My weight loss journey part 2: HOW I’ve lost 70+pounds in a little over 1 year!

As implied, there is a part 1, detailing how I found myself at 235# here:

2 words: diet AND exercise. It’s true. No magic pill. I have nothing to sell you. Here’s my story: I touch on One Meal A Day (OMAD) in the part 1 post, but here is where I’ll go more into detail. Reading Delay, Don’t Deny by Gin Stephens was very eye-opening and truly helped put me on the right path. 99% of diets fail because they’re too restrictive and just not sustainable. I love the idea of NOT denying whatever it is you want to eat, just being mindful of how much you eat, and when. I never feel like I’m starving, and when I’m craving a certain food, I work it in to my OMAD. This way of eating, along with hitting the treadmill and otherwise staying active, as well as drastically reducing my alcohol consumption is how I’ve got where I am now, currently at 162# as I type this. It’s INSANE to think about 70# of weight loss. I try to visualize it via comparing to a 50# bag of flour or beans, for example, and it’s just so hard to think about it being on my body, and then losing it. One thing is for sure: it didn’t come on overnight, and it didn’t disappear overnight. But YOU can make remarkable progress in months, or 1 short year. And it is certainly worth it. You just have to get started…. So, here’s my story!

I dropped my 1st 20# pretty easily, mainly following a Keto diet which focuses on high (good) fat foods. Many do really well on this diet. I found myself stalled out. And while in visiting my primary doc for something unrelated, I mentioned that I really wanted to drop some weight (I was around 215# at that time, Feb of 2022) so we discussed what I was eating. And she said: you know Jess, a high fat diet isn’t for everyone. Especially with women, she had seen them put on weight following the keto diet (reminder how all our metabolisms are so very different). And a light bulb kinda’ went off. I needed to switch things up. So I started focusing on OMAD, low-fat (naturally, not processed) foods (fruits and veggies) and lean proteins. Low carb, but not no-carb. I believe any diet that restricts entire food groups is just destined to fail. This way of eating is considered a lifestyle, not a diet. And I do believe it is something that I can stick to, for the most part, for the rest of my life.

So here’s what I love about intermittent fasting: you don’t starve yourself. You don’t deny entire food groups. You can eat what you want. Just in moderation, and during a small window of time during the day (to fit your schedule/comfort level). Some have a 6 hr window open, some 4, some 2, it’s all up to what works for you. There are many other benefits as well, not just weight loss! The basic concept is this: every time you eat your body produces an insulin response. So when you can fast for longer periods than just overnight, your body is able to tap into its fat stores, eliminate waste cells, helps curb blood sugar. The more strict you are, the better the results of course. Then when your window is closed, you don’t snack, you’re done. It definitely takes some trial & error and just plain ol’ time to figure out what works for you. Many consume their OMAD at dinner time. They work a traditional 9-5 job, so this works with their schedule, they get home and eat. When we started our journey, we went for that schedule. But by 2-3 in the afternoon we were starving and wanting to snack. So, being we’re fortunate enough to work from home for the most part, we realized we could have our OMAD when we were starving: early to mid-afternoon.

It takes quite a bit of time to get used to how much to eat during that one meal. Your instinct is to eat a LOT because that’s it for the day. So we’d overeat, and be absolutely stuffed! But like anything else, over time, you tweak it until you find your sweet spot. I have no desire to give up my coffee habit, so since I don’t like it black, that breaks my morning fast. If you can drink it black, or are a tea drinker, it isn’t considered breaking your fast. But, I realllllly enjoy my cup or 2 or 3 (lately) of coffee with cream + sugar. That’s what I sip on throughout my morning. Then, around 1-3pm, I eat my meal for the day. Sometimes I will snack a bit before it, during the 11-1 hours, and if so, it’s almost always a piece of fruit, which I try to switch up throughout the week, or make a fruit salad so I’m getting a variety of nutrients. But the key is, once I’m done with that meal, I’m done for the day. I’m always reallllllly hungry when it’s time to eat, and I swear, food just tastes much better when you’re starving. If we spend all day snacking, and truly are never really hungry, our body doesn’t appreciate the food as much, at least mine doesn’t. And then I take my sweet ass time to enjoy that meal. I eat very slowly. Enjoy every bite. Knowing I’m not eating again until tomorrow. Again, I didn’t get here overnight. It took months of tweaking to get it all figured out, and gain confidence, and know I was never going to starve.

