free app on my iPhone called “Lose It.” I set up my profile along with my weight loss goals. Because my phone is always with me, I was able to enter in all the foods that I consumed during the day. I was shocked to see how many calories I was taking in. I had to cut down the proportions as well as unhealthy food choices in order to make my daily goals. I slowed down my trips to Starbucks and dining out. Keeping track of everything I was eating along with how fattening the food I was consuming really was, was nothing short of eye-opening. I was weaning myself off toxic foods slowly; sadly, I still craved fast food from time to time in the beginning. I would occasionally eat at the golden arches, but selected the children’s meal as opposed to my past life of super-sized. But that was in the beginning. The longer I continued eating healthier foods, the less I could tolerate the bad ones. My tastes were beginning to change.

Another pivotal moment for me came from purchasing a book called “Chicken Soup for the Soul: Shaping the New You.” I wasn’t shopping for books, but the title caught my eye. I thumbed through the pages and stopped when I noticed a letter a woman wrote to her love--chocolate. The letter was about how chocolate took over her life, and how she loved chocolate but it never loved her back--a break-up letter. I knew I was meant to purchase the book after reading that. I took it home and immediately began to read the stories inside. Some of them made me cry in the traditional “Chicken Soup for the Soul”-book way, but there was one story in particular that deeply resonated with me. A Christian woman wrote about our bodies being a temple that we are called to take care of. She spoke about gluttony and sloth, two things that will make you gain weight; overeating and being lazy. I never thought about not exercising and being overweight as being a sin until that moment.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20
19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.

As a Christian, I try to glorify God in everything, but reading that Bible verse gave me new motivation as to why I had to take care of my body.

Riding in my car one afternoon, I tuned into the John Tesh radio show. His topic was not his usual spin on how to avoid contracting germs; it was on the signs and symptoms of addiction. When we hear the word addiction we normally default to thinking about drugs and alcohol. But as I listened to the description of what addiction is, I made the discovery that I was addicted to food, especially fast foods and chocolate. I think about chocolate every day and almost all the time. I watch the clock and can’t wait for my one piece of chocolate every day. Chocolate was the dark lord controlling my life. I made the decision right then and there to get rid of the addictive high-calorie, low-nutrition food in my house. I didn’t throw away my chocolate; I did however have my husband hide it. Jeff would give me a single piece of chocolate every day. This gave me my reward, and since I didn’t know the location of the chocolate stash, I could no longer overindulge on more than one piece. I wasn’t dieting, after all; I was in fact developing a “life change.”

Now that I was eating healthier and avoiding high levels of fattening foods, I began losing weight. The weight loss was slow at first, and then in a moment, I was going from one belt hole to the next smallest, week after week, until I eventually had to punch new holes in my belts to fit. By December 2010, I had lost 25 pounds. You may be thinking, “Woo hoo, bikini time!!!” But pump the breaks … losing 25 pounds at 35 years of age without exercising isn’t a pretty picture. Shockingly, hardly anyone noticed my 25-pound weight loss. I couldn’t believe it, considering I am only 5’1”. In my mind, the weight loss should have been visually dramatic--but it wasn’t.

As January 2011 rolled around, so did my thoughts on New Year’s resolutions. I made the decision to commit to exercising. The key to exercising is finding something you like to do. If Jane Doe lost 50 pounds by running and you HATE running … guess what? You won’t stick with running. My weapon of choice was the treadmill. I decided with my asthma and countless allergies that walking on my treadmill at home would be a solid choice. No traveling to the gym, no worries about inclement weather--this was the answer for me. Armed with my beloved “Chuck” episodes on my iPhone, I began walking. At first I started off slow; I was clearly out of shape and testing my exercise-induced asthma at the same time. As the months went by, I began choosing a faster walking pace and a steeper incline. I soon added weight lifting to my workout regimen. I had developed what I called my “bat wings,” the loose skin that hung from the back of my upper arms. The fat was gone, but the excess skin remained. I was determined to get my arms fit, so I looked up arm exercises for women on the Internet and made myself a weight lifting schedule. I only worked out a few days a week, alternating the treadmill with weight lifting every other day, and on occasion both in the same day. I was convinced that I wanted to do exercises that were not only fun but were things that I could commit to. I am not your two hour a day person who lives for the gym. I am your average person who just wanted to be healthy. One day I looked at the scale and realized I made my goal weight of 115 pounds. I went from a size 14 to a size 4 pants in about eight months. This time everybody noticed that I had lost weight, and I felt amazing.

