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When an enemy becomes a friend!

Friday, April 27, 2012

It’s this time of the year again that all people who take care of a household dread: reorganizing closets and changing clothes according to season! Especially for a mom of young children, this can be a daunting task. Old clothes, clothes that don’t fit anymore, clothes that can be kept for the youngest children, outgrown clothes that can be given to other children, worn clothes that have to be thrown away, a bunch of clothes that needs sorting out! And, of course mom’s and dad’s clothes. Well, that’s what I’ve been doing the last few days.

Every year, this would be a really difficult time for me. And I don’t mean the amount of work that needs to be done, nor the time it takes, not even the tiredness it causes. I mean the feelings that would always arise after it. I would always stand in front of my open closet - which is tiny, by the way, because our apartment only has two small closets and I share one with my husband - and always come to the same conclusion: I have nothing to wear and it's my fault! The reason is that I had some clothes from previous years, from when I was thinner which I hadn’t gotten rid of because I always thought “Next summer I will have lost weight and it will fit me.” And the next summer I would say the same. And I would keep these clothes on one end of my closet so that I could see them daily and find motivation to try and lose weight! And the worst part is that every summer - or winter - they would take more space in my closet than the previous one! Simply because the number on the scale would go up and more clothes wouldn’t fit! The closet had become my number one enemy!

This year I started the task knowing that something had changed. I knew it from the first glance through my summer clothes. Lots of them were huge and I put them separately to give them away. But I first tried them all on! I even wore a dress with my daughter together! It was funny and we had a great time doing this. Then I started trying on some of my older clothes. Clothes that I hadn’t worn for years. When I finished putting them in my closet, the look of it was somewhat disappointing. Just a few clothes, most of them old as our budget has been tight and priority is always given to the children who outgrow theirs. Zero variety, few choices and combinations and mostly workout clothes. And I stood in front of it staring. With a huge smile on my face…
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For the first time in years, everything that I have in my closet fits me! And I mean everything! There is no kept-for-when-I-lose-weight part of the closet. I don’t care if my clothes are old, I don’t care if I can’t go shopping for new, what I care about is that they fit! All of a sudden, the closet had become a friend!

And there’s something that made me even happier. There was this long summer dress that my husband had bought me as a gift during our first years of marriage – I don’t remember when exactly but it must be about 12 or 13 years ago. When I first tried it on back then, it was a little tight. But I didn’t take it back as it was the biggest size available and I really liked it. So, I thought I’d lose a few pounds and be able to wear it – the story of my life! I had never worn it until yesterday. I tried it on and it was loose! I can officially say I’m in the best shape of my life! With proof!

Now that I think about it, maybe the motivation of the closet worked after all. Maybe this part with the clothes that didn’t fit really motivated me to do something. It just took me about 13 years to do it the right way! Better late than never!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

IMCG2012 5/14/2012 8:47AM

    You are right, that sounds familiar! You are doing sooo well! Congratulations on this big achievement! Looking forward to keeping each other motivated until we reach our goal weight! Thank you again for becoming my SparkFriend!

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JORULES 5/5/2012 9:07AM

    you are awesome..way to go. I love yor blogs

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PAMNANGEL 4/30/2012 2:30PM


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JITZUROE 4/30/2012 2:19PM

    Oh my gosh I am sooooooo happy for you!!! And jealous at the same time since I have clothes in my closet that I swear are laughing at me (way too tight currently).
Perhaps I should move them to th front of the closet like you did, so I can see them often, and fit the weight battle again!

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AEROBISAURUS 4/27/2012 10:54AM

    I LOVE when that happens. emoticon on the new wardrobe!

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CANNIE50 4/27/2012 10:48AM

    WHat an enjoyable blog, and I am so happy for you. Yay!! emoticon

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ARTISTKATE 4/27/2012 10:44AM

    Absolutely love this blog!! How inspirational!!! I can't wait to revisit the treasures in my closet!!


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BAKER1009 4/27/2012 10:24AM

    Wow, this is the second blog I've read this morning where I think "I could have wrote this".
Only difference - I still have clothes in there that don't fit yet. However, not to be discouraged about that. For one, I have 4 weeks until the pool opens and I'll be wearing more of those. Second, I might not be a size 7 again, and I'm OK with that. Third, I have a TON of things I've totally outgrown and they are getting donated!!