I remember how excited I was when I finally broke 200#! And then when my new low number becomes my high number. 195 was the new low, then it was the new high. Pretty soon I saw 180. 175. 170. Currently, as I write this I’m at 163. My ideal weight, according to the BMI charts based on my height, is ~150. I know those are just a very rough guideline. But I do know I can get there and I look forward to it. However, if I didn’t lose another pound from where I’m at currently, I’d also be totally happy. Mainly I’m working on toning up now. I have quite a bit of loose skin around my belly from 2 children + the weight loss. And I have been working on toning my arms, specifically my triceps, for the past year. I’m definitely making progress and am happy with my body as is. But I still know there is room for toning. Soon I will not feel the need to step on the scale.

So, let’s talk weight loss vs maintenance. It’s all about how strict you want to be. When I could buckle down and stick to my OMAD, focusing on a healthy, lean lunch for a couple weeks in a row, and no snacks, no alcohol, I could lose ~.5#/day, so 3-4#/week. So I’d hit it hard for a couple weeks or have a really good month of staying on track, and then kinda’ fall into maintenance for a while. That meant eating more maybe, satisfying cravings more, that maybe weren’t super lean or healthy even. But continuing to hit the treadmill daily to offset, so I’d just stay stable.

Learning to say no to food and drink is not easy. Our society revolves around breaking bread with friends/family. And, especially in Wisconsin, one of the top alcohol-consuming states in the nation, it seems like everyone drinks, all the time. This adds soooooo many calories to your diet. You are literally drinking calories. I recently heard a woman turn down an alcoholic drink at an event, saying: I’d rather get those calories from a piece of chocolate cake instead of that beverage. And I think that’s a great way to look at it. But people do certainly think this way of eating & living (OMAD) is weird. They don’t understand. They insist, common’, you gotta eat. I remember a graduation party last year, the entire family ate before we went, and my kids were going to a pizza party at a friends afterwards. The hosts of the graduation party had such a hard time accepting our polite declines for the food. It’s just weird to sit around and socialize, but not eat, nor drink when everyone else is.WHY is it not okay to drink water and socialize just the same?! So it definitely takes some getting used to. But the more you say no, the easier it becomes! And it’s a great example for kids to see that you’re not letting others peer pressure you into consuming things you don’t want to be!

Of course I have days that I eat outside of the OMAD: holidays, gatherings, just plain ol’ hungry for something later in the day and I oblige. But for the most part, day in & out, I do stick to it. I’ve found, that the longer and harder you work towards your weight loss goal, the less you want to derail your progress. Especially early on, there were lots of ups & downs. I’d make progress, then spend a weekend with friends and indulge, drink beers, etc and by Monday morning the scale would be up 4# from Friday. The more you see that happen, the more you’re like: do I really need those beers, I worked so hard to take off a few pounds this week now I put them right back on. And you start back where you were a week prior, instead of continuing your trajectory of loss. Of course, we can’t add 4# of fat in a day or 2, so often it’s just a flux of water weight. I do step on the scale quite regularly, as I find it’s valuable at keeping me on track. But it’s not the end all and be all. I’ve learned the numbers can sway quite a bit in a couple days, but then sway back a couple days later. But overall, I’ve seen those numbers go down, down, down.

On having kids to feed: I feed my kids when they’re hungry. We unschool at home, so I wait until I hear: Mom, I’m hungry, before I make them breakfast. Sometimes they wake up hungry, other days I don’t get a breakfast request until noon. Learning to eat based on your body telling you it’s time vs the clock saying it’s time is an extremely valuable lesson to teach them. So many people eat according to the clock: breakfast, lunch, dinner at certain times out of habit, and not when their body tells them they can’t wait any longer. And kids certainly shouldn’t diet. But my kids are both overweight, so a big part of my desire to do this is to be the change I wish to see. By modeling healthy habits, I know it’ll rub off. There is always a tossed salad in the fridge here. Often when my Son wants a snack he’ll come out of the kitchen with a salad! But that has to be there, ready to go, for that to happen. My daughter has started using the treadmill (she’s 9). Nothing serious, more for fun than anything, but she is using it. When my kids eat, I ALWAYS sit there with them, even though I’m often not eating. That’s very important to me. So while yes, it’s a non-traditional approach in many aspects, that’s how we live our lives in general, non-traditional 🙂