In the process of losing weight by eating healthy and exercising moderately, I discovered that I felt so much younger. I often joked and said that I’d found the Fountain of Youth. I had unlimited amounts of energy. I was closing in on 36 and I felt like I was in my 20s. Losing weight also made me look years younger. It was so much fun telling people that I was 36, because no one believed me.

I truly believe that no one wants to be overweight. You must understand that being overweight is a choice. It is a choice you make each time you make a bad food decision; each time you decide that you don’t want to exercise or say you don’t have time. Being thin is a choice. You have to decide to commit to eating right and exercising. The best thing you can do for yourself is take care of yourself. If you want to lose weight, you have to make eating healthy and dieting a high priority.

Looking back on my late 20s and early 30s, it’s easy to see that being overweight is often triggered by life’s harsh twists and turns. It was hard for me to leave my beloved Florida and move to Tennessee, where my husband immediately lost his job and was unemployed for a year. We then moved to Kentucky and were under large amounts of stress due to finding a house, moving in general, and adjusting to Jeff’s new job. Another factor was the unbearable tension & verbal abuse that we were suffering due to certain family members. We had an extremely sick dog that our lives revolved around for years. I quit my job and went back to school to pursue my photography degree. My husband had to live in Japan for a year for work, while I stayed in Kentucky finishing out my degree. Another huge stress is that we had to put our beloved dog Spike down… the list goes on. Looking back, makes seeing the "why" I was gaining weight more clearly.

I believe that you have to get healthy emotionally before you can get healthy physically, or at least that’s how it happened for me. I was at rock bottom: tired, overweight and miserable. I didn’t want anyone to see me because I was embarrassed about being overweight. Being fat was a huge regret; there were days I didn’t even want to leave my house. I wasted so much of my life not only being fat, but being miserable about being overweight. Even if I were fat for a day, it would still be a waste. I wasted too much time being out of shape. I missed out on years of improving my horseback riding, years of being unstoppable. As an overweight person, I just felt dead. I fell into the trap of believing the common lie that once you get married, somehow it just seems natural to gain weight and let yourself go and dissolve into the fray. I believed that once, but now I believe in me.

So there I was a size 4, 115 pounds. I asked my family doctor how much I should weigh, and he said 110, but told me I was “fine” where I was. He also told me the guideline to figuring out how much you should weigh: For a 5-foot woman, you begin at 100 pounds as a starting point. You then add 6 pounds for every inch, so a 5’1” woman like myself should be around 106 pounds. This is a starting point and not something that is set in stone though, since everyone is built differently.

I went home and plugged my new goal weight into my “Lose it” app, and began to think about all the food I ate each day and where I could make improvements. It turns out I was eating too much chocolate, and I quickly cut back. It didn’t take very long to get down to a size 2 as well as my goal weight of 110 pounds. I watched the chocolate intake and began working out harder, longer and more frequently. I eventually reduced my weight to 107 pounds, which was when I lost 36 pounds total.

As I was getting ready to photograph a wedding one night, I gathered up all of my equipment and packed it into my backpack. When people see my cameras and lenses, it’s almost always the same reaction: “Wow, that looks heavy!” Yes, my camera is heavy--so heavy that when I got on the scale with my backpack loaded with camera equipment, it turned out to weigh 25 pounds. Then it hit me. I realized that if I added 10 more pounds to my camera bag, it would be equivalent to the weight I was carrying around with me while I was heavy. Wow, that is perspective. Looking back now, I can’t imagine how hard having 36 more pounds must have been on my body.

If you are reading this right now, ask yourself, “Why am I overweight?” Are you depressed? Stressed? Low self-esteem? Someone or something holding you down? A terrible job? No job? Death in the family? Addicted to caloric foods? Do you believe the lie that you are overweight because it’s genetic? Maybe you have given up on believing you too can live a healthy life? Figure out what foods are triggering your weight gain. Can't decide? Ask yourself which food you could never live without - it may just be the ones you are addicted too.

I watched a food documentary one afternoon where a woman said that her entire family was obese except for her. She was, in fact, the only one in her family who exercised as well as ate a healthy diet. Your parents are the ones who teach you about food. You will most likely grow up eating the types of foods that they prepared, guaranteeing you a life of obesity if those foods were unhealthy.