Congrats to you!! I'm so glad that you can say you are in the best shape ever!! That is awesome and I'm so proud of you!!

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JEWELMAKER1 4/27/2012 10:07AM

    Wow! Good for you! emoticon

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ZANNBEE 4/27/2012 9:44AM

    Your blog made me smile. I have been finding treasures in my closet this year too! Congratulations!

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A suggestion to SP Staff: "Sparkpeople Golden Maintainers"

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

This morning, while I was reading blogs during my everyday SP “ritual”, I came across two blogs written by people who had gained all or some of the weight they had lost while following a certain type of diet. I’ve recently expressed my opinion on diets, so I won’t emphasize on that. What really broke my heart was that I could feel their disappointment, the need to quit on every kind of attempt for weight loss. If you’ve ever been there, you know how it feels to see the number on the scale going all the way up again. You’ve experienced the terrifying moment of standing in front of your closet and have nothing to wear because nothing fits you anymore. You’ve felt the accumulating guilt of letting yourself do all over again all the damage that you had worked so hard to repair. Nasty feelings!

Then, I thought of Sparkpeople’s start page. You know, the one that you get before you log in. Where you can see all those wonderful before and after pictures of SP members underlined with the number of pounds each one lost. Those are our motivators. We’ve visited their pages, read their stories and we’ve been inspired by them. Sometimes the pictures are really amazing. And the number of pounds sounds unbelievable. But is this number really the most important part of their stories?

The person who lost 30 pounds and the person who lost 100 pounds had to put in the same amount of effort and commitment in order to reach their goals. Sometimes, they even needed the same amount of time because we all know that the closer you are to your goal weight, the harder it gets. The big decision to start is not based on the number on the scale but it’s a matter of character, background and support one gets. So, the number of the pounds all these people have lost is irrelevant, in my humble opinion.

What if all those inspiring pictures were accompanied by something like this:
“Shannon, lost 20 lbs and has maintained her weight for 3 years!”
“Harry, lost 100 lbs and has not gained it back for 5 years!”
That’s the great accomplishment! Have those people managed to adopt a healthy way of living based on a balanced relationship with food? Did they never have to face the bad situations mentioned above after gaining some or all of it back? Are they still here to spread the spark and share their secrets? That would be real motivation. These stories would make the best advertisement for this wonderful online community!

My suggestion is that there should be a new kind of motivators voted for. The “Sparkpeople Golden Maintainers”. And I call them golden because they would be the brightest examples. We could vote for them but they would also be assessed according to their overall participation in the community, their years and anything else the SP experts would think is relevant. Those would be the people that could inspire and motivate hundreds of others to change their lives. Because we all know it. The real battle begins when you have to make sure those pounds remain “lost”. And that’s a lifetime battle!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

ZANNBEE 4/27/2012 9:42AM

    What a great idea. Love it.

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FIT_MAMA_2_FOUR 4/26/2012 6:10PM

    great idea.

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4A-HEALTHY-BMI 4/26/2012 8:19AM

    In the At Goal and Maintaining team we have a Hall of Fame for maintainers, and celebrate maintenance anniversaries. We do it ourselves using Google Documents.

Hope SP listens to you. So far they haven't listened to us. :-)

Maintenance just isn't a big priority for them, apparently.

PS It is the same effort to remove the same percentage of your starting weight. So getting off 30 lbs is not the same as getting off 100 lbs unless the first person started at 1/3 the weight of the second person. :-)

Comment edited on: 4/26/2012 8:30:52 AM

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JOPAPGH 4/25/2012 9:33PM


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WATERMELLEN 4/25/2012 9:23PM

    I absolutely agree that losing weight (although difficult) is not as tough as maintaining weight loss. That's why the At Goal and Maintaining Team is such an amazing group of people!! Led by the remarkable 4A-HEALTHY-BMI!!

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CANNIE50 4/25/2012 9:15PM

    Such a great idea - I am assuming you submitted it so hopefully we can see your great idea put into play. You are so smart.

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WALKINGTHETALK 4/25/2012 10:04AM

    That is a great idea!

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BAKER1009 4/25/2012 7:53AM

    Interesting idea Elle. I like your point.