When I’m trying to lose, it’s lots of amazing salads + lean protein: fish, chicken or venison frequently (I have a gallery of assorted meal pics at the end). And I try to eat meat every other day at the most. So the off days will be something like a black bean quesadilla or something else high in protein. If I’m in maintenance mode, I’ll often do a salad/lean protein one day, followed by a craving meal the next day. The craving meals are often things like homemade pizza, breakfast (have recently made a tradition of eating whatever breakfasty foods I’m craving on Sundays), a burger, pb & J, a bowl of cereal, even ice cream. Truly nothing is off limits, I just work it in. It’s fun to kinda’ plan out the week, think hmmmm, what do I want to work in this week, and then work it in. And as long as I keep hitting the treadmill, I don’t gain. It’s going to be amazing to get to my goal, and just stay in maintenance mode indefinitely, I’m SO close!!!

So what I eat & when is a huge part of the journey. The other is exercise:

Last spring, as I was beginning my shift to low fat eating, I also started upping my exercise. I had always taken walks with the kids, but you know how that goes, we would dawdle along at a very slow speed. We got out and enjoyed nature, but it wasn’t exercise by any means. I finally started making time to get more active, and mainly it was a fast walk, or a shuffle as I called it, not really a run. I came to really enjoy this time alone, usually accompanied by my dog, we’d go shuffle 1.5 miles up the dead-end road near my house, and back. Sometimes I’d get up at 5am even, and enjoy that cool morning air, such a lovely time of day. I progressed to often fitting in an evening shuffle too! But really didn’t do a whole lot more than that. I could tell it was making the pounds come off quicker though. Once June came, and the hot, muggy summer days, even 5am jogs were hot, and I wasn’t loving them. So, I turned to Craigslist and bought probably the best $100 purchase ever: a treadmill! We made room in our garage, which naturally stayed a bit cooler than the outdoors, set up some high-powered fans on it, and set up a pair of speakers next to it! All those things made an awesome difference. I never felt comfortable running on the road with ear buds in, I wanted to be aware of my surroundings (we live on a country backroad). Music is one of the most important things in the world to me, so being able to suddenly march on the treadmill, with a big ol’ fan and my favorite tunes blaring made it so, so doable!

My bare minimum was/is 3 miles/day. Many weeks I would take 1-2 days off (often weekends when we had stuff planned). Recovery days are important! But also, I wasn’t/don’t hit it super hard, I stick to my shuffle, so realized I don’t truly need recovery days like heavy-duty weight lifters, etc. So I do 3-6 miles/day. Each mile burns ~200 calories. I alternate between inclines and speeds, to target different muscle groups. I spread my miles out throughout the day, which I really like vs my Hubby who does his 3-5 miles all in 1 burst. I am always multitasking in the house, with the kids, etc so spreading out my time in 15-20 minute pushes works much better with my schedule. I don’t get as tired or feel as overwhelmed going out there knowing I’ll be there for an hour. And I feel like it might jog my metabolism and keep it on its toes more throughout the day. Ultimately, you need to do what works with your schedule and preferences, all that matters is you make it work!

Other than that, I lift some weights to tone up my arms and do some core-focused easy stuff. But that’s pretty much it. Now that I’ve shed the majority of the weight I want to, I’m going to start shifting gears to more toning routines. I still will hit the treadmill 2-3 miles/day minimum, I just feel really good about knowing I’m burning a base of calories every day. But I also have developed an owie on my foot from all the repetition. A good reminder that we can wear ourselves out if we stick with 1 thing for too long. That’s my biggest fear, especially as I age (I’m 43 currently): a chronic injury that prevents me from staying active. So it’s a good time for me to start laying off the treadmill a bit. Also, our muscles have memory, so it’s important to switch up our routines to keep them on their toes.