In the beginning I believed all kinds of lies when it came to weight loss, including the following:
1. I was never going to be thin again.
2. My metabolism was slow due to my age and losing weight was harder.
3. I am a woman and we don’t lose weight easily.
4. The last 5 to 10 pounds are the hardest.
5. Everyone lets themselves go once they get married.

There were also lies that other people believed and told me:
1. One person said that being overweight is genetic. I have never actually met an overweight person who commits to eating healthy and exercising that didn’t successfully lose weight.
2. Other people said they don’t have time to work out and eat right. If you don’t make time, then you won’t have time. I would say that 70% of what I eat each day is raw. When it comes to eating raw fruits and veggies, all you have to do is rinse them with water. I would argue that everyone has time for that.
3. When it comes to losing weight, age is only a factor if you let it be. One of my friends is 52 years old and has lost over 65 lbs from eating right and exercising.

We did it and you can too. Believe you can!

Here’s my basic advice for getting started:

1. Believe in yourself.
2. If you have a chocolate meltdown, don’t wait until Monday to get back on track--get back on track immediately.
3. Download the “Lose it” app or visit their website,
4. Get rid of the junk food in your house. If there is a food that you are trying to live without and you can’t bear the thought of parting with it, you may be addicted. Get help.
5. Drink plenty of water. I drink 64 oz. of water a day. I add lemon, cucumber and ginger to it for flavor. Try to cut out all unnatural drinks like soda. If you can’t bear the thought of living without soda, try the small cans and limit yourself to one a day. Soda dehydrates you, making you hold on to belly fat and bloating.
6. Don’t eat when you’re not hungry (try gum).
7. Eat when you are hungry, but eat healthy foods. You can eat veggies all day long.
8. Think of this new way of living as a life change and not a diet. “Diet” suggests going without. I lost 36 pounds and I still have a Cadbury Cream Egg and ice cream almost every day.
9. Think portion control: Smaller portions, more meals and smaller bites.
10. Healthy foods are a must. Stick to foods like fruits, nuts, grains, salads, lean meats and veggies. Stay away from all processed foods. Processed foods are packed with salt, chemicals and preservatives.
11. If you must have fast food (I had to in the beginning), order from the children’s menu.
12. Get out of your eating habits. We often eat the same junk food at the same time every day. We form food patterns. (kinda like smoking habbits)
13. When you are out and about, pack your lunch so that you can control your calories and give your body the nutrition it needs.
14. Don’t feel guilty if you can’t finish what is on your plate. Guilt always leads to overeating, therefore stuffing yourself and taking in more calories. Listen to your body.

As I slowly started to develop my new lifestyle, I began restructuring my diet after watching documentaries such as:

--Forks Over Knives
--Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead
--Fast Food Nation

I highly recommend watching these programs. They will change your life forever. My new thoughts were to not just eat right to lose weight, but to get proper nutrition into my body. I started adding a heavy helping of raw veggies to my diet. I was literally detoxing off of unhealthy processed food. As a direct result, wonderful things were happening with my body. I felt great; even my hair was getting thicker and younger-looking. My skin is softer. I feel more rested. Better nutrition leads to good things other than just weight loss. Now, I would choose raw carrots, celery, or broccoli over a cheeseburger and fries any day.

Did you know that our “fast food generation” is not expected to outlive their parents? Read:

Losing weight should be about saving your life, preparing for your future and getting healthy for today. It is believed by health experts that seventy percent of diseases can be avoided by proper weight and proper diet. That is a staggering percentage.
Many of you who read this will argue with me that eating healthier is more expensive. Yes, it is. However, you will pay for your health one way or another. Would you rather spend your money on good food and feel great, or on bad foods that deprive your body of nutrition and will ultimately cause weight/nutrition related diseases? If you look forward to diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol issues and heart disease, then pass the pizza, french fries, fried food and sodas.