Is it not almost obvious that if we go on a diet, that when we go off the diet we will gain the weight back?
I'm on the same page with you as far as diets. That word has no room in my house. We eat healthy, plain and simple!

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    that sounds like a great idea

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BIGDOG18 4/25/2012 6:40AM


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Dessert, anyone?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Until a few months ago, when I thought about "dessert" my mind would be filled with images of cakes, cookies, ice cream, puddings and chocolate in every possible combination. Unfortunately - and I'm ashamed of that - my children have been raised to have the exact same attitude towards dessert. My frame of mind has changed and I want to change theirs, too.
So, yesterday, when my daughter asked for a slice of bread covered with chocolate praline, I had a different idea. Who needs fatty, sugary, highly-processed foods for dessert when nature gives us this:

Crispy pears and apples!

Fresh, sweet strawberries!

Juicy kiwi fruit!

Crunchy walnuts!

And just a spoonful of a natural sweetener, such as maple syrup...

...and our fruit salad is ready!

I actually enjoyed this as my dinner but both my girls had some as dessert and they really liked it. And it was perfect for their sweet tooth, too!

I'm really trying hard to teach my family all about proper nutrition and clean eating. Even though we've never been junk food fans and have always eaten home-made dishes for most of our meals, I feel ashamed for having allowed generous amounts of sweets in the house. I'm slowly trying to change this, and even though it's hard, I'll keep trying. Wish me luck!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

AEROBISAURUS 4/27/2012 1:09AM

    Mmmmm... I want a big bowl of fruit now! emoticon

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CANNIE50 4/24/2012 1:13PM

    What a delicious blog! The salad looks heavenly. emoticon I am not wishing you luck because you have something far more powerful on your side: willingness, and awareness. You have acknowledged the issue, you are making changes, you are setting a better example - I hope you now let go of the guilt since it has served it's purpose as a catalyst for change. I find if I hold onto it too long, it just becomes a waste of energy that could be spent pursuing the solution to whatever caused the guilt. You are such a wonderful mother. PS I don't know how I became unsubscribed from your wonderful blogs but, hopefully, I have now fixed it.

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GT2SMILE 4/24/2012 12:29PM

    I LOVE this! And it looks so yummy!! You are a great mom. emoticon

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BAKER1009 4/24/2012 7:05AM

    emoticon emoticon
While the change may be difficult, you can do this! Just last week I had to create a presentation in my Child Development class about nutrition for children, and how to make positive changes. One thing we discussed was how when we teach kids to eat healthy foods, it is best that they understand why healthy is better. Kids know apples are better than chips, but they don't REALLY understand why. (For example, an apple will give you as much energy as a cup of coffee, but it's good for you!).

Sorry if I rambled there. I've made quite a few changes around here over the last year. You just have to do it gradually, and I found my kids were better with it if I explained why something was disappearing. Like you, we don't really have junk food in the house, but certain things could be different.

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No food tracking for five days... what could happen?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

When I woke up this morning, I had a different blog in my mind that I wanted to post. I was going to weigh-in and, almost sure of my weight gain, I was going to post my plan of how to get rid of the pounds I would have gained.

Last weekend was Easter for us and we were away, visiting my parents at our mountain village. We had been waiting for this trip for a long time. We were planning walks in the forests and visits to many places around. It was going to be a trip with lots of walking and exercise. But it was Easter, so cookies and treats and delicacies were in abundance!

Unfortunately, the weather was not on our side. It started raining on Friday that we left and only stopped for a day. I hadn’t seen so much rain before! I thought we were in a tropical forest! Of course our plans were destroyed. The rain was too much for us to go walking and the roads were getting really dangerous for driving. So, we were stuck in a small village house with not much to do. Our big fireplace became the most popular spot in the house and we spent most of the time in front of it playing board games, cards, reading and watching TV. Fun, rest and relaxation, I can’t complain about that! All wrapped up in generous servings of food…

The days before we left I had done lots of baking with the girls preparing things for Easter. This is what we traditionally make for Easter each year:
A kind of Easter cookies…

And “tsoureki”, something like sweet bread.