I really wanted to share all those details as a reminder that you do not need a gym membership, or a basement full of fancy, expensive equipment! There is SO much you can do with next to nothing! And Craigslist is full of used stuff, if you do feel the need for something fancy, since most people don’t stick to their regimens. And YouTube is FULL of free workout videos if you need some help knowing what to do to tone certain areas.

Conclusion: It truly is about mindfulness. A friend once said: I eat for survival, not for fun. Or something along those lines. He has lived in China and traveled a ton to very impoverished areas. And that comment changed how I looked at eating a bit. I feel, especially here in America, we’re just not mindful enough. From what/how much we eat, to how much waste we create, there’s often not a lot of mindfulness involved. As someone who has been promoting organic/all-natural products for a decade+ now, I’ve learned a very valuable lesson in that regard. If you’re paying $20 for a bottle of shampoo because it has safe ingredients, you darn well ought a be mindful of how much you’re using. So many just glob on a huge handful of shampoo, often using many times more than they need. So just slowing down, being mindful in all areas of your life, has SO many benefits. I strive to be mindful in everything I am doing, including eating. I don’t deny myself, I am just mindful of how much I eat, and when, and then keep my butt moving on the treadmill to burn those calories. And it’s working well!!

Here is an assortment of meal pics I found on my camera roll.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, questions, comments. Is this something that interests you? Do you have experience with intermittent fasting fasting/ OMAD? Always nice to hear the experiences of others!!

Reflections on my weight loss journey- Part 1: From the Beginning…

Recently I’ve started sharing tidbits from my weight loss success story, and there has been quite a bit of interest in how I lost 60# in a little over 12m, so I think it’s time for an in-depth look at how I got where I was to begin with, and how I got where I am today. Your questions and comments as I share help shape what I share, so keep asking and sharing what is on your mind. Many of you reading this have been following my life journey for the past 10 years as a blogger. Our kids were babies at the same time, now our oldest are approaching their tween years. Many of you, like me, are now in your 40’s (I just turned 43), or older, and we’re facing a new, unique set of challenges as we start having time to focus on ourselves again. My kids are now 9 & 11, and I finally feel like I’m coming out of the haze of years of pregnancy, breast-feeding, bed-sharing, and finally am re-finding ME. And it’s a glorious feeling. I know just about everyone struggles with weight at some point in their lives. It’s my hope in sharing my story that I can help you realize that YOU have the power to drop as many pounds as you want. I’ve never held a gym membership. The only special equipment I have is a $100 Craigslist treadmill and a few dumbbells and weights. I have nothing to sell, I truly just want to share my story. I haven’t felt compelled to blog on any certain topic in quite some time, so it feels good to want to type again. Here we go….

My story begins in August of 2021. My family is blessed that we’re able to take extended vacations. I’m a huge fan of slow travel. We did the natural progression from tent camping, to pop-up camper, to pull behind travel trailer. During the summer of 2020, and the height of pandemic life, we camped for 6w straight (you can read about it here if you want). 1 year later, in 2021 we went for just shy of 8 weeks, a good chunk of summer! I could write & write about the joys and positive, life-long benefits of such amazing trips. One of the only drawbacks I can think of is the mindset we fall into which is: we’re on vacation! Being on a weeklong vacation and indulging in food & drink is 1 thing. But for 8 weeks is another. In hindsight I can definitely look back and see I absolutely lacked self-control. Especially in the drinking department. When you’re sitting around a campfire every, single night, it’s easy to fall into a rut of having a few beers, or glasses of wine, or rum drinks. And I firmly believe that all those empty calories from drinking were a huge part of the equation that ended with me at 235# by the end of that camping trip. Most people don’t realize how many calories they’re drinking throughout the day/night! When we returned home in August and I saw myself naked in a full-length mirror I remember feeling disgusted. WOAH, who is this?! I was 230# when I gave birth to my 10# daughter. That really hit me. And I knew it was time for a change.

