A Year In Review

2015 was the year of Caitlyn Jenner, Pope Francis, the man bun, and for me, the life-changing experiment that was 12 in 12.  A few days from now, we will unveil 2016, a blank canvas waiting to be painted. I find this both exciting and distressing at the same time. On the one hand I feel the excitement and rush of new possibilities! On the other hand, the uncertainty of an unknown future fills me with dread. The only thing that quells the anxiety is to ring in the New Year with a resolution, which makes me feel like I have some sort of control.

According to Statistic Brain Research Institute, I am one of 45% of the population that make New Year’s resolutions, and guess which one tops the list… weight loss.  Not only does the diet industry know this, they count on it, and they cash in big as a result.

Do you think it’s a coincidence that Oprah not only bought shares in Weight Watchers just before resolution season, but has also become their celebrity spokesperson? And how about all those new diet claims lining the shelves in your favourite bookstore this time of year? With the sheer volume of plans, I could have kept my experiment going until I became a centenarian! And it doesn’t stop there. Not only is the next season of NBC’s The Biggest Loser set to air on January 4th (just a few days into your resolve), but ABC is launching their new reality weight loss show called, My Diet is Better than Yours, a few days later.

“There are thousands of diets promising to help people lose weight, but choosing the diet that will actually work is a different matter. Our new format sets out to narrow the choice by selecting six diverse and revolutionary diet plans and, for the first time ever, testing these methods on TV in a real life experiment.”  

– Chris Coelen, My Diet is Better Than Yours

SOUND FAMILIAR!!!!!  The show is Searching For My After’s 12 in 12 experiment, but with a honking budget and commercials! But I digress…

Where was I? Ah yes, New Year’s resolutions… perhaps you’re looking at adding weight loss to your resolution list. Maybe you too are looking with abject terror at the filled to bursting fitness section in your local bookstore. Maybe this is your first time on this website and you have no idea what I’m talking about. Well don’t worry… I’ve put together a summary of each of the plans I tested during 12 in 12, highlighting my stats, my likes and dislikes, and the lessons learned while I was on them to help you narrow down your search.

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Month 1: The Start Here Diet

Pounds lost: -9.4

% weight loss: -3.70

Liked: Excellent plan to ease back into dieting.

Disliked: Eliminating trigger foods cold turkey.

Lesson Learned: Even a small step is a step in the right direction!

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Month 2: Weight Watchers

Pounds lost: -6.8

% weight loss: -2.78

Liked: No food is off limits.

Disliked: Weighing, measuring, calculating, and tracking, every morsel was tedious.

Lesson Learned: Learned to recalibrate portion sizes.

 

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Month 3: Paleo

Pounds lost:-9.3

% weight loss: -3.91

Liked: Very simple to follow.

Disliked: Got a bit constipated eating protein at each meal. Missed whole grains.

Lesson Learned: Pre-historic (aka pre-processed) rules!

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Month 4: Eat Right 4 Your Blood Type

Pounds lost: -4.5

% weight loss: -1.97

Liked: The app listing your beneficial-neutral-avoid foods was handy when I went grocery shopping, or planned a meal.

Disliked: Still craved foods on my avoid list.

Lesson Learned: One size does not fit all.

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Month 5: The Mediterranean Diet

Pounds lost: -5.3

% weight loss: -2.37

Liked: Loved the social aspect of the plan, and looked forward to having dessert once a week.

Disliked: Pushed the boundaries and ate more cheese, bread, and olive oil than I should have.

Lesson Learned: Enjoying a meal with family and friends makes the food taste better : )

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Month 6: Whole Food, Plant-Based

Pounds lost: -4.5

% weight loss: -2.06

Liked: The most ethical and humane of all the plans, plus I pooped 3 times a day – whoohoo!!!

Disliked: Never felt full.

Lesson Learned: Mother Nature knows best and provides everything we need.

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Month 7: The Biggest Loser

Pounds lost: -5.4

% weight loss: -2.52

Liked: 1,500 calories a day is very doable.

Disliked: Dreaded exercise – didn’t enjoy the monotonous machines at the gym.

Lesson Learned: Progress, not perfection.

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Month 8: The 8-Hour Diet

Pounds lost: +2.8

% weight loss: +1.53

Liked: Fasting gave my body a chance to recharge.

Disliked: Only plan I gained weight on – you can’t tell a food addict they can eat whatever they want because they will!

Lesson Learned: Make time for rest.

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Month 9: The Hormone Diet

Pounds lost: -6.6

% weight loss: -3.12

Liked: My sleep improved tremendously – yay!