Of course, chocolate eggs are always present and popular gifts for children during Easter. It has always been a time of weight gain for me, just like Christmas. Last Christmas, I managed to keep it low with tracking and exercise. But this Easter I decided to try a little experiment. What if I stopped tracking completely? What if I let myself free to eat anything like I used to do in the past? Have I really managed to change my way of thinking when it comes to food? Will I still make the right choices and eat wisely? Will I control my portions? Will I keep the damage to a minimum?

I tried everything! There isn’t one single thing I didn’t eat! But I tried to control the portions. As for exercise, I only did a long walk through the woods on the day it wasn’t raining – all uphill! I wasn't feeling any significant change on my body but I was sure I had gained weight! That’s what used to happen every Easter! I would come back with at least 3 kilos more! So, inside me there was this fear of the scale I would have every year.
So, this morning I got on the scale and…

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…I saw exactly the same number! No gain! The experiment had worked! I took a break from tracking just to test how consciously I can eat when not tracking. And I kept disaster at bay. I tried everything that I liked but the portions were limited. I didn’t feel deprived of anything but I didn’t eat until there was nothing else to eat, either! This is a victory beyond comparison to the scale numbers. It’s a healthy relationship with food! It’s a balanced way of eating!

I don’t know if I’ll always be able to be this successful and I can’t be sure that I will manage to do the same every Christmas and every Easter that will follow. But right now I feel proud! And thankful to Sparkpeople for teaching me how to do it! And I’ll make sure to keep this memory alive. Because balance and moderation feels good! Soooo good! So much better than diets, deprivation and all kinds of food-related extremities. At least for me. That's how I want to live. That's the relationship with food I want my children to learn to have throughout their lives. And I hope I'll succeed.


  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

ZANNBEE 4/27/2012 9:46AM

    That is wonderful! Portion control is key. Skinny people eat everything they just don't overeat consistently! Way to go. I want to learn how to make desserts like that! (salivate)

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CANNIE50 4/24/2012 1:16PM

    How interesting, and how great for you that you have learned that you are trustworthy with food, and with your body. One of the things that suffered for me, when I was "fat and getting fatter" was that I lost my integrity with myself, I learned not to trust myself. Over the past year and a half, that has come back, for the most part, and I am forever grateful to people like you and other Sparklers for helping me regain something so invaluable.

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GT2SMILE 4/20/2012 12:04AM

    Awesome!! What a wonderful breakthrough for you, and I'm glad you had a great time! emoticon

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    Absolutely fantastic! Congratulations! emoticon

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BAKER1009 4/19/2012 2:42PM

    That is so awesome! You must just be radiating with positive energy right now!

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    That bread looks delicious!

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"Diet" VS "Lifestyle change"

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Do you remember when was the first time you heard of the word “Diet”? How old were you when you attempted to lose weight for the first time by trying a famous “diet” that many people had tried successfully? Can you count the number of “Diets” you have tried until now or have you lost count?

Let me answer those questions myself. I can’t remember how old I was when I learned about diets. What I do remember is my mother telling me constantly that I “had to go on a diet” and repeating this word every time I ate something that would “make me fat”! I remember going on my first diet when I was about 15. According to this magical way of eating, which many women had used and had lost tons of weight, I had to eat one different food every day but ONLY this food – the same for breakfast, lunch and dinner! So, it was chicken the first day, potatoes the second, fish the third and so on! And it was a monthly program. And if you haven’t freaked out yet by the unhealthiness and the insanity of this diet, let me give you one more detail: The last day’s menu was cake! Yes, you could eat cake for breakfast, for lunch, for dinner and for your in-between snacks!!! I’d be really interested in knowing what my blood sugar levels were at the end of this day!

I was 15 years old! I knew nothing about proper nutrition and healthy eating. And I don’t blame my mom for letting me do this and kindly preparing my separate meals – if you can call that meals! – every day. People of her generation didn’t know much about healthy eating, either.

And this was just the beginning! I went on experimenting with my health by trying various “diets” that I would come across. I lost count. My last attempt was in 2007, when I finally decided to ask an expert’s health. My endocrinologist, who is also an obesity expert, gave me balanced and healthy meals for each day of the week. Still, it was a diet. I had to eat something specific at every meal, I was allowed nothing that wasn’t included in the menu and, worst of all for my sweet tooth, I hadn’t eaten anything sweet - not even sugar in my coffee - for 8 months! When the “diet” came to an end and I went into “maintenance”, I felt so deprived that I wouldn’t say no to any temptation that I came into eye contact with! I had lost 17 kilos and “found” them again in less than 5 months!

