On May 18th, after 536 days of dieting and exercise Bill reached the weight of 169.3 pounds. He last weighed 169.3 pounds when he was 23-years-old. Even since then, he has lost more weight.

On November 29, 2010, he weighed in at 246.5 and decided to make a change. His approach has been to count calories every day to achieve a negative energy balance, and he exercises on the stationary bike for an hour a day. Even on holidays. I think he has only ever missed bike time during our Disneyland trips (recouped by walking) and our trip to Hawaii.

Bill is essentially eating vegan most of the year. I think I can count on both hands the number of times he has consumed meat this year.

His absolute mental and physical discipline has been inspirational. Even in weeks and days when he saw little to no change, he never relented, flagged, or gave up. On average, he has lost a pound a week.

I also have friends who check in daily (sometimes twice a day, Ms. N.B.!) at the gym, friends who have young children and go running (either on a treadmill or with their kiddos in the stroller), and friends who are running the TVHS bleachers at 6AM on Saturday morning. Both of my parents, also, exercise every day. My mom has been in charge of her health for as long as I have known her, and my dad made a significant change in his fitness right before Katie was born. He is now a runner, training for a 5K in September.

I decided to take control of my physical health and energy. I’ve always been one of those people who say, “Okay, now I will ‘be good’ for awhile with respect to eating and maybe lose some weight.” That worked for me last year, and according to my OB in January, I had lost ten pounds last year. But I wasn’t truly in control, and I knew it. During this past winter, in the height of my sugar and caffeine addiction—yes, addiction—I am sure I gained most of it back.

Four months ago, I made my first change: I broke my coffee habit. I have had one slip, one coffee, in all of that time. That’s huge for me, because coffee and I were very bonded. Why this change? I was noticing that I was fighting off my tiredness with all the wrong tools: coffee, sugar, snacks, coffee, sugar, coffee. It is my belief, based only on my anecdotal feeling, that sugar and coffee do the following: 1) lead to worse sleep at night; 2) promote their own usage in amounts I don’t need; 3) contribute to higher levels of anxiety, less patience, and cloudier thinking. So I axed the coffee first. A grande latte at my favorite coffee place is 390 calories. That is currently more than I allot myself for my whole breakfast (more on that, hopefully, in a post to come). I am also saving money. I still have fantasies about pumpkin spice lattes, and I know I might have to fight that battle in myself this autumn.

Now I drink tea, mostly herbals. I do allow myself Earl Grey or Yorkshire (they do have some caffeine), but only one at most a day. I drink rooibos, mint, lemon, and ginger. I crave different strong tastes, and tea is one calorie-free way to indulge that part of me.

A few weeks ago, I decided to take control of my diet. My husband’s success and self-discipline have been amazingly inspiring. Around this time, also, my dad recommended a film called Forks Over Knives—which presents some really significant questions about the food I typically consume. I don’t want to get all preachy about healthy eating in my blog, but I will say that this film is kind of a big deal to me right now. There may, in fact, be some flaws with the way the correlation-causality structure is set up in some of the studies cited in the film; still, I find myself gravitating toward a whole foods, plant-based diet. I’ve been leaning that way for several months now. I’m not there yet, though we do eat vegetarian now most of the time. Is veganism in my future? I need to do some more research, for sure. I am not by nature an all-or-nothing type: there are always grey areas in my world and room to change as the evidence builds. Still, some of the health research is very compelling. Again, not preaching here… Just sharing what has been on my mind the past couple of months. I am in the process of collecting vegan (primarily, since I have hardly any) and vegetarian recipes. I’m a phase-it-in-and-try-it kind of girl.

I have lost 6 pounds so far. As of this morning, I met my first weight goal. I picked that goal a bit arbitrarily, but now my next goal is to shed two more pounds to be what I think I weighed when I got pregnant with Katie. After that, another three… Beyond that, I don’t want to articulate it yet. I know one important aspect for me is to keep myself from feeling overwhelmed.

What is working for me?

1. I am exercising every morning on the bike (30 to 45 minutes). I lift weights every other day and do sit-ups. I lead the kiddos through stretches and yoga. I try to fit in walking as much as possible, too. My friends Rosa and Dan are also working out, and all of us are training for the 5K Zombie Run in October. Dan is already running, and I am super motivated to try to start that up, too… Might need to run a bit before a 5K, huh? Yeah.

2. I aim to eat between 1200-1500 cals a day. I know I am lowballing myself a bit, but I want results. I also want to establish control. At first it seemed like almost no food at all. But then I found out: if I eat plants and other healthy things, it really can be quite a bit of food. I have had some friends ask me about my protein calories, and I am making a concerted effort to prioritize those. Quinoa and Ezekial bread are both complete proteins. My 0% Greek yogurt also gives me a dose. Now and then (not everyday) I have a 200 cal protein bar that gives me 15g of protein. I am definitely trying to be smart about it, and I know I need about 40g. Although my focus right now is plant protein, I do occasionally have a bit of turkey. Snacks include soy nuts and I made a delicious batch of roasted garam masala chickpeas (my mom gave me the recipe after cutting the oil down from a greasy 6T to 2T for four cans of the garbanzos).