Once again the mirror was up to its old tricks. I put my bikini on and thought this now size-2 girl was ready to hit the beaches … until I had photos taken of me on a beach in the Dominican Republic. Remember how photos don’t lie? After seeing myself in thos photos, I personally felt that I had work to do. At this point, many people would have been happy. They would have newfound energy and would feel simply wonderful slipping on size 2 jeans. For me, I knew I needed to amp up my efforts, and called a trainer to help me with exercises. She recommended some exercise tapes as well as adding more protein to my diet for muscle-building. I decided to commit to working out every day. My workout was no longer going to be something I did when it was convenient for me, it was going to be something that I was deeply committed to doing each day. I now work out to Tony Horton’s 10 minute trainer:

This exercise is perfect for the busy person or someone who is getting back into exercising. You can work out for 10 minutes and stop, or get greater results by stacking the videos. Doing one 10-minute video is a great way to implement exercise back into your life. Start out slow if you need to. I started out slow. That worked for me. I used to jump into some type of workout and when I couldnt' do half the tape because I was out of shape, I would give up. I built my body strength up over time. Usually results are addictive and you will eventually want to work out more.

I also workout to this video: The Brazilian butt lift--I LOVE this exercise. I love Leandro; so sweet and encouraging. I have also added protein shakes to my diet as well as protein bars (Luna bars) for women. I have been working out with these DVD's and the recommended guidelines. I have taken my measurements as well as before and after photos. There is a reason for taking photos before and after--photos don’t lie. I also recommend buying these DVD's for yourself because they include nutrition plans, weight bands, an exercise schedule, etc. I have been doing these DVD's for over a month now, and the muscle definition and the overall toning of my body is rapidly changing into a new, stronger me.

Let’s face it--my whole life has changed. Two years ago when I was riding horses regularly, I was always tired (I didn’t know at the time that I had asthma, which didn’t help matters). I was overweight and out of shape. I could barely trot the horse around the ring more than once without being winded. Now that I am strong, I am making huge advances in each riding lesson I take because I have the strength that is necessary for riding. I can’t explain how wonderful it feels.

Being overweight will steal your joy, your self-esteem, and ultimately your life. From the bottom of my heart, know that you can change your future. You just have to believe in yourself.

So you want to change your life?

1. Start by putting on your bathing suit and taking pictures of yourself from all sides. Seeing yourself in photographs is really an eye-opening experience.
2. After you talk to your doctor about weight loss and exercise, download the “Lose It” app, or go to their website,
3. When you’re at the grocery store, stick to buying fresh fruits, veggies, nuts, granola, protein bars, salads and lean meats. Don’t forget to add your favorite treat (mine was chocolate and ice cream). It’s important for you to remember that this is not a diet, but a lifestyle change. Find foods you like. Find veggies and fruits that you can get along with. Remember, the goal is not just to stop your stomach from being hungry, but to fill it up with nutrition so that your body can function properly.
4. Exercise
5. Set goals
6. Be accountable for what you eat
7. Educate yourself on health and what your proper weight should be. See the weight chart at:
8. Believe in yourself: You can do it!
9. Watch “The Biggest Loser”
10. Love yourself

Today when someone says to me that I am “tiny,” I don’t hesitate to show them my “fat” photos. When you tell me that you feel it’s impossible to lose weight, I will tell you it’s possible. I want to inspire you. I am truly honored when I receive your texts, emails, or Facebook status updates about your weight loss adventures. I love hearing about how exercise is changing your life and all the weight you are losing. I also want to be a shoulder to lean on when you share with me your setbacks and your struggles. I was there, too, and some days I still am.

Today, I am no longer trying to lose weight, and am happy at my current size. I went from a size 14 to a size 0. I work out every day because I love to and because I am learning to love myself. I haven’t loved myself in a long time. I continue to take photos of my progress and I continue to work hard at my goals. I am very happy to report that I no longer have “bat wings.” I continue every day to decide, commit and succeed.

I did it … now it’s your time.

I have been told that I inspired you to change your life. You said that I inspired you to become a healthier you. I have been told that when you saw my “fat” picture and looked me over, you realized I was an everyday person like you, (non celebrity) and that you too could change your life. Because of you, I decided to write down my journey so that I could not only share it with you, but so you can come back and reference this note any time you need encouragement and support.

Believe in yourself!!!

Love, from the bottom of my heart.


Monday, February 20, 2012

The new me

My friend Megan Webb owner of Webb Photos, took this image of me this past weekend. She is a wonderful friend & photographer - check out her work!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Changing Faces of Tibet - artist Frank Becker

The amazing artist Frank Becker will be exhibiting his photographs in a gallery showing titled, "Changing Faces of Tibet" on February 17th, 2012 at the Hunt Morgan House during Lexington's gallery hop. - YOU DON'T WANT TO MISS IT!!!