The worst part is that throughout all those years I was never happy with the way I looked. I always thought I had to “go on a diet”! Until I found SP and read articles on “Lifestyle change”. I didn’t need proof that this was the right way. I already had proof that the other one was the wrong. In fact, I was the living proof!

I decided to write this blog because while reading other members’ blogs, I’ve come across the word “diet” many times and with many different meanings. People are ready to do many things to lose weight but sometimes they overdo it. I’ve read about people who starve themselves eating only 900 calories each day and others who spend three hours a day at the gym doing cardio! People who swear they will never lick the spoon again when they make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for their kids and others who are proud for not touching a single candy during Christmas holidays! I congratulate them for their determination and their willpower but I can’t help but wondering: For how long will you be able to do that? Are you planning to live like this for the rest of your life? And how balanced is such a way of living?

I don’t know if I can consider myself a successful SP member or if my own health journey has been done the right way but I have this advice to offer:
YOU HAVE TO MAKE THIS A LIFESTYLE CHANGE! There’s no other way it can work! Depriving ourselves from every food that we love for a long time will only lead us to overindulge in it later on. Exhausting our bodies with much more hours of exercise than they can take will only make us hate exercise. The key is balance and moderation. Of course we’ll say yes to some food temptations. Each of us has one thing that we love, whether it’s cookies, chocolate or pizza. Why live a life without it? We just have to choose the time we’ll have it and the portion. And make sure that the rest of our meals are balanced. It’s all a matter of choice! We have to choose wisely the steps that we’ll follow in changing our bad habits. And we have to be PATIENT. The change will come gradually but in the meantime we will have learned how to keep it permanently.

So, what’s your choice? The fast, full-of-promises, exhausting for the mind and body way of losing weight OR the slow, done in short steps, teaching healthy habits, change of lifestyle that will lead you to a healthy, long and happy life?
You choose!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

BLOOMINGLENA 9/6/2012 2:37AM

    Elle you were just to the point! I have myself experienced the same "wrong" way to lose weight since I was a teenager. I was considered to be chubby but I wanted to get rid of my excess weihgt. So I started following "diets" that other friends of mine had done with visible results. But depriving yourself from everything that you enjoy eating is definite to lead you to the opposite results. Moreover, when I was older I looked like an alien when we went out to eat something with my friends as I was agonising to eat only what was on my diet and resist temptation that all the others were delightfully tasting! Well, now I believe I will make it and I will change my lifestyle eating properly and the most important...exercising regularly! Good luck with our goals in life!

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STARDUSTGR 9/5/2012 4:53PM

    The truth is that I was 14 years old when I tried a famous diet for the first time but since then I have tried a lot of them!! The fact that I am respond to your blog means that I am still trying…. and I am 35 years old now!!
I feel tired from all this different kind of diets and I want to stop doing this to myself !
It’s about time to change my life style! Its’ about time to learn what does it means healthy nutrition and exercise! I know that it takes me a long time till I lose my weight but this time it will be the last!!!
Thank you for sharing your provocative thoughts!

Comment edited on: 9/5/2012 4:56:24 PM

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AEROBISAURUS 4/5/2012 4:32PM

    My mother always said she was fat and needed to lose weight. She was always very unhappy with her body and not only did her poor body image rub off on me, she made it ten times worse by putting me in the same category. She had me drinking slim fast and working out along with her because I was getting fat too. :( I was home schooled all that time so it didn't at all help with my self confidence when public school rolled around.

I at the very young age of 11 have been struggling and body issues and unhappiness. My mom didn't display or teach good healthy habits instead she taught me the "diet"

I hate that word. You are so right. If you keep forbidding yourself a certain food or whatever, you will fail and your "diet" will fail also. I had to come to grips with mt eating habits and it took a LONG time to get comfortable and satisfied with proper portions. I slip up with my choices and overeat still sometimes but I don't kill myself over it and I try to do better the next day.

You are what you think you are. That is my motto. I try to be positive as much as I can and not let negativity get in the way. I think this alone has kept me in the game to learning and achieving a healthy lifestyle. I will not let my mothers example continue.

Great blog!