Back up a little bit: my Husband found himself where I was, 1 year earlier. After our 6w of camping in the summer of 2020, he found himself at his heaviest- 250#. Here’s a pic of him from that camping trip in 2020, I can REALLY see it in his face:

It’s weird looking back now, 2 years later, I don’t ever remember looking at him and thinking he was THAT overweight. But now, at 175# instead of 250#, wow, the difference. This is from this summer (June of 2022):

For those that don’t know, we live in Wisconsin. Drinking massive amounts of beer, eating deep fried cheese curds, brats, dairy in every form possible, is the norm. While we of course have many healthy, slim, beautiful people (and NO I’m definitely NOT saying you have to be slim to be beautiful!), we have normalized being overweight. So, what did he do? Pretty much stopped drinking. Not 100%, but cut way, way back. He also cut way back on carbs and sugar and focused on good fats and protein. And he started slowly building up his exercise routine by doing simple things around the house to build up his core 1st: planks, push-ups, off-road hikes up steep hills. Neither of us has ever set foot in a gym. I want to stress that there is so much you can do around your house, with no gear or simply items from around your house. And slowly but surely, the pounds started dropping and he started getting buff.

After seeing my Husband’s success doing basic, simple things around home and focusing on the tried & true solutions to weight loss (diet & exercise), I knew what I had to do. I was so happy for him to constantly be hearing: wow, you look great. And I yearned to make that my reality. I want to stress that I was never unhappy, even at my heaviest. Life was great. My family was having the time of our lives enjoying all the fruits of summertime fun. And I was not necessarily unhealthy either, at least according to lab numbers. While my weight put me in the obese category, my blood sugar, blood pressure, liver & kidney functions, all within normal range. So it wasn’t a health scare that shook me up and made me feel the need to lose. It was truly looking at myself in the mirror and going NOPE. This is not the me I want to be. And while my lab numbers were fine, I definitely got tired quickly, couldn’t walk a moderate incline without huffing & puffing, and that is not healthy. And of course a huge part of my motivation to be my best self is to act as a positive role model for my kids, and to be healthy so I can be around for them and hopefully their kids some day.

I’ve always been a dress lover, even when I was tiny in my teens and 20’s. So just kept buying bigger size dresses. And I thought I still looked good in them. I was buying clothes in 2x, and some of them were not fitting well either. That was not a good feeling. I’d go try on stuff in a fitting room and hate how they fit. I’m happy to report I recently sold all my XL clothes, and am wearing medium, even small in some recent shirts I picked up! I had a bin of size 14 jeans from years ago that I never thought I’d fit into again (I was in a size 18 at my heaviest), well recently I donated those all because they were too big! I’m currently in size 12, and even started wearing some leggings which I never thought I would ever, ever be caught dead in- holy COMFY!!

So that’s the lead-up to the rest of my story. How did I go from 235# to 170# in a little over 12m? Diet and exercise. It’s true. I have never stepped foot in a gym. What I do have on my side is time. Being I work from home, I know that is something those who work outside the home may not have. If you sit at a desk all day, your reality is much different from mine. My Hubby said quite a while ago: if we’re home all day, we have no excuses not to exercise. And that has always stuck with me. No excuses. Although even now that he’s working a 9-5 he still fits in at least 3 miles on the treadmill before bed! We learned about Intermittent Fasting, which I’ll write a whole post about later as well as what we eat, etc. We follow the One Meal A Day (OMAD) plan, it works for us. Reading this book was very eye opening and truly helped put me on the right path. 99% of diets fail because they’re too restrictive and just not sustainable. I love the idea of NOT denying whatever it is you want to eat, just being mindful of how much you eat, and when. I never feel like I’m starving, and when I’m craving a certain food, I work it in to my OMAD. This way of eating, along with hitting the treadmill and otherwise staying active, is how I’ve got where I am now, and how I’ll lose the remainder of the 20# to hit my goal, then keep it off.

Below, August 2021, me at 235#:

Below, Summer 2022, me at ~180-190#. As I type this, currently at 170#.

 So, there’s the intro. I have many more sub-topics to write about, including:

–Intermittent fasting & OMAD

–What I eat & when

–Learning to say no

–Losing vs maintenance mode


–Among other topics. This is an ever-evolving conversation. So, stay tuned…Let me know what questions you have please!