Disliked: Most expensive program at $700 for the month (naturopath visits and supplements).

Lesson Learned: We must make adjustments for different stages and phases in life.

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Month 10: Twelve-Step Program for Food Addicts

Pounds lost: -5.9

% weight loss: -2.88

Liked: After eliminating flour, wheat and sugar, my taste buds were alive and food tasted better, and I didn’t get one hot flash when I was off sugar!

Disliked: Restrictive – made eating in ‘real life’ situations (i.e. dining out, meetings, etc.) tough.

Lesson Learned: Live life one day at a time, and meals one bite at a time.

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Month 11: The Gabriel Method

Pounds lost: -2.2

% weight loss: -1.10

Liked: Meditation exercises and being in nature grounded me : )

Disliked: Guided visualization felt like hypnosis.

Lesson Learned: Question and challenge limiting beliefs.

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Month 12: A Course In Weight Loss

Pounds lost: -1.9

% weight loss: -0.96

Liked: With every lesson, I went deeper within myself and reconnected with God, and the real me : )

Disliked: Felt a bit new age.

Lesson Learned: Self-love conquers all – even a plate full of Oreos.

Don’t let the diet industry spoon feed you – test the plans out yourself!  You might find one suits you perfectly right off the rack, or you might have to tailor one by combining your favourite elements from a few of them like I did.

I hope it helps you narrow your choice, and you don’t have to be on a reality weight loss show to find out!

And The Winner Is…

I want to thank all of you for your words of encouragement and support throughout this experiment. Being accountable to you during 12 in 12 helped me stay the course, and for that I am truly grateful. The objective of the experiment was to find the right diet for me, and I believe I have done just that.

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I doubt I would have come to my conclusion had I not tested a variety of plans. Each offered clues to what my body liked and disliked, and what practices I’d commit to given my lifestyle.  The experiment also helped me identify areas of imbalance, such as not getting sufficient rest, and ignoring the mental, emotional, and spiritual issues that led to me becoming obese in the first place.

Throughout the experiment, I was asked several questions, but two came up repeatedly – how do you stop cravings, and what diet works best? If I had the answer to the first question, I’d be rich! Personally, whenever I tested plans that had me eliminate sugar from my diet my cravings subsided dramatically.  As for which diet worked best, the answer varied depending if you meant which one gave me the best results on the scale (Answer: Paleo), or if you meant digestively (Answer: Whole Food, Plant-Based), or for my lifestyle (Answer: the ones that kept it simple). What I can say with certainty is that there is no ‘one size fits all’ diet because we are all different.

When I started this journey, I thought I would find the answer by simply connecting the dots.

Connecting the Polka DotsInstead, I found the answer where the dots interconnected based on the criteria I valued most.

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Therefore, the winner of the experiment is not any one diet entirely, rather a combination of several plans that resonated with me. I call my personalized plan, THE BEST OF THE BEST, and this is what it will look like.

Meal Plan

My body responded best to Paleo on the scale, but my heart, conscience, and digestive system wants to be Whole Food, Plant-Based (WFPB).  As contrary as that sounds, I will be doing both, the term for which is FLEXITARIAN – go figure!

Therefore, I will:

  • Adhere to Paleo’s protocol of not consuming grains, dairy, or legumes when I eat animal proteins.
  • Aim to have a WFPB meal at dinner, allowing me to digest more efficiently before bedtime.
  • Snacks will primarily be fruits, nuts, and seeds.
  • Both Paleo and WFPB omit dairy and flour, which is doable for me, as I do not tolerate them well.
  • I won’t be weighing and measuring my food – it’s not always practical, and I hated doing it. I will however, gauge portion sizes using the hand technique.

Hand measuring

What about sugar?

When I tested plans that had me cut sugar (Twelve-Step Program for Food Addiction, Paleo, WFPB) I saw tremendous benefits. I stopped getting hot flashes, my cravings subsided, and I was able to taste the subtleties in foods again. However, diets anchored in ‘always’ or ‘never’ are my downfall, leading me on a self-destructive path of binges and regret – I feel like I failed, and ultimately fall off the diet bandwagon.

Therefore, when it comes to sugar I will:

  • Allow myself one teaspoon of sugar in my morning coffee.
  • Adopt the practice of enjoying one or two desserts a week, like in The Mediterranean Diet. This way I won’t feel deprived, and will be less likely to binge.

Rest

As someone who suffers from insomnia, I know firsthand that a tired body doesn’t burn calories as well as a rested body.