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FITMOMMY18 4/5/2012 4:21PM

    You are so right! My parents never said the word diet, they only ever said the word fat and eat less, while dishing out big portions. My theory is that I was the guinea pig to show my younger siblings how NOT to do anything and everything. I was never given guidance, only criticism.

But that's all said and done and I take responsibility for my life. I was not always this fat and I have succeeded in the past. I do want to change for good. Lifestyle it is!

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BAKER1009 4/5/2012 1:42PM

    What a wonderful blog Elle! Thank you for taking the time to share with us how you have viewed diets over your lifetime.
The first time I heard the word? Not really sure. The first time I thought about needing to diet and exercise was when I was about 21, after my 2nd child was born. I certainly did everything the unhealthy way. I did lose weight, and I did keep it off for many years to come. But it was mostly because I didn't eat enough (not starving myself, just never ate much). The most calories I took in came from drinking...but most of those just got dance off at the clubs. I spent much of my 20's living this way.

After the birth of my 3rd child I was back to pre-pregnancy weight in no time and was doing fine. That was until I quit nursing. I kept eating all the extra calories one needs to nurse! That was in 2009 and that is when I joined this website. I now have healthy ways of eating, without every really depriving myself of anything. I have cut way back on some things, but never have I ruled anything out. I also have a healthy relationship with exercising. Not overdoing it, but making sure I do enough.

From 2009 until now I have certainly realized that this is all about lifestyle changes, not dieting. I know I'm an emotional eater, and sometimes I will have slips, but I believe we have to have those to recognize the benefits of the healthy lives we are living!

Great blog...thanks again!!

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    Great Blog! I agree 100% with everything you said. I may be an anomaly around here, but I have never been on a "diet". I've never done Atkins, or South Beach, I always aimed more for lifestyle change, even before I had heard the phrase. That's not to say that I have always made good choices in the changes I made - I ate nothing but 2 rice cakes for lunch for good portions of junior high - but I never defined what I was doing as "going on a diet", I was just choosing to eat foods that I thought would help me lose weight. (ironically I was 112 pounds at that time - what the heck did I think I needed to lose??) I came to my weight gain as an adult as opposed to it being a life long struggle, and I think that makes a big difference....the older you are the less likely you are to believe in the quick fix, right?

So slow and steady will win this race....eventually!

I really enjoy reading about your journey - it seems that we have very similar attitudes and goals, so knowing that you are doing it helps me to feel that I can do it to!

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KEIRASMAMA 4/5/2012 10:11AM

    This is a great blog! I relate completely. I can say with certainty that I went on my first diet when I was 5 years old as I entered school. My mom tells me to this day that I was a whopping 50 lbs when I started school. This obviously was justification for the roller coaster of weight loss and weight gain that has become the rest of my life. I tried every crazy unbelievably unhealthy fad diet and medications out there. I was always very good at losing weight and following a program for a certain amount of time. Then reality hit and I ate what I was deprived of and I gained it all back plus 20lbs extra EVERY time. Fast forward to a 37 year old 300 lb me. It is so wrong!! I am convinced that if I had been given healthy food choices and activity options without being made to feel the way I was for being the size I was, that I would have never ended up as big as I did at my highest. I have 2 daughters now and both were about 60lbs as they entered school. Sure they are heavier built than many of the other kids but they still look normal! I will never do this to them. Ever. We have adopted a healthy lifestyle as a family and it is such a struggle for me to break the old patterns but this way of living definitely has me ahead of where I have ever been. Diets do very bad things to our mentality and our relationship with food which leads to long term problems. Lifestyle and moderation is the only way in my mind. Thank you so much for sharing your insights with this blog.

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ZANNBEE 4/5/2012 9:33AM

    Love this! If you've been reading my blogs you'll know that I began my first diet at age 13. I really like being able to eat what I want and I have found so much freedom using my food tracker.
I grew up for years with my mom eating a separate dinner than the rest of us. I swore I would eat the same things that my fam was eating. The only exception is milk, my fam drinks 1% and I drink skim. Otherwise, at meals I prepare dinner and if I want seconds, I take seconds of veggies.
Biggest lifestyle change for me is exercising regularly. Never been consistent with that, and now it's been 4 months on SP and I have over 500 fitness minutes this month! That is a bigger victory for me than food.

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