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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Say It Ain’t So

I had an extraordinary weekend without doing anything extraordinary. It started off like any other weekend – I woke up, stretched, wiped the sleep from my eyes and lingered in bed, staring at the ceiling making a mental list of all the checkmarks I needed to collect before I crawled back in at the end of the day. But the moment my feet hit the floor, the extraordinary began. I started to check things off my list at record speeds: I made and enjoyed a healthy breakfast; did 3 loads of laundry; cleaned the house top to bottom; wrote my first draft for my next plan; weeded the backyard; AND got a 45 minute workout in ALL BEFORE 11:45 AM! I even had time to procrastinate!

I didn’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth, but I was curious to know what made me motor like Mrs. Howell when she ate radioactive beets on Gilligan’s Island. Then it dawned on me just as I finished my prescribed Biggest Loser 36 minutes of cardio, and was about to start my mobility routine. I have more energy because of the friggin’ exercise! NUTS!!!!

John Ratey, clinical associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, claims exercise will “supercharge your mental circuits to beat stress, sharpen your thinking, lift your mood, boost your memory, and much more” in his book, SPARK: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. DOUBLE NUTS! Only two weeks into working out regularly and I’m already charged, sharpened, lifted, boosted, and oozing much, much more of everything! CASHEWS, WALNUTS, AND ALMOND NUTS! How can I whine about hating exercise now that I’m seeing the benefits so quickly?

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I want to thank Tosca Reno, fitness guru, and author of The Start Here Diet (which I tested in Month 1 of 12 in 12) who recommended Dr. Ratey’s book. I had the privilege to meet Tosca in person a few weeks ago and she graciously taped a message for my readers….

To view my Week 28 Food Journal, click here.

If you read the blog in email format, you’ll need to click the title of the post (Say It Ain’t So) to be directed into the blog site to gain access to the video.

Time To Say Goodbye

I’m a few days into my journey and I haven’t developed a nervous twitch yet, so that’s a good sign. I’ve been keeping up my food diary which I’ll upload on Monday under a new tab called 12 in 12.

To recap, the three steps in The Start Here Diet by Tosca Reno are:

  1. Dive Inward: identify emotional triggers as to why you’re overeating
  2. Uncover your Hidden Foods: identify and eliminate empty-calorie foods that sabotage your weight loss efforts
  3. Move a Little: gently ease back into exercise

Sounds easy, right? Step 1 will take time, perhaps the duration of 12 in 12 and possibly the key to keeping the weight off for good. Step 3 is perfect for a beginner. But Step 2 is the toughie. Identifying my hidden foods wasn’t the problem – eliminating them will  be. So how best to express my grief and face the pain of my loss? How do I bring closure to a lifelong relationship with the foods that have comforted me? A food funeral of course!