Therefore, I will:

  • Aim to get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep per night by continuing with The Hormone Diet’s protocol of powering down devices 2 hours before bed.
  • Refrain from eating after 7 PM, not only to aid digestion, but to recharge my cells.

Supplements

Several plans recommended supplements, however, The Gabriel Method’s regimen worked best for me.

Therefore, I will take:

  • One probiotic daily
  • Two digestive enzymes with breakfast
  • Omega-3 once a day
  • One multi-vitamin (that includes vitamin E) and a multi-mineral.
  • In addition, I take Vitamin D during the winter months.

Exercise

If I were grading my efforts during 12 in 12, I’d flunk myself when it came to exercise. I only incorporated regular physical activity when I tested The Biggest Loser and The 8-Hour Diet; otherwise, it was hit or miss. I think it’s because I hate the monotony of the machines at the gym.

Therefore, I will:

  • Channel my inner child and start playing again. Along with getting my 10,000 steps in a day, I’m going to participate in fun activities like hula hooping, jumping on my mini-trampoline, belly dancing, and going for walks along the lake to keep me active.

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I don’t want to dread exercise, I want to look forward to it. Hmmm, maybe the next phase of the journey will have me testing various exercise plans!

Feeding My Mind and Spirit

Lastly, the mental, emotional, and spiritual lessons I tackled in the last quarter of 12 in 12 had the biggest impact on me. That’s why my customized plan will devote the same amount of time for soul work as for physical activity. I must exercise both for optimal health!

Therefore, I will:

  • Delve deeper into Marianne Williamson’s A Course In Weight Loss. Taking my time to work through the 21 spiritual lessons.
  • Continue with the meditation and visualization exercises from The Gabriel Method. However, I will be recording my own morning and evening tapes, personalizing them for my needs.

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And so my friends, this concludes 12 in 12. However, the journey continues! I invite you to join me in the new year here on Searching For My After, where I will continue with The Best Of The Best chronicling my next step towards a happier, healthier me. SIZE 10 HERE I COME!!!!

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What A Difference A Year Makes

A year ago today, repulsed at my 253.8 lbs. self, I decided to give dieting one last try – I vowed to get to my goal weight once and for all, or resign myself to a life of stretchy pants.  Equipped with an album full of before photos and a library bursting with diet books all proclaiming to have the solution to my plus-sized problem, I set off on a quest for my after shot, which has eluded me in the last three decades of searching.

As with any expedition, I needed a guide to help me navigate along the way. In my case, I enlisted twelve such experts in the past year, each claiming they knew the route to the size 10 Shangri-La that my size 22 self, sought. Each guide took me through the scenic and diverse landscape of the diet and exercise world – some covering familiar territory, others foreign.


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Month 1 – Tosca Reno, creator of The Start Here Diet asked me to (1) dive inward and identify my emotional triggers for overeating, (2) uncover my hidden foods and eliminate them, and (3) ease into exercising by moving a little.


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Month 2 – I attended weekly Weight Watchers meetings and used their unique accounting system, which assigned a point value to food and exercise. Everything had to be weighed, measured, and tracked, before I could eat it.


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Month 3 – Paleo channelled my inner CaveMare and had me eating like my hairy knuckled, grunting forefathers did before me. Brontosaurs burgers – good. Grains, dairy, legumes – bad.


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Month 4 – In his plan Eat Right 4 Your Blood Type, Dr. Peter D’Adamo categorized the foods and exercises for each of the four blood types as either beneficial, neutral, or avoid. My ‘O’ blood type meant saying au revoir to crispy bacon and my morning cup of joe.


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Month 5 – The Mediterranean Diet had me returning to my cultural roots, enjoying unprocessed foods and beverages from Italy and the surrounding region, as well as incorporating simple daily activity, like walking, and social interaction to boost mental and emotional health.


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Month 6 – I joined forces with the beautiful and inspiring Michelle Riccio of Tit Happens, who coached me through the Whole Food, Plant-Based Diet. We ate ‘face-free’, unprocessed, unrefined, nutrient rich fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and healthy fats.


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Month 7 – My friend and fitness trainer, Nikki Kamphuis, got me moving when I tested The Biggest Loser 30-Day Jump Start program, which models the hit show’s format of eating a 1,500 calories a day, coupled with daily exercise.