3. I drink tea like it is going out of style. Seriously. Hungry? Time for more tea. It helps. You know what also helps? Yoga. And sitting inside of the hunger, not fearing it.

4. I am cleaning up my food with respect to sugar. I’m a few weeks in to limiting sugar. I find that I do not really crave it. I sometimes have oatmeal as part of my breakfast. I used to put brown sugar on it always (and let’s admit it, when I was really feeling zing-zang out of control, a bit of butter). Now I have it topped only with a big dusting of cinnamon. Delicious. Tastes like a cookie. I find the lack of refined sugar in my body to be freeing. Everything, everything tastes so much better to me. Berries are like candy!! I have always eaten fairly healthily—not a lot of prepackaged food, no fast food (okay, maybe In-N-Out once in awhile), lots of things from scratch. We have never buttered our carrots or veggies, I don’t keep soda or boxed cookies in the house. We don’t buy chips. Outside of coffee, the only other thing I was drinking was water (no extra calories coming from juice or alcohol). The problem is, I love food…so healthy food or not, I was eating way too much of it and using butter, sugar, and other dairy very liberally.

7. I now weigh myself daily. I have never ever ever weighed myself. I didn’t think it would help. It helps. Bill bought an awesome scale that transmits data wirelessly to a personal website that graphs our weight. I am accountable to it. I want the number to decrease. It is on my mind constantly.

8. I try to drink a big glass of water before and after every meal. Between this and the tea, well, that’s quite a bit of water.

This has been a hard change, in part because I love to cook and bake. But why not become really, really skilled at cooking and baking the fuel my body really needs?

One of the most difficult changes (the last one I made, actually) was to start exercising. Caloric restriction is one thing, but hauling myself out of bed was another. My main excuse for so long has been, “I am too tired.” I knew I wouldn’t exercise at night, so I had to start the day with it. I kept thinking, “But I am too tired to get out of bed and do physical activity before my children wake up. I’ll be so busy with them. I need to rest more.”

Boy, was I surprised to find that I actually have MORE energy and am less tired when I get my exercise (haven’t missed a day since starting two weeks ago). My workout was hard today, because I did not discipline myself to go to sleep last night when I should have. Oh well, I was up and at it. I know now that I feel better when I am pursuing my physical health. I feel more alert and in tune with the universe when I am managing my energy in a natural way: more exercise, less sugar, no coffee. I am sleeping better and deeper than I have, too, in a long time.

I have so much further to go, really. This is still a new journey for me. I feel like I am actually working at it everyday. I have had to watch myself at recent family events and make good choices. Yesterday, I celebrated not having a single French fry at our restaurant meal. I didn’t order any, and the kiddos had tons left over (and as we know, fries don’t keep or reheat well). A few months ago, my reasoning would have included: 1) I paid for this food, so I need to eat some; and 2) it’s a party at a restaurant, so eating it won’t hurt me. It was a small, but big, victory for me. I know I am changing the way I think about food.

And it’s time. A few years ago, Bill was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. With his diet and weight loss, he has completely reversed this and is off his diabetes medications. I am sure I might have been heading that way myself, maybe not now, but maybe in 30 years. I don’t want to be there.

Most of all, I am liking how I feel about myself much more. Yes, part of this is about how I look, but honestly? Not the biggest part. This is all (mostly) mental for me. For many years now I have known that I was not the best steward of my body and my health—and there is massive guilt that goes with that knowledge. I would look back to how healthy and fit I was when I had so many other passions, goals, physical activities (soccer, dance, tennis) and hobbies that food naturally took its proper moderate ranking on my priority list.

It is tempting to feel deprived at 4 PM before dinner. I’ve had some hard battles recently, with myself. But the biggest trick I have up my sleeve is making a choice to view this journey not as one of deprivation. If I think about my journey only as what I cannot have, I will fail.  Heck, this is pretty much my life philosophy, too. I never choose to see myself as being deprived, or as a victim, or as a passive agent. That’s the big secret, I think, to happiness. I do think it is a choice that we all need to make. We can choose to whine and complain about what life brings to us as a challenge, or we can turn it around and find something to grab onto to celebrate. I am choosing to be thankful and celebratory of that which I am gaining in return: my self-discipline and self-control. I knew those feelings well in the academic world; it is time to quest for them in this sphere. If I work hard and keep committed, what is the best I can do? I keep this question in my mind constantly. I want to find out what my best is. It’s time.