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Month 8 – The creators of The 8-Hour Diet, had me watching the clock, stating I could eat whatever I wanted within an 8 hour period, so long as I ‘ate my eight’, and started my day with a minimum of 8 minutes of exercise.  Outside of these 8 hours, I had to fast.


marilina-chibi-hormone-paleo 001Month 9 – Toronto’s own Dr. Natasha Turner claimed I could optimize my fat burning potential with The Hormone Diet. I went to her clinic for one-on-one care and was given a customized a food and supplement plan which addressed my hormone imbalances, as well as my unbearable hot flashes.


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Month 10 – I attended weekly meeting at various Twelve Step Programs for Food Addicts, a fellowship that has members abstain from addictive foods containing flour, wheat, and sugar.


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Month 11 – Jon Gabriel, creator of The Gabriel Method guided me through visualization and meditation exercises claiming they would turn off my FAT Programs.


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Month 12 – In A Course In Weight Loss, I worked through Marianne Williamson’s 21 spiritual lessons designed to address compulsive overeating by replacing fear with love.


I want to thank all my guides for navigating me to today’s weigh-in. In the past year they’ve helped me cover more ground than any previous attempt, bringing me closer to taking my after photo, which up until now, seemed as plausible as taking a selfie with Sasquatch.

When I stepped on the scale this morning, my eager little fat cells cried, “Are we there yet?! Are we there yet?!”

“At 195.2 lbs. No. Not yet, but we are halfway to after”, I replied. And that’s okay. In fact, that’s great! The point of 12 in 12 was to test a variety of diet claims to see which worked best for my body and my lifestyle.

What A Difference A Year Makes!

In my next post, I will share just how my body responded to each plan, and which I will I continue with for the rest of this journey… and look at that, just in time for resolution season!

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A big thank you to the talented Jennifer Wood for taking my final before and halfway to after photos, the gifted Nathan C. Younger for his fabulous illustrations, and the compassionate Ann DeLuca, my life coach, who help me work through the last quarter of the experiment, which delved into the mental, emotional, and spiritual landscape of this journey.

If you enjoyed this post, or found my yearlong experiment interesting, please share!

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Results for A Course In Weight Loss (the final plan of 12 in 12), click here.

For my Week 52 Food Journal, click here.

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The Missing Ingredient

Like most young girls, I learned to cook at my mother’s side.  She’s a wonderful cook, so you would think that I would be too. Wrong. No matter how much I try, my dishes never turn out the same as hers. Mine taste rushed, but hers taste like comfort. I asked her what I’m doing wrong and she explained that I neglect to add the key ingredient… LOVE.

Really? Love?! And where, pray tell do you find ‘love’ in the grocery store? Is it in the spice aisle between the garlic salt and mustard powder? “How do you add ‘love’ to a dish?” I inquire. “Ah! Much to learn, the young generation has”, she replied, sounding much like Yoda’s Nonna.

As I pondered her comment, I began thinking of all the things I do love…. I love God. I love my daughters. I love my family and friends. I love traveling. I love laughing. I love writing. I love going for walks along the lake. I love my church. I love movies. I love seahorses. I love organizing. I love birds. I love sock monkeys. I love my city. I love disco. I love curling up with a good book on a rainy day. I love volunteering. I love the free samples at Costco. I love playing Yahtzee. I love jumping on my mini-trampoline. I love Curious George. I love to give big momma bear hugs. I simply love to love, so when I learned that compulsive overeating was an act of self-hate, it knocked the wind right out of me. All this time I thought I was comforting myself with food, but instead, I was abusing myself.

Wow! This revelation got me asking myself, do I love me? I meditated on that for a long while and came to the sad realization that I don’t.  The more I thought about it, the more it disturbed me… how can I have sooooooooooo much love to give, and not direct an ounce of it toward myself? Messed up, right?!

Addicts experience levels of self-loathing that cut to the very core of our beings, and we punish ourselves with our substance of choice.  We’ve come to believe the lies we tell ourselves… I’m worthless, I’m stupid, I’m not good enough, there’s something wrong with me, etc.

Where did these beliefs come from? For me, I’ve accumulated them throughout the years, ingesting them in the form of binge-foods, and I now carry the consequences, not only on my hips, thighs, and butt, but in my spirit as well.

In order to free my spirit of the weight it carries, the final plan in my yearlong experiment goes to Marianne Williamson’s, A Course In Weight Loss where she guides students through “21 spiritual lessons for surrendering your weight forever”. How’s that for a claim?  I’ve never been on a diet that addressed my spirit!  And get this, the key ingredient to her method is… LOVE!

This course is not about your relationship with food; it is about your relationships with love. For love is your true healer.

-Marianne Williamson, A Course In Weight Loss

Each plan I’ve tested throughout 12 in 12 requires a lot of pre-work, and this month’s plan was no different.  Sometimes, I must read and study a book or guidelines (The Start Here Diet; Eat Right For Your Blood Type; The Mediterranean Diet); attend meetings (Weight Watchers; 12-Step Program for Food Addicts); invest in equipment (The Biggest Loser), or supplements (The Hormone Diet), or purchase specific foods (The Caveman Diet; Whole-Food, Plant Based Diet); create visualization tools (The Gabriel Method); or keep my eye on the clock (The 8-Hour Diet).  A monumental shift in my spirit has already occurred as a result of my reading A Course In Weight Loss, and I haven’t even begun to do the assignments yet! What’s wonderful about the plan is that Marianne tells you exactly where to find the love and how to incorporate it into your life.

This course is not so much about your relationship to food as it is about your relationship to your Creator. In healing your relationship with Him, you heal your relationship to yourself; and in healing your relationship to yourself, you heal your relationship to everything.

– Marianne Williamson, A Course In Weight Loss

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To learn more about the plan I’ll be following for Month 12, click here.

The Results Are In

To find out how much I lost last month when I tested The Gabriel Method, click here.

The Fast and the Curious

Having gone on record for pulling “a skinny girl” and forgetting to eat an astounding two – count’em: unos, dos times in my adult life, I surprised myself when I decided to test a plan that requires me to deliberately forget about food 16 out of 24 hours in a day. The 8 Hour Diet by David Zinczenko and Peter Moore, claims that you will “watch the pounds disappear without watching what you eat!” by fasting during fat-burning periods.

This plan may make or break me, but my interest was piqued by the authors’ claims and research on the benefits of intermittent fasting. Apparently we have these ‘organelles’ within each of our cells called ‘mitochondria’ that control everything from cell regeneration to producing the body’s supply of ‘adenosine triphosphate’ (ATP), the chemical energy that is “the very stuff of life.” Arggg, science, the bane of my high school existence…. I didn’t understand it then, and I don’t understand it now, so I’ll have to take these brainiacs word for it. Let’s continue with the lesson Mare style….

It appears the mitochondria have a split personality – they generate energy (that’s good), they also generate waste called ‘free radicals’ (that’s bad). If the mitochondria doesn’t get some R&R from processing all the calories we shove into our bodies, all heck breaks loose and those darn radicals, free or not, run amuck and invade our system like cell eating zombies! The next thing you know our cells are compromised and as a result the aging process is accelerated, we gain weight, and we become susceptible to disease. Dun-Dun-Duuuuun!

The science behind the theory goes on for chapters, so I won’t bore you with it. In a nutshell, if we give the mitochondria time to recharge, we will reap many health benefits. This is where the fasting comes in. But how will a black belt food junkie like me stick to this extreme version of conscious uncoupling? I’ve achieved my portly state by unconscious coupling – mindless eating is my ‘thang’, and now I’m going to have to rigorously concentrate on not eating for 16 hours – that’s 57,600 Mississippis! There’s got to be a catch, for me to undertake 31 days of this insanity, right?

Oh, you know me soooooo well!

Sixteen may be the number of hours I must refrain from eating, but apparently, I can eat whatever I want during the eight chow down hours. They’re not suggesting I buy stocks in Frito Lay, but if I were to indulge in a treat, I won’t be penalized for it on the scale. They encourage eating two of their eight ‘powerfoods’ at each meal and snack, and as for exercise – get this – 8 MINUTES a day!

Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! SOLD to the ecstatic curvy lady jumping for joy, and not because she has to as part of a prescribed regimen! Woohoo!

The 8 minutes you spend doing light exercise – even just a brisk walk around the block – before your first meal accelerates that glycogen burn, and once those stores are depleted, you’ll turn into a fat-burning machine for the rest of the day.”– David Zinczenko and Peter Moore, The 8 Hour Diet

Other than the heady science, I really like how the book is written – these guys are funny and pumped – they’ve even got me psyched! Can I get a boo-ya?!

I’m not sure if this is a crazy scheme to sell books, but I’m willing to give it a go. The plan is simple – there’s no weighing and measuring, no combining, no omitting – all I need is a stopwatch and resolve, so fasten your seat belt ‘cause, momma’s gearing up for the fast lane! Zooooom!

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Revving up the Ferrari (UK, 2006)

I didn’t make the connection until now – the plan I chose for Month 8 is all about them crazy 8’s – that’s gotta be a good sign! To learn the do’s and don’ts of the plan, click here.

To find out how much I lost last month when I tested The Biggest Loser 30-Day Jump Start Plan, click here.